Interview with Alex Ames

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
Carly Simon, the great singer songwriter of the Seventies, had the line in one of her songs: "People who have no hills write songs about the plains." I grew up in 100% whitebread suburbs and the first foreign person I ever met was probably an Egyptian immigrant who had spent 16 of his 18 years already in my hometown. Nothing ever happened there, no murders, no catastrophes, no violence, no bullying...
That probably developed my liking for adventure stories with shoot outs, car chases, abandoned ghost ships and plane crashes in the desert.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I am born with a "story-gene". The first story I wrote when I was about six years old and it was called "Alexander and Armin in Africa" -- my parents still have it stored somewhere. Something to do with my little brother and myself on the River Nile and crocodiles.
But seriously: the first real story I wrote was a book called "Stories end" - describing the last night of a group of friends together as they make their way through bars and parties. I never published it but it taught me three important points about writing:
1) There is a story in me that needs to get out
2) Endurance! One page after another from the beginning to the end
3) Writing is not only creativity. It is creativity, handywork and marketing.
Especially point three: my first story was born out of creativity, but it was missing handywork and marketing. Something I developed in stories 2, 3, 4, 5... - hopefully.
What is your writing process?
First, probably as with every writer, inspiration strikes. And I never lack those, I have one million stories about anything inside of me. Usually the inspiration crystalises around a certain "What if" situation ("What if a teenage girl has a jewelry thief as a mother whom she always need to provide alibis for?") or a inner feeling or conflict ("I am a super agent but want to become a normal everyday man").
Then the inspiration "simmers" for long as it takes in the back of my mind and while I am writing actively on my current story, my background brain processes provide me with ideas of how the new story could develop. What are the major conflicts? What are the main players? What could be suspense/funny/sad moments in the story? But no serious work, just playing with the concept.
If am selecting my new project, I pick the development that I fancy most - the luxury of a self published unsuccessful writer. Then comes the handywork: structuring the story, the main acts, the introductions, the development of conflicts and story lines and their resolution. Especially the resolutions are important for me, as I would like to develop the story lines towards the resolution twists early on the my stories. (I could never write a story where I do not have the outcome plotted).
Comes the writing. More important than the story sequence to me is the continuous flow of the writing process. I like to write the story in one go - not in one day of course - but in one flow of writing without jumping back and forth. So I start in the beginning, go through the story. If I get a non-critical issue anywhere, I simply skip that section with my beloved "xxx" markers in the text (to find the unfinished passages or sections easily) and move on in the story. Same I do admittedly for boring sections.
So the story is done. I then find the xxx sections and either throw them out or do them with a little more effort.
Now for the part I hate most: the editing. Reading your own story after a few weeks of distance, correcting typos and grammar, improving sections, fixing inconsistencies, ... I hate it!
The editing takes me longest and I need to motivate myself constantly to get at it. Five to six passes, a first read by my wife or the kids, then some more passes.
And someday, in my case about 6-9 months of labor, the story is done.
Describe your desk
Since I can remember, I do not care about the desk. I have no use for a working desk, even at my real professional work desk. I can write anywhere, as long as I have a keyboard: on my briefcase on the train, in a restaurant or cafe, on my living room desk, in the kitchen, on the balcony...
It is not the desk, it is not the PC, it is not the type of paper or writing program!
The only thing that counts for me is to bring down the words somewhere. Anywhere.
What do you read for pleasure?
I read the books I would like to be able to write. There, I said it.
I have a rooster of about 25 authors that I read, and I read fast (usually one book in two days, the splendor of train commutes). And there are probably not many surprises there regarding style and quality:
Lee Child, John Sandford, the Kellerman's, Robert B. Parker to name a few of the current rooster. I also like the "old masters" like Chandler, John D. McDonalds Travis McGhee, Peter O'Donnell's Modesty Blaise or Gavin Lyall's dry spy novels.
How do you approach cover design?
I am creative when it comes to visuals but have no designer talent. My compromise: I blatantly steal good cover design ideas. I go to Amazon or Google and enter search terms of similar genre books or key plot points and see what comes up.
If I like a design, I purchase the fitting design elements like photos, graphics or fonts and rebuild the design of my favorite.
As I have trouble understanding Photoshop layers and GIMP, I take the took I can work most easily with: Powerpoint to build layout. I export it as JPG, quality is fine for my book designs.
In the future I probably will take a designer service, though, to save myself some trouble.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I probably will buy myself a Kindle Paperwhite for Christmas. But I hate carrying around too many devices. At home I read Kindle books on the iPad and at the commute I continue reading on my iPhone. Sounds hard for the eyes but still works for me. I am a one platform person, so when it comes to music and books I stick with Amazon's services.
Why the mix of German and English books? Warum die Mischung aus deutsch- und englischsprachigen Büchern?
I am most at ease writing action-mystery novels in English, probably because I read my favorite authors in English. The young-adult series "Pirateboy" I wrote for my own kids and as they cannot read English (yet), I put those stories down in German. So it was a pure target audience decision.

Ich fühle mich am wohlsten, wenn ich meine Action und Mystery Bücher auf Englisch schreibe. Vermutlich weil ich sie auch auf Englisch lese. Die "Piraten-Trilogie" habe ich für meine eigenen Kinder geschrieben, die (noch) kein Englisch lesen können. Eine reine "Zielpublikum"-Entscheidung.
Published 2014-10-31.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Teen Vampire Hunters
Series: Teen Monster Hunters, Book 2. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 52,840. Language: English. Published: November 24, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Fantasy, Fiction » Young adult or teen » Mystery & Detective
The Teen Monster Hunters are back! Sally Storm is intrigued when her cheerleading nemesis Tiffany offers a case to the Monster Hunters. Amysterious mountain retreat of a late eccentric millionaire, an open coffin in the cellar and a dead dog with tale-telling bite marks! A vampire? Sally, Ryan, and Moe will need all their supernatural investigation expertise to bring light into the dark!
Pieces of Trouble
Series: Troubleshooter, Book 4. Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 49,160. Language: English. Published: January 3, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Action & suspense, Fiction » Adventure » Action
Paul Trouble, former elite soldier and retired spy master, is Strom Industries’ troubleshooter and fixer for dodgy situations, still recoving from the aftershocks of losing his left hand. He is the accountant you want to have by your side when bullets and knives replace Excel spreadsheets and paper staplers. This volume collects four short stories from Paul's present and past adventures.
Series: Troubleshooter, Book 3. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 79,780. Language: English. Published: December 11, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Action & suspense, Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Crime thriller
Former US Marine and ex-Spy Paul Trouble is in for a nightly surprise: an unknown man dies on his apartment doorstep, pursued by two ruthless killers. Hunted by an unseen master mind pulling the strings towards an explosive finale, Paul and investigating Scotland Yard's DCI Stephanie Burton need all their combined skills and wits to unravel the conspiracy - Trouble style, fist, guns, and all!
Series: Troubleshooter, Book 2. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 90,830. Language: English. Published: February 1, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Action & suspense, Fiction » Thriller & suspense » General
Paul Trouble’s boss has been kidnapped. During the worst Blizzard ever to hit the East Coast for years, trapped alone and unarmed, Paul needs all his former spymaster and Marine skills to save his boss and himself from a gang of merciless killers in the middle of the Massachusetts wilderness. A lot of people will find out that snow also comes in the color “red”.
Brilliant Actors
Series: Brilliant - Calendar Moonstone Mysteries. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 78,580. Language: English. Published: January 11, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Women Sleuths, Fiction » Mystery & detective » General
What could be more exciting than attending the Academy Awards ceremony, joining the hottest after-show party, and have an A-movie star wearing your jewelry? All of the above, plus spending the rest of the night in jail! Acclaimed jewelry maker and part-time cat burglar Calendar Moonstone finds a stolen necklace in her purse, an enigmatic, unemployed actor with a cheesy name working against her!
Piratenjunge — Teil 1 der Belisla-Piratentrilogie
Series: Belisla Piraten. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 89,630. Language: German. Published: October 31, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Adventure, Fiction » Young adult or teen » Fantasy
Strandurlaub, Nichtstun, Eiscreme, iPod hören Das ist der Plan des zwölfjährigen Johannes Gordon und seiner Familie auf der karibischen Ferieninselgruppe Belisla. Und dann passiert es: Johannes wir von Piraten entführt. Von leibhaftigen, altertümlichen Karibikpiraten mit Schwertern, Kanonen und Segelbooten, die sich „Schwarze Falken“ nennen und behaupten, Johannes sei einer von ihnen.
Piratenkapitän - Teil 2 der Belisla-Piratentrilogie
Series: Belisla Piraten. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 60,340. Language: German. Published: October 31, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Adventure
Die ‚Schwarzen Falken‘ wurden vom Gouverneur festgenommen und stehen vor Gericht. Und nur Johannes und seine guten Ideen können die Falken-Piraten retten. Und diesmal ist Johannes nicht allein. Mit Schwester Amelia und seinem genialen besten Freund Richard an seiner Seite kann das Abenteuer beginnen: Befreit die Falken!
Series: Troubleshooter, Book 1. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 61,740. Language: English. Published: November 18, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Action & suspense, Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Spies & espionage
One hundred million dollars have gone missing from the accounts of Strom Defense Industries. A underwhelming assignment for ex-soldier-ex-spy-turned-financial-controller Paul Trouble. But soon the case turns into murder and mayhem, and Paul will need all his former skills to stay on top of the game.
A Brilliant Plan
Series: Brilliant - Calendar Moonstone Mysteries. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 84,160. Language: English. Published: June 4, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » General, Fiction » Mystery & detective » Women Sleuths
Just a regular job.... Get in, crack the safe, fetch the diamonds. That‘s what hobby cat burglar and acclaimed jewelry maker Calendar Moonstone has aimed for. Instead she finds a dead body, meets a handsome Detective, has a nosey insurance investigator on her tracks and manages a complicated boyfriend situation. And must solve a century old jewelry mystery!