Robert Herold

It’s a pleasure to share with you the words of Robert Herold, author of The Eidola Project and, most recently, Totem of Terror. His books have kept me up at night, both from the need to keep reading and from the thoughts in my head after I close the last page. Find him on BookBub and Goodreads. Now, for Five Simple Questions:

What is your favorite book (or other source) about the craft of writing? Why?

Robert: I have two. My all-time favorite book on the craft of writing is How to Write Best-Selling Fiction by Dean Koontz. Unfortunately, and inexplicably, it’s out of print. Even though it came out in 1981, much of what he has to say is still extremely valuable. His chapters on pacing, POV, dialogue, creating characters, achieving plausibility, grammar, and style are all first-rate. It regularly goes for $250. This is admittedly steep, but it’s like a seminar with a master of popular fiction.

The other is by another master of popular fiction, Stephen King. His book, On Writing, is also excellent and much cheaper. (Currently $12.49 on Amazon.) The first half of the book is a memoir with helpful tidbits for the reader based on King’s journey. The second half is a nuts and bolts examination of writing good fiction.

Both are highly recommended!

Sarah: Thank you for pointing to a book (Koontz’s) that will tear my annual writing budget to shreds. I love Koontz’s fiction. I’ll be sure to snatch up one of the rare available copies…

What do you like most about writing a first draft?

Robert: I used to plot in detail, but I found it took a lot of the joy of discovery out of the process. Now, I just come up with a situation, an ending, then a few major story beats. Then I dive into writing the first draft. This does cause me consternation at times when I need to solve a story problem (usually done by asking myself, what is the worst that can happen to my characters), but I am often delighted when inspiration strikes.

Sarah: Interesting direction from more plotting to more ‘pantsing’ – I’ve found so many people go the other direction, but this gives hope to the pantser in me. After all, it’s just a first draft!

What is your favorite part of revision?

Robert: My favorite part of revision is when I hit on a much more polished or artistic way of conveying something. Much of the revising process is addressing the shortcomings of the first draft, or tenth, or more! It requires a steely-eyed approach and a good ear (I read my work out loud), being receptive to feedback, all tempered with being gentle to yourself (do not delete your whole manuscript). Don’t give full rein to critical self-talk. In the end, when you can’t find anything more to fix, it’s time to send it to the editor (when you’ll discover more things that can/should be revised)! By this time, I’m exhausted, but have the sense of accomplishment that comes with giving it your all.

What book (not about writing) are you reading right now or have you recently finished that you would recommend to others? Why?

Robert: I just finished This Thing of Darkness, by local [Seattle] author and actor Allan Batchelder. It’s a wonderful tale of Shakespeare (incognito) coming to Jamestown in 1619 and having to contend with brigands and a Grendel-like monster who enjoys gorging himself on settlers. Batchelder has a gift for words and historical details that brings the period to life. He also keeps things moving at a brisk pace which makes for an exciting read. Excellent!

Can you give an example of how you have been kind to someone else recently, in real life or through one of your characters?

Robert: Does doing the laundry count? It should. Cleaning the toilet? Greeting a neighbor? Okay, these may seem mundane, but doing acts throughout the day that show care and support for others are all forms of kindness. Sure, so is attending my aunt’s funeral to support my cousins, helping my 89-year-old mom two or more times a week, donating to a charity, helping a neighbor, these all qualify too. But little acts of kindness we do throughout each day to support our family, our neighborhood, and the wider community can all make for a better world. (I’m now going to step off my virtual soapbox! J) It’s also a kindness when I don’t kill off one of my characters. But there is always next time! (The sound of me laughing maniacally.)

Sarah: All of this counts! And I love the variety. Thank you for sharing.

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