INTERVIEW WITH TED GARVIN
BIO: Ted Garvin, a middle-aged, disabled writer of mixed Native American/European descent, lives in Sapulpa, Oklahoma, with his wife and menagerie. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a Bachelor's degree, but that and $2.00 (adjusted for inflation) will buy you a coffee. His favorite authors, in no particular order, are Patrick O'Brian, J.R.R. Tolkien, Roger Zelazny, and Homer.
Welcome to Scarlet Leaf Review!
Q: Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
I am a jack of all trades, but master of none. I have done (almost) every job under the sun—remodeling in its various aspects, debt collection, customer service, tech support, and parenting a special needs child. I have a psychiatric disability, which probably is actually of help in my writing, as obsessive/compulsive behaviors are useful in the arts and may be part of the artistic temperament.
I live in the benighted state of Oklahoma. I vote Democratic in elections, but Oklahoma is a “red” state—always Republicans get elected to Congress, etc.
Q: Do you think that your school years have had an impact in your writing career? If so, what were you like at school?
That's where I learned to write, although I have perfected/improved upon my craft in the ensuing years. Unfortunately, I talk like I write.
Q: Were you good at English or like Einstein you excel now in a field that was a nightmare for you as a student?
Better at English than Engineering.
Q: What are your future ambitions for your writing career?
I'd like to be published, make lots of money, and be famous. In my dreams, perhaps. Actually, I'd prefer critical success to commercial. It's always after your death that you're famous, after all. I really want what everyone else wants, to be read and appreciated.
Q: Which poets have inspired you and how? What was their impact on your work or your literary perspective?
The anonymous author of Beowulf, the Pearl Poet (who wrote Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, among others), and the author of the Cloud of Unknowing. As you can see, I'm big on medieval literature.
Q: So, would you mind telling us what you have written so far?
Q: Where can we buy or see them?
Q: What are you working on at the minute? What’s it about?
I'm working on a sequel to Doggerland, tentatively titled the Futility of Vengeance (I'm trying for sexier titles).
Q: What genre are your books and what draws you to this genre?
Young Adult Historical Fiction (aimed at the older teen—perhaps even the post-teen). My favorite authors are YA authors, like Rosemary Sutcliff and Robert Heinlein's juvenals.
Q: What was the name of your last book? Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special? What’s it about?
See above. Deccan (the main character of Doggerland), is your typical late Stone Age teen, who wants everything every other teen has ever wanted, but he has a few special concerns—given that he grew up without a father. He wants to know the circumstances surrounding his death? The novel is about what happens when he finds out and then the down-stream consequences (life goes on, you know?).
Q: Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book?
I've never really thought about it. Someone unknown, probably.
Q: How much research do you do for your books?
I am fairly well-read. I check out books on my time period from the library and use them as background, but the gist of the novel really comes out of thin air. Fiction is about making things up and too much data put in the book makes it seem a textbook and not a novel.
Q: Have you written any other novels/novellas in collaboration with other writers? Why did you do decide to collaborate and did that affect your sales?
Q: When did you decide to become a writer and why? What was the principal reason for taking up a pen (metaphorical speaking) and write that first sentence?
When I was sixteen, but never really pursued it because of parental influence. I took courses on writing in college and have always practiced developing my writing skills. It wasn't until I was in my mid-fifties that I decided I wasn't getting any younger.
Q: Do you write full-time or part-time? Do you have a special time to write or do you write every day, 5 days a week or as and when?
Depends on what you mean by full time. I don't spend eight hours a day at it, but it's always percolating in my subconscious because I write every day, even Sunday's and holidays. It's an addiction. I spend about an hour or two in the mornings, and then at spare moments, but I have a life. Currently, that involves mowing my yard, tending the garden, and otherwise keeping house.
Q: Where do your ideas come from? Or is it just the spur of the moment, a special feeling you experience or a specific conjuncture that offers you inspiration?
Out of thin air. I make it up.
Q: How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
There is a fine line between creativity and madness—one I cross regularly.
Q: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?
I have a hybrid approach. I like to think a few chapters ahead, but I'm pretty much a pantser, then I edit the hell out of it.
Q: In your opinion, what is the hardest thing about writing?
Thinking stuff up.
Q: Now, what about the easiest thing about writing?
Q: Do you ever get writer’s Block and if so do you have any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block?
Writer's block, in my view, is a phobia. As we say in this part of the world, you have to get back up on the horse that threw you. There are times when no words will come. I suppose “writer's fatigue” might be a good term, a better term, perhaps, for writer's block.
A problem I have is the “this is shit” voice of the critic. The only way to deal with him/her/it is to ignore it. Be kind to yourself. I also don't worry about what kind of weird things come out onto the page. I can always edit it out, after all.
Q: Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors? For your own reading, do you prefer eBooks or traditional paper/hard back books?
I read all the time. One author I am hysterical about is Nicola Griffith, who wrote (most recently) a historical fiction work called Hild, about St Hilda of Whitby. Our source for this historical personage is the Venerable Bede, who didn't have much to say about her, leaving quite a bit of room for speculation.
Another author I like is Steven Pressfield, most famous for Gates of Fire, which is about the Battle of Thermopylae. I find I get more reading done if it's on my Kindle, because I can read a little at a time, thus filling in those little empty spaces in the day.
Q: What book/s are you reading at present?
On Becoming a Novelist by John Gardner, Last of the Amazons by Steven Pressfield, the Poetics by Aristotle, and Gotham Writers Workshop: Writing Fiction.
Q: Do you proofread/edit all your own books or do you get someone to do that for you?
Yes. I'm too poor to hire someone, but I'm somewhat anal retentive, so it's a little easier for me than it might be for some “normal” person.
Q: Do you let the book stew – leave it for a month and then come back to it to edit?
I know I should.
Q: Who edited your last book and how did you select him/her?
Me. See the paragraph above about money.
Q: Tell us about the covers of your books. How did it/they come about?
The cover for the last one, I took a picture I had taken and incorporated it into Amazon's cover designer.
Q: Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?
Q: What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing against being published or the other way around?
With self-publishing, you have to do it all. With doing it the traditional way, you have some professional help.
Q: How do you market your books, if you do the marketing yourself?
Word of mouth and Amazon's keyword search feature.
Q: Would you or do you use a PR agency?
Can't afford it.
Q: Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books?
There is a lot of competition out there. My best advice, such as it is, is to write the best damn book you can and let the book sell itself, but you still need to get the word out.
Q: What part of your writing time do you devote to marketing your book?
Not very much, alas.
Q: What do you do to get book reviews?
I'm not sure they are all that important. I tried everything I knew to get reviews—give away copies, etc.
Q: How successful has your quest for reviews been so far?
I have two reviews which just showed up out of the blue.
Q: Do you have a strategy for finding reviewers?
Q: What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?
Paying for reviews is a bad idea. I try not to cry too much over a bad review, but I really don't worry about them.
Q: Any amusing story about marketing books that happened to you?
Q: What are your views on social media for marketing? Which social network worked best for you? Any tips on what to do and what not to do?
I'm on Facebook and Twitter, but I don't do much marketing.
Q: Did you do a press release, Goodreads book launch or anything else to promote your work and did it work?
No. I'm really shy about blowing my own horn.
Q: Did you get interviewed by local press/radio for your book launch?
No, but I haven't solicited it. .
Q: Is there any marketing technique you used that had an immediate impact on your sales figures?
Not that I know of.
Q: Did you make any marketing mistakes or is there anything you would avoid in future?
Talking about my book overmuch to friends and family, other than to mention that it's out there.
Q: Why do you think that other well written books just don’t sell?
There is a lot of competition. I blame the education system in this country for it, assuming that they don't.
Q: What do you think of “trailers” for books?
Q: Do you have a trailer or do you intend to create one for your own book/s?
Q: Do you think that giving books away free works and why?
No. Although we live online in a “culture of free”, I think people associate the price with the value of what they're getting. If they're getting it for free, they don't appreciate it.
Q: How do you relax?
I write. This is effectively a hobby for me, which takes a lot of pressure off.
Q: What is your favorite motivational phrase? What is your favorite positive saying?
“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”This shall pass.
Q: What is your favorite book and why?
I don't really have a favorite book, but I like the Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O'Brian.
Q: What is your favorite quote?
“Badgers? We don't need no stinking badgers!” (movie VHS with Weird Al Yankovich, in case you missed the literary reference)
Q: Where can you see yourself in 5 years-time?
Hopefully with more published books under my belt. More money would be OK too, but your expenses rise to meet your income, but my income is pretty marginal—tight, not comfortable, but my needs are simple.
In a way, the more money you get, the more you want.
Q: What advice would you give to your younger self?
Don't sweat the small stuff.
Q: Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?
Socrates, but I don't speak classical Greek, so we'd have a short conversation.
Q: If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?
I don't envy others.
Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Keep at it and damn the critics.
Q: Where do you see publishing going in the future?
My crystal ball has gotten a little fuzzy, but I'd say that the changes that happened in '07 (or so) when Amazon came out with the Kindle will only accelerate. It's a gold rush.
I will say that the people who made the money in the California gold rush of '89 were NOT the miners, but the people who sold stuff to them, like Levi-Strauss.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?
No, this was pretty comprehensive.
Q: How can readers discover more about you and you work?
Website: http://tedgarvin.com (until it goes down because I can't see that it is anything other than a time sink)
Amazon Author Page: https://amazon.com/author/tedgarvin
Thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview.
To bring joy to readers everywhere.