J D Webb is the author of Shepherd’s Pie, Moon Over Chicago, Her Name is Mommy, and the upcoming Smudge. His self-stated wish is to intrigue and entertain everyone, and with his fiction he has proven successful. Here is an excerpt from the bio section of Mr. Webb’s website: “Four years in the Security Service of the Air Force serving fifteen months in the Philippines and a short stint in Viet Nam in 1965 and 1966 as a linguist, fluent in Chinese preceded 24 years in various management positions with the A. E. Staley Mfg. Co. Then I was promoted to cobbler, owning a shoe repair and retail shoe store for 11 years, closing in 2002, when I became a full-time author.” I met Mr. Webb recently and he was kind enough to share with me some of his insight on just what it takes to be a professional writer. His story is the stuff of American dreams: to retire and finally have time to become a novelist.
And now JD Webb faces 7 Questions:
Question Seven: What are your top three favorite books?
Okay you’ve started off with an impossible question. I’d have to separate the books into categories. Fiction, non-fiction and reading for pleasure. Then within each, a bunch of sub-groups. For fiction there is my favorite genre, mystery, and within that various sub-genre such as cozy, PI, true crime - and I could go on. It seems that whatever book I am currently reading becomes a favorite. Fickle, I know. Then there is the problem of ticking off all my author friends by not picking his or her book. So you see, I can’t name a favorite three. I have hundreds of favorites.
Question Six: How much time do you spend each week writing? Reading?
My weeks vary quite a bit but I try to get in at least 20 to 30 hours of writing, research, reviewing, editing, marketing, and promotion. About 10 to 15 hours of actual writing time. Excluding reading for research, emails, and Internet activity, I spend about 5 hours a week reading for pleasure. Weekends are for family and church and one day a week is reserved as a date day with my wife.
Question Five: What was the path that led you to publication?
I suffered the rejections every author must deal with and was fortunate to only get eight before my publisher sent me a contract. I had no success with the “big league” agents. I could not guarantee that my books would sell at least 50,000 copies. And so far I was right. LOL An author friend and mentor suggested I send my work to her publisher. I did and have since sent two more, which were accepted and published. I’ve been extremely lucky to find someone who loves my work and gladly accepts subsequent submissions. I now have a fourth book under contract with another publisher. I've been extremely fortunate.
Question Four: Do you believe writers are born, taught or both? Which was true for you?
I believe writers are born with a talent, which needs to be nurtured and taught. Millions of people are writers, but only a fraction of those are authors who can complete a project. As a selector of words I believe an author is that writer who becomes published. And authors need instruction to become better writers. We should never stop learning our craft, thinking we know everything there is to know about writing. Raw talent will not get a book published. Only a polished work becomes publishable.
I was born with a talent for writing. I am still diligently studying to make myself a better author.
Question Three: What is your favorite thing about writing? What is your least favorite thing?
The least favorite thing is marketing and promoting. I was taught never to brag or draw attention to myself. That goes out the window as a writer. Your horn must be tooted at every opportunity. Also it takes too much time and additional study, robbing me of precious writing time. A catch 22 indeed. As a writer you must make your presence known. No one will do it for you unless you are blessed with unlimited funds and can pay someone. Unlimited funds do not reside in an author’s bank account unless you are a name.
My favorite thing is typing along with my character telling me what to say. Or reading something I wrote earlier and saying, "wow, did I write that?"
Question Two: What one bit of wisdom would you impart to an aspiring writer? (feel free to include as many other bits of wisdom as you like)
Persistence is the word. If you must write or die, then go for it. Accept rejection even when it’s brutal. Rejoice when you get one that actually lets you know your work was read and not just slushed. Learn how others do it. Go to conferences, network, and develop an Internet presence. Treat your career as if you’re still a student. Your assignment is to research published authors and unlock their secrets. Talk to successful authors. They are not bashful talking about what they love.
Oops, that’s more than one. Well, the rest are free.
Question One: If you could have lunch with any writer, living or dead, who would it be? Why??
The why part would be to pick their brain. Find the secret that made them accomplished. Now who would it be? I guess first would be Hemmingway. The mere fact that you know him by only using one name is testimony enough as to why. I’d start with two questions. May I tape this conversation and are you paying the tab? Then Rex Stout. His Nero Wolf/Archie Goodwin characters hooked me into mysteries years ago. Lastly, I think George Plimpton. Don’t laugh. Besides being an accomplished author, George was the chief editor of the Paris Review for over 50 years. As such he interviewed every contemporary author of that era. I mean EVERY one of them. The knowledge he could impart would be priceless.
Actual Interview Date: 8/17/2009