Thoughts on Stephen's Approach to Writing
When did you first start writing?
Like many people, for many years I thought I might have a novel in me. But during my 35 year business career I had little time for writing nor did I have any idea where or how to begin. In 2003 my time opened up and I started down a writing path. It hasn't been a straight or smooth path but it has been very enjoyable, writing freelance and fiction.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I was crafting stories that I thought readers would enjoy. But the traditional publishing route is grueling and arbitrary. You struggle to find an agent. If you are successful they struggle to find a publisher. The process can take in excess of a year, even if it goes well. It wasn't clear any readers would ever see my work.
My first novel, "Simone," was dedicated to members of the greatest generation which, at the time, were dying off. If I wanted the novel out while they were still around the indie route was the best choice.
Indie publishing is a wonderful marriage of technology and art and opens opportunities for authors that would otherwise be lost in the legacy publishing system.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Regrettably, yes. For a creative writing class I wrote a story that viewed the world through the eyes of an old Nike running shoe. The shoe told of being young and resilient, traveling along smooth road and rough. Then it began to suffer the pangs of old age. I suppose the story was loaded with life metaphors. My kids thought I'd gone over the edge.
What is your writing process?
I need to be organized at the start. I block out the story on index cards and then, after extensive sorting, create a master outline. I break that down into chapters and scenes and then am in a position to begin writing.
I also develop biographies for the main characters so I can get to know them better.
The biographies and outline are the basis for the writing process. However, I'm fluid as I write. I may add or drop characters and scenes so the final product may not look like the original outline.
How do you approach cover design?
Clumsily, if that's a word. I am not artistic so I turn to outside help. For the "Simone" cover I wanted a cover that reflected the somber mood of wartime Europe. The designer achieved that but, in hindsight, something brighter would have been better. When competing for eyes in a bookstore, covers need to catch attention.
For "The Girl With the Cinnamon Twist" I reviewed the work of a number of designers and selected one who provided samples with a little "sparkle." She seemed to catch the spirit of the "girl" and provided a entertaining cover.
Describe your desk
I do the bulk of my writing on an island near Seattle. I have a great woodland view to capture my gaze when I'm stumped and need a metal break. My desk is an old library table that's been in the family for 60 years. Picture a couple of reading lamps, a dictionary, a thesaurus, cups of pens, a stack of index cards and a well-used laptop and you have an idea of my workspace. Nothing fancy.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
When I'm not writing I spend time feeling guilty that I'm not writing. I feel undisciplined and am easily distracted!
I enjoy time with the family. I cycle, ski and just enjoy the outdoors.
Wherever I am I enjoy watching people and finding characters for my next novel. The world is full of interesting people and situations.
What do you read for pleasure?
I’m a bit random but drift toward 20th Century history, both fiction and non-fiction. Alan Furst writes great fiction set in mid-century Europe. Jonathon Hull has done several books that involved veterans. I recently read a biography of Russia's Marshall Zhukov. I've read all of Rick Atkinson's work since he wrote the Vietnam era, "The Long Gray Line." Ivan Doig is another favorite with his tales of Montana life.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I'm a Kindle guy, on my wife's hand-me-down classic Kindle. But I can also be caught reading on my iPad and, in a pinch, on my smart phone.
Are your titles available in both paperback and eBook formats?
Absolutely. Many readers still prefer to get their hands on a real book and they can do that. They can also purchase the books in most of the current eBook formats for devices such as the Kindle, the Nook and the iPad.
Right now about 50% of my readers are using a device of some sort.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I enjoy creating characters that readers enjoy and then placing them in situations that readers can understand and relate to.
As I mentioned, when I begin a novel I do a biography for each of the main characters so I get to know them. What do they look like? Where did they live and go to school? What do they like to eat? What are their quirks? Some of the information is never used in the novel but the exercise gives me a better understanding of them and keeps their persona consistent throughout the book.
What do your fans mean to you?
Fans are so important to an independent writer. Word of mouth is the best marketing tool and satisfied readers talk to other readers and create the "buzz" new writers need. Plus fans give invaluable feedback to improve existing novels and encourage new ones.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on two tracks. I have a new story with new characters and a second that moves characters from “The Girl With the Cinnamon Twist” to a new phase in their life. I need to focus but, for now, I’m developing both lines and I will see where the characters take me.