Interview with Eliot Peper
Tell us about your latest book.
My latest book was Uncommon Stock: Exit Strategy, the final title in The Uncommon Series of startup thrillers. The trilogy follows a kickass female entrepreneur as she gets sucked into an international conspiracy on the way from garage to IPO. The books have earned great grassroots reviews, a cult following in Silicon Valley, and are the top-rated financial thriller on Amazon.
What formats is the book available in?
Kindle, paperback, and audiobook.
What advice do you have for other writers?
Write. The only way to learn is by doing. I’ve learned so much more from finishing stories and getting them out in front of readers than from any blog post or book about craft that I’ve ever read. Don’t wait for inspiration. Novelists earn their stripes by hacking through a draft even when the Muses willfully abandon you. The funny part is, when I go back a year later and read over my work, I can’t tell which parts I felt inspired to write. It’s time to get your hands dirty and start pounding the keyboard.
What's your favourite quote about writing/for writers?
“Don’t make stuff because you want money. It will never make you enough money. Don’t make stuff because you want to get famous, because you will never feel famous enough. Make gifts for people. And work hard on making those gifts in the hope that those people will notice. Maybe they will notice how hard you worked and maybe they won’t. And if they don’t notice, I know it’s frustrating. But ultimately, that doesn’t change anything because your responsibility is not to the people you’re making the gift for, but to the gift itself.”
Where can people find out more about you and your writing?
Mailing List: http://www.eliotpeper.com/p/inner-circle.html
Did you learn anything from writing your book that was unexpected?
The Uncommon Series is based on my own personal experiences in the world of tech startups and venture capital. But as the trilogy progressed, the gaps in my knowledge widened: I’ve never taken a company public on Wall Street or established an international money laundering cartel to serve organized crime. To research the books, I interviewed well-known tech CEOs, federal special agents, money laundering investigators at major banks, and cybersecurity experts.
What I discovered shocked me. Our governments and financial institutions are woefully underprepared for the kind of malfeasance the antagonists perpetrate in the books. Black markets represent a full 15-20% of global GDP. The revolving door between banks and their supposed regulators undermines the entire system. I was trying to suspend disbelief for readers but discovered that, in this case, fact is even more disturbing than fiction.
What are you doing to market the book?
I believe that the best books market themselves. On the nonfiction front, there are more promotional possibilities because first and foremost, you’re marketing an idea. But for fiction, the story is the story. I’ve never bought a book because I saw a banner ad. Therefore, I’ve focused my efforts on finding creative ways to delight readers. On April Fool’s Day, I convinced a major venture capital firm to announce a fake investment in the fictional startup featured in the book. We built an actual website for the company too. The fictional protagonist “wrote” an op-ed about cybersecurity for a major technology website. We serialized the entire first book and released it on Medium and Wattpad. I always respond to fans via my newsletter and social media. If they’re happy, I imagine they’ll be more enthusiastic about sharing the book with their friends. At the end of the day, literary success is determined by becoming a part of the larger cultural conversation.
Who inspires you?
My oma was a secret agent in the Dutch Resistance in Amsterdam that fought the Nazis during World War Two. She smuggled people, goods, and information all over the country and helped rescue people from the concentration camps. She protected my Jewish opa and kept her children safe (she was a Protestant). She could read your soul with a glance. After the war, she was later awarded medals by the Dutch Queen and the government of Israel. Whenever I face some hardship or frustration, I think of her and it immediately fades into irrelevance.
What is your work in progress? Tell us about it.
Cumulus, my fourth novel, will come out in Spring 2016. The story takes place in a near-future where economic inequality and persistent surveillance have pushed Oakland to the brink of civil war. The story follows a struggling analog photographer, a high-flying tech CEO, and an ex-CIA agent. When their lives collide, it shakes the world to its foundations.
The Burn, my fifth novel, will come out in Summer 2016. It’s a thriller in which a group of friends uncover a dark secret hidden in the swirling dust and exultant revelry of Burning Man.
What are your thoughts on self-publishing verses traditional publishing?
My books were originally published by a small press. I later recovered the rights and self-published them. I’ve been approached by literary agents about pitching traditional publishers but haven’t yet gone down that route. All paths are viable but different. There’s no silver bullet. The important thing is to look in the mirror and be honest with yourself about your priorities as a writer. Do you want an ego boost from niche intellectuals who care about who your publisher might be? Do you want to grow an organic readership? On what time frame do you want to be releasing stories? I decided that my opportunities to improve my craft and build a community of fans were best served by enjoying the creative control of indie publication.
What are you currently reading?
I’m in the middle of Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. It’s a polished, provoking essay on human blindness to the fundamental nature of risk. Reading it makes me rethink how I invest my savings and how I evaluate career and personal opportunities. You might not agree with all of Taleb’s theses, but his writing is well worth your time.