'Life's a Bitch. So am I. Rachel Cord,' P.I., discusses his book, his journey as a writer, and self-publishing on Kindle.
DAVID WISEHART: What can you tell us about 'Life's a Bitch. So am I. Rachel Cord,' P.I.?
R.E. CONARY: 'Life's a Bitch. So am I.' Rachel Cord, P.I. is a private detective story. Hard-boiled PI Rachel Cord searches for a runaway teen and for answers as to why gay performers are being beaten at Miss Kitty's Kathouse Kabaret. Answers she may live to regret.
Anyone seeking more than that should keep in mind Mark Twain's preface to Huckleberry Finn: "Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot."
DAVID WISEHART: How do you develop and differentiate your characters?
R.E. CONARY: Many ways. Characters can start with a name, a bit of dialog, a description, a situation, an attitude.
Rachel Cord developed from attitude. I wanted a modern-day Cyrano de Bergerac (bold and gutsy with panache and humanly flawed) to walk today's versions of Raymond Chandler's mean streets. Cyrano's nose became Rachel's bosom (Barbra Streisand already had the nose concession): Rachel—"My curse preceded me into the squad room." Cyrano—"This nose that precedes me by a quarter-of-an-hour." Rachel's opening line sets the tone for the whole book.
Her attitude and toughness come from the women I grew up with: the wonderful actresses of the '30s, '40s and '50s I avidly watched on afternoon TV (that's why all the references to Hepburn and Dietrich, but also a lot of Roz Russell and Jean Arthur) and from my mother who liked her humor served dry with a wry twist, read a book-a-day, and in the '50s worked in a man's profession (precision tool cutting).
Other characters develop in similar fashion as they come on stage and are differentiated by name, description, job and the way they speak and act (i.e. attitude). Names are very important; they tell a lot about a person and help readers keep track of who's who. When writing a first draft it's easy to create characters with similar names or having the same initial(s). This can be confusing, so my first rewrites often include finding new names for characters—preferably ones that fit their personalities.
DAVID WISEHART: Who do you imagine is your ideal reader?
R.E. CONARY: Me. I write what I would like to read. I'm a compulsive reader of eclectic tastes: fiction, nonfiction, news, even package labels. I read every day. Fictionwise, I prefer mysteries, fantasy and science fiction. I know that there are tens—hundreds—of millions of others out there just like me. The audience potential is awesome.
DAVID WISEHART: What was your journey as a writer?
R.E. CONARY: Years of military journalism taught me writing and editing skills and meeting deadlines. Years of rejections sending stories to editors and agents taught me perseverance.
DAVID WISEHART: What is your writing process?
R.E. CONARY: I'm a seat-of-the-pants writer: no planning or outlines, no maps or asking for directions; just go and see where it takes me. That's probably why I have more book starts and fewer finishes. I get lost. However, this method treats me like a reader—and I am first and foremost a reader—and I get those "OMG, I didn't know that" moments just like when reading someone else's book.
I try to write every day, usually in the early morning before the rest of the day intrudes. Some days that's harder to do than others.
DAVID WISEHART: What authors most inspire you?
R.E. CONARY: Too many to count, but stylistically I think John D. MacDonald, J. A. Jance, and Lawrence Block with liberal dashes from Twain, Aristophanes, Thurber, and Shakespeare.
DAVID WISEHART: What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you'd written yourself?
R.E. CONARY: Glory Road by Robert Heinlein. It's not the best book written—not even Heinlein's best—but it's a fun read. What more should any author ask?
DAVID WISEHART: How did you create your cover?
R.E. CONARY: Used online templates and stock photos through my paperback publisher; kept the same cover for the ebook.
DAVID WISEHART: How have you marketed and promoted your work?
R.E. CONARY: Primarily through Amazon discussion forums, my website (http://www.rachelcord.net/), a YouTube video, and Kindleboards. There are other online opportunities, such as blogs, facebook, twitter and other chat groups, that I haven't really taken advantage of but should. Marketing is hard work and takes time and effort that I'd rather be using writing another book.
DAVID WISEHART: Why publish on Kindle?
R.E. CONARY: Ebooks are the fastest growing segment of book publishing, and right now Kindle is the 800-pound gorilla for ebook sales; Amazon offers a good author royalty split and publishing a Kindle version is free.
Robert Heinlein said that you must write and finish what you write, and that you must put it on the market and keep it there until it sells. To him "market" meant editors and publishers. Kindle, Smashwords and other ebook providers let you sell directly to the toughest market of all: readers.
DAVID WISEHART: What advice would you give to a first-time author thinking of self-publishing on Kindle?
R.E. CONARY: Write the story "you" want to tell, not what others think is popular. There's an audience for every story.
Be pragmatic. Publishing is a business. Build a readership; don't overprice your work for more than readers are willing to risk on an unknown author.
Read Are You Still Submitting Your Work to a Traditional Publisher? by Edward C. Patterson (available at Smashwords.com and Amazon). It's full of useful, first-hand advice.
President Coolidge once said, "Nothing in the world can take the place of perseverance. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent."
DAVID WISEHART: Thanks, and best of luck with your books.
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