Patches of Grey, discusses his book, his journey as a writer, and self-publishing on Kindle.
DAVID WISEHART: What can you tell us about Patches of Grey?
ROY PICKERING, JR.: Patches of Grey is my first novel. Prior to its debut I had a collection of short stories published under the title Enigmas of Desire, and my novella Feeding the Squirrels is published by SynergEbooks. Both were put out as ebooks. The publisher of my story collection went defunct before devices such as the Kindle, Nook, Kobo, etc. came into being. My novella fortunately is still around and available on Kindle at Amazon as well as in a variety of other electronic formats. Patches of Grey can be purchased on ink and paper along with electronic versions, including the Kindle edition. The narrative perspective of my novel alternates among members of the Johnson family, residents of a Bronx tenement in the days predating the idea of an African American President of the United States as a seemingly realistic notion, throughout the course of a tumultuous year. Primary focus falls on the eldest son, Tony, whose collegiate aspirations and involvement in an interracial relationship put him at odds with his father. Tony asserts independence rather than allowing his fate to be set by chance and circumstance, but eventually comes to learn that the world is not as black and white as he and his father's opposing mindsets would suggest.
DAVID WISEHART: How do you develop and differentiate your characters?
ROY PICKERING, JR.: I spend a great deal of time marinating a novel in my mind before I start writing it, crafting the main story arches and most substantial subplots. When I eventually get around to writing a general outline as well as individual chapter ones, the primary characters are quite fleshed out. By the time I start writing a book the characters who will populate it are old friends. I know their individual personalities and motives and traits that will drive the story along. Like most writers I borrow bits and pieces from people I encounter and bestow them on my fictional characters, particularly when it comes to mannerisms and cosmetic touches. And there’s a little bit of me in most of them as well.
DAVID WISEHART: Who do you imagine is your ideal reader?
ROY PICKERING, JR.: Fans of family sagas will be intrigued by Patches of Grey, as will those seeking stories that focus on African American lives or those who enjoy ethnic fiction in general. Readers interested in the examination of race relations will find my novel of interest. So will those who are drawn to young adult themes, although the tone and language is too gritty for it to qualify for that genre. But I did not have a particular type of reader in mind for my book. Writing for a target audience isn’t something I really do. Just as I read many different kinds of books, I visualized my own having many different types of readers. I do realize that many people confine themselves to just one or two genres. If your thing is exclusively science fiction or horror or paranormal romance, my synopsis of Patches of Grey probably won’t persuade you to add it to your booklist. But if you enjoy literary fiction because you’re open to reading about people who feel true to life; if you’re interested in the experiences that shape us, the tragedies we survive, the triumphs we aspire to; then I believe you’ll find my novel to be well worth the investment of your time.
DAVID WISEHART: What was your journey as a writer?
ROY PICKERING, JR.: If I wasn’t born with writing in my blood then I was certainly infected at a pretty early age. I became a library addict immediately upon mastering the art of reading. The first full length novels I read were those of Jules Verne. Their effect was nothing short of magical and I decided that one day I too would put words down on paper and draw people into worlds of my imagining. Once I committed my first story to paper the process proved addictive and I haven’t stopped since, merely branched out to different kinds of prose. My name is now attached to two novels (my second has just been completed, in the process of polishing before submitting) and a novella and a considerable number of short stories, editorial pieces and sports articles. I’ve dabbled in poetry and song writing as well. In my short stories I’ve employed various narrative techniques. Sometimes I write with objective to sound as unlike previous examples of my work as possible. To me writing is an experiment of perpetual manipulation, a craft I’m always trying to perfect even though perfection is unattainable.
DAVID WISEHART: What is your writing process?
ROY PICKERING, JR.: What, you mean some writers actually have a process rather than just winging it? One of my goals is to become considerably more disciplined, achieving a pre-determined minimum word count daily. This is easier said than done with a non-writing related full time job and a young daughter demanding much of my time and focus and energy. I still somehow manage to be rather prolific, but do so without sticking to a set schedule. A more regulated approach would increase my output, but sometimes I suspect it may stifle my creativity and that I’m best served by a more spontaneous method of operation. This doesn’t mean I believe in sitting around waiting for inspiration to strike. I learned a long time ago that writing is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. The perspiration portion is divided between research, writing, and promotion. What I need to do before writing and after having written are the necessary evils. Well, perhaps “evil” is a tad harsh. Google has made the research part a lot easier and little by little I’m getting the handle of marketing.
DAVID WISEHART: What authors most inspire you?
ROY PICKERING, JR.: I’m enamored by character driven fiction, although I do like plots to be somewhat eventful and not strictly introspective. John Irving, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Tim Robbins, John Updike, Tim Sandlin, Philip Roth, Walter Mosley, Stephen King, Toni Morrison and Ernest Hemingway are among the authors I come back to time and time again. New favorites are regularly added to my line up. When I’m not writing, chances are pretty high that I’m reading.
DAVID WISEHART: What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you'd written yourself?
ROY PICKERING, JR.: Love in the Time of Cholera.
DAVID WISEHART: How have you marketed and promoted your work?
ROY PICKERING, JR.: By the standards of many scribes out there, particularly self-published authors whose hustle I have come to greatly admire over the past few years, I haven’t done a tremendous amount of work in this regard. This isn’t to say that I’ve sat on my hands waiting and hoping for readers to find me. I maintain a web site [http://www.roypickering.net] that houses a fair number of my short stories and I blog regularly at http://lineaday.blogspot.com. I’m active at GoodReads [http://www.goodreads.com/mplwdscribe] and on Twitter where I go by the handle AuthorOfPatches. I also keep readers updated on author events I participate in at Facebook.
DAVID WISEHART: Why publish on Kindle?
ROY PICKERING, JR.: I do not believe electronic readers will vanquish the written word as we’ve come to know and enjoy it, but certainly they have captured a significant piece of the market, one that still has much growth ahead of it. I do not own a device yet myself. A high percentage of the initial wave of purchasers is probably people who love electronic gadgets in general and always flock to the newest cell phone, MP3 player, portable computer, etc. I on the other hand rarely own the latest model of whatever eToy is hottest at the moment. For now I continue to obtain hardcover and paper bound books for my novel reading pleasure. However, these days I’m more likely to buy books online than walking into a store, as brick and mortar booksellers grow fewer and farther in between. Amazon is by far my most frequent shopping destination on the Internet, so when the time comes to obtain an electronic reader the Kindle is certainly the lead contender. Amazon was the first seller of the print edition of my novel and natural choice for first seller of an electronic edition several months later. I may not yet be loading titles on to a Kindle of my own, but I’m aware that many people are doing so and as result they're buying more books than ever before. So it was a pretty easy decision to make my novel a purchasing option for Kindle owners.
DAVID WISEHART: What advice would you give to a first-time author thinking of self-publishing on Kindle?
ROY PICKERING, JR.: You did not make the final step in the process to proclaim yourself an author by typing a period at the end of the last sentence of your book. You did not take the final step by making it available for download to a Kindle at Amazon. You’ve done a great deal and should give yourself a congratulatory clap on the back, but there’s much more work ahead if you wish for a significant number of readers to find your book.
DAVID WISEHART: Thanks, and best of luck with your books.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Patches of Grey was published in January of 2009 [M.U.D. House Books] and has been lauded with stellar reviews. Roy's well received novella Feeding the Squirrels can be purchased in a variety of electronic formats from SynergEbooks. While promoting these books he is hard at work on a second novel as well as a series of children’s books inspired by his daughter and being illustrated by his wife. Short stories by Roy have appeared in numerous anthologies to date, including Proverbs for the People (Kensington Books), Role Call (Third World Press), The Game: Short Stories About the Life (Triple Crown Publications), Prose to be Read Aloud: Volume One, Ménage à 20: Tales with a hook, and Forever Travels.
Visit his website, read his blog, find him on facebook, and follow him on twitter.
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