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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Author Interview – George A Bernstein @GeorgeBernstein

Do you have any advice for writers? As I said earlier, learn the craft. Don’t think, because friends tell you how good you are, that you’re ready to be a published author. In the world of self-publishing, and especially now with little or no expense to publish an e-book with Kindle or Smashwords, there is a lot of poorly written stuff out there. If yours is one of those, it will cloud your reputation in the future.

Again, there are few better places a neophyte, or even an experienced writer, can get expert help than by attending good writers conferences. Many are attended by agents and editors to whom you can pitch your story. But understand, very few authors are actual signed at these conferences. Agents have admitted they go more to network with their peers than find a hidden gem. The main thing is attend the writing classes. You’ll find more than you’ll have time for, including sessions about promoting your work, and how to query agents and editors. There’s a lot to learn about what makes good ACCEPTABLE writing, and you aren’t going to discover it on your own.

And finally, write because you love it. The odds of making a real living as a novelist are minimal at best. Non-fiction authors , with a real platform and strong bona fides, have a much better chance at making money at writing… if they put in the work they need to promote themselves. And you need to be lucky.

How do you feel about self-publishing? Self-publishing today gives the debut author a never before opportunity to get recognized. As I’ve said, you have little chance to be taken on by a literary agent or book publisher. Most large presses won’t even accept submissions from unagented authors. Then there are the smaller, indie presses that mostly rely on those who can’t make it with agents or big publishers. And of course, there are the vanity and POD publishers, whose only requirements are that you can pay their fees.

And that’s the major problem with much of self-publishing. For print, the POD publisher will accept whatever you send them, as long as it’s properly formatted. They make their money from fees they charge you for formatting, cover design, printing and distribution. Actual book sale (other than those sold directly to the author) provide very little of their gross income, and the typical self-published book rarely sells even 100 copies. Of course, you can avoid much of the out-of-pocket expense by only e-publishing with Kindle, Smashwords, etc., but the results are usually the same.

Too few self-published authors spend the time and money to really learn the skill, and for professional  editors, and their work shows it. Critique groups can help, but are no substitute for a professional. Nor do these authors often work with experience graphic artists on cover design. And that’s why self-publishing has acquired a shady reputation. For many, I think being able to say they are a “published author” is the end game, and that’s okay, if that’s all you seek.

What books did you love when growing up? When I was a pre-teen, I loved all the dog books by Albert Payson Terhune: “Buff, a Collie,” “Ladd of Sunnybrook Farm,” et al. As I teen, I loved sea adventures, especially based around our Revolution and the War of  1812. I especially like the adventures written by Edison Marshall, like “The Viking.”

If you could have a dinner party, and invite anyone, dead or alive, who would that be? Baseball great, Ted Williams; fly-fishing industry great, Leon Chandler; and my dad.

I was an avid fan of Teddy Ballgame, both because I admired is great ability, amplified by his intensity, and because he was a great fly-fisherman. I actually met Ted in the 1970’s, as we were flying into the same northern Manitoba fishing lodge. He invited me to fish with him one day, and showed me the thrill of fly-fishing for big pike… and I’ve become an expert at that. He lost 6 prime years to the military, fighting wars… not playing sports as many of his ilk did… and was, I believe, the greatest hitter of all time.

Leon Chandler was a friend who also took me under his wing during a Federation of Fly-Fishermen conclave in the 1970’s. We fished together many times, and he was a gentleman and giant of the sport.

And my dad, because we were always too busy with work to really spend much quality time together. He was a great role model on how to live life as an honorable person. I miss him.

What is your greatest strength as a writer? How immersed I get in the story and characters. I live their joy and suffer their pain. And I’m ready to change their direction as the story proceeds. I start with an outline and the main characters, but it’s always in flux as new challenges occur enroute to the climax. I still get emotional during certain scenes of my first novel, Trapped, and especially reading the ending. The same with a scene near the end of A 3rd Time to Die, when the two lovers discover the truth about the lives together.

My other strength is my willingness to consider editing suggestions. Dee Burks, my editor at TAG Publishers, made several suggestions to improve TRAPPED, like doing the entire novel from the single viewpoint of Jackee, the protagonist. I also expanded the ending (Denouncement) at her suggestion. The editors at GnD Publishing LLC also had several insightful suggestions that improved A 3rd Time to Die.

But I “stood by my guns” by resisting changing how Trapped actually ended, which was a good thing. The most frequent comment I get from readers is that they love the ending.


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Genre – Romantic Suspense

Rating – PG13

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