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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Importance of Editing: Author Interview with Glen Robinson

You've taught writing classes as a college professor. What made you decide to go from the editing side of grading papers to the writing side as an author? When did you actually start writing your first book?
Actually, I was a writer long before I was a teacher. I’ve wanted to be a writer since high school. Before I took up teaching 17 years ago, I was a newspaper, book and magazine editor, and worked in public relations for a while. All that time, I tried—in varying degrees of success—to write books. My first one was published in 1982. It was a how-to book for Seventh-day Adventists called 52 Things to Do on Sabbath.

How long did it actually take you to write it?
52 Things was a great idea that I sat on for about a year before summoning up the courage to write it. You know, if you never write it, then they can never say no. When it came down to it, I wrote the little book over a Memorial Day Weekend. If it hadn’t been for one particularly persistent book editor, I might never have gotten it done.

Are you a more detailed editor for yourself or your students?
I don’t do a lot of rewrites, and probably should do more. Rewriting is my most difficult area and the part I hate the most. I rarely rewrite my students’ articles and stories. If it’s bad, I tell them what’s wrong and expect them to do the rewrite. Editors don’t do rewrites unless they absolutely have to, and rewriting is how students learn.

Do your students critique any of your works? Are you active with any writing groups?
Eight years ago, we started The Rough Writers, a creative writing club for students here on our campus, and yes, I let my students critique my work too. We all sit through critique. You learn that critique is actually a good thing, and we compete to see whose work is going to be reviewed. 

You write in multiple genres from middle grade books to YA novels and Biblical-based novels. How do you move so easily from one genre to another?
I usually just say I have a short attention span, and yes, I am probably doing myself a disservice marketing wise. But writing isn’t my primary source of income, and so I can afford to feed my muse. I wrote children’s book as a ghostwriter back in the 90s, then got into adult Christian suspense. In the middle of that, I threw in some steampunk and other science fiction just for fun. But right now, Christian suspense is my area of focus. 

Do you have different readers and editors for each style? 
As far as editing, indie authors usually need an editor badly, yet can’t really afford one. I lucked out in that a fellow indie author, Céleste Perrino-Walker, is also an editor. We’ve arranged to edit each other’s books as a swap. If possible, I encourage other indie authors to do the same thing.

What do you want readers to take away from your stories?
As I mentioned, I am a Christian suspense writer, and I obviously have an agenda. It’s posted on my website for anyone who’s interested. I call it the Great Adventure Manifesto.

You started with a traditional publisher and now indie publish. Why did you make the switch?
I published traditionally for many years, and I have nine books published that way. But I found that publishers were paying authors less and less and expecting more and more. It’s come to the point that the only thing traditional publishers offer that I can’t do on myself is advertising dollars. In addition, it’s easier to publish what I want this way.

You’ve published 19 books in what looks like a very short time span. Are you that quick a writer? Or have these stories been simmering for a while?
The first one was published in 1982. From then until 2012, I had another eight published. Then in January 2012, I decided to go out on my own. I’ve written a few books in the past two and a half years, but many of them are either reboots, anthologies, or in the case of the Champion Series, something I had recently completed. That trilogy took me six years to write. I’d just finished it in time to come out in 2013.

How do you write? Did you do an outline first? Did you do individual character development before doing the full plot?
The first book I wrote was without an outline, took me two years and was a disaster. I am glad to say I never published it. That was when I decided that my time was valuable enough to merit a good outline first. Today I don’t start writing until I have a clear view of the road ahead. Part of that is the characters, part is the storyline.

What type of publicity has been the most successful in promoting your book?
The two things I really like about indie publishing is (1) you pretty much do everything yourself, which fits my personality (I have the added advantage of so many years as an editor); and (2) you’re always learning something new. Every indie author has to learn what works for him or her as far as marketing. Social networks, advertising, giveaways, book signings. I’ve tried them all with varying success. No secrets; you just have to keep trying.

What do you know now about writing that you wished you had known sooner?
Writing is like swimming. You have to jump in, swallow a lot of water, almost drown a time or two, and learn as you go. You will never learn to swim (or write) sitting on the poolside.

What other books do you have in the works?
I’m glad you asked! September 1 is the launch of Salome’s Charger, my first opportunity to co-author with someone, in this case Céleste Perrino-Walker, whom I mentioned earlier. It’s a Christian suspense novel about the platter that held the severed head of John the Baptist, how it’s discovered by archeologists, and how it is rumored to have the power to change the future. The story’s full of international thieves, cults, lots of danger and is set in Dallas and Juneau, Alaska. Great fun and we look forward to sharing it.

What is the best advice you’ve been given about writing or that you’ve learned that you would like to pass along?
My writing mentor was a British gentleman by the name of Arthur Milward. He used to regularly write short stories for Reader’s Digest, Redbook and The Saturday Evening Post. He used to say, “You can tell the house of a successful writer. He’s the one who hasn’t mowed his lawn.”

Thanks for your insights about writing. That's it for today's interview. If you would like to learn more about Glen, his writing and upcoming works here's some options to do that.

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