Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Exclusive interview with Boo Boo Stewart and Lee Chambers

I have been very fortunate to become friends with the amazing and talented Lee Chambers the author of The Pineville Heist.
He granted me permission to post an awesome exclusive interview before anyone else. I hope you like it.
Comment on the post is welcome you never know you may become a winner of a signed copy of the book or even a t-shirt!

Tara Dixon took the time discuss success of The Pineville Heist with writer/director Lee Chambers and actor Booboo Stewart.

The Pineville Heist
. Movie or book?
LEE: It started as a screenplay. Became a book and now it is on track to become a movie It’s definitely not an overnight thing. So far, it’s been a 4 year journey and we are still going. Luckily, I love it just as much now as I did when I invented the story and character back in the summer of 2008.

Tell us about The Pineville Heist. How was your story birthed?
LEE: It’s a fun story about Aaron Stevens, a high school student that becomes a man and a hero. He witnesses a murder, ends up with bag of stolen bank money and is then hunted down inside his school. It’s a fast paced thriller.
BOOBOO: It has lots of action!

The weight of the story is all on the shoulders of a teenager. Tell me about Aaron?
BOOBOO: Aaron is the average guy that has to do extraordinary things. He not perfect, which makes you like him.

Booboo, you signed on pretty early. What were you thoughts of the screenplay version?
BOOBOO: I loved it!

So Lee, how long does it take you to write the book version?
LEE: My book was based on my award-winning screenplay of the same name. I developed the plot and characters, then completed the screenplay with Todd Gordon. This took two years. Then I spent another 8 months drafting up the book version. Unlike a thick book that is filled with stuff that never makes the movie version, The Pineville Heist is a trim 40,000+ words and is based entirely on the screenplay.

Do you have a critique partner(s)? Do you ever use beta readers?
LEE: I used six screen and story editors to guide the character and plot points for the screenplay. From established movie producers to a former senior VP or Production at Universal Pictures.

What was your motivation for this story?
LEE: The story came from hiding under a canoe while I was a kid playing hide and seek. I could see them but they couldn’t see me. I watched and waited for them to leave. I wrote this down as a short story and then years later built up a longer tale. It didn’t happen overnight.

What made you decide to turn the screenplay into a novel?
LEE: I love the story and because it takes a lot of time and money to get an independent film made I decided to share the story in book form first. The general public doesn't read screenplays. It's just a blueprint to build a film and most of the emotional and descriptive stuff isn't included. Drafting the screenplay into a novel allowed me to explore the setting and characters in more detail. Also, it becomes a nice companion piece when we start making the film. It will give actors more insight into what the heart of each character is all about.

How is the process of getting a movie made?
LEE: Again, moviemaking is a long haul process. While I have directed tons of shorts with great success, I am now asking investors to trust me with millions of dollars to make the feature. It takes time to make connections and build this up. If all goes well we will be shooting in the fall of 2012.

How different is writing a screen play compared to a conventional novel?
LEE: It is like night and day. Screenplays have a structure and rules that don't exist in novels. For example, you can't feature anything in a screenplay that we can't see or hear. That means you can't express characters thoughts.

The paperback was launched in October 2011. How cool was that?
LEE: I love the paperback and I launched it in about a half dozen stores - did a bunch of readings and book signings and got some great press. Sold some books and was pretty cool. Then you wait… and wait… cuz the brick and mortar stores take forever to pay you. One store didn’t sell a copy for a month so they returned all of them - didn’t even keep a few copies. I even got some complaints at Christmas from people asking why I was promoting a book they couldn’t even buy. What can you do? It’s been 6 months and I still haven’t been paid for the books that did sell.

So paperback versions are not the way forward for indie authors?
LEE: Not really. It’s not financially worth it and is impossible to launch into lots of stores. The cost of printing and shipping books is cost prohibitive. I do have the book on Amazon on print on demand. Saves me a lot of hassle and if someone really wants a printed copy they can order one. And they pay monthly.

How did this little indie book take over the top thriller spot on Amazon?
LEE: Even though I launched the e-version in July 2011, I was still living in this fantasy world of paper. In March I turned my focus to the eBook and made sure I was on all the major retailers. Numbers came in but in bits and pieces. The more I researched, the more I learned that there were great indie authors out there selling tons of books. I just read a lot of blogs and followed what successful authors were doing?

What were they doing? You gave away over 25,000 ebooks in two days in April? How did that happen?
LEE: I was stubborn and opted not to join Amazon’s Kindle Select when it launched in January. This is there program that requires your eBook to be exclusively on Amazon. I scoffed at the idea at first. Then learned that this program was selling books like crazy.

But you gave away books? You aren’t making any money?
LEE: Ah, but I am now!  

I don’t understand. How can you make money giving your books away?
LEE: The Kindle Select program allows authors to pick 5 days out of 90 to price their book as free. People love free stuff and if you have a good product, rating and reviews, people will click and download. Well, it took off like gangbusters. People were downloading between 500 to 1100 an hour. Crazy. It was blowing my mind. My expectations: 500… total. After two days I cut the experiment short and stopped the free promotion. I stopped while I was at the top.

What was the top?
LEE: For a day I was ranked #3 for all books. The Pineville Heist was positioned next to the Hunger Games for a day. Hence, lots of people clicking. For two days I was the Number One ranked Thriller and the number one YA Mystery.
BOOBOO: Awesome!

Very impressive…
LEE: It is considering my previous ranking prior was 188,423 of all books on Amazon.
BOOBOO: I also think the book is a great way to develop a loyal fan base for the film. I really enjoyed reading it.

Alright Lee, you still aren’t answering my question. How do you make money from giving the book away?
LEE: Well, for starters, you could look at all the books I gave away as a loss of earnings, but it’s still 25,000+ people who now have my novel on their kindle, ereader or ipad. Hopefully they read, enjoy and then rate and review it. They may also tell their family and friends about it too. The other powerful aspect to having huge downloads is that Amazon promote success. The Pineville Heist gets linked onto tons and tons of other book pages now. Like having thousands of ads popping up all over the place. Before I may have a hundred links if I was lucky. The result is that the moment I went to a paid book for $1.99… I got sales… In fact… in the first 8 hours I sold more than I did the previous 8 months on Amazon: COMBINED. I could even add in all the books I sold on Barnes & Noble, iBooks and all the other retailers too. So, was it worth it?


Hmm… I guess so. Must be hard to give away so many?
LEE: I agree. I resisted but figured these successful indie authors must be doing something right. And, low and behold: it works! Still, it’s important to note that having good reviews and ratings helps. And more importantly – having a good book with a wicked book cover!

What authors have you been tracking? Any mentors?
LEE: The big push came from indie author Russell Blake. After reading his blog in March I was truly inspired. He sold about 12,500 books from a 60,000 giveaway and will get a nice check from Amazon. I followed this model but was still shocked that it worked so well.

How did you find and attract Booboo Stewart?
LEE: I was searching IMDB and he instantly jumped out. Sure he was in Twilight but I didn’t pick him because of it. He just looks like Aaron. So I watched some of his stuff. I got in touch and they agreed to read the script.

And that was it?
LEE: Well, sort of. I meet up with Booboo last summer. I spent some time with his family and really appreciated his humbleness. He’s pretty grounded from the Twilight success, while at the same time trying to make smart decisions about future work.

How does it feel that Lee has faith in you to be the lead in his debut movie?
BOOBOO: How can you not be honored by that. Of course I think it’s fantastic. Now I want to make sure I live up to his vision.

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