AUTHOR'S DEN Interview by Ellen George
I recently had the opportunity to ask author Mike Balkind, author of Sudden Death some questions about him and his work.
ellen - Mike, tell us the premise of your exciting book, Sudden Death.
Mike - Sudden Death is a suspense novel which follows PGA Tour leader, Reid Clark, as he plays in the Masters Tournament and The Westchester Classic while
dealing with the angst of multiple death threats. Suspense, rolling emotions, gourmet food, fine cigars, romance, and of course, golf fill the pages. The story has
something in it for almost everyone who enjoys mysteries or sports. While golf is the underlying theme throughout the novel many non-golfers have given it glowing
ellen - The testimonials on Sudden Death are quite a who's who of authors and sports stars - When you see James Patterson and Clive Cussler among other heavy
hitters giving their positive thoughts about your book, it has to be a wonderful feeling, isn't it?
Mike - ellen, 'a wonderful feeling' is quite an understatement! When I received the endorsements that you mentioned, my hands shook, my eyes welled up and my
heart skipped a few beats. James Patterson and Clive Cussler are masters in the world of publishing as well as two of my favorite authors. The fact that they took
the time to read my book still gives me chills. That they enjoyed it enough to write what they did for my cover simply can't be described in any words I know.
ellen - Reid Clark, your hero, is certainly known at first as 'the bad boy of golf' - reminded me a lot like John MacEnroe of tennis fame - Is he based on anyone in
Mike - There are more than a few professional athletes in today's sports world who sometimes act a little less than favorably. But while writing Sudden Death, I didn't
have anyone specific in mind. I just wanted to show how being in a life and death situation can change the emotions and attitude of almost anyone. Reid's character
changes from despicable to likable as he learns to deal with the emotions and possibilities of threats on his life.
ellen - To be successful in a sport like golf takes great discipline and concentration - how long does it take for someone to prepare themselves for tournament play?
Mike - It's funny you ask that. I just recently finished writing a piece for an upcoming Golf Guide issue of Westchester Magazine. The assignment I was given was to
interview and write profiles on six highly competitive women golfers. One of my questions was similar to yours. While most of the ladies admitted that golf consumed
their lives, they each had their own specific pre-tournament rituals. One meditated, another putted 110 balls into the hole from 3 feet starting over again if one
missed, until each ball dropped consecutively, yet another read a book in order to put the game out of her mind for a while. (Bet you like that one, I certainly did!)
While each prepared in different ways for different lengths of time, they all admitted that golf consumed their lives therefore making mental preparation a constant.
ellen - The prize money for the winners is certainly an incentive to win. Also, to score endorsement deals can propel a person into big bucks - can you speak on
how golfing has become the megabucks game it is now?
Mike - Golf has become hugely popular and the prize money has reached monstrous proportions. Widespread popularity in the sport has brought with it large
corporate sponsorship. Corporations such as FedEx, Barclays, and RBS to name a few have jumped on the bandwagon. They pour funds into sponsoring tour
events in hopes that the advertising will bring the many wealthy fans of the sport to them as clients. Now, more than ever before, tour professionals can make a
great living without even being in the top echelon of scorers. Endorsements can multiply a winning player's income by hundreds of thousands and potentially
millions of dollars. You can bet that Nike sells millions of golf balls to millions of people who buy them just because Tiger uses and recommends them.
ellen - Golf can be a great equalizer - the average Joe can play as well in a given day as a Tiger Woods. What is the universal appeal of golf?
Mike (smiling) Well, ellen, that may be stretching it a little! But while Tiger has brought new meaning to the words 'focus' and 'The Zone', he has also given hope to
kids of every shape, color and size that with hard work and tenacity that they have a chance to make it in the game. Golf is an individual sport and while you do play
the game with others, your score is not reliant on those you are playing with. Unlike team sports, the thrill of your win is all yours. Alas, the blame for your losses
belongs to you alone as well.
ellen - Would you like Sudden Death be made into a movie?
Mike - Uh...let me think about that...Heck YES! I was lucky enough to have my entire Deadly Sports Mystery series optioned for TV by Marc Entertainment of L.A.
We are working on creating a TV series from my books. As I write my novels I see the story explicitly in my head. I kind of hope that my readers can visualize the
same thing as they turn the pages. Many have said that Sudden Death will make a great movie. Of course, I agree. While TV is different than a movie, the
excitement level is similar.
ellen - Can we expect Reid Clard, and his 'peeps' in other adventures? What other projects/books are you working on?
Mike - The second book in my deadly Sports Mystery series, The Foundation, will be released early in 2009. Many of the characters from Sudden Death are in the
book. The story is based on a charitable sports foundation that my protagonists start in Sudden Death. While Sudden Death is a suspense story, The Foundation is
I have written about 200 pages of Stealing Gold, an Olympic Skiing Mystery. But I put that aside to co-write The Fix, a college football gambling novel. My co-author
is Ryan Burr, an ESPN Anchor. We have been told by many that The Fix has blockbuster movie potential. Disney owns ESPN and as soon as we are done editing
the manuscript it will be handed to their producers for evaluation.
I thoroughly enjoy writing sports mysteries and as long as people continue to tell me that they enjoy reading them, I'll keep writing books.
ellen - What is an author's responsibility to the reader?
Mike - Responsibility is an interesting word. When I read a book the first thing I want to get from it is entertainment. I love getting lost in the world of another author's
imagination. I read to get distracted from other stresses in my life. I hope to provide entertainment, fun and some intrigue for my readers. As fas as responsibility is
concerned, I do feel that my work has to be as clean and polished as possible before it gets published. Clear crisp sentences and chapters are essential or I know
people who will put the book down without finishing it. It's a good thing editors help with the process because it is a daunting task. Scene and character descriptions
must be vivid and colorful yet believable. I think an author has to do enough research to make the story somewhat real even if it is fiction. At the same time I tend to
take fictional liberties if they enhance the story without making it too unbelievable.
ellen - What advice can you give to a person who has a story in them and wants to try to write a book?
Mike - It's like Nike Corporation said in their old commercials, "Just do it!"
If someone waits for the perfect idea before they start writing, chances are they'll never begin. Take whatever idea intrigues you and start throwing words on the
page. Maybe write an outline or just start pecking away at the keyboard and see where it takes you. I find that when an idea works, after I hammer out the first
chapter, the story begins to write itself.
I think that one of the most important things is to write something that you feel passionate about. Do not write something just because you think it will sell. Passion
about your subject makes the writing fun and if it's fun you'll want to keep at it. I enjoy finding out what predicaments my caracters will find themselves in next.
So if you feel that you have a book in you, do yourself a favor - just sit and start writing!
ellen - What are your thoughts regarding publishing today?
Mike - Yikes! Stirring up the pot are we, ellen? The publishing industry today is both prohibitively difficult and ridiculously easy. Confusing, huh? Well, there are two
ways to go about getting published these days, traditional publishing and self publishing. The self publishing industry has come about as a result of the traditional
world of publishing becomeing obscenely difficult for new authors. Editors from traditional publishing houses have so many manuscripts to devour that they have to
be extremely choosy when deciding what to put their time and effort into. They have to choose what they think has commercial viability.
Self publishing has given hope to many excellent new authors who just haven't managed to find the right editor for their work in the traditional publishing world. The
self publishing business carries a bit of a stigma because many feel that it makes publishing too easy and that it allows for the publishing of works that maybe
should not have been published at all. On the other side of the argument are the masterpieces by brilliant new autors who might never have been published at all
without the self publishing opportunity.
Most new authors dream of having their work picked up by a big publishing house that will back them and promote their book into bestseller stardom. The harsh
reality is that even if you're lucky enough to land an agent who falls in love with your work and helps you get a publishing contract with a traditional publisher, that's
when your work has just begun. Unless you're a celebrity or have written previous bestsellers, the only one who will hype, market and sell your book is you.
Hopefully you still have the energy after all that hard work of writing, editing and polishing.
Luckily for me, my career in sales and marketing prepared me well. After having Sudden Death published by a small traditional publisher I looked forward to trying
as many marketing techniques as I could. I try to spend some time everyday figuring out new ways to spread the word about my books.
As difficult as the whole process is, it is very worth all the hard work. Once your book starts selling, someone out there is likely to tell you the nicest thing you've
ever heard. "I really enjoyed your book. I can't wait for your next one. When is it coming out?"
ellen - You obviously love the sport of golf - Would you have liked to be a pro golfer?
Mike - I love all kinds of sports. I would have loved to become a pro skier or golfer. Although I never aspired to become a pro lacrosse player, I played it in high
school and college until I blew out my knee. I guess I'll have to settle on being a pro sports-mystery novelist. I'm not sure it's much easier but it's safer!
ellen - Is there anything you'd like to say to your readers?
Mike - First and foremost, I want to say Thank You! Supporting my endeavors as a novelist is about the kindest thing you can do for me. Every single book I sell
counts in a big, big way. Then, if you enjoy my books, please let me know. I'll never get over hearing from people who enjoy my work and I enjoy responding to your
emails. If you wish to help further you can go to the amazon.com page for my book and write a small review or tag the book for search or just rate the book. It all
ellen - Thanks Mike! Sudden Death is a great read and wish you every continued success!