The Willing – Release Day!

The day is upon us! “The Willing” by C.S. Splitter (edited by yours truly) is for sale! Go here to buy it from Smashwords.  While you’re there, be sure to pick up The Reluctant as well!

As a special treat for Release Day, I present to you an interview between editor and author!  Splitter was kind enough to go back and forth with me on this, so that we have a pretty unique post that perhaps gives authors, editors, and readers better insight about what goes on behind the scenes.

I hope you enjoy! I warn you, it’s long…

Splitter:  Trish, what kinds of books do your normally work with and what made you interested in “The Willing?”  What genres do you like to read normally and what do you write yourself?

Tricia:  Hm, define “normally?” My typical read is fantasy, though I’ve been getting into paranormal/ paranormal romance of late. And YA, even though I’m old enough that I shouldn’t admit that.  Also, with a 2 year old in the house, I’m caught up on all kinds of really young kids books.

I grew up reading anything I could get my hands on – my dad read fantasy & sci-fi, my mom horror, so Anne McCaffery and Stephen King were regulars in our house.  Also, the Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys.  Gotta love a good mystery/thriller. I wore out my library card quickly.

 Ok, so the short answer is “I read anything with a pretty cover/good blurb.”  As far as writing goes, I do mostly fantasy/romance/medieval.  I have a few pieces on my website, if you want to take a peek.  The Willing drew my attention from the blurb.  It brought to mind James Bond, in a regular-guy kind of way.  The whole secret life of a spy thing did me in.

How did you get started writing, and where did your idea for The Willing come from?  Is Tom based a little bit in reality (say, yourself) or totally fictional?

S:  The biggest questions in the first book was; If you had to do something really bad for very good reasons, would you?  Could you?

If most criminals get caught because they are stupid and brag about their exploits, could someone get away with “crimes” if they had a little intellect and could keep their mouth shut?

So, the first book was about introducing Tom’s character and his moral dilemmas.  The second book, “The Willing,” is about the relationships he has developed.

The idea for “The Willing” came from that old movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”  Stop laughing, it did !  I think we all touch more lives than we know and I think people are….ahem…willing to jump to the aid of friends more readily than we give them credit for.

I promise, I am not Tom.  He is much more interesting than I am and, I will also say, more prone to letting his rough edges show.  Tom is a conglomeration of guys that I know, have known, read about, etc..  He is an every-man.

I would say he is a mix of Tim Taylor, Hawkeye Pierce, Jack Tripper, and a John Wayne wannabe.  And if you know all of those characters, you watch too much TV!

Hmmm…those characters do describe me I guess.  But I only get shot at and have never actually shot back.  So I have that going for me…

We met because you volunteered to beta read my work.  I liked what you did so much that I asked you to be my editor.  What in the world prompted you to point out every little flaw both in my story and my writing?  Do I really suck that much?

T: No, not at all…ok, so you need help with commas and ellipses, I admit it.  I started reading “The Willing” and saw a few things I would change.  Since I do proofreading work for a publisher, I just kind of went into that professional mode.  I started small–a comma here, a misspelling here–and next thing I knew, you were asking me if I was ever going to get done with my read! 

 I was so afraid that I’d made a bad impression, since I was taking so long, but I knew in the end it would make the book better.  When asked, you told me to find anything and everything that would make the story incoherent or take way from the character development.  So, you got a lot of yellow highlighter and red comments, and I held my breath until you said that you wanted the criticism.  I was really impressed at how you took all my input and saw that I was trying to help you improve (I quote: “Keep being crazy. I want it picked at.”).  I was really floored when you asked me to edit for you — I was so excited I think I floated the rest of the night.  Having someone say that I was that good, that they would want to credit me for the work I did was so flattering, it made me feel like all my effort was worth it.

Speaking of worth it, where do you see the series going?  Do you think that you’ll get tired of Tom and move on to other stories, or keep Tom around til he’s old and grey and Lorena finally gives into his manly charms…or kills him?

S:   LOL!  Let’s just say that Lorena is set in her ways and will not be changing for Tom.

Tom still has a few years of usefulness left in him, I think, but he is no “sping spring chicken” as they say.  I have a ton of story ideas in my head and I know exactly how Tom’s story will end.  How I get to that end depends on how much people enjoy reading about Tom and his adventures.

There are also other cahracters characters that I would not mind exploring from their own points of view.  Lorena is a VERY interesting character and I will write her story some day.  Tom also has a son…

So what are the common mistakes you see out of authors?  I know I have may my utter distaste for dashes and em dashes, but what are the big red flags you see in your other work?  And how do you keep from beating your head agaisnt against the wall when you see them over and over?

T: Sorry, had to proofread your questions.  Ok, where was I?

Common mistakes I see range from sentence misconstruction and punctuation misuse to random plot failures.  Trust me, if the gun is supposed to be in the living room, and your main character just shoots someone with it in the kitchen, you’re reader is going to notice. 

My best advice would be to get an editor before you send your work out.  Or at least get a beta reading done from someone other than your mom (…I love you, Mom).  These readers should be able to give you enough feedback that you might not have noticed otherwise.  There is a point where you are too close to the work you are doing, and even stepping back doesn’t give you enough perspective.  Take it all in stride – it will make your book better!

Padded walls, my friend, padded walls…

Speaking of beta readers turned editors, what do you look for when you give out your work to someone to beta read for you?  What kind of feedback do you normally get, and why was mine so different?  What do you look for in people that you share this experience with, be it an editor or cover designer or review reader?

S: I am leaving those errors in my last answer right where they are so people can see that you have your hands full when I am typing quickly lol.

In beta readers, I just want honesty.  I ask them to take it as far as they wish.  Some point out typos and punctuation errors.  Others point out where a story might have gotten too slow or why the setting for a particular scene, as I described it in the early version, would not work.

My beta readers have all sent back very positive opinions and while I am TREMENDOUSLY thankful for that, their “buts” are the things that I find most valuable.  I once wrote that certain people in a story were “expandable” when I meant “expendable.”  It was a funny mistake, but it might have killed the story for a future reader and might not have been caught even by my—nitpicky—editor.  I WANT to know where my mistakes are so I can fix them.  I want to know where the weaknesses are so I can make them strengths.  Any other attitude from an author would just be egotistical and counter-productive.

I chose you as an editor because of the same measuring sticks I use with anyone with whom I work (cool sentence structure there, huh?).  I look for enthusiasm and a sincere belief in my stories.  People can learn the technical stuff and we can learn to work together, but enthusiasm and sincerity are things that cannot be taught or learned.

It is like speed in baseball or football.  A player can learn better technique, but they are either fast or they aren’t.  There is an old saying that “You can’t coach speed.”

How do you edit?  What I mean is: do you read a story and then go back and do the editing, or do you edit as you go?  What is the difference, in your mind, between proofing and editing?

T: I guess you could say it depends.  If the manuscript looks to be in good shape, and I have time, I try to read through first then edit.  However, mostly I just edit as I go – it’s a more effective use of my time.  I’m lucky in that I can read several things at once and not get lost story-wise in all of them (have you seen my ‘currently reading’ list?).  So, while I would love to read through, then go back and fix, it doesn’t always work that way, especially with Toddler!

Proofing, to me, is what you do right before the book is published.  You catch all the little stuff–the extra spacing, the misspelling of words that spell check wouldn’t catch (wear and where are NOT the same)–sort of like the finishing touches. 

Editing is getting your hands in the dirt, changing sentences and punctuation to allow the story to come through in a most glorious fashion and shine in a light of its own.  It’s catching plot lases, slow points, and character malfunctions and fixing those problems–hopefully before the mass populous sees them!

What made you want to write–want to pour your heart and soul into something that first gets torn to shreds by an editor only to be possibly snubbed by the general public?  Are you going to give up your day job when Tom takes off?

S:  When I hit number one on the NY Times bestseller list (yeah, I couldn’t even say that with a straight face) and Hollywood rightly decides that Tom Crayder needs to be a movie star (have you seen some of the trash they are turning out?), I am moving some place warm.  I will have a little office in the backyard where I go to write every day.

I have it all planned out, I just need a few more…million…pieces to fall into place!

I write because I like to tell stories and entertain.  I do it all day long for free so I figured it would be smart to try to put some of it down on paper.  As I have said before, I think I am a good story teller and come up with good characters, but I am only a passable writer.  I try to keep the writing from getting in the way of the stories.

If someone can help me improve, I listen.  I almost value criticism more than compliments…though I really like compliments too lol.  As for being snubbed by the general public, I honestly figure that my largest obstacle is just getting the word out.  I am not saying that my books are the greatest things ever written, but I honestly do think they are fun and entertaining.  Once all of the commas and dashes are in there, of course—that’s where you come in!

Last question, Trish, because I always like to let the other person get the final word (that is so not true, by the way):  Explain to our wonderful readers just how the last couple weeks have gone getting these books ready for general consumption.  How many times have you read the books now?  How many edits?  How many emails?  Do you hate the books yet? lol

T:  We both have worked our butts off, staying up way past my bedtime on several occasions, in order to make sure these books are as ready as they can be for our wonderful readers. 

I’ve personally read each book over three times each, and will still go back through them before the print versions come out to clean up anything we may have missed.  Splitter has gone through so many edits, it’s crazy (one of his files said “Edit 83”). 

Emails, pfft, I need to get a separate account just to keep track of them all.  (Side note: 363, I counted). 

I don’t hate the books! In fact, they still make me chuckle in spots, and I still feel like I’m on the edge of my seat in others. 

It’s all about the balance between style and concept.  Splitter has created these wonderful characters to share with the world, and I get to help put the polishing touches on them so that the writing doesn’t get in the way, so to speak.   I keep his free-flowing-style in check, and he reminds me it’s ok to just let go. Ying and Yang, baby.

Well that’s it folks! Hopefully we didn’t bore you to sleep and turn you off to this wonderful book.  Full of action, guns, and sleepless nights, “The Willing” grabs you by the…pants…and runs away with you!

P.S.: Check back soon, I’m going to have my first give away!

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