This week's author interview is with R. Doug Wicker. One of the things I've found interesting about these interviews so far is the varied backgrounds of the interviewees. Doug doesn't disappoint in this respect. He has some good answers overall and especially to the "hot seat" questions (he answered them all!).
Read on to see what Doug has to say.
1. Please tell us about yourself.
I am a retired Air Traffic Controller with over thirty-four years in the field working for both the U.S. Air Force and the Federal Aviation Administration. My USAF duty stations were RAF (Royal Air Force) Lakenheath, RAF Mildenhall, and RAF Sculthorpe in the United Kingdom; Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona; and in the FAA my career was spent at El Paso International Airport, where I worked in both the control tower and the radar approach control. I’m now back at El Paso International as the contract facility training instructor, where I’m training the next generation of controllers.
I’m still on my starter wife after almost thirty-four years, have two lovely daughters and two great sons-in-law, and am blessed with seven grandchildren.
My hobbies and interests include bridge (the game; not the structure), photography, travel (especially international travel and cruising), gourmet cooking and wine pairing, firearms and concealed carry, movies and books, and art collecting.
I’m the author on one nonfiction title written for high school libraries (The Bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, Rosen Publishing), two self-published mysteries (Decisions, The Globe), and three unpublished works dating back to the 1990s (a trilogy of aircraft sabotage stories involving investigator Ian Drake). I hope to have the Ian Drake series out in the near future.
2. What's the name of your newest or latest book and what's it about?
My latest mystery is The Globe. The Globe is an ocean-plying luxury townhome community that attracts the wealthiest of the wealthy. Unfortunately for the ship’s security officer, Reynard Chevalier, it appears that The Globe has also attracted a serial killer with a penchant for large knives and an insatiable appetite for carving up beautiful women. To make matters worse, a former fiancée from his past has taken up residence aboard the ship, and her presence threatens to reveal his true identity.
3. Is this book part of a series or standalone?
This is a standalone effort, but I’ve been asked by several readers to consider a sequel.
4. How long have you been writing?
My writing career began in the mid-1990s, and I’ve been represented by two very powerful New York literary agents and a highly successful dramatic rights agent team out in Hollywood since my second novel (which I’m currently reworking for self-publication). Unfortunately, despite such representation, I’ve had to resort to the self-publishing route. Despite assurances to the contrary, I can tell you from experience that traditional New York publishing houses are not truly interested in the new and unique. They are in a constant search for the last bestseller, which is why they’re business model is failing so miserably.
5. From where or whom do you draw inspiration?
I got the idea for The Globe from the real-life cruise ship The World. On the murders themselves, that inspiration came from a particularly infamous serial killer. Revealing more than that would rather spoil the story, I’m afraid. As for Reynard Chevalier, I’m drawn to flawed characters with vulnerabilities, and he’s about as flawed and vulnerable as you can get. He’s hiding from his past, he’s changed his name and nationality, he’s started a whole new life, and now his past is racing back toward him in such a way that there’s nothing he can do to prevent its devastating collision with his present.
6. What advice would you give new or aspiring writers?
If you can acquire a high-profile literary agent, then you know you have talent. Successful agents don’t waste time and resources on people who cannot write, and write well. That being said, a literary agent is no guarantee of publishing success. Be prepared to strike out on your own, but make sure that any product you put out to the public is professional, polished, and entertaining. You only get one shot at hooking a reader. If you’ve turned off someone with a lesser work, don’t expect to snag them later no matter how good your subsequent works may be.
Additionally, remember that you’re asking your audience to commit something much more valuable than just the few dollars you may charge for your work — far more importantly you’re asking them to invest the time necessary read it. Nothing irks a potential fan in today’s hectic world than the sense that you’ve wasted the one thing they most value, and time is something you cannot ever return to them.
7. Who do you see as your ideal reader?
My tales trend toward the cerebral. In my view the ideal reader for my novels is someone who likes to think while they’re reading; someone who enjoys analyzing not just clues, but the human condition as well. I also have a very droll sense of humor, so the intellectually inclined and fans of English comedy are probably the perfect fit for that aspect of my stories. Indeed, several people have told me that my novels remind them of works by Carl Hiaasen and Nelson DeMille, although I’m also very fond of a Publishers Weekly review that very favorably compared Decisions to Agatha Christie.
8. Tell us about your writing process. Are you a planner or outliner?
I know in my head where I’m starting and where I’ll eventually wind up, but it’s the adventure of not knowing for certain how I’ll arrive that for me makes the process of writing fun. I guess in the final analysis that any “outlining” is done in my head, usually on a long walk. And since there’s nothing in writing to constrain me artistically, I bear absolutely no reluctance in changing the direction of a story whenever the desire hits. It’s actually quite liberating.
9. Are you a "write every day of the week" sort of writer or do you take days off?
Lately I’ve been taking off for far too many days. When I’m serious, however, I write daily, nightly, and weekends. It’s exhausting.
10. What are your thoughts on writers paying for reviews as John Locke is reported to have done?
If you have to buy a review, then it isn’t worth very much, now is it? I’m afraid that in my opinion that observation extends to the reviewed book, as well.
11. Do you think retailer rating/review systems are broken? If so, any suggestions on how to fix them?
The rating and review systems may be broken, but for better or worse they’re the systems with which we have to work. There are always people who will game any system. There’s really no way to stop that. But those who do play fast and loose with ratings and reviews are eventually revealed, and their shenanigans catch up to them in the end. If they’re willing to sacrifice long-term viability and reputation for short-term gain, that’s on them. Me? I’d rather stick with the long view.
12. Some book reviewers won't accept independently authored books for review. What are your thoughts on that? Are they missing out?
Those reviewers are subjugating their own tastes to the gate keepers in traditional New York publishing. If they want to limit themselves in that way, it’s unfortunate because there is some high-quality stuff out there that they’ll never discover. Instead, they’ll increasingly find themselves subjected to New York’s infatuation with the ever-elusive bestseller — a phenomena that’s great for a weekend read, but will in the end fail the test of time passed by such modern classics as Catch-22, To Kill a Mockingbird, Camus’ The Stranger, and other works that in all likelihood would today fail to find a publisher. Does anyone really believe that twenty years from now you’re going to find The Da Vinci Code in the literary section at Barnes & Noble?
13. Some people feel indie authored books are of lesser quality than those that go through the traditional publishers. Do you agree with them? If so, how can independent authors raise the bar and remove this stigmatism?
There is no denying that for every indie gem out there, there are probably fifty or more real stinkers floating around. Unfortunately, the authors of much of this tripe know they have losers on their hands and price their wares accordingly. That in turn depresses the prices of the quality stuff, as well. It’s the Walmartization of independent publishing, wherein far too many consumers will take a chance on that 99¢ piece of flotsam rather than shell out $2.99, $3.99, or more for something that’s actually readable. Considering that sampling is available for almost every work available in digital format, there’s really no reason for that other than the desire on the part of many people to feel that they got a “deal.” Alas, it’s not a “deal” if, in saving two bucks, you wind up wasting several hours of your time. My time is worth far more to me than pennies on the hour.
How to remove the stigmatism? You can’t. Welcome to Wally World USA, where people refuse to pay for quality anymore. That genie is out of the bottle, and good luck stuffing him back in there.
14. Any pets? If so, tell us what role they play in your writing, if any.
Up until recently we had three really great cats and one bitchy old curmudgeon who never got along with any of them. Unfortunately, we’ve had to put down two, leaving us with really great cat Max and bitchy ol’ Pooh. Neither really pays any role in my writing, but Max is certainly a nice companion when it’s time to wind down from a busy writing session.
15. Assuming you have an active blog, point readers to a post of which you're especially proud or think will be of particular interest to them.
Oh, my goodness, that’s a toughie. I blog on so many topics. If I had to pick one, I couldn’t do it.
Here’s a few that might be fun for your readers:
Why Southwest’s Boeings Keep Coming Apart—Part I
So Easy Even a Caveman Can Photograph It (Freshly Pressed by Wordpress several years ago)
A Thera By Any Other Name Is Still a Santorini
When Will We Rein in these Deliverers of Death? (A satire piece on the current assault weapon debate)
16. I made some predictions for the ePublishing industry for 2013 (http://www.scottmarlowe.com/post/ePublishing-Predictions-for-2013.aspx). Do you think any of them will come true?
2, 4, and 5. 1 and 3 won’t happen anytime soon. As for 6 — I don’t know enough about Smashwords to even offer an opinion. I guess that in itself kind of validates your theory on the need for them to revamp, though.
17. R.S. Guthrie wrote a hard-hitting post (http://robonwriting.com/2013/02/05/i-want-to-review-the-reviewer-personally/) on reviewers and the veil of anonymity they hide behind. Your thoughts on this subject?
I rather enjoy reading poorly written reviews by someone who obviously never read the work they’re supposedly “reviewing.” It’s rather humorous, and it says a lot more about the reviewer than it ever will about the work. Indeed, I have one such review on Decisions that I would fight to leave up should Amazon ever decide to remove it. I want the world to know just what a Bozo that clown, who never read the book, truly is.
Never interfere with the enemy when he is in the process of destroying himself. - Napoléon Bonaparte
18. Where can readers find your work?
The Globe and Decisions are available for both the Kindle and the Nook, or for any device capable of running the Kindle or Nook Reading App:
Decisions at Amazon
Decisions at Barnes & Noble
The Globe at Amazon
The Globe at Barnes & Noble
19. Where can readers find out more about you?
I blog thrice weekly at RDougWicker.com, I have an Amazon Author’s Page, and I also maintain a Facebook Community Page .
R. Doug Wicker is the author of The Globe, a murder mystery available for the Amazon Kindle or any device capable of using the Kindle Reading Applications (PC, Mac, Android, iPhone, iPod, iPad, and Blackberry).
He is also the author of the psychological murder mystery Decisions, available on both Kindle and the Barnes & Noble Nook.