The Darkness of the Womb

The Darkness of the Womb

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Interview With Drop Out Author, Neil Ostroff

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Today, we have a really special treat. Neil Ostroff has been getting more and more exposure with his book, Drop Out, and he was kind enough to swing by for an interview. Hello, Mr. Ostroff.


Please tell us about Drop Out and how it's different from your previous work, which has typically been sci-fi based.

I’ve been a thriller sci-fi writer for more than twenty years now and over that span of time my books have gotten the attention of numerous literary agents and publishers. In 2005, I signed with a major literary agent from a major NY literary agency. This agency had sold hundreds of books and film rights, some for as much as seven figures. I was very excited.

Wow. Pretty cool.

My agent loved all six (at the time) of my books and like all good agents edited them and provided insight to help make the stories more saleable, all without asking for a dime in advance. We had several exciting close-call deals and a few heart-racing moments while waiting to see what kind of money was going to be offered. My agent encouraged me to keep writing more books and truly believed that one day I’d hit it big.

Then something happened that turned my world around; a close friend was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. But here’s the kicker… he was given just two weeks to live. He went from his nine-to-five life, to knowing he had a very limited amount of time left. Having no close family and no money for a good hospital, he was left with little option except to die alone. It is then that my wife and I decided to hospice him.

I'm sorry to hear that. My family put my aunt into a hospice a couple years back. It was an unreal experience.

Yes. It was an incredibly powerful experience watching as his life slipped away and how he dealt with it psychologically. When the day finally came that he passed on, I was there to shut off the ventilator and pull the sheet over his head. I’ve never been the same since.

As a writer, I wanted to capture something of the moment and relay what I learned from watching someone’s life end. Having never written a literary fiction novel before, I suddenly found myself in the throes of a powerful statement about the meaning of life. DROP OUT was written in a fanatic ten day period.

When I sent the completed manuscript off to my agent, he was extremely disappointed that I had gone this literary route and had no intentions of ever trying to sell the book. I had no intentions of letting the book sit in a drawer, so after a few emails and telephone calls we decided to end our partnership. I was devastated to be back among the ranks of agent-less authors.

And then, an amazing thing happened.

I indie published DROP OUT a little over a year and a half ago, and since then sales have grown steadily each month. At this point, nearly ten thousand copies of the book have been downloaded and I’ve gotten to as low as 1,500 on Amazon’s paid sales ranking. But what is most heart-warming and gives me the most satisfaction is the emails and reviews that I’ve gotten telling me how the book has changed people’s lives. Almost every review is a five star and what the reader’s are saying… well, check it out yourself.
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Oh, don't worry. I will. What do you attribute the success of Drop Out to?

I think Drop Out is getting a lot of attention because it has a deep message that people can relate to: Life is precious. The character’s touch readers deeply, simply because each has lost so much and then finds strength through the other.

I see. You write on your blog about how you're happy that you were dropped by your agent because it granted you freedom as a writer. Do you plan to release all of your books independently from now on?

Absolutely! I wasted a lot of time waiting, waiting, waiting, for responses from publishers after my agent would submit a manuscript. What’s amazing is how much junk is published because the stories are stripped of anything controversial or scenes are deleted simply because they don’t appeal to the mainstream even if they are vital to the story being told. My books are way too non-mainstream for a politically correct, big-business publisher.
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I hear ya. You have also said on your blog that Drop Out has affected readers. Can you give an example?

I can give two very recent examples and the reviews are posted on Amazon to see. In fact, all my Amazon reviews basically say how the book has affected readers. The first is a review by an 82 year old woman who said the book has lifted her depression and literally was a spiritual experience to read. The second was an email I received from a reader who is dying of pancreatic cancer, like the character in Drop Out. He told me the book has helped ease his fears of death and that it has helped him deal with his situation. That’s heavy duty stuff.

Wow. That's amazing. Your book is really making a difference. That said, it's different from your other books. So, do you plan on going back to sci-fi, or is literary fiction your thing now, given how much people have reacted to it?

I tend to write what I want and what comes to me, which is the best benefit of indie publishing. Right now I’m just about finished with my thirteenth novel, a dystopian sci-fi, and I’m outlining a new novel which is going to be a literary life-changer, like Drop Out.

Nice, I look forward to those. Now, some personal questions. Who are your favorite authors, and how have they impacted you?

Stephen King is my God. I’ve read just about everything by him. I try to write my books the way he does, with every sentence having an impact on the reader. When I’m not reading Stephen King, I’ll page through just about anything. One of my favorite pastimes is going to the used bookstore 25 cent rack and picking up a dozen random novels. I’ll page through each, and if the story hooks me by the second page, I’ll read the entire thing.

Stephen King's a good choice. What's next for you?

As I mentioned, I’m finishing up a novel now, and have another outlined and will start that at the end of summer. I have two more completed novels sitting in a drawer, but they are literary and personal, and I think may not be ready for a general audience. Maybe if I hit it big and readers want to devour everything I’ve done, I may publish them.

Sounds good. And finally, some fun questions about you outside of your writing. You can answer them in one word responses if you like.

Pizza Hut or Dominoes?

Neither. I only eat pizza from family owned pizzerias.

What's usually better, the book or the movie?

Always the book. I love getting inside the mind of a character which is hard to do in movies.

Who had better hits, The Beatles or Michael Jackson?

The Beatles.

Finally, if you could meet one person, living or dead, who would it be?

I would love to spend an afternoon drinking coffee with Stephen King and discussing the strangest plots woe could come up with.

Good stuff. Anything else you want to plug?

My books are available for all electronic readers and devices. Please follow my blog to learn more about me and my journey to indie fame. Here is a brief list of sites I belong too. Thanks and good reading.

ALWAYS WRITING A blog about the writing life, making it as an indie author, and showcasing the books I write. Please check it out.

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