Six questions with J.R. Cameron

John Cameron

John Cameron

I’ve never understood why it’s become common practice to write the author bio in the 3rd person. John R. Cameron lives in Sudbury, Ontario. If you’re taking the time to read my bio, isn’t it because you’re essentially interviewing me for a chance to be a part of your life for a short while?

Hi. I’m John.

I have a wife and a kid. They often drive me to the brink of madness; not a difficult thing to do, considering how close to the edge I already am. My daughter is a hellion. At the age of six, she’s both bright and bold, obstinate, and pushes every button I have. My wife blames my genetics: “I was never like that,” she claims. I deny it, despite knowing that I was also an uncontrollable child.

I’m thirty, and a teacher. I’m very worried about the current state of education. I’m concerned about the future, in general. I don’t think we all necessarily need to be alarmists, though I do believe that if you look at the world around you and aren’t a little worried, you and I probably aren’t going to agree on much. (Don’t worry, I’ll pretend not to look while you navigate elsewhere. There’s plenty of other entertainment online. Crushing Candy, and so forth…)

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WG: When did writing first come into your life (or vice versa)?  Give us the origin story of John Cameron, Superhero Writer.

JRC:        I’ve been an avid reader my entire life. I was one of those people who sat around saying, “I’m going to write a book one day,” but just never got around to it. I can’t claim that I couldn’t have found the time. I’d be lying if I did. I’ve pissed away a solid three decades of my life. Over the past few years, it’s like the thoughts running through my mind have turned into a constant third person narrative. We’ll call it the ‘itch’, I suppose. I realized the day was coming when I’d open a Word file, and start typing. I just didn’t know when that day would come, or what I’d be writing about. Until this past winter, I’d never made any attempt at a serious literary endeavour.

WG: What was the idea that became The Second Lives of Honest Men and how did it occur to you?

JRC:        In December of 2011, I walked away from a terrible car crash. This was only because of blind luck, or fate, or whatever you’d like to call it. I slammed into a guard rail doing 100 kilometres an hour, backwards. I was pushing it – trying to get home on the first snowy day of winter, before the roads got worse. I rounded a bend, and low and behold, that stretch of road was worse. I fishtailed back and forth over the slush, trying to correct my course. It was a hopeless effort, and I quickly lost control. I clutched the steering wheel and braced myself against the seat, preparing for the inevitable. I blew out seven posts of the short, twenty post rail, coming to a dead stop in the middle of the highway. It was the only guard rail on that side of the kilometre long stretch.

I could have hit one of the many rock cuts, or been flung into the deep, stony valley between the East and Westbound lanes. Instead, I momentarily laughed off my good fortune while I waited for a tow truck. I even went bowling that night. When you walk away from an accident like that, the implications of ‘what if?’ begin encroaching on your soul. The harder you try not to think about it, the more the darkness grips you. I eventually came to terms with what mortality really is, and what it really means. I spent the better part of 2012 in a deep apathy, as I began seeing a lot of things in an entirely new light. I questioned how I’d been interpreting the world around me, and what my role was in it. In October of 2012, I was watching television with a good friend while we discussed the problems of society; how the moral compass seemed to be broken. An advertisement for Spielberg’s Lincoln came on during a commercial break. I made an off-hand remark, something to the effect of, “Maybe that’s what we need – Honest Abe to travel through time, and come fix things.” The idea was one I simply couldn’t shake. A premise, characters, and a rough plot formed in my head over the next few weeks. When I had enough pieces of the puzzle, I opened up the Word file and set to work.

WG: How long has it taken to take The Second Lives of Honest Men from idea to finished manuscript?  Can you give us some idea of your drafting or revision process in your response?

JRC:        My first draft took me seven weeks, working on it 8-10 hours a day, often more. I think the word is ‘obsessed.’ Once I felt that it was reasonably polished, I printed ten copies, and brought it to my first group of beta-readers. A month later, I met with each of the readers, gathering honest, critical feedback. After this process, I had a pretty good feel for what the book was lacking, and had some ideas how to improve it. I made several major changes to a couple of characters, altered some aspects of the plot, and narrative… It was a fairly extensive edit, that added about 6,000 words to the manuscript. I brought the second draft to a Philosophy professor and a History professor, both of whom were very encouraging, and willing to offer more great feedback. The third draft was a less exhausting revision than my second one was, and it saw its way to several more professors (three English professors and another History professor), and to many other people in my life. Again, all the feedback was extremely positive, and the additional advice was also great. One of the English professors convinced me to do two things: Write a fourth draft to fix a few lingering problems, and hire a professional editor. I’d hoped to avoid the latter. He made the case that no matter how good the book was, ‘Even Stephen King has an editor.’ That’s a rather humbling statement if ever there was one. So, I wrote the fourth draft, and had it professionally edited.

WG: When you mentioned your genre to me, you admitted that it sounded convoluted.

Writerly Goodness challenge time!

Imagine I am a high-powered literary agent, like Kristin Nelson, Janet Reid, or Donald Maass.  If I told you I could negotiate you a six-figure advance if you could nail down your genre, what would you say?

JRC: I always try to explain it like this: If you asked George Orwell what genre 1984 fell into, I seriously doubt the answer he would have given is “Science Fiction.” (Or, like me, he simply cringed whenever he was asked the question.) That’s the genre we typically associate with his novel, however; that is, the genre that our culture has branded it with through the passing of time. My book (should anyone ever care enough to define it) will undoubtedly be classified as science fiction. Like 1984, it’s set in an urban dystopia. I tried to use only as much science fiction as necessary to carry the plot, and have been relentless in making that aspect of the book accessible to readers of all genres. Personally? I think of The Second Lives of Honest Men as a character driven, philosophical odyssey that touches on technology, truth, freedom, hope, and redemption.

*Sigh.* I’m not getting that advance, am I?

WG: All kidding aside, you’ve opted for self-publishing over a traditional publishing deal.  Why have you chosen that route?

JRC:        Several reasons. I feel that my book is very relevant to today’s world, and the problems which we’re facing as a society. I’ve seen so many authors who try to go the traditional route, and they often end up disappointed, jaded with the system, and their hard work sits on a shelf (or in a file) for years. Eventually, they simply give up on it, the moment of ‘now’ having passed them by. I can only imagine how many great books have been written by authors who never saw their work get published. I don’t want to be one of them.

Over the past five years, the traditional publishing model has been flipped upside down. E-book sales represent about 30% of the market, a number that’s sure to climb as people continue to shun paper, using digital formats instead. The big traditional publishers won’t look at newcomers, and the small ones often don’t have the push to establish a new author. Big or small, traditional publishers expect authors to do most of their own promoting, then thank you for your hard work by taking the lion’s share of the profit. I don’t blame them for the business model: Most books don’t do well, and they ride out the losers by standing on the backs of their best authors. By self publishing a well crafted e-book at a modest price on all the major e-sellers, and having Print on Demand paperbacks available through Amazon, I can access a world-wide market. There are many successful authors using this business platform, bypassing traditional publishing routes to put food on their tables. Being able to take care of my family while I do what I love – I think that’s the dream of every author, no?

WG: What’s next for you and The Second Lives of Honest Men?

JRC:        I’ve heard people say something to the effect of, “Writing the book is easy. The hard part comes after.” Let me tell you something: Writing the book wasn’t easy. My first draft may have only taken two months to complete, but they were also two of the most emotionally draining months I’ve ever been through. Still, the parable isn’t wrong in the sense that the harder part does come after. The editing process required a vast amount of work. The biggest obstacle was learning to put my faith in other people’s opinions. I only gave the book to people that I trusted to tell me the things I didn’t want to hear. And they did. It was always painful, as I listened to their advice over a hot drink (or a cold beer.) I’d scowl, counter-argue, and on some points I’d simply hold my tongue. After a number of days, (or weeks), a smattering of what they’d said would start sinking in. I’d be haunted by their voices as I tried, in vain, to sleep. I worked hard on the manuscript, mollifying the voices one by one, and repeating this process through each new draft (and each new round of well meant criticism), until I could finally rest. I passed the manuscript off to my editor the next day, and sent her a cheque. I struggled with the decision of what to write in the memo field. I finally settled on, ‘In Editor We Trust.’

Navigating the world of self-publishing has been an ordeal of its own. The Internet brings you a lot of information, but almost all of it conflicts. I made mistakes along the way – none fatal, but some costly. The good thing is that while I was waiting for my different rounds of beta readers to give me feedback, it left me plenty of time to prepare the other aspects of the book that a publisher normally takes care of: conceptualizing the cover, finding an artist, an editor, the best places to list the e-book, to promote the e-book, hiring (and working with) a website designer, finding a company to convert the book into slick, multi device / multi client formatted .epub, .mobi , and Print on Demand files…

Anyway, long story short… It’s finally all come together. The book is now for sale on all major e-sellers, and available in paperback through Amazon.

The Second Lives of Honest Men - cover

The Second Lives of Honest Men – cover

The website is up, and I’ll be using it as a platform to coordinate my Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter accounts. You can visit at www.johnrcameron.com , www.thesecondlivesofhonestmen.com , or www.embracetheirony.com. (All three domains lead to the same website.)  I have a well crafted, fun short story that I’ve made available on the website for free: Moonshine Perfume. I’ll also be writing short essays (I think they call them blogs, now) to accompany any more short stories that I find the time to write.

I’ll have a table at the Paranormal Show in Sudbury, Ontario, on November 30th, where I’ll be premiering the book and signing copies. The Paranormal Show itself is “a spectacular assortment of Supernatural feats that will make you question everything you thought you understood about REALITY.” – For more info, check out the Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/events/590105517693380/

Come for the stage show, stay to check out the great work of local artists and authors.

I’ll be having signings at some of the more traditional outlets early in the new year: dates to be announced.

You can also find me on Goodreads, https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/664867.John_R_Cameron , on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/embracetheirony , and on Twitter, https://twitter.com/EmbraceTheIrony .

Thanks for a great interview, John, and all the best with your future authorial adventures!

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Bruce Hale’s keynote Oct 27, 2013

This is my last summary of the sessions and keynotes I attended at SiWC this year.  I’ll have one more post summing up odds and ends because there was so much going on … But that’s for next week.

Bruce Hale gave the final keynote of the conference.

Here are my notes on what he said:

Investment in ourselves is how we grow. It’s why we’re all here and I congratulate all of you on making that decision.

We can’t do everything ourselves, though. Team work makes the dream work.

Life has a habit of getting in the way.

Find an accountability buddy, right now, I’ll wait.  Establish goals together and your accountability buddy will hold you to them. (Mellie’s note: I did do this, but I have to apologize to Zoe for not following through yet. My first goal, post SiWC, was to participate in NaNoWriMo, and I have done that, but I’ve been so focused, I haven’t had much time to spare for anything else!)

I have a dog, Riley. Half Labrador Retriever, and half pit bull. She’ll tear your arm off and play fetch with it 😉

As a writer, you have to face the Iron Tiger. That’s resistance.  Face resistance with persistence.

It’s how you deal with rejections.  There are several levels of rejections:

  • Untouched by human hands – the automated form rejection.
  • Barely touched by human hands – they refer to the work.
  • A hand written note at the bottom of a barely touched by human hands rejection.
  • The personalized rejection – Dear Mr. Hale.
  • The open door invitation – Dear Bruce, we’re not interested in this one, but could you send something else?

Bruce ended his keynote with the following quote from Marianne Williamson:

Finally, he played Des’ree’s “You gotta be” and encouraged us all to sing along.  It was a great feel-good ending to the conference.

Bits and pieces: Diana Gabaldon and Jack Whyte

The thing about conferences like SiWC is that you always have a lot of choice. I’ve been blogging the sessions I attended, but at every time slot on every day, there were about ten different sessions I could have gone to. I had to be selective.

Not only that, but everything else you decide to do, such as blue pencil sessions, pitch sessions, or photo sessions, cuts into the time that you could be soaking in the wisdom of authors, agents, and editors.

On Sunday, Oct. 27, I had my blue pencil and pitch sessions back to back in the morning, which meant that I’d have to miss most of Diana Gabaldon’s session on keeping the reader turning pages. After that, I did book a photo shoot with the photographer, which meant that I’d be late for Jack Whyte’s session of rejuvenating your writing.

So what follows is incomplete and necessarily short, but there are still a few great pieces of information to pass along.

Diana Gabaldon: How to make them turn the page

Picture of the author Diana Gabaldon during a ...

Picture of the author Diana Gabaldon during a book signing held in Fergus, Ontario (during the Scottish Festival) on August 11, 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I arrived, Diana was discussing the technique of establishing a series of questions on the page. This was a technique that Diana says she noticed only in retrospect.

The idea is to ask a question at the beginning of a scene, and then build tension through delayed gratification by revealing information in bits and pieces.

She demonstrated by reading a passage from her next book in the Outlander series, In My Own Heart’s Blood. Lord John Grey confesses to Jamie that he’s slept with his wife. The rest of the scene, revealed primarily through action and dialogue answers the big question: will Jamie kill John? by first subverting expectations (Jamie reacts very calmly) and then plays on dramatic irony. When the revelation does arrive for Jamie, he does react as the reader, and John, expect him to, but then the scene ends. We have to read on to find out if John will survive the conversation.

With regard to backstory, Diana says dole it out sparingly. Tell the reader exactly what they need to know, when they need to know it.

It’s a matter of pacing, which is something every writer learns over time.

She was asked if she outlines, and Diana said she never has.

Finally, build on details to reveal character and plot. Use three senses to engage the reader.

Jack Whyte: Rejuvenate your fiction

When I entered, Jack was talking about the goblin.

The goblin is this little voice inside that says, “this isn’t right,” or “your could write this better.” Listen to the goblin.  He’s almost always right.

The search for the right word can drive you mad.

There’s an exercise in Strunk and White’s Elements of Style to rewrite the following quote from Thomas Paine: These are the times that try men’s souls.  Regardless what you do, it’s never the same, nor will it have the same impact.

Comprise means embrace. Nothing can be comprised of.  It’s one of the most misused words in the English language.

Rejuvenating your writing means rejuvenating yourself.

Prune adjectives, adverbs, and tic phrases, not blindly, but selectively.  Ask yourself if it improves your sentence. If yes, keep it, if no, get rid of it.

Communication is the goal of every writer.

When you write dialogue, if you do it well, you shouldn’t need tags. The reader should know who’s speaking and be able to keep track.

Don’t write accents. Use a word or expression, explain it once. That will be enough.

Recommended books: The Art of Fiction – John Gardner; On Writer’s Block – Victoria Nelson

Every writer should read them.

The subconscious mind is an excellent BS detector. Your mind is trying to tell you you’re on the wrong track. That’s the goblin.

Also, because you’ll be spending the better part of your life in it, get a good chair. Get a damn good chair.

Blue pencil and pitch

After breakfast and the keynote on Sunday morning, I had signed up for a blue pencil session with Jim C. Hines and a pitch session with Nephele Tempest, back to back. Needless to say, I was a bundle of nerves.

How the blue pencil went

After Jim’s wonderful keynote the evening before, I was a bit worried at the thought of sitting down with him. Not that I thought that he would tell me my writing sucked, but I worried he might be too gentle with me.

I needed help.

After the reception my first page received at SiWC idol, I really wanted to fix my opening.

So I explained my concerns and Jim got right to business. He had a few excellent suggestions, some of which I’d already suspected, and set me on the path of a few more effective ways to get my character across. He asked a few insightful questions, and over all I thought he did a lovely job.

Afterward, he asked me if he’d been of any help to me.

What a sweetie.

I was so pleased to have met him, even under such time constraints.

How the pitch went

I’d pitched Initiate of Stone last year at the Algonkian Conference I attended. Though I received the interest of an editor from Penguin, I had to delay submitting anything to him because I had some work to finish. Though he agreed that he’d rather see a novel made its best through editing and revision, I believe I took too long.

When I had signed up for Surrey, I was able to book one blue pencil and one pitch session.  The blue pencil was with Jim C. Hines. The pitch was with Kristin Nelson. If time allowed, I would be able to book additional appointments on site.

I had researched the agents in attendance and decided that I would make every attempt to see Nephele Tempest, Pam Hylckama Vlieg, and Rachel Coyne, if time allowed. They all handled fantasy, which is what I was there to give them.

As I mentioned in a past post, Kristin Nelson had to cancel when her flight from Colorado was cancelled due to weather. Pam Hylckama Vlieg was ill and unable to make it.

I was fortunate enough to meet Rachel Coyne on the first day. She was friendly and kind, and encouraged me to book an appointment. When it came time for me to do so, however, Rachel was booked solid and the only time I could book with Nephele Tempest was Sunday morning, back to back with my blue pencil session.

Since last year, I’d taken a course with Marcy Kennedy on loglines, taglines, and pitches. I’d also done some research on the internet and learned a few things from Adrienne Kerr’s query session.  My pitch was a work in progress, and though I’d brought my computer to work on it, I wasn’t able to print my documents. I wasn’t about to lug my lap top around so I could read from it, either.

Outside my room, I didn’t have consistent wi-fi, and so I couldn’t even copy the file into Dropbox and open it on my phone.

So I’d spent my breakfast recreating my pitch from memory.

Things went well, and Nephele asked to see my first three chapters.

They’re with her now. We’ll see how things go.

All I can say is eeeeeeeeeee!

More tomorrow, folks. Goodnight for now. The eighth Doctor calls 😉

Sunday morning keynote: Jane Porter

NaNoWriMo progress

Sorry I haven’t been blogging as promised, but NaNoWriMo has taken over my life (!) In a totally good way though 😉

I’m happy to say that while I had an outline to follow, serendipity struck and in a departure from the plan, I’ve taken my YA fantasy up a notch into high concept territory.  It’s an epic win.

I knew that I’d be going away November 4-6, so I tried frontloading my first days to prepare. Here’s the word count so far:

  • November 1 – 2161 words
  • November 2 – 2284 words
  • November 3 – 2325 words
  • November 4 – 0 words
  • November 5 – 2122 words
  • November 6 – 0 words
  • November 7 – 1877 words
  • November 8 – 2168 words
  • November 9 – 2190 words

I’m just a titch ahead of the game at 15127 words.  I’m on chapter 6 of 14.  Working title: Figments.

Back to our regularly scheduled programming

October 27, 2013

Jane began her keynote with a humorous anecdote about dinner the previous evening where the topic of discussion at the table was the prevalence of dino-porn (if you don’t believe it, Google it—here’s a link to get you going, pun intended – http://www.cracked.com/quick-fixes/10-real-book-covers-from-dinosaur-on-human-sex-novels/ ).

Only at Surrey.

Jane took comfort in the thought. She could always reinvent herself if her career tanked.

Jane wrote her first story at the age of five, made her first story book in elementary school, wrote her first romance in high school, and received her first rejection in 1984.

Eventually, she got a non-form rejection letter including a long list of errors. Her response? I can fix all that!

Among her works in progress was a 900 k word medieval epic in which the heroine murdered her husband to be free.

In January 2000, fourteen rejections and fifteen years later, Jane sold her first book.

Since then, she’s published 44 novels and written 46.

She confessed to feeling like a fraud as part of the Bestseller Banter panel. She was afraid for years that her career would be taken away from her.

She found that real estate was a suitable metaphor for publishing. You work for years on your novel, your dream. It’s a part of your life, and someone comes along and puts a dollar value on it. Sometimes the assigned value doesn’t reflect the true worth of the work.

Jane Porter’s Five Keys to Survival as a Writer

  1. Craft. You’ve got to work out your creative muscles. It’s the best way to protect yourself. Be excellent.
  2. Get real. Check your attitude at the door. You can choose how to respond.
  3. Goal-setting. Look where you want to go. Ride the channels and use the energy of the currents.
  4. Perseverance. Face your fears.
  5. Don’t react. Don’t follow the trends. Categories are changing.

Saturday night keynote: Jim C. Hines

I’d encountered Jim C. Hines before, on the pages of John Scalzi’s and Chuck Wendig’s blogs.  I was curious about his penchant for cross dressing and why he would write a book about a libromancer.

So, of course, I was eager to find out more about the man.  His Saturday night keynote did not disappoint.  Several people I spoke to reported tearing up not once, but several times during the address.

Did I?  I’ll never tell 😉

As I mentioned, I do not have an eidetic memory.  I couldn’t give you the blow by blow of the speech and truth be told, I was listening to and enjoying it rather than taking notes.  Mea culpa.

Fortunately, I don’t have to. Jim has posted the text and links to a three-part recording of the keynote on his blog: http://www.jimchines.com/2013/10/my-keynote-from-siwc2013/

The essence of Jim’s keynote was that stories matterOur stories matter.  There is a reason we are called to this crazy life of writing.

One anecdote was about a teacher who had a young man in one of her classes.  He refused to read.

She wrote to Jim that she put a copy of his book Goblin Quest on her desk and left it there

Goblin Quest

Goblin Quest

in plain sight.  The student asked about it one day and the teacher said that he probably wouldn’t like it.  The student picked it up and not only read that one, but asked for and read the rest of the books in the series.

The experience of reading Jim’s books changed this young man’s life.  Not bad for a series which features a protagonist with a nose-picking injury 🙂

Jim also wrote a short story for an anthology of humorous fantasy.  Oddly enough, he chose the topic of cancer, but after reading the story, an audience member approached Jim and told him that her father was dying of the same cancer.

She asked for a copy of the story, took it to her father, and the two of them laughed until they cried.  It was cathartic and comforting.

Our stories matter.

Take heart and keep writing.  Your stories matter too.

Bestseller Banter Panel

First, a wee note: I have embarked on my first NaNoWriMo, and because I had to finish a couple of writing tasks before the end of October, I haven’t been able to blog daily and complete my report of the fabulous Surrey International Writers’ Conference.

I have, so far, managed to make my NaNo quota though (joy!).

And I’m trying to finish up some outstanding critiquing.

So I will post today and tomorrow, but then I will be going on a brief trip to visit a friend for a few days.  I will resume the bloggage after that.  Once I’ve caught up with the SiWC reporting, however, I’m returning to my usual one or two posts on the weekend gig.

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Picture of the author Diana Gabaldon during a ...

Picture of the author Diana Gabaldon during a book signing held in Fergus, Ontario (during the Scottish Festival) on August 11, 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The bestseller banter panel was moderated by Chris (CC) Humphreys and was composed of:  Michael Slade, Diana Gabaldon, Jane Porter, and Susanna Kearsley

Q: What was your first book on the bestseller list?

SK: The Winter Sea made the New York Times bestseller list as an ebook.

JP: Lifetime made a movie of my book Flirting with Forty.

DG: I was away on a book tour for three weeks for Voyager. My husband told me when he picked me up at the airport.  I was too tired to react.  More recently Starz is making an Outlander series.  This is the fourth time Outlander has been optioned.  When the deal was struck, I was sworn to secrecy, but I was attending BEA at the time and word got out.  I ended up telling everyone.

MS: My first novel became a bestseller because of my rep got me up at 3 am to speak

Susanna Kearsley Photo by Ashleigh Bonang

Susanna Kearsley
Photo by Ashleigh Bonang

with the book distributors.  That week, Stephen King’s The Shining hit the shelves as well.  The distributors looked at both books and decided to give top billing to the man who came out to talk to them.  That’s how my book beat out Stephen King’s to become number one in Vancouver.

Q: What pressures did you experience after your books had such great success?

SK: I didn’t feel any pressure from others, but I had something I’d never had to deal with before: deadlines.  It didn’t affect my writing.  I placed pressure on myself, however, to prove that I could get on the bestseller list again. Firebird was on the NYT mass market paperback list.

JP: Producers wanted to make movies of more of my books, but they wanted Flirting with Forty again, and I was writing something else.  I had to get out of a bad deal.  Marketing took over.  They kept asking for changes.

DG: Fans clamour for the next book in the series all the time, but I don’t let it bother me.  My sole duty is to the book.

MS: My first book was written while I was still very busy as a criminal lawyer.  Headhunter was successful and I did feel the pressure to write something at least as good.  I decided to write a thriller set in the rock ‘n’ roll world.  My rep got us tickets to Alice Cooper and he really liked Headhunter.  He invited me to send him my next novel.  I did and he wrote back: I don’t know if this will help.  “This book was terrifying.  I couldn’t put it down.” – Alice Cooper.  That endorsement sold the second book.

Q: Does the thrill remain?

DG: Absolutely.  I get a little thrill every time someone responds positively to my daily lines on Facebook.

CCH: Good reviews become reassuring friends in times of torment.

SK: Every time I finish a manuscript, I print it out and drop it on the table.  There’s something satisfying about the “thump.”  When the finished product arrives, there’s nothing like the smell of a new book.

JP: There were times when I was afraid everything I’d worked for would be taken away from me.  I was a single mother.  I feared being poor.

MS: It used to be that you had a 1 in 20,000 chance of success in publishing.  You never know when you’re going to make it big, or how.

SK: Persistence is the key. Download Headley’s “Anything” and listen to it repeatedly. Flaubert said, “Talent is a long patience…”  You have to think about the long game.

JP: Support is so important.  My ex never understood.  My current partner is a surfer and he feels the same way about the ocean as I do about writing.

DG: I have a fan club, the Ladies of Lallybrock, and they like to get together and have a fabulous time.

Q: Are there any downsides?

SK: I had a stalker.

JP: I received creepy letters from convicts.

Q: Do any of you have to content with JK Rowling’s issue?  She has so many people trying to hand her novels and scripts based on Harry Potter that she has someone who collects them all for her.

DG: I always tell people, sorry, I have an agreement with my publisher.

Q: Do you have a pen name picked out?

SK: No.

JP: Lauren Lyles

DG: No.

MS: Michael Slade is a pen name.  When I was trying to come up with it, I was thinking Declerque.  My wife said, very sensibly, no, you want a name with Biblical significance.  Michael.  Slade gives you some hard-boiled cred.  And so I became Michael Slade.  My wife created Michael Slade, and she knows copyright law.