Interview with Action-Adventure Novelist Nick Thacker – Talk Show – FULL EPISODE – S. 1, E. 13

Nik Thakur is an action adventure thriller novelist who writes the types of books he likes to read that means you won't find anything boring slow or sappy in his stories Nik was born in Connecticut grew up in Texas and lives in Colorado with his wife two children three dogs and a tortoise he loves snow drinking whiskey by the fireplace while it's snowing and writing books by candlelight while a thick layer of snow piles up outside so Nick I'm seeing a pattern here you a fan of snow I take it I'm a fan of snow mostly because it's easy justification for drinking whiskey by a fire you know you're right herb obviously but am I correct in thinking that you didn't start out as a writer but rather as a student of music that's right yeah I still actually hate writing I think that what is the joke we we don't like to write we'd like to have written yeah I think everyone is probably agree with I enjoy it though but no I didn't I didn't start writing until gosh probably about six or seven years ago now I mean I'm talking ever like I I hated writing in school I didn't want to write anything growing up I loved to read and so naturally when I decided to write my first book I wrote what I knew and that was the kind of stuff that I read and so the book came out it was a gift for my father so it never was supposed to be anything anyone else read long story short someone picked it up on the blog on a blog I had I was I was kind of writing about the process and offered to edit the thing and turn it into a book and the rest is history I kept going so it turned your attention to writing away from music it was the catalyst for that well like I said reading was was something I always had done and the year that I wrote I started writing my first book which it was called the golden crystal it's now the Atlantis stone Sam I don't my granddad passed away that year and he and my father his son were were really you know all three of us were into reading we would share novels and stories things like that just passed pass books back and forth and so I thought for Christmas that year it would be kind of a neat gift to give my dad a book that I wrote cuz I figured hell why not I mean how hard can it be right and they laughed and laugh it took I think it was the next I can't remember it took well over years I think it was the next Christmas that I did finally I mean it was a piece of crap it was just I want it looked great it was all bound and you know print-on-demand oh gosh the story had no flow I mean the characters were all the same care was on me it was I was every character pretty much but you know if what I learned and this is kind of an tangent but what I learned about myself is that not only do I I like jumping headfirst into stuff but I tend to do it in a way I like to be naive I like to be ignorant not forever but but going into something new yeah you know if I'm if I'm gonna start making beer I wanted to start making beer before I understand how hard it is to make beer that tastes good because then it'll scare me away if I knew how hard it was to write a stupid book I wouldn't written the stupid well so what what what prompted you to continue I guess from that point ya know a great question um well my dad loved it but he was supposed to he's contractually obligated to like what I do and so when I got it edited the actually a friend of mine who's now co-writing with me MP mcdougal is his pen name he reached out said I want to edit this book and when he came back he said okay so it's fixed mostly but the story was really good I really enjoyed the story and so I said okay great well what happened was I was writing that book I had all these other ideas that didn't just didn't fit in the book I think what happened was I I never intended to write a second or third book so all my good ideas I thought I had to cram into this one huge sweeping epic you know story of proportions that I couldn't quite get ahold of but all these other ideas that finally just I decided couldn't fit in became the second book and then the third book and by the time I was writing the third book I started to kind of see a trend like hey if I start writing a little bit more often and and look at this from a marketing perspective it might actually make you know make some sales and that was besides so I graduated with a degree in music but marketing was my first job out of college and it's always been something that I've had a passion for and so I think that's sort of really the story of how I became a writer was I approached it from a marketer's perspective as from a writer's respect I still don't think I have great stories to tell I think it's fun but people keep mine and I'll keep doing it but I I think I'm coming at it from I like a product I like the business side of it just as much that's why you're obviously doing something right and I think that you have a leg up on most writers when you talk about your marketing background because most of the writers I know let's just say they're not born business people and it's something that they have to learn and most of them that I've talked to find that very very difficult because you know us as writers we wouldn't be right we are finished a book we think the job is done but in reality that's just beginning you know exactly at least as an indie author pretend particular that's when the hard work it really yeah absolutely you're exactly right I think most writers and this is what you know people always are wondering to self publish or go traditional and it's not really a decision first of all because one of them is kind of a crapshoot and the other one is if you don't do anything the book is gonna just flounder and obscurity ideal but I think the big difference is is how much how much of a business do you want to run you know if you just want to write a book then man you need to find an agent figure out how to get your foot in the door at the publisher and let them do all that stuff but if you're like me and you like a little bit of the control and and you know don't mind doing the taxes at the end of the year paying people and all that then I like that so it was kind of a no-brainer for me I don't always had the Entrepreneurship bug and this is a perfect way to scratch that edge I think yeah no no I agree and then you talk about control and you know I I will admit that I am something of a control freak when it comes to these things so this is sort of tailor-made you know India writing publishing sort of tailor-made for me like I dipped my toe into drit into traditional publishing back in the day and had a book accepted and they they sent me at a cover that they did for and it was just positively horrible it was so bad I I couldn't even market it like I couldn't go out in public and then like this is my this is my book didn't want to yeah I didn't want your name on it right at that point what what is the point you may as well not have done it and so you know I just I don't know it gives you a lot more freedom and then into in today's publishing world when the gatekeepers have kind of been pushed aside a little bit and people have more a lot more options it makes more sense you know 10 50 years ago what maybe wasn't as realistic but now you certainly can make a go of it absolutely so what did you end up doing with that book did you did you do it yourself or did you just go through with it for no they kept it yeah so that's the other danger yeah is the way Eve as I was sure I'll sign anything you know it's probably you know so he was just a stupid stupid thing you know again and that's the naivety is great I think at the beginning because it gets you to do some that gets you to take action I'm really I'm talking myself here really it's I I wouldn't do anything if I felt like I had to sit down and research every single thing about it because it would first of all I'd never be done researching and if I did feel like I had a handle on it I'd be too scared to go forward with it and so I think the first time I do something in a particular here's an example like that which all is about games at this podcast so I made a game with my poor that's awesome you know I don't know anything about making board games the game sucks it's not actually any fun to play but everybody apply beats me it's probably why don't you if you'd like people over show them the game that you want to play you're like no but you know doing that it was really eye-opening because there's so much about it and now I went into it thinking okay I have a pretty good idea of what this is gonna be like I think I can get this done in some ways it's a lot like making a book you got a product you got these you know everything's gonna fit together there's a plot and then you do it and you realize god this is really hard work I don't think it would have done it if I but now I got to see you through because I don't finish this job anyway so going back to your point yeah I think I think being naive yeah you make stupid mistakes but hopefully only make it once yeah but no other way to learn you know you gotta make that mistake and that way you can you can live to tell about it miss you're like me just really creative about your mistakes to just keep up making up new ones they're just different they're your iterative enough they're not mistakes but so you and I write in pretty similar genres what do you think you know makes or I should ask why do you write in that you're on or what makes it special to you well man that's a really good question I again going back to what I said about why I started writing it's that's the kind of stuff that I've always read you know but I think the reason I've had to think about this a lot over the years like why do I not am I not drawn to fantasy or sci-fi as much and the reason I think is just I'm just a sucker for a really fast-paced plot I want to be intelligently strung along I guess I want to be solving the mystery just faster than the main character or characters as I've gotten older I think when I when I had kids I started shifting a little bit toward more character development I don't know why but that's about when it happened was when I had the kiddos I care about people now really yeah well you become an amateur psychologists yeah [Laughter] so you know characters are a bigger part of it now but for me I always was was sucked in by a fast-paced plot give it a little bit of science something that's plausible you know and my my Shan raise you know like yours is just it's it's today it's not really it's not some other world or planet or you know history in some place in time it's now and so it's what technology do we have now that's maybe prototype type stuff but the bad guys are using it for some some something super evil and the good guys got to go find them and figure out what it did I love that I just think it's the popular science kind of kind of thing that's what dropped me in so the first book actually that I really I remember the day I read it I was in high school I think I just graduated from high school grabbed it off my dad's nightstand but it was The Da Vinci Code and people say what they will about his writing style the plot and just the puzzle that he puts together I think is brilliant and I loved it it was non-stop I couldn't put it down I couldn't get couldn't at the time I didn't know who Robert Langdon was I I couldn't tell you what his name was or what he looked like her knee because I didn't care about the character for me it was just this story was so well done but that that was actually what pulled me in the direction of finding that genre I sort of rediscovered what I liked to read not read that book I was interesting you mentioned Dan Brown's writing style the people have said less than flattering things about it I was talking with another writer I'm trying to remember who it was I start anyway to talk about there are books that have done really well and sometimes you know writers the writers are really good about pooh-poohing stuff that's really that's doing really well a lot of times because we have to explain why ours aren't doing as good as well as that but the fact of matter is is that no matter how crappy like we may think something is if it's that popular it's fulfilling some sort of need yep and in that sense it's valuable yeah absolutely so I had a rant about literature I did a live live stream and some of my co-writers a little while back me accidentally got on the topic of literature which I I say I hate and I don't but the truth is I'm comparing it to a book I like to read which is plot thick you know real heavy fast-paced action and rarely does literature have that you know early this heart of darkness is just there nothing happens it's just so full but that's not what the book is it's not the point is brilliant for I just don't like that kind of stuff you know I mean that's a great comes out well she's a terrible right yeah she is wine her but go do what she's doing because she did something right and she's making a lot more money than you you know yep absolutely so how did publishing that first book change your process of writing going forward do you think oh that's good I remember in the middle I got to the muddy middle I mean I was right about 50% and I just threw my hands up it's I don't know what the hell I'm doing this is I've ridden all these people in the corners I don't know how to ride him out so I took a break for a few months I didn't write anything and I just read books on craft and I found my all-time favorite one for nostalgia sake but also it is a really good book just in general it was Dwight Swain techniques of the selling writer he he's passed away since then but I still have that book and I read it probably once every year just to flip through but it just gave me this it just gave me it was a formula and I know that's a bad word in writer world but it just I didn't have anything to go off I didn't have a framework blueprint whatever you wanna call it and he gave me that just said do this and so I was like oh okay so all the sudden became a paint-by-numbers you know approach like you're generally what you need to do except you come up with the story and the main main sort of idea and did that and it worked really well and so I remember loving that process and that's what changed the second half of the book I went back redid it and tightened it up a little bit it was still okay like I said it still sucked because I hadn't heard it's actually doing it but Mike fixed it and edited all that but the second book I remember having so much fun just outlining the thing you know because then I can see without having wasted ten thousand words well that's not gonna work okay he's gonna be in a submarine but the submarine you know blew up like last seen it so so I remember doing that with the outline and I really enjoyed that's why I knew I was applaud her rather than a man's man I still AM to this day I've changed how I outline but I love the approach that outline outlining leads me down takes me on again what I'm doing yeah and again formula formulas are still around because they they work and they're there for a reason I actually don't have a problem with them I mean really you could put most books into some sort of formula I mean I mean there are professors who do that for a living so it is I know it's easy to sit around eight I don't know I I wish that like I love the writing community and writers and I've been in it for many years now but I wish we could dispense with some of this kind of fake snobbery you know yes I don't think it serves anybody anybody well and you know there you know there was a time I took a little bit of flack when I was started writing more genre fiction and I love you honor fiction there's nothing wrong with the doll it's it's a hell of a lot of fun afternoon it's a hell of a lot of fun to read so it makes a hell of a lot of money you can do it well you know and there's yeah and therein lies the issue all right you see that there's a spectrum right I mean you look at Hollywood and the crap that they're pumping out it's so formulaic that it just lacks any depth you know but then you know they're coming out with the same you know comedy or whatever every every three months but it works because it's it's lining up with the formula that they know works mm-hmm and you don't go see that comedy because you want it to be the most deep nuanced like character development you want it's cuz there's a hot girl a and hot guy B and you know and they are gonna somehow fall in love yeah that's why you go exact that's what pick up my book I'd never promised anyone from daytime actually I got in trope not in trouble but somebody called me out and called my books airplane books once and I was like hey I love that that's exactly what I'm trying to write that is absolutely a hundred percent that's you look at that book all this gone I'm gonna get on airplane I need something to read date what I want them to pick up my book because I will entertain you for the two or three hours after that you're on your own you know I'm not entertain you for the next you know it is you're eight a different book club meeting for the next three Sundays like look enjoy it get it down I don't care you know I've always had an issue if that's you so I like formulas because they help me get through my book but I certainly hope it doesn't come across formulaic I don't want to just you know change the name of the villain and write the same right yeah I know we're on the same page I think most people get that – I think it just feels if that's what it is it feels like you're you're cheating or feels like you're selling out yeah oh my god whatever I'll sell you paint pay my mortgage and let me live in Hawaii half the year I'll be well the thing is that people always say they want something different but if you give them something too different then they're like I don't like it I don't understand it take it away you know you can't win you can't try to win do what you wanted to figure out where you're going and keep your eye on the ball so if you've written both standalone books and but you also have some series going which do you find easier to write stand-alones or series books oh that's a big question I'm gonna answer it in a weird way yeah stand-alones are way harder to write because I actually have to write those mmm series books so far they've all just written them for me now let me clarify that because before I get in trouble from people thinking I'm just hiring ghost writers I uh so when I haven't bring a co-writer on like Dave Barron's you had him on the show he expected a good dude and I don't always wanted to work with him on something and so I don't know who pitched him or whatever but you know I I sucked him into my universe and was like right out you know Harvey Bennett type thing and he was like well I don't want to do that because your focus ugh so I mean he didn't say he but he wanted to always give more time but he came up with a completely different character named Joe Bennett Josephine Bennett I was like a kid niece or cousin of Robbie Bennett my main character I told him the same thing I told everybody like I've never done this co-writing thing before I don't have any intention of running a ghost writing you know sweatshop I want to split this 50/50 work money everything just down the middle you know everything's up for negotiation what do you what do you wanna do this and he said just like most of the other ones let's work on an outline together and then I'll take a crack at the first draft and then we could just go back and forth after that that was easier to them than doing chapter by chapter which I did with Kevin Tomlinson mm-hmm that can totally work but it has to be a relationship that you know can already works I think yeah I agree so some of these unknowns just like I like David but I've never written with him and we've never met in person I wouldn't want to do a chapter by chapter because I don't know how much hey how can how far can I go telling you if this part sucks or this parts really good you know because that needs to happen so it's a lot easier when when you know they hand me a draft of something because then I can go through and essentially act like an editor who's also allowed to beef up change chop this or that and I guess my theory is by the time they get it back they don't really remember what it was looking like before so they don't they're not mad at me for – it's better than I remembered in writing it excellent yeah so for the the writing process itself that's easier for me but from the management perspective of like running the business and I'm talking I'm on the phone with the IRS every today I've been getting audited for like a year and a half it's not about the writing stuff but just dealing with that it is my full-time job now no tax is generating 1099 especially this time of year mmm you know generating the 1099 s the w-2s for you know I pay unemployment on myself hmm the way I can fire myself I guess and cut that back but I've been really falling down on the job will be bad me firing myself every other pump just like it means myself a lesson yeah there yeah there's there's some lesson about how I feel about government in there somewhere that I don't think that's what I that's what I started with this and I say it a little tongue-in-cheek because I really do enjoy the business of it I really I really love saying turtle shell press employs multiple people we all produce entertainment and we have these series going on but gosh I thought I would be doing more writing I'm just not writing as much writing as I thought I would do you miss it so kind of a no-no I don't because they're still I like I mean I would miss the work if I wasn't doing any work mm-hmm but like I said I've never I've never thought of myself as a writer first I didn't come into this going I'm a writer I have to write it was always like hey I have this story to tell and I think I should probably you know do it myself instead of trying to find someone else so for that reason I started writing but man when I feel like when I when I feel like I'm on vacation and I don't have any work to do that's when I get a little depressed but I can come back and I do you know check in with a slack group and you know do some accounting bookkeeping whatever business stuff I love that stuff I really do if I didn't write it all I would miss it yeah but I'm just not writing as much as I thought I was you know I'm still working on my standalone stuff the the mason-dixon series is still exclusively mine I'm actually talking to Dave about doing something with him with with Mason but uh things like that I'm still writing it's just not I thought it would be adding to my writing workload but I really did not know it was a good answer very good so speak you know coming off of that what advice would you have perhaps for those looking to get into the writing field so if you think back prior to all this multi-faceted business you have going now when you were first getting into it what are a couple things that you wish you would have known hmm I would tell myself there's no point in looking anywhere else besides Amazon hmm I am by far an Amazon she'll you know I I think these crappy stuff and I'm pretty pissed with in most days but it's pretty sad that the rest of the book selling world has no idea how to sell books no but it's pretty evident that that's the case now there's a course there's people who are making it big wide you know people killing it on Kobo or Apple books and all that but come on like did the vast majority of writers who are gonna get it's gonna get started are just gonna save so much time and energy and gray hairs just going through Amazon and trying to make it dent there because if they can do it there then they'll be they can do a lot they could do it wide right you know it says sorry no no that's my Dave Chesson and we were talking about how essentially Amazon is just a giant search engine designed to sell things and they've gotten really really good at it they have not if so if you can harness that for your own purposes why would you not exactly because what the thing is you know it's machine learn it's a giant algorithm there's a there's a I I know I I'm 100 percent sure that it's some giant robot sitting in like a factory somewhere eyes and everything and he's just like grabbin books there's no other plausible explanation for how that works it has to be that but that that robot is also teaching me how to sell my books right because as soon as I do something that works Amazon Awards me for that by giving me more impressions or more clicks on ads or a better rank and so I'm like okay well that cover was better than the cover I just had or that description was better than the one I just in it we iterate and pretty soon we have a pretty solid sales page or sales material on their sales page we've got a good cover that converts we got copy that converts our keywords are solid our categories are right and we can take that and go to another platform instead of it the same way that's my theory now I've never done it but that's that's what I imagine you know if you can sell on Amazon there's so many more people on Amazon and anywhere else you can figure how to sell in Amazon you should be fine everywhere else but it's so much easier than saying I'm gonna be wide and oh well I'm gonna okay there's a typo in the book let me upload it to 12 different stores now or even going on yeah oh do you know once here in the once in Amazon it's just a deer you know I love a draft additional those guys are awesome I love Kevin I love Dan I mean every single one of them is great but I'm just like guys I I can't do it I you know I'm too scared I think tell myself that I would also tell myself to really pay attention to to the genre this is office Fox right this is right to market 101 I wish that book it existed cuz that's that's it that's what it is you know and everyone's like oh right to market or not everyone but people who don't like it or oh right to market is you know my books different it's special little baby is ugly those okay we'll make it look like the rest of our babies okay we're always gonna buy your baby I wanna sell why would you want to raise your baby and sell a thing wholeheartedly agree and I'm the father of twins oh please man yeah one up on me I'm just got two little girls yeah well there with twins always figure out you know if something happens to one you have a spare that's right I always tell my wife you know hey kids are free to make so we picked up my social services so I coming full circle back to your music you know you have something talking about this multifaceted Empire you've been constructing you have something that's I think is quite extraordinary called a sonata and scribe is that still going oh absolutely you tell us a little bit about that sure yeah that it's actually probably the most exciting project that I never launched because it's 100 just me it's a hundred percent what I've always wanted to do I got a degree in music composition from Texas State I always wanted to be a film score composer I was a – I'm like a super fan of John Williams Hans Zimmer these guys that are killing it in the movie industry and I just always wanted to be that guy and I think you know academia broke me of that I started realizing that it's a lot more about who you know and you have to have the technique but it's a lot more about who you're who you're rubbing shoulders with or whatever bump in whatever that term is in any get moved to Hollywood and you know I was in bed yeah I wasn't pumping up will say bumping shoulders from now there you go look yeah I was very I wasn't gonna do that I had no interest in moving to Hollywood or LA or you know the big city to do that and and trying to start that I didn't really want it as much as I thought I did and so I put it on the shelf for many years I still had all the equipment you know sample libraries essentially hard drives full of real instrument recordings that I can play on a keyboard right here I never did anything with it because I didn't I didn't have an outlet for it I'm very much my wife always gets mad at me for it but I'm very much a guy who like I won't do I won't have a hobby unless I can figure how to turn that hobby into money yeah like I was brewed beer for a little while I love it here but you know I was like yeah this is a lot of work and I'm drinking beer and everything but I'm not I don't really have any interest in opening a brewery and selling and so I'm just never gonna make beer again which is totally unreasonable response that's me so I never said anything with music stuff until I was talking to Kevin Tomlinson about it and kind of just bitching same thing and he was like well you oughta just you gotta just write a soundtrack to my book nothing and caller stuff and I was like what do you mean like it's not a movie yet and who's it gonna know just write music inspired by the book and so I was like oh man that's brilliant okay well how can I make money doing it right he's like well I'll pay you to do it and you know I was well yeah you don't pay me but that immediately got me thinking like people would pay me for that like that's pretty that's pretty incredible right yeah because it's not quite an audiobook and it's not quite a movie so it's in it's not it's it's something else entirely and so it's this asset that authors can use to either sell or you know put on streaming website Michael Cooper's got his streaming everywhere you can find music but he's also selling it as a as a CD you know it's a real nice looking case that I think Andrew Davel did the cover design for everything and you can you can package that as a product or you can give it away as an upsell a value-add kind of thing and people fans seem to be really really loving that you know now you have to be a certain at a certain point in your author career I think where it makes sense financially to do it I mean unless unless it's totally just fantasy and there's nothing wrong with that either mm-hmm I'll do it either way it's just an expensive investment and so it typically if you're looking at it as like a product to sell I always tell the author that you know you need to have a pretty you know rabid base of fan large base of fans that are gonna be able to support some of this because it is such a weird thing it's not it's not a book it's not a movie it's sort of this you know anyway so that's that's what it is it's not I described and we're doing a few albums right now we've got Joe Solari is doing it you just finished a Kickstarter campaign and I'm doing the soundtrack for that whole thing his is fun it's like steampunk meets eighties synthesizers really really wild stuff but it's it's really fun and absolutely is is like a an outlet for me it's a hobby and it's it's a business all-in-one and that's just like kind of the perfect trend rate of Awesomeness it's be kind of neat if you admit maybe you already have the sort of thought of it but to put together libraries perhaps that authors could buy for mood music so when I'm writing a certain scene sometimes I like to listen to music that sets that mood dramatic or whatever it'd be kind of neat just alright here's my library of Nick Thacker drama music listen so I don't know yeah I thought of that I mean it so I didn't think of I didn't think of what you're talking about that's brilliant I'm gonna do that but um I am writing what's literally called library music hmm wouldn't action music so you know you read it like so one of the stupid one that ukelele air but little Glalie thing with like some piano plinking around and and it's like a writ jingle it's the back of like every PowerPoint presentation in every cubicle – well but that's kinda that kind of crap cells you know and you can write them in like 10 minutes and so I've been doing that kind of thing for fun and uploading them to some of the big websites that you know people can download that as royalty-free music and I get paid for it but I and I've also just I just mastered yesterday at the 10th song on a CD of my music it's basically just instrumental rock that kind of stuff that I listen to when I'm writing and in the back of my mind it was made for writers to just have in the background I don't like lyrics because I start paying attention to everything and so instrumental stuff is typically what I'm what I'm writing to and so I wanted to write a a CD of that kind of stuff but I love what you're talking about because then it's instead of just downloading you know Pandora or Spotify and having like the inception soundtrack or play with you know what you which is a bunch of songs that kind of sound like it but they're all from different movies and the moods are all kind of different yeah this be what you're talking about is this is all dramatic underscore you know all Malta songs and okay well going to an action scene here's the action scene you know platelets or whatever yeah I'll be fine let go for it alright well that's all I have for you Nick Thacker thanks so much for joining us here on games and writers I really appreciate it thanks for having me it was a lot of fun

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