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Kindle Author Interview: Dennis Collins

Dennis Collins, author of The Unreal McCoy, discusses his book, his journey as a writer, and self-publishing on Kindle.

DAVID WISEHART: What can you tell us about The Unreal McCoy?

DENNIS COLLINS: I wanted to develop an anti-Mike Hammer kind of a private eye. Michael O’Conner is sort of a babe-in-the-woods rookie if you know what I mean. His very first attempt at surveillance backfires and he winds up in the hospital after a near fatal beating.  I knew that he’d need someone to show him the way so I introduced Sergeant Albert McCoy of the Detroit Police Department to be his mentor.

DAVID WISEHART: How do you develop and differentiate your characters?

DENNIS COLLINS: As I stated earlier, O’Conner is a beginner and McCoy a seasoned veteran. They’re as different as night and day in experience but become good friends as the story moves along. McCoy can be impulsive at times so I created Sergeant Otis Springfield, a methodical thinker to balance out the trio. It’s a good blend.

DAVID WISEHART: Who do you imagine is your ideal reader?

DENNIS COLLINS: My intention has always been to write a story that was appropriate for all audiences. I don’t use any extreme language, don’t include gratuitous sex, and limit the graphic violence to only what’s necessary. I say that my books are suitable for young adults and above. It seems obvious that the wider the range of readers, the greater the sales numbers.

DAVID WISEHART: What was your journey as a writer?

DENNIS COLLINS: My fourth grade nun, Sister Phyllis threatened to send me home for writing a “violent” (it was a cowboy and Indian story) tale. But her reaction told me that she read it, understood it, and had an emotional response to it. I was a success! And then back in the mid '80s I complained that our boat club newsletter was boring so the editor challenged me to submit an article. I sent in a profile story about a colorful race boat driver and my article somehow landed on the desk of the president of the American Powerboat Association. A few months later when my copy of Propeller magazine arrived, there was my article featured inside. It was a total surprise to me.  Now I was published. At that point I thought, “I’d better write a book.”

DAVID WISEHART: What is your writing process?

DENNIS COLLINS: My style is sometimes referred to as Stream of Consciousness. I'm not an outliner. I kind of start at the beginning and keep moving until I get to the end. My books often start with a microscopic germ of an idea and the plot seems to work its way out in the open as I move along. For example, The Unreal McCoy was inspired by an obituary that I simply stumbled across in a newspaper. I didn’t originally intend to write a book about it but then one day the title popped into my head. I knew that I had to find a use for that title. The idea for Turn Left at September came to me when I was driving through Detroit and came across an old building, possibly a place that had been a bar or maybe a drugstore in days gone by but now it was the only building still standing in that entire block. It looked both lonely and sinister. I felt that it held a story that needed to be told.

DAVID WISEHART: What authors most inspire you?

DENNIS COLLINS: Ernest Hemingway, Herman Wouk, Frank Yerby, Franklin W. Dixon, Frank G. Slaughter, Harold Lamb, Mickey Spillane, Ian Fleming

DAVID WISEHART: What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you'd written yourself?

DENNIS COLLINS: The Godfather because the author was able to take a cold blooded murderer and turn him into a hero in the eyes of the readers.  A classic example of total author control.

DAVID WISEHART: How have you marketed and promoted your work?

DENNIS COLLINS: I’m learning more about promotion every day. I’m sure that I have a long way to go. I’ve seen just how effective networking can be though. My daughter owns a hair salon and one of her customers was the editor of a good size newspaper. He agreed to meet me and after a cordial lunch he said he’d look at one of my books and see if his newspaper would consider reviewing it. He not only gave Turn Left at September a starred review, he did a half page feature on the author. Through that article I was invited to speak at a YWCA luncheon. My one hour presentation was videotaped by the local PBS station and aired fifteen times. That lead to an invitation to participate in an Author Day event at the main branch of the city library. The woman who I sat next to at the author day invited me to speak at an event for a writer’s group. One of the attendees was a member of the mid-Michigan center for the arts and liked my presentation enough to invite me to give the keynote address at their annual banquet. Another newspaper interview grew from that presentation which resulted in my being offered the opportunity to present a seminar on getting published at a local university. There were more speaking engagements spawned from that but you get the idea. And it all started with a haircut. Don't ever ignore any promotional opportunity.

DAVID WISEHART: Why publish on Kindle?

DENNIS COLLINS: One thing that all authors want is control of their work. After all, it was your inspiration, your perspiration, your lack of sleep, your tolerance for one rejection after another that got you to this point. Who wants to hand the keys to a perfect stranger who has not shed a single tear over the hundreds of rewrites that you’ve endured. Designing a cover and coming up with a book description are the fun parts. Now you convert it to the Kindle format and you’ve just become a publisher. You set the price, you make the decisions, and you reap the rewards. Seems to me that, since you did all the work, that’s the way it should be. I have two titles on Kindle, The Unreal McCoy and Turn Left at September.

DAVID WISEHART: What advice would you give to a first-time author thinking of self-publishing on Kindle?

DENNIS COLLINS: Writer’s groups are a valuable resource that will stay with you throughout your writing career. A good group will scrutinize and evaluate your work. They can really help you stay on the right track.

Don’t be afraid. The first thing that you need is a good product. Make absolutely sure that it’s an error free manuscript. Don’t try to edit it yourself. If you’re a first time author you might want to consider a professional copy editor. If you’ve been around a while you can probably get away with just a proofreader.

Once you’re confident that your manuscript will pass the smell test, move ahead. Not all books are going to be best sellers but modest success may be enough to encourage future projects. Persistence is the biggest ingredient in an author’s success formula.

DAVID WISEHART: Thanks, and best of luck with your books.




ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dennis Collins writes, "My writing history began with a feature article in a boating magazine in the mid 1980’s. My first novel The Unreal McCoy was self published and surprisingly successful. I was able to follow up with Turn Left at September published by Behler Publications, a small mainstream publisher in California. Both titles continue to sell in Kindle version. My Short story, Calvin was a finalist in a contest sponsored by Futures Magazine.  I am a co-founder of the Huron Area Writer’s Group in Huron County.  I write book reviews and a bi-monthly column for www.myshelf.com.  My website is: www.theunrealmccoy.com and my blog: http://theunrealmccoy.blogspot.com."

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