This time around he's writing a Civil War series. Well . . . maybe not just a Civil War series. Several other genres are probably mixed into the recipe just to add some spice. As the pundits say, '"Spice is the starter fluid that makes Little Johnny jump!"
Or something like that.
It's always interesting to talk to the guy. Figuring on that I thought I'd interview him again and hear what he was working on now . . . and maybe pick his brains a bit and see if he could come up with some sagacious advice for would-be writers like myself. Here's what the guy had to say.
1. Robert, you write novels which definitely bend the rules for strict genre writing. Somehow other genres pop up and weave their way through your books. Why this genre twisting? How difficult is it for multiple genres to blend together in a cohesive unit?
I grew up on such TV programs as One Step Beyond and Twilight Zone, read widely however in the classics as well as horror and science fiction. I love to have a supernatural or odd element to my crime novels as well as my historical novels. I enjoy weaving multiple genres to create a whole cloth of a novel as I like layers and complexities as with my Titanic 2012 - Curse of RMS Titanic - a creature placed on board the Titanic, yet make the historical elements authentic as I could...then move to the future and add science fiction elements in the dive INTO the sunken ship. Crosses many genres. My historicals are romance but just as much action adventure and suspense. It is fun for me to mix the categories. How difficult is it? It is not so much more difficult than pulling a number of threads through any novel but it is a juggling act.
2. You're writing a Civil War series now. Tell us about it. What motivated you in selecting this era to write over? What is it about the Civil War which attracts so many writers and readers to it?
The Civil War is a hugely defining event in the forging of the American character, and the four years of that war created a huge number of stories, most as true stories. I find all American history fascinating as with my Colonial America witchcraft novel Children of Salem and my Ransom Series set in Chicago 1893. History itself has always fascinated me, but history that takes us to a spiritual end, wow. Even as a kid, I always wanted to know MORE about the footnotes at the bottom of the page in the history books; certainly was the case with the Salem witchcraft episode--a ready made mix of genres--history and horror, story of greed, avarice, and courage as well as faith. City of Ransom I wanted to use the Chicago World's Fair and what did it mean to my detective who had no access to modern sciences. In Annie's War - my pre-Civil War Trilogy, I wanted to get at what kind of people would follow a religious fanatic straight to their deaths and if they truly believed in a cause to that extent.
3. Writing is a passionate love/hate relationship. Add the extra hat of being an English professor to it and the party becomes a bit crowded. How do you cope with wearing so many hats at once?
I have had many bouts with myself over the psychological and social toll on myself by choosing this life, but in the end it chooses us. I have an article on Kindle entitled Psychology 101 for Writers and Their Characters...and so you can imagine how many times and how much time I have spent questioning my own choice of lifestyle and career. Writing has been described in so many ways and metaphors but the best I have ever heard is that it is like riding a unicycle while juggling ten plates at once on four foot sticks. Oh my! No one ever said it was going to be easy and I often feel as if I am channeling or reincarnated as some broke and starving artist of the past locked in the loop of doing it all over again. Does it make sense to subject ourselves to what we subject ourselves to? What is the alternative if your head and heart are full of voices/characters screaming to get out?
4. While on the subject of love/hate relationships, tell us when the writing bug bit you and turned you into a verbal vampire (A compliment, Robert! A compliment . . . really!)
I was in 4th grade at Skinner Elementary when my eye caught sight of the footnote on the Salem episode. The first bug was the research bug. I knew there had to be more to the story and that it was important, despite my teacher's saying, "It is a footnote for a reason; it is not that important." That just set me off. I went to the school library and started digging. In high school, I did a 70 pg. research paper on the topic (got an A+), and it became my dissertation at Northwestern University for my Masters done as a novel. Before leaving high school, I wrote Daniel & The Wrongway Railway (researched the Underground Railroad) my first YA historical coming of age meant to be a sequel to Huckleberry Finn (arrogant me!). So yeah, I started young.
5. Of all the genres out there you delve into which one is your favorite. And don't forget to tell us why.
Oh boy...I enjoy them all for different reasons like the crime novels for the chase and the adversarial relationship between protagonist and antagonist as well as the forensic science elements, but working with serial killers is rough on the spirit; frankly it is far more FUN working with actual monsters in horror over the serial killers. However, my first love from the outset has been historical novels, and I found I truly needed to get back to doing historicals, alternate historicals, history-mystery, adult and YA. I love the time machine aspect of getting into a historical setting.
6. I believe it's like thirty some odd books you've written. So which character is your favorite. How did you develop him (or her) and do they show up in a series or two.
Oh man, another hard choice. I really enjoy all my
characters now in all NINE of my multiple-book series, all of whom save one I
placed in my short story collection Thriller Party of 8 - The 1 that Got Away
wherein I introduce eight of my series characters in the short form. I love 'em
all but to pick out one...that is asking a mother or father to select only ONE
CHILD to live. Inspector Alastair Ransom is right up there, he appears in my
HarperCollins Trilogy begun with City for Ransom, and I revived him for my
Titanic 2012. He's great, but my Dr. Jessica Coran, ME, FBI is my favorite lady
and my biggest bread-winner with my 12 book Instinct Series begun with Killer
Instinct. Then there's Annie of ANNIE's War...wow, hard decision.
7. Speaking of writing, tell us how to achieve success in the ebook market. Millions are writing ebooks these days. There's more selection, more authors, out there than ever before. How do you sell your books and get your name known in that sea of confusion?
I treat Twitter and Facebook as moving rivers in the floating opera of social media...taking the position that since it is floating by and never the same folks on the lazy river at the same time, I have no compunction of putting up information on my Kindle books so that as the river goes by my place onshore, the billboard is up and I am fanning the fires. No time for modesty. I go to my Amazon page and from there use the link buttons taking the book to Twitter and Facebook and now Pinterest more than once a day. I will introduce it with some smart, clever remarks or joke or self-deprecation actually as in "Some people say it is a crime that I write crime novels." I also urge folks to see my blog work at www.speakwithoutinterruption.com and on my Tips page on Facebook found at Robert W. Walker (Rob) and KDP Community forums under Voice of the Author - find my humongous forum entitled and misspelled as "What Moves Kindle Books off the Shelf". Lots of great advice there. Of course Title, Cover Art, book descript have to be perfect to begin with and the quality of the work. The execution...it is all in the execution.
8. So what's on the drawing board next for you. You're next book is going to be something totally new? Or another book out of a continuing series? Any potential for a book being converted into a movie? A TV series?
I am going back to the Crime Novel...starting with a few notions, doing some research on "threat assessment" and have an idea for a title, unsure of main character but s/he will be a threat assessment detective...one whose job it is is literally to predict behavior and crime before it happens. He does not always get it right but she tries... Title or sub-title will involve the killer - The Fear Collector. Been kicking it over for a while in back of my head but had to finish Annie's War first. I tend to make more money with the crime novels, so it is back to contemporary crime.