Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Q and A: #AuthorInterview

Favorite All-Time Read: That has never been an easy question for me to answer.  For now I will cheat and say it is a tie between Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and The World According to Garp by John Irving, with The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz nipping at their heels.

Who do you consider your author crush? See my answer to first question.  If I must pick only one I will say John Irving since he is the only one of the three I have met.  The other major literary hero/crush I have been fortunate enough to stand face to face with is August Wilson.  Two gargantuan talents who were kind and generous to me.

What do you like most about this author? There are a great many things to admire about the prose of John Irving.  I will say his greatest talent is laying out goals for his main characters to strive for in a manner that puts you in their skin, making you feel the urgency and desperation, causing you to share the exhilaration of the moment of triumph upon arrival, if indeed it does arrive.  Otherwise, experience the despair of coming up short as if it was happening to you.

How big of a reader were you, growing up? I was an extremely avid reader as a kid and that habit remains undiminished.  Shortly before Thanksgiving last year I gave #ReaderThanks on Twitter (where I go by the name @authorofpatches) to Beverly Cleary, Donald J. Sobol and Jules Verne for being amongst the first to fuel my fire for stories. 

As an adult reader, what genre do you tend to read the most?
Literary fiction, but I certainly do not restrict myself to it.  I have two rules for myself as a reader.  Read often...Read varied.  This not only keeps things fresh as a lover of stories created by others but is also invaluable to me as a writer.  The influences on my writing come from many sources.  When it comes to reading, what I seek are good books.  This is not technically a genre, but perhaps it should be. 

Do you have to be in a certain mood to write?
I do not.  Certainly there are times when I feel more creative than other occasions.  I am more of a night owl than a morning person and this extends to my pen hand.  But there is no telling when the muse will strike, and if I must summon her I will do so rather than waiting for her to show up.  A writer writes as much as possible.  The more I am writing, the happier I am.  It is also a very effective diet plan because when immersed in writing I tend to neglect getting around to eating.

And do you have an ideal writing space?
Not really.  I have a lovely writing desk in my attic that I have not sat down to write at in ages.  These days I am much more likely to be found writing on my couch, or at my dining table, or on the train to or from work, or at my 9-5 corporate desk, or on a park bench.  One of my favorite writing experiences was scribbling a short story while sitting at a loud and crowded bar.  It happened to be an outdoor bar, but when walls surround me my mind is no more confined than when they do not.

Preference of genre to write in?
The first full length novels to enthrall me were those by Jules Verne.  I rapidly went through 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Around the World in 80 Days.  I have read many more science fiction novels since.  Yet when it comes to stories of my own creation, I am most comfortable writing about people here on earth dealing with situations and emotions we can all relate to.  On any given day depending on who was asked about which story of mine, I suppose it could be called literary fiction, or mainstream, or contemporary, or upmarket commercial, or ethnic/African-American.

How did the inspiration for Patches of Grey come about?
To date the sparks for my novels have come in the form of a question that I felt compelled to fully explore.  With Patches of Grey the question had to do with self identity.  People fit certain descriptions and to varying degrees allow this circumstance to determine how they see themselves.  Of the various descriptors placed on us, race is one that I am especially intrigued by.  We do not choose it.  The ways in which it differentiates us from those of another origin are primarily cosmetic, at least at a glance.  But the ways in which it determines how we view the world and our desires and our prospects are often potent.  These issues are what set me off to writing about a young man coming to terms with how to define himself, and with how others see or fail to see him, regardless of what he does to influence perspective. 

There are times when aspiring authors come face to face with rejection. Do you have any counsel on how they can handle such moments?
Shrug it off. If you are lucky enough to get helpful feedback rather than a form rejection letter with zero personalization to it, consider yourself lucky and be sure to consider the advice.  But you are the final judge so feel free to ignore what does not strike you as being true.  It is your story.  Write it as best as it can be written, which will mean plenty of rewriting, but you alone must declare what readers will get to see.  Rejection of your writing does not mean that it is not any good.  It does not mean your dream has been killed.  It is simply the fork in the road.  Take it. If you do not find this answer sufficient motivation to keep on keeping on, check out my blog post HANDLING REJECTION FOR DUMMIES – I MEAN WRITERS

How do you deal with writer's block?  I write until it goes away, which must mean it was never truly there to begin with.  That uneasy feeling must have merely been garden variety laziness.

Do you have a writing process that you adhere to? Not really.  Unless you call staring at a blank piece of paper or white box on computer screen until my fingers start moving a process.  Once they do start moving, the only way I know of to write a novel is to first put down everything that comes to mind, followed by twisting and shaping and reshaping the unwieldy first draft down to its essence.

Shorter works seem to be in vogue more than ever.  Do you think that more and more authors will go that route such as you did with your ebook novella Feeding the Squirrels?
Attention spans are decreasing daily it seems.  The internet has a lot to do with that.  It used to be that publishing a novella was much more difficult than publishing a novel because publishers did not really get to charge much less for a novella in order to turn a profit.  So readers might feel ripped off by paying just as much for considerably less word count.  But we live in a new day, a largely electronic one, and people seem to have less free time than ever even though days continue to be the same 24 hours long.  This has provided an opening for greater receptivity to short stories and novellas.  None of this is why I wrote Feeding the Squirrels or why it was published in e-format.  That is simply how things worked themselves out.  I had no idea I was writing a novella at the time.  I was working on a literary experiment, a series of short stories that each featured the same lead character, and eventually I figured out a way to link them and form a whole.  It is a novella that like life itself, happened while I was busy making other plans.

Is there an aspect of being a published author that you enjoy more than anything else?
I love reading what somebody else (perhaps a reviewer I submitted to, maybe someone who picked my book up and gave it a chance) thought about the result of my hours of toil - most especially when they are enthusiastic about it.  Every so often someone says something that causes me to look at my writing in a new manner and it brings forth a smile from deep within.

A writer's life has its ups, downs and sideways. How can they best deal with those times?
Go and write some more.

Do you think social media and overall web marketing are the most powerful tools in promoting a book?
The most powerful tool in promoting a book continues to be writing a really good one that leads to positive word of mouth that catches on like wildfire.  The author has little control over this process after the writing a really good book part.  Social media and web marketing offer some of that control, so authors would be foolish not to partake.  Unless of course they have already managed to garner positive word of mouth that caught on like wildfire and led to plenty of people buying and reading their books, in which case they can get involved with social media as much or as little as they want.  But just about everybody is embracing facebook/twitter/instagram/whatever these days, including those who seemed to think social media was just a passing fad not so long ago.  If you can't prove them wrong, join in the fun.  There's room enough for everybody.

You've published over 50 short stories in journals and magazines. How do you know when a story is a short story or when it warrants a whole novel?
Do you think that short stories are a good way for writers to hone their craft?
I always have a pretty good idea in advance how long a story is going to be, and that of course determines whether it will be called a novel or a short story.  Today I cannot imagine being a writer who does not work in both formats.  I took on the challenge of novel writing before tackling short stories.  Prior to enrolling in a short story writing course in college I believed that I only had BIG stories inside of me.  A short story seemed nearly impossible.  Confining myself to just a few pages was a daunting task, but I gave it a shot since a grade depended on it, and I got the hang of it.  The best part of writing a tale is finishing it, and this can be done much more quickly and often with a short story than a novel.  It is not like I consider short story writing as practice for writing novels however.  They are very different from each other – and very much the same.  I advise young writers to try anything and everything, and then stick with what they love best.

How can an aspiring author get better at writing, whether the intention is to write a short story or to write entire novels?  This is another question that I addressed at my blog A Line A Day in the posting, Advice to Aspiring Authors.  Truth be told, there is only one way to get any good at writing.  Read a lot, write a lot, repeat steps 1 – 2 over and over and over again.

How can authors better prepare themselves prior to publication?
Read a lot, write a lot, repeat steps 1 – 2 over and over and over again.  Also check out some of the advice that is out there for writers.  There is certainly no shortage of it.  Much is even free.  A lot of it is repetitive and obvious.  But every so often you will discover a nugget that had not occurred to you that may end up being quite helpful.  Then go back to reading a lot and writing a lot.

What are some of the things you wished you had known before you published your first book?
I knew EVERYTHING there was to know, which is to say I knew not only that I wanted to be a writer, but that I had to be a writer because a writer is what I am.  Only thing left was to prove it by writing.  In order to work up the courage to lay my soul on the page for random people to pick over, I needed to believe I had something valuable to say and that there were others who would agree.   I understood some other essential things to be true and have learned a great deal more over the years, but what I knew from day one is what truly mattered.  I had to write.

What are your thoughts on critique groups and beta readers?
I have used both over the years to varying degrees of satisfaction.  It is of great value to let other pairs of eyes read what you have written.  Find some who are unbiased, select one of two who may be partial but are also honest.  But again, it is your story, you are the one with final say on how it ends up being told.  Best of luck with telling it well, and with it catching on like wildfire.

What do you have coming up next for readers?
I recently completed my second full length novel – Matters of Convenience.  Snippets from it can befound at the Pinterest board I created and an excerpt posted at my blog A Line A Day during composition of the first draft is located HERE.  Next up will be recording myself reading an excerpt from it.  Yet to be determined is by which method I will bring Matters of Convenience to the light of day.  Perhaps I will land a deal with one of the Big 5 Publishers or a smaller independent publisher.  Maybe I will join a cooperative of independent authors working together as a mini publishing house.  Or once again I may opt to go it alone and simultaneously wear the hats of author, art director, copy editor, publicist, marketing department, mailroom guy, etc. etc.  Going it alone will not be particularly lonely since enlisting the aid of many people will be necessary to help me spread the word.  We shall see.  I also recently completed the first installment in a planned children's book series.  If I end up going the DIY route for them, it will be in collaboration with my extremely talented wife Erin Rogers Pickering who will serve as the illustrator.  No matter how things work themselves out, I am eager to get more of my work out there and I am preparing for all that will entail.  And I am looking forward to hearing what readers have to say.

Kindle edition of Patches of Grey will be available for free 10/24 - 10/25.

If you wish to take a shot at winning a copy of the print edition, enter the contest at Goodreads:

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Patches Of Grey by Roy L. Pickering Jr.

Patches Of Grey

by Roy L. Pickering Jr.

Giveaway ends October 31, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

So there is no shortage of opportunities to obtain a copy of Patches of Grey for free in October of 2014.
But if you are one those who has already bought or is planning to spend a little hard earned money to purchase it, you have my deep gratitude.  Happy Reading!

No comments:

Post a Comment