This was an entertaining interview! So good in fact, I had to ask some follow up questions. My followups are in purple, his added responses are in a bluish green. Have fun reading it. I know I had fun doing it!
Tell us a little bit about you, the person behind the books:
I was a newspaper reporter for fifteen years and still write for several publications. I think reporting is good training for fiction—no, not because reporters make stuff up. Because articles have to have catchy openings, concise narrative, meaningful dialog, good flow and a strong sense of a story. As a reporter, you also have to meet deadlines, get organized, stay focused, give your audience what it wants and work with editors. And write every day.
I have never heard it explained in that way. It makes a lot of sense.
I’ve been self-employed the last 12 years. My main gig now is a weekly column on car technology that appears in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
My fiction career began with 20 screenplays written over several years. Four of them were optioned, but never produced. One, Metal Mom, was optioned twice. A few others did well in contests and won writing awards.
I wrote my first novel, Chick Flick, during Nano. I intend for Chick Flick to be the second novel I publish.
I did NanoWriMo last year. Talk about a rush! Was that your first time participating?
2006. It was a blast. I reached 50,000 words in 29 days. A decent percentage of those words survived through three more drafts of Chick Flick, which ended up at around 67,000 words.
Please give me a description of your book(s):
The first one I intend to publish, Fast Lane, is romantic comedy about a woman, Lara Dixon, who’s been wronged in love. She devises a plan to bring down Clay Creighton, the billionaire mogul of a website for men. His claim to fame is “The Rotation,” three beautiful women who serve as his consorts. Every few months, the one who’s been in The Rotation longest is kicked out and replaced.
Lara brings her plan to a feminist website and is stunned when it’s suggested she be the one to carry it out by penetrating The Rotation to gather information for an expose and mess things up by being the first woman to dump Clay instead of being dumped.
Lara gets help and financial backing from people who also want to bring Fast Lane down. But once in The Rotation, Lara discovers Fast Lane and Clay are not what she thought they were. Romance ensues, followed by complications and revelations about who’s really on Lara’s side.
I find it interesting that a feminist subject is being crafted by a man. I am not saying it is unheard of, but I would imagine you are in the minority. (As a side note: During my stint with college I was took numerous classes on Women’s Studies. There was always at least one male in the class, so it doesn’t shock me that you take on such an interesting topic. I’m just curious to know what compelled you into a feminist subject.)
I have a wife who’s a professional and a daughter who’s likely the smartest person I ever met, and I want them to be treated with the respect they deserve. I was between newspaper jobs and stayed home with our daughter when she was three months to three years old, so I know what it’s like to step away from a career to devote time to family. I have never regretted doing that. Also my mom and grandmothers are/were strong, independent women.
I don’t see how discrimination, stereotyping or limiting anyone’s options for any reason could be good for our society or for the human race. Some of the most important influences on me as a writer have been women, from high school teachers to reporters and editors I worked with to members of my current writing group. The greatest novel ever, To Kill a Mockingbird, was written by a woman. Wouldn’t we all love to write like Harper Lee?
As far as Fast Lane is concerned, it’s a comedy and there are surprises. Lots of characters suffer from misperceptions and everything hinges on individual motivations. Some people might consider it feminist, others won’t. Mostly I hope people enjoy reading it.
Why did you decide to self publish? Or, why didn’t you go into traditional publishing?
I got tired of waiting for other people to take the next step. The first time a screenplay of mine saw serious action I signed with a Hollywood agent who sent it to two dozen producers for a shotgun weekend read. When everyone said, “Good script, but no thanks,” the agent was done with me.
A year later, two successful writers took the same script, a thriller called Terminal Sex, to a network where everyone loved it—except the last guy who had to say yes. The same thing happened to a comedy called Metal Mom. A big star’s company sent it to a studio, and everyone liked it except the last guy—first in the studio’s TV movie division, then in its theatrical division. An independent producer optioned Metal Mom soon after and got Michelle Phillips and Scott Wolf to star, but couldn’t line up financing.
The story was the same for the other two scripts. In one case, a budget was set and things were really taking off, but the company that optioned it released a movie that bombed and the deal fell apart. The president of the financing studio later told me, “That’s a funny script. You’re a funny guy.” Thanks—but I was looking for a check, not a compliment.
Things didn’t even go that well for Chick Flick, which is a dark sex comedy. I got a couple of successful authors on board, but agents never even responded to my queries. So when I heard about self-publishing I thought, why not? As I freelancer, I’m already used to working outside the corporate structure. By then I was already well into Fast Lane.
How did you self publish?
My goal is to publish Fast Lane before Oct. 1.
Reading in a writers group has been tremendously helpful. I’ve also have had some friends read Fast Lane, including Karen McQuestion, who’s a self-publishing visionary. My editor is my business partner and wife, Mary Jo, who really is an editor. She’s the best writer I know, but she’s also edited several books for clients, as well as all of my screenplays.
One decision that’s working out well was to chronicle my Fast Lane experience in a blog called Man Writing a Romance (http://manwritingaromance.blogspot.com/). ManWAR has regular readers who, I hope, are eagerly awaiting Fast Lane’s publication, but it’s also drawn the attention of other authors, like romance writer Donna McDonald, who encouraged her readers to check out Fast Lane even though we’ve never met.
Men writing romance! This has actually been a popular topic on twitter as of late. Not so insanely popular it has been trending, but popular just the same. What do you think men bring to the romance writing table?
Female authors sometimes struggle with the male point of view, just as male authors struggle with the female point of view. It’s obvious when male characters have been written through a female filter, saying and thinking things that sound the way women would like men to think and say them. Other times male characters in books aimed at women are seriously underdeveloped compared to the female characters. So maybe men can bring more well-rounded male characters to the genre (although still chiseled in the ab region). Jennifer Crusie writes men well.
No doubt every author could benefit from having opposite-sex beta readers. I discuss in my blog how having lots of input from women has helped me make Lara more credible in Fast Lane.
I’ve never thought, “This is a woman’s story” or “this is a man’s story.” I just get these stories in my head. Metal Mom and Terminal Sex have female leads, and no one ever said, “You have to change this character.” In fact, both people who optioned Metal Mom were women. A woman who read Chick Flick said it helped her understand men a little better.
A romance almost has to be told through a woman’s eyes and emotions, but I wouldn’t mind if people read Fast Lane and said it helped them understand men better, too.
What are some good things about self publishing?
The main advantage I see is that I control the process. Plus, if Fast Lane or Chick Flick were to be published traditionally and sold too few copies to satisfy the publisher, I’d be back to where I started. But I won’t have to sell a whole lot of books to earn more than I do for an entire year’s worth of car columns. (Seriously—I’m a newspaper writer; the fiscal bar isn’t all that high for me.)
I also see self-publishing as a market for my screenplays. The ones I plan to publish already have track records of success. I have two kinds—ones in which people make love, and ones in which people make war. One thing about traditional publishing and Hollywood is that once you’re established in a genre, it’s difficult to bust out. I don’t see that as a problem with self-pubbing. I can put up for sale a script about a mom who becomes a heavy metal singer one month and a script about ragtag survivors battling the Beast of the Apocalypse the next.
What are some bad things about it?
Every e-pubbing site could shut down the day after I put Fast Lane up for sale and my name could be put on a blacklist that would ban me from publishing anywhere ever. But I doubt it.
I have never heard someone bring that up! (I think that’s my new boogie man)
Don’t think about it too much. I wouldn’t recommend anyone think like me too often.
Do you have any advice or suggestions for those thinking about going into self publishing?
Do it! Don’t even hesitate. It’s the future. Try to create some advance heat with a blog or by retweeting other writers’ announcements about their books and blogs.
Also—and I think this is important—buy books by other self-published writers and help those writers any way you can. I’ve interviewed other authors for blog posts and recommended their books on ManWAR. What you’re doing, Liz, is fantastic. Whether we go the trad route or indie, we need to band together.
I feel like this deserves a response. I support any and all writers because we all share a mutual love of storytelling. Indie and traditional authors have a lot to learn and benefit from one another. This site and the many friendships I have acquired in the process have taught me that.
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