Each step of the process has its own unique challenges. The writing process is a challenge unto itself. While I’m generally pretty disciplined at sitting down and writing during the time I had schedule for that, I inevitably get interrupted or delayed or sidetracked. That’s one problem. Occasionally, I’ll be writing and box myself in with the storyline. I usually have an outline but the story itself as I’m writing it is pretty fluid. I change things while I’m writing. I’ll take the story in a bit of a different direction or I’ll introduce something that changes the outline a bit. So, writing itself is a bit of a challenge, but I like that. It keeps things interesting. I do my best to catch errors in the manuscript while I’m writing to make the editing process a little smoother, but I’m a writer and not an editor. I’ve been lucky to work with some really good people who have handled the editing process. They’ve gotten to know my writing style and tone, so they don’t go crazy in making edits that affect the story, characters, tone or style. Probably the biggest challenge is marketing the books. I made the decision many years ago to go the self-publishing route, so I’ve turned the entire process into a business. As with any business there a number of challenges, and I’ve found that marketing and gaining exposure has historically been the hardest part of the process. Luckily, I’ve built a good team for marketing, so it’s not as difficult as it once was, particularly with the various social media platforms that allow you to reach far more people than through traditional marketing methods.
Miss Matisse: Most people underestimate just how powerful social media marketing can truly be! It’s a great thing when you can market yourself, because you are the only one who really knows your product like the back of your hand, unlike anyone else. What else can we expect to see from Digger Cartwright in the near future besides the Money, Power, Greed, Sex and Revenge of Gems & Jewels?
Digger Cartwright: For the near future, I’ll probably continue with the Gems & Jewels series. That’s been on my mind for a while, and I’d like to finish Books II-V next. I’ll be doing a lot of commentaries for ThinkingOutsideTheBoxe.com, the think tank. I generally participate in their annual symposium in December and some of their quarterly champagne summits. You’ll be hearing my thoughts on politics, the economy, business and society. I’m in the process of developing a series of books that is a bit futuristic looking at what America and the world may look like in thirty years. I’m far from actually starting to write that, but that’s on the drawing board. I have plans for a sequel to The Versailles Conspiracy and The Maynwarings. Of course, time is always at a premium, so I’ll just take these projects one at a time. But I’ll say this, if you’ve liked what I’ve done so far, you’re going to love what I have planned. The best may be yet to come.
Miss Matisse: I am seriously laughing hysterically right now at your comment about someone worrying about another person living in their parents’ basement. It’s so true! Why care about what others think of you? Live your life! Speaking of yourself…What would you say has been the most successful way for self-promoting of your books?
Digger Cartwright: The world of social media and the internet are great ways to reach millions of readers and engage them. You can interact with people on Facebook and Twitter that are of like interests. You can reach hundreds of readers groups online who love to read indie authors’ work. You’re able to reach people all over the world online and with social media while you get lost in the shuffle on places like Amazon.com.
At the end of the day, there’s no better way to promote your work than word of mouth. You have a friend who reads the book and makes comments on their social media profiles. Their friends see it and they take an interest. They post something and so on and so forth. And of course, it always helps to have fair, impartial, and unbiased reviews by known or reputable reviewers, and there are plenty of them on Amazon and other places. These aren’t paid reviews; these are reviewers who consider various genres and my take an interest in your book to review. It always helps to have people who have bought your book on Amazon leave a comment or review or rating.
There’s really no one way that’s better than all the rest. It’s actually a combination of efforts that help expand the presence of the book and build an interest in it. Self-published authors should use all the tools at their disposal and that are financially available to promote their work. It becomes a lot easier once you gain a following, so make sure you engage with fans and keep producing quality work.
Miss Matisse: Yes, taking too much time off can throw you for a loop! If you have the time I’d add that as a writer you should jot down your ideas while you can so you don’t forget them later or as you go along. What advice do you have for others who are experienced, but struggling in the writing field/industry?
Digger Cartwright: I think a lot of people sit down to write thinking that they have the ability to do so. Writing isn’t easy. It’s very difficult to be creative, come up with a storyline, develop characters, and write a book that flows well, is coherent, and interesting. If you’re struggling with the writing process itself, get some mentoring or take some writing classes. There are plenty of resources available for aspiring writers to help polish their storytelling abilities which helps translate into increased opportunities for the book.
I like to have testers, for example. It has really helped me over the years. I run a storyline and synopsis by a group of people to see if it piques their interest. Once I have a draft of the story done, I’ll let them read it and see what they think. I welcome constructive criticism. They may come back with something that I hadn’t thought of as the author in terms of how it impacts the readers’ experience. In reality, the work product you’re putting out may or may not be interesting to the readers.
I always encourage aspiring writers to make sure they have great editors. Not every manuscript is going to be perfect. I have two or three editors read each book, and inevitably some things escape all of them—typos or incorrect references, etc. It’s human nature, but you’ve got to strive for perfection and produce a manuscript that is as flawless as possible. A manuscript filled with one mistake after another is not appealing to the readers. They’ll let the occasional typo slide, but if you’re work is overrun with mistakes, incorrect grammar, etc, they’ll not look favorably upon that and they’ll let you know about it.
And don’t let the critics get to you. You’re always going to have critics who won’t like what you do no matter what. Don’t let them get to you. Constructive criticism is something that you need to listen to and take seriously. Criticism from someone who has never written a book and who is just jealous of your accomplishment isn’t usually very valuable. Don’t let it get under your skin. You’ve got to have thick skin. If you’re worrying about satisfying someone living in their parents’ basement playing video games and criticizing your work, you’ll be your own worst enemy.
Miss Matisse: I totally agree with you! A writer does have to be in a certain mindset in order to produce their best work. Otherwise it can throw the whole story off! So…sticking with the same subject, have you ever made any mistakes in your field that you would like to advise others against?
Digger Cartwright: Stay productive. Keep writing. Don’t take too much time off between books. If you do, you’re likely going to become complacent and take your time before starting the next book. As soon as your current manuscript is with the editor, get to work on the next one. If you’re serious about writing, keep producing as much as you can without sacrificing quality while you can when you can. The day may come when you don’t have the time or the creative juices dry up. I find that if I take too much time off between books that it becomes more and more difficult to start the next one.
Miss Matisse: I happen to absolutely love that you keep your fans in mind while writing too! Your new series sounds like it’s going to be a big hit! When it comes to writing, have you ever had to overcome writers block? If so, how were you able to work around it?
Digger Cartwright: I will occasionally encounter writer’s block. For me, I have to be in the right frame of mind to sit down and write. I really have to be in the mood. When I’m in the zone, so to speak, I can just sit and crank it out. If I’m not in the zone, it’s tough; it’s very laborious under those circumstances. Where I often encounter writer’s block is that I create a situation while I’m working that impacts the direction I was taking. I have to work through the change and the implications for the storyline. I like to say I’ve worked myself into a corner and have to figure a way out. Usually it’s just a matter of stepping away for a while and letting it all work through my mind. Sometimes I’ll need to take a break, have something to eat, get some fresh air, go walk around, or even listen to some music. Really it’s just a matter of stepping away and clearing my mind. Once the answer comes to me, I’ll get focused and get back to work.
Ultimately, I think any writer really has to be in the right frame of mind to do their best work. I’ve read a lot of books in the recent past that seemed to indicate the author was trying to force the words onto paper and it came across as being of a lesser quality than their normal prose.
Miss Matisse: You’re currently writing a piece about Money, Power, Greed, Sex and Revenge…high society has a new first family…in which, the character Jarrod Van Kliem returns from exile in London to reclaim control of the family business that was grabbed from him years ago, and he’ll stop at nothing to get what he wants—even if it means destroying his own family in the process! This I find fascinating! Where did this idea stem from?
Digger Cartwright: I was always a fan of Falcon Crest, Dallas and Dynasty, the prime time soap operas back in the 1980s. I wanted to create a modern-day drama with everything that made those shows so great—money, high society, power, backstabbing, wheeling and dealing, revenge, sex. Gems & Jewels is a modern-day take on that with a family that is involved in the mining and jewelry industry. I actually started out with this as a teleplay years ago in hopes of making it a mini-series that led to an actual weekly series. That never worked out, so last year I decided to make this a series of books, starting with Gems & Jewels Book II: The Restoration. When I wrote the teleplay, I actually had planned out about five seasons of the show, so all the plots for Books II through V are already laid out for me. Now, it’s just a matter of putting them all in prose as opposed to script format. Of course, a lot has changed since I originally wrote these, so I’m having to make some significant changes to the plots and characters. In the end, I think this will turn out to be a very exciting series. I think the successful return of Dallas a year or so ago bodes well for Gems & Jewels. I think the fans are going to love this and really get into it.
Miss Matisse: You have thirteen years under your belt already! That’s pretty cool if I do say so myself, because that’s more than most authors can say that they have! What should readers expect to find when they pick up a Digger Cartwright book?
Digger Cartwright: Murder, mystery, intrigue, an engaging story with twists and turns when it comes to most of my books. Conversations on the Bench is the lone example at this point, since it’s motivational and was inspired by actual events. Regardless of what book you read, it’s going to be an interesting and unique storyline. There are going to be a lot of memorable characters. There are going to be a lot of descriptions of the people and the settings. I try to paint a picture so that you as a reader feel like you’re in the story. I want you to be able to see the people and places in your heads. Some of the books you won’t be able to put down. You’re going to want to keep reading to find out what happens. Others, you’re going to want to step back and think about it for a while. In any case, you’re going to get an engaging story and a quality piece of work. None of my books are going to be like the run-of-the-mill books being put out by mainstream authors today.
Miss Matisse: I will have to check out (Conversations on the Bench) for myself when I can find some extra time to sit down and read! It sounds very interesting… J How long have you been writing?
Digger Cartwright: Many years off and on. I guess I’ve really taken it seriously and been dedicated to writing since 2000. That’s when I sat down and wrote Murder at the Ocean Forest, and I’ve been writing ever since. I tried the traditional means of getting Murder at the Ocean Forest published until I finally decided to self-publish in about 2005.
Miss Matisse: Yes, I love the worldwide web for the simple fact that now it’s not only Americans who can reap benefits, EVERYONE in the world now can! The “Indie” route whether writing, being a shop owner, music etc. I would say is definitely the way to go nowadays! What genres of stories have you written about?
Digger Cartwright: The Maynwarings: A Game of Chance is a western set in Carson City, Nevada after the Civil War. The House of Dark Shadows is a psychological thriller that is very character driven with what I like to think of as an Alfred Hitchcock-like twist at the end. The Versailles Conspiracy is a modern day political thriller with international intrigue, murders, conspiracies, and a lot of twists and turns that stretch from high society country clubs to strip clubs to political organizations throughout the world. Murder at the Ocean Forest is a period piece set in the 1940s at the famed Ocean Forest hotel in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It’s a traditional mystery along the lines of an Agatha Christie book where the “locked door” mystery keeps readers trying to solve the puzzle. But there’s also an international intrigue aspect to this once since it’s during World War II. Conversations on the Bench is an inspirational or motivational story that’s based on actual events. It’s a collection of life lessons shared between two friends, and as I’ve said time and time again there is something in that book for everyone who reads it.