"Required reading" for today's smart writer.

"Required reading" for today's smart writer.
As featured on: Pro Blogger, Men With Pens, Write to Done, Tiny Buddha, LifeHack, Technorati, Date My Pet, South 85 Literary Journal and other award-winning sites.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Pen & Prosper Presents a Q & A with Rob and Miranda Walker

Meet Robert W. Walker and wife Miranda Phillips Walker.

They're here today to answer some burning questions, like how they’ve managed to kill off only fictional characters with two crime novelists under one roof.
Rob’s latest is DEAD ON, Five Star Bks., and Mianda's latest and first is The Well Meaning Killer from Krill Press.

Q. In various interviews on the web, both of you have recommended that writers not quit the day job. Is there a story behind this recommendation?

M’s A: As an ER nurse, I get a lot of my most exciting and frightful scenes on the job!
Still, if I had my druthers, I’d happily be writing full-time and retire from that arena as it is extremely taxing, despite how good one is at saving a life -- and I can safely say I have saved quite a few, including a neighbor late one night. However, writing does not offer benefits or a steady income to say the least.

R’s A: As a professor of English one barely gets by in this economy but at least it is a known, a given to see the paycheck at the end of the month, whereas writing has enormous ups and downs monetarily as well as emotionally. Each book is harder and harder to sell in this tough market. One can go two and even three years between contracts even if he has a track record. There are the exceptions, those who are struck by the Oprah or Eastwood lightning or similar good luck, but less than one percent of all authors in this country can support a family on earnings from writing, a sad reality. Now if President Obama were to tell folks he is reading my Shadows in the White City then yeah, I’ve won the lottery.

Q. You are very active in promoting your books. What are some of the toughest lessons you’ve learned about the “art” of self-promotion.

M’s A: You have to throw all caution and shyness out the window; perhaps ladylike-ness, too. You want to be yourself but you also have to find a comfortable sales person lurking within. Sitting behind a desk and failing to make eye contact won’t cut it at a signing, and figuratively doing the same online won’t either, but I am trying at the same time not to sound arrogant or self-important as I am anything but.

R’s A: Oh I have to stop “tossing” books into people’s baskets, especially those in wheelchairs, but darn I just know they will love the book and not regret “discovering” it for themselves. I kid with people online and in person, and the lesson I have learned in this business is that you don’t sell the book, you sell yourself. If folks likes ya, they will open your book and read it, hopefully after purchasing it.

Q. What is your favorite writing-related subject to give advice on?

M’s A: That if I can do it, anyone can. It’s a struggle, not easy, and made harder often by your circumstances--I have four children, and I also have to contend with Rob! But I did it--I got my novel written, shopped around, educated myself on the markets, and found a publisher and now hold my book in my hand with the hope others will be entertained by it. It requires a great deal of research and education about the business.
R’s A: Craft matters, working on elements of style and finding one’s voice that perfectly fit’s the story at hand. I also push the fact every young writer ought to write a mystery as it is the fastest surest way to learn plotting for any type of novel. Finally, how to write one’s own pitch and or back-flap copy or the shortest most important story you will ever write, the story about your story and how it is effectively done. This becomes a useful tool in all marketing endeavor for the book.

Q. List three of your favorite writing self-help books.

M‘s A: Rob‘s recently published DEAD ON WRITING, a kindle book I read in rough draft. David Morrell‘s excellent book on the subject. Tom Sawyer‘s great book on writing.

R‘s A: — Chris Roerden’s book,Don’t Murder Your Mystery and her Don’t Sabotage Your Submission/ J.A. Konrath’s free book, A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing, Robin Carr’s Tips for Writing Popular Fiction, Dean R. Koontz’ Writing Popular Fiction, and Jerome Stern’s Making Shapely Fiction. Oops! I went over three.

Q. Both of you have written about the importance of learning how to write romance and incorporate it in your stories. Why do you feel it is important to include romance? How did you learn how to write romance? And is there a book or course you would recommend to other authors to help them learn how to incorporate quality romance writing into their stories?

M’s A: Romance is at the heart of every good story in my estimation. Characters like people want to find romance in their lives, don’t they? Not sure of any books on the subject or courses on how to write romance except to say Rob writes great love scenes, and I aspire to do the same or at least create an intriguing triangle.

R’s A: I learned what NOT to do by reading a book called The Romance Writers Handbook. Actually it was a complete listing of descriptive phrases for every body part from the nose to the toes--what’s been said and done and done, so I tried to avoid these “clichés” in romance writing or put a new spin on them, use the old wine but put it into a new bottle. I love to pair a hero and heroine and let them go at it as in Moonlighting….I think that ought to be an author’s verb--Moonlight your characters as you would Gaslight a character as in Gaslight. The darkness of a dark mystery or even a horror novel can be balanced by an intriguing romantic development between two characters as in Dead On, and in Miranda’s Well Meaning Killer. I do the same in near about all my books.

Q. You have recently been reformatting some of your stories for use with Amazon’s Kindle. Is there anything you have learnedthe hard way in this process that you can share to help the restof us as we move into this new format?

M’s A: In my case, my publisher took The Well Meaning Killer to a Kindle version, and as it is my only book thus far, I am taking a wait and see attitude. I have learned from Rob, who has had far more experience with it that the cost of a kindle book needs be far less than a hardcopy book or else no sale!

R’s A: The kindle titles I have up are three that HapreCollins put up, and 13 ebooks at Fictionwise.com have been formatted for kindle sales, or kindalized, but more recently, I have placed eight titles on kindle all on my own and I have found it to be an easy process with some glitches in step three, converting your file to html format. Directions I followed are found at dtpamazon.com What is great about it is that you are your own publisher, art director, PR person, and you sink or swim based on your choices and not those of some person in a conglomerate who thinks your title needs be changed to sound more like a Stephen King title or decides it ought to be 90,000 words when it is in fact a 140.000 word book, and so it is in the end liberating and freedom from constraints I have faced for thirty odd years.

Q. What are you currently working on? Will this book also be available on Kindle eventually?

M’s A: I am working on a sequel to The Well Meaning Killer set in Kill Devil Hills/Cape Hatteras area. Having fun with it and I am confident my publisher is anxious to see it, and it will go kindle if it goes Krill!

R’s A: I am revamping some out of prints for the Kindle as my next project. I placed up at the Kindle Store three original novels: Cuba Blue, Deja Blue, Children of Salem, and a number of recycled out of prints horror novels, a how to on writing, a collection of short stories with commentary, and DEAD ON. At the moment kindalizing is my top priority along with working with my clients on their books as I edit and ghost write as well.

Q. You are very giving of your time, rarely asking for anything in return. Why do you enjoy teaching and helping other authors?

M’s A: Pay it forward is just how I operate, and I’ve seen such generosity in other mystery authors, and have been the recipient of it. How can I be otherwise?

R’s A: Ahhh…the teachable moment, and I am a born teacher. What can I say? My and Miranda’s blogs and sites are all about sharing the knowledge and know how, skills and tools to become successful.

The only time I charge for it is when a client seriously wishes for me to copy edit and make developmental changes or suggestions, or to ghost write and this is done at way under market costs.

Brief bios:
Robert W. Walker grew up Chicago, IL but was born in Corinth, MS, and as a graduate of Northwestern University, and the NU's Graduate Masters in English Education program, he has been a lifelong learner and writer, penning over forty novels. Three years ago he met Miranda and he has resided here in Charleston, WV ever since. He teaches at WVSU in Institute and continues to write, speak, edit, and ghost write. In the mid-eighties Rob began writing his eleven -book Instinct Series with Dr. Jessica Coran, ME as his lead, and his four-book Edge Series with Det. Lucas Stonecoat, Texas Cherokee investigator. Rob's most recent original work appears at the Kindle Store on Amazon.com, Children of Salem, and now on traditional publishing shelves, Dead On is available. Rob can be found online at http://www.robertwalkerbooks.com/ and in all the usual places where one finds writers online.

Miranda Phillips Walker a WV born author who lived in Baltimore for some 30 years is uniquely qualified to pen The Well Meaning Killer, a suspenseful mystery and an expose of the corruption and graft in the underbelly of our Nation’s foster care programs and systems. Walker, a Registered Nurse, also holds a Psychology degree with a minor in Sociology and has been a Registered Nurse for over seventeen years. Her life in medicine has been far more exciting and colorful than any program on TV such as ER or Grey’s Anatomy. Miranda says of The Well Meaning Killer, “I understand the demons that drive Crusher, the killer, and I have insights into the Child Protective Services that few possess. Going into the writing of this novel, I was armed with the right tools and weapons to make it work. I trust that the reader will agree. Miranda has enjoyed writing from an early age, using writing and the love of music to comfort her from her turbulent upbringing. When asked about her childhood, Miranda laughs and says “I’d;ve been better raised bya pack of wolves.” But being a positive person, she has used her life experiences to help her patients, and now to hopefully bring entertainment to her readers. She can be found everywhere on the web and at her site website at: http://www.mirandaphillipswalkerbooks.com/


  1. Thanks so much to Pen and Prosper for hosting us; we really appreciate this and had a great time here.
    Rob and Miranda Walker will be speaking at The West Virginia Book Festival at 2PM 11 Oct. at the Charleston Civic Center. We're doing a His and Her discussion and open questions session that will cover publishing and craft and more. If in the neighborhood, please drop in at NO Charge.

  2. It was my pleasure to host you guys! Much continued success!