"It's impossible to discourage the real writers; they don't give a damn what you say." Sinclair Lewis

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Chat with Carol Curtis Stilz

When did you begin writing?

My first stories were written in first grade, but in third grade, I began sharing what my teacher, Mrs. Winter, called creative writing. She returned my first effort with an “A” and said, “You can be a writer when you grow up.” Her comment encouraged me, as did teachers throughout school. I began writing stories and plays when I taught creative dramatics to preschoolers. Eventually, I entered KIRSTY’S KITE in a Willamette Writers Contest and won the Kay Snow Award that year in 1987.

What have you written (books, short stories, articles, etc.)?

In addition to writing articles, stories and books for children, I have had articles, interviews, and a food column published with newspapers and magazines. The food reviews were in “Check It Out” for a local Gannett newspaper.

Which of the novels you’ve written are your favorite and why?

I wrote one novella in grad school. So far, I’m not a novelist.

What is your favorite genre to read?

Mysteries. I love a good mystery. I enjoy guessing the ending. It's so much fun for me to see how the author developed the conclusion.

What is your obligation to your readers?

To provide a good reading experience so the reader feels satisfied when he/she has finished.

What is your obligation to yourself as a writer?

To pace myself and not neglect other areas of my life.

Who is your favorite hero/heroine?

As a young reader, my hero was Nancy Drew and later Jessica Fletcher. I love super sleuths. My real life hero was Mattie Stepanik who wrote HEART SONGS while he dealt with challenges for a rare form of muscular dystrophy.

What was your easiest book to write?

None are easy. I wrote KIRSTY’S KITE in one sitting but had to revise and revise.

Which was the hardest?

It’s usually the one I’m writing now. I have one in research, two in revision, and one with an agent.

What is the hardest part of the creative process for you?

Choosing the format for the story or information.

Do you write by an outline?

Sometimes. I sketch 3-12 main points depending on the length of the writing project. Three to five points works for articles and short pieces. I use 10-12 stepping-stones in historical fiction.

If not, what is your method?

I write in sections, like one quilt piece at a time and then stitch the sections together.

Do you have set hours in the day to write?

I like mornings best but write whenever I can.

Writing is tough. What makes you keep coming back?

It’s in my blood and gives me the “high” runners talk about. When I have a passage that I can read over and over and over again, without editing, I know I’m done for now. That feels great!

Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

Read, read, read! Read in the area in which you want to write, not just books on how to write. You will find your own process as you read and write, write, write.

Monday, August 4, 2014

A Chat With Linda Sandifer

When did you begin writing, and why?

I started writing when I was 12. I loved to read, and it became clear to me early on that I wanted to create stories like the ones I read.

What have you written (books, short stories, articles, etc.)?

I've had 13 books published, several short stories, and a number of industry-related articles. When I was a teenager I wrote a lot of really awful poetry.

Which of your novels are your favorite and why?

I'd have to say The Last Rodeo is my favorite. Probably because the characters followed me around for over thirty years, so I grew very close to them. I tried several times to tell their story, but it kept going back in the closet while I wrote other books that were under contract. The story itself was sort of like having to wait for a peach to ripen before you can pick it. The characters ranged in age from 16 to 80, and I think I needed more life experiences to give me the insight necessary to write each character's story.


Who are your favorite authors?

I usually think of favorite books rather than favorite authors because, ultimately, it's the nature of the story that intrigues me. There is some subject matter and some settings that just don't appeal. But there are a few authors who I'll keep going back to because I love their writing styles, and I know their stories will never disappoint.

In women's fiction I like Barbara Delinsky, Kate Morton, Anne Hoffman, and Lucinda Riley. For westerns and western novels: Elmer Kelton, Louis L'Amour, and Larry McMurtry. In the romance category, I've recently enjoyed Kaki Warner, Carolyn Fyffe, B. J. Daniels, and Sharon Sala. I seldom read mysteries but I do like James Lee Burke and everything Tony Hillerman ever wrote. And even though I'm not one to read horror, I will read Dean Koontz. A foreign author who comes to mind is Carlos Ruiz Zafón. For nonfiction, I'd have to say Hampton Sides, who writes history as engaging as any novel.

What is your favorite genre to read?

I like both historical and contemporary fiction. As a general rule, I'm not interested in horror, sci-fi, "Tolkien" fantasy, erotica, spy thrillers, vampire books, or who-dun-it mysteries. I do like paranormal elements, however, like ghosts, skinwalkers, time travel, reincarnation, and Southwestern culture and settings. I don't waste time on anything that doesn't engage me in the first few chapters. If it doesn't seem to be going anywhere on its own, I put it on a fast track to the used bookstore.

What is your obligation to your readers?

When an author starts a story, they make a promise to the reader. It is my obligation to not only give them that promise, but to fulfill it in a big way. I want to entertain, of course, but I want to craft a story that readers will truly feel was worth the read, and I want to create characters that are not easily forgotten. Also, it is my obligation to know who my readers are, and to give them the type of book they expect in any given genre. Sometimes, this can be the hardest part of writing a book because if you don't know who your target audience is, you won't know how to write the book.

What is your obligation to yourself as a writer?

To write the best story I can! But it's important not to second-guess yourself at every turn. If you begin to doubt yourself, then your voice becomes stilted and you become crippled. Critiques are good, but a writer ultimately has to trust his/her instincts. When I finally determine the story has gone through enough revisions that I can say it's finished, I want to feel as if I truly did accomplish what I set out to do, and that I didn't compromise the heart of the story with self-doubt and fear (like worrying what my family and friends will think!).

Who are your favorite hero and heroine?

Rhett Butler comes to mind from Gone With the Wind. And Meg Cleary from The Thornbirds. But I think heroes and heroines who are memorable are those who are tortured in some way, and who have to go the farthest and face the highest obstacles (but within reason--no Perils of Pauline, please!). One hero who comes to mind is McCall in Lonesome Dove. It's interesting what Larry McMurtry did when he wrote that book because he made Gus the likeable one, the obvious "hero," and yet it was his friend McCall who set the entire sequence of events into motion, and who was the last one standing. So he was the true hero, and, technically, the main character. He isn't a hero anyone would think of as their favorite, but he certainly was memorable.

What was your easiest book to write?

"Easy" and "writing" and "book" don't really go together! But, I suppose I'd have to say Desire's Treasure. The hero and heroine played off each other very well, and it came together without too much angst. It was a fun book to write. I also found Came A Stranger quite easy to write.

Which was the hardest?

I'd have to draw straws, because it seems the more I've learned about writing, the harder it becomes. Each book has its own particular challenges. But I'd have to say The Last Rodeo was one of the most difficult because it wasn't genre specific, and there was no "formula" to keep me on the straight and narrow. In general fiction, the path you take is entirely up to you and if you take the wrong one, you could be wandering around in the forest forever. I got lost in the woods a helluva lot while writing that book, but I finally found my way, thanks to some comments made by agent Donald Maass who read the book in an earlier draft.

Also, Raveled Ends of Sky was tough because I was under a tight deadline with the publisher, and it was a monumental undertaking with tons of research and a lot of characters and storylines, both real and fictional, that had to be woven together. I had research books scattered over the entire floor of my office for the eight months of writing. I was completely burned out when it was finished. But I'm very proud of it.

What is the hardest part of the creative process for you?

I would rather write a 500-page novel than wrestle with a one-page query letter. They didn't used to be so tough when I first started in this business, but agents have become entirely too anal about them.

Do you write by an outline? If not, what is your method?

Outlines are too restrictive. But I don't write completely by the seat of my pants, either. There are certain things I want to happen, and there's always a destination, but how I reach it remains fluid. My method is kind of like putting together a grocery list. I only write down the stuff I absolutely have to have. Then I go to the store and walk up and down the aisles and pick up all the other goodies I see along the way.

Do you have set hours in the day to write?

I used to when my life had a schedule; i.e., when my children were in school and my husband was working. Now that my husband is "retired" and I have children scattered from Florida to California, I'm doing more "time-traveling" than writing. (There is at least one member of our family in every U. S. time zone!)

Writing is tough. What keeps you coming back?

Insanity, most likely. But I prefer to believe it's in the blood.

Tell us a little about your venture into the self-publishing market.

I self-published The Last Rodeo. The agent I had at the time loved the book and shopped it around New York to all the big publishers. It got good feedback, but ultimately no sale. From what I could gather, it was a marketing issue. My agent suggested that if I wanted to turn it into a "cowboy erotica" she could probably find an editor for it because that was a hot market (no pun intended). I wasn't about to dismantle all the years of hard work I had put into that story and those characters. I could have continued to search for a publisher (and a new agent), but I decided to publish it myself so no one could possibly turn it into something I didn't want it to be.

Would you self-publish again?

The advantage to self-publishing is that your book can be available for as long as you want it to be, so, yes, I'd do it again if I had a book I felt was worthy. It's nice that there's no longer a stigma for self-published books.

Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

Probably more than a beginning writer would like to hear! But, seriously, follow your heart and your instincts. Write the story that speaks to you and it will likely speak to others. Learn the craft. Don't ever think that the rules don't apply to you (they do). Writing is a creative process but once it's on paper, it becomes a business. Keep abreast of the industry and the markets. Read. Read. Read. Evaluate what makes good books so good. Interact with other writers (it's nice to know you're not wandering the Desert of Insanity alone). Realize that your writing will never be perfect--no one's is--but always strive to make it the best you can. When you feel strongly about something you've written, stick to your guns. And never give up. As William Feather said, "Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go."

You can find Linda's books at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Chat With Richard Earl Rice

When did you begin writing, and why?

I retired from my day job at age 61. For a while I tried to occupy all my now-found free time with golf and fishing. Unfortunately in Idaho, you only get about six months of weather decent enough to do either. And the wind blows relentlessly. And I can’t say either pursuit adds much of value to anyone other than myself.

I had always wanted to try writing, and in fact, had a few false starts along the years, but never took the time to finish anything or really learn the craft. But now I was free, so I grabbed one of my dozens of latent story ideas and launched myself.

Probably it’s an ego thing. I reasoned if I was successful at telling a story, maybe someone out there would laugh, or cry or escape into a world I created. Maybe someday my kids will read my stories and pass them on to their kids and in a way I’ll live forever.


What have you written (books, short stories, articles, etc.)?

In the dozen or so years I’ve been at this, I’ve completed three novels, with a fourth nearly done, but set aside for a while to incubate. I’m a third of the way through my fifth novel. I’ve also written a dozen or so short stories.

Which of the novels you’ve written are your favorite and why?

My last novel, Star Eaters, is my favorite. I think the story is good, but more than that, I’ve had a lot of help on perfecting the manuscript. First, it was rigorously critiqued by my writing group. Later, the story caught the attention of an agent, who encouraged me to try getting a professional editor take a whack at it. I took his advice and actually hired two editors work it over - a story editor and a line editor.

The feedback from all those folks helped me remember all those rules of grammar I once learned and taught me a lot about story pace and development. I may never get this novel published, but it marked a turning point in my writing career…I believe I’m a far better writer because of all the help I’ve received.

Who are your favorite authors?

I have a pretty long list, as I knock off about a book a week. When I crave weirdness, I go to Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Michael Crighton, or Scott Sigler. If I’m hungry for SciFi or Fantasy, give me Ben Bova, Terry Brooks, Suzanne Collins, Robert Sawyer, Jack McDevitt. Thriller/spy writers like Brad Thor, Lee Child, Vince Flynn and Daniel Silva trip my trigger. I’ve also enjoyed more conventional stories from talented, best seller authors like John Grisham, Ridley Pearson, James Lee Burke, Stieg Larson, Wilber Smith, even Janet Evanovich.

What is your favorite genre to read?

I like thrillers - the conventional spy, secret agent, anti-terrorist good guy vs. bad guy stories

What is your obligation to your readers?

To give them a story they will not forget, and maybe a warning to tuck away that our world is in a lot of danger these days and the future may have to be approached very carefully.

What is your obligation to yourself as a writer?

To always keep writing and never stop learning.

Who are your favorite hero and heroine?

Jack Reacher – Creation of Lee Child – masculine, competent, different

Stephanie Plum – Creation of Janet Evanovich - cute, real, never gives up

Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

Be prepared to go into it with gusto. Half an effort, with lots of excuses to avoid wordsmithing won’t get you there.

What was your easiest book to write?

I wrote a thriller called Incendiary. It had elements of firefighting and light airplane flying, which are things I have done during my lifetime. It was also set in parts of the world where I have lived at one time or another.

Which was the hardest?

A novel I’m calling Prodigy. I had the first part of the story nailed, but could not find a way to conclude it to my satisfaction. It is now sitting quietly in a box in my closet waiting for a new inspiration to strike.

What is the hardest part of the creative process for you?

Finding good ways to “show” instead of “tell”

Do you write by an outline? If not, what is your method?

Sometimes a general one, but mostly…no. I try to get an idea in my head of where the story goes in general then let the characters take me there.

Do you have set hours in the day to write?

I try to crank out at least 500 words before noon then go do other stuff.

Writing is tough. What makes you keep coming back?

I’m not of the opinion writing is tough. Fighting forest fires is tough. Manual labor in an oil field is tough. Studying for final exams is tough. Giving a technical presentation to a vice president is tough. Telling a man you’re laying him off is tough. I’ve done all those things and I’d by far rather write.



A Chat With Mary Ann Cherry

When did you begin writing, and why?

I remember writing a short story in third grade and being disappointed with my efforts after hearing a marvelous story written by a friend being read aloud.

It was a normal thing to do in my family. My mother, father, and one brother all wrote prolifically.

What have you written (books, short stories, articles, etc.)?

I scribbled poetry for a college newspaper in years past, and more recently have organized articles and news for several art groups via newsletters and websites.

Which of the novels you’ve written are your favorite, and why?

I have not yet completed my Death on Canvas mystery but am enjoying the process and my characters are now my friends.

Who are your favorite authors?

Robert Parker, Julia Spencer Fleming

What is your favorite genre to read?

I enjoy a well-crafted science fiction novel and mystery or thriller.

What is your obligation to yourself as a writer?

To refuse to settle for tossed together scenarios, weak plots and uninteresting settings is my goal. Of course, this goal necessitates a mountain of rewrites.

Who is your favorite hero?

My son, Dan, is my hero. I believe he was a better man at the early age of sixteen than most men are at maturity. He is now serving in Afghanistan.

Who is your favorite heroine?

My daughter, Jennifer, is the strongest person I know. She never compromises her beliefs, whether moral or religious, and is always there for those who need her. Jennifer is a fourth grade teacher, a Sunday school teacher, and mother of two. Whenever I hear the song, “Did you Ever know that You’re my hero?”, I think of her and wonder how I managed to raise such a person.

Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

Write every day. I don’t but should.

Which of your books was the hardest to write?

I believe the current book, my first, is the only answer to this question.

What is the hardest part of the creative process for you?

It is always hard to find a large block of time, so small chunks have to do.

Do you write by an outline? If not, what is your method?

No. I think it would make my writing too stiff. Much of my writing just seems to be stream of consciousness, in that it flows rather than has to be yanked from jumbled thoughts.

Do you have set hours in the day to write?

I write in the morning.

Writing is tough. What makes you keep coming back?

Writing is, in essence, painting with words, and I am a painter. The desire to create “something from nothing”, as one does when painting, has become an innate part of who I am. Once the creative process is started there is a burning urge to finish.

Friday, May 30, 2014

A Chat with Karen Finnigan, aka Karen Lockwood

Why do you write?

I’ve always had an innate desire to put words on paper. My grandfather published poetry, my oldest son writes too, so maybe it’s in the DNA.

What have you written?

I’ve published seven novels, three novellas, articles, and poetry. Some as Karen Lockwood, some as Karen Finnigan. I’ve also written novels that are not published. Those are the ones with which I learned my craft.

Which is your favorite?

Fires of Midnight. It’s hard not to hold a special place in your heart for your first sale.

Who are your favorite authors?

Charlotte Bronte, Anita Shreve. But I don’t have favorite authors as much as keeper books. The Thornbirds is one of my all-time favorites. Others include Rebecca, The Shadow of the Moon, The Bridal Wreath, 84, Charing Cross Road, The DaVinci Code. All of these remain on my bookshelves, waiting to be reread.

What do you like to read?

A book that draws me in and keeps me engaged, a world I don’t want to leave when the story ends. Women’s Fiction, YA, and Classics. I also enjoy Non-fiction, especially history.

What is your obligation to readers?

To create a story they’ll want to take with them to a desert island.

What is your obligation to yourself as a writer?

To write what I feel strongly about rather than what the market seems to be dictating.

Who is your favorite hero?

Mr. Rochester.

Who is your favorite heroine?

Jane Eyre.

Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

Don’t feel you have to start writing on page one. Start anywhere, even the end. But get the emotional highlights of the story down.

What was the easiest story to write?

“White Heather” written as Karen Lockwood for the Summer Magic Anthology. The idea came to me fully formed.

Which was the hardest?

They’re all hard, but I’d say the one I’m currently working on. I shifted from historical romance to historical fiction aimed at a YA audience. I like new challenges, I guess.

Do you write by an outline?

Not really. I have a rough idea where the characters are going, but I allow them to set their own course.

If not, what is your method?

I create characters and put them into an interesting situation. Then I write by longhand whatever scene begs to be written. Later, I transfer it into my computer and save it with other scenes, then at some point I put them together into a narrative order. After that, I edit.

Do you have set hours of the day to write?

I’m not a morning person, so usually late morning to afternoon.

Writing is tough. What makes you keep coming back?

Story ideas come into my head and demand to be told. Also, it took me a lot of years to learn the craft, so I don’t want to waste that. I want to keep growing as a writer, which can only happen if I write.

Karen is currently co-chairman of the Blue Sage Writers.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

A Chat With Charm O'Ryan

When did you begin writing?

In high school. I wrote numerous articles for our school newspaper and became co-editor my junior and senior years. I started seriously writing (novel length) when my youngest son went to kindergarten. He was the baby of my four children and I figured I could finally squeeze a few quiet ‘me’ moments into a day with no children around to ask a zillion questions and demand numerous mommy tasks. In a nutshell? This boils down to twenty years ago.

Why do you write?

I have always loved to read, write, and create things. Again, back in the good-old-days of high school, I discovered the passionate world of romance novels through an aunt who loved them and would pass them my way when she was finished. Knights in shining armor, pirates, highwaymen … oh, these dark, mysterious, and always handsome heroes claimed my heart and set my imagination soaring into unbelievable heights. From that moment on, I set a goal to, one day, write my very own romance novel.

What have you written?

I’ve written a variety of different things throughout my life: five romance novels (I am currently working on a sixth); poems, several articles, and a children’s story. I even attempted a screenplay of my first novel, but gave that up after the first scene. With a screenplay, the rule is that if a camera can’t see it and a microphone can’t pick it up, a writer can’t put it in. I love showing my characters’ thoughts and inner feelings. To not be able to do so drove me absolutely nuts!

Which of the novels you’ve written are your favorite and why?

This is a tough question, as I’ve liked them all for different reasons. My first novel, With My Last Breath, was probably the most exciting for the simple reason that it was my first. I wrote it in six months, unaware there were ‘rules’ to writing romance.

My second novel, The Resurrection of Lord Drayton’s Heart, was another dark, yet lighthearted, paranormal historical. And I knew the rules this time … a milestone to be sure! (smile) I had more fun bringing a pushy ghost wife back from the grave to help her handsome husband get over her heath by insisting he find another to love; with her help, of course.

My third novel, a contemporary, The Author and The Cover Model, is the novel I probably had the most fun writing. It’s a parody on the romance genre that enters the world I love … the world of writing romance. I put a lot of my own frustrations, hopes, dreams, and fantasies into this story where the romance reader learns the ins and outs of the genre they love as much as I do.

My fourth entitled, The Table, is the novel of my heart. Though it’s a paranormal time-travel, it is also a fact-based work of fiction based on my family. My mother’s, aunt’s and uncle’s memories are written throughout the pages. I wrote the story to tell the world about a horrendous tragedy that befell my great aunt in 1939. The men who attacked, and murdered, her were never brought to justice and I felt that by telling her story, somehow, someway, it might bring her heavenly soul an earthly peace.

And the last completed manuscript, my fifth, is Lillian of the Valley. This novel ended up being a contemporary murder mystery, something I can assure you, I did not set out to write! It, too, has a lot of lighthearted moments, and was really quite enjoyable to write. It involves a preacher’s daughter and the new owner of a legal house of ill repute set in Nevada, 2014.

I am currently working on my sixth novel, but will keep the title and the premise to myself, as its story is still unfolding.

Who are your favorite authors?

This, too, is a tough question. There are so many wonderful writers out there. Needless to say, Linda Sandifer, Karen Finnigan, and Sherry Roseberry (Blue Sage members) are in the top ten of favorite published romance authors! Some of my old time favorites throughout my life are: Kathleen Woodiwiss, the ‘old’ Jude Deveraux, Johanna Lindsey, and Rosemary Rogers. I also liked Karen Robards, Julie Garwood … man, but the list is endless!

Other than romance, what is your favorite genre to read?

Believe it or not, it is non-fiction. I truly believe ignorance is mankind’s greatest fault. When I talk about things, whether it is politics, religion, medical, whatever, I want to know what I’m talking about. I never believe everything I read, or hear, without researching it first. My favorite non-fiction book of all time is the bible. I try to read it every night before I go to bed, knowing full well any talent I possess is a gift from my precious trio above. Even though I write sensual ‘steamy’ romance, each of my books have an inspirational thread running through them. To some, this combination may sound odd. But to me, it’s beautiful and makes perfect sense.

What is your obligation to your readers?

To touch their hearts with both laughter and tears, and to take them on a memorable journey that they’ve never been on before.

What is your obligation to yourself as a writer?

To be the best storyteller I can be and, to realize I am not the greatest writer in the world, but I’m also not the worst. I tend to be hard on myself as a writer, and I need to lighten up and enjoy the works I create without being so darn critical of them.

Who is your favorite hero?

As far as men who’ve walked this earth, Jesus is my all-time hero. My husband, grandfathers, my stepfather, my real father, my brother, my ‘kissing’ cousin, President Bush, President Reagan, Benjamin Netanyahu, Charleton Heston, King David, and Mel Gibson can be added to that too. As far as fictitious heroes? Why, all of mine, of course! (smile)

Who is your favorite heroine?

My beautiful mama, my grandmothers, my aunt, my cousins, my friends, my daughters and, my precious granddaughters. Again, all of mine win out in the fictitious heroine category.

Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

Never give up! Perseverance is the key to finishing a novel, realizing your dreams, and living your life as a writer to the fullest of its potential. Believe me when I say us old-time writers need to live by this advice, too, as it is easy to get discouraged during any phase of the novel-writing career.

What was your easiest book to write?

The Author and The Cover Model. The words and scenes flowed like a steady stream from my fingertips to the keyboard.

Which was the hardest?

Hands down, Lillian of the Valley. I wrote my hero and heroine into such a conflict, it took me years to figure out how to get them out!

What is the hardest part of the creative process for you?

Finding the time to write. Even though my children are grown now, with four grandchildren nearby and parents aging and in need of more attention, life just seems to get busier and busier.

Do you write by an outline?

Absolutely not. During all my school years, I absolutely hated writing outlines!

If not, what is your method?

I think up the title, and the title creates my story. After I have the title, I then have an inkling of what I want to have happen in the story … some people call this a plot. (smile) I choose my main characters next and, with the plot in mind, I develop their inner and outer conflict. After that, my characters write the story themselves.

Do you have set hours in the day to write?

When the kids were little, I’d write the moment they left the house until an hour before they came home, at which time I’d bust through the house and clean up. I did this about four days a week, adding some in the wee hours of the morning if need be. Now, I find myself less organized and struggle to find that precious time. My heart wants to write every day; my reality refuses.

Writing is tough. What makes you keep coming back?

Honestly, I don’t really know the answer to this question. I tend to believe it all goes back to an initial desire to ‘create’. Add in my love to write. But there are times, I think I must just be plain insane to return to such a time-consuming, momentous task that can be downright brutal when it comes to trying to publish the final product with the big publishing houses. Reviews are often right there in the brutality department too. Yet, though I’ve been greatly tempted to quit, even taken several years off, I simply can’t seem to do so.

Tell us a little about your venture into the self-publishing market.

In 2004, when it wasn’t as popular as it is today, I self-published my novel, The Author and The Cover Model, doing so as a favor to a friend in my writers’ group, who wanted to become the liaison between an author and a self-publishing company, and wanted to practice on me first. So, I thought what the hell? Surprisingly, it was a blast! I learned a lot, especially patience. I thoroughly enjoyed having complete control over my entire novel, including the cover. And now I hear it’s becoming more affordable to do so.

Would you do so again?

I’ve actually self-published The Table available now on Amazon. I was a fun and rewarding experience too. And having the encouragement of my Blue Sage Writers of Idaho helped tremendously. Whether new or seasoned writers, we all need that once in a while, and it is appreciated more than anyone could ever know.

--Charm O'Ryan is currently co-chairman of the Blue Sage Writers of Idaho.



Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Chat With Author Will Edwinson

Will Edwinson is the author of three novels, and one novella, two of which have been published. He is an award winning novelist winning a first place award in state competition for his book, Buddy…His Trials and Treasures, and a second place in national competition.

Greetings, and welcome to the Blue Sage blog. On your website you're billed as Will Edwinson—Storyteller. Tell us how you came to be a storyteller.

Although I harbored the desire for many years to be a writer, I came to writing rather late in life because I lacked the confidence that I had the necessary skills. It wasn’t until I reached my mid-fifties that I decided to take the plunge. I figured if I was ever going to do it, I’d better get started. I knew I needed help, and after a little searching, I found a Writer’s Digest correspondence short story writing course and signed up for it. I completed the course and received my certificate. I was now a bona fide writer—or so I thought.

Up until that time, I had not been very interested in reading novels. Most of my reading consisted of trade publications related to my profession. One of the recommendations from the Writers Digest course was to read as many short stories and novels as possible. The theory was, I think, that the more one reads of a certain venue, the more skill one will pick up through osmosis. So I began to read.

Then what happened?

I proceeded to write my first novel, which is still gathering dust on the shelf, by the way. It’s a story about an errant preacher who was more of a con artist than a man of the cloth. That one took me about three years to finish, because as I began to read more novels, I realized I was still a pretty bad writer. I realized that writing a short story and writing a novel were not the same. That first novel draft was pretty discombobulated and had little continuity. As a result, I found myself moving whole chapters around in the story from one place to another.

But I persisted, and after several rewrites, I finally decided the book was ready. Then began my search for an agent. This all took place way back in the early 1990s, and my experience with agents has not been all that favorable, either. After a lengthy search and a basket full of rejection slips, I finally found one willing to take me on as a client. He died three weeks after we signed the contract. After another lengthy search I found another one willing accept this new unknown writer. Shortly after we came to an agreement, I learned that agent had just been indicted for some kind of fraud. So much for that agent/client relationship. After that, I decided to try the self-publishing route. I was tired of that novel, so I put it on the shelf and started my second.

Wow, that’s quite a tale in and of itself. Tell us about the second novel. Is that the one you self-published?

Yes, and that was quite an experience also. Had I known what I was in for at the beginning, I question whether I would have gone that route. It was in the days when self-publishing was likened to the red-headed step kid. Self-published authors, and their books, were given little respect. But I decided I was going to do it right, if I could. I purchased and read several “how-to” books on the art of self-publishing.

This was in the days of the old DOS computers; the days before Windows 95 and other menu driven programs came on the scene. I was using a Leading Edge computer which contained its own word processor program, and unlike Microsoft Word, and Word-Perfect, it was not totally compatible with the standard type-setting programs of that era. I had to find a type-setter that could convert my Leading Edge manuscript to one that was compatible with the printers’ systems.

Having jumped that hurdle, the next step was the ISBN numbers and the bar codes. Bookstores would not carry books that didn’t have those. I had to locate the sources, and purchase those before I could proceed with the actual printing of the book. And there was also the matter of finding someone to design a respectable looking cover. I got lucky. The type-setter I used was also able to do the cover for me. There was also registering the book with the copyright office, the Library of Congress, and a string of other tasks that don’t come readily to mind at this point. So after all that, and the expenditure of a few thousand dollars, the book was ready for the printer.

But the story doesn’t end there. Next came the task of setting up a publishing company. After all, we couldn’t risk having this project look like an amateur self-published project, could we? This meant coming up with a professional looking name, an imprint, and registering them as a dba with the state.

It sounds daunting.

Yes, but there’s more to the story. The book finally came off the presses, and 2,000 copies were neatly stacked in my garage. Now it was time to line up a distributor or wholesaler who would handle the book. You see, if you wanted to get your book into chain operated bookstores like Waldenbooks, Borders, Barnes & Noble, B-Dalton, etc., it had to be available through the wholesalers that they normally did business with. They would not order directly from the publishers. I finally succeeded in securing the Western division of Baker & Taylor in Washington State to handle my book.

But having said all that, I did manage to overcome all the hurdles and it sold a respectable enough number of copies to recoup my initial expenditures. It never made my name a household word, nor did it fatten my bank account, but it was a good learning experience. Self-publishing has advanced to the point that it’s much easier for an author today to self-publish. Especially since e-books have arrived on the scene.

Considering the experience you just described, would you self-publish again?

Yes, I think so, but I would do it a bit different this time. As I mentioned, e-books have come on the scene since I did my first book, so I would definitely do an e-book version. For the print version, I would go the way I did with my second book, Buddy…His Trials and Treasures. For that book, I found a POD publisher (Wheatmark) who did all the leg work for me, offered editorial service, cover design, secured the wholesalers, provided the bar codes, ISBN numbers and got the book on amazon.com for me; and for less cash outlay than going the full self-publishing route, because since, it’s POD, I didn’t have money tied up in a pallet full of books sitting in my garage. The book from this publisher looks like it came from one of the big boys in New York as it sits on the shelf. It’s the closest thing to traditional publishing you can get. Another advantage to going this route is a print copy can be on the shelf in as little as 90 days, whereas going through a traditional publisher, if you’re able to find one who will publish your book, takes 18 to 24 months.

Tell us about this book.

It’s a compilation of short story adventures in the life of a young boy growing up in rural America during the 1940s. It’s similar I suppose to Jean Shepherd’s book, In God We Trust, from which the movie A Christmas Story was adapted.

Buddy might be described by some as reminiscent of a twentieth century Tom Sawyer, in that he quite often finds himself in hot water for which he must pay the consequences. Unlike Tom, however, Buddy’s misdeeds are without much forethought. They happen because Buddy is…well…he’s just Buddy.

What’s on the horizon; any new books planned?

I have a couple of things in the hopper currently. First, I’m stepping up my efforts for marketing my second published book Buddy…His Trials and Treasures. I’m contemplating bringing it out in an e-book. I also have two other books I’m thinking of self-publishing. One of those is a revised and updated version with a new title OPERATION ACHILLES—A Shadow Revolution, of the first book I self-published. The other one is a fictional biography of Louisa Houston Earp. Louisa (pronounced with a long i) was the granddaughter of Sam Houston and was married in real life for a short time to Morgan Earp before he was assassinated in Tombstone, Arizona in 1882.

She turned out to be one of the most favorite of all the characters I have created. She was a trained concert pianist who played classical music in Western honky-tonk saloons and won the crusty cowboys over to actually liking it. She was also a crack shot with her modified .38 pistol, and showed no hesitancy toward using it when needed.

Where can we keep up with you and learn more about you, and what you are doing? And where can we find your book?

You can find my website at www.willedwinson.com. All of my current blog posts are located there, as well as a free download of my book. The print version of my book is available at www.amazon.com

Thanks for taking the time to chat with us. We will be looking forward to seeing more of your work in the future.

You’re welcome, and thank you for giving me the opportunity to appear on the Blue Sage Blog. I hope all you Blue Sage members have a good and successful year with your writing.