Interview with Neil Ostroff

Published 2013-11-17.
What's the story behind your latest book?
A catastrophic moment in a friend’s life. My friend was told he had pancreatic cancer and just two weeks to live. My wife and I made the decision to hospice him.

It was an incredibly powerful experience watching as his life slipped away and how he dealt with it psychologically. When the day finally came that he passed on, I was there to pull the sheet over his head. I’ve never been the same since.

This painful experience inspired my novel “Drop Out,” which examines the meaning of life. My agent at the time was not happy because “Drop Out” was a change in genre. I normally write thrillers and sci-fi.

I couldn’t just let it sit in a drawer so I decided to publish it through Smashwords. Since then I've sold thousands of copies and get letters from readers all over the world telling me how the book has affected their lives.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
My agent did not want me publishing in multiple genres even though I write in them.
What do your fans mean to you?
I love receiving emails from readers telling me how my book DROP OUT has changed their lives. The story seems to affect a lot of readers.
What are you working on next?
I'm currently writing a dystopian novel about what the Earth is like fifty years after an alien attack force is defeated.
Who are your favorite authors?
My absolute favorite is Stephen King. Most others pale compared to him.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I basically spend my days writing and marketing, so I guess I'm usually marketing my work when I'm not writing.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
Amazon... simple.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
The first story I ever wrote was about a lost little wolf. I was in first grade. It subsequently went on to win the young authors award for my school that year. I went on to win the award every year until I went to Junior high.
What is your writing process?
Like most authors when I’m writing a book I usually write a terrible first draft. Pages filled with scrawled ideas and bland dialogue. I work on this first draft non-stop, sometimes for weeks until I get a good solid manuscript-length of material. But there is one thing I never do, and that is to write the end of the book.

When about eighty-percent of the first draft is written I go back and re-read the entire thing a second time. This second read allows me to clean up all the details and sharpen the plot and dialogue. But I still do not write the end portion, as is the case with my latest book.

After a second full read I spend an enormous amount of time, sometimes for months, picking up the manuscript and reading random sections, seeing if it grabs my attention in whatever scene that is occurring, while editing and making certain each section is as tight as it can be. At this point, I start to formulate an idea of how I want the story to end. I begin keeping a notebook and jot down ‘ah ha’ moments (parts in the story that I can foreshadow and use at the end) as they occur. Though I usually still do not know how everything will wrap up.

After many months of cleaning, polishing, and summing up all the subplots, characters, and scenes, I give the worked manuscript another full read from the beginning to the point where I am now, about to write the last section. This final read before writing the end is often terrifying. Sometimes I wonder if I can actually write the last section or if all my hard work will have been for naught. The fear that no ending will suffice often burns through me until it is actually written. Sometimes, I worry that the end won’t live up to the story.

Then, like a M80 firecracker exploding inside my skull, the solution came to me on how my latest book must end. This moment of clarity is illuminating and I nearly couldn’t write in my notebook my ideas for the finale fast enough. It is as if the ending section is a psychic gift from a higher source.
How do you approach cover design?
I have a professional cover artist who works with me until we get it just right. I think my covers are great and love every one of them.
What do you read for pleasure?
Believe it or not I read everything I can get my hands on. If the first five pages don't capture my attention I move on. If they do I read the book no matter what genre.
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