Karl Beckstrand is an American author and public speaker with forty ebooks under his belt. He recently contacted me to see if I would be interested in reading and reviewing his award winning YA novel To Swallow The Earth. I readily agreed, as the book sounded so intriguing; a suspense filled Western and Winner of the 2016 International Book Award, Literary Classics Seal of Approval, and 2016 Laramie Award Finalist. You can read my Goodreads review here. Having read and enjoyed the book so much, I wanted to know more and Karl kindly agreed to an interview. Here he explains how he came upon the original manuscript for To Swallow The Earth, talks about his journey so far as a writer and offers his advice to others. Enjoy!
1) To Swallow The Earth is authored by yourself and Ransom Wilcox. Could you tell us more about who Ransom was and how you came to co-author the book with him?
Ransom Wilcox is my grandfather. I inherited his unfinished Y.A. manuscript. It’s suspense set in the Nevada silver rush–and it won a 2016 International Book Award (also a Laramie Award finalist). My grandfather grew up exploring the Sierra Nevada Mountains on horseback nearly a hundred years ago. My challenge was to develop his characters while preserving the action and authentic language.
2) How much work did you need to do in order to prepare the book for release?
Several months’ worth. He had Carson City as the opening scene, but the other communities were fictitious. I had to look up which real cities would fit his descriptions, develop the characters, fill in some gaps, and polish the overall story.
3) Will the story of Wade and Patricia extend into any more books?
I suppose that depends on how much demand there is for sequels!
4) When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
It kind of took me by surprise. In college I would get ideas for books and scribble them down (when I should have been doing my homework).
5) Tell us about your writing and publishing journey so far. For example, which paths you have followed and why?
After college I joined a writer’s group and met a gentleman who wanted to publish one of my juvenile manuscripts. Unfortunately, he died the day we were to print. I got a crash course in publishing/marketing. One other publisher asked me to write a true story about an immigrant child. I knew about a girl in my family history who arrived in the USA alone, not knowing English. I developed the account—and then got hooked on family history. Now I’ve written several stories on immigrants and several multicultural books. I’m also working on a graphic novel and an audio version of To Swallow the Earth.
6) What is your usual writing process? Are you a plotter, or someone who starts writing and waits to see where it will go?
I try to write or research every day in the morning. I usually get most of the plot outlined right away, but twists and extra material often strike me at any odd time. For non-fiction I have to research and get the facts right, as well as create a good beginning, middle, and end. These books are rewarding to me because they preserve true acts of courage/faith for new generations to witness.
7) What advice do you have for a new author about to launch their first book?
To launch means you’re about to embark on a lot of marketing (even if you’re with a large publishing house, authors must do a lot of the publicity). If you’re just starting a book, write every day. Write from your heart—from what you know first-hand. Don’t try to write about something that you think is popular (unless that’s what you know). You don’t have to have an agent but you should always have a professional editor. Have several people critique your work—people who won’t gloss over glitches. These people can help you be your best.
8) Can you tell us anything about your next release? What are you working on right now?
I have a book in the works that teaches how to earn and manage money. It’s called The Bridge of the Golden Wood. It will have illustrations (kind of a parable) but I will market it as a business/how-to book.
9) What would you most like readers to take away from reading To Swallow the Earth?
Pure excitement: What if you came home after a journey and your family was no longer there? What if someone else was living in your house, running what you used to manage—and trying to kill you? Could a beautiful woman be behind it? Wade Forester has to stay in the shadows. His father has disappeared, and his sister won’t speak to anyone. Patricia Laughlin is searching for her family as well. Few people gain her trust or approval. Wade must decide if risking his life to help Patricia means aiding the enemy. And Patricia must choose a killer to trust with her life.
10) Tell us three interesting things about yourself
I was raised in paradise (San Jose/Silicon Valley) —the perfect climate, much like Valparaiso (Chile, where I lived for two years [LDS mission]). I have a bachelor’s in journalism (never planned to be a reporter) and a master’s in International relations. I teach media at a state college in Utah and speak on traditional vs. digital/self-publishing. I’m an arts/media junkie (music, art, films, books, theater—oh, and history!)
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Thanks again to Karl for agreeing to be interviewed! I truly enjoyed To Swallow The Earth and would highly recommend it to anyone who fancies something a little different! It certainly is a page turner, and incredibly visual. Beautiful, in fact. If you want to know more about Karl you can follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube. You can find his books on Smashwords and Amazon.