- Guest Author -
Welcome to an interview I conducted with an author with a great sense of humour - Arthur Daigle from Chicago.
Welcome, Arthur ...
1. TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR WRITING JOURNEY.
In the original Clash of the Titans movie, there is a former playwright who says he used to write tragedies until he learned life has enough of those already. Strange as it may sound, I took that to heart in my writing. People can get a year’s supply of suffering, injustice and misery just by turning on the nightly news. They don’t need me to add to that with a tale of misery. I try to make people laugh with my writing, to say there is hope and there can be happy endings. Walking the yellow brick road may not be easy, but there is a reward at the end.
2. WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A WRITER?
To be honest, it was kind of accidental. I attended the College of DuPage, a community college in my area that is close, good and cheap. I had to write papers for every class I took there except math. I later learned this was a program called Writing Across the Curriculum, an attempt to cultivate good writing in all students. The more I wrote the more I liked it, and then I started writing on my own.
From there I joined a writers group at my local library. It was fun and I got a lot of positive feedback and good ideas from them. They enjoyed my writing, and I even had a woman say she normally avoided my genre but liked my work.
Eventually I had a finished book, and then another and another. Friends encouraged me to find a publisher for them. I discounted the idea for a long time because I had heard how hard it was to get a book published. But then one day I decided it would cost me little to try, so I started looking around. I had a number of rejections and came across a few frauds, but one day a friend introduced me to a publisher who might like my work. He took me on, and while that did not work out well in the end I decided to continue trying.
3. WHAT TYPE OF PREPARATION DO YOU DO FOR A MANUSCRIPT? DO YOU PLAN EVERYTHING FIRST OR JUST SHOOT FROM THE HIP?
I come up with the basic plot for my story before writing anything. After that I begin imagining scenes from the book. They are like movie clips in my mind, each one running a few lines to several pages. I continue building scenes like this in my mind until I feel I have enough for the complete story. Then I mentally stitch the scenes together and write them.
Once I start writing I will sometimes come up with additional ideas. Usually these are short, just adding a line here or there. More rarely they are more elaborate are require reworking a portion of the story.
4. WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
I love creating. Building worlds and populating them is entertaining.
5. WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
Marketing, no question. I had considerable training in how to write courtesy of the many English classes I took in high school and college. There are also plenty of help books when it comes to writing, and I can read the best authors to see what worked for them
But I had no training in marketing at school, and I haven’t found any good books on the subject. Marketing also involves being a good deal more outgoing than I normally am. Marketing my book has been much harder than writing it was.
6. WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME A WRITER?
I originally got a degree in biology, which seemed like a good idea at the time. My thinking was that I could get a lab job or work in conservation. I was able to get some seasonal work at the Brookfield Zoo, Morton Arboretum and Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation. But as the economy turned sour the money and job opportunities in conservation dried up, and I discovered that labs wanted experience and training I didn’t have, and scores of people applying for each job. With so many applicants they could afford to be choosy, and they didn’t choose me.
7. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WRITING ACHIEVEMENT?
Getting my book into print is my greatest achievement so far. I honestly never thought it would happen when the publishing industry is so competitive.
8. WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
I am currently marketing the first book, having a friend edit the sequel and I am writing book five in the series.
9. WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
That’s a hard one to answer. Inspiration comes from everywhere. Sources include books, movies, dreams, even the description of a really bad videogame. I see an idea and begin turning it over in my mind, changing it slightly as time goes by until it is unrecognizable from the source material.
10. WHAT GENRE DO YOU WRITE?
My book William Bradshaw, King of the Goblins is a blend of fantasy and comedy, as are the sequels that I have not yet published. I have also submitted a science fiction story to a woman I met on LinkedIn for DreamWorks Publications and a short fantasy piece to a gentleman also from LinkedIn.
11. DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?
Read ten pages for every page you write. Read outside your genre, such a science books, histories, biographies and how to books. These books will provide many ideas for your writing and facts to make your stories more realistic.
Read inside your genre to see what has worked in the past. Do not slavishly copy it, but look for the kind of character development and descriptions you will need to match or beat to be noticed. Avoid overused fields like vampires and zombies, or your book risks being lost in the crowd of similar novels.
12. DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK?
Yes, but there is a cure. I find taking long walks a positive way to fight writer’s block. I take nothing with me except a plastic bag to pick up recyclables, no phone, no music, no company. I go for 40 minutes to an hour around the neighbourhood and let my mind wander. This doesn’t always work, but it generally does and I have come up with some great ideas doing this.
13. DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED WRITING SCHEDULE?
Time of day doesn’t really matter to me when I’m working. I have done good work in the morning and after dark.
14. DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE WRITING PLACE?
Location doesn’t matter when I am working. I originally did most of my writing in a spare bedroom. I now work in the basement. Neither one has advantages or disadvantages for me.
15. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST JOY IN WRITING?
Writing itself is the joy for me. When I am writing I enter a sort of flow. I don’t notice the passage of time and I feel no need to snack or pace. Hours can flow by and I barely notice.
16. WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY?
I’m a big fan of Terry Pratchett and his Disc World series. It is the kind of funny and weird I strive for in my own. My personal favourite of his is Going Postal, where a conman is given the job of restarting a city’s mail service. Pratchett can be a bit elitist at times, with the common people of his stories being fools that need a tyrant, king or witch to rule them, but otherwise it’s fun.
17. WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A READER?
My greatest compliment is when I hear them laugh. That tells me I did my job right.
18. WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT FROM A READER?
I had submitted my novel to a contest run by Create Space and had it judged by two people. The first one couldn’t say enough good things about it. If I ever meet him I’ll buy him a beer. The second one kept harping on how my book should be classified as children’s literature. His poor review got me booted from the contest (insert violent fantasy here).
19. WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU?
I’ve had my share of hard times over the years. It has given me an appreciation for the little guy and what he has to do to survive. Superman and other powerhouse characters bore me because they can smash their way through whatever problem they face. It’s much more interesting to see the little guy outwit and outmanoeuvre his enemies.
20. OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?
I enjoy gardening. Mostly it’s food plants, but I also do some flowers. I also enjoy drawing science fiction and fantasy themes such as robots, monsters and of course my goblins. I’m not good enough to make a living off my artwork, but it’s fun.
21. DID YOU HAVE YOUR BOOK / BOOKS PROFESSIONALLY EDITED BEFORE PUBLICATION?
Well, yes and no. My publisher originally edited my book. He found an enormous number of mistakes that I had missed, a very humbling experience. But it turns out he missed a fair number as well, and a wonderful woman named Sandra Haven (who I also met on LinkedIn) kindly pointed them out to me. The new edition of the book has been corrected, but it would not surprise me if a few more bugs are in there. Honestly, sometimes I wonder if mistakes migrate into books.
22. DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.
I don’t need much to be happy. Good weather and a spaghetti dinner helps, but a perfect day is one you make. Spend time with family and friends, write, draw, garden, take a walk, watch a favourite movie, it’s all good.
23. IF YOU WERE STUCK ON A DESERT ISLAND WITH ONE PERSON, WHO WOULD IT BE? WHY?
I have long been a fan of the puppeteer and filmmaker Jim Henson. He did amazing work with the kind of creativity and good humour I admire. His passing was a tragedy, and I often wonder what he could have done if given more time. I would like a chance to spend time with him and learn from him.
24. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IF YOU HAD THE CHANCE TO SPEAK TO WORLD LEADERS?
Gentlemen, ladies, you are the biggest collection of weasels alive today. You got elected by lying, cheating, stealing, selling out your people to special interests and otherwise acting like sociopaths. You don’t care for your own people, much less those outside your borders. There was a time when men of greatness, vision and wisdom led us. God willing one day we will have such leaders again, and you vultures will be kicked out onto the street corner where you belong.
25. WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
I plan to continue writing. I have a lot of stories left to tell for my main character, and I have worlds left yet to build.
26. WHAT FIVE BOOKS WOULD YOU TAKE TO HEAVEN?
I always assumed Heaven had a well stocked library.
27. DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN ANY OF YOUR CHARACTERS?
Lord no! I have them do things I would never try, and many of them have the IQ of a walnut. A good writer makes characters who aren’t just mirrors of himself. He may use them to explore ideas he has or take positions he is interested in, but at the end of the day they need to be unique, different enough from their creator and one another.
28. DOES THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY FRUSTRATE YOU?
Oooooh yes. The industry is a sort of Catch-22, where you can’t get published without an agent, and agents only want to represent published authors. Publishers look for sure things, following trends rather than developing new ones. Books are given short lifespans where they must succeed or be cast aside, but rarely do they get the support they need from the publishers to reach that success. It has become a ruthless and insane survival of the fittest, or more often the luckiest.
29. DID YOU EVER THINK OF QUITTING?
No. I have put a lot of time and effort into my writing. It is source of joy to me even when all else fails. If I could not be published, that would aggravate me, but it wouldn’t stop me from writing.
30. WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE MANUSCRIPT TO WRITE? WHY?
You know, I don’t have favourites. I like all the books I have written. If I didn’t like one of them I would have never bothered finishing it. That has happened a few times, where I decided the story wasn’t good enough and erased it.
31. HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE ‘SUCCESS’ AS A WRITER.
If I can support myself with the royalties I earn then I am successful. If I can live well and make a positive impact in other people’s lives then I am very successful.
32. WHAT SHOULD READERS WALK AWAY FROM YOUR BOOKS KNOWING? HOW SHOULD THEY FEEL?
I want people to laugh out loud and set my book down feeling happy.
33. HOW MUCH THOUGHT GOES INTO DESIGNING A BOOK COVER?
A lot. The cover sells or ruins a book. We all judge books by their covers, especially for new authors we’re not familiar with. The cover has to tell the reader what he’s getting into. I have even seen bad books, really bad ones, sell because they had good cover art. I fell into that trap more than once. But good covers on bad books will only make so many sales before the word gets out that the artist deserves praise and not the author. Once you have a following the cover becomes a little less important, but you can’t skimp unless you’re one of the best in the business.
34. WHAT’S YOUR ULTIMATE DREAM?
Every writer wants to make it big, Steven King big with millions of copies sold and movies made from your books. I’d like that. I don’t need that kind of money, but I know places where I could spread it around and do some good.
I would also like to know that I had inspired someone with my writing. That when they were at their lowest I made them laugh long enough and loud enough that their world became a better place. I would like one of my readers to say I’d inspired them to write their own book.
35. WRITING IS ONE THING. WHAT ABOUT MARKETING YOU, YOUR BOOKS AND YOUR BRAND? ANY THOUGHTS?
I’ve discussed this. Marketing has been a nightmare for me. My original publisher passed off most of the marketing duties to me, offering no advice except that I should go online. I have talked about my book online at websites like GoodReads and LinkedIn. I have posted the book on more sites like AuthorDen. I distributed postcard sized advertisements about the book along with larger ads in storefronts and bookstores, plus gave away free copies of the book.
36. ARE YOUR BOOKS SELF-PUBLISHED?
It wasn’t to start with. My book was originally published through a small Canadian publisher. All went well for a time, but when sales weren’t good he gave up on me and took on a new author. I looked for a new publisher, but I couldn’t find one who would accept a previously published book. I went to CreateSpace out of desperation, but they said yes so I can’t complain.
37. DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN FIVE WORDS.
Creative. Hard-working. Honest. Trustworthy. Determined.
38. WHAT PISSES YOU OFF MOST?
Hold on…let me get the list.
There are a lot of things that get to me, but mindless destruction is at the top. I am a creator at heart, enjoying drawing, writing and gardening. I love to build and see things grow to reach their highest potential.
When I see people needlessly destroy things it angers me to no end. Vandalism, arson, deforestation, mountaintop leveling, these are crimes that take things of beauty, things that needed year or decades or centuries to reach maturity, and leaves them in ruins. The people who commit these crimes show they have no respect for their world and no respect for the other people living on it. They take and take, always assuming there will be more for them to despoil.
39. WHAT IS THE TITLE OF THE LAST BOOK YOU READ? GOOD ONE?
Fortress America. It’s a history of fortifications in North America since pre-colonial times. It was a good read, and amazing how many of the forts fell to bad weather instead of enemy fire, or were manned and later abandoned without every firing a shot in anger. Some forts were built, lost to rot or storms, rebuilt, lost again, and then rebuilt once more.
40. WHAT WOULD BE THE VERY LAST SENTENCE YOU’D WRITE?
Now it’s your turn.
41. WHAT WOULD MAKE YOU HAPPIER THAN YOU ARE NOW? CARE TO SHARE?
Lots of things would help, like a better job or getting a publisher again, but to be honest I’m pretty happy right now. Little things like a walk on a beautiful day make me happy, or when my tomato plants produce a good crop. You get moments like this all the time if you take time to notice and appreciate the world around you.
42. ANYTHING YOU’D LIKE TO ADD?
My book is available on Amazon at:
Clancy's comment: Many thanks, Arthur. Love ya humour. Also love your attitude towards current world leaders.
Think about this!