Thursday, October 1, 2009

Author Interview with ROBERT WALKER

Rob Walker has published over 40 books--in a variety of genres, including YA historical, mystery, horror, suspense, and police procedurals. He also teaches as an Adjunct Professor at West Virginia State University and owns The Knife Editing Services.


Your writing career goes way back and includes a great number of published books—in a variety of genres. Which genre is your favorite to write, and why?

1979 was my breakthrough…or fizzle, if you will, with a slim volume with the now defunct Tower Books entitled SubZero. It was written as a semi-angry spoof on commercial and genre fiction and mixed all the categories but no one at the publishing house “got the joke” as they just saw it as a mixed genre commercial piece that would fill a quota for the month. I just reissued it as a Kindle eBook with the proviso it is a BAD book and a spoof. However, I began writing in junior high most seriously doing short stories to impress friends, family, and mostly teachers. School was a haven for me and a “safe place” in those days until 1967 when I saw on a high school black board the words Kennedy has been shot. Back to the point, I tried my hand at various categories and learned from the masters in each, and I try still to take my cues from those who have written before me. I started out with Mark Twain, writing YA historical, moved on to mysteries and horror with Dean Koontz and Stephen King leading the way, and from there have done police procedurals, suspense, and what I call HYsteries—mysteries set in time like my current eBook original, Children of Salem, and my three-book Alastair Ransom series begun with City for Ransom. I refuse to be categorized. Wreaks havoc with my agents over the years, my publishers, editors, and my bank account.

You’ve penned a number of different series in addition to single titles. Tell us about the differences between writing a series and a single title.

The greatest thing about doing a series, other than you realize with successive books you HAVE NOT exhausted all the challenges you can make to your main character and her or his bedrock character, is that there are many more curve balls you can throw at a Dr. Jessica Coran. You also know you have a steadier income with a series; that is, if you have a three or four book contract, you have work and income down the road, although a $100,000 advance for four books is quite frankly minimum wage at $25,000 a book a year, and this is doled out in increments of four pay periods over the year, so that it amounts to $25,000 a year. Some can live off that if married to a wealthy spouse.

Standalones, for me, have been far less lucrative and they represent, for me, failed books. Failed because your editor didn’t press you for another book with this ensemble of characters, or failed simply because the numbers were not there and bottom line kills any desire to pursue a second book in that line. I have written book number two in anticipation of the next contract which has not materialized. With eBook publication now available I can publish a book #2 myself--and have! Deja Blue, for example, with Rae Hiyakawa. It is the character that pulls you back to want to do more books. However, some of my earliest sold novels like Aftershock, Brain Watch, and Salem’s Child did not lend themselves to series and were early learning ground and meant as standalones. You might miss a character or an ensemble but you are not so compelled to pursue them as with a series. Dr. Jessica Coran, for instance, DEMANDED from the beginning three books and went to eleven.

You’ve been teaching writing for a long time. How did that come about and why do you do it?

Miss Evelyn Page, my wise high school homeroom teacher and mentor, insisted I DO write but also insisted I find another passion and pursue it for a JOB. She was an actress and singer who taught speech and, in her group, Karl Malden made it while she put food on the table for her aging parents and brother. I dedicated City for Ransom to her. At any rate, she urged me to go into teaching to support the “habit” of the creative spirit within. She was so right. Teaching feeds my creativity and it provided over the years a steady income so that I could still pursue my writing. I also get as much as I give in teaching language, grammar, writing, creative writing, all of it as when you dare to teach any subject matter, you have to learn it inside and out, and each time you teach it, you are relearning it; in a sense teaching is stomping out ignorance, yes, but also your own slippage. I love teaching and it loves me. My weekly Friday blogs at acme authors and on my MySpace are largely “tutorials” on every aspect of writing and the biz.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer?

Overcoming at a young age the depression that comes with the growing, gnawing feeling that you will never break into the business; that the stout wooden door—not a curtain—will always be closed to you, and that your writing will never find an audience. It was a dark, deep depression that I had to overcome and I did it by answering the question: Will you write anyway even if you never see publication? My answer was a resounding yes. I had no choice in the matter, really, but once I confronted this fear and answered that seemingly simple question, I became far more relaxed with the word play, far less horribly serious, and my work began to sell…admittedly by spoofing the industry and no one getting the joke but me, but even that taught me the true definition of “commercial” fiction.

What is the title of your most recently published book? Briefly tell us what it’s about and let us know where we can buy it.

Dead On takes a suicidal former cop turned disgraceful PI and opens with him about to “eat” his gun when his sense of duty is aroused. He is pulled off his suicide attempt, only to again be pulled away from killing himself by a sexy, dirty blonde who asks him out for drinks. Why not? Soon the two are plotting that which will be his redemption and her revenge—the capture, torture, and murder of a fiendish, ghoulish, terrible monster who has harmed them both and has brought them both to this point. They go after a psycho who has the bush skills of a Rambo, and they had better be careful as this maniac has no qualms about killing them first. It takes place in Atlanta and moves out of the city to the darkest woods you can imagine. It is available for Kindle and Iphone and Ipod download as an eBook from Amazon and a hardcover original from award-winning Five Star Books also on Amazon or in a store or library near you. Published July to rave reviews; Tess Gerritsen, Ken Bruen, and JA Konrath all loved it, as well.

What are you working on now and when/where do you expect it to be available?

A sequel to Dead On that is tentatively being called Dead End--but it is a long way from being concluded. In the meantime, I have been placing not one or two but TEN eBooks up at the Kindle Store at Amazon, acting as my own publisher for many out-of-print titles and three never before seen in print original to Kindle titles: Deja Blue, a paranormal suspense, Cuba Blue, a suspense set in Cuba with a female Cuban lead, and Children of Salem, a hystery-mystery-romance in the time of the Salem Witch Trials. I’m scanning, converting, and it takes time and patience but am hoping to place all my out of print titles onto Kindle.

Writers, especially new writers, are always looking for tips and helpful information. What is the single most important “tip” you can give to a new writer?

Do not fear emulation or imitation of the style of other authors but rather try your hand at a page of Evanovich or Dumas or Dickens or Conan Doyle etc. Flex your stylistic muscles with a page of E.B. White or E.L. Doctorow. These finger exercises prepare you for the moment when in your story you need that device that Dean R. Koontz once used in Phantoms or Twain used in Huck Finn. Another tip—everyone must try his or her hand at writing a mystery, be it a child’s story with a missing broach or an adult murder mystery with the body on page one. Why? Because mystery teaches plotting faster and more efficiently than any other category, so if it is science fiction or horror or even romance you are after writing, start it rolling with a What If? premise that involves a mystery be it on another planet or in Cabo San Loveville. A good romance should have an element of mystery and a good mystery an element of romance.

Are you a member of any writer’s organizations? Do you believe membership in writers’ organizations helps advance a writer’s career?

I have been a member in the past of The Horror Writers of America and Mystery Writers of America but I gave up both memberships, like Dean R. Koontz, when I saw the organizations going in directions I objected to, and I felt they were no longer serving my needs. Did the same with the Writers Guild East. In your early years, I would say these organization can be a great help to keep you in the game, to share the slings and arrows of a hard business, etc., but at my age I don’t feel I would be getting my money’s worth.

Your wife is also a writer. Give us the scoop about how what it’s like to live with a writer—when you’re a writer yourself!

Miranda has “mirandized” me so that is out of the way. Actually, we have a great mutual respect for one another and it is what drew me to her to begin with, her admiration for what I have accomplished and what all I still want to accomplish. She is a little younger than I am, so she has some time to get onto her writing career, but like myself, she works another job. Most writers do! She is an ER nurse and has been an RN for some seventeen years. We met in her hospital when I took my mom in for observation and I was observing the red-headed nurse. Miranda managed to write her first novel after we married, and I like to think I had a hand in helping to the extent I fended off her four children so she could have serious writing time as it was a novel she had always wanted to write but hadn’t found the time. No longer having an excuse, she got it done and The Well Meaning Killer, an FBI serial killer chase with Megan McKenna, is a great ride and can be found on and at the Kindle Store as well as an eBook.

Here’s your opportunity to share whatever you’d like.

Never take one editor’s or one teacher’s opinion of your work. As a college freshman, I was told that I would NEVER publish a book. This by my creative writing instructor. I put him in a scene in Killer Instinct, making him a small town, useless pimp. Forty-five books later, I can safely say he was a pimp to begin with. I am a real teacher, a good editor, and a fine speaker at heart, and I love sharing all the hard-won knowledge of the business and the craft of writing. Miranda and I are speaking at the West Virginia Book Festival on Octobert 11th at the Charleston Civic Center, Charleston, WV at 2:30PM on how to get happily published without any “title” or “content” fights and it is a library sponsored program and free to the public. I also operate The Knife Editing Services wherein your book goes through a complete autopsy on my literary slab. I also have ghost written books and helped develop books into the healthiest books they can be. More info on The Knife--aka me, myself, and I--can be found below. I am also teaching as Adjunct Professor at West Virginia State University at present. All this while writing the next novel and most likely editing someone else’s as well as grading English 101 and 102 comp papers! Meanwhile, I have never seen a book with Professor Pimp’s name on the cover. Moral of the story – well, you figure it out.

What are the addresses of your website(s) and blog(s):
Find us on Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, and Crimespree

1 comment:

  1. Hi Linda,

    Please stop by my blog when you have a chance. Today (Thursday), I've passed on another award to worthy bloggers, and you are on the list.