Members and guests of the Point Pleasant Writers Guild recently enjoyed meeting author Michael Connick.
Connick’s presentation included how he came to write his three Cold War spy novels and his more recent crime novel featuring a rookie police officer with the Huntington, West Virginia, Police Department.
Born and raised in San Francisco, Connick’s life took many twists and turns before leading him to his retirement home in Huntington, a quiet community compared to most of the places he has lived. He said he enjoys being near an airport, a university, and an art museum where he volunteers as a docent. In addition to writing, he also enjoys competing in pistol and rifle competitions. His four books include “Trapped in a Hall of Mirrors,” “Funhouse Mirrors,” “Afghan Mirrors,” and “HPD.”
Connick graduated in 1968, at the height of America’s Cold War with Russia. His career with the National Security Agency as a computer analyst introduced him to a whole new world. It wasn’t long before his tech role proved useful to the Central Intelligence Agency, with jobs taking him overseas. Six months before the Shah of Iran was overthrown, he served as a consultant to the Shah’s Secret Police, the SAVAK, in Tehran, Iran, and worked and lived in Vienna, Austria a few years. His last assignment was with Intel Communication and Naval Surface Warfare in Virginia with the Department of Defense.
As a DoD employee with a Secret Clearance, Connick was subject to random security checks in which government agents investigate a clearance holder’s personal life to ensure that he or she isn’t a security risk. While at work one day, he received a call from his wife. She told him two unknown men were surveilling their house, and should she be concerned? It was then that Connick decided it was time to try a new line of business. How about writing a book?
He took an early retirement package which would permit him to work uninterrupted on writing a novel, an item on his Bucket List. While on vacation at the Outer Banks, he wrote the first 10,000 words of his first book, and after four months, he had written 68,000 words. (To put that into perspective, this article is 815 words.) Connick spoke about how most spy novels are unrealistic and often veer from being true-to-fact. Having been an actual spy, he felt qualified to write his own version of what spies do.
The first half of his first book, “Trapped in a Hall of Mirrors,” could read as his autobiography. He and his protagonist, Stephen Connor, have a lot in common. But, as he explained, in order to make the book more interesting, the second half took on more life and action to beef up the story line a bit. As Connick reminded his listeners, fiction is the best way to tell the truth.
Writing the first book was easy, he shared. Getting it published and marketed took more time and effort. That is how he got into self-publishing with Create Space, and he saved money by designing his own covers. A writing group in Huntington critiqued his work. One of his fellow Huntington Art Museum docents, a retired Marshall Engineering Professor, edited his book for free. Marketing his book involved extensive use of social media and creating Press Releases for radio, television, and newspapers. Pretty soon, these same agencies were calling him for interviews instead of the other way around. Connick emphasized the importance of marketing one’s book with these words: “You can write the best book in the world, but if no one sees it, they can’t read it.”
Connick’s advice to aspiring authors: (1) meet other writers at conferences and writing groups; (2) include a price on the cover of your book because some sellers won’t handle your books without it; (3) if you must spend money, put it on the cover’s graphics; (4) do not edit your own books; (5) spend one hour a day in marketing your book; and (6) for about $20.00 a year, join West Virginia Writers, Inc. They publish and mail a quarterly newsletter to their members to help keep them informed of upcoming writers’ conferences and writing competitions.
In addition to the guest speaker, the presentation was attended by guests, Dr. and Mrs. Mel (Lydia) Simon, Robin Harbrecht, Phil and Donna Heck and members, Patrecia Gray, Carol Newberry, Marilyn Clarke, Ilse Burris, Sue Underwood, Bob Watterson, Joe Ingerick, Kris Moore, Feryle Lawrence, and April Pyles.
The Point Pleasant Writers Guild meets every first and third Wednesday from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Mason County Library in Point Pleasant. All writers are welcome to attend.
Oct. 2, the Guild’s special guest speaker will be Dr. Mel Simon, who has published his first book, “Two Rivers, A World Apart.” Light refreshments will be served. The public is invited.