Author interview with: Sandra Olson
1. Q: Why did you write your first book?
A: I’m a nurse and started writing medical thrillers ten years ago. I would come home from working in the hospital or the prison and tell my family about something strange that happened on my shift and they would be enthralled. My Mother kept saying, "You should write a book about these things." So I finally did. Several books, in fact.
2. Q: What is your writing style?
A: My books are fiction, but some reality is mixed in with the untruths. My medical thrillers are from settings where I’ve actually worked.
Rebirth is set in an obstetric unit, but delves into the controversy of embryonic tissue transplants. Murder by Proxy is set in a hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and is loosely based on the actual murders committed in a Texas hospital back in the 1980's. Behind Prison Bars tells of some of the bizarre incidents that happened while I worked in a women's prison as a nurse.
My detective series touches on some of the things appearing in the day’s headlines.
3. Q: Why did you decide to self-publish?
A: I chose to self-publish with CreateSpace after having several bad experiences with vanity and other self-publishing companies. They are great to work with and with the right word processing programs you can design your own covers and e-books. They make it easy. The other publishing houses set the book’s price out of market range. CreateSpace is more reasonable in their pricing. When they combined with KDP I kept using them.
I also had requests by a publishing house to put more sex in my stories. I want my grandchildren to be able to read my stories without being embarrassed by the fact that their grandmother wrote them. I leave my sex scenes to the reader’s imagination. Self-publishing allows the writer complete control of the manuscript.
4. Q: How do you come up with your cover designs?
A: I try to focus on one aspect of the book and make my cover design represent that aspect. Rebirth’s butterfly represents the rebirth experienced by several characters in the novel. Each cover reflects some part of my story
5. Q: Do you have any tips for someone who is considering self publishing?
A: If you’ve tried conventional methods of publishing and experienced frustration as I did, I suggest using KDP. They are associated with amazon.com and with a few skills it doesn’t cost you a penny. And Amazon provides you with a free author web page.
6. Q: How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
A: It was harder when I started self-publishing because I had to be the author, editor, publisher and promoter. I was offered a book contract once if I would “sex” up my books. I don’t write that way. This way I can write the way I’m comfortable. I don’t even like to read other authors who put explicit sex in the story just to sell it. Too many times it has nothing to do with the plot of the story.
7. Q: How do you balance making demands on the reader with taking care of the reader?
A: I expect my readers to be willing to learn something new. I often delve into medical issues in my medical thrillers. But I do explain things in fairly simple terms medically and have had readers thank me for that.
8. Q: What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?
A: I think writers who base characters on a real person should be careful not to embarrass them. I don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings and lose their friendship or trust. I have used some of my husband’s experiences in my books and I ask his permission first. I’ve used some of my nursing co-workers in books but I place them in a setting that’s not where they actually worked; ie. friends from the dialysis unit were placed in my book about the women’s prison and I let them know they would be in a book. They are usually pleased.
Author interview: Larry Martin
1. Why did you write your first book?
When I went into practice as a pulmonary medicine physician, I found I really enjoyed teaching and explaining things to patients. So my first book was Breathe Easy, a Guide to Lung Diseases for Patients and Their Families. It was traditionally published by Prentice Hall. Since then I’ve written 22 books.
2. What made you get into writing in the first place?
Hard to know. Something I’ve always enjoyed doing.
3. What is your writing style?
Clear, direct, unambiguous. I write what interests me at the moment, and as a result have published books in 8 different genres, from a syllabus on music theory to a text book on pulmonary medicine, from 3 Civil War novels to a middle-grade fiction about climbing Mount Everest.
I’ve always said, if you want to be financially successful as a writer, stick to one genre. Hard to build a following when you jump around so much. But I have no regrets. I only write what interests me, not to make a living at it. After each book I wrote while in practice, my wife would joke, “Larry, keep your day job.”
4. How do you come up with your cover designs?
I get the idea, and hire a professional cover designer. We go back and forth until I am satisfied. So far I have been very happy with the covers.
5. Does writing energize or exhaust you?
6. What are some common traps for aspiring writers?
Oh, my! There are many, depending on who you ask. Here’s three that come to mind. Not reading enough to see what good writing is and is not. Not getting good, detailed feedback on their writing, such as can be obtained in a critique group. Refusing to rewrite and rewrite and rewrite to get it right.
7. What most interferes with your writing?
Desire to do other things: music, golf, vacationing, outdoors stuff. Dangerous to sit at computer all day. I could do it, but not healthy.
8. Do you write each book to stand alone or do you build a body of work with connections between the books?
Mostly the former. See answer to No. 3. The only three books connected in any way are my 3 Civil War novels, which share the same historical time period and some of the same characters.
9. What is your favorite book from another author?
No one favorite. When I was younger I used to love Isaac Asimov and science fiction. Now, I tend to read only one or two novels by the prolific popular writers, (e.g., John Grisham, Schott Turow, Robin Cook, E. L. Doctorow) and then move on. Lately I am only reading non-fiction.
10. Do you base characters on real people and if so what do you owe them?
Not real people. I make up my own characters, who (I think) have no resemblance to actual people I know.
11. What kind of research do you do to write your books?
INTENSIVE. I make myself an ‘expert’ on the subject I write about by extensive reading. Thus I wrote books about Scuba Diving, Music Theory, Pulmonary Physiology. For the Civil War novels I went to original sources, maps, newspapers of the period. My historical fiction books, except for the obviously fictional characters, are historically accurate. My middle-grade fiction on climbing Mt. Everest tracks one of the actual routes to the summit, though I have never been there. Just knowledge gained from research.
12. What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters of the opposite sex?
Not knowing if you got it right. As a male, I always wonder if my portrayal of women regarding sex and love is fair or believable.
13. How do you select the names of your characters?
Just make them up. In historical fiction, I try to use common names of the period, e.g., Belle for the heroine in one Civil War book; Gustav Heinz for a 19th century German immigrant.
14. What was your hardest scene to write?
No one hardest, but generally scenes without dialogue are the hardest, where I have to show details to convey the setting I envision: weather, clothes, smells, sounds, etc. For me, writing dialogue is much easier.
15. How long does it take you to write a novel?
Shortest: 3 months. Longest: 1 year.
16. What format do you find sells best for your work, Kindle, Print or Audio?
Kindle. Have my first audio book coming out soon. But pages read on Kindle beats print books by far.
INTERVIEW by Sandra Olson