Interview with Thomas Waite, Author of Terminal Value
Thomas Waite is an author, entrepreneur and consultant whose writings, in addition to his novel Terminal Value, have appeared in such publications as the Harvard Business Review and The New York Times. Mr. Waite has been featured in a wide variety of media, including CNN Money and a number of cable news programs. As an entrepreneur, he founded and co-founded two companies, including one that was sold to an Internet firm. Mr. Waite has consulted to dozens of technology corporations and other companies, and serves on the Board of Directors of others. Mr. Waite attended the University of Wisconsin – Madison, where he received his bachelor’s degree in English Literature, and Oxford University. He now lives in Boston, Massachusetts.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in the seaside town of Ipswich, Massachusetts – once home to the authors John Updike, Adele Robertson, and John Norton and the poet Anne Bradstreet.
What is your fondest childhood memory?
Dad owned a boat and I grew up spending a lot of time on it, and at the beach. My love of the ocean continues to this day, and I now own a boat of my own.
When did you begin writing?
I read a lot as a child and used to make up stories that I would either describe verbally or jot down. In high school my favorite classes were always literature – and besides the classics, other authors, such as Kurt Vonnegut, that were considered avant-garde at the time, captivated me. But my interest really accelerated when I took creative writing courses in college.
After college I turned to writing non-fiction – at first as a “ghost-writer” for others and then under my own by-line. I’ve always wanted to write a novel, but my business career was very demanding and I never seemed to have the time. Then after selling my company, that changed and I finally had the time to devote to writing Terminal Value.
Do you write during the day, at night or whenever you can sneak a few moments?
I wrote the bulk of Terminal Value during the day after I had sold my company. Later I was too busy and finished it during the evenings and weekends.
What is this book about?
Terminal Value is a thriller intended to provide an insider's look into the excitement of a technology start-up, the anticipated riches of an initial public offering, the gut-wrenching murder of a friend, and the dark side of corporate America.
One reviewer wrote “Please don’t go into business, proceed with your MBA, sell your company, or complete your next deal until you’ve finished this book. Terminal Value peers into the psyches of those with the wrong kind of ambition, allowing a rare glimpse into the dark side of IPOs, acquisitions, and the secret world of high finance, all wrapped in a turbo-timed thriller!”
So in addition to writing a novel that is a fast-paced, exciting story that both entertains and educates readers, I am also conveying the message that we need more honesty and ethics in business today.
What inspired you to write it?
Terminal Value is inspired by my experience in business. While the story is completely fictional, I could never have written it had I not personally experienced some of the events that occur in the novel (of course excluding, among other things, murder!). The characters are basically composites of people I have encountered in business, though again it is completely fictional. For this novel, there was a story in my head that literally just had to get out. While writing Terminal Value, I felt like I was taking notes while a film was playing in my head and turning it into a book.
Who is your biggest supporter?
I can’t say it is one specific person. I would have to say my friends and family.
Are you a member of a critique group? If no, who provides feedback on your work?
I am not a member of a critique group, but I have a number of writer/editor friends that I shared the manuscript with, as well as a professional editor before the novel was published.
Who is your favorite author?
This, of course, is perhaps the most difficult question for any author to answer and I love many of the world’s greatest writers. For Terminal Value, given the subject matter, I was influenced by certain novels such as Michael Crichton’s Disclosure and John Grisham’s The Firm. It’s flattering and humbling that so many reviews have compared Terminal Value to these other works.
Do you have an agent or are you looking for one?
I do not have an agent. For an unknown novelist, it is almost impossible to find a literary agent who is willing to take you on given the state of publishing today. I don’t think having an agent is necessary, but I certainly think a great agent is very helpful. They have the connections and knowledge that others don’t.
Was the road to publication smooth sailing or a bumpy ride?
It was certainly bumpy. First, I was told that no one would be interested in this subject matter – from a literary agent who shall remain nameless! Second, I discovered that my first publisher really didn’t seem to understand the e-book market well – which, of course, has become critical. Third, like other authors, I found one of the most difficult things to be able to finally “let go” and declare the novel finished. Even when you receive the proofs before the book is printed, you still want to change it.
Overall, I would say that you really have to believe in yourself, overcome obstacles such as agents who aren’t interested or publishers who aren’t likely to serve you well, and find a few great people you trust to help you see it through to completion.
If you knew then, what you know now, is there anything you would have done differently?
I would have learned more about the electronic distribution and marketing of novels today in advance of the publication of Terminal Value. I have learned a lot in a very short period of time, and in retrospect I would have organized the launch differently.
Where can readers purchase a copy of your book?
Readers can find me at www.thomaswaite.com. My book is available to purchase at the following locations:
What is the best investment you have made in promoting your book?
The best investment was probably establishing and keeping up-to-date a large network of friends, acquaintances, colleagues, clients and alumni over many years. They have turned out to be a great source of both buying my novel and recommending it to others.
I also orchestrated a campaign that included an outreach to my personal network, advertising that ran at the New York Times and The Boston Globe, LinkedIn, Goodreads, and an extensive social media and virtual author tour campaign through multiple channels that has served me well.
What is one piece of advice you would like to share with aspiring authors everywhere?
For writers, I would say that the most important thing I learned was to follow your instincts. I shared some of the manuscript with others and their opinions varied widely. In the end, you need to be true to yourself and produce the novel you believe in.
What is up next for you?
Marketing my novel, of course! But seriously, given the encouragement I have received to write a sequel, I am starting to sketch out another novel. I also continue to work as an entrepreneur – right now I am providing advice to start-ups.
Is there anything you would like to add?
For readers, I would urge you to consider trying out new authors and genres – they may just surprise you. I sincerely hope that you enjoy my novel and I thank you for your time!