I recently posted a Call to Writers, asking those of you who write to allow me to interview you for a guest spot in my blog. The response was magnificent (and if any of you still want to participate, please contact me for details). I asked thirty-five questions and gave the interviewee the freedom to answer only what they wanted. My friend and fellow-author, Douglas Schwartz, had some very creative and engaging responses which I’m sure you’ll find as captivating as I did. When you’re done reading the interview, please hop on over to his website and make sure you check out his work. And now, heeeere’s Douglas…
1. Please tell us your name (or pen name) and a little bit about yourself:
Hello. My name is Douglas Schwartz. This first question reminds me of one of my pet peeves, when I’m in a meeting and someone suggests, “Let’s go around the room, say our name, and tell something about ourselves.” It’s a pet peeve because there is so much that could be said and saying one thing usually does not give a other people a clear picture about who that person is. Until I find the right answer that can completely sum up myself in a single sentence, I don’t like answering that question (not that I’m trying to be difficult).
2. Please provide the link to your blog (and website, Facebook fan page, Twitter, etc.):
From there, you can connect to Twitter, Facebook, my blog, and my hobby gaming company.
3. How many books have you written?
So far, I have published one novel — Checkered Scissors. I have another book, a collection of short stories, I aim to release later in 2014. Plus, I have two other novels outlined, and plans for a second short story collection.
4. Has any of your work been published yet? If so, please share the link(s) to purchase it:
Checkered Scissors : http:\\www.checkeredscissors.com\
From this site, you can link to various sites to purchase the book, both in digital and printed formats.
5. If you have been published, did you self-publish or use traditional publishing? Why? If you have not been published yet, what are your plans for the future?
I am self-published. I did a lot of research prior to making this decision, and both paths seem equally challenging. The two main reasons for picking self-publishing over traditional is (1) a quicker time to market, and (2) retaining more control.
6. How old were you when you started writing? When did you know you wanted to be an author?
I started writing stories in 5th grade, but I knew I wanted to write a book while I was in middle school. At that time, I thought I wanted to write a book about time travel. Then, in high school, I had a dream that inspired Checkered Scissors (the dream is reflected in the first chapter of the novel). A couple decades later, I developed my writing voice, found the story I wanted to tell, and released my first novel. I promise, the next novel will take much less time.
7. What would you say motivates you to keep writing?
I am an artist. Writing is only one medium I work in. As an artist, I have a desire to create new things.
8. Who are some of your favorite authors? What are you currently reading (or what is the last book you read)?
My favorite authors…
Douglas Adams, because his style of writing is different than most, and even though it might not technically be considered “great prose”, it works and it’s fun.
Stephen King, because he writes incredibly vivid characters.
Neil Gaiman, because he weaves wonderful, fantastic stories.
Terry Pratchett, also because his characters are vivid, and his stories are fun, easy reads.
I’m currently reading Mockingjay (that a friend loaned me). I’m not enjoying it as much as the first two of the series, because I seem to be approaching it from an author’s point of view. As I read it, I keep thinking, “Why isn’t Katniss doing this, instead of that?” So, I’m finding myself not really caring much about the character as much as I did in the first couple of books.
9. What is your preferred reading method? (i.e., Kindle, Nook, paperback, hardback, etc.) Why?
Most books I read are still print (either paperbacks or hardbacks), because I enjoy rereading the books I have, and have borrowed books from friends. I do have a growing library of books in both the Kindle and iBook apps on my iPad, especially many of my favorite books I love to reread.
10. Do you write in first or third person, past or present tense, and why?
Most stories are third person, past tense. A few short stories where the main character is also the narrator, I have written in first person, past, as if they are telling a friend their story.
11. Do you “always read” or do you take breaks between reading books?
I take breaks. Most of my reading time is right before bed to help wind down my mind before sleeping. Sometimes, I don’t know what I want to read next. Or, I have a story wanting to get out, so I outline it (or bits of it) instead of reading.
12. How many books would you say you read in a year? How many at any one time?
I don’t know how many books I read in a year. Maybe 20 to 25? Most of the time I read one at a time. There are books I start, can’t latch onto, and set aside for another time. Also, there are books I read to my kids, too. We are currently in the middle of the 4th Harry Potter.
ABOUT YOUR CURRENT BOOK::
13. What is the title of your current work in progress of the most recent manuscript you’ve completed?
Pickled Bananas and Other Schwartz Stories. This is my first collection of short stories. All these stories are quirky and highly imaginative. I’ve also contributed a short story, “A World Taken Over” to another collection (Wyrd World 2).
14. What is your novel’s genre? Would you say there is a sub-genre? What makes yours different than other books in the same genre?
Under the online stores, Checkered Scissors is under the “fantasy” genre. I’ve called it “light fantasy”. But, recently, I referred to the style as “the They Might Be Giants of prose”. TMBG is considered “alternative rock”, but what does that say about their unique style? It says, “We don’t know what to call it, so we’re going to stick it over in another bucket labeled ‘alternative’.”
Like that, I have a hard time defining the genre I write in, because I consider it very unique, absurd and imaginative. Is there a sub-genre bucket called “alternative” or “other”? When I think of fantasy, I think of something like Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings, but it’s not like that. There are strange occurrences, some magical elements, and odd creatures. It has been called surreal, but even though there are weird elements, I know I could write something much more surreal than it is. My writing style is what it is, but what that is, is difficult to pinpoint. How about “Whimsical Fantasy”?
15. What inspired the current or most recent story you’ve completed?
Checkered Scissors was inspired from a dream. My most recent story, “A World Taken Over”, was inspired from watching Phineas & Ferb. What if Doofenshmirtz didn’t just take over the tri-state area, but the world? What if, after a mad scientist successfully took over the world, what would they do to release control of it again when the decided they no longer wanted it? It’s these what-ifs that inspire my stories.
16. What is your target audience’s age, gender, etc.?
People who enjoy reading a light, easy story at the end of the day. Nothing too heavy or thought provoking, but likes a fun read. People of all ages have read and enjoyed my stories. Kids as young as ten up to the elderly retirees enjoy my stories. My fiction is family friendly. Not that I go out of my way to avoid it, but I typically do not write anything overly adult (sex, extreme violence, or foul language).
17. Do you want to tell us a little bit about your story?
Checkered Scissors is about four people who get trapped in different worlds. They think the checkered Scissors are what they need to take them to where they want to be. It explores the concept of doors between worlds, what happens to the characters who end up in different worlds, and the reasons they have for wanting to escape where they are or to where they want to be. The first half of the novel sets up all the chess pieces, then the second half follows the moves to the conclusion.
ABOUT HOW YOU WRITE::
18. How often do you write?
I write most days. On days when I am not sitting down, knocking out sentences for a story, I am thinking about plots and making notes for future stories. I try to write something creative daily, but there are days when I don’t or can’t.
19. Approximately how many words do you write at each sitting?
I haven’t measured it, but I’m sure it is under the goals for something like NaNoWriMo. Some days, I knock out several pages, while other days I struggle to write a complete paragraph.
20. Do you do your own editing or send it to someone else?
I go through three stages of editing:
(1) I finish the first draft, set it aside, then read through it, making notes as I go.
(2) After making corrections from the first pass, I have the story read and critiqued by my peers. Sometimes I repeat this step multiple times.
(3) Finally, I hire someone to professionally edit the story before formatting and publishing it.
21. What is your method of writing? (i.e., Do you write the entire manuscript, then go back and make changes? Do you plan chapters as you go along or write the story then go back and add chapters? Do you re-read as you go along or after you are done with the first draft?)
I start with an outline. In a way, it’s more of a synopsis, because it is a series of paragraphs describing the different scenes. From this “outline”, I work as I go, sometimes tweaking the synopsis and manuscript as necessary.
However, I may change this after reading the book “The Anatomy of Story”. My next novel, I intend to follow the exercises suggested in this book.
22. Do you have a muse? If so, please elaborate. If not, what inspires you?
Yes, I do have a muse and I thank her often. Sometimes, I think my muse drinks way too many caffeinated drinks. Too many stories bounce around inside of my head. I keep a journal of ideas, random thoughts, dreams, ponderings, etc.. At times, when I need inspiration, I read through my journal.
As for what inspires me… Looking at life from different angles and asking “What if…?” a lot.
23. How long does it take you to write a full manuscript?
Checkered Scissors took two decades from when I knew I wanted to write a story to when I completed it. In all that time, i wrote several short stories to help find my writing voice. The amount of time I found the right direction to take the story I wanted to tell, it was less than a year to write from end to end and a couple more years to clean it up and publish it.
24. Do you give yourself a word limit for each day or a time limit to finish your novel? If so, please elaborate.
Not really. I have a friend, Renee, who helps me plan out sprints for working on my projects and getting things done in a more timely fashion. Thank you, Renee!
25. How long (or how detailed) are the notes you take before you start writing?
Each scenes in my outline is about a paragraph long. For my novel, character profiles and background information about the world are often a page or more of text.
26. Do you have any “must haves” to help you write? (i.e., a full cup of coffee, a view of the ocean, etc.)
I must have my home computer. I could use any computer to write, but I make a point only to write on my home computer, not on my work computer. A nice Starbucks drink doesn’t hurt, either.
27. Do you only write during a certain time of day or in a certain location? If so, do you make yourself stop after a certain time?
Because we have two kids who have lots of friends in the neighborhood over to our house, I tend to get up crazy early (sometimes as early as 4 AM. Yes, Virginia, there is a 4 AM). At that time of day, everyone else is asleep and there are much fewer distractions. Plus, I get my own stuff out of the way before dealing with everyone else’s stuff, so by the end of the day, I still feel accomplished, even when I’m too tired to write some more.
28. Does your real life ever neglected because of your writing? If so, how do you feel about that?
I write around my real life. My family is more important than my writing, and I will set everything aside for them. For now, work is what pays the bills, so I must set my writing aside for my day job. Many times, I would rather focus on my writing instead of dealing with other people’s problems, but I don’t, because that makes me feel like I’m being selfish.
29.What is the quirkiest thing you do or have ever done when writing?
I recently wrote a story that contains a talking stack of pancakes. What I, the person writing these stories, do is boring compared to the lives inside the stories I create. 🙂
ABOUT YOUR WORK::
30. If you have written more than one novel, which is your favorite and why?
I’m going to include my projects in my answer. I am proud of my novel, because it is an amazing accomplishment that fuels the work post-release. My favorite work is “The Inside Joke” which includes an elaborate dialog in slang invented by the characters in the story. The slang is explained over the course of the story as it progresses. It’s like constructing a puzzle in reverse; you get the full picture up front, but to understand it, you need to examine each piece more closely. “The Inside Joke” is one of the stories to appear in “Pickled Bananas”.
31. If you could be one of your own characters for a day, who would it be and why?
Max from Checkered Scissors. He is the original owner of the scissors, and travels a world built upon dreams. To be able to travel a world like that, meeting all sorts of creatures and people, would be an incredible experience.
32. If one of your books became a movie, who would you choose for the “perfect cast” of main characters?
For Checkered Scissors…
Ed, the young entrepreneur, should be played by someone like Calum Worthy or Matt Smith, who is wacky, but not obnoxious. Someone who enjoys life, but doesn’t take it too seriously.
Max, the traveling pool salesman, should be played by someone like Simon Pegg, who is calm and quiet, and can appreciate the wonders of the world around them.
Glick, the lost soul, should be played by Hugo Weaving, who can be reserved and logical.
Mr. Pinkerton, the mad scientist, should be played by the Enigma (the tattooed man of Austin), who is intense, calculating, and unpredicatable.
Thank you, Douglas, for allowing me to interview you. I hope everyone else has enjoyed learning about you and your work as much as I have.