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Author Interview: Weston Kincade

July 2, 2013

weston_behind_small_gate.jpg

After doing so many book reviews, I have thought about interviewing an author of one of the books I read. Of course, it does take some courage try out some new things, and I finally asked one for an interview. Today, I am pleased to interview Weston Kincade, editor at WAKE Editing and author of A Life of Death, Invisible Dawn, and quite a few other works.

  • Bryce:
    What is your inspiration for writing?
  • Weston:
    Writing has always been a way of expressing myself. It began as poetry and progressed to short stories. However, before I had fully mastered those, my mind was operating on a much larger scale and began longer character introductions that eventually coalesced into my first novel, Invisible Dawn.
  • Bryce:
    What was it that made you decide to start publishing your stories?
  • Weston:
    Well I tried the traditional publishing route for about a year, and aside from one or two requests for more from agents regarding Invisible Dawn[2] and A Life of Death[3], I wasn't finding much success. The large publishers outright didn't respond or rejected the books after a year or more of time spent “considering” them. Most agents and publishers said things like, “it sounds like a great story, but… (and yes there was almost always a “but”) we are being very selective with who we take on” or “it's just not right for us.” I spent tons of time researching and developing proper query letters. I discovered that publishers and agents often give instructions on exactly how to write the submission queries to very minute details; however, more often than not, I also found other reliable sources stating that it was the queries that didn't conform to these things that, if done well, would catch an agent or publisher's eye. Google it, and you will find many examples of both kinds of advice. It's pretty diverse, and for new authors, that means these contradicting methods really are confusing. So I self-published and wound up learning a great deal along the way. Now times have changed, my writing has improved, and I've found a home for my A Life of Death series with Books of the Dead Press. I'm optimistic about the future—one big step down, a hundred more to go.
  • Bryce:
    When you do your research, do you visit any of the places that you want to use and talk with locals or do you just do it from the comfort of your own home?
  • Weston:
    I'm of the mind that you can't write about what you don't know—at least not well. But details sometimes need to be researched. For that, I often use the internet. I tend to write about things I know of, speculating on the mysterious unknown through my imagination. For example, my wife and I have gone to many different Revolutionary and Civil War battlefields, so the scene in A Life of Death where Alex and Paige visit one is drawn from those experiences. However, I don't have visions of people getting murdered—at least not real ones, so I use my imagination to add that aspect. It's all about blending real-life experiences and a little research with the supernatural and unknown.
  • Bryce:
    In this day and age, with both publishers and authors worried about piracy, what do you think is the best way to combat the problem?
  • Weston:

    Interesting question, but very real in the modern world. Simply put, I don't combat it.

    Hackers[1] and techies are always a step ahead, if not two. The Matrix movie is a perfect analogy of this battle in general terms. The simple fact of the matter is that if someone wants your book/s bad enough to write programs and spend the time trying to get them for free, they will succeed. However, how much time did they just spend to get your book? That's dedication. More than likely, they're going to read it when they get it.

    I have given away thousands of books in the past. My publisher, Books of the Dead Press, is even planning to give away the first four episodes of A Life of Death for free as they come out. Episode 1 is free in just about every format on Smashwords.com right now. (Unfortunately Amazon doesn't let you do that right off the bat, so enough people will have to tell Amazon it is free using the “tell us about a lower price” link on the book's Amazon page.) But four episodes of A Life of Death is almost the entire novel. Each episode contains 4-5 chapters, so in essence, we are giving the majority of the book away. How many publishers are willing to do that for readers? Not many. And believe it or not, it was my publisher's idea. Books of the Dead is that confident in the continued success of the series. I'm flattered.

    When readers can get so much of the first book for free, I don't think there is any reason to steal it. For those that still do, I appreciate their dedication. Maybe the friends they tell about the book will buy their copies so I can make a few cents. Either way, I'm confident it will even out in the end.

  • Bryce:
    If one of your books were turned into a movie, do you think that one of them would be better portrayed in an animated format and one better portrayed in a live action format or would they all work well in the same medium?
  • Weston:

    Wow, now that's a question I have never been asked. I never thought about it in those terms, but it's an interesting thought…

    I don't believe A Life of Death would be better animated unless it was done similar to Gunslinger Girl. That anime had the right feel to make it work. Aside from that, it would probably be best live action.

    My Altered Realities series though… that one could make a great anime in the standard tradition. Or live action if it was directed by Quentin Tarantino.

  • Bryce:
    Which do you prefer as a reader, e-book or paperback/hardback?
  • Weston:
    I love the smell of books, but can't argue with the ease of carrying an entire library around in something that weighs a pound or less. So, I use both. I have an old nook and a kindle program on my computer, but the nook is dying now. I'll have to look into getting something new. I'm not sure if I'll go with something like an Asus tablet or an actual Kindle e-reader or something similar. We shall see.
  • Bryce:
    Where is your favorite place to get books?
  • Weston:
    I love small bookstores and coffee shops, but there aren't many in most places I've lived. So, most books I've bought were using an e-reader.
  • Bryce:
    Although A Life of Death was a coming-of-age story, I noticed that its sequel had some elements of detective fiction, though not necessarily a whodunit, have you had any interest in crime fiction or its various subgenres?
  • Weston:

    I've read some and am a fan of that famous detective who lived at 221B Baker Street, although I haven't read nearly enough of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's work. I don't model my work after others though. I just tell the story that comes to me. That's probably why I wouldn't make a very good whodunit author. That takes so much attention to a formula that I wouldn't be happy writing it. As Alex's career as a detective continues, I know I will be writing more paranormal crime fiction, but not in the vein of a whodunit story.

    I am looking forward to the future story where Jamie… well that will have to wait. There is still a lot to tell before then.

  • Bryce:
    Do you have a favorite game, cologne, or anything that you just can't live without? What is it?
  • Weston:
    LOL. Well, I really enjoy Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 when role playing. I also enjoy Age of Kingdoms and World of Warcraft, but can't really play MMORPGs anymore because they are so addictive. I get taken in and wind up spending way too much time on them. I have recently found that League of Legends is set up such that I can play every now and again without taking up too much time. My wife and I enjoy Apples to Apples when we get together with friends. I generally use Axe body spray and wear Teva sandals or Nikes. When I have time off, it's normally loose-fitting jeans or cargo shorts depending on the weather. And something people always seem to comment on are my caps. I guess I'm just a hat guy. With some people it's shoes, socks, or underwear. With me it's caps. I have about a dozen different Ivy Caps I wear throughout the year.
  • Bryce:
    When playing games with people, do you like to try out games that have different mechanics or do you prefer to play games that are functionally the same?
  • Weston:
    I'm big on tabletop, roleplaying, and even card games. I played D&D and Magic for years, ventured into Shadowrun a bit, and even got into Blood Bowl for a while. There are plenty of others… really too many to count. I'm open to different games and have even thought about writing my own system. Who knows what the future holds.
  • Bryce:
    How important is an imagination in the field of writing?
  • Weston:

    Depends on what type of writing you are talking about. I've known academic writers who publish all the time in mathematics journals with new theories and concepts. My wife just finished her Master's thesis in Music Ed. Academic writing like that doesn't really use imagination though.

    However, for fiction writers imagination is everything. Without it, I'd just be writing about the past. Fiction is a completely different animal.

  • Bryce:
    Do you do anything to keep your imagination active?
  • Weston:
    Many things. I don't think about it as exercising my mind or imagination, but it does. I dream, roleplay, watch television, and play a few video games now and then, but the most demanding thing on my imagination is writing.
  • Bryce:
    While publishers and other pros decide what to publish, who do you think is the one that ultimately decides whether or not a book is good?
  • Weston:

    There's really only one answer here in my mind. The big five publishers can throw lots of money at a book, but normally that doesn't work if the book's no good and there isn't already a fan base for the author. Ultimately, the readers decide whether a book is good. If it isn't, they won't finish or tell their friends about it. If it is, they will and their friends may go out and buy a copy. Reviews work that same way. Word of mouth will determine the success of a book normally.

    However, the first hurdle is still getting the word out and getting the book into readers' hands. Without a publisher, that's very hard to do for a starting author. It can be done. Amanda Hocking proved that. But it takes a lot of marketing know-how and time to get there.

  • Bryce:
    What are your favorite cartoons?
  • Weston:
    You can't go wrong with Family Guy, The Simpsons, Full Metal Alchemist, and American Dad. I also enjoy animated movies. Trying to nail one down is difficult, though. My favorite anime is a toss-up between Gunslinger Girls and Princess Mononoke.
  • Bryce:
    Out of all of your favorite cartoons, have any had an influence in your writing?
  • Weston:
    Another difficult question. There might be some subconscious influence in my Altered Realities series from Devil May Cry, but I haven't seriously thought about any in relation to my writing. Although, I like Full Metal Alchemist, Sword Art Online, Battle Angel, and Princess Mononoke.
  • Bryce:
    What was the worst book you ever had to read for school?
  • Weston:
    Most of the classics I read in school I really enjoyed. I'm a Shakespeare fan. Plus, my sixth grade English teacher read us The Hobbit. Can't really go wrong there. I can't say it was for school, but the worst book I ever tried to read was Tolstoy's Anna Karenina. The story seemed like it would be good, but there were just so many introductions of characters without any real plot or action going that I couldn't get past the first “party.”
  • Bryce:
    Since you have experience editing and teaching, what is the biggest myth that most grammar teachers instill in their students?
  • Weston:

    Well, like all writing, there are different audiences and standards. In academic writing, you don't want to start a sentence with and or but, and for the most part that's true with fiction writing too. However, there are exceptions for everything.

    It isn't a myth per say, but the biggest myth most teachers preach is that you can either teach or… well that's it with an English degree. The simple fact of the matter is that there are many things you can do if you think outside of the box and work for it. Many people with English degrees go on to be lawyers and even doctors. People make a living writing jingles, SEO articles, editing, technical writing, writing novels. Most times it won't make you a millionaire, but they are options that will enable adults to live and be happy if it's what they like doing. Some teachers don't think outside of the box, though.

    So far as writing goes, what many call grammar myths aren't myths at all. It is a process of teaching and learning that enable students to write better. The biggest problem is that presenting these things to students before they have a firm grasp on how to write and the general standards would lead to tons of problems. When I teach students I focus on helping them understand the rules and why they are there. Once that is in place, it makes presenting exceptions to grammar rules a lot easier.

    The biggest problem I found in some classes I had in the past were that teachers either didn't know why the rules were the way they were, or just didn't present the explanations to students. When I taught full time, I tried to have some fun with it and use examples that would make the students think, relate to modern events, or make them laugh. You remember things better if it's fun. Not every class can be that way, but I tried as much as I could. I always liked things like the saying, “Let's go eat Grandma,” compared to, “Let's go eat, Grandma.” I always presented it as the difference between grandmotherly cannibalism and a personal relationship. That normally got a good laugh. There were also good examples in Lynne Truss's book Eats, Shoots & Leaves.

    With my editing company, WAKE Editing, I do the same thing. Although, I don't have a year or even a semester to spend with them. So, I present the rule, the reason for it, and when the exceptions can be used in the comments to help writers struggling with certain grammatical issues overcome them. That way they get a lot more out of my time and theirs. Instead of honing one book, we are also honing their writing skills. I guess it's just the teacher in me coming out again.

  • Bryce:
    What is your favorite quote?
  • Weston:
    One of my favorites is probably, “Live today like there's no tomorrow.” I don't know who said it, but it's stuck with me.
  • Bryce:
    Where was your favorite place to live?
  • Weston:
    So far, the best place is a toss-up between El Paso and the Chesapeake Bay. I loved the culture of Mexico and growing up on the border, but it's hard to beat the scent of saltwater in the air, waves crashing under the dock, and large fish nibbling on the end of your line. That may be why Tom Clancy still lives there. I never met him, but I know he lived in the next county over.
  • Bryce:
    What do you think of writers who are only in it for the money, as opposed to those that write because they like telling stories?
  • Weston:

    Honestly, it is such a hard road to walk to make money that I don't know any writers like that. I can't even imagine someone going into it for the money initially because there are so few people who make it. Most authors work a fulltime job to pay the bills and hope they will sell enough books to go out to dinner once a month. For 98 percent of authors, it is a labor of love and pays far less than minimum wage. I haven't met the other two percent. I've met Scott Nicholson a couple times and Sharon McCrumb, and they both seemed like very down-to-earth people. I've kept in touch with Scott for years now, and he's got a great since of humor and writing skills that will set your teeth on edge if you survive the heart attack. We write because we were called to do it. Most authors don't know how not to in my experience. I didn't start writing novels until I was a quarter-century old, but it's such an ingrained part of my life that I could never see giving it up.

    I just hope people continue to enjoy reading the stories and about the characters that pop into my head. If I didn't let them out from time to time, they'd probably take over. Then, look out world.

  • Bryce:
    What was it that inspired you to write Invisible Dawn?
  • Weston:
    Originally, I was watching Ghost Hunters and speaking with my father about the possible planes of existence in which ghosts inhabit when it occurred to me: What if ghosts aren't what we think? What if they are just mirror images, reflections of people on closely linked planes, and only an evolved few can see them? That was the origin of Invisible Dawn. I had already created character introductions for Daniel and Madelin, but never knew where I was going with them or even if they'd be in the same story. After that evening, though, I knew their relationship, the tale of redemption, and meaning they were striving to find.
  • Bryce:
    If you could travel back to any point in time and remain there, where would you want to go?
  • Weston:
    Now this is a question I have pondered before: to the age of dinosaurs, to meet Shakespeare in person, or to tell a younger self, “Buy stock in Google”? I think I'd have to go with Shakespeare to be honest.
  • Bryce:
    How do you edit your own work, do you edit as you go along, or do you wait until the draft is completed?
  • Weston:
    Both. I edit for grammar and flow as I write, but I also wind up going over the completed project at least once more to refine it as best I can. Then, it goes off to my beta readers and alternate eyes to see what I might have missed. Finally, the book will make its way to my copy editor Katy Sozaeva for anything my eyes might have thought I wrote, but left out a word. Anyone that's ever written anything knows how that goes, and in a three or four hundred page book, a few things slip through. A fresh set of eyes helps fix those before the book's release.
  • Bryce:
    How many drafts does your work usually go through before it is published?
  • Weston:
    Well that is changing. I guess two now with a reread and then revisions after my beta readers and editor has gone through it. I develop and outline first that is pretty detailed, then write the novel based on that, flexing the outline as the story unfolds further in my head. Then I reread it for adjustments and send it off to beta readers. However, Invisible Dawn was my first novel and it took eleven or twelve revisions before it was at the level of something I write the first time after the outline now. Looking back, there are still things I would change in Invisible Dawn, but at some point you have to say to yourself, “I know it's not perfect, but is it good enough?” That's a question I ask myself before I send out any of my books. Now I have an additional editor at Books of the Dead Press who goes through them, but not until I can answer that question with a firm “Yes.”
  • Bryce:
    For those that want to get into writing themselves, what advice do you have for them?
  • Weston:

    If you are passionate about writing and have a few more personalities rattling around that keep you up at night, put pen to paper or boot up that computer. Let the words flow, learn all you can, and don't become disheartened with rejection. You have to have a thick skin. Some people will love your work and others won't. We live in a world where everyone can easily say what they think, and that's great. Just keep this one thing in mind when the road seems a little rough. You've probably heard it before, but laughter and logic help to keep me sane at times:

    “Opinions are like ass holes. Everyone's got one.”
  • Bryce:

    Well, this was quite informative, and some things certainly surprised me.

    Anyway, thank you, Weston, for taking the time to do this interview. I wish you good luck in your writing endeavors.

Notes


While I can utilize the title attribute on HTML elements to explain things, not all of them will be displayed on the printed page, due to CSS rules. I will place notes here that I do not think can be handled by acronym and abbreviation elements.

  1. Weston is refering to those that the textbooks from my college days call black hat hackers, because not all hackers want to do harm to their target, but some people prefer the term cracker.
  2. Weston originally put a link here to buy Invisible Dawn on Amazon, in order to cut down on the number of instances I need to add this link, I am placing it here.
  3. Although Weston calls it by the name it was originally called, he put a link here that directed one to where they can get the first episode of a serial publication consisting of 12 books from Books of the Dead Press.

Use an app on your phone (e.g. Scan for Android) to capture the image above. If successful, you should be taken to the web version of this article.

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