Talking Political Thrillers with Rick Pullen
Rick and I met in a master class at ThrillerFest when I first got to read the beginning of Naked Ambition. I was hooked. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one. Rick already is following up his debut novel with Naked Truth. On top of that, he’s working on another series. I managed to steal some of his time to ask him about how he got started, what he’s up to now and if he has any words of wisdom for writers who are just starting out. I think of Naked Ambition as a political thriller. How would you describe it? Rick: Beck Rikki is a newspaper reporter investigating a corrupt politician. His investigation soon elevates into something much broader than he ever suspected. His efforts are complicated when he meets a woman whose motivations clash with his and he is torn about what to do. Just when he thinks he’s figured it all out, he realizes he hasn’t. You have an interesting story about how your first novel was published, and where that took you. Can you tell us a little about that? Rick: I’m a huge fan of Mary Buckham’s writing books on active setting. We became email friends and I told her if she was ever on the east coast to speak to a group, I wanted to meet her. She was speaking to the Virginia Romance Writers in November 2015 so I contacted the chapter president and she allowed me to attend. I was one of two men in a room of 60 woman writers. They introduced me and explained I was writing a thriller. At the end of the day I was standing in line to purchase some of Mary’s books when a woman tapped me on the shoulder and asked if she could read my manuscript. I said sure. Then she told me she was a reader for a New York agent, and I said SURE! That was Saturday evening. On Monday morning I emailed her my manuscript. That afternoon she emailed me back saying she hadn’t finished it but it was one of the best she had read. I thought, yeah right. I had already been turned down by 38 agents. She said she would give it to hers. She did. He got back to me two months later. He liked it a lot but said it wouldn’t be a breakout novel so he declined to rep me. That did it. I’d had it trying to find an agent. I needed to jumpstart my writing career. A niche publisher friend of mine, Ron Sauder, recommended I try the Kindle Scout program. You sign up with Kindle Press and they put a few chapters on the Scout program webpage to gauge support and find future book reviewers. After 30 days, they offered to publish my novel, Naked Ambition. It was published May 3, 2016 and hit number one May 20 in three different Amazon thriller categories. My sales attracted the agent’s attention again and he signed me. That took place at ThrillerFest 2016. This year at ThrillerFest I met another publisher who has asked me for a book proposal for a new series. If the deal goes through, that will be published in 2019. In the meantime, Kindle Press is publishing a new series of mine, The Apprentice, this fall and Naked Truth, my sequel to Naked Ambition, is schedule for January publication. So now I have two series in the works and a request for a third. I will be busy. Is there anything you know now that you’d like to have known when you were starting your writing career? Rick: I know how difficult it is to both find a publisher and an agent. I found you sometimes have to go an unconventional route to get someone’s attention. Kindle Press opened up opportunities for me. I got an agent after selling a lot of books and I’m talking seriously to another publisher about a new series. What is something about you that would surprise us? Rick: When I was young I struggled to read. I was very slow and slightly dyslexic. It still sometimes juxtapose numbers. It’s a damned good thing I didn’t take over my Dad’s accounting firm! I didn’t become a real reader until college and then I gobbled up everything. For a while I was a typical male and read only non-fiction. I thought reading fiction was a waste of time. Then I read Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent and that changed my life. I think it is one of the most brilliant novels ever. I’m still not a speed reader, but when you read for a living eight hours a day, it doesn’t really matter.