My fangirls were going to interview me on Thursday but they were so excited by Conference Championship Week on ESPN they forgot to do it on Thursday, so they got it in today prior to the NCAA Tournament Selection Show at 6pm.
I appreciate all my supporters so I am glad to repost this transcript from our phone interview.
Background: Kiki and Gemma run the popular job boards website lartfries.com. The site helps connect Liberal Arts majors to job opportunities with their BA degrees (as opposed to making my Dunkin’ Donuts coffee). I met them three months ago and showed them the draft of one of my newest books, with a publishing announcement to be made in July (pending my publisher’s response). They became such great fans they made it their second job to tell everyone about my book so by the time it gets released I’ll have a decent-sized following to begin promoting it. They have a weekly podcast called “K & J Minute Magic.”
Transcript has only modified spelling errors or uses of grammar.
KIKI: Hey Sam, thanks so much for doing this!
ME: no problem.
KIKI: so we’ll start off with the first question: Where did you get the awesome idea for this book?
ME: (laughing) From the manatees living in a giant tank in my parent’s basement…but seriously, a lot of them come from everyday ideas. My secret is that I combine multiple ideas which make sense but are done in such a way that it’s almost impossible for my exact idea to have been done before. You know the saying how every idea’s been done before? That’s true to a basic element, but when you add these different elements together you end up with a unique story people can rally around.
As for this particular one…I like satire and comedy, but also book which really reflect the way we look at our world. I hope when the announcement comes people will be interested in this concept because it’s relatable. It’s not your everyday story or even your typical magic/wizard/dragon novel. It isn’t your typical mystery or young adult dystopia with vampires, etc. But it’s something I expect people to really connect with and feel like they learned something from.
GEMMA: Following up on that, I have to say, your writing style is kind of…different (laughter). It’s easy to read but it doesn’t look like most novels I’ve ever seen before. Not as heavy on the narration or adjectives but you don’t like to miss details. Tell us more about it.
ME: Well, Gemma, you’re right. My writing style isn’t the kind which wins literary awards. It’s not because it sucks or anything, but because I am not much of a “prose” writer. Sometime during the 1950s and 1960s there was an academic focus where literature was supposed to change from the really long-winded narratives like you see in work by Charles Dickens or Herman Melville or even in Stephen King novels. The idea was to shorten books and “get to the point.” What I call prose, however, is not this: I mean that there’s a particular writing style favored by literary types, like when you see “so and so remembered her days as a young child, playing in the grass…etc.” Or when characters or narrators spend a lot of time reflecting upon society or some issue in the book. I find it boring and I want to move on. Yet I find this is the most common style in a lot of literature I read, whether for teens or adults.
Another problem is, if I don’t write the topics the critics find interesting, they aren’t going to be interested. which book do you think is going to be more popular: A book about a young boy who marches in Selma and gets sprayed by a fire hose, or a young boy who runs around throwing ninja stars at people who complain about our country being screwed by the politicians, while they do nothing to stop these politicos? By this description the first one is a “superior” novel. But we ought to actually read the books before judging. How do you know the second one may not be better? Personally, I think I’d be more interested in book 2, but then again, I don’t give out awards.
GEMMA: So you’ve never won any awards or been published professionally before?
ME: (laughing) No awards for fiction writing. I have been published before, but as a journalist, communications director, and as a columnist. Never as a fiction writer. Not even in one of those little-known e-zines with the $10 honorary payments. Heck, not even on a site for no money. Someday, maybe.
KIKI: How do you find time to write while holding down a full-time job?
ME: It’s not easy, and those of us who work for a living know once you dedicate a large portion of your day to working and living, the motivation to start writing drops. Especially my job, which requires a lot of time in front of a computer screen or on a mobile device. The last thing I want to do most days is come home and sit in front of another screen to write 2-3 or more hours a day.
Realistically I probably get about 2 hours a day during the week, maybe 3 on weekends. In terms of word count, I’d say I average 1500-2000 words a day. Some days I get very little done. Some days I go “in the zone” and can go to 5000 or 6000 words. But those are the exception, not the rule.
The oft-discussed and little-known point is how much time social media eats into writing. By the time I think about my Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn posts, I’ve already had to think about what I will do with YouTube, Pinterest, and Snapchat (to reach teens). Many authors hate social media- you read their thoughts on writer’s boards or at workshops. They want to write and often point out big-names who didn’t need social media to succeed. My response is, ‘they are the exception to the rule. Plus almost all of them, minus a small number of indies, had more publishing help marketing than you or I do.’ But it is time-consuming, that’s for sure.
GEMMA: How old were you when you first got interested in writing?
ME: My first “book” was written in kindergarten. I would write on construction paper and draw picture. Most chapters were as short as three words or as long as maybe fifteen. They were things like “I like school” or “Sports are fun. Soccer is my favorite sport.” I think I got the idea that I was going to be able to catch Isaac Asimov and the hundreds of books he’s had published. Probably too late for that dream, but my love of writing never diminished. Over time, it got stronger.
Kiki: Who was your favorite writer growing up, and why?
ME: Tough question. I can’t say there’s a “favorite”, but I enjoyed the Encyclopedia Brown books. I also like Hardy Boys and Goosebumps. I guess I would go with R.L. Stine, since I read more of his books than I did of anyone else’s. Stephen King and J.K. Rowling were good writers I liked too. They have very strong styles. I also liked Ender’s Game a lot but I didn’t read that until I was older.
I’m not counting graphic novels or manga, but I was (and still am) a fan of Naruto, One Piece, Bleach, Worst, 300, and comic books. Batman was my favorite superhero since he got around with gadgets and didn’t rely on super speed or strength to get by.
GEMMA: I know we’re running out of time but I wanted to address authors of color. As someone who comes from a diverse background, do you honestly feel it’s easy to make it if your name doesn’t rhyme with “Patterson” or “Brown”?
ME: Yes it’s possible, but that is one thing I noticed is tough to ignore. Unlike music, athletics, or actors, it’s tough to think of a big-name Fiction writer who is Hispanic, Black, Asian, Pacific Islander, or Native American/American Indian/Native Person (I have a tough time deciding what’s the appropriate non-tribal term for someone who’s ancestry can be traced to what we now call the U.S.A. Disclosure, I have ancestry also dating back to pre-Chrisopher Columbus ‘New World’.
KIKI: Oh wow.
ME: It’s true, though it wasn’t America where my ancestors are from. Anyways, it is tough. You always have to wonder if the literature world is ready for a big-name named “Desean” or “Henrique” or “Carlos” or something like that. America is changing, and I suspect down the road people of color will be more represented in literature. But that’s down the road. Today I expect more Anglicized names to dominate the New York Times and USA Today bestsellers list. Not that that’s bad, mind you, but I can completely see why non-White people may be discouraged from thinking they could become a bestselling author. This is a great topic I’m passionate about and I’ll be happy to discuss the next time you interview me.
KIKI: And we will definitely have you back on. Thanks so much for talking to us! We hope to talk to you again soon.
ME: thank you both for having me on.
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