Interview with Thriller Writer V.M. Gopaul

This week’s interview is a rare one in that I was able to meet with V.M. in person.  I chose to focus on a different set of questions, since V.M. has published 10 books but only one fiction novel.

V. M. Gopaul Profile PicAs a software and database specialist, Gopaul wrote seven books for IT professionals. He then turned his attention to writing two books on spirituality, which paved the way for a hidden passion to emerge.  When crafting and completing Tainted Justice, a lifelong dream of Gopaul’s became a reality.  He also wanted to be different, but only time will tell if he is successful.  One thing is for sure: everyday life struggle and triumph that all of us face come alive in this first novel. He is bent on giving his readers a satisfying experience.

V.M. Gopaul loves fiction writing, it’s his newest passion.  He is planning to write three more thrillers.

Gopaul, married and loving father of two children, lives in Newmarket, Ontario – Canada.

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Q: Describe the moment that launched you on your journey to becoming a fiction writer.

A: That goes back a long, long, time ago.  After finishing high school I completed an English Literature course in which I had to study a novel.  After studying that novel, the plot, characters, etc., I said, “I would love to write a story like that.”  But then, when I looked at myself I said, “Umm, I’m not a good writer.  I don’t have all the skills needed to be a writer.  At the same time I was more interested in doing something else.  So that was put in the background for a while.

Q: When were you able to pick up the torch again?

A: Well, that’s a bit of a long story.  First of all, I had to take care of my career which was in electronics then later on in software.  Then after the career, family, children, and all of those things came as a priority.  But, as I was going through life, writing was always in the back of my mind.  So I said, “Okay, let me start first with getting some skills in writing by writing computer books.  Of course, I knew computers well because that was my career.  After that I got into writing some others non-fiction books that were of interest to me, on spirituality.  Then again, that desire to write a novel was always there and I wanted to do that.  I thought, first I have to take some courses to understand how to write a novel, because for sure I didn’t know how to do it.  After taking two or three online courses, I found that I still didn’t have the right skills to write a whole book, a whole story from beginning to end.  That’s when I decided to hire a coach and an editor to teach me how to do it.

Q: After this long-term career in the world of IT, and you submersing yourself in this technical writing, this reconnection that you’ve done, through the course work in English and in Literature, has brought you a better understanding of this side of fiction and writing fiction and what it means to write a novel.  Could you tell me a little bit more about that aspect of your journey?

A: First of all, while I had written so many books, when I got into writing a novel of fiction I found that these were two different things – they were like apples and oranges.  I could not take some of the skills that I had writing non-fiction, into [writing] fiction.  I was a little bit lost, to tell you the truth – totally lost.  So I had to focus on learning the skills, focus on writing a scene (writing a scene properly), because scenes are the base upon which the whole story lies.

Q: And that’s what brought you to your ability to get out the novel that has been lurking inside and pushing to be heard?

A: Yes.

Q: After you had an opportunity to learn the skills again, and be confident in your own writing ability, how instrumental were your editors and those who helped you, like your writing coach, in being able to help you achieve your final goal of being a published author?

A: To me, editors are always very, very important.  I find that editors never get enough credit.  It’s always the writer/author who gets all the credit but behind every good story or good book is always a good editor.  And as for me, especially with the fiction, with Tainted Justice, it was the editor who taught me how to write the first scene so that the reader is emotionally caught into the story and want more and more and more.   All along she told me, “You have to get the scene structure right.”  And she showed me several things that need to happen in a scene.  So, once we got the structure right, then we kept moving the story forward.

Q: Now that you’re a published author, would you still request the services of an editor?  Having gone through numerous drafts and you’ve experienced what it is you should be looking for, do you feel that an editor is still needed at this point?

A: Absolutely.  There is no way I could finish a book without the help of an editor.  To me, that’s absolutely necessary because editors, basically what they do, they make sure that the book is in good shape – good structural shape, the story is flowing nicely, and of course the editor also focuses on spelling, grammar, sentence structure, and all those kind of things.  As a writer it is hard to keep track of everything when you’re writing.  The first draft is just to get the story right – then maybe add more juice to it, add more emotion to it, add more crises to it, etc.  Then it comes to a point where you’ve had enough of this – you want to pass it on to someone else.  The next people to look at it are editors, maybe one or two or three.  So, absolutely, there is no way I could say I have finished a book without the help of an editor.

Q: When, during this process, did you know that self-publishing was the right avenue for your manuscript – Tainted Justice?

A: At first, I wanted to go through the traditional route, which is find an agent, then the agent will find me a publisher – and although I had self-published two books before that and had traditional publishers previously, the reason I wanted to go through a publisher is I just wanted to write.  I wanted to write and let someone else take care of distribution and marketing.  After looking for an agent for a while, it looked like that wasn’t happening.  I decided to take the self-publishing route.

Q: Was there any particular grace period or amount of time that you followed the traditional route before making that leap into self-publishing for this particular fiction novel?

A: It took me about a year to look for an agent.  I also submitted my work to some small publishers as well.  Now, looking back, maybe that was a good thing.

Q: Can you describe for me your research into the Indie Publishing market and what the main factors were when choosing the publisher you ended up with, which was Fast Pencil I believe?

A: Yes, it was Fast Pencil.  As I was writing this book I was always interested in this area, and I was aware of many Indie book publishers.  So, when it came time for me to go ahead and find one, I just went to a friend of mine, a self-published poet and fiction writer.  I called him and talked to him and he had already been with a few other ones and at that point he decided to go with Fast Pencil.  Then I inquired into Fast Pencil, and performing my own due diligence, I decided to go with Fast Pencil.

Q:  What particular options do you like best about working with Fast Pencil as compared to some of the other self-publisher that are out there?

A:  Well, I had everything ready.  I had the manuscript complete and edited; it was proofread, formatted, and converted to .pdf format.  So, for me, all I needed was a way to distribute my book.  To me, Fast Pencil was the least expensive way of doing it.  All I needed to do was upload everything, including the cover art, and there it was ready to be printed.  I particularly needed a place where print-on-demand was an option.  I didn’t want to have 1000 books printed and stored in my basement – something I had done before and I didn’t want to go that route again.  With Fast Pencil it cost me nothing to become a member and upload the book.  As the author, I am able to buy as many books as I want at cost – no extra fees are attached unless someone orders one on their own.  I paid $200 to gain access to Fast Pencil’s distribution partners (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.) and that made the process very easy.  It suited my needs well.

Q:  What was the most challenging aspect in bringing Tainted Justice to life?

A:  When you write a book there are always many, many challenges, and although this is my 10th book every time I write a new one there are different challenges.  For this book, the first big challenge was to grasp the techniques of writing a novel.  And in fact, with this one being a thriller, it is a unique genre so I had to keep in mind the general format for a thriller and the expectations readers would bring to the book.  It needs to excite the reader from beginning to end, which is not an easy task.  Once I learned the basics from my coach and editor, then it was easy.  After the 5th or 6th chapter things were flowing quite well, ideas were coming to me, the stories were moving ahead, and it was just a matter of time in order to finish it.

One other challenge I faced was writing while working at a full-time job.  In fact, I was working in Israel at the time.  My job started at 8:30 in the morning and went until 5:00 in the afternoon.  So, I had to get up early in the morning, put at least 2 or 3 hours in with my writing and then go to work.  And then on weekends, say, I was able to put in a full morning each day.  The work kept moving forward and forward and I was very happy with my progress.  This was for me, a dream come true.  Throughout all this I discovered that fiction writing is my passion.

Q:  Indie Publishing or Self-Publishing has come a long way from the first inception of the Vanity Press, but it is still looked down upon by many brand-name periodicals and book reviewers.  As an Indie Author and supporter, do you see a shift in this trend?  Can anything be done to bring the scales of Justice to balance between Traditional Publishing and Indie Publishing?

A:  When I first decided to go this route, with Tainted Justice, I brainstormed the idea with a group of writers I belonged to.  Some said, “Ah, no.  There is a stigma attached to self-publishing.” And “You better go and find an agent.”  But now, having gone through the process, I find the whole publishing landscape is changing.  Why is it changing?  Because of the digital age.

The publishing model that we have now for traditional publishing is more than 100 years old.  This model is only currently applicable to print books and it’s not going to last much longer.  Why?  Because of technology.  With technology now, a writer can publish a book very easily through the different channels that I have already mentioned.  All a writer needs to do is market their book.  There are so many different marketing tools right now, that it makes self-publishing a very viable business.  You have to look at it as a business in order to succeed.  Why should I let someone else have control over my work if I am going to have to market it anyway as a first time novelist?  The landscape is definitely changing and I think it is going in favour of self-publishing.

Q:  What are your writing goals in the foreseeable future?

Tainted Justice Cover Image for V. M. GopaulA: I plan to write 2 more books on the character Jason McDere, from Tainted Justice, and turn it into a trilogy.  However, I have put book number 2 on hold as I write another thriller.  I find that the thriller genre fits well with my writing style and plot ideas, and I look forward to writing even more in the years to come.

Q:  Do you have any timeline in mind as a goal for being able to publish these coming works?

A:  I would love to publish all of them in a year, but that’s not going to happen.  I know that some writers are able to write 2, 3 books a year, but it’s not for me.  As I am writing this current book, called Justice Denied, I find it is taking longer than I hoped to complete.  But this is art and creative work intermingled with a lot of research, it will take as long as it is going to take and I’m alright with that.

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