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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Writing with an Alter-Ego, Author Interview with Richard Stevens & Salty Tails

What made you decide to take the plunge and write your first novel?
Richard: Pure chance and circumstances, and a lot of goading from a couple of friends. I can thank poor choices on my part, and the State of Maine, for the time and circumstances. It was during my short stay in one of their fine, ‘gated communities’ that I met Susan Richardson, a volunteer instructor. I was at the time working in the school department and teaching a business course, when I was talked into sitting in on her small writing group.

I have always been an avid reader, but unhappily, the fine art of spelling and grammar had alluded me. Susan, and several other members of the group encouraged me to overcome my fears and give it a try. Within a month, a love of writing consumed me. I spent the next two years learning everything I could about writing, from basic grammar to the many theories of fiction writing.

I learned much of it by writing and rewriting Pirate Tales. To read my entire story please visit to my web site, listed below and click, ‘Learning to Spell at 50.’

Salty: I thought this interview was going to be about me?
Richard: No Salty, it’s about Pirate Tales.
Salty: Well it better get about me fast or I’m going sailing with Stormy and JD.

Are there other novels that have been started and stopped along the way?
Richard: Pirate Tales is my first “Baby.” We started and finished two sequels to Pirate Tales, as well as a children’s story, and several fun shorts, prior to completing what I believe was the 10,000th rewrite of Pirate Tales. Having to deal with an overbearing writing partner certainly didn’t help. Talk about a bossy.

Salty: Hey! Who you calling bossy?
Richard: I also started a novel about a boy who wants to train horses, called Bobby Tucker. I’m hoping to have the first draft completed this summer.
Salty: How come I’m just hearing about this?

How did you come up with the idea for this book?
Richard:I wish I had a good answer. The fact is it sort of morphed from a short story I wrote from a writing prompt during my first fiction class. That short, called The Race, eventually turned into the second chapter of Pirate Tales. Salty simply showed up one day and refused to leave. Since then he’s kinda taken over.
Salty: I’m a cat and a genius, so writing came naturally to me, unlike you more primitive species.
Richard: You forgot to mention humble.
Salty: Keep it up Rick, just remember, I know where you keep your favorite shoes.

What other writing credentials did you have prior to writing this book?
Richard: Does signing the bottom of a check count?
Salty: When does this get about ME?

How long did it take you to write this book? Who helped you with the editing?
Richard: Two years with several breaks between rewrites to work on other projects. The list of those who helped me edit, and edit, and edit… is a long one. Susan Richardson, Patrick Armstrong, to name a couple, and of course, our biggest fan and insane cat lover, my mother, Linda.
Salty: I just love Rick’s mom, Linda. But I’m guessing her wit and charm skipped a generation.

Did you try the normal route and try to find a traditional publisher to handle your book?
Richard: No. I did a lot of research, and more hours of deliberation than it probably needed before making this decision. In the end, I chose to ride what I consider the publishing wave of the future and go independent. Only time will tell if this is the right decision.
Salty: I certainly wouldn’t say no to any publishers interested in my work.
Richard: Your work? My name does come first, Salty.
Salty: Yeah but it’s my picture on the cover. Top that smart guy.

How do you write? Did you do individual character development before doing the full plot?
Richard: I write by instinct, letting the characters develop on their own. That being said, I tend to follow Hemingway’s, ‘Iceberg,’ approach and build up a detailed history for my characters from which they draw motivation for their actions or reactions.

I’m not sure that answered your question. The fact is, much of what I do is still a mystery to me. Some days I wake up with no clue what I’m doing and end the day with what I believe is the best scene I’ve ever written, and no clue where it came from or who wrote it. Other times I have to work through a scene for days.
Salty: I don’t really care much about the characters as long as I get to say what I want. After all, why have opinions if your not going to share them, I always say.
Richard: Whenever I find myself getting frustrated, I remind myself that writing is supposed to be fun. It also helps to remember the purpose of our books, which is to provide a few short hours of entertainment to my readers. I want my books to be just plain fun to read. I think the term is, ‘A great Beach Read.’

What type of publicity do you do to promote your book?
Richard: I think positive. I’ve also run some ads and offered giveaways through Goodreads. I ran a two week five book giveaway right after it’s release that brought me 632 entries. I have one running on the, ‘All About Animals,’ group right now.
Salty: Not my problem. I am an artist, and artists do not promote.
Richard: But Salty, you’re doing this interview.
Salty: Nobody asked you.

How does social media play into your promotions?
Richard: It’s yesterday’s word of mouth on steroids. I have a Facebook page, a twitter account, a wordpress blog, and a website, but I spend most of my time and energy on Goodreads.
Salty: I have better things to do with my time than worry about all this social gossip stuff, so I leave most of it up to Rick.

What do you know now about writing/publishing that you wished you had known sooner?
Richard: I’m getting too old to learn all this new technology. LOL. We didn’t even have personal computers when I graduated High school. The truth is, I believe we should never stop learning. My only wish is that I’d discovered the joy of writing and publishing sooner. I’m even glad I met Salty, most of the time.
Salty: Come on Rick, I’m the best thing that’s ever happened to you and you know it.

What other tales are in the works for Salty?
Richard: As I mentioned earlier, we have completed two sequels. The first sequel, Vanished Tales, should be available this summer. Our third tale, Obsession Tales, is marinating on the shelf until I’m ready to go back through it. Probably after I’ve completed Bobby Tucker.
Salty: I’m working on a fourth ‘Salty Tales Mystery.’ This one will bring Stormy and crew back to Maine to help a friend film a movie.
Richard: I like what he’s told me about it so far.
Salty: And your point?

What is the best advice about writing you’ve learned that you would like to pass along?
Richard: How much time do we have? First, never stop writing; it’s the only way to learn. Second, you have to read, especially in the genre you intend to write in, but read daily. I think of reading as the fuel that feeds my imagination. Third, embrace your delete button. You have to check your ego at the door, especially during the editing faze.

Ignoring Salty’s arrogant pleas, I ended up deleting two prologues, three chapters and more sailing jargon than you would believe from Pirate Tales before it was completed.
Salty: I’ve heard enough; I’m out of here. (Click)
Richard: Sorry about that. Unfortunately, dealing with his ‘Artistic Moods’ is just part of the package. But I have to admit, he tells a great tale.

You can reach Richard and Salty a number of ways and here's the links to do that

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