- A common misconception entwined with authors is that they are socially inept, how true is that?
I agree with the question’s premise that there is a “misconception” regarding (all) authors as socially inept. Certainly, some authors genuinely are socially awkward, but authors represent a microcosm of society. Sure—you’ll find the extreme introverts amongst writers who may not be able to express themselves in a social setting but can make the prose or poetry on a page leap out and grab your attention. Likewise, you will also find the social butterflies happily flitting amongst the author ranks—fiction or non-fiction—who will also pen great things.
- Is it true that anyone can be a writer?
But can many, perhaps even some who think that they could never become a published author, be a good or even great writer? Well, then the answer is a resounding yes!
Akin to not everyone being able to be the next champion boxer or figure skater, not everyone is cut out to be a writer. But, if you have the passion in your heart to pen a novel—go for it! There are many resources (e.g., books, local writing groups, conferences, editors, etc.) available to help someone to become a better writer—to polish skills in writing and editing, to take your writing project over the finish line in a splendid fashion.
- What makes the genre you are involved in so special?
My genre is the family saga. Over the past few years, I’ve read many articles and heard commentators detail the breakdown of the traditional family, and that same collapse being at the crux of many societal problems within the United States and elsewhere. I tend to believe this research.
Sadly, some writer/publishing sites don’t even show family saga as its own genre! I think a re-focus on the family is necessary at this juncture in time—neither a prosaic or passé format—as I think society would benefit from tighter-knit families.
Do I think that the family structure is under attack more now than in the past? Yes—yes, I do. There have been advances in technology (e.g., the Internet and the advent of social media) that perhaps have brought us ostensibly together, and I’ve seen some meaningful, thought out exchanges online.
But there’s something about an “electronic separation” versus talking to someone in the same room or in the forest, that seems to increase (not decrease) the personal distance and understanding. I think the jury is still out if social media can ever be on par with real personal interaction.
4. Do you think writers have a normal life like others?
Many writers I know also have a routine 8-to 5 job, and they write on the side. Perhaps understanding a shared routine with others may help individual writers become better at what they write about by experiencing interaction up close and personal.
That said, I would contend that full-time writing is an extraordinary life pursuit. I think of Robert Frost’s poem, The Road Not Taken—use that as a soft overlay of the path that authors travel.
- Is it true that authors write word-perfect first drafts?
When I first read this question, it literally made me laugh out loud. I have a growing circle of author-friends, and never have I ever heard any of them state that they nailed a draft the first time. (Maybe a clever sentence or two makes it through a first pass, but an entire draft? Never.)
The writing, re-writing, content editing, and proofreading are all essential parts of the road to writing a good or great book. I suspect that a writer would experience a lot less anxiety or discouragement, as you re-whicker a paragraph for the twentieth (or more!) time, if you begin with the belief that you won’t ever write a word-perfect first draft.
- What is the most important thing about a book in your opinion?
I’ll speak to fiction. And it’s hard to say what is the most critical—plot, character development, or specifically, dialogue.
You could have the world’s most fascinating character—but put that figure in a dull plot setting (e.g., no growth, no dramatic conflict, no questions to be answered), then you won’t generate reader interest, and you’ve lost them.
Likewise, if you have a great plot, but the characters are not relatable or believable, then you have also likely lost your reader.
Ultimately, I think character development through an excellent plot, becomes the most important things for a writer to focus on.
- Do you pen down revelations and ideas as you get them, right then and there?
I try to do just that—write great ideas down when it comes to me. But unfortunately, many times I’m in the forest, oftentimes at night, when a plot twist or dialogue idea comes to mind, and I’m without pen and paper. Fortunately, I’m pretty good at recalling thoughts because I’ve made it a habit of rehearsing and refining the idea as I’m walking.
I’ve heard many writers tell me that they think of a good idea or line when they wake up in the middle of the night. (I’ve done that too!) So, I highly recommend that you either keep a pen and paper near your bed or drag yourself in front of your computer, to write it down! I’m betting the suggestion of writing great ideas down, and going back to sleep, wins the poll.
- How long do you take to write a book?
This probably is the most frequently asked question that I get from friends, family, and readers. If we understand that “write” here means the first draft, then I’ve been consistent at a little under six months. (Understand, that I also had a part-time day job, as well.)
However, if you add in the editing time before submission for publishing, my first novel stood closer to 11 months, while my second book looks to be coming it at 9 months. I think the reason for becoming a tad faster is more experience in the writing/publishing process.
Further, my first novel was written very linearly—writing each chapter in sequence (and making a lot of notes about what would happen in future scenes). My second (and now third) novel was (is) being written non-linearly—I jump back and forth between major scenes—and this does seem to aid me in writing faster, although consistency and integration become more problematic if I’m not paying attention.
- Would you want your book adapted for the silver screen?
Isn’t this the dream for all those whose novels/books could be made into a movie, to see it in a theatre?
Whether an author is one of those relative precious few who gets to see their story adapted to the screen, it’s important that all writers think of their book from scene to scene just like a movie. My content editor (Dr. Cherri Randall) introduced me to Dr. Jack Bickham’s book, Scene and Structure, which covers the importance of relevancy of each scene, transitions, integration, and meaning. It’s probably fair to say that the late Dr. Bickham, who wrote more than 80 novels, was very much about cause and effect (part of Scene and Structure’s Chapter 3’s title!)—and it’s those movies that have excellent cause and effect aspects to them that make them memorable (perhaps largely because the cause and effect are apparent and relatable) and stay with us long after we leave the theatre.
- Was it all too easy for you – the writing, the publication, and the sales?
The word ‘easy’ has little place in the writing, publishing, and sales process. I don’t want to make the entire process sound like such a Herculean task, or plant the expectation of the results of Sisyphus, that a young writer gives up hope. But if you don’t go into the writing process expecting some hard work, you’re likely going to be very disappointed.
Bottom line: embrace the writing-to-publishing process for what it is—a long, tough slog that will make you and your writing better in the end.
11. Do your novels carry a message?
Oh, I certainly hope so!
But here’s what has possibly surprised me the most about the readers that I’ve spoken to/corresponded with—they all take away different aspects of the novel about what they see as most meaningful to them.
I had to go through nearly two dozen readers before I found two that liked the same scene. I had to get to about three dozen readers before someone loved my favorite scene! Even more fascinating—my novel titled, The Last Coon Hunter—has received some of its highest praise from people who declared themselves as non- or even avowed anti-hunters! I suspect that appeal is because the book is about the relationships between the characters and their hounds that makes the story more universal than I could have possibly hoped to achieve.
- Fiction or non-fiction–which is easier?
I’ve written articles for technical journals and reports, some of the latter that were 400+ pages. Since I was a management analyst, those reports “told the story” of how the data was collected, analyzed, and conclusions drawn. Every report followed a specific format and structure—so if you like that format, then I imagine an author coming down on the side of non-fiction being easier; but if you hate an “A-before-B” mandate, then you might side with fiction as being much more to your liking.
I do perform some book signings with other authors, and they have told me on more than one occasion that they “could never do fiction.” To me, while even fiction should follow a general approach to story development, the fiction writer is only limited by her or his imagination and how well they can develop likable heroes, dislikable villains, and integrate a plot that keeps the reader engaged.
- What is your take on the importance of a good cover and title?
Having an attractive cover and title is critical—particularly for beginning authors. Your title and cover are your first marketing tools. So, while it’s true that you can’t judge a book by its cover, it’s also true that a reader’s interest will first be piqued by the cover and title; hopefully enough such that they then turn to read the book jacket/back cover to decide if they wish to take a chance on reading your story.
Once you’ve established an audience, and it’s the author’s name recognition that drives reader interest, perhaps a cover and title become less important. (But I still recommend a solid cover and title, nonetheless!)
- What advice would you like to give writers who are struggling with their first novels?
Don’t quit! I think many potential authors stop at some point in their writing for as many reasons as there are writers. But if you can reach within yourself, or even rely on a friend or fellow writer to get you over the slumps, the rewards of your achievement (that first book or novel) are just incredible
- Some writers create a bubble around themselves until they’re finished with their project – how true is that in your case?
For me—entirely accurate regarding not reading other full-length novels while I’m penning my own. I think many writers become so engrossed, establishing and maintaining their own voices, that they don’t want another writer’s influence to affect them while they are creating.
On the flip side—to become a good writer, you’re probably an avid reader, which will make you an even better writer.
So, in all things—balance—and confidence that your unique voice won’t be drowned out by the undue influence of another author.
- Although all books say that the characters in the book aren’t real or related, but are they really all fictional and made up?
This question is reminiscent of some advice I read once about writing query letters to literary agents: never put in the query that my novel/story is “somewhat autobiographical.”
Because all stories have some autobiographical element to it—thus, you’ve just wasted space in your query letter where there’s no space to spare—period.
In my stories, characters at best could be described as composites of many people I’ve known—although there’s still a great deal of fiction on top of that.
- Who are your favorite authors?
I have two favorite authors—both bestsellers: Clive Cussler and R.A. Salvatore.
What I always admired about Cussler’s action adventure writing (I read Raise The Titanic as a teenager and always asked for his latest book for Christmas) was his attention to detail and his historical research. (With Cussler, if the hero locked his car, goes away, comes back, and the hero doesn’t have to unlock his/her car door upon return, be ready—the villain has been there!) Both Cussler’s heroes and villains were larger than life—his plots wonderfully complex and interwoven with history—but he always pulled off the ability to make the characters relatable, and the stories engrossing.
R.A. Salvatore’s Forgotten Realm saga delves into the fantasy world mainly based on Tolkien’s created world of orcs, elves, and wizards. Salvatore takes it to the next several levels though, and while his characters are literally magical, they are flawed and always striving to be better at what they do and who they are. And who doesn’t love a good sword fight?
- What inspires you to write?
That’s simple: everyday life and the forest.
Life is about the struggle—not the plateaus that can and do occur where we coast and re-charge for a time. But regarding a novel, the story should be about the hills that we climb, and the rivers we cross. If life was always comfortable—well—where is the drama in that?
I spend 2-10 hours per day and night in the forests—often in the accompaniment of hounds. There is still a primitive reality here—one that speaks to the soul of most people; it’s just that sadly, most people refuse to listen, or (somewhat worse) hear selectively.
A cliff (and gravity!) demand respect if you decide to negotiate it. While perhaps you controlled the choice, a steep hillside cares nothing about your economic status, the number of friends you have, or your educational background—you must meet it on its terms—not yours.
And when in the forest—and if you have a mind to listen—there’s a magic in these places, if you know where to look.
- Do you reply to your fans personally?
Absolutely! Whether it’s e-mail or a post on social media, I certainly enjoy what readers share. (I’m a little leery of giving away any plot twists—but folks often share their personal experience—and that’s wonderful.)
My e-mail address is email@example.com, and you can search Facebook for The Last Coon Hunter to get hold of me and others following my posts there.
- Can you tell us about your current projects?
The Last Coon Hunter is Book I of the Ryland Creek Saga.
The Legends of Ryland Creek (Book II) is the sequel to The Last Coon Hunter and takes places seven years later. For this book, reader feedback from Last, regarding the mystical nature of the forests in Painted Post—took hold! Thus, Legends delves into the other-worldly aspect that so many liked in the first book. Legends is expected to be available in the March-April 2018 timeframe.
An Exceptional Hound (Book III) is now being written, and I hope to have this novel—and “interquel” that goes back to a 7-year gap in Legends and tells the story of Seth. As I write (Nov 14), I’m 14K (of a target 85K) words into Exceptional, and I am very much enjoying where this story is going. I hope to have this book out in late Summer or early Fall 2018.
The Master of Hounds (Book IV) is in the early planning stages and should be out in 2019.