Welcome to the eleventh of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. Today’s is with murder mystery author Gary Showalter. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate the author further. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found at https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/blog-interviews.
Morgen: Hello, Gary. Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
Gary: I was born in Honolulu in 1948, lived on Aruba (and remember it well) until age 3 and then in Orlando, Florida until 1962, when we moved to the Panama Canal Zone in 1962, where I went to high school. In 1966 I joined the US Army. In 1970 I lived in Atlanta and worked as a grounds keeper until I opened a carpentry shop with one of my brothers, where I built custom made hardwood furniture. In 1981 I sold my home and moved to Israel, where I lived until 2003. During that time I served in the Israel Defence Forces, worked in government and private security and earned a living as a goldsmith, silversmith, ornamental wood turner and builder and restorer of furniture. I also spent ten years in the software development industry, mostly in software testing, a job I truly loved and excelled in. That is also where I took up writing as an avocation. I returned to the States at the end of 2003 to visit my mother, only to find her health failing. I packed up my life in Israel, said a very sad goodbye to my four children and stayed in Florida to care for her. She passed away in 2008 and I find myself here working on my fourth novel, “Lonesome Cove”. It is my fervent hope to build enough of an income from my writing to return to Israel and spend the remainder of my days yelling at my as yet unborn grandchildren.
Morgen: I love the last comment and my goodness, someone who’s had more jobs than me. 🙂 What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Gary: My novels – “The Big Bend”, “Hog Valley” and “Twisted Key” and soon “Lonesome Cove” are all murder mysteries set in Florida. I write with more than a bit of tongue in cheek humour, good character development, enough local colour to allow the reader to paint his or her own picture of each scene and some pretty interesting plotting. My readers seem to love it, so I must be doing something right.
Morgen: That’s what it’s all about. 🙂 What have you had published to-date?
Gary: “The Big Bend”, “Hog Valley”, “Twisted Key”, and a collection of essays and articles written while I lived in Israel. I am currently writing “Lonesome Cove” and hope to have it published mid-2012. “Twisted Key”, my third novel, is currently available only in Kindle format. I hope to have it released in paperback in July or August of this year. Here is the back text: ‘Terry Rankin has a new client; Fatima al Natsche, a Muslim woman living under a sentence of death for her work on behalf of women suffering under Islamic law. Terry’s not a religious kind of guy – he’ll protect just about anyone who can pay the freight. In fact, he admires Ms. Al Natsche and the sacrifices she’s made to get her message out. But then her daughter flies over from Norway and gets snatched off the street in front of her mother’s home, and all of the masks come off and all of the dirty little secrets come out to play in the Florida sun.’
Morgen: I love the ‘he’ll protect just about anyone who can pay the freight’ bit. Are your books available as eBooks? If so what was your experience of that process? And do you read eBooks?
Gary: All of my work is available for the Kindle. It’s a pretty painless process.
Morgen: That’s encouraging. What was your first acceptance and is being accepted still a thrill?
Gary: I self-publish, mostly because I see no real advantage in giving away all of those fat royalties to an agent. Publishing houses cannot afford to invest in money in promoting a new author, so why should I bother with them.
Morgen: Well put. Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Gary: Lots of rejections for agents before I learned enough about the industry to decide there was no upside to pursuing an agent. If an agent ever decides to pursue me I might change my mind, but for right now I am very happy to be a self-published author.
Morgen: It worked for Amanda Hocking. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Gary: My fourth novel, “Lonesome Cove” and preparing a collection of my father’s writings for publication. He was a prolific writer during the WWII era; he served in all three theatres of the war and wrote short stories, poetry and lots of letters in his off time.
Morgen: Do you manage to write every day? What’s the most you’ve written in a day?
Gary: Mostly I think, and then I write. I don’t work from an outline – my characters and I argue a lot about the direction of the story we’re telling. It can get very noisy in here, so I keep the door closed when I write. And I don’t really keep track of the number of pages I turn out each day. I spend a great deal of time in rewriting and polishing.
Morgen: I love it when characters play ‘boss’. What is your opinion of writer’s block? Do you ever suffer from it? If so, how do you ‘cure’ it?
Gary: When I stop writing – and it does happen – I know it’s because there is something wrong with what I have written, and until I figure it out and clean it up I cannot continue with the story. And I do not beat myself up over it. I save the file and do other stuff for sometimes a month or two until I go back and do whatever rewriting has to be done to convince my characters to come back to work.
Morgen: A man after my own heart. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Gary: Usually I come up with a static picture – a snapshot – an image of a scene, and ask myself what went before and what might happen afterward.
Morgen: Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Gary: I sure hope they don’t.
Morgen: I have loads, but mostly from a long time ago when I didn’t really know what I was doing (I like to think I have more of a clue now). What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life?
Gary: My favourite has to be the very first few minutes when a new story works its way up through the primordial ooze way in the back of my mind. Then it’s the initial research, which can take a month or six weeks to sort out the background for the story, and as the tale grows in the manuscript it’s the search for locations, visiting and photographing and plotting. My least favourite aspect of writing is, unfortunately, the most important part of writing a novel; rewriting. And more rewriting, and even more rewriting until the story runs smoothly past my reader’s eyes. I have several very good friends who read my manuscripts for continuity, egregious spelling and grammar errors and story flow. They can be brutally honest. They are also good folks to drink beer with.
Morgen: What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Gary: Don’t quit on yourself or your dreams. Ever.
Morgen: I like that. What do you like to read?
Gary: Historical fiction, mostly, some science fiction and fantasy, biographies and history.
Morgen: Are there any writing-related websites and/or books that you find useful and would recommend?
Gary: I need to qualify what I’m about to say in answer to that question. I don’t believe anyone can teach you to write. But every place you work, every town you walk in or drive through, everyone you meet, every book you read, every movie you watch, every hill you climb just to see what is on the other side will teach you something. Once you begin to learn from your experiences you can then you teach yourself to write. If you are writing fiction, stay away from style books. Get a copy of “Eats Shoots and Leaves” instead. That little book will help you to learn what not to do in your writing. Nobody can tell you how to write fiction. Just read lots and lots of fiction in the genre you want to write in so you know what people like to read. Develop your own style and modify it as you find necessary. Join one or more writing groups in your area. You will make lots of interesting friends and lots of useful stuff about the business of writing.
Morgen: I run two groups and belong to two others and they all vary so invaluable for feedback and getting me writing. I firmly believe that it’s practice and having second opinions to point out what works and doesn’t work because they don’t know the meaning behind what you’re reading to them. That, and reading out loud shows you what irks. In which country are you based and do you find this a help or hindrance with letting people know about your work?
Gary: I live in Florida, USA. This is a wonderful state in which to write. No end of things to write about. I love it.
Morgen: And a bonus that it’s sunny. Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how invaluable do you find them?
Gary: I am a member of several social networking sites and a few professional discussion boards. In answer to the second part of your question I would have to say it is a mixed bag. All of the social networking takes a lot of time, blogging – I post at least once a week – also takes time, and it takes time to keep up-to-date on the discussion boards. If you add to this mix of distractions the time it takes to attend meetings of local writing groups, that amounts to a lot of lost writing hours. But it is also necessary, I suppose, and if it’s not immediately useful to me, perhaps my contributions ARE useful to someone else.
Morgen: Absolutely, it’s a two-way street but very much getting out the pleasure and knowledge that you put in. Where can we find out about you and your work Gary?
Gary: Check my website (http://www.garyshowalter.com). You’ll find an Author’s Bio, Reader’s Comments, Schedule of Events and PDF files of the first three chapters of my novels for download. Lots of other stuff, too.
Morgen: It’s a lovely simply laid out site with lots of menus to choose from. 🙂 Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Gary: Thank you very much for your time. If you have any questions, I will be happy to answer them for you.
Morgen: You’re very welcome. It’s very clear to me but I’m sure we’ll get some comments (or emails – Gary’s is listed on his website’s contact us page: firstname.lastname@example.org) if anyone reading this has any questions for you.
If you are reading this and you write, in whatever genre, and are thinking “ooh, I’d like to do this” then you can… just email me and I’ll send you the information. They do now (January 2013) carry a fee (£10 / €12.50 / $15) for the new interviews on this blog but everything else (see Opportunities on this blog) is free.
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