LINDA: Welcome Bob! First of all, mega congratulations on your entries into the Frankfurt Book Awards. Such an exciting time! I certainly enjoyed your book, The Travels of First Horse. What prompted you to write it? Share with us also a little of your background.
BOB: The Travels of First Horse is not just a trilogy. It's the start of more volumes than you can fit into your Rocket e-book reader. This is the Stories of the Ehvelen, and I have about 10 either written or at least sketched out.
A long time ago, in the late '70s, I wanted to write a manifesto for changing the world. I called it 'The Quiet Revolution'. Actually, a brief version is right here. A friend said, 'Write it if you like, but people don't read manifestos. Write fiction.'
Me, write fiction? Ridiculous. But I started writing magazine articles about things like how to build a house, and this led to my first book, The Earth Garden Building Book: Design and build your own house, and later Woodworking for Idiots Like Me. I considered this to be an apprenticeship for REAL writing.
And I had a sort of a vision, the start of that book of fiction. It was a group of forest dwelling teenagers, attacked by what to them seem like two-headed beings: men on horses. These warriors killed the boys and abducted the girls.
I wrote a short story about exactly this in 1995, when a writers' group asked me to read an item of my work. And this world has swallowed me. I feel more at home in 700 BC than in our own times. My little hero Horse was born as the result of the rape of his mother by her captor. She later became the greatest hero of her people, 'Heather the Mother', War Leader of the Ehvelen, and her son Horse was not far behind.
LINDA: Did you intend to e-publish this book from the beginning?
BOB: I strongly favor e-books for environmental grounds: they don't eat trees. Did you know, the polar ice is melting at an alarming rate? We in the Southern Hemisphere are probably OK for the time being, but there is more land and less sea in your part of the world, so that sea currents are more likely to be affected. And the Gulf Stream is what keeps Western Europe habitable...
In a few years' time, sales of e-books might be enough for a writer to live on. But for now, I also need to publish my books in paper form, like it or not.
The series is therefore written for the hard copy market. I adapted 'Horse' to e-book format, and when [if] I get the time from writing other books, I want to insert hundreds of links to interesting and relevant web sites into the books, so they are more than just copies of what could be done on paper.
LINDA: You have your ebooks at a couple e-publishers. What areas were important to you when you were looking for an e-publisher to submit your work to?
BOB: Someone on an email list I belong to said nice things about Aliske Webb of Bookmice, so I tried her out by sending her a collection of short stories. She liked the general idea but made recommendations for change. I implemented them, and the result is Striking Back From Down Under. It has received excellent reviews. I then sent her 'Horse' and it was the same process.
Later, Ariana Overton joined the same email list, and she had recently become acquisitions editor for Clock Tower . I had just finished my first full length SF story, Sleeper, Awake, and sent her a query. She loved the book, and wanted it, but only if I made several major changes. Boy, is she a hard taskmaster! But I managed to make the changes, and they improved the book, and I think my writing in general.
As for the third e-publisher: I have been offering a book [Anger and Anxiety: Be in charge of your emotions and control phobias] for sale from my own web site [http://www.anxietyanddepression-help.com/] for a while, but I'm not often visited. And then a group of people in Adelaide, South Australia started up an e-publishing company, http://red-e2.com I sent them the book, in the expectation that it would be knocked back. Instead, they were enthusiastic, and again their editor Rebecca Burton has helped me to make major improvements.
LINDA: How have you been promoting your books? How important do you feel self-promotion is to an e-author?
BOB: I have been pestering a large number of lovely people like you to review my books or interview me. I have posted reviews of my books done by readers at Amazon, B&N and smaller sites that accept such offerings.
A free book is available from my web site, and I hope that after people have read it, they will come back for more. It is one of the Ehvelen books, in which a nine-year-old boy becomes an immortal hero.
One more thing: I barter reviews with other authors. I don't like horror, and a romance book with nothing else happening leaves me bored (though I like a good romance to liven up any book), but I am happy to review just about anything else. The idea is: I read the book. If I like it, I write a positive review, which the author and publisher are welcome to spread around the web -- as long as it has links back to me. If I don't feel I can recommend the book, I won't write a negative review. Why damage another author? However, I am willing to send my critique to the author, on request.
And I ask for the same in reverse: that author can read one of my books, and either write a rave review or tell me why not.
I now have so many of these reciprocal reviews that I have started to put them together into a web site.
LINDA: You have been busy for sure. What you are doing is a very positive way to get your name out there and create awareness all the way around.
What other ways are there, do you think, to crate awareness to this industry, enabling it to grow?
BOB: I have recently given a talk at a nearby public library, to an audience of about 50. It was good fun. Everyone involved in e-publishing should do the same. I think the avalanche has started, and will be impossible to stop. The future is in digital form.
We are waiting for improved technology. The current generation of electronic book readers are expensive and awkward. The new technology is coming, eg., Xerox's 'electronic paper' and the 'electronic ink' being developed at MIT. I have hopes of cheap, robust devices that are far more convenient than paper.
LINDA: The e-book awards in Frankfurt will prove to additionally bring awareness to the world of this industry. How much impact do you feel they well bring? Also, share with us how you felt when you heard about both of your entries.
BOB: The Frankfurt awards are designed to publicize the sponsors. It is in their interest to spread the word. And things add up. A great many people had never heard of e-books until Stephen King tried them out.
Aliske Webb of Bookmice told me quite some time ago that she was going to enter one of my books for this competition, but she also thinks that the judges are all 'literary'. I don't know what chance historical adventure will have.
Clock Tower Fiction's entry of 'Sleeper, Awake' was a surprise. I actually thought that Ariana had rejected my book! She wrote that the first three chapters left her without a feeling for where the story was heading, and I thought this was a NO. Then my grief was interrupted by an email a few days later, telling me to hurry up with the revisions, because they wanted to enter the book at Frankfurt!
LINDA: How long have you been a writer? What was your first published work?
BOB: I wrote my first 'how to' magazine article in 1980, for Earth Garden magazine. Since then, I've had something in almost every issue of this magazine, and have my own byline column, answering readers' questions. I have also written freelance articles for lots of other mags, about issues like conservation, sustainable lifestyle, various crafts.
I wrote my first short stories and poems in about 1990, won a third prize in 1991. Since then, I've had an occasional jag of writing short stories and entering them in contests, and have a long list of wins and awards. But I prefer to write longer works.
In 1985, I wrote a letter to Keith Smith, who was then editor of Earth Garden magazine, suggesting that we collaborate on a building book. He'd already had 8 books published then. Our letters crossed: he'd just written to me with the same suggestion. Two years later we had the Earth Garden Building Book. It's still in print, still selling in its third edition.
LINDA: What advice would you give new authors today in regards to e-publishing their work?
BOB: Don't look on e-publishing as less demanding, the easy option. It isn't. My writing is improving all the time, because I seek criticism, and then take it seriously.
Writing is writing, whatever format you publish in. E-books are wonderful for several reasons, such as a worldwide market (only limited by language, and English is widespread as a second language), ease of making changes, low cost of production, the absence of terrible things like having your books removed from the list after a few weeks.
As I said, at the moment e-book sales are low. You can't live on e-books, but this is guaranteed to improve. There will be a time when a paper book will be like a 78 rpm record is now. Have you listened to a 78 lately?
LINDA: What are you working on now? If another book, will you e-publish it also?
BOB: I am writing 4 books at present, plus trying to get my review website going when I get stuck. [And of course I also need to do things like earn money and look after my family's needs].
* The Making of a Forest Fighter is the next book in the Ehvelen series. Bookmice are almost ready to offer the next 2 books for sale, The Start of Magic and The Mother's Sword, and this is the sequel to them. I want it ready not long after they appear.
* Aniko will be a wonderful story, of a Jewish woman who survived the Holocaust in Hungary through courage, intelligence, and luck, then went on to build what amounts to a major business, almost impossible in a Communist country. This is a true story. She is my mother, and dying right now. This book will be my tribute to her.
* While I was researching my mother's story, I came across a man who had done the impossible. I want to write his story too.
* And I actually have a concept for a romance, but with a difference. I've written the first and last chapters, and put it away for the time being. But it will do if I get struck by writer's block.
LINDA: They all sound so interesting Bob -- I will be keeping my eye out for them.
BOB: I sometimes wish that I was able to be like other people, instead of a creative oddity. I am a writer because I can't help it. Occasionally, after a few rejections, I think, 'Oh, what's the use?' But then I find solace -- in writing.
Everything has boring components. In writing, this is editing, and keeping track of facts. I am super-compulsive about editing. Grammar, punctuation, spelling, the flow of expression have to be just right. I am likely to go over a passage many times, making small changes. Then I put it away, do something else and come back with a fresh eye.
With anything longer than a short story, I create tables of characters, list dates of events, note geographical connections, whatever helps me to keep track of the facts of the world I have created. The reader will never be told even a small fraction of this data, but it allows me to create a reality. If I don't feel WITHIN this world while writing, the reader won't either while reading.
LINDA: Thank you so much Bob for being here giving us your insights and thoughts. The very best to you in your continued writing career.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
In March 1995, a writers' group asked Bob to read a short story. He made up one for the occasion, and this proved to be the start of The Stories of the Ehvelen. He has lived in 700 BC since, surfacing into modern times only under protest.
Bob is a grandfather (called 'Grandbob' by four lovely young people), an effective psychological counselor, a teacher of skills like building and woodcraft, a nurse, and a few other things that are none of your business. He offers counseling through the internet at the Anxiety-Depression Help Site.