I am an author, historian, and novelist. I write stuff. I don’t do it for a living. I work at one of the Big Four accounting firms as an Associate Director in IT. My writing is something that I do on the side. Some of it is therapeutic, writing helps me cope with some of the stresses of the day. Another portion of it is because I don’t want to be defined by my day-job. When I die I don’t want people to say, “He was a hell of an IT manager.” Who wants that on their tombstone? The final, biggest reason I write is that I love to write. I like entertaining people with my work. I don’t get that kind of satisfaction in my day job – few people get excited and giddy to see an IT manager coming into a room. The only autographs I do at work are to order office supplies.
People ask me questions as a writer, mostly out of innocent curiosity. I thought I would share a few of these and my thoughts about the questions – hopefully addressing a few of these up-front and giving you a chuckle in the process.
Where do you get your ideas? This is a great question. Where do any of us get our ideas? I don’t have an answer to this short of saying that I don’t steal my ideas. They just come to me. I usually get a scene or even a line in my mind. I mull that over – how would I create the circumstances where that scene could take place? Who are the people there – and why? I then explore the characters – what would make them interesting? Why would a reader care about any of this? The next thing you know a kernel of an idea becomes something more.
How long does it take you to write a book? That depends on a few factors. Non-fiction book require research, detailed endnotes, and are slower to write than fiction. Also, I do have a day-job, so a lot depends on how many hours I am working? As a general rule, the research for a book can take years but the actual writing can take 3-5 months if non-fiction. Fiction books go much faster for me – 2-3 months.
How much do you get paid to write a book? I find this one a tad personal and insulting. I feel like countering, “How much do you make annually in your job?” My writing isn’t about the money…and if it was I certainly wouldn’t tell people how much I make. Suffice it to say I am not quitting my day job (yet) but my books pay me well enough to make me happy. Other than that, it’s none of your business. What I can tell you is that there are a lot of authors that make more money than me, and a lot that make less.
Do you get input on the covers of your books? This depends on the publisher. Truth be told, I can’t draw stick people well. My artistic tastes are limited to comic books – a much unappreciated art form I might add. The last two years I’ve noticed publishers actually asking me for input. The most recent of these was Virginia Creeper. I was totally impressed how they took my rambling idea and made it real and tangible. What I worry about the most is the spine of the book – is it easily readable on a shelf in a bookstore.
Why don’t you quit your job and write full-time? My-my we are getting personal aren’t we? That is private folks. Suffice it to say writers get paid irregularly (most publishers are twice a year) and it’s feast and famine in-between. Also, I feel some control of my writing now. If I were doing it full time I’d be under a lot of pressure to get books done out of fear of not paying bills. For now, where I am at is just fine. Know this though, I have an Evil Plan...
What genres do you wish you could write in that you haven’t? I got this one this week, seriously. Great question too. There are a few genres I have coming up, Steampunk, my return to business management/leadership, etc., that I’m excited about as a change of pace. I have my first techno-thriller coming next fall. There are few that I have not written in that I want to at some point. The American Civil War for example, is one that excites me. I’ve written articles about it, but have never penned a book. Back in college (Central Michigan University) I wrote editorial columns for the CM Life. I miss that from time-to-time.
It is easier to say what I won’t write. Romance.
For your non-fiction books, why does research take so long? I like making sure I’ve been done my job and dug up all of the little facts. I’m a research junkie. Also, sometimes you have to let a project sit for a while and simmer, then jump back into it and try to do your research from a different angle. On top of all of this, I deal with archives, museums, and libraries around the world and it can take them time to respond.
How can you write books and work full time? I get this one at work and it’s a bit insulting. Are you implying that I am somehow short-changing my career to do writing – or that I’m writing when I should be working? I work for a living – I don’t live to work. I don’t cheat my job to pursue my writing. If I seem harsh here, I really resent this question.
Can I have a copy of one of your books? Unless you’re my parents, you sure can – just go up on Amazon.com and buy it. Only mom and dad get a free one (and a handful of people that help me with my research on a given project.) I get compensated for the sale of books, not giving them away. While writing is my passion, I don’t believe in giving it away.
I’m trying to be a writer, can you help me? I rarely turn this down. My rule of thumb is, however, that you buy and write a review on one of my latest books. That’s the price for assistance. No one helped me in learning this profession, I had to find out the hard way. I’m willing to help authors (short of actually reading their material) with questions and information. All I ask is that you post up a review of one of my books.
So there you have it. What are your questions?