Thank you Kevin, for taking time with me today. I’m always curious as to how someone decided to become a writer. What’s your story?
I’ve always been a writer — it’s more a question of what made me decided to publish. I write for a living as a lawyer and have always written stories just for my own amusement. I don’t consider myself to be a writer first. I’m still a lawyer and until I retire, I’m a writer on the side. I think of it like being a musician; I still have a day job.
I know what you mean. I tried retiring, but to keep my publishing business going, I’ve had to re-enter the job market to cover expenses. So, how long did it take you to get published the first time and how did it happen?
My first novel, “Identity Crisis: A Rick LaBlonde, P.I. Novel,” was self-published in 2003, although I had written most of it in 1998 and 1999. My wife posted the money to publish the book as our twentieth anniversary present to me. Since then, I have written a few screenplays (none purchased or produced) and a bunch of short stories (one which won a small writing contest and was published in a trade magazine), but nothing that was published in any meaningful sense.
I’ve written a couple of screenplays myself and that takes a different mindset altogether. It’s hard to switch back to novels after that.
My latest novel is also self-published via Kindle Direct Publishing and CreateSpace, which is so much easier than the independent publishing house model from 2003 (XLibris). I have been working on this novel for about ten years. In 2013, I decided to force myself to “finish” it by announcing on my author blog on Goodreads.com that I would be publishing the new book, one chapter per week, every week during the year.
Wow, how did that go?
This forced me to edit and rewrite things that needed to be fixed and finally write the ending. I posted the final chapter in December of 2013, then let the book sit for almost two years before picking it up again and deciding to re-edit and then publish on Kindle after I discovered how easy it is now to self-publish.
Yes, you started early in 2003 and things changed so quickly after that. Would you do anything differently the next time?
I’m hoping that the next book will be written with more continuity and in a shorter period of time. Writing something over a course of ten years leads to lots of stops and starts and trying to remember who the characters are and what happened in prior scenes, which in turn leads to inconsistencies and re-writes later. I really want to make more of a concerted effort to follow one story through to conclusion before becoming distracted by the next new idea.
I know exactly what you mean. My first published book took me 25 years from start to finish and I wrote several others in between. When I made my concerted effort to publish it, I found so many redundancies and the same things you came across. So what advice would you give to an aspiring writer?
First, don’t write the whole story. The whole story includes a ton of background and back-story that you know as the author, and which the characters may allude to, but it’s not necessary to tell the whole back-story.
Second, edit, edit, and then edit some more. I find that I am always seeing errors, inconsistencies, and issues each time I carefully read the same chapter or full book. Have other people read and edit and give feedback and comments. The more set of eyes you can get on a manuscript before you declare it to be “final,” the better. Having obvious mistakes in the text can be a big turn-off for many readers.
I also find that letting time pass before doing edits gives you more perspective and lets you see obvious mistakes that you miss when you re-read something over and over. So tell me, Kevin, who or what inspires or influences your writing?
One of my favorite writers is Robert Heinlein, and I aspire to write stories that are as interesting and multi-layered as his. I want my stories to include important issues and I want characters to be meaningful to my readers. I am also a huge Star Trek fan and I love the story lines developed by the writers of all the different Star Trek series that include politics, culture, religion, and interpersonal relationships. I want my writing to be entertaining, but also to initiate thought and discussion about issues.
I like Heinlein as well and I enjoyed the newest Star Trek movies. So tell me, Kevin, what are your newest releases and where can we find them?
My new novel, “A legacy of One,” is available now on Kindle and as a paperback at: https://www.amazon.com/dp/BO1LY1IP5X.
Readers can follow the novel’s Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/ALegacyofOne and can view the book’s page on Goodreads.com at: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32325475-a-legacy-of-one
Tell us more about your experience with self-publishing the first time.
It’s amazing to see how much easier it is to self-publish now as opposed to thirteen years ago when I self-published my first novel. Back then, you had to go through a semi-traditional publishing house that would print your books for you. There was a minimum order size and significant up-front costs. Even if they would do print-on-demand for orders, the logistics and costs of getting your own book published was a barrier to entry for most independent writers. Now, Kindle Direct Publishing makes it so easy to get something up on Kindle, and I used the Amazon CreateSpace publishers to print a paperback version. This was not free (like Kindle), but was much less costly than my first book. My only regret is that CreateSpace won’t do a hard cover version.
Now that it’s easier to get books published, I’m finding it’s harder to get them into book stores. A lot of book stores (large and small) order their books from a distributor and won’t work with authors or small publishers unless they have distribution. Basically, this puts a “middleman” in the mix and cuts into the profits of both the bookstores and authors. So, how long have you been writing, Kevin?
As a lawyer, I “write” professionally all the time, but I’m not a professional author. I will have spurts when I will write 20 hours a week, and then weeks when I will do almost no writing. I’m looking forward to the day when I can write full-time, but while I have a day job, that’s not happening.
What do you do for fun when your aren’t writing?
I am an avid tournament poker player, which is a great outlet for my competitive juices and a terrific intellectual challenge. I often meet people at the poker table who end up becoming characters in my stories. I’m also a huge baseball fan (New York Mets) and spend a lot of time in the summer going to games and watching on TV. Baseball’s pace of play allows for writing in between pitches!
That’s something I never thought of. Golf is like that, too. And where do you reside or spend your time writing?
West Windsor, New Jersey.
Awesome! Do you have any appearances or book signings coming up?
Not yet. The new novel was just published and I’m working on getting some appearances and signings in the local Central NJ area in the next few months. One other point to mention is that “A Legacy of One” started out as a story about a character roughly patterned after myself — a freshman at Columbia College fresh off the bus from a small town on the west coast whose adventures in college and in New York would be the main vehicle for telling the story. He would have a freshman roommate who is from a rich and politically powerful family, and the contrasts between him and his roommate would provide fodder for a story about cultural differences, class struggles, friendship, politics, and how college changes how you view yourself and the world. As the writing happened, the story became more and more about the roommate (Jonathan Prescott III), and that’s the focus of the final novel. But, much of the story is still told via flashbacks to the college years of Jonathan, his freshman roommate (Frank), their friend and budding journalist (Janice), and Jonathan’s eventual wife (Gwen). So, much of the story is set in and around Columbia University in the late 80’s and early 90s. Part of the target audience for the book is anyone who had attended Columbia, and particularly alumni from that era.
So the book cover is a photo of Low Library, the center and most recognizable landmark of Columbia University. For anyone wondering why a political drama about a Senator who is potential candidate for President has a cover that is not a Washington, DC landmark, that’s the answer.
Thanks Kevin. I’ve enjoyed this interview today.
Thanks for offering me this opportunity, Ester.
You can find Kevin at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5194743.Kevin_G_Chapman/blog and he’s happy to respond to emails at: firstname.lastname@example.org