Wednesday, August 21, 2013

When the blog writes itself

So, Smashwords is doing some interesting things lately, among them, prompting their authors to partake of "interviews" in which questions are generated that if answered, will become part of your writer profile. Never one to turn up my nose at either free marketing or free blog fodder, here are my answers!

Q: When did you first start writing?

I first began writing in earnest back in 2005, with my first novel, "Sumner Gardens," a semi-autobiographical look back at my childhood. Upon completing it, I said to myself, anyone can write ONE book, but if you want to be a WRITER then you need to write more than one. So, I immediately began writing "Hope Town," my first attempt at a thriller. Funny, some readers have said that "Hope Town" almost feels like a sequel to "Sumner Gardens," and in a way, they're right.

Q: What's the story behind your latest book?

My latest is a novelette titled, "The Ghost and Mr. Londergan," the next in the "Dick Londergan Chronicles" series, about a golden age private detective who finds himself lost in the modern world. It's the third Dick Londergan short, the fourth being the full-length novel "Hell City," in which we learn how and why Dick Londergan became the man he is. Read that last!

Q: What motivated you to become an indie author?

Funny, I tried very hard NOT to be an Indie author. I spent years and years trying to interest an agent or a publisher in my early works, sent out hundreds and hundreds of queries. When that didn't work, I went on to write a third and then a fourth novel that I thought might be more to their liking. In the meantime, I had some success writing short stories and having them published in small press anthologies, I even won an Honorable Mention in the "Writers of the Future" contest for my novelette "Adamson's Rock," all with an eye toward "building that resume!" so agents and publishers might take an interest. Alas, it was not to be.

Q: How has Smashwords contributed to your success?

I'm smiling, because I don't know what being a success is. However, if selling lots and lots of books is being a success, then that isn't me. But it is gratifying that what sales I do have mostly take place via Smashwords channels, at Apple, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, and the rest. Since Amazon instituted their KDP Select program, in which hundreds of thousands of authors started giving away their books for free, I can't even get arrested over there. Months can go by in-between Amazon sales for me. It's the strangest thing.

Q: What is the greatest joy of writing for you?

I'd say the little surprises that happen along the way. For example, early on in a book or a short you try to add tiny details for flavor, or color, or because you find it amusing, or because you're trying to pump up the word count. Many, if not most, of those details will get excised during later edits. But if you've sprinkled enough throughout, you often find later on in the writing that something you thought was just a throwaway line a hundred or so pages previous has miraculously become intrinsic to the plot. Those are the best moments.

Q: Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?

Gonna cheat a little here, because the first "story" I ever wrote happened after I wrote my first two novels. After writing those and having no luck finding an agent or publisher, I thought maybe if I tried my hand at short stories, had a few published, it would burnish my resume and perhaps THEN I might attract some interest.

So, the first short story I ever wrote was titled "Ohrwurm," and it came to me almost fully formed. I knew the beginning, the middle, and the ending, before I wrote a single word. I was delighted to have it accepted into a small publisher's first anthology, and it later appeared in a "Best of" collection from that same publisher.

Q: What is your writing process?

Maybe the best way to answer this is the way the writer Brian Keene answers it, and he calls it "ass in seat" time. You've got to just put your ass in that seat and start writing. Something. Anything. It all starts there. Who knows? Maybe some magic will happen! But you're not going to write anything unless you put your ass in that seat.

Q: Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?

Funny, I've been thinking about that a lot lately. Even looked it up and found an ancient copy of it on ebay. The first book I ever remember reading was called "Olaf Learns to Read." It was about this kid (or maybe it was a creature of some sort) who was just learning to read, and I remember he came across a fire alarm and the only word he could make out was "Pull." And so, he pulled. Aside from it being indelibly inked to my brain, it hasn't had that much of an effect on me. I haven't pulled any inadvertent fire alarms, anyway. But I do remember it.

Q: How do you approach cover design?

This is no doubt the weakest part of my marketing. I create my own covers, mostly using cover creator software from one publisher or another. My first few were just abysmal, but I think I'm getting better. The tools are certainly getting better. Amazon now has an excellent cover creator. But anyway, I try to think of an image from the story that best exemplifies the gist of it, and then it's a search for a public domain image that fits the bill. I've been very happy with my last few.

Q: What are your five favorite books, and why?

Wow. Favorite book is "Tender is the Night" by F. Scott Fitzgerald, hands down, and it's because of the writing. That it takes place in an interesting place and time with indelible characters is only secondary. Next might be "All the Pretty Horses" by Cormac McCarthy again, because of the writing. Those are the only two books that when I turned the last page, I went back to the first page and read them again. I'll round it out with "Boy's Life" by Robert R. McCammon, "Tunnel in the Sky" by Robert Heinlein, and "Empire of the Sun" by J.G. Ballard, because I read each of those books at the exact time in my life I was supposed to.

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