Interview with 1001 Secrets of Successful Writers

I got my first chance at an interview yesterday (for writing, anyway) and I’m so proud! For a gander at the actual interview, on site, visit:
I’ve also copied the interview and pasted it below. 🙂

Heather Killough-Walden April 1, 2011
Interview with Darrell Pitt, “1001 Secrets of Successful Writers”

What made you want to become a writer in the first place?

I suppose the writing, itself, is what made me become a writer. I learned to read at what is considered a very young age, and the ability to write came clinging to its coat tails. I’ve never been good at spoken communication; I get nervous, fumble over my speech, and suffer from horrible foot-in-mouth disease. As a result, I realized early on that if I wanted to communicate effectively, I would need time to think before I spoke. What gives you more time to think about what you’re going to say than writing it down? By the time you’ve put your thoughts into words, they’re more or less edited. It’s the safer bet.

So, I guess that at first, writing was a survival trait for me in that it allowed me to express myself. Later, it became a survival trait for a different reason. I didn’t have the easiest upbringing. My family had its fair share of problems (and still does). When things get bad enough, you need to leave. As a child, your only options are to run away from home – or to find another way to escape. Existentially, so to speak.

I used my writing as a bridge between this world and one that wasn’t quite so painful. This other world was of my design. I drew its landscape, colored its people, gave it depth and dimension. It was filled with beings who were larger than life and indomitable because that was what I wanted to be. They could defend themselves, stick up for others, and even defy gravity to literally leave their troubles on the ground.

I almost flunked out of high school because of this other world. LOL Instead of paying attention in pre-calculus, I sat scrunched in my desk and furiously scribbled stories about vampire and werewolf gangs clashing on a deserted, bon-fire lit beach. I suppose that in the end, those stories did have more to do with my career choice than did exponential functions and logarithms.

What’s a typical day of writing like for you?

I wake up to writing and I fall asleep to writing. There is a quote by Eugene Ionesco that I keep on the front page of my website: A writer never has a vacation. For a writer, life consists of either writing or thinking about writing. That couldn’t be more true. The moment I wake up, I use mouthwash. Then, while my daughter is still asleep and before hitting breakfast or even a cup of coffee, I am at my computer, responding to personal feedback from readers. I love that feedback. It keeps me going. For me, it’s a better start to the morning than Belgian waffles with strawberries and loads of whipped cream.

My daughter normally wakes up somewhere in the middle of this and I rush to fix her breakfast, give her a bath, get her dressed, and prepare her for a tutor (she’s home schooled). When the tutor arrives, I get back to work on any one of the seven novels I am currently writing and on the administrative work that comes with keeping up some kind of presence in the literary world. I hit the Facebook messages, blogs, sales copy, cover copy, synopses, edits, more edits, and so forth with all I’ve got.

Somewhere in there, I manage to do the laundry, vacuum, take out the trash, clean the bathrooms, and make phone calls for doctor’s appointments, hair appointments, and dental appointments. All the while, however, I’m noticing people and places and music and movement and cataloguing everything around me for use in my books. Sometimes I’m doing the cataloguing in a literal sense – writing notes in a small leather-bound notebook I carry with me everywhere I go. Several hours later, tutors leave and it’s my turn with my daughter again until my husband comes home.

Once he does, it’s a quick kiss, a very fast catch-up conversation, and I’m back to work. I normally write long into the night hours. Family is important (obviously), so I try my best to make time for them every night. We sit together for an hour and read from the Kindle; Terry Pratchett, Wendy Mass, Frances Hardinge and the Monk series by Lee Goldberg are some of our favorites. But I’ll be honest with you…a lot of the time, as we’re reading, my thoughts are drifting to my own stories. I have always (and most likely always will) existed half in this world and half in that other. It is both an escape and an inescapable prison, perhaps gold gilded, but a prison nonetheless, And, as soon as both my husband and my child are back in bed, I’m once more seated before the computer, my fingers flying across the keyboard. If not there, then I’m tucked into the couch with throws all around me like a nest, a leather journal in my lap, the quiet night air filled with the sound of my pen scratching and the next door neighbor’s dog barking at god only knows what.

At some point, I fall asleep. But even in my dreams, I’m writing. Almost the entirety of The Game came to me in a dream, as did the lead characters in The Patrick Sinclaire Story, The Third Kiss, and Sam I Am, along with the plot for Hell Bent.

And then, four or five hours later, I wake up and do it all again.

You have a number of series for sale as well as a number of stand alone novels. Would you recommend a new writer start trying to produce a series?

I recommend that a new writer write what he or she knows and what he or she is comfortable writing. If that’s a stand-alone novel, then fantastic. If it’s the first novel in a series, then also fantastic – but be prepared. If the book sells well, it means you actually have to write the next books in the series. There’s no going back. LOL

Writers have to stick with what they know and what they are passionate about. Whether this turns out to be a paranormal romance series or a single thriller, if it is filled with passion and knowledge, it will be wonderful and people will read it.

What marketing tools do you use to promote yourself e.g. magazine advertising, Facebook, direct email?

At first, I honestly didn’t use anything but the books and their sales blurbs on Amazon to promote sales. Once the books began to sell of their own accord, I developed a fan base and created a monthly newsletter. Readers can sign up for that newsletter and be notified about upcoming releases, whether in epub or print publication format.

I also have a Facebook page, but it isn’t the strict “fan” page that most writers have; it’s just my page. I friend readers and love to communicate with them there. I’m not sure whether much marketing gets done on that page, as a result, but it is a nice place to post updates and notices. I have a website as well. Some small amount of marketing does go on there.

As far as print publications are concerned, I’m sure the publishers/editors I’m contracting with have their own plan for marketing.

Most of your books are selling for the grand total of $1. What’s your reasoning behind this strategy?

This is going to sound a little cheesy, but the truth of the matter is, I just want people to read my work. For a while, I was giving stories away for free by posting them on a site that recently closed down (the owners were just too busy to keep it up).

When Amazon Kindle publishing came along, it felt like a godsend. Before Kindle, there really wasn’t an effective way to get books out to the masses without going to print publication. I had tried for ten years to get an agent, with no success. Publishers almost never want unsolicited work any longer. There is a bottleneck through agents that is absolutely excruciating to someone like me, who just wants to share their words. I have more than three hundred rejection letters in my closet. No joke.

And then (angelic, heavenly music here) – Amazon. I posted a few books and they shot to the top in their genres, at last prompting an agent to call me. I couldn’t believe it.

But I retain the $1 price for several reasons. As I’ve said, I want people to read my work and let’s face it, this is a depressed economy. People can barely afford housing and food. I want my writing to give to them what it has always given me: Escape. If they can’t afford it, it isn’t much of an escape.

I also tend to believe that once you take away the cost of printing and distribution, there’s not a lot left to the cost of creating a book. The author should get paid because it is her imagination and her creative ability through which the book is produced. The publisher should get paid because they provide the platform through which the author can share her work with the world. Other than that? Middle men are eliminated, and so should be most of the price.

What advice would you have for someone trying to succeed as a writer?

I’ll borrow a page from Winston Churchill on this one:
“Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty. Never give in….”
Of course, if I’m talking to a writer, then I’m preaching to the choir, because a writer has no choice. Words are what we’re made of. We’ll write them until the day we die – and even then, we’ll probably write our own epitaphs before we wink out for good.

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4 Responses to Interview with 1001 Secrets of Successful Writers

  1. Cass says:

    You should be beaming with pride! If I were an aspiring writer, I’d be taking copious notes. Instead, I’m counting the days until I see your next creation!

  2. Tonya Ramey says:

    A very insightful look into an intelligent, creative and time consuming process… Thank you for allowing me to tag along, so far its been one hell of an adventure!

    A devoted fan

  3. Jessyca says:

    I am so gratful that your books are still $1! I have LOVED reading and escaping into your books. They have helped me get passed tons of stress and not go broke doing it! Your an awesome writer and have an amazing imigination. I cant wait for the next book in the big bad wolf series!

  4. Terrie Buchanan says:

    It was nice to read your thoughts about big time publishing and cutting out the middle man. I am pleased that I can escape reading one of your many books (patiently waiting on the next book in one of your many series – lol) but I can say that the cost of $1 not only works in my pocket book but it gives me a means of escape through your great talent writing abilities. I have paid big $$ for books that went to fast and left you scratching your head at the end. I was disappointed needless to say – so offering up a great book for the low cost of a $1 makes me :))) Thank You and keep doing what you do best!! WRITE