Roger Colby & J.R.R. Tolkien
Today’s post is an interview that I did with fellow blogger and writer, Roger Colby of Writing is Hard Work. If you aren’t following Roger’s blog yet, check it out. If you don’t know where to start, I really enjoyed his recent post on J.R.R. Tolkien’s Ten Tips for Writers.
Anyway, on to the interview!
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1. How did you get into writing?
As a teen I felt kind of like an outcast, so I didn’t really have too many close friends. I wasn’t a social butterfly, so I spent a lot of time reading. During my sophomore year in high school I took a creative writing course that changed my life. I found out that there was something I could do that made people hang on my every word. Although I was capable of straight “A’s” this was the first class to which I gave everything. I have been writing in one way or another ever since. I wrote short stories up until about 4 years ago. I have a massive collection of these short stories, and many of them are bursting at the seams to become novels.
2. As an English teacher, what is the one thing that you want all of your students to learn above all else?
I want my students to learn how to think for themselves, know why they think it and have evidence for those thoughts. Too many students are told by a well meaning teacher: “Just write whatever you feel. It’s ok. Just write.” This breeds idiocy. When students enter my classroom they must support their opinions with fact. I do not give out knowledge, they find it.
3. What fills your creativity well?
Believe it or not it has never really run dry. I think there must be a synapse in there that is made from that adamantium Wolverine claw metal. However, I do find that time alone with a book or time alone on a walk along my road (I live in the country) usually causes my brain to start churning out ideas. I then have to write them all down in a little notebook or on my iPhone. I quickly forget them otherwise.
4. How do you balance your writing with the rest of your life?
I have four great children and a wife who is awesome. I also teach full time, administrate an alternative education program and am active in my local church. I have to budget out my time. Time management is probably a writer’s most important tool. I have about two hours for writing a day scheduled. I have an hour in the morning scheduled for blogging and another hour scheduled for social networking. I schedule weekends mostly for the kids and dating my wife. I must write 1000 words a day, whether or not the writing is absolute garbage. I also have a wife who understands how important writing is to me. She is a huge part of my writing flame.
5. Why did you pursue the self-publishing route instead of the traditional publishing model?
I have sent my stuff off for years. I have published a few things over the years in small local magazines, but nothing that could make it through the glass ceiling of the national publications. I have a drawer full and a deleted sector of my hard drive full of rejection letters. Most of them are automated and I know that they didn’t even look at my material. I became very cynical about the publishing industry when they published Twilight. That book is a total rag. It is full of errors, plot holes, and general bad writing. I scraped together a bunch of money ($2000) and published my first novel through Outskirts Press, a fleecing agency for the uninformed. After discovering Amazon Createspace and Kindle, Nook and Smashwords, I realized that I could use blogging and social media to help me get more readers and publish for next to nothing. Self publishing gives me an avenue to get all of this writing down the pipeline so that it is not sitting around on my desktop like the trained dog no one will ever see perform.
6. What are you doing as a self-published author to promote your books?
As stated above, I am blogging regularly, using Facebook and Twitter to network and interact with people who may be potential readers. I am using a marketing strategy that is somewhat experimental. The self-published book series “Wool” reached the best seller list because A) the writing is good B) he offered his novel in digital installments which were free and C) he build buzz through blogging and social media. I am not expecting my book to be a best seller, but I am doing everything to help it along that I can. It is a lot of work, but worth it if I can at least sell 100 copies (the best case scenario for a self published author).
7. What advice to you have for people considering self-publishing?
Do it. However, before you go uploading your tome to the internet you might want to consider a few things: 1) Write well. Amazon, at last estimate, had almost 1 million digital books in their library. Many of these (or I should say most) are people who are not really writers who are lazy and do not care to clean up their grammar or spelling or type-os and are absolutely embarrassing the market. 2) Get an editor. Find a professional editor and then PAY them to edit your text. 3) Find a writer’s group. There are writers groups in your area that probably meet at the local library or somewhere. Get plugged in to that group and have them critique your work. LISTEN to their critique. You are not God’s gift to the publishing world. Be humble. Take your lumps. Become a better writer.
8. What do you want people to know about you aside from your writing?
I am an avid fanboy. I have a full-on, screen accurate Ghostbusters costume, a custom Mandalorian costume, and a 1940’s Captain America costume complete with metal shield. I do charity events to raise money for Spencer Children’s Hospital and the MDA. I do this with a local group of fanboys and girls (www.jediokc.com) and geek out with them on a regular basis. I also consider myself a “world” Christian in that I am absolutely against the “Americanized” version of Christianity that is used as a mule by politicians and is a weekend hobby for most people and a poor representation of what Christianity is meant to be. I have been to China for 5 weeks, and other missions efforts, and have seen Christianity as it is practiced in other countries. If only American Christians had the guts that Chinese Christians had, this would be a better world.