Thursday, December 3, 2009
Robert & Miranda Walker Share More on the Writing Life at Acme
Robert W. Walker and wife Miranda Phillips Walker are here today to answer some burning questions, such as how they’ve managed to kill off only fictional characters with two crime novelists under one roof. Rob’s latest is DEAD ON, Five Star Books and his self-published ebook Children of Salem, an historical thriller, and Miranda/s latest and first is The Well Meaning Killer from Krill Press, sequel in the works. Both Dead On and The Well Meaning Killer were recently reviewed at www.myshelf.com .
Reviewer Dennis Collins, author of The Unreal McCoy said of each book: Author Miranda Walker’s debut novel is quite compelling. It is decidedly character driven. Every person in the cast is vivid and interesting. If Walker is planning to turn this into a series, she’s off to a wonderful start because people will want to hear more from Megan McKenna, Agent DiTrapano, and McKenna’s Labrador Retriever sidekick Max.
Collins says of Dead ON: Author Robert Walker does an incredible job of making Iden Cantu one of the scariest characters I’ve ever encountered in a mystery novel. Every time he appears he gives me goose-bumps. Walker is known for writing dark stories and this one definitely doesn’t disappoint. The quick and terse dialog keep the story moving at a surprisingly rapid pace and the characters all have faces. Another winner for Walker.
Now for the Interview:
1. In various interviews on the web, both of you have recommended that writers do not quit the day job. Is there a story behind this recommendation?
M: As an ER nurse, I get a lot of my most exciting and frightful scenes on the job!
Still, if I had my druthers, I’d happily be writing full-time and retire from that arena as it is extremely taxing, despite the reewards as in saving lives and not just on paper! But to be frank only a handful of authors in the US and the world make a living soley via their writings.
R: As a professor of English one barely gets by in this economy but at least it is a known, a given to see the paycheck at the end of the month, whereas writing has enormous ups and downs monetarily as well as emotionally. One year I saw four titles come out in a single calendar year, but some years none! The extreme few who can live on author earnings have had major backing from Oprah and Eastwood calling to having a celebrity hold up their books to the camera. Such luck is rare. Now if President Obama were to tell folks he is reading my Shadows in the White City then yeah, I’ve won the lottery.
2. You are very active in promoting your books. What are some of the toughest lessons you’ve learned about the “art” of self-promotion.
M: You have to throw all caution and shyness out the window; perhaps ladylike-ness, too. You want to be yourself but you also have to find a comfortable sales person lurking within. Sitting behind a desk and failing to make eye contact won’t cut it at a signing, and figuratively doing the same online won’t either, but I am trying at the same time not to sound arrogant or self-important as I am anything but.
R: Oh I have to stop “tossing” books into people’s baskets, especially those in wheelchairs, but darn I just know they will love the book and not regret “discovering” it for themselves. I kid with people online and in person, and the lesson I have learned in this business is that you don’t sell the book, you sell yourself. If folks like you, they will open your book and read it, hopefully after purchasing it. Marketing one’s work also takes time. Smart ideas can be found in Jeffrey Marks’ Intent to Sell.
3. What is your favorite writing-related subject to give advice on?
M: That if I can do it, anyone can. It’s a struggle, not easy, and made harder often by circumstances--I have four children, and I also have to contend with Rob! But I did it--I got my novel written, educated myself on the markets, shopped it around and found a publisher and now I hold my book in my hand with the hope others will be entertained by it. Other health professionals love it from the informal reviews they’re giving me as feedback. But it all requires a great deal of research and education about the business.
R: Craft matters, working on elements of style and finding one’s voice that perfectly fit’s the story at hand. I also push the fact every young writer ought to write a mystery as it is the fastest, surest way to learn plotting for any type of novel. Finally, how to write one’s own pitch and or back-flap copy or the shortest most important story you will ever write, the story about your story. It must be effectively done. This becomes a useful tool in all marketing endeavor for the book from query letter to News Release.
4. List three of your favorite writing self-help books.
M: Rob‘s recently published DEAD ON WRITING, a wordclay paper book and a kindle book I read in rough draft. David Morrell‘s excellent book on the subject. Tom Sawyer‘s great book on writing.
R: — Chris Roerden’s book,Don’t Murder Your Mystery and her Don’t Sabotage Your Submission/ J.A. Konrath’s free ebook, A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing, Robin Carr’s Tips for Writing Popular Fiction, Dean R. Koontz’ Writing Popular Fiction, and Jerome Stern’s Making Shapely Fiction. Oops! I went over three.
5. Both of you have written about the importance of learning how to write romance and incorporate it in your stories. Why do you feel it is important to include romance? How did you learn how to write romance? And is there a book or course you would recommend to other authors to help them learn how to incorporate quality romance writing into their stories?
M: Romance is at the heart of every good story in my estimation. Characters like people want to find romance in their lives, don’t they? Not sure of any books on the subject or courses on how to write romance except to say Rob writes great love scenes, and I aspire to do the same or at least create an intriguing triangle.
R: I learned what NOT to do by reading a book called The Romance Writers Handbook. Actually it was a complete listing of descriptive phrases for every body part from the nose to the toes--what’s been said and done and done, so I tried to avoid these “clichés” in romance writing or put a new spin on them, use the old wine but put it into a new bottle. I love to pair a hero and heroine and let them go at it as in the TV program Moonlighting….I think that ought to be an author’s verb--Moonlight your characters as you would Gaslight another character. The darkness of a dark mystery or even a horror novel can be balanced by an intriguing romantic development between two characters as in Dead On, and in Miranda’s Well Meaning Killer. I do the same in near about all my books.
6. You have recently been reformatting some of your stories for use with Amazon’s Kindle. Is there anything you have learned the hard way in this process that you can share to help the rest of us as we move into this new format?
M: In my case, my publisher took The Well Meaning Killer, a returnable POD to a Kindle version, and as it is my only book thus far, I am taking a wait and see attitude. I have learned from Rob, who has had far more experience with it that the cost of a kindle book needs be far less than a hardcopy book or else no sale!
R: The kindle titles I have up are three that HapreCollins put up, and 13 ebooks at Fictionwise.com have been formatted for kindle sales, or kindalized, but more recently, I have placed ten titles on kindle all on my own, and I have found it to be an easy process with some glitches in step three, converting your file to html format. Directions I followed are found at www.dtpamazon.com What is great about it is that you are your own publisher, art director, PR person, and you sink or swim based on your choices and not those of some person in a conglomerate who thinks your title needs be changed to sound more like a Stephen King title or decides it ought to be 90,000 words when it is in fact a 140.000 word book, and so it is in the end liberating freedom from constraints I have faced for thirty odd years.
7. You are very giving of your time, rarely asking for anythingin return. Why do you enjoy teaching and helping other authors?
M’s A: Pay it forward is just how I operate, and I’ve seen such generosity in other mystery authors, and have been the recipient of it. How can I be otherwise?
R’s A: Ahhh…the teachable moment, and I am a born teacher. What can I say? My and Miranda’s blogs and sites are all about sharing the knowledge and know how, skills and tools to become successful. The only time I charge for it is when a client seriously wishes for me to copy edit and make developmental changes or suggestions, or to ghost write and this is done at way under market costs.
Robert W. Walker grew up Chicago, IL but was born in Corinth, MS, and as a graduate of Northwestern University, and the NU's Graduate Masters in English Education program, he has been a lifelong learner and writer, penning over forty novels. Three years ago he met Miranda and he has resided here in Charleston, WV ever since. He teaches at WVSU in Institute and continues to write, speak, edit, and ghost write. In the mid-eighties Rob began writing his eleven -book Instinct Series with Dr. Jessica Coran, ME as his lead, and his four-book Edge Series with Det. Lucas Stonecoat, Texas Cherokee investigator. Rob most recent original work appears at the Kindle Store on Amazon.com, Children of Salem, and now on traditional publishing shelves, Dead On is available. Rob can be found online at www.robertwalkerbooks.com and in all the usual places where one finds writers online.
Miranda Phillips Walker a WV born author who lived in Baltimore for some 30 years is uniquely qualified to pen The Well Meaning Killer, a suspenseful mystery and an expose of the corruption and graft in the underbelly of our Nation’s foster care programs and systems. Walker, a Registered Nurse, also holds a Psychology degree with a minor in Sociology and has been a Registered Nurse for over seventeen years. Her life in medicine has been far more exciting and colorful than any program on TV such as ER or Grey’s Anatomy. Miranda says of The Well Meaning Killer, “I understand the demons that drive Crusher, the killer, and I have insights into the Child Protective Services that few possess. Going into the writing of this novel, I was armed with the right tools and weapons to make it work. I trust that the reader will agree. Miranda has enjoyed writing from an early age, using writing and the love of music to comfort her from her turbulent upbringing. When asked about her childhood, Miranda laughs and says “I’d;ve been better raised bya pack of wolves.” But being a positive person, she has used her life experiences to help her patients, and now to hopefully bring entertainment to her readers. She can be found everywhere on the web and at her site website at: www.mirandaphillipswalkerbooks.com
Happy HoliDAZE and hope you enjoyed the insights here. Acme makes leaving a message easy as pie - so don’t hesitate to leave comments --
Rob and Miranda Walker