The 2018 GLVWG Write Stuff Conference™ is proud to present Bob Mayer as our keynote speaker. On Thursday, March 22nd, he will guide attendees through A ONE DAY NOVEL WRITING SEMINAR. The presentation begins with the original idea and heart of a story, developing plot and character, working with point of view and, in conclusion, pulling everything together to sell your book and the business of writing.
Friday and Saturday, he will present topics on Write It Forward: From Writer To Successful Author, E-Pub, POD and the Future of Publishing for the Writer, and The Military for Writers. Saturday, he will speak at our luncheon I Will Make it Work.
GLVWG’s Bernadette Sukley does the honors of interviewing Bob.
Bernadette: Your first book, “Eyes of the Hammer” debuted in 1991, but at what age did you start writing?
Bob: The key was that I was a voracious reader as a child. I read everything I could get my hands on; growing up in the Bronx; I’d bike to the local library. When I’d read through that, I biked further to the next nearest library. I’d take the subway to Manhattan to the main branch, guarded by Patience and Fortitude, the two lions.
At West Point, I wrote a psychology paper that was supposed to be a study of some historical figure, so I picked the protagonist of Pink Floyd’s The Wall and turned it in, inside the LP. Then I also wrote a short about a young man arriving at West Point in the mid-1800s based on some diaries I read in the archives. In the military I wrote lots of orders; also the Gettysburg Battle Staff Walk for the JFK Special Warfare Center.
But I jumped right into novel writing with a book in 1988. Technically, it wasn’t my first book published, but it was called Dragon Sim-13, based on a mission my A-Team had done.
Bernadette: A favorite author(s)? Why?
Bob: A terribly unfair question. There are so many. I believe Stephen King said, “read writers who you aspire to be like.” Great writers. Not so much the literary canon, as I really doubt Ulysses was the best book of the 20th Century. Sorry. I heard enough drunken Irishman stories growing up. Off the top of my head, there’s Kate Atkinson, Larry McMurtry, Michael Connoly, Richard Russo. I read a lot of non-fiction. Currently devouring American Lion by Jon Meacham. I’ve read all of Pat Conroy’s books, which are an intriguing study in plotting and prose. He has operatic plots, way over the top, but when Jimmy Buffet can set your words to music, you can write any damn thing you like. We used to live across the Intracoastal from Dafuskie Island, the setting in The Water Is Wide.
I like authors who combine great characters with intriguing plots. I’m not a fan of books that I need to read four times and write a paper on in order to try to figure out what they meant. That’s not good writing in my opinion. I can grasp what Hemingway meant the first time. He was direct and to the point.
Bernadette: What are common traps for writers, especially beginners?
Bob: Unwillingness to say the three hardest words: I am wrong.
I’ve taught thousands of writers over the years and I can literally count the number who actually changed anything based on feedback. They expect the world to change and grasp their brilliance. Not gonna happen. I am constantly revising my process. That’s a word I focus a lot on the last few years. How am I creating? Writing is the only art form that isn’t sensual. What I mean is that the only tools every writer has are letters and words. That’s it. It’s how we weave them that make us distinct. Right now I’m doing things to prepare for my next book that I’ve never done before. More focus on three-peats in imagery and symbolism; more focus on the point of view.
Also, that to write for a living is hard. You have to be professional and take a long view. Rejection is an opportunity to do something else. These days, the great thing is that the only person who can stop a writer is themselves.
Bernadette: You provide a lot of useful advice for writers, but what’s the one piece of advice writers absolutely need?
Everything else about being an author is great. But you have to have “bum glue” as the late, great Bryce Courtenay (The Power of One) told me late one night at the bar in Maui.
Bernadette: What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
Bob: My background in Special Operations has played a role in pretty much every book. I’ve also been abducted by aliens a half-dozen times or so, so that comes into play in my science fiction. The mothership is really cool.
I read a lot of books. While the internet is great for small information, you have to know the question in order to ask it on the internet. Which leaves out the questions you don’t even know you should ask. I find such hidden nuggets in books.
Warning: Writers can get lost in research. Sooner or later, you have to write the book.
Bernadette: Have you ever half-finished a book(s)? Do you have any plans for it/them?
Bob: No. The last letter in the Myers-Briggs is something I focus on. I am a J. Judgmental. That means I like the end result. My wife is a P. She likes the Process. That’s a great source of misunderstanding; of course, I am always wrong and she is always right.
I want to get to the end, while she doesn’t care much about the end, she’s having fun doing it.
I have ideas I haven’t fully explored, but I actually have done something that is not advisable for a career as an author: I’ve written whatever the heck I’ve wanted to. I’ve hit bestseller lists in thriller, science fiction, books that don’t quite fit a genre, non-fiction and am the only male author on the Romance Writers of America Honor Roll. Right now, I’m looping back to a series I started 20 years ago. It’s my bestselling series, Area 51, and readers have wanted more. What’s great is that in re-reading those books I can see a fantastic opportunity to push forward, using the initiating event in book 1 (of 9) as the impetus for book 10.
I’m also going to revisit my very first series, The Green Berets, after that book with Old Soldiers, a 10th book. Because. I am one.
Bernadette: If you were an instrument in an orchestra—which instrument would you be and why?
Bob: No musical talent at all. I’d want to be the guy waving the little stick thingie that no one seems to be paying attention to anyway. But he looks like he’s having fun.
And don’t forget to check on the exploits of his Labrador Retriever, @coolgus, lover of bacon, footwear, and hater of baths.
Bernadette Sukley, Write Stuff Writers Conference™ Flash Literature Contest Organizer and Chairman of the GLVWG Anthology, ‘The Write Connections’, has been researching, writing and editing for over 25 years. Her work has been featured in national and international publications. Her focus is human interest, health, and lifestyle. She’s also written and edited guides, pamphlets, columns, stories, and novels. She’s published two novels (A Saving Hurricane, Find Me a Woman) and a nonfiction book (Made in Pennsylvania) within the last eight years.