Interview with E.W. Sullivan

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Jacksonville, Florida. It has a reputation as a place to be from (the implication being never to live there). It's a little-big city. I believe it's the largest U.S. city area wise. I've found the mentality of the people, however, to be small. Before I get hate mail from "The Bang'um", let me explain. I presently live in Atlanta. If you left here for more than a year, the place would be totally transformed by the time you returned. Be it new buildings, roadways or something, the place never stands still. Jacksonville, on the other hand, seems frozen it time. If New Orleans is the "Big Easy", Jacksonville is "The Big Same ol' Same Old". That said, it is the place of my three biggest writing influences: Mr. Smith my high school English teacher and my parents. Mr. Smith always encouraged me to keep writing and my parents were two of the best storytellers I've ever heard, especially my dad.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I don't remember the first story I ever read, but I do remember the first impactful story. In my case there were two: the Bible and Catcher in the Rye. WHAT you say! I know, it's crazy. They couldn't be more different. I remember reading the Bible from Genesis to Revelation and being unable to put it down. It had everything: murder, sex, betrayal and rock & roll. Okay, perhaps not R&R but some other bad music instead. It read like a perfectly crafted story, contradictions and all (calm down zealots). I was so moved that I hopped into the shower and baptized myself (good thing there are three strikes). To a more safer topic, Catcher in the Rye mad me a badass. I got in to more trouble with my parents trying to be Holden Caulfield than you would believe. I fell in love with writing after reading this book. The moment I finished it I knew I would become a writer some day.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
There is almost nothing more enjoyable than the creative process. After completing a novel, I know what Dr. Frankenstein must've felt like when his creation rose up - IT'S ALIVE!
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes, and it was a piece of crap! It's a good thing it never saw the light of day. This was long before I took a professional approach to my writing. What I mean by this is, I studied everything I could about writing, in particular, mystery and thriller writing. I bought resources on everything from story structure to character arc. I took seminars on writing both online and classroom. I read the works of major authors in the genre. I joined a writing club, hired an editor and coach, etc., etc. Many years later I reread the manuscript of the first novel I wrote and couldn't get past the first chapter before nausea set in. It reminded me of my first design project as a student of architecture, before I learned the language of design and how to apply it. My writing now is much more superior than it was ten years ago. Writing is a learning process.
What is your writing process?
I'm a plotter. I outline as much detail as possible before seriously typing a stroke. I may jot down a quick thought before losing it or make a note for a future chapter, but my process is pretty much methodical. I rarely have writer's block using this approach. It also keeps me from writing myself into a corner - I'm writing from the mountain top rather than from within the trees. I also use a four act outline rather than the traditional three act. This approach helps me keep my plot and pinch points where they should be. It also makes sure that the denouement is perfectly place in the story. Part of the writing process is setting. For me it's late nights to early mornings. I love seeing the sun come up and smelling the first offerings of fresh air. I rarely write with music playing, preferring instead ESPN or CNN. I hate sleeping when I'm in the middle of a book. I also forget to shower on occasion (full disclosure). I don't really have a desk (at least not yet). I use the base of a TV to support my computer, that way I'm mobile and can hide from my wife and toddler when I want to work.
How do you approach cover design?
The covers are the first impression readers will get of my books and the first opportunity I have to gain their trust as an author. I want the cover design to reflect something about the story for sure but also something about me. A professional-looking cover should portend something about the quality of writing, if not the story itself. Sometimes I would go through three or more different cover designs, until the right one speaks to me. That was the case with my latest novel Swarm Theory. The initial cover design was very abstract, and I loved it. I felt, however, that it wouldn't grab the casual book browser's attention enough. I went through a series of redesigns before finally choosing the present one. Genre has something to do with it as well. I write murder-mysteries and thrillers. Those readers are accustomed to a certain look and, unless introducing something new is advantageous, I try to give them what they've come to expect.
What do you read for pleasure?
I read mysteries and thrillers primarily. Once in a while, I'll adventure into other genres
What are your five favorite books/authors, and why?
The Bible. It is the quintessential story, regardless of genre.
Native Son (Richard Wright). It reveals character and character arc. As a young man reading this novel for the first time, the character of Bigger Thomas leaped from the pages so vividly. There were many Biggers (or those on their way to becoming him) in my childhood.
Catcher in the Rye (JD Salinger). This book made me fall in love with reading.
George Pelecanos. Any of his books. His writing for The Wire is perhaps the greatest contemporary crime writing I've ever seen (since it was for a TV show).
Walter Mosley. He is to me the James Baldwin (who is on my list as well, but I'll limit it to five) of crime fiction writing. Mosley writes what I call reflective crime drama: there's always something to be learned from his stories.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
Whatever I have at that moment. Right now it's an iPad.
What's the story behind your latest book?
SWARM THEORY is my latest book. The title and concept were developed from a doctoral dissertation proposal for admission to graduate business school. The admitting committee wasn't impressed, but the book was, "...A work of rare brilliance", according to one reviewer. Without getting too deep (or giving away too much), swarm theory is derived from swarm particle optimization, which seeks to answer the question, "How does a swarm (bird, insect, etc.) function". In my dissertation proposal, I sought to use particle optimization theory as a means to predict uncertainty in business and/or economic market models. Particle optimization is an utilitarian device applicable to many disciplines including criminology. In my new book SWARM THEORY, a series of crimes (including murder, bombings, etc.) are committed causing the protagonist, criminal profiler Thelonious O. Zones II, PhD, to employ his deductive skills to solve.
What are you working on next?
I have three projects in the works. The first is the next book in the Thelonious Zones series (Sheaves of Zion, Swarm Theory) titled "The Path to Kriya". The second is a rework of a religious adventure novella I initially wrote under a nom de plume. Finally, I'm outlining a contemporary novel loosely based on stories my father told me of his life as the son of a sharecropper in the deep, Jim Crow south. I'm thinking of writing it as a murder-mystery. For now, I'm engrossed in the marketing of SWARM THEORY. It's keeping me fairly business.
What do your fans mean to you?
In a modern society, there are three essentials: food, shelter and clothing. One must feed himself. One must house himself and one must cover his ass. Everything after that is extra. To think that someone would use their hard-earned money to buy a non-essential thing like a book (gasp!), is incredible to me. I never take that for granted. Fans help to provide my family with food, shelter and clothing through their generous support of my writing. When I look at my toddler and know that her subsistence is financed by the generosity of others, I thank God for them. I know some big shot authors may think that their place on the New York Times Best Seller List is a right rather than a privilege. They seem oblivious to the fact that each book sale may represent the blood, sweat and tears of someone just looking to escape their world through the pages of your books. My late father once told me that all honest work is honorable. And to never take a man's (or woman's) time for granted. And that anyone who buys from you is more than a patron, they are kin.
Published 2016-07-31.
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Books by This Author

Swarm Theory
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 148,820. Language: American English. Published: August 1, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » General, Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Crime thriller
Criminal profiler Dr. Thelonious Zones wants to believe his father didn’t kill his mother. What stops him from believing is the twenty-five years to life his father received for her murder. Zones sets out to find the truth to this twenty-four year old question, but his search is interrupted when he is forced to investigate the death of a young Arab college student and a series of bombings.
Sheaves of Zion
Price: $1.50 USD. Words: 87,130. Language: American English. Published: February 23, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Hard-Boiled, Fiction » African American fiction » Mystery & detective
Psychologist Dr. Thelonious Zones is counseling inmates at a South Georgia prison. When bodies start to show up in religious places, he is called in to help investigate the crimes. Dr. Zones is an expert in crime scene symbolism, particularly of a religious nature. His theories of the crimes are doubted, however, by investigators. He must prove that they are correct to stop a killer.