I am here today with author Craig Wessel whose story Loose Ends is included in the upcoming book called The Endlands.
JR: Craig and please tell us a little about yourself and your work.
CW: My early career was in the Telecom/Internet sector. I started writing professionaly in the mid-90s, working mainly on non-fiction titles. I’ve dabbled in fiction over the years, but Loose Ends is my first published fiction piece.
JR: You have a pretty impressive resume, with over 40 published titles. How did you come from writing computer game titles to writing fiction? I’m guessing they are completely different to write.
CW: They are very different, that’s true. When I was writing for the game publishers, the guides were written as the games progressed from beta to production. I worked closely with the developers so I could produce a guide that contained all pertinent information. For the most part, the game guides required very little of my own original work, other than having to work out how to say “kill this” or “push the button” in ways that did not sound repetive. Writing fiction is entirely different, but the writing chops I develped working on the game guides definitely help the process.
JR: Is there any different mindset you must have between writing fiction or non-fiction, comparatively?
CW: Sure – writing non-fiction is work. Writing fiction is…well…creating. As an example, Loose Ends was written in about 45 minutes. I did not structure it, nor did I plan it out. The story was just there, waiting for me to put it to paper (or hard drive I suppose). I firmly believe, as Stephen King wrote in On Writing, that writing fiction is like uncovering a buried fossil – sometimes you get it all, and other times you don’t.
JR: What do you like about writing short stories?
CW: Coming up with long, plot-laden stories that sustain themselves across multiple chapters doesn’t work for me. I tend to think in scenes, which lends itself to short stories. I think short stories correspond to how we live our lives – in short vignettes that when put together tell our story.
JR: You have also been published by various publishers, including Scholastic. What has your experience with these publishers been so far?
CW: I’ve also done some self-publishing. The thing to remember about all publishers is that they exist to make money. It’s simple, but as artists, writers aren’t always cognizant of that. Making a profit from your work is all that truly matters to them, so the important thing is to be on time, and deliver what you have committed to. Hurt their bottom line, and you won’t get anymore work from that publisher.
JR: Since you are one of the few authors who have been published multiple times by multiple publishers, what advice would you give a new author not already in the industry?
CW: I started in the game guide industry by finding a publisher who had published a guide I liked. Editors are usually credited somewhere in the book, and I contacted the editor of the first guide. Most of the time that’s a huge no-no, but in my case, I knew I could create a product similar to what they already published. So I’d say the most important thing is to find publishers who publish work similar to yours. That synergy is crucial.
JR: When you write, do you set word count goals or do you just let the writing flow?
CW: For fiction, I could care less how many words there are. I’m just telling the story as it comes to me. I focus on the scene more than anything, and try to write as if I’m watching it unfold.
JR: What genre do you consider your fiction writing? For example, Loose Ends has some hints of horror, mixed with a little supernatural and a lot of suspense. You seem to mix them all in your story.
CW: I watched countless hours of The Twilight Zone, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents as a kid, and I’m an avid Stephen King fan. I suppose all those things became part of me and my writing style. I love stories that have an unexpected twist.
JR: Who are some of your favorite authors to read, and who or what gives you the inspiration to write?
CW: I’ve mentioned Stephen King, but interestingly, I’ve been told I write alot like Chuck Palahniuk (author of Fight Club) who’s work I also enjoy. I read alot of Science Fiction, and Fantasy, so as a result, I tend to enjoy writing about reality with a twist of some sort.
JR: I believe all authors are a different breed of people; some are way out there. What are some of your quirks and what are you perceptions of writers as a whole?
CW: I have no quirks. I’m perfectly normal…for a writer. However, I’m also a musician, and that’s a whole other issue. The writers I admire are the ones who write because they need to write, not because it’s their career. There are plenty of books out there created solely as product (as my non-fiction work was). I think it’s easy to get caught up in that and the work suffers as a whole.
JR: When you are about to begin a new idea and are staring at an empty screen or pad of paper, how do you get over that initial hump to begin writing? It seems like it intimidates many authors.
Also, my personal favorite, writer’s block. Does it happen to you and how do you overcome it? If the advice is good, I will recommend it to some of my authors.
CW: I started Loose Ends because I was thinking about teleportation. What intrigued me about it was the nuts and bolts of it – if it were possible, then wouldn’t there be duplicates of everyone running around all over the planet? That led me to one possible solution – the duplicates have a shelf-life, which then started me pondering how that might work, and how a duplicate might feel. So, I think that’s how you have to write – it has to come from an idea that interests you, somehow.
JR: How do you overcome distractions that might occur when are in the middle of genius writing?
CW: I write early in the AM (3 or 4AM sometimes) beacuse my sleep schedule is all messed up.
JR: Do you ever see printed books becoming obsolete with the new age of e-books and Kindles? Just seeing Barnes & Noble up for sale is scary for me.
CW: When is the last time you used a typewriter…or read a newspaper? For me, the delivery mechanism isn’t a factor, and things change as new technology comes along. As long as someone is reading what I write, how they choose to read it isn’t that important to me.
JR: For my own curiosity, why do you think B & N let this new age of publishing slip by before it was too late? They pretty much let Amazon run the e-book market until they couldn’t catch up with the new technology.
CW: My guess would be that it’s because B&N already had a HUGE investment in brick and mortar stores, where Amazon did not. It cost Amazon very little to make the jump to e-books. For B&N it was a MAJOR decision due to their established stores. I don’t think B&N let anything slip by – they just had to make moves that protected their overall business.
JR: Have you ever just wanted to give up writing? Either a novel, short story or even your career. I know a huge step in becoming an author is dedicating your life to writing. Many authors never succeed because they write part time and work other jobs full time.
CW: Well, I don’t write full time myself, but when I’m writing well it’s because I do it daily. Like anything else you want to be good at, you have to practice it every day.
JR: What aspect of the industry is the most annoying to deal with?
CW: It’s tough to get noticed, but that’s just the way it goes. The shift to online publishing and independent publishers has made things alot easier in recent years, though.
JR: What part of writing or creating a novel is the most tedious for you? For example, I have heard editing a novel or outlining a novel is pretty boring when you jut want to let the words flow from your keyboard.
CW: Dialog…I hate writing it, because it seems contrived to me. It’s the one part of my work I tend to edit and re-edit, and I still never feel it’s quite right. In Loose Ends, I like the way the dialog turned out. If you’ll notice, Cain doesn’t have dialog – there are no quotes around anything he says, because, he’s not really a person after all is he?
JR: Where do you see yourself in five years?
CW: I should have at least one novel complete for sure, possibly two. I’m picking up the pace a bit, so we’ll see.
JR: Your turn. Ask me anything you would like to know about me.
CW: What did you do before becoming a publisher?
Paris Hilton should…Grow up
President Obama is doing a great job…and a poor job…I can’t say he’s doing a GREAT job at much, but I don’t doubt his sincerity and that he’s trying his best. He’s doing a poor job keeping his own promises, so far.
If someone offered to tell me when and how I would die, I would…have them tell me who will win the Superbowl instead.
People always tell me I…look like Andrew Zimmern from Bizarre Foods.
People would be surprised to know I…am in a ZZTop tribute band.
Publishers are…like art dealers that put equal effort into selling fine works of art and cheap prints of dogs playing poker – whichever makes them more money.
Authors are…like children. We think everyone wants to put our drawings on their refrigerator.