When I first started writing Green Bay Outsiders, my current work in progress, I knew one of my characters was going to be a Vietnam War veteran so I delved into stories that highlight the experiences of such men and women. Although Sylvester Stallone often serves as the butt of jokes because of the many atrocious movies he has made during his career, many other films he has made have significantly more merit, including the first “First Blood” movie. The film, released in 1982, approximately a decade after the end of the Vietnam War, shows a war veteran displaced by the trauma of his experiences overseas whose buddies back home are dying from various ailments and who can’t find a home for himself back on American turf.
I first interviewed UK-based independent author Jane Davis in 2016 about her thoughts on writing and literary fiction (the link to that interview is at the end of this post.) Jane’s upcoming novel Smash All the Windows will be published in April though is currently available for pre-order. Click here to order a copy now.
Can you describe the type of writing that characterizes your output?
Henry James wrote in an 1884 magazine article that a novel is ‘a direct impression of life’. My own favourite definition of fiction is ‘made-up truth’, which is pretty close. Whatever my subject-matter, I try to make sure that the end-product is honest, credible and authentic. I like to write about big subjects and give my characters almost impossible moral dilemmas. I don’t allow my characters a shred of privacy. I know what they’re thinking, what they’re feeling, the lies they tell, their secret fears. But I only meet them at a particular point on their journeys, usually in a highly volatile or unstable situation, and then I throw them to the lions. How people behave under pressure reveals so much about them.
Below is an interview I conducted with Jessica Levin, entrepreneur, marketer, president of Seven Degrees Communications, people connector and author of Everyone Has Sh*t: Unsolicited Advice for Being Human. A copy can be purchased on Amazon. Jessica is a long-time friend and continues to be a guiding light as I develop my skills in marketing (and struggle to find the best gin & tonic in Washington, DC).
So a decent amount of reader feedback has come back for the three cover designs proposed for my novel, Billy Maddox Takes His Shot, and two cover designs ran almost neck and neck: #2 and #3. Thirteen readers thought Cover #2 was the strongest choice while 12 readers preferred Cover #3. Four readers also weighed in as advocates for #1 with some compelling arguments for why that cover was the strongest. Let’s break down the feedback to determine how to move forward with the final book cover design.
Readers browsing Amazon’s online book store (the Kindle store) for their next read will make their purchasing decisions based on several factors. The cover has to be attractive. The book description should be compelling. And then there are reader reviews. A book with seven reviews is likely going to be perceived as less interesting than a book with seven HUNDRED reviews. The latter will be perceived as one where readers are heading in droves in pursuit of a great and wonderful story, whereas the former–the book with seven reviews–will be perceived as one read only by the author’s mother and a handful of friends.
Back at the State University of Binghamton, where I was a creative writing student in the mid-1990s, I wrote a short story called “Shakespeare’s Night on the Town”. It wasn’t a very good story–overly moralistic (hey, I was raised Catholic!) and slightly naive. It was also a very long story. I told my professor, Liz Rosenberg, that I struggled to write short stories. “Maybe you’re a novelist,” she responded. I have never forgotten she said that. It resonated at the time, and it continues to resonate now.