Welcome to the five hundred and thirty-sixth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with non-fiction author Frank C. Newby. 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, Frank. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Frank: I live with a wife, a dog and a cat on the high deserts of New Mexico just 30 miles from the Mexican border. On a cold winter night sitting at a kitchen table on my farm in Southern Indiana, in 1994, I decided that I should write an autobiography for my grandchildren before I left this earth. The first manuscript was written on everything I could find from notebook paper to envelope backs, and scraps of advertising with a clean back. Before long I had a drawer full of scraps of information so I decided it was time to go to town and buy a typewriter. Had never considered the computer. The man told me that typewriters were passé so I came home with a computer. The rest is history. Taught myself to use the computer, got my memoirs all tucked away and printed for my grandchildren and discovered that I had done a marvelous thing. I had written a book.
Morgen: What a great idea. I keep telling my mum she should do the same (although she has plenty of lined paper – she won’t buy a computer but I can type it up) as she’s had a really interesting life; working for racing driver Stirling Moss’ sister for a few years, amongst other things. You write other non-fiction, how do you decide what to write about?
Frank: Living on the border, we are daily surrounded with the violence, and mayhem occurring just beyond our front door. Three years ago I started writing a daily border report for my friends back east who did not know what was happening in Mexico. I had written six books before I started my trilogy, which is now on the market. My first real published book was an exploration of the man called Jesus and it began my love for research. I branched out to the farce of the televangelist with “Evangelism: The Fleecing of the Flock.” and eventually wrote another autobiography under an assumed name called “His Name Was Amy Mable”. The trilogy traces the path of the drug cartels from the violence in Mexico, to the turmoil and poverty which it has created in Central America and ultimately to the water highways of the drug routes in the Caribbean. I have an eclectic mind. I watch everything and comment on the ridiculous or fascinating.
Morgen: I love ridiculous or fascinating. 🙂 What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
Frank: A Lifetime of Dreams; Jesus: Myth or Reality* (under pseudonym Ian Curtis); Rx For Education-Using Ockham’s Razor; Evangelism: The Fleecing of the Flock; His Name Was Amy Mable; Mexico: Drug Merchant to the World; Banana Republic; Secrets of the Caribbean; and Caldron of Anarchy.
Morgen: You’ve self-published, what lead to you going your own way?
Frank: I tried the first four books, two with xLibris and two with iUniverse and spent a lot of money and got nothing in return except a few soft cover books. No support, no marketing and constant bombardment for advertising which wasted my money. I discovered Kindle and then Smashwords. Have sold pretty well so far with minimal advertising. I will not publish again with any of the self-publish houses. I get better royalties with no cost this way.
Morgen: I’ve looked at various options and have done the same. Many authors are, although I wouldn’t rule out traditional publishing if it was right for me. So are all your books available as eBooks? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Frank: I have eight of my books on Kindle and am attempting to reformat to fit Smashwords criteria which will put them on all available electronic readers.
Morgen: I have a page on the blog called how to create an ebook and shows examples of both formats. I went the other way and formatted for Smashwords first (which I found slightly easier) because they provide a free ISBN. Did you have any say in the titles / covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
Frank: I make all of my own title and cover pages with Word 2010. I think they must be attractive and colourful but not as important as the designers would like to believe.
Morgen: They may be biased. Covers are a hot topic online because they’re so small but they have to catch the eye (as you say, be attractive) then if the blurb is enticing… What are you working on at the moment / next?
Frank: I am taking a few weeks off from the last book “Caribbean” and going back to my second love of exotic woodworking Intarsia. May do a painting or two before resuming writing. Write a book and then six weeks of R&R before starting the next. My next book will be about the drug cartels and their members and connections with international Mafia.
Morgen: Wow. You’re not shy with your topics. Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Frank: I write at least four hours every day, 7 days per week. Lose track of thoughts if much delay. Try to maintain 1500 words of copy daily.
Morgen: That’s almost a NaNoWriMo novel a month (I’m embarking on my fifth on Thursday). Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Frank: I have to edit very little from original copy. My problem is typing. I type extremely fast but have many typos. Grammar lapses occasionally but easily corrected.
Morgen: That doesn’t matter for a first draft. The important thing is getting it down and as long as the ideas come (it sounds like you’re like me as almost have too many to cope with) you can plough through the manuscript and deal with typos and grammar later. Do you have to do much research?
Frank: I do a tremendous amount of research. I would estimate at least a third of time is spent on research and two thirds on writing.
Morgen: I’d say that’s more important with non-fiction. Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Frank: I do many monographs and articles for daily comment which will probably never be recorded or published. I place some of that material on the blog site: “Before It’s News”. I have a friend who publishes Federal Observer and “Nostinking amnesty” websites. He picks up some of my stuff and publishes it.
Morgen: Do you pitch for submissions and / or are you commissioned to write?
Frank: No, I do not pitch for submission because I really do not know who to pitch to and the attempts I have made usually met with no response or rejections. I find agents and critics to be elitist and snobbish. Have never even considered commission writing. Won’t lower myself to their restrictions or structures.
Morgen: They don’t suit everyone. I have a page of 50 or so non-fiction submission opportunities and most are direct so you’ll probably find them more user-friendly. Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Frank: Had a few in the beginning. Didn’t like the responses or lack of same. I am a self-confident person. Don’t need the approval or disapproval of anyone. I write for myself and try to make it appealing to anyone else. If I fail then it is my problem.
Morgen: You should write for yourself because there will always be people like you out there, and plenty of others who aren’t. If something is well-written then it’s never a failure. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Frank: No and no. Perhaps a million-selling author needs an agent but they are too self-centered and picky for my tastes. If I met the right one and felt I was getting value received I would consider it.
Morgen: Me too. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Morgen: What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Frank: It takes a great deal out or me psychologically. At the culmination of a book I feel drained and rather lost. Its like I have just suffered a death of something. Rather than feeling the birth of a new book I feel alone. My friend has left me.
Morgen: That’s the great thing about fiction. You can write a series and have the characters stay around for as long as you liked. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Frank: Leave your ego and feelings at home. It’s a cruel world and the critics will devour you if you can’t stand the rejections and criticism. It is humanly impossible to satisfy all people with one book or picture or other art form. That’s why there are so many of us. Don’t take it personally.
Morgen: Absolutely. Two of comments of my free eShort April’s Fool were polar opposites, where the first said there was too much detail then another said that it was too skimpy… out of the two I would agree with the former and do wonder if other chap had read it. 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)?
Frank: I would invite Jesus because I don’t personally believe he exists. If he showed up then my questions would be resolved. I would like to have known Charles Darwin. His thinking changed the world and thirdly, I would invite my wife because she is one of the wisest and most knowledgeable people I have ever known. I enjoy her companionship anytime, anywhere. I would invite them to my favourite restaurant, I don’t cook.
Morgen: What a lovely thing to say. I don’t cook either (my kitchen’s too small for a cooker and storage so I have a combination microwave and portable stove – it works for us). Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Frank: Lives of great men all remind us,
We can make our lives sublime,
And in parting leave behind us
Footprints on the sand of time.
Morgen: And our writing. 🙂 Do you write fiction?
Frank: I have never tried fiction. I live in reality most of the time.
Morgen: Do you plot your books or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Frank: I plot it in my head and know where I am headed. In between there are many crooks in the road so I remain flexible and run with the flow. In the beginning I never know exactly where the ending will come.
Morgen: I’m the same with mine and most of the authors I’ve spoken to have said the same. What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second-person?
Frank: I have never thought of writing in second person. It might make a fascinating study in style. I’ll tuck it away for future reference.
Morgen: Oh yes, do. It can be real enjoyable.
Frank: I tried my autobiography in first person but couldn’t maintain the ‘I and me’ format. I eventually created an alter ego and used my grandfather as my surrogate. I wrote under the name of “little Raz” and titled the book “His Name Was Amy Mable.” Fascinating story of a little boy who grew up ploughing with a team of horses and a walking plough, drafted in World War II and spent most of his life in education. Started writing at 75 and never looked back. Every fact in the book is true and my life story but the character has another name.
Morgen: Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Frank: Daily Border Report to about 500 readers.
Morgen: What do you do when you’re not writing?
Frank: I do exotic woodworking in the Intarsia style, I paint in oils and I am an avid gardener. In my younger years I climbed mountains in Colorado and Wyoming. These help me maintain my sanity between writing bouts.
Morgen: And gave you plenty of time to think. Have seen pictures of Wyoming, I can see why Annie Proulx writes about it. Are there any writing-related websites and / or books that you find useful?
Frank: Smashwords, IBot, and Internet Explorer.
Morgen: I don’t know IBot, I’ll have to look into that. Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Frank: Just joined the IBot Toolbox site. It looks very promising. It is new and not well-tested yet.
Morgen: They sound wonderfully techie. 🙂 What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Frank: The future is unlimited. The world population grows every day and most people will always read. Information must be disseminated and we cannot rely on commercial sources since they are biased and short-sighted. The world will be a pitiful place in a couple of generations if we rely on CNN and the local networks to supply our information and knowledge.
Morgen: More people are reading now (I think anyway) because of the formats available. Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Frank: My books and profile information are on my page on Amazon.com.
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Frank: I try to be an optimist and think things will get better but the short sighted attitudes of our politicians and the lack of education that is evident in our young today makes me worry. We are at the end of the normal life of most historic governments. Will it be possible to find enough intelligent people to return our governments and religions to sanity and work together instead of as opponents? Are we going to allow selfish interests and religious superstition destroy our civilized world? Finally, I think what you are doing is marvellous. We search diligently for any outlet that will allow us to be heard. Thank you very much.
Morgen: You’re very welcome. Thank you for joining me today. Is there anything you’d like to ask me?
Frank: I finally realized that you might be in the U.K. Is that correct? I know I have sold a few books through Amazon Kindle in the U.K. branch.
Morgen: I am, in ‘middle England’. Your author page for the UK for those of us living here is http://www.amazon.co.uk/Frank-C.-Newby/e/B005015H7U. Congratulations… I’ve sold more in the US than here but then most of my blog traffic is from the U.S. Thank you, Frank.
I then invited Frank to include an extract of his writing…
Border Report – Tuesday, April 17, 2012
The murder of young women in Juarez continues at an unabated pace. During January and February, authorities uncovered the graves of 12 young women, at least six between 15 and 19 years old. The records indicate that the death toll of young females in Juarez between 2006 and 2011 is now at 7640. No one seems to have any definitive reasons for this phenomena but the maquiladoras and the flaunting of the patriarchal society by Mexican females are given as possibilities. When young females left the safety of home and family to work in the factories and live in the Colonias and barrios which sprang up, they were deemed to be loose, promiscuous and fair game for the predators. They leave for work before light in the morning and return home after dark at night to shanties with no electricity or running water and sanitation. They are unprotected and vulnerable. The Mexican male with a high libido and no moral background, is a volatile animal who seizes what he can find. If it’s easy and vulnerable it becomes a target. Juarez seems to be the focal paint of this phenomena and it might be because of the concentration of gangs and cartel members who are perpetually on an adrenaline rush as they prey and pursue their enemies. The drug war has become a deadly game and the young macho male is drawn like a moth to the flame. Combine ignorance, danger, drugs and alcohol and you have the concoction from hell. There may be no reasonable answer to this plague which the world has spawned with its demand for mind-altering substances.
I then invited Frank to include a synopsis of his book…
Mexico: Drug Merchant to the World is a story of how, when, where and why the drugs flow from South and Central America, through Mexico and to the bodies of our American citizens. It is a story of the poverty, ignorance and religious superstition that fuels the inhumane and insane, mass mutilation and desecration of so many human beings. It has information about the content, processing, and distribution of drugs from the depths of the Sierra Madre mountains to the nightclubs of the world. It is the story of country that has suffered 50,000 deaths in a few short years to fuel the insane demand of Americans. This is our repeat story of Prohibition, same plot, different merchandise.
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