This week our focus is on Rick Watson of the lovely blog, Life 101. His second book, Life Happens: Enjoy the Ride, is available at http://www.amazon.com/Life-Happens-Holler-Scholar-Volume/dp/0615677738.
Q. For the benefit of my readers who ever so foolishly might not follow your blog, will you please expound on your career as a writer and on the genesis of Life Happens?
A. If I’d known when I was younger that I would become a writer, I would have paid attention in English class.
I founded an alumni website for my high school alma mater in 2001, and I started scanning yearbooks and putting them on the site, but I also started writing stories about my memories of high school. I wrote stories about teachers, my friends, and events that happened during my high school years. To my surprise the site exploded with followers. I received a lot of encouragement about the stories I wrote.
Then in 2005, I got on Blogger with no real plans of how I would approach the writing. As it turns out, I got in a habit of writing daily. Some of my updates were long and some short.
In 2006 I decided to approach The Daily Mountain Eagle, our local newspaper and asked if I could write a weekly column. The editor was hesitant because apparently a lot of people wanted to write a column, but in his experience they burned out after a few months, and he was stuck with a slot to fill.
I told him I had a year’s worth of columns already written. I opened my briefcase and handed him about a half dozen to look over. He called the next day and said I had the job.
After two years of weekly columns in the Sunday Lifestyle section of the paper, I decided to publish a compilation of those columns. My first book was entitled Remembering Big.
A few years later I published my second book Life Happens.
Q. What did you learn from the publication of your first book that helped you with the current book?
A. I learned the value of having a good editor. I found a lot of errors after printing my first book, so when I was putting together Life Happens, I had two professional editors.
Q. Your writing style is very laid back and folksy. Does that come naturally to you, or do you cultivate it? In other words, have you developed a persona as a writer, or do we get plain ole Rick Watson? I hope you're as nice as you seem to be!
A. I think the secret to writing is finding your voice. I struggled early on. I had good story ideas, but I wrote around them. I think writing every day is important because you learn what resonates with readers. Somewhere along the way I found my voice.The late Clarke Stallworth was a mentor that helped me find my way.
I don’t think I’ve developed a persona. What you see (read) is what you get.
Q. How do you promote your book?
A. The more I learn about book promotion, the more I realize I don’t know squat. I have a built in audience that reads my column each week so I have name and face recognition in Central Alabama. Each time I sign books or speak to organizations, I usually sell some books.
Trying to expand my audience to readers outside my geographic area has been challenging.
I’ve done Kindle Free promotions, I’ve connected with reviewers in the Blogosphere, and I’m working Goodreads. I’ve sold some books, but I still haven’t connected with “my people.” These are people who like to laugh, cry, and say to themselves, “Dang, I’m glad that didn’t happen to me.”
A. I know when I’m in the zone that what I’m writing is good. The main challenge when you write every day is coming up with something interesting to say. Many times I write about the mundane, and that’s OK, because it keeps me in the game. I’m the kind of person that if I didn’t write one day, it would be twice as easy to skip the next day too. So I always have my antennas up scanning for good ideas to write about, but I write even when ideas are scarce.
And I hope that the questions I ask our authors are helpful to those of you who are working on books, or who have written a book. You never know where you might find some inspiration and helpful information.
Tomorrow, Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell, more from Rick Watson.
Infinities of love,