Where did you get the idea for the Summit Murder Mystery series?
Chuck: I was part of a 1987 Everest expedition. I never planned to attempt a summit but thought the experience would be one of a lifetime. I was right. I reached 21,000 feet, well below the summit, but that was enough for me. Climbing Everest, even with the aid of all the technology now available, is a daunting and dangerous undertaking. What I took away was just how dangerous high altitude climbing is. When the prospect of murder is introduced the possibilities were immediately apparent.
Ron: Chuck and I had been looking for a project. Hanging there in his office was a photograph of him with his Everest team. We’d discussed doing a murder mystery together but wanted a different take on it. The idea of murder atop the highest peaks on each of the world’s Seven Summits seemed obvious.
How did you two get together and how does the writing process work?
Ron: Chuck and I met when he was writing the first of Hell Series of books, Remodeling Hell. He was looking for some assistance in structure and storytelling with a non-fiction book. We talked about co-authoring a book after that. As for the process, we kick ideas around, come to a general agreement as to plot, scenes and characters, then draft and exchange chapters - a process that grows and evolves over many sessions, a lot of coffee and e-mails.
Chuck: It’s been a wonderful experience and I speak for both of us when I say that. Two heads really are better than one.
How flexible are you with the plot?
Chuck: The only things we know for a fact going in are the killer and his or her motive. Everything other than that is up for grabs throughout the process.
Won’t writing about murder and mountain climbing get a repetitious before you’ve written seven novels?
Ron: Not at all. There are far more possibilities than we’ll ever touch. Also, since each book takes place in a different part of the world, the reader is exposed to new cultures, new places, new characters, varying religions, different governments and new issues. With Everest the challenge is simply surviving at such an extreme altitude. A civil war raged at the base of Puncak Jaya, which has severely limited summit attempts there for decades. Elbrus is located in the middle of a war zone. And so it is very every one of the Seven Summits.
Chuck: The original concept is to insert murder with all its variables onto what is already a very dangerous undertaking. It also allows us to play with how characters are killed. If someone dies in a fall, was it really an accident? How about an avalanche? Is it poison, or high altitude sickness?
You’ve elected to pursue your own publishing and marketing. Why is that?
Chuck: We are certain each of the books could find a home with a traditional publisher, we have no doubt of that. But when you sell your work to them you surrender control and in the end we just weren’t willing to do that. With a traditional publisher you can’t be certain of a publication date so you can coordinate your marketing effort , they control when the book goes out of print and there is a significant delay between when that happens and when the rights revert to you. There are too many positive alternatives available to a writer for us to lock ourselves into a position like that.
Ron: I’d been down that road earlier in my career and often shared my frustrations with Chuck during the writing process. We came up with a 21st century marketing plan that touches all of the bases and gives us complete control. I’m much more comfortable with this approach. We decide when we publish, we decide how to market and with print-on-demand and eBooks none of the Seven Summit books need ever go out of print. How wonderful!
Do you think you’ve discovered a new marketing option for authors?
Chuck: I can’t say we’ve discovered it, but writers have never before had so many choices. The key, in my opinion, is dedicating the same time, effort and creativity to the marketing as you did the writing.
Ron: I couldn’t agree more. And having control makes all the difference. But it is not an easy task. The choices are there but they are constantly evolving. Finding what actually works can be daunting.
Where are you in the process?
Chuck: We've almost completed the whole series. Murder on Killimanjaro will be released later this year and I am so excited to be able to offer a complete series of books. I couldn't be prouder of how the series has turned out.
Ron: What a ride it has been! I've loved working with Chuck through all eight of these books, and can't believe we are almost at the end of this series. Time flies when you're having fun!
Where will it all end?
Chuck [laughing]: With a bestseller.
Ron: With eight bestsellers.