“THEY CALL HIM SKINNER” author, Timothy James Riley

  1. What inspires me to write? Memories. In my first book – “I’m Lettin’ Go – But I Ain’t Givin’ Up!” it was factual memories of the time and place where I grew up. With Skinner, it was the stories handed down to me by my father, along with some creative license.
  2. How often do I write? Almost every day – but only because I love to write, not because I’m on a schedule or deadline.
  3. How hard was it start writing? When the time was right, I began with ease. Of course I had waited some 50 years to write my first word.
  4. Is it true writers are often loners? It is for me. Alone, without distraction, I can write for hours.
  5. Does that mean my life is other than normal? Probably a better question for my wife of 51 years. Actually, I think our life is quite normal, even borderline routine. But it’s exactly the way we want it – with an occasional adventure thrown in for good measure.
  6. Do I set a plot or prefer going wherever an idea takes me? Because I write from memories, I’ve do both. ‘Skinner’ had such a strong protagonist and setting, it was easy for the story-line to play out for the most part. I’d heard of stories where writers will suddenly find new characters showing up uninvited. That happened about midway through this book.
  7. What’s the most difficult part of my writing? Editing. For whatever reason, the dreaded “writer’s block” is never a problem. Quite the contrary – I can write until my fingers cramp every time I sit down at the computer. However, rarely is it all on track or printable.
  8. So, do I proofread and edit my books or do I pay someone to do it? Both. I’m admittedly a poor editor, so I’ve used a professional with each book. However, I also struggle with giving up control; so I review and edit the finished product (I found an error on the first page of ‘Skinner’ after two people and a professional editor had reviewed it).
  9. Do I read much? Unfortunately, no. May one or two books a month. I know it’s wrong, but I see it as the time I spend reading, is time I could be writing.
  10. What’s the most important part of a book for me? I’m in the ‘story’ camp. The characters can be less than compelling or memorable, but the story has to grab my attention, and then keep it.
  11. Do I believe a book cover plays an important role in marketing my books? Absolutely. For ‘Lettin’ Go’, I did the preliminary concept and let a professional handle the final product. With ‘Skinner’ I used CreateSpace’s DIY program. Each cover took weeks of trial and error and many, many revisions.
  12. Do I do book signings? I did them 20 years ago with ‘Lettin Go’ and for the most part, they helped. Especially with the independent book stores. The settings were more friendly, more casual and more conducive to interactions. Today, with Amazon, I don’t feel they’re a relevant part of my marketing plan.
  13. Do I remember the first book I read? I remember the first book I read that had an impact on me. Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea” – I was 12 years old and it’s still one of my favorites.
  14. Which book took the most time to write? I wrote ‘Lettin’ Go’ – a nonfiction book – in six months. My novel ‘Skinner’ took almost 20 years to complete. My current novel will be completed this year.  
  15. Who is the most supportive of my writing? My sister. Her imaginative, artistic and wildly creative spirit have kept me going from my first written page.
  16. Do I have a day job? Not any more. I retired in 2016.
  17. Do I enjoy traveling? Yes. My wife and I have been very fortunate to visit many, many countries over the years. We celebrated our 50th anniversary with a Mediterranean cruise and a trip to Paris. Now we’re focusing on seeing America.
  18. Did any of my books get rejected by agents or publishers? I went straight to self-publishing with my first book because I didn’t understand the world of publishing. ‘Skinner’ was rejected 123 times before one agent finally explained what I was doing wrong. She said she too was rejecting the book, even though she liked my query, synopsis and first 50 pages. She said my genre – YA historical fiction with a male protagonist –  was far too small for any real publisher to be interested because, even if it was a huge success, the market was just too small.
  19. Have I marketed my books? Yes, both books were self-published. Thankfully, with the help of Amazon, this time around was much, much easier. If things stay the same in the near future, I’ll most likely continue with DIY on Amazon.
  20. Any advice I’d like to give to younger writers? Please, please do not wait until you’re 50 years old to start writing.
Subscribe to our book recommendations