Interview with Author Lawrence Hebb

Updated: Mar 9

Tell me a bit about yourself….

Lawrence Hebb here. I’m a bit of a mixed bag, really. I’m English but married to a wonderful Kiwi woman who brought me back from her ‘OE’ as Kiwis call it twenty-two years ago. We’ve been married for twenty-two years and have a daughter who’s just turned twenty-one. Previous to that, I did a lot of things, including being a soldier for a few years and working in the Middle East as a relief and development worker. I lived in the Middle East for about seven years, loved most of the places I lived there (including in Northern Iraq with the Kurds just after Desert Storm. My writing reflects that as the area seems to get mentioned a lot in my writing.

What genre/s do you write in?

Thrillers with an emphasis on exotic locations.

How long have you been writing?

I wanted to say five years (that was when my first novel went live on KDP. but recently we were cleaning out or ‘decluttering’ as my beloved calls it and I found a couple of half-written Manuscripts I’d been working on as far back as 2008-9. I’ve always been an avid storyteller. I think of myself as more of a storyteller than as a writer I think it was about. Then my wife asked me. ‘What do you want to do when you grow up?” (I was forty-nine then, but a big kid in some ways. I was also trying to look for a decent paying job, so we decided for me to do a couple of papers with Massey University in media studies.

Do you have any published books or articles? Tell me a bit about these and what publishing route you took.

Not long after starting the course, my wife got sick and had to take a step back from her job. It wasn’t life-threatening, but it was life-changing, so the dream pretty much withered on the vine. I still wanted to write, so I took a ‘spare time’ role as a copywriter with an outfit in the USA and I actually got paid. Not enough to go full-time, but enough to know my writing was worth something. I started writing on a revenue-sharing website (Hubpages) and gleaned even more experience and information. That’s where I came across people who were self-publishing through KDP. I found out how they did it and in 2016 my first novel, Sting of the Scorpion, went live on KDP. Since then I’ve published five books and there are four in that series with one other based on my experiences in Iraq but told from the POV of a fellow I knew who used the people smugglers to get to Aussie (I only take him as far as Europe in the story as it got a bit too raw for me.

Did you use an editor? If so who?

I’ve not had the funds to employ an editor, and while my books do sell, they haven’t created enough funds to do so. I do use both Grammarly free version and ProWritingAid (paid annual subscription) as well as using Jerry Jenkins editing tips for self-editing (he’s a twenty-one-time NYT bestselling author)

Did you use a book formatter and cover designer?

I design my own covers using Canva and occasionally Bookbrush, mostly it’s Canva.

Did you self-publish or get traditionally published? How did this go for you?

I’m self-published. Many people think that self-publishing is the easy route, and while yes, you can see your book up there pretty quick, actually getting them to sell is a whole different ballgame! I do enjoy the freedom that self-publishing gives. However, it comes at a price that most don’t realize. Self-published authors have to wear a number of hats, some of which a lot of writers aren’t comfortable with. They have to be:- Authors, Editors, Cover designers (even if they pay professionals for the service, (one that I’ve listened to a lot says I should never hand a job over to someone until I know how to do it myself!), Marketers, Agents etc. It’s not the easy route you first think it is. Having said that, I wouldn’t swap it for anything!

How do you market your work and promote your brand? (Include links)

I use StoryOrigin which is a provider that helps me distribute my books and organize newsletter swaps as well as group promotions. It gives me an international reach and I have sales in three or four countries that Amazon pays the royalties on. Here is a link to a free book I give out to people who join my mailing list StoryOrigin Just click on the blue name and you’ll be taken through to the page. You can get the book in whatever format you like.

What social media and writing platforms would you recommend?

I use Facebook a lot. I’ve set up a Facebook page for the series. It's Scorpion Team and has about eight hundred followers, but not everyone sees the posts I put up there. I would recommend KDP as a start point for any budding writer, especially as they will be opening Kindle Vella to writers outside the USA in the future (I’ve already been begging them to do it!)

Do you use an agent?

I’m my own agent. As a self-published author, it's one of the many hats you wear.

Do you use paid advertising? If so what?

Very little, I have used Amazon Ads in the past (I think I broke even) and use the occasional Facebook ad, but they tend to be money drains as you’re going up against the big publishers with AMS and Facebook can give good results, but can also be a big drain’ I’ve used email marketing and can recommend Fussy Librarian and Hello Books. I’ve also used Book Adrenaline and am waiting to hear about a promotion on my reader magnet from Book Doggy. Most of my marketing is via newsletters and joint promotions with other authors.

Do you have a blog or website?

A simple website where you can order my books, yes. Here it is. Lawrence Hebb

What inspires you most to write?

I’ve always been a storyteller. I just want to tell stories. I watch a really good movie and the next day I’ll spend the day thinking about how the movie could be done better! My first story started life as a short story I sent in for a course I was doing, I got back the note from the tutor, “could make a good start to a passable book” Guess what? it went in the book, but I put it in halfway through! For the second book, I was eating lunch by the lakefront in Rotorua and saw a floatplane on the lake. My second book starts with an aircraft approaching the New Zealand coastline and wanting to stay below the radar! What do you do to help with writers' block?

Sleep cures many things. For me, it’s usually because I’m tired, so I stop and go have a rest. The book gets finished, and it’s better if I don’t try to force things.

How do you plan your writing and start?

I want to say I don’t, but that’s not totally true. I’m 90% pantser, but I often start with an idea and know where I want to end up. I don’t always get there, but it’s a start. The novel I’m writing at the moment I planned to end the book in New York, but they only got as far as London (it started in Russia)

Is writing your full-time job? If not what else do you do?

No, I’m a Bus driver in my day job, it’s also a job I really enjoy as I enjoy people and driving. I’m not sure I would want to be a full-time writer, but it would be nice to have that option. What are you working on at the moment?

Book five in my series at the moment. I was hoping to have the first draft finished about now, but I think it’ll be another month. After that, I’ve got a couple of ideas.

What is your target audience?

People who enjoy a good thriller.

How long does it take you to write a book?

My first novel took four months, but mostly they take about nine months to a year from the first word to finally hitting the publish button on KDP

When did you first discover you enjoyed writing?

I think I enjoyed it at school. I just didn’t think I was any good. I was wrong!

What is your writing schedule look like?

Working long hours in my regular job tends to stuff things a bit. I try for five hundred words a day, but don’t stress if I don’t make it.

What does your family think about you writing?

My wife liked the fact I have a hobby. She likes it even more now that there’s a small income coming in and almost no outgoing expense from it (My rule has always been it had to pay for itself, and it has from day one, but it’s meant that I haven’t been able to spend up large on some things). My daughter has been inspired to follow her dad in writing. The big difference there is she got herself a professional editor and cover designer from Fiverr.

What do you do when you are not writing?

Work takes up a lot of time. Family time is important, especially as we were ‘decluttering’ recently and I got some cool bookcases for my office (and a tape-deck/CD player!!) which I’m listening to at the moment.

Where do you get information and ideas for your writing?

Once I get an idea, I start to write. If I need to look something up, then I get on the web. As a kid, I used to use firearms a lot. Writing action thrillers has allowed me to bring that love back and YouTube has been great for watching professional people explaining just what that weapon can and can’t do. There’s so much information out there. For locations, I get on Google Earth and take a good virtual walk exploring what it looked like maybe a year ago!

What do you think makes a good story?

Know where you want to take the reader, and make sure you get there, preferably with as many ‘bumps in the road’ as you can find (without letting them know you’re looking for the bumps) Remember, in real life, the best-laid plans turn to custard, make sure they do in the novel, then find a way out and get to where you wanted to be, not necessarily the physical location, but the emotional ride.

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