Welcome to the five hundred and tenth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with multi-genre author Danny Fisher. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Danny. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Danny: Hi, Morgen. My name is Danny Fisher. I have a boy’s name because my mother expected a boy and got a girl. I am based in the United States, Ohio to be exact. I became a writer quite by chance. I wrote a personal statement for an interview for a job I did not get, but I was told that the statement was so well written that I should write a book. I bought a laptop that day and began my autobiography which is still in the production stage.
Morgen: I know of a Danni but I like your name, it’s very film star. 🙂 What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Danny: I tend to write books that rely heavily on the relationships between the characters regardless of the genre. My first book, Burnt Stones, is a family drama with a young adult twist. City Vamps is my contribution to the vampire / fantasy genre because I am a fan of that genre. Upcoming stories have an adventure / crime edge, but I wouldn’t cast them as thrillers or mysteries. The question of genre usually perplexes me because I do not set out to write a specific type of story, but rather I write about specific kinds of characters.
Morgen: Nor do I. I think it’s easier these days to mix genres and if you start out with a variety it them becomes what you’re known for. What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
Danny: I write under my maiden name of Fisher to honour the memory of my late father. Also, as a child, my favourite book was Harold Robbins’ A Stone for Danny Fisher. I wanted to see my name on another cover. To date, I have three books published, Burnt Stones and City Vamps, mentioned a moment ago then The Exit Strategy, was released this summer.
Morgen: Congratulations. You’re self-published, what lead to you going your own way?
Danny: This was a conscious decision after much soul searching. I submitted queries for Burnt Stones to several publishers and literary agents only to be told time and again that although my book was good, it was not what they were looking for at the time. I decided that a good book was worthy of being read. Also, if I was going to ask people to part with their hard earned money to buy my book, I should put my money where my mouth was and back it myself. I either believed in my book or I didn’t.
Morgen: We have to, don’t we, and they are a part of us. Are your books available as eBooks? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Danny: Burnt Stones and The Exit Strategy are both available in print and eBook form, and City Vamps is exclusively an eBook. I am a fan of both types of book formats. I love to turn the pages of a new book. When traveling, I love to keep my carry-on light with my Kindle instead of a heavy paperback. There are advantages to both.
Morgen: There are, and it’s great having the choice. I’m a book reader at home (although my ‘new’ (second hand) iPad2 is still a novelty). 🙂 Do you have a favourite of your books or characters?
Danny: Picking a favourite of either would be difficult. They are all special to me in some way because they come straight from my heart. My characters become people I wish I could meet, and I’ve even had fans tell me they wish they could drink a beer with some of them.
Morgen: Wow, that’s great! They have to feel realistic so that the reader cares what happens to them. If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actors?
Danny: If my books became films, who would I envision as the lead actors? In Burnt Stones, I could see Reese Witherspoon as the female lead with Matthew McConaughey as the best friend. The lead in The Exit Strategy would be Dierks Bentley (a country singer, but I’d like to see him make the move to film just for me … lol). Those are the only ones I can think of off the top of my head.
Morgen: I don’t know Dierks but I’d be very happy with Reese and Matthew. 🙂 Did you have any say in the titles / covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
Danny: I created the titles of both books. I submitted the idea for the cover of Burnt Stones to my publisher and their in-house artists created the final product. I designed the cover of City Vamps, and am actually about to launch a re-design soon. The titles and covers are extremely important as they are the lasting image in a reader’s mind. I like my covers to be clean and simple, but relevant without giving too much away. My new cover for City Vamps uses just words and colour to create the mood I wanted to evoke, and I think it does so successfully.
Morgen: They’re nice and simple covers, the best way to go, I think. What are you working on next?
Danny: My next book, Lucky, is in the cover design stages with a graphic designer. The cover for Lucky needed to be very realistic and graphic, and I happened upon a talented designer willing to take on my project.
Morgen: Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Danny: I write almost every day. I have never suffered from a prolonged case of writer’s block, although I do sometimes have dry spells after a particularly stimulating session of writing where I am left feeling drained. I don’t feel stuck, but rather in need of recharging my creative batteries, so to speak.
Morgen: We all do from time to time (and to not feel guilty). Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Danny: I refrain from plotting any details in any kind of formal fashion. I get my ideas usually in the format of, “What if?” and then I start typing. I keep a notebook handy for each book as I write to jot down ideas as I go, or keep track of important details so I don’t confuse them later (timelines, hair or eye colour, etc.). If an idea comes to me at a time when I cannot access my computer, I jot it down on anything I can until I can get to it.
Morgen: Me too; I have a notebook and at least two pens (I’ve had one dry up on me and had to rely on indentations) in each dog walking jacket. Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Danny: Naming my characters is one of my paramount duties. Some of their names just come to me, some are the result of hours of scribbling various combinations of names on a notepad until I get one that conjures the feeling I want for that character. I have been known to change names mid-story and then have to go back and edit every place where the name was mentioned. What makes my characters believable are their actions, reactions, connections with others and their own traits and quirks. My characters are not either the hero or the villain. My heroes are flawed and my villains are people a reader can empathize with even if they don’t understand them completely, or agree with their actions. My characters grow and mature, although not always to the degree the reader might like because that would not always be realistic. I love to assign my characters small physical gestures that are uniquely theirs to emphasize realism.
Morgen: All characters should have flaws. I have a chick lit book coming out (in theory before Christmas!) and one of my first readers have said she’s too harsh with some of the (weird and wonderful) men she meets. I have toned her down a little in some places but it’s who she is so hopefully it won’t put the reader off. Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Danny: Using a computer allows ease of editing as I write and I do a lot of it as I go. I always have my trusted first reader (my niece) read it first for content, then my husband if he wants to (he hates to read) and then it goes to my editor. I do not have a professional editor that I pay giant sums of money to for their work. I know a lady who loves to read and is an expert in the areas where I lack. When I get it back from her, I re-read it for her corrections, and often tighten up the writing on my own some more. By the time I submit it for publishing, it has been read and edited several times. While I believe in the editing process, I do not believe it is necessary to shell out wads of cash to someone if you’re lucky enough (like me) to have contacts willing and able to do it for less.
Morgen: What a shame your husband doesn’t like reading. Maybe some of your writing will inspire him. 🙂 Do you have to do much research?
Danny: I avoid research whenever possible. I will make sure I am referring to events in history correctly, and if I created a character with a specific set of skills (say a doctor) I do what I must to make that person believable by learning about professional jargon they might use, etc. I do just enough research to make my work believable without having the story become a manual or a history lesson.
Morgen: There is a fine line between giving the reader enough information and telling them so much that they don’t need to think for themselves. I have heard some readers say that some writers show off their knowledge which is obviously an extreme. What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Danny: I tend to use first person in my prologues because I write them as flashbacks to take the reader into the middle of the story early on. Once the story starts, I move to third person and use italics to insert personal thoughts into the text. I’ve never attempted second person and wouldn’t know where to start.
Morgen: Ah ha! I have a page on my blog (https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/2ppov) which may help you. It’s worth having a go just to see whether you like it or not. Whilst I wouldn’t recommend it for longer pieces, I love writing flash fiction or short stories in second. Do you write any poetry, non-fiction or short stories?
Danny: I write poetry only as a hobby for myself when I’m in the right mood. My only non-fiction attempt is my autobiography. My short stories are written via my blog. They are personal in nature and are meant as a way to keep my writing fresh and give my fans a way to get to know me.
Morgen: I write a story a day (so I get to write every day) for my blog’s 5pm fiction slot and it’s great practice. NaNoWriMo is coming up so it’ll be a challenge doing the blog (which is a full-time job anyway) and NaNo (the first time I did both was last year and I struggled) and the 5pm fiction (which I started this June). I may have to forgo the daily fiction for a month (I think I can be forgiven) as I will be writing every day (unlike last year’s NaNo when I wrote 3K the first day then nothing ’til the 23rd and had to write 47K in 8 days – I did it but was exhausted). Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Danny: Cross my fingers, not yet. I do not believe in writing books that live inside my desk drawer. I do have a story right now that will need major reworking, and might possibly evolve into something altogether different, but it will eventually see the light in some form.
Morgen: The more practice you have the more you’d be able to rework anyway. It’s all about practice (anything is really). Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Danny: I am a fan of the music group Van Halen. Years ago, their lead singer, David Lee Roth, was quoted as saying something to the effect of, “…People talk good about you and they talk bad about you. The point is they are talking about you…” This quote comes to me when I get rejected or get a not so kind review. It reminds me that I cannot control what others think or feel, but only what I put out there to represent me as a writer. My goal is to always stay true to who I am as a writer and a person. My hope is that people relate to that, buy my books and are glad they did. Everything else is irrelevant.
Morgen: They do say no publicity is bad publicity (and I’ve had a few bad reviews on Goodreads) but you’d like to hope for good, although it’s all just one person’s opinin. Do you enter competitions? Are there any you could recommend?
Danny: I prefer to put my efforts towards marketing via a grassroots, face-to-face approach when I can.
Morgen: I used to enter short story competitions (and I was placed in a few) but now prefer to submit to magazines and the like… more likelihood of payment! Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Danny: I do not have an agent as of yet. I would not mind having one under the right circumstances. I have pitched my stuff to agents whose names I’ve found in various places. I find the whole process to be emotionally draining. I am not the kind of person who likes to jump through hoops for people I don’t even know because I found their name on a website. I think a relationship as important as writer / agent should start more organically … I am a fan of the face-to-face. For instance, the only reason I have a great new graphic artist working on one of my books is because I met him by chance and we hit it off. I have to click with people to trust them with my work. I found that when I pitched to people I didn’t know I was uneasy during the whole process. I prefer to make connections then make pitches. I think a good agent can be a Godsend whereas a bad one could sink you in a second.
Morgen: I’ve done both; submitted to agents via email and had four face-to-faces. Although the latter is more scary it’s a much quicker “no”. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Danny: All of it and as much as my day allows. I work full-time in another industry because I like to eat and pay my bills.
Morgen: That does help (I have two lodgers so I’m able to stay at home; very lucky).
Danny: I have a blog, a Facebook fan page, a Twitter account and book trailers on YouTube. I take the reins on as much marketing as I can to market my brand, Danny Fisher, writer. I have had book signings and am pursuing more of those types of events plus speaking engagements and media connections. I constantly work on moving forward in this area in little ways like always introducing myself as a writer when people ask what I do. I always have business cards on hand with my website, titles of my books and where they can be found. On the back, I put the back cover description of my book to pique interest. I have several different cards in different styles to match each book and catch people’s eye. I hand them out like candy. My next marketing goal is to build my email list so I can collect as much information about my readers as they can about me.
Morgen: It’s all about networking; they do say it’s not what you know but who you know and most book sales are achieved by recommendation. Apparently Fifty Shades of Grey started out like that. What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Danny: Besides the obvious creative outlet, my favourite aspect of my writing life is the amount of control I have over the projects I produce and the direction my career takes. What surprised me about the industry itself are the attitudes that can exist between writers who were traditionally published (via agent / publisher) and those who were self-published / vanity published. I did not expect to be looked down upon by others in this industry because I chose the self-publishing route. While I realize that self-publishing has made it possible for any idiot to get their work in front of an audience, I also believe that it is the wave of the future and no one should condemn a good book into obscurity just because it was not one of “the chosen ones” to be rescued from a slush pile.
Morgen: I think it’s getting easier. I’m quite happy to say I’m self-published and the publisher I’m in talks with over the chick lit is a self-publishing company but they approached me so I wouldn’t be self-publishing on this occasion… that said, they only want the paperback so I will be self-publishing the eBook. 🙂 What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Danny: Have a long conversation with yourself about your goals as a writer. If you only want to write to express yourself and not make money, that’s fine. If you want writing to support you, make a conscious decision and follow through with what it takes to make that happen. You cannot turn your hobby into a career without concrete goals and plans. If you want to write and write well, you must read, read, read and write, write, write. Don’t do anything halfway, and never let anyone tell you that your honest efforts aren’t worth anything. It’s a learning process and the goal should be to always be learning. If you’re in this industry to sell a million copies and turn a fast buck, people will notice and they won’t react kindly. Authenticity trumps everything.
Morgen: Absolutely – if you don’t have the passion for what you’re doing it’s going to make the ‘job’ that much harder. If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Danny: I would invite my father and I would have a cold case of beer on hand. I would invite Eddie Van Halen, share a pizza and finish off the beer. Finally, Martin Luther King and make my mom’s spaghetti.
Morgen: Sounds like a good mixture for an interesting conversation. Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Danny: “If it looks good, you’ll see it. If it sounds good, you’ll hear it. If it’s marketed right, you’ll buy it. But … if it’s real, you’ll feel it.” Kid Rock.
Morgen: I love that. What do you do when you’re not writing?
Danny: I love to play live tournament poker, travel, and attend live entertainment of almost any kind (especially concerts). When I need alone time I unwind with various art projects. When I need to get out of the house, I’m hanging out with friends listening to good music and drinking cold beverages.
Morgen: You do have to live life in order to be able to write about it. Are there any writing-related websites and / or books that you find useful?
Danny: I was lucky enough to come across a copy of Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft early in my career thanks to the kind of recommendation from a bookstore employee. I consider that my writing Bible because I relate to his attitude towards writing, and him (we are both New Englanders). The book details his personal writing journey, as well as provides great easy to understand insight into the business of writing and the mechanics of the craft.
Morgen: ‘On Writing’s been the most recommended book here (I have it too). Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Danny: I am on LinkedIn. So far, it has been a great place to debate topics I find interesting, make contacts and learn.
Morgen: Isn’t it great. There are always people to help when you have a query (or need more interviewees :)). What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Danny: I think the industry is on the cusp of a very exciting time because it has been opened up by self-publishing. While that phenomenon lends itself to over-exposure, it also gives unprecedented access to talent that may have never otherwise been discovered. Paperbacks turned the industry on its head and everyone thought hard cover books would become obsolete. Once the fervour died down, the opposite happened. Hard cover books are now treasured as keepsakes and special editions. We can’t avoid where technology is taking us. Like anything else in life, everyone in the industry will need to adapt to succeed.
Morgen: Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Danny: Readers can read excerpts from both of my books, plus descriptions of upcoming books and my bio on my website at www.dannyfisherwrites.com. Please feel free to email me with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, you can find me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dannyfisherwrites or on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Dfisherwrites. My personal blog is http://girlgrownwild.blogspot.com.
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Danny: I would like to extend my appreciation and thanks to you, Morgen, for the opportunity to reach out to your fans and loyal readers. Thanks for inviting me to discuss my career with all of you.
Morgen: You’re so welcome, Danny. Thank you for taking part. Is there anything you’d like to ask me?
Danny: How do you do it all?
Morgen: <laughs> by doing little else and not getting enough sleep. 🙂 It’s a fine balance and having been a secretary since I left school helps me be organised (and a quick typer). At least writing a story a day gets me writing although having interest in one of my novels has given me the kickstart to start re-editing the other three (and a bit)… or it’ll be four and a bit post-November.
I then invited Danny to include synopses …
Burnt Stones: When Casey Jack Tucker throws a fastball scouts take notice. Hardworking and proud of his country roots, Casey has his eye on the big show. On the verge of making his dream a reality, unrequited love threatens his future when one night with his dream girl proves disastrous. Casey blocks the memory and moves on. But before he can suit up for college ball consequences of that night come knocking. Now Casey has a choice: Does he give up his life’s passion and “do the right thing” or does he play ball?
City Vamps: Washed up reality star Maggie Shaw clings to Jack Daniel’s for dear life until her agent lands Maggie the role of a lifetime in the cast of City Vamps, the popular sitcom about five single immortals living in New York City. If Maggie survives her stint in rehab and stays sober, she will prove herself as a serious actress. But before she can be accepted as a full-fledged member of the cast, Maggie must decide how far she’s willing to go to keep the limelight shining on her when she learns that not all of her co-stars are acting.
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.
If you go for the interview, it’s very simple; I send you a questionnaire (I have them for novelists, short story authors, children’s authors, non-fiction authors, and poets). You complete the questions, and I let you know when it’s going to go live. Before it does so, I add in comments as if we’re chatting, and then they get posted. When that’s done, I email you with the link so you can share it with your corner of the literary world. And if you have a writing-related blog / podcast and would like to interview me… let me know.
Alternatively, if you’d like a free Q&A-only interview, I now have http://morgensauthorinterviews.wordpress.com on which I’ve rerun the original interviews posted here then posted new interviews which I then reblog here. These interviews are Q&A only, so I don’t add in my comments but they do get exposure on both sites.
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