Gatekeeper Press Author Q&A
1. When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
Early on — by the time I was in fifth grade. I fell in love with the library. It was a whole new world. It seemed natural for me to make up my own tales, and I began sending off short stories to magazines. In eighth grade our teacher chose my story to read to the class. I was hooked. Writers love an audience. The seed for writing was planted.
2. How long have you been writing? How many books have you written?
On impulse I mailed a short story to Walker Percy. I never expected him to respond. He immediately wrote back that he liked it and that he had even read it aloud to his wife. He asked if I thought I could write a novel. I’d never even considered that. He encouraged me to give it a try and offered advice I’ve never forgotten: “Treat it like a piece of meat.” He meant don’t be afraid to write and re-write and do it again ‘til it’s good enough. Don’t fall in love with your first effort.
I finished two stories before I finally had one that showed promise. I entered the manuscript in the summer competition at Bread Loaf. Tim O’Brien was my reader. He liked it and called it imminently publishable. I was encouraged, but I was too busy with law practice to really try to polish it and find an agent. Now retired, I’ve spent a year rewriting it.
Then I looked for feedback from reviewers. Kirkus and Chanticleer liked it. So, I did the next thing—looked for a publisher. Now I’m amazed to see it in the local Indie store and online. It’s as much fun as I’ve ever had, and I thank Walker Percy for giving me the nerve to try. He’s still my favorite author — Vonnegut is a close second. “So it goes” makes me smile.
The Rise and Fall of the Pink Alligator is my next project. Jack’s running a T-shirt shop on the beach in St. Augustine, the oldest city in the USA. With its Spanish history, it’s a perfect place for Jack to become involved in another mystery.
3. What made you want to self-publish?
To my way of thinking, self-publishing offers the greatest freedom in seeing your work in print as you meant it to be. With editing it can be difficult to hold onto the story as you wrote it. At Gatekeeper you are assigned a personal coordinator to handle your questions and to deal with each department for you. My artist did exactly what I wanted for the cover the first try. I was amazed. Without self-publishing I wouldn’t have had that type of input. Also, I felt I owed it to Jack. He told me the story in my imagination as a real person. It would have meant abandoning him to commercialism. I know him well now– and he has fun giving me trouble.
4. Would you recommend new authors self-publish, and would you recommend Gatekeeper Press?
There is far too much to learn to try it by yourself. You need someone to do it for you, yet with your own requests satisfied. I found Gatekeeper well organized and quick to respond. They never complain that you’re a problem. Instead, they help you focus on what is going on and what choices you need to make.
5. What do you do marketing-wise to help announce and sell your books?
I have concentrated on joining associations for Indie authors who provide links to advertising, reading clubs, and reviewers. Once you find a person who fits your needs somehow another one pops up for the next step. DartFrog provided entrance to Indie stores, reviews, and reading club connections. IBPA was able to help advertise the book for retailers and librarians. Literary Titan advertised the book in Britain and provided reviewers as well. There are many professionals to help with discovery. ListenUp was suggested to me by DartFrog, and I now have an audio book.
6. What advice do you have for a new or fledgling author?
The blurb was a real problem for me. I should have asked for professional help before I started the publishing process. It sounds easy: write a blurb for the back cover. It’s not easy! You need to do a good job of explaining the book to the buyer.
Don’t rush. Finding the right people to work with is the key to having fun or a big headache. Book people like their work and are interesting to get to know. It’s a real adventure.
7. What social media platforms are you on?
When I’m writing, I don’t answer the phone. Someone’s always on the other end!
Social media doesn’t fit my writing personality. I have found businesses who will let you join their media connections and manage some of that for you. I prefer that. It’s distracting to me to go in and out of my imagination and to forget the real world one minute and talk to someone the next. I’m a hermit writer. Supposedly that’s okay—even in these times of instant texting.
8. What is the one piece of advice you wish you had known when you first started out?
The story changes each time you edit, and it gets better. It’s fun to watch it grow and become more and more real. Editing is almost as much fun as writing and is nothing to dread.
9. What do you feel is the biggest challenge authors are facing going into 2020 (and beyond)?
The addition of audios is a challenge, but it also widens interest in stories in general. We are back to telling stories in person by listening to the storyteller – an interesting full circle for civilization from Homer to 2020. Nonfiction is still best in print to me. I’ve heard people who read books in print react differently than those who listen to one. It hits a bigger audience to offer both.
Personally, I like the feel of paper. For that reason, I type on an old Selectric. I like wadding up failed attempts and aiming for the wastebasket. It keeps me focused. My aim has greatly improved…but the amount of paper seems to be a basketful a day no matter my intentions.
10. Have you won any awards or contests that you would like to mention?
Literary Titan chose the book for a Silver Award and rated it four stars. Writer’s Digest selected it for Honorable Mention in its Contemporary Fiction/Digital awards for 2019. It’s listed online as both legal drama and mystery/crime. It’s also found under mainstream/contemporary fiction.
You can connect with me through: [email protected]