To celebrate the launch of the new Facebook group for lovers of action thriller fiction, The Ops Centre, I’m interviewing a whole bunch of great authors in the genre, starting with Franklin Horton who writes both in the post-apocalyptic and action adventure genres.
Franklin Horton lives and writes in the mountains of southwestern Virginia. He grew up an obsessive reader who dreamed of being an author since he was thirteen years old. He went on to get a totally useless degree in English from Virginia Commonwealth University. From there he went on to hold a diverse variety of jobs including radio announcer, hotel desk clerk, photo processor, delivery driver, substance abuse educator, retail store owner, carpenter, general contractor, project manager, maintenance director, and finally full-time author.
He’s written over thirty science fiction and thriller novels and now lives a hermit’s life on a remote mountaintop along the Clinch Mountain chain, splitting his day between writing and tinkering in his shop like one of his characters.
GJ: Can you describe your journey to getting your first book published?
FH: I decided I wanted to be a writer when I was thirteen years old. Stephen King was just rising to popularity and he was the first writer that ever seemed cool to me. He made writing seem like a fun job. I started writing short stories about that time and went on to get an English degree in college. The degree didn’t help much, but being an obsessive reader did. Reading teaches you how to use words in the way that most accurately conveys what you’re trying to say.
After graduating college I wrote seven novels between 1990 and 2004. In those days you had to get an agent before you could get to a publisher. I was never able to get an agent. I collected hundreds of rejections. In 2004 I got frustrated and took a break for about 8 years.
After realising that being a writer was the ONLY job I ever wanted, I started writing again around 2012. Self-publishing was changing at this time because of the advent on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. It gave authors the ability to sell books without the middlemen. I studied the KDP program, read a lot of blogs, and followed message boards where authors discussed their experiences using this program.
I decided not to resurrect one of my old books but to write one in a genre I was enjoying reading at the time, which was post-apocalyptic science fiction. I was very familiar with the topic and had a lot of background in the outdoors, firearms, and survival, which came in handy. I released my first Kindle title in 2015, The Borrowed World, and it changed my life. At this point, I’ve written over thirty novels and as of 2021 have sold over a million books.
GJ: Many of your books are about surviving the apocalypse. What is it about world ending events that inspires you to write?
FH: I like the sense of immediacy that comes with writing a survival story. Nearly every situation becomes a matter of life or death. Even the smallest decisions can have profound impacts. I also like exploring how different personality types cope in this situation.
GJ: What do you find the hardest part of the writing process?
FH: Advertising and marketing. I think a lot of beginning authors have an expectation that they’ll write their book and the world will beat a path to their door but it’s incredibly hard work. There was thirty-five years between my first novel and my breakthrough novel. Part of what I learned in that time is that this career requires more than the ability to write. It requires the ability to analyse markets and data. It requires the ability to write copy for ads and measure whether those ads convert to sales. That’s the hardest part for me and for most of the really successful authors I know. You have to grasp that you’re not just an author, you’re a business owner and you have to run all aspects of the enterprise.
GJ: If you were to have your life again with regards to writing, what would you change, if anything?
FH: I would have spent less time writing in a vacuum. In my early years I didn’t know a lot of writers. I didn’t have a peer group of authors to talk to, even if it was just online. As I’ve made more author friends, they’ve become a tremendous resource for me. Even if they write other genres, there are commonalities in plotting, advertising, business strategies, which are universal. Besides, just having author friends to communicate with throughout the day makes those hours at the keyboard a little less lonely.
James Bond. Jack Reacher. Carrie Harris. Mitch Rapp. George Smiley. Eve Polastri. Jack Ryan. Alex Swan. Sydney Bristow. Ethan Hunt. Jack Bauer. Perry the Platypus. Jason Bourne.
If you’ve ever enjoyed reading about any of these characters then I’m setting up a new place you’ll love to hang out in.
The Ops Centre is a brand new Facebook group from some of the people behind The Written Undead. We aim to provide a place to talk spies, espionage and kick-ass moves, plus we’ll introduce you to new characters and authors, and no doubt drop free stuff.
If it sounds like your kind of thing, click the link and join in the conversation.
GJ: One for fellow authors out there. If you can give one piece of advice as to how you can get your books in front of readers, what would it be?
FH: I think one of the strongest free strategies is to cross-promote with other authors who write in the same genre as you do. Do newsletter swaps where they share your books to their audience and you share theirs with your audience. Join social media groups that are genre specific. I know we have a lot of these in the post-apocalyptic genre, but I’ve seen them for other genres, as well.
But also I think it’s important to understand that early in your career you win readers one at a time. It’s not a viral, mass event. Answer fan mail. Respond to social media posts. Be nice. Give away a signed book when a loyal reader is having a bad day. If you can grow loyal super-fans, they become brand ambassadors that help you grow your career.
GJ: Do you have a favourite character to write and why?
FH: My favourite character is The Mad Mick from the series by the same name. He’s an assassin with an incredible backstory who does a brutal job, but has an optimistic attitude. He enjoys his life and finds humour in it, even though he works in the darkest profession. It’s probably my most popular series.
GJ: What type of books do you like to read and what are you reading right now?
FH: I like non-fiction. Usually military stories or mountaineering narratives. They have a survival aspect that I enjoy. In fiction I read or listen to a wide variety of authors, but I especially enjoy literary fiction that emphasises the language. Authors such as Cormac McCarthy, Walker Percy, William Faulkner, Tom McGuane, or James Carlos Blake.
GJ: What can your fans expect from you in the next couple of years?
FH: Lots more books. I’m pretty consistent at 5 books a year right now. I plan to continue adding to my bigger series but hope to find time for a few new ones too. Some of those are post-apocalyptic but others are more in the action thriller genre. I have lots of ideas plotted out and I just need to find the time to write them.
GJ: Thank you Franklin for taking the time to speak with me today.
You can visit him on the web at www.franklinhorton.com. Please subscribe to his newsletter for updates, promotions, and giveaways.
‘Unputdownable’ and totally original‘ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“The front cover intrigued me, a transcript and redacted, and I wasn’t disappointed. In fact it was on the ‘unputdownable’ category.
Very different and flows seamlessly following the conversation with added excitement is very original, hats off to the author.
I am sure to read other novels from GJ Stevens even if not my normal genre as they seem to be.”