Austin Moeller is a seventeen year old author who just released a book on Amazon. He’s received a lot of attention for his book, including a rather glowing endorsement from screen writer Jerry Eeten (Identity Thief). Here’s what Jerry had to say about it: “THE CABAL AGENDA” paints an intriguing and frightening futuristic vision of America’s vulnerable status as a world power. Moeller keeps the plot moving at a breakneck pace and has created a compelling and reluctant action hero in his lead Tom Richards. I look forward to following this young author as he keeps getting better and better.” Jerry Eeten.
TTN: “The Cabal Agenda” was something you started in high school as a lit assignment. What made you want to turn it into a book?
Austin: The original assignment was a high school English assignment that I started when I was 15. It was to write fictional short stories on a topic of our choice, to be turned in twice every grading period. It was only supposed to be 1-3 pages long, but I couldn’t stop writing. I have always been very interested in the Cold War, the CIA, and secret societies, and I wanted to blend all of that together for my short story. I started out with 3-4 pages at first, but eventually it got to the point where I wrote one that was like 14 pages. At that point I sort of realized that I should turn it into a book. The stories I wrote for the assignment actually turned into the first four chapters of my book, as every time I would turn in an assignment, I would just pick up where I left off.
TTN: Have you always enjoyed writing?
Austin: Not really. Prior to this, the only thing I wrote were school reports, which were not particularly enjoyable. This is the first time I have ever sat down and written anything major. It just turned out that I had a lot of ideas that rushed out all at once.
TTN: How did you stick with it if you didn’t like to write?
Austin: It was relatively easy for me, because I sat down and outlined everything very thoroughly, so I basically had about 90% of the book planned before I ever started writing. It also helped to a degree that I was very interested in what I was writing. A lot of people think that you have to sit down every single day and write X amount, like Stephen King and some other authors do. I feel that that approach isn’t very good for the quality of the story, at least in my experience. I wrote this book in short bursts. Sometimes I would go for months without writing anything, then in 2 days I would sit down and write 50-60 pages.
TTN: How long did the outline take?
Austin: Well, I actually didn’t write anything down. This is kind of a schizophrenic way to put it, but I could actually hear what the characters were saying or doing in the next chapters before I ever wrote anything down, so it went pretty quickly because I already knew how the story would advance in my head.
TTN: You must have a great memory!
Austin: I suppose (laughs). I guess it just sits on the backburner of my mind cooking until it’s ready. Then I actually take the time to export those ideas to my computer. That’s the fun part for me. It’s the editing that’s tedious!
TTN: Speaking of editing, did you have anyone help you edit the book before you published it?
Austin: I had people in my family who have done screenwriting and who have degrees in English help me with the editing. The rest was just me going back after the editing was completed and thoroughly re-reading the story. It took me a good month to go through all 421 pages, fix everything and end up with the finished product.
TTN: So what was the publishing process like? Did you work with an agent or publishing house, or did you self-publish?
Austin: I self-published the book on Amazon initially. I didn’t actually have a physical book at first. It was basically just an online text that I put on Kindle Direct Publishing. Amazon has a publishing division called “CreateSpace”, where your digital file can be printed into an actual book. So, I worked with a graphic designer I knew to collaborate on the cover art, then submitted the cover as a digital file along with the manuscript to Amazon, and it was turned into an actual paperback book. When people buy it, it’s printed on demand at Amazon and shipped to the buyer in paperback.
At first, I just wanted to get the book out there, but now I’m looking for a major publisher to take over so I can get the book into actual bookstores. Now that I’ve had some success, I’d prefer for a publisher to do the heavy lifting so I can just focus on writing.
TTN: How lucrative has self-publishing been?
Austin: I didn’t make much profit in the beginning because I had no marketing or advertisement. The only way you can sell a book is if people know it exists. Things turned around when I met Jerry Eeten at a film festival. I introduced myself, told him I was 17 and had written a book, and gave him a copy. He was interested and actually took the time to read it. He liked it, so he wrote a positive review, which led to me being featured on the NBC talk show Daytime. Sales have definitely improved since then, but they haven’t “skyrocketed”. I think publishers have a better capacity to help get my book out there, which would give the book and myself more exposure.
TTN: Do you have any big plans for what you’ve earned? Will you use it to pay for college?
Austin: I’m just going to put the money into a savings account for now and wait until I either get in contact with a publisher about this book or the next one I’m writing before I make any decisions about what to do with it.
TTN: You mentioned another book. Can we get a sneak peek?
Austin: Actually, I have three works in the making right now. The most finished one I’m working on is still Sci-Fi, but it’s placed further in the future than “The Cabal Agenda” (which is set in 2016). It has to do with serial killers. It’s not a sequel. I actually haven’t thought about a sequel to “The Cabal Agenda”. It’s a possibility in the future, but right now I’m focused on the three projects I already have in the works.
TTN: So what about the other two?
Austin: They’re both science fiction thrillers to some degree as well. The second one is about terrorism, and the third is also about terrorism, but they have two different angles on that subject. I think that’s all I want to reveal for now!
TTN: What is your parents’ opinion of all of this? Are they supportive of your writing, or would they rather see you focused more on school?
Austin: My parents are very proud of what I have accomplished, and they’ve supported me throughout the whole process. I’ve managed to juggle school and writing very well. Writing is not a daily thing, so it hasn’t interfered with school, and my parents are very supportive of my upcoming projects in light of that. I have plans to go to the University of Central Florida this fall to study Finance and Biomedical Sciences.
TTN: That’s a big leap from writing!
Austin: I’m not really looking to get a degree in English. I just enjoy writing my books.
TTN: How did you become interested in these topics?
Austin: I’ve consumed a lot of related material (books, movies, etc.). I became very interested in the Cold War when we had to write numerous essays about it in History class. As I thought about that era, I thought it would be an interesting concept to have these people who used to be a part of the CIA and the KGB, you know, these “Cold War relics”, run a secret society because they would know exactly what to do and would have the capacity to carry out their plans. I’ve also seen all the James Bond movies (laughter). I wanted to write a story that would be compelling—something along the lines of Dan Brown. In “The DaVinci Code”, Brown wrote about a secret society (the Illuminati). However, I wanted to take that concept of a secret society further and ground it in real world events relating both to the Cold War and our current Middle Eastern conflicts. Basically I sat down and asked myself, “If a secret society really existed, what would they actually be like? How far would they go to change the outcome of future world events?”
TTN: What has been the most difficult part of this process? Did you find any barriers because of your age?
Austin: Actually, my age worked to my advantage somewhat. People were shocked that a 17 year old had not only written a full novel, but a novel with such dark, adult material. The only other author who has written a successful book in my age bracket is Christopher Paolini, who wrote the “Eragon” series at 16. What was difficult for me was the editing process. When you’re actually writing, it’s fun because you’re just completing the vision you’ve had in your head. Going back and fixing all of the errors is not all that enjoyable.
TTN: Understandable! What’s been the most rewarding part of this experience?
Austin: The responses I’ve received from people who have read the book. When you write something and it’s good, you’ll know that it’s good, but you want confirmation from other people. It’s a great feeling to have others come up to me and say that they love Sci-Fi and have read many books in that genre, but my book is the best they’ve read in years!
TTN: What authors inspire you? Who do you like to read?
Austin: I love Stephen King, “Fight Club” by Chuck Pahlaniuk, “A Clockwork Orange” by Anthony Burgess, and Michael Crichton’s works. I read my first Stephen King book when I was 9 or 10, which was Cell, and I’ve always loved general science fiction. I can’t say I’ve lost interest in anyone I’ve read so far; rather, I’ve found more authors to add to the list as time goes by.
TTN: Any advice for aspiring young writers?
Austin: There were many times I could have given up throughout this process, but I just kept ramming through it until I got here- and I’m still in that process. I kept going because I wanted to see the story finished and actually get people to read it since I spent so much time writing it. You know when what you write is good, and once I knew that about my work, I wanted that confirmed by others. The only way to do that was to publish! Above all, just be persistent and never give up.
Watch Austin’s interview with “Daytime” Here:
Click to Purchase Your Copy of The Cabal Agenda Here:
Interview by Melissa Baden, writer for The Talent Notes