Join me in welcoming Arizona author Kenneth Weene, whose books are getting rave reviews on Amazon.com!
JLR: Many writers agonize over writing query letters. Do you have any tips on what people should do or not do in query letters?
KW: First let me say that I only sent queries to three publishers, and my first novel was accepted by one of those three. What I did was to carefully peruse the write-ups I found about the three. Then I wrote my query letters based on what I saw in each of those publishers. If I were to give one piece of advice it would be to write personalized queries not use a general formatted letter. Also, don’t shotgun publishers (or agents). Rather look for the place where your work will fit. Study the publication list of a publisher; is it consistent with your aesthetic? It is far too easy for writers to forget that you must establish personal relationships with your readers – including the ones at an agency or publishing house. Since you are looking for them, it falls on you to make sure that the fit for that relationship is right.
JLR: How have you been able to use social media (Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, etc.) in your marketing plan? Do you have any advice for new authors looking to promote themselves on these sites?
KW: I will share two secrets I’ve learned and that seem to stand me in good stead.
First, be real. Have opinions and interests. Don’t just post about your books. The key is having a personal relationship with the reader. (Notice a theme developing here?) They want even need to feel that there is a real interaction. Which, by the way, is why I don’t have fan pages for my books. I think they are immediately alienating.
Second, I follow an 80-10-10 rule. If you look at my Facebook page, my Linkedin posts, my tweets, you will see this rule in action. Eighty percent of my posts are about non-writing topics. For example, I care mightily about the environment, politics, history, and general philosophical issues. I also love humor. Ten percent are writing related, but not about Ken Weene. I support my fellow authors published by my publisher, All Things That Matter Press, but I also try to mention other writers and writing related topics. For example, if I go to a play, I post about it. If I see an interesting piece of news about a writer, up it goes. One thing I don’t do much of is posting about books I’ve read. If I started doing that, I might hold myself up as too much a critic and that would alienate. Yes, that last ten percent is about my writing. I try, by the way, to keep those posts interesting both by using catchy ideas and humor and by trying to keep active on the web (and in print). For example, I will certainly be posting about this interview - a new place, a new set of comments, and still a reminder of what I am about and the titles of my books.
JLR: Do you have a book trailer? How has the trailer influenced sales? (Feel free to post a link to your trailer if you want.)
KW: I’m a great believer in trailers. One nice thing is that my son is in the video business and does some of mine for me. Do they produce sales? That I don’t know. I can tell you one issue. You Tube doesn’t allow you to post videos with links; so while it is an excellent platform for getting noticed, placing trailers there means the viewer then has to independently go to Amazon or some such place to order your book. I prefer using a different type of service.
Here are two trailers – one for my first novel, Widow’s Walk http://vidego.multicastmedia.com/player.php?p=wbgzb2yk
and the second for Memoirs From the Asylum
I haven’t got one for the book which will be coming out soon, Tales From the Dew Drop Inne: Because there’s one in every town, but you can be sure there will be one soon.
JLR: What three books have most influenced you to become a writer?
KW: Not so much to become a writer as to how I write – books that have affected my style.
First and foremost, Slaughterhouse Five. I love the way Vonnegut mixes the most intense human experience and emotion with a sense of ironic humor.
The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien taught me something of how the intensity of human emotion must then be tied to the concreteness of human behavior to make a good read.
Paul Harding’s book Tinkers came on the scene when I needed to be reminded that the flow and quality of language is an important part of a book’s quality.
Obviously, I could go on listing books and writers; but I shall abide by the limit of three.
JLR: How long have you been writing, and when did you decide that you wanted to write for publication?
KW: I started writing poetry about twenty years ago and I brought out a couple of chapbooks. When I retired (from psychology) and moved to Arizona, I started writing more prose. That was in 2002. Soon after I used one of the nicer vanity presses to bring out an anthology of prose and poetry. The major reason for doing that was to get past the psychological impediment that had kept me from becoming a writer as a first career. I won’t go into the specifics; suffice it to say that I called that anthology Songs For My Father. Feel free to come up with your own analysis.
Once the floodgates had been breached, there has been an endless flow of novels and stories; and I should mention also more poetry.
JLR: Tell us a bit about your childhood. Where did you grow up? What was your family like? Has your childhood influenced your writing?
My mother certainly approached schizophrenia. She was a chronic liar within the family, a manipulator, and a perpetrator of Munchausen’s by Proxy. My brother, who is older, still has his sixth grade report card. Of the 360 attendance units (half days), he was absent for more than half; and that was a relatively good year and he was “the healthier” of us. I think in third grader I may have missed more than two thirds of the days.
My father was a rageaholic whose outbursts could not be predicted. The worst thing was that even compliance with his wishes could trigger him. When I was thirteen, he became so abusive one day that I almost attacked him with an axe. Luckily, somebody yelled my name, which brought me back to my senses. The next year I was off at boarding school. I guess I should mention that he was a schoolteacher and that he owned and operated summer camps. How’s that for a bit of irony?
Can you find the influences of that environment in my writing? Absolutely. Certainly in Memoirs From the Asylum it comes through loud and clear. However, my writing is not autobiographical. Most of Memoirs isn’t. Only a tiny part of Widow’s Walk reflects my life. And Tales From the Dew Drop Inne has nothing autobiographical in it.
Of course the basic themes of all three books do come from my own personal searching and questioning. But that is different from autobiography or memoir.
JLR: Traveling has always been a great inspiration for my writing. Have you been anywhere which particularly inspired you? Anywhere you would like to visit?
KW: Sadly I am too old to do as much traveling as I once did and loved. I have been to most of the fifty states, across Canada, and to many places throughout the world. So far most of my writing has been focused close to home, with a great deal of it set in New England and New York. I did fall back on my travel in Ireland for a bit of Widow’s Walk, but that was certainly not essential. Travel has, however, greatly influenced my writing at another level. It has made me aware of the different views people can take of the world and the different voices with which they speak.
Good writing has richness and nothing gives an author more diversity and richness than experiencing the world. If you have an opportunity to travel, take it!
JLR: What do you think makes for a great romantic hero? Is it all about the muscles and the smoldering eyes?
KW: While I have yet to write a romance, there is certainly romance, sex, attraction, etc. to be found in my novels. While looks are important, true romance can’t rely only on the physical, not even when that physicality includes sex.
As a psychologist (and in my personal life), I have learned that the best romance is a blend of the physical and such important things as communication, sharing of goals and humor, and a willingness to accept the weaknesses and foibles of the other person rather than holding them up to some template we call perfection.
The novel on which I am currently working, which I hope will be published in 2013, focuses very much on romance and love. If you decide you like my writing, I hope you’ll still be reading my books when The Stylite comes out. I really think it not only a fine and beautiful book but also one that will help people to understand and find real love.
JLR: What are you writing now that Tales From the Dew Drop Inne: Because there’s one in every town is being readied for released?
KW: I have two books in the pipeline. Times to Try the Soul of Man is a conspiracy/coming of age novel. Based on some disturbing modern history, Times needs to be brought out by a larger house. Therefore I now have an agent who is trying to place it. I’ve already mentioned The Stylite, which will hopefully go to the same house that publishes Times. I have a novella which is also looking for a home; its name is not yet fixed. Currently, besides being on the third rewrite of The Stylite I have been working on a longish short story, a piece of horror fiction. I do love crossing genre lines.
JLR: Where can readers go to purchase your books?
KW: The easiest thing is to go to Amazon and look for me, Kenneth Weene. As the new books come out, that same search will get those titles up as well. Here’s the link for me on Amazon.
If you want to check out some of my writing, you can also visit http://www.authorkenweene.com