Science fiction and mystery author Steven M. Moore consented to an interview with us. The first installment appeared as the previous post. In this Part II, Steve talks about his approach to writing, self-publishing and other related topics. Give him a read.
How structured are you in your approach to your writing?
If structured = organized, I’m not very structured. Remember, I don’t outline. If structured = mindful of the flow, I guess I am. The story’s the thing, but that takes in a lot, not just plot. It has to flow, at least for genre fiction, or I’m not going to read it, and if I write something that doesn’t flow, I can’t expect a reader to read it either. What that means to different readers is, of course, very subjective. I know what it means to me as a reader, though.
Do you have anything in mind for your next book?
Define “next.” I just finished the Muddlin’ Through sequel—it’s going into the editing process now. Mary Jo has a stalker in this one (another social issue we don’t like to talk about), among other people—the tentative title is Silicon Slummin’…and Just Getting’ By. The first chapters of a new Chen and Castilblanco book, tentative title Family Affairs, can be found at the end of The Collector. I’m still working on a new science fiction novel too. I like to keep a variety of projects going. Keeps the mind sharp.
You have been making your way as an author into print by self-publishing. What are your views with regard to the burgeoning self-publishing industry? What do you see as the future for the industry?
First, I’d say ebooks, whether traditionally or self-published, are going to win out eventually. I expect them to become more multimedia too, as authors (entrepreneurs?) experiment with different entertainment options. I’ve gone completely over to ebooks because I can no longer afford to produce pbooks (aka trade paperbacks) and feel that they kill too many forests.
The indie revolution might taper off if big publishers ever get their act together. Their heel-dragging with pbooks maintains the legacy paradigm of agents (aka gatekeepers), editors, and so forth, the whole process having the nefarious effect of implicitly censoring what people can read. Moreover, unless you’re a NY Times bestselling author (whatever that means), it’s impossible to make a living with the royalty structure trad pubbers(traditional publishers)* offer. That doesn’t bode well for the future of traditional publishers—their warhorses will die off and they’ll have no new authors to offer to the reading public.
The indie option is the democratization of the publishing industry. Unfortunately, that means that there’s a lot of competition—many good writers with good books—so it will be harder to make ends meet as a writer. As an avid reader, I’m worried about that. I’d say that approximately 50% of the books I read are written by authors new to me.
What advice do you have for a first time author?
Writing can be a slog—it takes motivation and effort and is more a marathon than a dash (forget about NaNoWriMo). If it’s not fun, do something else. And, if “first time” means first book, write the next book…and the next…because it’s fun. You’ll probably not make much money from it. It’s like the lottery. Your chances of winning are slim, but you can’t win if you don’t play. So, don’t give up your day job.
What steps do you take to promote and market you own books?
All I can afford, but that’s not much. I do social media, have an active blog, write many books, review others’ books, and do interviews. I usually launch a PR and marketing campaign when I release a new book. It’s difficult to put more into it, either time or money. Young authors shouldn’t kid themselves, though. Going the trad-pubbed route won’t make any difference. Those full-page Times ads and video ads on TV are only for the Big Five warhorses—that stable is getting thinned every year as the warhorses egress to the glue factory.
Do you feel compelled to write or is it a casual pastime? A hobby?
I call it a business, and I’m a full-time writer…because I have a lot of fun writing and enjoy the thought that I can entertain some readers. Nothing casual about it. But yes, I do this instead of playing golf. I can’t play golf anyway—bad back and fair skin from white, European ancestors. Moreover, I like spinning yarns that will entertain readers. There’s something very satisfying about telling a good story. My father was compelled to paint; I’m compelled to write. It’s a healthy addiction—and probably costs me less than golf!
Do you feel you have yet to write your greatest book? If so, what will it be like?
I guess greatness is in the mind of the beholder. I have no pretensions. I just want to write entertaining fiction. Unlike Clancy, whose best was his first, Hunt for Red October, I think I’m getting better, but my muses are getting worse about the pressure thing. I suppose Clancy had that problem too, though.
Greatness? That’s for someone else to determine, isn’t it? Salieri was more famous than Mozart during the composers’ lives; we’d hardly know Salieri today if it weren’t for the play Amadeus. My motto coincides with the Lee Child quote that appears in the banner to my website. That’s the only thing that makes sense.
Please add any additional comments you feel would help readers know you better.
I don’t want to paint too bleak a picture here. There’s a lot of competition in the writing business now, whatever one writes. But if you have fun writing, keep writing. That’s my motivation. When it stops being fun, I’ll stop. I happen to believe that indie publishing is the most fun because you’re most in control and not subject to the whims of desk bureaucrats who can’t write and know it, but I respect those who choose the traditional route—even admire their guts and patience. You should do what works for you. science fiction
One pet peeve—and I’ve seen this many times—occurs when people become hooked on the idea that a brand new MFA or journalism degree means they can write novels. To write good genre fiction, you have to have something to write about. There’s no age requirement for getting experience, of course, but you have to have some life experiences—events, people, settings, and interactions—that can serve as background to your stories. Get those experiences, and continue getting them as you develop your writing career. They will allow you to tell a good story more than any degree will. Imagination is also a requirement, but life experiences can add to that imagination. science fiction
I also never set out to write a novel. A tale might end up as a short story, novella, or novel. I have at least one novel that started out as a short story (The Golden Years of Virginia Morgan) and several short stories and novellas that didn’t quite make novel status (many are in my two anthologies). This could be construed as part of more general advice—one shouldn’t be constrained by convention. Ignore what’s fad and conventional, and don’t write for a specific market. Today’s markets are too often tomorrow’s dinosaurs. It’s OK to think about what readers like you want to read, but jumping on band wagons isn’t a route to writing success. I could be wrong, of course.
* Parenthesis mine
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