Saturday, February 16, 2013

Interview with Author Max Coffie

Give us a quick introduction on yourself and your book. My name is Maxwell Coffie, and I'm a final year student of Ashesi University College, in West Africa. "Maxwell Coffie" is actually a pseudonym I invented in high school, after deciding that my long, complex Akan name probably wasn't going to fit the international market. My book 'BETA: The Killing' is a fantasy thriller about a detective called Arra Everglade, who is forced to join a fringe government agency, in order to track down a powerful, inter-dimensional assassin. The book is scheduled for May, 2013.

What inspired you to write your first book? I've written a lot of 'first books', none of which I ever completed because I was trying too hard to be deep, or thought provoking, or whatever it is young authors think they need to be to be respected. BETA: The Killing, on the other hand, was different because I finally decided to write something that I wanted to read. And what I wanted was a book that wasn't embarrassed to read like a summer blockbuster flick. So, I guess my inspiration was my own frustration.

Do you have a specific writing style? My style fluctuates on any given project, because I believe that different scenes and emotions require different approaches. I like to write clean and fast during dialogue scenes, and also during narrations that would otherwise be tedious. James Patterson is my inspiration there. For scary scenes, I play fast and loose with the traditional rules of prose, which I think is good when you're trying to channel fear (I can thank Stephen King and Dean Koontz for that). And finally, my fight/action scenes are written more carefully and with more attention to detail. This style is my own, because I like to get the reader's blood pumping.

How did you come up with the title? 'Beta' refers to the agency Detective Everglade joins in the story i.e. the Beta Agency. 'The Killing' refers to the bizarre murder that started the chain of events.

How much of the book is realistic? Well, it depends on what you want to term 'realistic'. My fight scenes get a little crazy, for instance. The story takes place in a fantasy universe, with its own races, worlds, technology, and even planetary system. What is possible and what isn't possible are largely determined by the 'rules' I developed for the universe.
However, what I am proudest of is that the universe of BETA: The Killing is not devoid of social problems like sexism, racism, dirty politics, or sleazy conglomerates. Readers will recognize our world and human nature in this universe. If that's what we define as realistic, then the book is plenty realistic.

What books have influenced your life most? Every book I have ever read has changed my way of thinking in some way. The Bible was an important one, but not for the reasons most people think. The second most important book was 'The Te of Piglet' by Benjamin Hoff, which taught me a lot about tolerance, the importance of questioning crowd mentality, and how to do big things even when you feel small.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor? There's this Nigerian writer called Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie that I look up to a lot. She doesn't write for my target audience, but a while back, I listened to a speech she gave on TEDtalks, and I was blown away. She was the one who taught me that being an African didn't necessarily mean I had to write about poverty, or war, or corruption. She said it was okay to leap into a genre I loved, and simply write like anybody else around the world would write. So, I did.

What book are you reading now? Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor. As far as YA books go, this is a great one. It feels sufficiently original, there's some action in it, and there's a lot of heart too. I like heart.

What are your current projects? Well, I've already began planning 'BETA: The Reaping', the sequel to the first book. Other than that, I've been working on some short stories that I'll be making free on Smashwords.

Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members. My girlfriend Sika. She's my enforcer, which means she gets to kick my butt when I miss my deadlines.

Do you see writing as a career? That's what I'm currently trying to do: make it a career. I have some great opportunities with marketing firms that I'm obliged to look into, but I hope to be a full-time writer in 5 years.

Can you share a little of your current work with us? The following is from the first chapter of BETA: The Killing.
When Juun arrived at her apartment, she stopped. The door was ajar. She could feel bio-mana radiating from inside. The intruder was still in the apartment. Her heart began to race. But not from fear. It raced from adrenalin. She was well trained in defensive arts. She had served for a year as a peace guardian at the Rim. On top of that, she was a Lillith, and most Lilliths were clairvoyant.
The intruder had picked the wrong apartment to break into.
She spotted a mop at the end of the hallway, and went to grab it. She snapped off the handle to make a spear, and then treaded lightly into her home.
It was dark. She didn't put on the lights. She didn't need light. She could see in the dark. The intruder's bio-mana was sharp, distinct. She traced it right into the living room, and stopped.
The intruder was sitting in her armchair, waiting.
Waiting for her.
" Who the pitch-muck are you?" she asked.
The intruder stood up, and drew a blaster.
Juun swore, and leapt over her kitchen island, just as everything around her started to explode with white light. She closed her eyes and ears, as glass, metal, and stone burst apart with rapid blaster fire.
Suddenly, the blasting ceased.
Juun opened her eyes. The silence was deafening. She reached into her purse for her cell, and dialled triple nil.
" Metro Emergency Line, what is your emergency?"
" There's a killer in my apartment," she whispered. "Please send someone! Send someone now-ah!"
A hand grabbed the scarf around her neck, and yanked her from behind the island. But the scarf came lose, and she shoved herself free. She tried to throw a series of quick punches, but she was blocked off, and easily over-powered. Her assailant slammed her headfirst into the side of a cupboard. She crumbled to the ground, and groaned.
She could hear the muffled voice of the operator from where she lay. When she tried to reach for her cell, the intruder kicked it away, and then sat on her chest. He was wielding a knife.
" I'll give you anything you want," she whispered desperately. "My credit code, my jewellery, everything. You can have everything." Now she was sobbing, as the blade drew nearer and nearer to her face. "You can have it all."
The intruder cocked his head at her. "I already am."
Outside Juun's apartment building, first there was silence.
Then, there was screaming.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing? Deciding how much is too much. Sometimes, the things we write add to the story and sometimes, we're just self-indulging. The difficulty lies in learning to differentiate between the two.

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work? Without a doubt, Dean Koontz. His attention to detail is unparalleled, in my opinion. I feel like I'm right there with his characters. His characters are also brilliant, all of the time. I'm yet to read a Koontz book with characters I do not like. Finally, his is the best dialogue I have ever read; crisp, funny, believable.

Who designed the covers? Currently, I designed the working cover myself. But I'll be meeting a professional in a couple of weeks so we can come up with something fantastic.

What was the hardest part of writing your book? Explaining concepts was hard. When you have an entirely new universe to introduce, you have a lot of explaining to do. How do you do that without overwhelming your reader with information? I tried to use dialogue as much as possible, but it wasn't easy.

Do you have any advice for other writers? This is to all aspiring writers who're finding it impossible to finish a book: your first book can't be perfect. If you make your goal perfection, you'll never finish a book. Make it your goal to simply finish. It gets easier (and your writing gets surprisingly better) after that.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers? How can I not use this as an opportunity to market my book? BETA: The Killing comes out in May of this year. Follow me on Facebook and Twitter (@maxcoffie) for updates. Look out for it. It's going to be an amazing.