After the Launch Week of my book Against My Better Judgment, I participated in a number of virtual book tours. When I started on this publication journey, I was mentally preparing myself for in-person author signing events, attending conventions, maybe even a few public speaking events. As we all know, life took a different turn, but I was able to partner with a number of book promotion companies who took it all in stride! One such company was RABT Book Promotions. Today’s blog post is one of the blog tour stops with Jazzy Book Reviews. Jazzy sent along some outstanding interview questions that were a blast to answer. I hope you enjoy the read and learn a few new sides to me!
I would love to hear how you would respond to these questions, so feel free to put your own answers in the comments!
1. What would you consider to be your Kryptonite as an author?
Advanced grammar, specifically identifying and correcting passive sentences. Brutal.
2. If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
I would start with a Winston Churchill quote: “Perfection is the enemy of progress.” Then follow that up with advising that first drafts are far from perfect, so just write. There will be PLENTY of time for cleaning things up and making the words sing.
3. What book do you feel is under-appreciated? How about overrated?
Underappreciated is Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions by Edwin A. Abbott, who used the penname, “A Square.” I think it is brilliant on so many levels. Overrated are most of Grisham’s books only because I feel the endings don’t live up to the strong plots and writing up to the climax. It feels like he always gets tired and decides just to wrap it up.
4. Favorite childhood memory involving books?
Reading A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. I was beyond fascinated by the concept of space and time in the story and the idea of a fifth dimension.
5. Did you want to be an author when you grew up?
Actually, yes! My obsession with writing all began with one simple assignment in my fifth-grade writing class. Mrs. S asked each of us in to write a story. Not one for being brief, I wrote a 10-page story about a boy and his dog, and my excitement was so palpable that my mom encouraged me to keep writing because one day I could be an author. And quite literally 50 years later – here I am!
6. If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would they be?
Determined, Mischievous, Creative
7. What is your most unusual writing quirk?
While writing, I listen to the same CD over and over again for 3-8 weeks until a particular song begins resonating in my head when I am sleeping. Then I switch over to a new CD that plays over and over again for another set of weeks.
8. What’s one movie you like recommending to others?
I don’t recommend movies to people, but, my favorite movie is the original Jungle Book. It obviously doesn’t need any recommending, but I did feature it as a Friday Night Date Night post on my blog.
9. If you could own any animal as a pet, what would it be?
A dachshund, of course. (Mauzzy was watching closely as I answered this question.)
10. Have you ever met anyone famous?
Rick Honeycutt, who was my neighbor in Chattanooga for several years. For those non-sports readers, Rick pitched in major league baseball for over 20 years. He was the first “set-up” man in the majors, pitching in front of closer Dennis Eckersley. He was also the Dodgers’ pitching coach for almost 15 years.
Roy Barth, whose son Jonathan (“JB”) is a great friend of the family (and I have a character with his last name in Chapter 13). Roy was a tennis touring professional in the last sixties to mid-seventies who was one of the charter members of the Association of Tennis Professionals and Chairman of the USTA Davis Cup Committee. He has a book coming out, Point of Impact, with a foreword written by the iconic Billie Jean King. Check him out a www.roybarth.com. He is tennis history.
James Rogers, a singer/songwriter who has performed at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, among many places all over the world. Check him out at www.jamesrogers.com.
Santa Claus, who I’ve met multiple times.
11. What is the first book that made you cry?
I wouldn’t call it crying. Sad is a better word. Old Yeller.
12. How long, on average, does it take you to write a book?
I am defining “write a book” to be the first draft and not the fully edited manuscript. I would guess about 5 months for the first draft from initial plotting to completion of the draft. My process now includes building out what I call a blueprint and a detailed layout of all the chapters and scenes. It takes about 2 months to finish the blueprint and chapter layout, with each being 30+ pages. The blueprint includes everything from a detailed premise, characters’ traits/motivations/secrets and lies, etc., to a character web and the story broken into three acts with plot twists, out-of-whack events, the climax, and subplots. The chapter layout builds off the blueprint with each chapter sketched out in a decent amount of detail. When I start the actual writing process, it goes pretty fast because I have a detailed roadmap and a clear picture of all the characters, etc. For my first Bill Byrd book that I will be querying later this year, the writing took about 3 months. But that was 8+ hours per day every day.
13. How do you select the names of your characters?
I actually just did a whole post about that here. For Against My Better Judgement, most of the big names were a mix of family and friends acting as inspiration. For my murder mystery series that I’m currently working on (the Bill Byrd Series), many of the names just come to me although there is one character’s name that I got from a sign on Highway 81 in Virginia. If I see a name that intrigues me, I write it down and file it away for the future.
14. What creature do you consider your “spirit animal” to be?
A bald eagle – having nothing to do with the bald part though, just sayin’.
15. What are your top 5 favorite movies?
Only five!?! This is really hard but a few jump off the list.
- Jungle Book (animated) – my favorite of all time (I love King Louie)
- The Godfather
- Monty Python and The Holy Grail
- Dr. Zhivago
- Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
- Honorable Mention Bonus Pick: Saving Private Ryan
16. If you were the last person on Earth, what would you do?
First, confirm I was indeed the last person on Earth, which I’m not sure how I would go about that task. Then, sit on the beach and drink a beer. Or two.
17. What fictional character would you want to be friends with in real life?
My very own Mrs. Majelski from Against My Better Judgment.
18. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Always set goals for yourself and work hard to achieve those goals. If you don’t, you can become like a rudderless boat adrift in the ocean. And when things get difficult or it doesn’t seem like you are making progress toward that goal, dig deep and keep pressing on. I talk a lot about perseverance. Getting this book published was all about perseverance (“How Badly Do You Want to be Published?”). Sara is all about perseverance and believing in herself despite the odds, even when the easier course of action might be to “go along with the crowd.”
I’ll leave you with this quote by Tom Hanks in the movie, A League of Their Own:
“It’s supposed to be hard. If it were easy, everyone would do it.”
19. What book do you wish you had written?
I know this isn’t the answer you’re looking for, but a New York Times bestseller! 😉
20. Tell us 10 fun facts about yourself!
- I met my wife in high school in a closet on the set of The Diary of Anne Frank. The closet was her prop station and I was building the set and decided to take a nap in that same closet. She woke me up, and the rest is history.
- As a teen, I almost set both a lawn and a locker on fire…and these were separate incidents.
- I lived/worked in the Middle East for 7 years and visited/worked in well over 30 countries (I stopped counting).
- One day when I was living in Maryland and while at the office, an urgent situation came up where I had to fly to London to meet somebody at Heathrow Airport the next morning. I went home early afternoon to get my passport and left a note on the kitchen table for my wife that said: “Gone to London. Be back tomorrow.” She never questioned why, although the ticket agent at Dulles Airport sure did when I had nothing to check, was only carrying a briefcase, and I booked the very next flight out of London back to the States. The customs and immigration folks at Dulles also had a few questions when I returned. Don’t worry – it was all on the “up and up.”
- I sold a 5-star hotel for the owner in Portugal’s Algarve region.
- I’m an avid bowler and tennis player with 9 sanctioned 300 games, a high 3-game set of 826, a season-high career average of 226, and multiple tennis tournament championships.
- I have bowled in 20 National Bowling Championships with my highest placing being 99th in Singles, 141st in All Events, 281st in Team, and 491st in doubles out of 20K+ participants.
- An American flag was flown in my honor on 23 September 2006 at the New Al Muthana Air Base in Baghdad as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
- The first time I met the co-protagonist of my book and only character from real-life – Mauzzy – he peed on me. Perhaps now would be a good time to tell you that he is a miniature dachshund.
- I’m 100% ambidextrous.
21. If you could live in any time period, what would it be and why?
I would want to live around the Revolutionary War Era (1760-1840). It would be amazing to witness the birth of my country up through the growth of the Industrial Revolution.
22. What is your favorite genre to read?
Either Non-Fiction (biographical/historical – among my favorites, anything by Mark Bowden; The Good Spy by Kai Bird; and Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T.E. Lawrence), or Mystery/Thriller.
Thanks again to RABT Book Promotions for organizing the tour of my book, and thank you Jazzy Book Reviews for the interview! I had a great time answering these questions, and look forward to reading future author interviews!