Thursday, March 3, 2011

R.H. Watson Interview

1: What is the most productive time of the day for you to write?

Any time I’m awake; it varies from day to day depending on circumstances. I used to have to leave the house because I’m one of those people who will let a cat sleep in my lap even though I have to balance my keyboard on my belly, but I recently installed voice recognition software, so now I can write and scratch my cat’s ears at the same time. 

I do still leave the house every day so that I don’t turn into a complete hermit. I spend the daytime working in local coffee shops, the public library, and the back room of my friend’s comic book store.

2: Do you start your projects writing with paper and pen or is it all on the computer?

I write everything on the computer, or computers. I’m compulsive about redundancy. When I’m at home I use the Mac mini that’s hooked to my TV. When I’m out I use a laptop, and once a week I use a backup laptop to make sure it’s still working and that everything on it is up-to-date. I use Dropbox to keep my manuscripts synced between all three machines. Since Dropbox also keeps an offsite backup of everything, I feel safe from losing my work. In fact, the only time I’m nervous is when I print a copy for my proofreader. I worry about that lone physical copy until her notes are added into the digital manuscript. 

4: Do you set goals for yourself when you sit down to write such as word count?

The only time I pay attention to daily word count goals is during NaNoWriMo. When I’m writing the first draft of a project my goal is to finish one chapter a week. The chapters usually work out to between 3000 to 6000 words, but I may write twice that before I’m satisfied.

5: Are you a published or a self published author and how do you come up with your cover art?

I looked at the options, and decided to go with self-publishing. The difference was either spending my time marketing to publishers and agents, or spending my time interacting  directly with readers and potential readers. With the changes in the publishing business, it seemed more exciting to following the example of independent musicians, and go directly to the readers. It meant becoming my own publisher, and ushering my book through the editing and production process myself. I didn’t skimp, but I went with sweat equity whenever I could. I lucked out in one big way: a friend who is an editor was between projects and agreed to edit the book for a trade of skills (I’m a UI designer).

Since I have a background in graphic design, I didn’t have to farm out the trade paperback interior layout, the markup of the ebook formatting, or the cover design. With the importance of the sales channel, the biggest concern I had for the cover was making the title standout at thumbnail size. I kicked around several ideas for the illustration—most of them would have taken too long or required hiring a more skilled illustrator than myself. The cover I ended up with is simple, but significant to the story, though you probably won’t put it all together until the fifth chapter.

6: What drives you to choose the career of being a writer?

Wow, an honest answer takes me way back. I can’t spell; I never have been able to. I’m not sure why. I loved writing stories, but eventually, in college, I gave up, and like a person who can’t read, found ways to get by without having to write. 

Finally, desktop computers and spell checking came along and changed my life, but by then I had so thoroughly switch my imagination for words to visuals, it took years before I even thought again about written story telling, and then more years to develop the proper mental muscles for strong narration. Finally, here I am, back to writing stories, and I love it!

7: Do you own an ebook reading device?

 I read ebooks on my iPod Touch with either the Kindle app or Stanza, depending on the file type of the book. I bought the first generation Kindle, but I didn’t like the screen. The background is gray, not even close to being as bright as the color of book paper. The lack of contrast with the foreground type bothered my eyes; I needed bright light to read a Kindle, so unlike the experiences many people, a backlit screen gives me less eye strain.

8: Who are some of your favorite authors and What are you reading now?

I don’t have favorite authors other than the one’s I grew up with: Clark, Asimov, Pole, etc. Lately, I’ve enjoyed Charles Stross, Mur Lafferty, Daniel Suarez, and Connie Willis. I especially loved the way Connie Willis juggled the dialog of people talking past each other in To Say Nothing of the Dog.

9: What do you think of book trailers and do you have any plans to have any?

The ones I’ve seen have been, well, dull. I expect there are fantastic trailers out there, but I haven’t gone looking for them.  I’d love to make a Gladiator Girl trailer. I’d want it to have enough production value to work as both a book trailer and as a promo piece for soliciting interest in a movie, video game, or graphic novel, but first I want to record an audiobook. 

10: How did you come up with the title of your latest book?

When I started writing, I was calling it, The Gladiatrix, but that didn’t match Lucy Star’s character. She’s tough, she’s strong, she’s an athlete at the top of her form, but she’s not a dominatrix, which that title suggests to me. She has a background that leaves her emotionally vulnerable, which she attempts to hide by taking care of her friends. Gladiator Girl, I think, does a better job of capturing her personality in a simple title. 

I was worried the title might be too simple, even facile, so I tried others: No Boys Allowed, Running with Swords, The Flavors of Blood, etc. When I told people I was writing a novel, their first question was always, “What’s the title?” The only answer that got their attention, and caught them off guard, was Gladiator Girl. 

11: What are you working on now that you can talk about?

There were many plot lines and side stories about the people and world of Gladiator Girl that didn’t make it into the novel or were cut because they distracted from Lucy’s story. I want to tell some of those tales and release them as 99 cent novelettes. 

During the 2010 NaNoWriMo I wrote the opening chapters for three books: a near future techno-thriller/murder mystery; a magical-science, young adult story; and a futuristic, retro-tech (not steampunk) adventure. One of them will probably be my next novel project.

Kipp, thanks for giving me this opportunity to ramble. I hope I’ve managed to entertain. For anyone who reads Gladiator Girl, thanks for giving it a chance, and I’d love to hear from you. 
You can find me here:!/rharryw

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