Guest Interview: Stuart J. Whitmore

There are few short stories that I wish had been turned into a novel; No Fanfare by Stuart J. Whitmore is one of those short stories that I wish had been longer. This fantastic well-told story  presents us a topic with so many questions that leaves readers wondering about the endless possibilities. But Stuart not only writes short stories, he’s also written novels and non-fiction. I was lucky enough to interview this talented author and I’m certain his answers will inspire many aspiring writers.

– Tell us a bit about yourself. For instance, how did you start writing?

My interest in writing was mostly sparked by winning first prize in a classroom writing contest when I was about eight years old. The prize was $2.00 in cash, which (adjusted for inflation) would be about $10 in today’s dollars. I’m not sure whether the prize or the teacher’s praise mattered more at the time, but I see that as the start of my writing. I wrote my first full-length novel (first draft) when I was 14-15 years old, and another when I was 16-17 years old. I put my writing on hold for awhile to pursue a non-writing career and start a family, but NaNoWriMo helped bring me back to it.

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– How did you come up with the story idea for “No Fanfare”? Would you consider writing more about this topic and even turning it into a novel?

I like to play around with “what if” questions and see what stories I can generate from various answers. Just this morning I wondered, “what if cats could smell memories?” I give full credit for that strange question to the strange behavior of our cat! While I don’t remember the specifics, I’m fairly sure No Fanfare started in a similar way. What if someone was sent on a secret mission to another planet, and then everybody forgot he was there? (Or, what if someone thought that had happened to them, even if it hadn’t?) I also have a long-term interest in Mars exploration and colonization, which previously inspired my children’s book (Two Boys, Two Planets).

I haven’t given any thought to writing more to the story. It was always intended as a vignette focused on the initial “homecoming” experience. I tried to offer enough uncertainty that the reader might wonder what to believe. On the other hand, I realize that some readers prefer a more concrete resolution, so I might someday write a follow-up to No Fanfare.

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– What do you enjoy most, writing short stories or novels? Do you write short stories with the idea they’ll become short stories or do you usually decide this during the writing process?

Short stories are fun to write, but I love writing long, complex novels. I love all of the world- and character-building that I can do with longer works. Usually when I write a short story I intend for it to be short, although sometimes I’ll start a story without a particular goal for how long it will turn out. With short stories I often want to get a reader to start imagining things about the story I’ve started, with the hope they’ll enjoy filling out their own ending, but sometimes I get in trouble for leaving things unanswered!

– What is you ideal place for writing? Do you have a special process to get inspired or get in the writing mood?

I’m very flexible about my writing. I’ve written on public transit, in doctor and dentist waiting rooms, on a bench in a busy shopping mall, as well as quietly at my desk at home. Some writers develop a process to get in the mood for writing, and I often tell myself I should try that, but I never seem to get around to it.

– Besides the Dan Starney series, are you looking to work on another novel?

With luck, I’ll be releasing several more novels this year, as well as some novellas. I have four fantasy novels that are shaping up nicely, plus I have a detailed outline (rare for me) for a novel in a different genre, and a concept for a novella series in yet another genre. This year I’m exploring the use of pen names to keep the different genre works separated, although my fantasy novels will still be under my own name. I also plan to write a third book in the Dan Starney series to wrap up that storyline, although I don’t have a timeframe for when that will be released.

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– You also write non-fiction, what topics do you most enjoy writing about? What differences do you find between writing fiction and non-fiction?

So far my non-fiction writings have been fairly short dabblings in topics, and I haven’t found one where I feel comfortable yet. I like to be able to share information and ideas with people, things that can be useful in the real world, which is the appeal for me in non-fiction. I finder greater joy in writing fiction, but that is perhaps because it is a lot like daydreaming for me, and I am an incorrigible dreamer.

– What would you recommend aspiring writers? Any tips or writing recommendations?

One of the biggest obstacles that I see in aspiring writers is getting past the “I’m going to” stage and actually doing. While I enjoy talking about writing as much as anyone, being a writer means actually doing the writing too. There are many ways for people to start writing, whether it is fiction or non-fiction, and I would encourage aspiring writers to seek out those opportunities — contests, anthologies, sites like Wattpad, etc. — and start producing words. This is especially useful if it is done in a way where complete strangers can read those writings. Reactions from people outside of family and close friends can help highlight what works and what doesn’t. To develop as a writer, it is important to learn about writing and read what others have written, but it is even more important to just write, write, write!

For more information about Stuart J. Whitmore:

Website: http://www.stuartwhitmoreauthor.com/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5623681.Stuart_J_Whitmore
Google + https://plus.google.com/+StuartWhitmore
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Crenel
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/StuartWhitmoreAuthor
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/stuart_whitmore_author/
Snapchat: stuart_whitmore

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The good experiences that come with writers conferences…

Well, I’m back from one of the most thrilling experiences in my life. For those who don’t know, I had the opportunity to attend this year’s Writers Digest Conference in NYC. It was certainly an opportunity you don’t get to live very often and I’m glad I was able to take a part in it.

What did I learn? 

I think all can be summarized to the following points:

  • There’s still too much to learn – And it comes with time and experience. I haven’t read all the “must read” classic books or the “must read best sellers” yet, but I was relieved to find that at least I’ve read the most important/famous ones. A good fact to know is that not only it’s about reading the good old classics but also reading the latest best sellers; see what formula they’re using to be highly commercial in recent times. Old time formulas may not be suitable for these days anymore, i.e. you can’t write as Shakespeare anymore…
  • I seem to be not that lost – Yeah… this was kind of gratifying actually, because even though I was there to learn new things, it was good to know that I’ve been doing my share of work and that I’m not that lost in this world of books and publishing industry. Basics such as don’t put that your “family and mom loved your manuscript” or that “you’re sure you have the next best seller” in your query letter were already good known facts to me….It felt good to know that I was not swimming in the amateur waters anymore…

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  • I still have a long way – I’ve just finished my first novel and I’m one hundred per cent sure that I can do it better. I feel confident that I can plot and write better stories. I know the writing process will be easier each time (hopefully the revision process as well, which is the most terrifying one for me) Nevertheless, I feel pretty confident about my first project. There were tons of conference attendees who were already in their fourth or fifth book and still learning a lot…
  • I learned I can totally rock Pitch Slams – I think this was the main reason why I thought the conference was awesome. From the seven agents I pitched, I got requests from the seven. It was unbelievable. I managed to control my nervousness, forget that English is not my native language, and speak with confidence. I loved the process.
  • I can manage rejection much better now – I’ve already sent my material to the seven agents yesterday. One has already replied this morning saying that “it may not be for him” (I wonder why he seemed so interested in the pitch slam. Was it because he thought it well and decided it was not for him? we’ll never know…) But even if I get these sort of replies from the other six agents, it will only be the encouragement to keep growing stronger, to keep fighting. I made a good decent start, and the sky is the limit. I’ll continue with much force. I’ll do more research. I’ll read more books. I’ll write more. I’ll try harder. I don’t plan to give up, not now when I feel so full of energy 🙂

I read a couple of blog posts I wrote more than a year ago. In these posts I was still looking for my path. I didn’t know where I stood at that point, trying to find out my true passions, looking for courage to do what I really loved. I was trying to tell the people around me that maybe I was meant to do something different from my career; ashamed to share my longtime dreams. I felt unsure of any talents I had. Now, I feel on the right path. Even though it’ll take a while to reach my goals, I know for sure, that I’m on the right track this time. And I’m very thankful to God for that.

I’m doing because I’m a chicken

Well, this time I’ve been lost like for ages, more than 2 or 3 weeks without blogging. Never have I missed blogging so much. But I have good reasons, but not new reasons (for those who’ve already read my posts), it was because of my manuscript (final revision, this time is the final one). It was taking me too much time and I want it to be over for once. The person who’s editing it is already working on the second part. So that means that yes, in a couple more of days, I will have to go back to it again to go through the revisions done by the editor. But I’m not worried, I’ve managed to review the changes of the first part in just one day, so the second part is not going to take me much (hope so). Well, enough talking about editing. I plan to do another post for that (some new lessons learned as always). I’m here to talk about exciting news. I’m attending Writer’s Digest Conference in NY this July 31st. Yayyyy!!!  (insert dancing icons here) download (5) No, I don’t live in the US. No, I don’t have loads of money to go everywhere I please. I just thought that it would be a good Life investment and of course good vacations. And here are some of the plans/goals/realizations I have in mind for this trip: – I’m not doing it because I consider myself a great writer. I’m doing it because I’m a new aspiring writer and this step will allow me to compromise myself with this career. No, It won’t be a hobby anymore. – I’m doing it because of the talks and workshops. I know this conference is also about getting to know agents, publishers, etc. But sometimes, I believe that maybe I’m not ready for that yet. So I don’t have great expectations on that side. I’m doing it because of the two full days of talks, sessions, workshops, etc. I’m eager to learn as much as possible and absorb everything sponge-like. www wisegeek com

Image source: www.wisegeek.com

– I’m doing because I’m a chicken. Yes, you read that, and not because I consider myself an animal (or I believe the chicken is my spirit animal), but because I’m a coward for these sort of public events. You see, I’m not the most extrovert person you’ve ever known. I’m shy and I feel akward at these gatherings. And there’s a session for pitching agents in this conference where you’re supposed to dazzle them with the magnificent plot of your book. Believe me, I actually considered skipping this part of the conference (which had an extra fee) because I knew I was going to be a complete disaster. I imagined myself trembling, sweating, stuttering, and even running away. And I’m also worried about my English speaking skills, which because of nervousness, seem to flee (that’s why I prefer to write ;)) I get nervous, stumble among words, and forget parts of the language. But I refuse to be a chicken forever, so this is going to be a challenge. I know I have to do it, I have to be brave!

Continue reading “I’m doing because I’m a chicken”

Beta Readers and the nerves of getting people to read your manuscript…

Well, currently I have 4 people reading my manuscript. Two of them are very good friends, one is my potential editor (we haven´t agreed on that yet), and another is an official Swap Beta Reader Partner (I don´t know if there is a term for that, just correct me if there is a better way say it.)

My SBRP (Swap Beta Reader Partner) was actually fun to find. I dig up into the Beta Readers Group from Goodreads and I found some people asking for beta readers. Of course, I knew that the best way to find a Beta Reader was by offering to read first for somebody else, so that maybe later, I could seek for the same favour in return. I was struggling to find an interesting manuscript blurb that I would love to read, one that would take me away from the books I´m reading now (Yes, I haven´t learned my lesson, I´m still reading several books at once, you can check out my previous post, to know what I mean). Anyway, a story blurb called my attention, it was a memoir manuscript. Memoirs are usually not my first pick when I go to bookstores, unless it comes from somebody famous (no celebrity type, but other interesting people). I must admit that I actually enjoyed all the memoirs I´ve ever read, so I thought it would be a good option to beta read for this author. I was thrilled to find out that she was willing to swap manuscripts, even better! that way I had somebody else guaranteed to read my manuscript in return.

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I´m thrilled about my SBRP. I´ve already started reading her manuscript, and although we set a time frame of 10 days, I´m about to reach half of her manuscript in less than 2 days. It´s really good and I´m looking forward to see it published. And this leaves me in an insecure state, I can´t stop worrying about my manuscript. I mean, I know it´s my first novel ever and that I still have a long path until I learn how to do it properly, but still I can´t avoid thinking: “OMG, what happens if she is hating my manuscript or she´s getting so bored that she can´t see a way to finish it?” I know, insecurities on first time writers are normal. I know many of us fear sharing our work. But I guess, I just have to deal with it and take the feedback as best as I can.

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I don´t fear too much the feedback from my friends (that´s why it´s necessary to get other beta readers besides your friends), because even though I asked them to be as honest as possible, I know they will try to do it in a way that doesn’t disencourage me.

How about you? For the people who write out there, did you face those fears when you had beta readers reading your work? I would love to hear your experience with beta readers. 

How to overcome the idea that the movie is not what the book was!

So I have guilty pleasures, and some are related to a couple of YA books out there. You see I’m a slow reader, but with the Divergent series, I broke my reading time records (like just a couple of days for each one). I’m not going to talk about if the book is good, if the writing is good, etc. Nope, this post is not about that. It’s just how much readers get their hopes in when they have a visual representation, a movie, of their favorite stories.

Why do we care?

Because when we read a story, we imagine the characters, the settings, and the whole story in our heads. So when we hear that a movie will be “based” on it, we get excited hoping to find that everything we pictured in our heads as we read the book will be consciously represented on the screen.

movies are not like books

Why is not always like that?

Because we can’t fit all the details in less than 2 hours. And because, movies are different from books. Most movies are there for entertaining purposes or for stimulating our visual senses. We can’t get ten pages of character’s emotional inner struggle in a movie.  If you take movies like me, that they exist for entertainment purposes and not for lulling you into sleep, then you get this point.

Should we demand movie producers respect the book storyline?

No, it’s only “based on”. Film studios have no obligation to remain loyal to the author’s story. And they have their own scriptwriters who know what works best in a movie and what doesn’t.

movies are like not books

And what about Insurgent? (the second installment of the Divergent series, in case you’re not familiar with it)

It’s a freaking good movie. If you didn’t read the book, the better for you; you’ll be able to assess the movie entirely from its entertaining potential. If you read it, stop comparing it to the book. The book was a story written by Veronica Roth, and it ends up there, in the papers of the book and if the picture you made up in your mind. The movie is another thing.

Was I aware of this perspective when I went to see the movie?

Of course not! I was the person who in Divergent nagged my companion all the time telling her: “in the book it was not like that… in the book…. ” Oh, poor her….

In the second one, I had the same inner struggle, but this time I kept it to myself, or my friend would have killed me. But this time when the movie ended, and I forced myself to forget the book, I found out that the movie was actually very well developed and very well told. Very entertaining.  I even found myself wishing some scenes would have been added to the book (don’t tell Veronica Roth 🙂 )

It’s one thing to love books and to love the stories and wish we could see the exact visual representations on the big screen, but let’s face it, it’s not going to happen. The magic of books will always remain on their pages and the skills we use to dive into the story. The power we have to imagine those words. That’s the beauty of books. We don’t need to have forced flat representations on screen. Movies are a different type of art, a visual art. Let’s stop trying to match them and keep the books and their wonderful stories to us.

And you, do you ever find yourself wishing the movie was exactly the same as the book? Do you easily get disappointed when you find that it’s not what you imagined from the book? Other movies/books that you can think of where you found this difference or rather a quite accurate resemblance between the two?