Support Our Troops, discusses her book, her journey as a writer, and self-publishing on Kindle.
DAVID WISEHART: What can you tell us about Support Our Troops?
ROBYN BRADLEY: This short story evolved from a news segment I watched on soldiers who were returning from Iraq with missing limbs. It got me thinking about their lives, and how those lives would change, and then it kind of went from there. Jamie is a quadruple amputee, and Koty is an abused housewife and mother of four who has been "volunteered" by her husband to sit with Jamie every afternoon.
DAVID WISEHART: How do you develop and differentiate your characters?
ROBYN BRADLEY: I write A LOT in my head before I start physically drafting. I can't start writing until I have a good feel (or I think I have a good feel) of the main character anyway. Granted, once I'm drafting, those characters will still evolve, but I do need to have a good sense of them before I put finger to keyboard. I "borrow" a lot from real life. I think most writers are observers and lurkers at heart, so all those little things you pick up on/about people become character traits.
DAVID WISEHART: Who do you imagine is your ideal reader?
ROBYN BRADLEY: I'm in NO way comparing myself to these writers, but it's my hope that people who enjoy Jodi Picoult, Chris Bohjalian, Jennifer Weiner, and Elizabeth Berg could find something they like in my writing.
DAVID WISEHART: What was your journey as a writer?
ROBYN BRADLEY: I've wanted to be a writer ever since I was nine years old and I wrote a short story for Mrs. Shea's fourth grade class, a short story that I loved writing and sharing with my classmates. Storytelling is as old as time, but that was my first experience—that I can remember—as a true storyteller. I was hooked after that.
DAVID WISEHART: What is your writing process?
ROBYN BRADLEY: I'm a firm believer in the whole butt-in-chair philosophy. I try to write every day (even if it's mostly in my head) and even if I don't feel like it. I'll admit some days I'm better about getting my words in than other days. From there, the process is simple: write, revise, revise, revise.
DAVID WISEHART: What authors most inspire you?
ROBYN BRADLEY: Here's a short—but by no means complete—list: Lionel Shriver, Jodi Picoult, Chris Bohjalian, Susan Orlean, Anne Lamott, David Sedaris, Jo Ann Beard, Cormac McCarthy, Jack London, Alice Munro (there are too many to name, really).
DAVID WISEHART: What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you'd written yourself?
ROBYN BRADLEY: That's a really tough question! Can I do it by genre? For YA, I'd say Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume. For a short story, I'd say "In the Gloaming" by Alice Elliott Dark or "To Build a Fire" by Jack London. For personal essays, I'd say "The Fourth State of Matter" by Jo Ann Beard. For contemporary fiction, I'd say We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver.
DAVID WISEHART: How did you create your cover?
ROBYN BRADLEY: I work with a design company based in Arizona called 1106 Design. They do a great job with covers and welcome input from the writer, which I think is important.
DAVID WISEHART: Why write and publish short stories, as opposed to novels?
ROBYN BRADLEY: "Support Our Troops" was originally published by an online journal called Fiction Weekly in June of 2009. But here's the thing with short stories: once they're published, then what? I'd won a short story award back in 2007 for another short, and that story was read by 100 people tops. I still held the rights to these works and wanted a wider audience for them. Thanks to e-readers and the turnkey publishing platforms like the one at Amazon, I can reach this wider audience. I price them at 99 cents and figure they're a good way (low cost, low time investment) for people to try out a new writer. If they like my writing, my hope is they'll stick around, fan my Facebook page, and buy more of my shorts and novels (I write both).
DAVID WISEHART: How do you think digital publishing will change the short fiction market?
ROBYN BRADLEY: I think e-readers will transform the Art of the American Short Story. Fewer and fewer print publications issue short fiction. When was the last time you could read one short story, without buying a whole anthology or a whole magazine? With e-readers, you can buy one and only one short story.
And then there's the form itself. Short stories are immensely satisfying. You can read them in one sitting, which is perfect on so many different levels. You can experience so much in such compact space, and all the while marvel at how the author accomplished this enormous feat. They’re great learning tools—for kids, for adults, for students, for everyone, really. I think the right short story can actually help reluctant readers discover the joy of reading. A reluctant reader is liable to take one look at the size of a novel like Great Expectations and his or her stomach will turn. But a 10-page short story? Okay, the person might say. I can give that a try.
DAVID WISEHART: How have you marketed and promoted your work?
ROBYN BRADLEY: I do marketing in my day job as a freelance marketing copywriter, so all the things I preach to clients, I put into practice myself: I have an active Facebook community (Facebook advertising is extremely effective). I have a website and blog. I tweet. I follow the Kindle and Nook boards. I do online advertising in places that have a high e-reader readership (like here). I have an Amazon Central Author page and an author page on Goodreads, and I've created video ebook trailers for all my shorts, which I use on Facebook, blogs, all of my author pages, my website, and my YouTube Channel.
DAVID WISEHART: Why publish on Kindle?
ROBYN BRADLEY: It's the gold standard of e-readers, and this is coming from someone who has and loves her Nook. Amazon sold over eight million of them last year, right? It's the place to be, and Amazon makes it so easy to publish to the Kindle Store.
DAVID WISEHART: What advice would you give to a first-time author thinking of self-publishing on Kindle?
ROBYN BRADLEY: Simply loading your book to the Kindle Store is not enough. You need to promote it like any other book. At the very least, you need an author page on Amazon, a Facebook page (make it public, not a personal page), a Twitter account, and a website/blog. Ask friends and family to write reviews on Amazon for your book. Talk it up (don't be obnoxious, of course, but don't be shy about it either). Finally, get creative with your marketing. The rules—if there even are any—are changing constantly…and being broken constantly. Think smart, but try different approaches.
DAVID WISEHART: Thanks, and best of luck with your books.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
To learn more, visit www.RobynBradley.com.
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