Eliot Peper just released Uncommon Stock on Amazon. In the process, he has started a whole new genre, the startup thriller. I am not surprised by Eliot’s creativity—nor will I be surprised by his literary success—and here’s why.
Eliot and I went to graduate school together. There is not enough storage space on this blog to enumerate the mile-long scroll of ideas he and I have dreamt up together over the years. Although it is fun to dream with friends, it is all the more rewarding to see them actually create that which they envision. My motto is good beer for big ideas and strong coffee for getting them done.
One of my fondest memories is when Eliot, Andrea Castillo (his fiancé), Lila Petersen, and I worked on a solar panel electrification project for a small fishing village in Baja California, Mexico. We dreamt up the project, got funding, and now those panels—along with their LED lights and small batteries—continue shine light for rural families to read comfortably at night years later.
With Eliot’s most recent endeavor as an indie writer, I am witnessing what will surely become another fond memory. Through well-crafted prose and razor-sharp whit, Eliot shines a literary spotlight at the fast-paced startup industry in this debut novel, Uncommon Stock. Many distinguished entrepreneurs, much more savvy than myself in the startup space, have already showered the book with accolades.
In his book review, Brad Feld, managing director at Foundry Group and founder at Techstars says, “Insanely cool… a gripping roller coaster ride through the world of tech entrepreneurship. Tears you out of your seat and into a brand new genre, the startup thriller. Watch out, it will hijack your free time through to the last word. More, please?” I was delighted to find out that the content of Uncommon Stock extends beyond the book. Readers are actually able interact with the story’s protagonist, Mara Winkel, on Twitter.
If you ask Eliot about his motives and marketing plan for this book, he’d tell you, “readers are the only people I am writing for and they are the people that will determine the success of Uncommon Stock. Want to hear my marketing plan? Write a story that people like enough to tell their friends about it. If I can do that, I chalk it up as a huge win.”
Eliot and I recently had a chance to chat. Below is the Q&A that resulted. If you are interested in even more insights directly from Eliot, I encourage you to take a look at this FAQ.
Jarrod: What is the creative process of writing like for you – beer, scotch, sleep, tea, repeat? Do you write in short bursts in a coffee shop or long, focused sessions surrounded by dark mahogany desks?
Eliot: I usually try to write in one to three hour sessions. If I write for less than an hour at a time, I don’t usually make much progress. Just like with running, it helps to warm up. If I write for more than three hours in one sitting, my brain just sort of shuts down and I stop being productive. Often I’ll have a cappuccino or cup of tea at hand. Sometimes some 70% cacao chocolate (go dark or go home).
J: Did you write Uncommon Stock in a linear fashion or did you hop around the plot? I.e. when you wrote the first word, did you more of less know what the last word would be?
E: I had no friggin’ clue what the last word was going to be when I started. People often classify writers as “plotters or pantsers.” I’m firmly in the latter category. I had an idea for a scene and a couple of characters that intrigued me and I started typing. Then I followed where the characters decided to take the story. It resulted in a lot of heavier editing after the first draft was complete and there were a lot of headaches along the way but it was a fun process. On my next book I might experiment with other options just to see what it feels like.
J: Where, physically, did you write this book?
E: Coffee shops, living rooms, Sri Lankan beaches, Ethiopian hostels, Nepalese cafes, my desk. Many writers have one spot where they get into their zone. I dabble.
J: Which character did you identify with most in the novel?
E: I think there’s a little bit of the writer in every character they write. It’s almost like you’re doing a personality transplant and mixing up the pot other elements. The important thing is that you think of characters as actually people. They’re your friends, not your toys. If you think of them as fictional, they start to feel fictional to the reader and break up the suspense with disbelief.
J: Who is your Mara in real life?
E: I’m blessed to have many strong women in my life. Mara is inspired by all of them. A reviewer last week described her as the “Lara Croft of startups” and I think that’s pretty awesome.
J: After finishing the publishing roller-coaster process culminating in your first book, how has your perspective of the industry changed?
E: I’ve learned a lot along the way. Uncommon Stock is the lead title for a brand new publishing company, FG Press. It’s a book about a tech startup in Boulder being published by a tech startup in Boulder! They’re doing it really differently and I’m thrilled to be on board for the ride. Basically, they offer a 50/50 royalty split to writers and are trying to shape a saner world for readers too.
That’s it, folks! Thanks for stopping by. I’ll sign off with a video from one of Eliot’s favorite songs, Mackelmore and Ryan Lewis’ “10,000 Hours”. It seemed fitting because Eliot is certainly on his way to 10,000 hours of writing. Good luck, my friend, on this new adventure!