Tom Lukas has long been a craftsman. Starting as a carpenter and home builder, Lukas made the life altering decision to pursue a career as a fiction writer. Now, the Seattle-based writer is traveling across the country promoting his self-published novel, “Special Operations.”
The novel has special meaning to Lukas as well as to Auburn. Lukas’ brother, Stephen, was an Auburn patrolman who was killed in the line of duty in an automobile accident on January 1, 1986. ‘Special Operations’ was inspired by Stephen’s tragic death, and is one way Tom Lukas has dealt with the resulting survivor’s guilt.
The novel itself is an exciting – if dark – page turner. It is best described as a psychological thriller rather than a mystery. In fact, the murderer is revealed at the very beginning of the book. But the plot itself blurs the line between good and evil, right and wrong, as The Illuminator conducts horrific surgical procedures on his victims. However, The Illuminator’s victims are themselves guilty of horrible crimes.
The novel is receiving universally excellent reviews. Since Lukas self-published the book under his Spycar Books label, he and his team are on the road promoting the book.
One thing setting this trip apart from other book tours is Lukas’ P1800 Volvo, a classic sport car dubbed The Spycar. The car itself attracts attention and generates interest in the book.
“We’ve had people come up to the car and we talk to them and we sell books” says Lukas. “That has been one surprising thing, how many books we’ve sold from the car.”
When Auburn Mass Daily caught up with Lukas by phone, he was near Pittsburg, PA, heading toward Central Massachusetts. He has a reading and book signing scheduled for Thursday, August 7 at 6:30pm at Auburn Public Library, ad another reading at Annie’s Book Stop in Worcester on Friday.
“We left Seattle on June 30th” says Lukas. “We have had stops for readings and signings about every 2 or 3 days.” he adds.
The venues have all been small, independent book stores which, according to Lukas, are incredibly accommodating. While summer is an historically weak time for book stores, sales of ‘Special Operations’ have been good.
“It has to do with the personal touch” says Lukas. “A lot of times authors will sit at a table and wait for people to approach. I engage them, say ‘hello’ and start a conversation.”
The approach, Lukas contends, sells more books. ” You can tell in the first minute or so if someone will buy a book.”
The car helps, too. “It’s our secret weapon” says Lukas. “No one goes to bookstores in the summer. But the car attracts attention. It has a smokescreen effect that we use, and people come over to see the car. It’s a way to connect with people” he adds.
While self-publishing has certain advantages, it also presents some obstacles. For example, Lukas has to create his own marketing channels, a role that would be filled by the publishing house in the traditional model. Here, it’s up to Lukas.
“I have to make it happen” he says. “Writing the book is just part one.”
Lukas has plenty of motivation to “make it happen.” Obviously, writing is now his livelihood. Further, he is also donating a portion of the book proceeds to the Patrolman Stephen A. Lukas / Special Operations Scholarship for Creative Writing, which is awarded by the Auburn High English Department. The award was first made this past May, and is given annually to a graduating Auburn High Student planing to pursue a career in writing. Lukas hopes the stop in Auburn will generate a lot of local interest in the book, which is set in Goddard, MA, a fictional town located just south of Auburn.
‘Special Operations’ will be available for purchase at the Auburn Public Library on Thursday night. It can also be purchased in paperback and digital book format from Amazon.com.