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Author signs books, relates tips

November 12, 2005|By CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - Adam Paige said he was impressed that best-selling action/adventure author Stephen Coonts used not only the word "esoteric" during a discussion with a handful of fans Friday, but also the word "ain't."

"Stephen Coonts is an awesome author," said Paige, an employee at the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Public Library, the site of Coonts' discussion and book signing. "I love the intense action (in his books). The way he writes it you can tell he's had some intense experiences."

About 10 people attended the event, part of the first Apple Valley Book Festival in Martinsburg, which continues today.

Coonts, 59, grew up in Buckhannon, W.Va., and attended West Virginia University.

"(I) joined the Navy to get the hell out," he said, and served for nine years as a pilot.

He then attended law school at the University of Colorado and worked as an in-house lawyer for an oil company.

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He turned to writing in 1984 after a divorce.

His first novel, "Flight of the Intruder" was rejected by 34 publishers before being picked up.

"The odds are long and it's really hard to get published," Coonts said. "You have to do all the work on speculation."

When "Flight of the Intruder" became a best-seller and Coonts was laid off from his job in 1986, he decided to try to become a full-time writer.

"I haven't done a lick of honest work since," he said, but has a backup plan should writing one day fail him: He wants to drive a beer truck.

Finding Coonts behind the wheel of a big rig hauling suds isn't too likely, given that he has authored around 25 books. His most recent novel, "The Garden of Eden," was published under the tongue-in-cheek pseudonym Eve Adams and is centered on life in a small American town.

One of the character's last name is Elkins, which also is the name of a small town near Coonts' hometown. He now lives in Las Vegas and also has a farm in Pocahontas County, W.Va.

A sense of intimacy prevailed during the gathering, when Coonts answered questions from those in attendance and spoke one-on-one with them before and after his discussion.

He even walked around and handed each person a business card, emblazoned at the top with "Lies, Inc. Stephen Coonts, Chairman of the Bored."

Offering insight into the world of publishing, Coonts said he believes the death of newsstands selling paperbacks by lesser-known authors has made breaking into the world of publishing more difficult for writers.

Grocery stores and other businesses that now carry paperbacks only want those of well-known writers, Coonts said, leading to the danger of alternative voices being shut out.

Asked about self-publishing, Coonts said he has had only one personal experience with it.

He self-published 500 copies of a history book his mother wrote about a portion of Barbour County, W.Va. He said 250 copies were sold and the other 250 were mailed to public libraries throughout the state.

Author-hopefuls should stay away from the world of self-publishing, he said.

"You need to learn to write well enough to get a New York agent or a publisher interested in your stuff," he said.

Doors will open, he said, as long as somebody believes a would-be author's work will sell.

"One 'yes,' that's all you're after," he said.

Answering other questions, Coonts said that he writes two to four hours a day and reads history books and mysteries for his enjoyment. He said he purposely avoids reading his contemporaries who write in the action/adventure genre.

A woman in attendance asked him who, besides himself, is Coonts' favorite author.

"I ain't my favorite author," he said.

He said the greatest novel ever written is "The Odyssey" by Homer. More current favorite writers include Elmore Leonard, Ward Carroll, Jeff Shaara and David Hackett Fischer.

Dr. Harold Lowe, a cardiologist from Tennessee who is working at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and his wife Diana came to see one of their favorite authors.

"It seemed like a very unique opportunity," Diana Lowe said.

Although the couple owns several of Coonts' books, they neglected to bring any with them. Harold Lowe bought two books from a seller elsewhere in the library for Coonts to sign.

Penny Porter bought a tall stack of Coonts' books for him to sign. She anticipates giving them to family members as gifts.

She also had other authors sign books, including children's authors.

Those books are for Porter's 2-year-old daughter, Paige, who asks for her books first thing in the morning and always has one read to her before going to sleep at night.

"Books are her favorite toys," Porter said.

If you go ...



WHAT: Apple Valley Book Festival with more than 100 regional and national authors signing their books

WHEN: Today

WHERE: Various locations along Queen Street in Martinsburg, W.Va.

MORE: For a complete list of authors and a schedule of events, go to www.travelwv.com and clock on the Apple Valley Book Festival image, or call 1-800-498-2386

Other authors include Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne Jr., CNN founding Financial Editor Myron Kandel, former Washington Redskins player and children's book author Ken Harvey, and local authors including Susan Crites, Ethel Bovey, Dan Mace and Tim Rowland

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