It's a Two-fer day at Terry's Place. When I invited fellow author Rob Walker as my guest, he asked if he could bring his wife along. The more the merrier, I say. He also asked if I had any interview questions for him. Since I'm a strictly "hands-off" hostess on Guest Days, I turned the interview over to him. Join me in welcoming my first husband-wife blog duo. Take it away, Rob.
Both of you have recommended that writers do not quit the day job. Is there a story behind this recommendation?
Miranda: As an ER nurse, I get a lot of my most exciting and frightful scenes on the job! Still, if I had my druthers, I’d happily be writing full-time and retire from that arena as it is extremely taxing, despite how good one is at saving a life -- and I can safely say I have saved quite a few, including a neighbor late one night. However, writing does not offer benefits or a steady income to say the least.
Rob: As a professor of English one barely gets by in this economy but at least it is a known, a given to see the paycheck at the end of the month, whereas writing has enormous ups and downs monetarily as well as emotionally. Each book is harder and harder to sell in this tough market. One can go two and even three years between contracts even if he has a track record.
There are the exceptions, those who are struck by the Oprah or Eastwood lightning or similar good luck, but less than one percent of all authors in this country can support a family on earnings from writing, a sad reality. Now if President Obama were to tell folks he is reading my book then yeah, I’ve won the lottery.
You are very active in promoting your books. What are some of the toughest lessons you’ve learned about the “art” of self-promotion.
Miranda: You have to throw all caution and shyness out the window; perhaps ladylike-ness, too. You want to be yourself but you also have to find a comfortable sales person lurking within. Sitting behind a desk and failing to make eye contact won’t cut it at a signing, and figuratively doing the same online won’t either, but I am trying at the same time not to sound arrogant or self-important as I am anything but.
Rob: Oh I have to stop “tossing” books into people’s baskets, especially those in wheelchairs, but darn I just know they will love the book and not regret “discovering” it for themselves. I kid with people online and in person, and the lesson I have learned in this business is that you don’t sell the book, you sell yourself. If folks likes ya, they will open your book and read it, hopefully after purchasing it.
What is your favorite writing-related subject to give advice on?
Miranda: That if I can do it, anyone can. It’s a struggle, not easy, and made harder often by your circumstances--I have four children, and I also have to contend with Rob! But I did it--I got my novel written, shopped around, educated myself on the markets, and found a publisher and now hold my book in my hand with the hope others will be entertained by it. It requires a great deal of research and education about the business.
Tell us why the emphasis on incorporating romance into a story. it in your stories. Why do you feel it is important to include romance?
Miranda: Romance is at the heart of every good story in my estimation. Characters like people want to find romance in their lives, don’t they? Not sure of any books on the subject or courses on how to write romance, but a careful rereading and editing of such scenes is absolutely necessary.
Rob: Work to avoid what’s been said and done; avoid the “clichés” in romance writing or put a new spin on them, old wine in a new bottle. I love combating hero and heroine as in TVs Moonlighting. Ought to be an author’s verb--Moonlight your characters.
It seems both of you give of your time. Why do you enjoy teaching and helping other authors?
Miranda: Pay it forward is just how I operate, and I’ve seen such generosity in other mystery authors, and have been the recipient of it. How can I be otherwise?
Rob: Ahhh…the teachable moment, and I am a born teacher, all about sharing the knowledge skills to become successful. Craft matters, working on elements of style and finding one’s voice that perfectly fit’s the story at hand. I also push the fact every young writer ought to write a mystery as it is the fastest surest way to learn plotting for any type of novel. Finally, how to write one’s own pitch and or back-flap copy or the shortest most important story you will ever write, the story about your story and how it is effectively done. This becomes a useful tool in all marketing endeavor for the book.
Robert W. Walker and wife Miranda Phillips Walker are two novelists who have managed to kill off only fictional characters while living under the same roof. Rob’s latest is DEAD ON, form Five Star, and Miranda's is THE WELL MEANING KILLER, from Krill Press. You can find Rob at www.robertwalkerbooks.com and Miranda at www.mirandaphillipswalkerbooks.com