The E-Pub PUB Interviews Author Robert W. Walker

Welcome to our weekly feature,

The E-Pub 

Information from both the author’s and the reader’s points of view concerning the publishing frontier known as e-publishing.  

This week, we present an interview with a writer we call “Mr. Prolific” — Robert Walker, Professor of Creative Writing at West Virginia State University and author of fifty novels including Titanic 2012 – Curse of RMS Titanic. So, grab a cup of coffee or pour yourself a cold brew — beverages are always on the house — pull up a chair, and enjoy!

Special! Titanic 2012 – Curse of RMS Titanic, Bismarck 2013 – Hitler’s Curse, and Children of Salem will ALL be available as FREE Kindle downloads on FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 17!!

At what age did you first realize you wanted to write books and how/when did you first share this ambition with “the world”?  I was always fascinated with reading stories as early as I have memory of, and reading led me into writing. I wrote my first complete short story in sixth or seventh grade, an action chase story, and my fellow students and teacher so enjoyed it, it decided my career path then and there. I loved moving people with words. I had also internalized by then Robert Frost’s poem: The Road Less Taken, and I knew I was always going to be on that road.  I am still on that road! 

Who in your life and what authors you read had the most influence over your decision to write? Mark Twain for certain, as I studied his work extremely closely to ‘learn’ from the best. I would add many other classic writers from Robert Louis Stevenson to Alexander Dumas, Conan Doyle, Dickens, and Bram Stoker as well as H.G. Wells. I was also influenced heavily by TV programs such as One Step Beyond, Twilight Zone, Outer Limits. I have always been fascinated with the unusual and unique and amazing story over the more tame story. 

In your most-recent novel “Titanic – Curse of RMS Titanic,” your writing spans several genres from horror to suspense to science fiction and two story lines, one set in 1912 and the other in 2012.  Was this your most ambitious novel to-date and did you find the writing more difficult or more fun because of these elements? I had just come off my most ambitious novel, the book I felt I was ‘born to write’ which is Children of Salem – love amid the Witch Trials of Salem 1692. I knew then I had to tackle something big just to follow up on Children, and years before I had wanted to do this Titanic title.  I had in fact done a great deal of research, but at the time I could get no interest from publishers, as many were jaded by the release of James Cameron’s film by the title of Titanic. However, like Children of Salem (rejected by every publisher on the planet and any agent who looked at it), Titanic’s time had come because Kindle Readers, and thus Kindle publishing, had come into being, so I did an end run around the publishing world as it used to be, and became one of those oft published authors who jumped ship before it went down, so to speak, by making Titanic like Children a Kindle Original title never seen in publication anywhere else! Played that angle up and voila!

 I don’t know that I would have gone back to the Titanic idea had I not completed Children of Salem and three previous titles with Harper Collins beginning with City for Ransom and followed by Shadows in White City and City of the Absent.  I very much wanted to work with Inspector Alastair Ransom again, and I always assumed he’d go down with Titanic, so all the elements just came together, including all my experience with historical thrillers and horror, paranormal, and a bit of science fiction and alternate history, of course.
As to difficulty, well I love a challenge, and rising to the challenge creates good fiction, and I had a ball writing Titanic 2012 (not to be confused with Bill Walker’s title of same name, no relation). I added the subtitle “Curse of RMS Titanic” to distinguish mine.
 If you were assigned to write a book for children, what children’s author would you most want to emulate and what kind of book would you write? I have done some young adult and I like doing YA historical; I find writing picture books for the very young far too hard. To make a unique book for the very young is far harder than writing an adult novel in my opinion.  I love Charlotte’s Webb, so if I wrote for a young audience, it would be something along the lines of an E. B. White story that parents READ to their children. For young adult, I would stick with a coming of age historical novel.
If you could choose another author’s character and use him or her as a character in a novel, who would that be and in what type of setting would you write about him or her? Wow…I have never considered using another author’s character except when collaborating with another author. I have done that with short stories and CUBA BLUE, one novel. I am collaborating at the moment on a new novel. We of course collaborate on character building. To take a character like Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch and work with him, or Joe Konrath’s Jackie Daniels and work with her, it would require special circumstances and dispensations, but I would have fun with either of these characters. Curiously enough, in my Ransom titles, there is a peg-legged Civil War veteran turned police snitch and racetrack gambler named Henry Bosch, but he is not at all like Harry Bosch.
You poll your readers and ask them to list five words that best describe your novels. What top five words do they list?
Compelling, fast-paced, storyteller (first), authentic, well-researched!
Are more of your readers women or men and why do you think that is?
I have quite a mix, but I believe there are more women who read more books than there are men in general. Women love my Instinct Series as Jessica Coran is no shrinking violet but an action-centered character who is goal-driven and yet still very much a woman. Clive Cussler no less has said he only wished he could draw female characters half so well as I.  However, men who read my books have great things to say about them as well. I create characters others can relate to, usually characters who have flaws and have faced down life to become ‘heroic’ despite all odds against them, and all my books deal with getting even, as revenge is a great motivating goal.
 Many of your books have required a lot of research to ensure, for example, historical accuracy.  What novel has required the most research and how long did that research take? Easily Children of Salem.  This book has been written and rewritten countless times over a thirty-year period. It was my dissertation in college, and before that a 70 page research paper in my sophomore year of high school. At every turn of the rewrites over the years, draft after draft, I would learn of another and new title published with new information that needed to be taken into account. I rewrote it once entirely after a powerful reaction to having read The Exorcist, for instance. It has behind it my ‘lifetime’ as it has been my lifetime project. In finally having published it, I finally had an END to it! That is when I went on to do Titanic 2012 and beyond that Bismarck 2013 – Hitler’s Curse.
 I started out doing historical novels, veered from that to make money at writing, and more recently have returned to a favorite love – researching and writing the historical novel or thriller.

 Are you a dog person or cat person and what kind of canine or feline assistance with your writing do you receive, if any? I have had dogs, but presently have two cats and they are enough trouble. They are both odd and lazy and help not a whit or a wit with the writing, try as I might to get them involved – much like my children, ha!  I like both cats and dogs.

 You currently have 35 out of the top 50 titles on Amazon.com in the category “Medical Examiner Mysteries.” Is this due to your overall success as an author, to the popularity of the genre, or to a little of both?  I suspect a little of both and how Amazon does its rankings. When honest with myself, I begin to believe that somehow in all the tagging and posturing online that I may have inadvertently ‘invented’ the category called Medical Examiner Mysteries so far as the Kindle Store is concerned. I can’t explain these stats any other way. A fluke…quite a nice fluke!  I have spent three and a half years now creating my ‘brand’ on Facebook and Twitter as an Indie author; I am having to be an Indie marketeer and PR person for the books as well as the author. Not sure if this answers your question, but I feel most of my e-book readers never saw or ever heard of my paperback career with legacy publishing. Kindle has given new life to all my out of print, dead titles, resurrecting my career and reinventing Rob Walker.

 You’re a professor of creative writing — a “writing coach,” to use your own term — as well as a writer. If you could give your students but one solid piece of advice about their writing, what would that be? Simple: No matter what you want to write in terms of story and novel, even script or play, most have a far more difficult time with plot than characterization, setting, mood, etc. How to string a plot. Every newbie needs to write a mystery or at least a ghost story. In writing a mystery, you are forced quickly to plot. Something happens in the opening scene, a body is discovered. Take a cue from Law & Order, X-Files, The Fringe. That which happens raises 20 questions. In the unraveling of said questions to become answers, you have a built in PLOT line. It works like the game of 20 questions. You let out the answers as in pulling a ball of twine.
To just jump start writing, begin a scene with your character’s hands in action, doing something. This can be any character, good, bad, or ugly, main character or villain but open with the hands. This hands-on method works wonders to act as a leap into any scene or chapter.
Finally, get my class between covers for a low-low price – Dead on Writing, a how-to to die for at www.wordclay.com in paperback or as an e-book at the Kindle Store.
 You’re admitted to heaven and you decide to throw a dinner party to celebrate your arrival. What five people are on your guest list? If people I would like to meet, I would start with Mark Twain, Shakespeare, Conan Doyle, Dickens, and maybe Victor Hugo.  But if people I would like to see again who have passed, my dad, of course, Miss Evelyn Page, teacher & influence, my Uncle John Hodges, storyteller & mechanic, and a pair of childhood friends who died young. If I could have all ten, that’d be cool, too.

 Your books have been published both traditionally and through e-publishing.  Which do you prefer and why? I had on average one and two books a year being published by Jove, Zebra, Dorchester, Penguin, etc., about 8 in all. Even after having published 40 novels, I was treated like a first time novelist when it came to new proposed work. Decisions took forever, and often when a book was accepted, the editor/publisher would lose interest by the time another year rolled around to publication date. Too often an editor would leave, which left my book ‘orphaned.’ This happens to many authors, and the book then is ‘orphaned,’ so that any game plan for selling it is non-existent. The problems also of unreadable royalty statements and book returns and remaindered books — all said business eventually wears you, the low man on the totem pole for payment, down.

 E-book publication has its disadvantages, the largest being you are on your own and there is no advance payment. However, one might see having no overhead costs whatsoever and no fees as an advance. There are many advantages to publishing with Amazon.com’s Kindle store. I have written in detail about these advantages both at www.acmeauthorslink.blogspot.com and at www.speakwithoutinterruption.com and these advantages have swayed me to work alone as an Independent author/publisher. Interestingly, the fact that all the responsibility for publishing and marketing falls on my shoulders has given me a sense of freedom and decision-making power I had only once dreamed of.  For example, the liberty to publish on the day the manuscript is finished with all rewrites and editing, and without a fuss or a fight over the title (a title fight), or if a series number should or should not be on the cover, and the font and size type on my name, and rather than an anonymous copy editor writing my book’s description and price — now I make these crucial determinations. Not everyting is now dictated by the in-house Art Director with whom I have no contact but who has more power over such decisions than does my editor.
At any rate, I am having much more fun publishing with Kindle ebook format than I have in my recent experiences with traditional or legacy publishing. It has taken me several years, but I am making a steadier, better income in e-books than I was making in legacy publishing.
About Author Robert W. Walker:
Award-winning author and graduate of Northwestern University, ROBERT W. WALKER created his highly acclaimed, INSTINCT and EDGE Series between 1982 and 2005. A native of Chicago by way of Mississippi, Rob has since written his award-winning historical series featuring Inspector Alastair Ransom with CITY FOR RANSOM (2006), SHADOWS IN THE WHITE CITY (2007), and CITY OF THE ABSENT (2008).  This history-mystery hybrid straddles the Chicago World’s Fair circa 1893, and has had enthusiastic reviews from Chicago historians and the Chicago Tribune, which likened “the witticism to Mark Twain, the social consciousness to Dickens, and the ghoulish atmosphere to Poe!”   Rob’s most recent books have been CHILDREN of SALEM – Love Amid the Witch Hunt, and TITANIC2012 – Curse of RMS Titanic, a new ‘theory’ of why Captain Edward Smith sank the Titanic as Rob put a plague-spreading monster on board (concurrent stories of present day and historical suspense and horror). Rob followed up his Titanic title with BISMARCK 2013 –Hitler’s Curse. Rob now resides in Charleston, WV with two cats, several children, and wife Miranda Phillips Walker, RN (also a crime writer: The Well Meaning Killer). For more on Rob’s fifty published novels, see http://www.RobertWalkerbooks.com or find titles at www.amazon.com/kindlebooks/robertwwalker
The E-Pub PUB thanks Rob Walker for a most-interesting interview and reminds readers not to forget the FREE downloads of Titanic 2012-Curse of RMS Titanic, Bismarck 2013-Hitler’s Curse, and Children of Salem, this Friday ONLY, February 17, 2012.
Coming next week in the E-Pub PUB, a READER interview! Don’t miss it 🙂
Until then, good reading (and writing) to one and all !

 

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6 Responses to The E-Pub PUB Interviews Author Robert W. Walker

  1. Great interview ! You have got a real talent not only to write but to ask the right questions and make the author speak about his books. Lots of useful tips too in this article about publishing and self publishing. Robert Walker is indeed a prolific and successful writer. Can’t wait to read more interviews of authors. It’s always a pleasure reading you Candice. All the best 🙂

  2. My father’s family is from Corinth, MS. I spent very very little time there as at age five or so, he moved the family to Chicago after the war seeking employment. We children always felt misplaced and ‘trapped’ in the city. Getting to Tuskegee, AL during summers for a couple of weeks was our ‘escape’ and we had that dual citizenship all our lives, Yankees and Southerners at same time.

    Rob Walker — putting up 3 Free books Firday 17th.

  3. I love reading everything about your writing career, Rob. Each time, I learn more, which helps me with my writing goals. Now I have one question: Where in Mississippi did you live? My home is in south Louisiana, so at one time, we were probably almost neighbors.

    • cwc6161 says:

      Hi, June! I’m glad you enjoyed my interview with Rob. I’ll pass your question on to him and get back to you with his response. Come check out future E-Pub PUB posts for more interesting author interviews!

      Update — June, see Robert’s reply to your inquiry!

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