Monday, February 20, 2012

Interview with Steve Westover

This week the Man Cave welcomes author Steve Westover. (applause! applause!)

I first became aware of Steve's work when I was doing a blog tour for my own book "Who's at the Door?"  In addition to his blog westoversleftovers, Steve's second novel is set to debut this March and is already available for pre-order on Amazon.  Let's find out more about it.

Thanks for joining us, Steve! This is your first time at the cave, so pull a chair up by the fire and sit a spell. Just be careful of Dave's collection of swords in the back. We don't want anyone to cut himself by accident.  (Jason had to learn that the hard way.)

1.  Congratulations on the upcoming publication of your second book "Crater Lake: Battle for Wizard Island."  Give us the low down on your latest novel.

Crater Lake is my first Youth novel and I’m really excited about it. I wrote it for the two middle-grade readers in my home and I’m pleased that they really loved it. 

My 13 year old daughter and 12 year old son can be a tough crowd. Crater Lake is a story about a 13 year old who is going to be dropped off at Crater Lake with his crazy Uncle Bart who is a park ranger. Ethan’s attitude isn’t great about spending the week with his uncle and he’s a little bitter that his younger sister, Jordan, gets out of the activity. 

When all the adults at Crater Lake disappear, Ethan must unearth the legends of Crater Lake, locate hidden artifacts and rally some new friends to rescue the adults from an evil spirit chief. There are fantastic legends about the lake that I use as a jumping off point for the story and then we look at the question of “what would happen if it was all true?” It’s a fun and sometimes spooky story.

2. How long did it take you to write?

I wrote the first draft in about 3 months but then did many revisions over the next year. It was the second story I’ve written and it seemed to write itself. Writing, and having my kids read along during the creative process was a lot of fun.

3. What is your writing process? Has it changed since the release of your first book "Defensive Tactics?"

Writing Crater Lake was a completely different process than writing Defensive Tactics. I wrote Defensive Tactics as an experiment because I wondered if I could. Once I learned I could write a novel I had greater confidence and increased motivation. 

With Crater Lake, I also had a mental map for the story. I knew the key points of the story and wrote towards the destination, whereas with Defensive Tactics I simply sat at the computer and started typing, curious to see what happened next.

4. How was the publishing process different from your first book?

Crater Lake is geared towards a broad commercial audience so when I finished I was really excited and eager for publication. I was a bit spoiled with Defensive Tactics because I had a contract to publish after only 4 months and then 4 months later the book was in print. That is REALLY fast. 

Even though it took me a year to write the story the publication came very easy. Crater Lake was written very fast but took longer to be published even though I feel it has much broader appeal. 

After signing the contract I had to wait 11 months for the book to be released. It’s a real trial of my patience but a more realistic publishing experience. 

One of the fun things about Crater Lake is I was much more involved in making suggestions for the cover design and even submitted illustrations for inside the book. My daughter and my wife did the illustrations which was a really fun experience. The publishing of Crater Lake has really been a family activity. Between the two different experiences I’ve gained a lot of knowledge and insight about the publishing process and how it can differ from book to book.

5. What advice do you have for other writers or other new authors?

First, if you want to write, write. If you just want to give it a try, try. 

I’ve been surprised by how many friends, family, acquaintances have come forward saying that they want to write a book. But most of them lack the confidence to do it or maybe haven’t finished their manuscript. This may be cliché, but it’s also true—If I can do it, anyone can. I didn’t grow up dreaming of writing a novel and I seldom read novels. I’d never considered writing until I woke up one morning after a cool dream. I liked the story and the characters in my dream so my wife encouraged me to write it down. That’s how I wrote Defensive Tactics.

 Give it a try. If you love it, stick with it, finish and then be patient as you shop the story around to the right publishers or agents.

6. What inspires you to write?

I may not read much, but I love movies and TV. I love good stories and so I write as if I’m watching the action on TV. What does the scene look like? How do the characters interact? What is the cliffhanger before the commercial break (i.e. chapter) The idea that I can create something that may entertain others is pretty exciting. 

In addition to the entertainment factor, my writing is also a reflection of who I am and my values and even some life lessons I’ve learned come out through the characters. So hopefully the stories entertain but also give readers time to consider some important life truths.

7. Are there any challenges you feel male authors in particular face?

Good question and the short answer is, I’m not sure. In my little writing circles I am surrounded mostly by women who seem to do a really good job of networking and supporting each other. It is really great to see. There are some wonderful male writers who are also supportive but I think the group is smaller. It’s a challenge and I think it goes against the grain for men to really connect and network effectively. At least that is true for me.

8.I know you live on a farm.  Do you have a Man Cave in real life?

I do have a man cave of sorts. We have a huge basement that is sheet rocked, but unfinished. I have a pool table, ping pong, video games and air hockey down there along with a large desk where I can sit and write. It’s a good place where my son and I spend time and relax, although we don’t fully ban my wife and daughters. We like them too so we let them play on occasion.

9. Name five essential items for a decent Man Cave.

See above. I like my man cave.

10.  Give us your top five essential guy movies.

Die Hard, Happy Gilmore, Jaws, Field of Dreams, Raiders of the Lost Ark

11.  You mentioned in a blog post that every writer has an an "El Guapo" i.e. weakness.  You said yours was worrying that your writing may not measure up to what you want it to be.  I think a lot of writers feel that way.  How do you defeat your "El Guapo?"

Practice. We get better when we practice. It’s that simple. Also, I focus on being satisfied with the work myself and not what others think of it. Of course I want others to like it because if they didn’t my work would never be published and no one would ever buy the book. But I have to find fulfillment in the process of writing and personal satisfaction in my end result. 

And I have to practice. In the past 3 years since I’ve started writing I’ve already noticed a significant increase in skill. I think I’m getting better and I expect that I’ll continue to get better the more I write. Take that El Guapo!

12.  What's on the horizon for you?

I have a number of projects in the pipeline. Crater Lake is intended to be a trilogy so I hope this first book does well so I get the opportunity to finish the other two. 

I’ve also recently signed a contract for the sequel to Defensive Tactics. My working title is Mormon Gold (though that may change) and is about the same FBI agents from Defensive Tactics who are investigating some mysterious crimes that intersect with LDS church History in a National Treasure kind of adventure. It will be released in December 2012.

I’ve also recently finished a YA Dystopian book called The Aborted about a slave society harvested from abortion survivors. If the survivors didn’t have a right to exist in the first place, how could they have a right to live their own life? They don’t. When my main character, Silas, learns the painful truth about who he is he decides to fight back against the society that created him. This is the first book of a trilogy.

Well, Steve, it sounds like you have a lot coming on your plate, and I wish you much success. Be sure to keep in touch with your future projects.

Crater Lake: Battle for Wizard Island is available for pre-order via Amazon. Check it out here.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a great book. I'll bet my kids would love it. You're upcoming ones sound interesting too. Thanks for the interview!