Welcome to my weekly series – Author Interviews.
Each week I find out about the person by the book and glean some valuable insight into being a writer.
I am thrilled to have author and blogger Don Massenzio sat in my chair. I have added Don’s books to my reading list and I love Don’s blog. If you want to learn more about the craft of writing it is well worth a browse.
Don, welcome and please have a seat in my red interview chair.
Tell me about yourself and the book / books you have written?
Well, I have a 50-60 hour per week day job that has me traveling 45 hours per week. Instead of filling the time with dining out, socializing, or sleeping, I write. I am just getting ready to release my 6th non-fiction book. Four of them are part of a private detective series and one is a terrorism thriller.
When did you write your first book?
This is a tricky question. I’ve probably written, or started writing, many books over my life. I first had the guts to publish a book about two years ago.
How long did it take to write your first book?
The flippant answer is 50 years. The actual answer is about 10 months. I started by posting chapters in Scribophile and, based on the critiques received, I finished the book in April 2014.
What was your motivation to write your first book?
I’m in the autumn of my day job career. I know that when I retire in about ten years, I will need something to keep me busy and, hopefully, bring in some income. I thought that it better be something that I enjoy. I love music and writing as hobbies. Writing is easier. I don’t have to carry equipment everywhere to do it. Plus, I have a young daughter that loves to read and she wants to write as well. I’m trying to set a good example.
What writing issues did you encounter along the way and how did you overcome them?
Just having the time was one obstacle. The other was having the self-confidence to put my writing out there. As an indie author, there is no gatekeeper or middleman. You go right to your readers and hope for the best. I have learned the value of beta readers and issuing advance reader copies since then, but the first book just was thrown over the wall. Luckily the reviews were positive.
Did you go through any bad writing patches during writing your book – what kept you going?
My detective novels just flow naturally. The characters are fun to write for and I look forward to the times when I get to write. The terrorism thriller, however, took a lot of research. As I was researching the effects of radioactivity and the characteristics of dirty bombs, I expected black SUVs to pull up in front of my house.
Are you a plotter or do you just write / see what happens?
This is an interesting question. I’m somewhere in the middle. I don’t outline my novels verbally, I do it pictorially. I borrow techniques from my day job as a consultant and create what I refer to as a ‘mind map’. I start with the name of the novel in a cloud in the center of a picture and then draw squares each containing a major event in the book. Then I put them in some form of order and move them to index cards in Scrivener. It’s a hybrid of verbal and visual methods.
What is the best thing about being a writer?
The writing. I would say the positive reactions, but I think I would continue to write even if I had fewer readers. I love to read and writing is the logical next step. I love the idea of imagining what worlds and characters look like when I read someone else’s work, but it’s even better to create my own.
What is the worst thing about being a writer?
As an indie author, it’s all of the things that go along with the writing. I’m a blogger, a PR person, a marketer, an accountant, and the publisher. If I made enough income to do this full time, however, I would love all of it.
Have you ever considered quitting writing and if so how have you worked through this?
No. I’ve had to justify myside career with the powers that be at my day job. My position is that, I’m doing both things and my work is not suffering. We agreed on this point and have moved forward. I have never, and likely will never consider quitting.
What does a typical writing day look like for you?
It depends. If it is a travel day, I write whenever I can; on airplanes, in airports, in the hotel, etc. I try to get at least an hour in each day. When I’m home or when it’s a weekend, I’m up before everyone by about 5:30 AM. I read and respond to blog posts and then I write until I can’t anymore. Then, when my young daughter goes to bed at night, I’m usually back at it.
Do you suffer from procrastination and if so how do you handle it?
I can’t afford to procrastinate. I’m an author who started late in life and I want to crank out as much as I can before I get tapped on the shoulder to check out. That keeps me motivated.
Which is more important – plot or characters and why?
Everyone will tell you neither. It’s the book cover. (Just kidding). I think they are equally important. I’ve read books by famous authors that had characters that were not well developed. Even with a great plot, this makes it hard to read.
What have been your 3 biggest learnings during your writing career?
First, other indie authors are not competition. They are colleagues and we should all work to improve each other’s work. Second, traditional publishing is not the golden ticket that many writers think it is. I know plenty of traditionally published authors that still have day jobs. Third, be judicious when reading reviews of your work. I throw out the five star reviews and the one or two low reviews I have received. It’s those four star reviews that tell you the most about your writing and what needs to be improved.
How do you manage social media as a writer?
This is a tough question. I’ve used many techniques. I’ve shifted my strategy away from that author that posts in every single book related group on Facebook. The return is minimal. Instead, I place some very select Facebook ads. I also use my blog extensively and link it to all of my other social media accounts. If you are placing Facebook ads, there is much to learn. I spent the money on Mark Dawson’s course on mastering Facebook ads and it was very helpful.
Do you have any tips or advice for budding aspiring authors?
Keep writing and don’t be afraid to let others read your work. If your goal is to eventually publish your work, either traditionally or through the indie route, find someone you trust to read it early on. I did this and it gave me the encouragement to continue. A word about indie publishing, if you publish via the indie route, you can retain the rights to your work. If a publisher comes knocking on your door, you can publish work that you self-published via traditional publishing.
Do you suffer from writer’s block and if so how do you overcome?
Do to my schedule, I don’t have time for writer’s block. That being said, sometimes I get stuck in a particular story or book. To combat this, I have multiple projects going on and jump between them if I get stuck. This usually frees up the blockage.
Do you ever think of the next book whilst writing?
I always think of the next book. In fact, I have ideas for the next four or five already sketched out. Like I said, I’m old and I’m watching the clock.
What do you wear to write?
I try to be as comfortable as possible. Of course, when I write on airplanes or in airports, this isn’t always an option. I don’t really think about my writing attire that much.
Don is the author of the Frank Rozzani Detective series and his books can be found on Amazon here.
Don’s blog can be found here.
Thanks Don, a fab interview and I feel like I have got to know a blogging friend a lot more.
I can really relate to the juggling of a writing passion, a family and a job that involves travelling. I travel a lot and write my stuff on trains or in my head on long car journeys.
I use mind maps a lot with work but have never thought of using them for stories. I think I shall have a go with this technique.
I think what you say about four star reviews is really good. These are the reviews which as you say tell us the most about our writing.
Next week the person climbing into my chair will be…….author Nicholas Rossis
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/79577679@N00/5448848999″>the chair in the attic</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a>