THIS IS AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH RJ SILVER, the author of the two popular ebook short stories available for free download from the various ebook sharing websites such as Manybooks and Smashwords.
For the record (as of posting): After posted four weeks ago, The Princess and the Penis (P&P) has hit #1 in short humor over and number #2 in humor overall ranking at Smashwords. In addition, P&P has been number #1 over at Feedbooks in weekly downloads for its first two weeks there; and currently the # 3 at Manybooks. Finally, it has downloaded over 2,500 times in the past two weeks, and average of 1,500 reads per week.
And because of that, I personally contacted RJ for a quick interview, just to know more about the writer behind P&P success. So, please welcome RJ Silver - he is currently enjoying the Thai's Singha beer!
1. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? I was 19. I’d been out of school for four years (I left when I was 15), and had just completed a major portion of my self-education at night and on-weekends. Part of that education included teaching myself how to program computers, which left me two passions: that and literature. Ultimately, I loved literature more, so decided to make that my main goal while using computers to support me. As it turned out, people were willing to pay me a lot in the computer business and, so far, very little as a writer. But I refuse to “love the one I’m with”, as the song says, and continue working on my writing.
2. How long does it take you to write a book? It depends. My first draft of stories like The Princess & the Penis or The Ballerina, the Gymnast, and the Yoga Master typically take me about a month. Then there are the rewrites, which can be quite time-consuming and quite a bit more unpredictable. The thing with humor stories like these two is that you can’t misplace or misuse a single word or it spoils the effect, so polishing can take a couple of months part-time (best to leave it for a while in between reads).
3. What is your work schedule like when you're writing? Every day I get up early (I’m answering these questions at 4:00 a.m.) and spend my first three or four hours on writing (i.e. my best energy of the day). Then I roll over to 8 hours of computer work (sigh), and try to work in a few hours of story marketing (or, should I say, learning about marketing). If you add those up, it comes to about 14 hours a day, 7 days a week, which is a lot, but I’m not alone. I suspect every dedicated part-time writer probably does the same.
4. What would you say is your interesting writing quirk? Probably that I often spend hours pacing rapidly back and forth, laughing to myself as I consider the many possibilities for humorous lines and situations in my stories. I think most people, if they saw me doing that, would conclude I was a ranting madman.
5. How do books get published? Wow, big subject. I’d say most get published via the path I’d taken with my thriller novels, i.e. find a good agent and let him/her take care of the rest. But it’s not a healthy industry – at least it wasn’t. The marketing execs are/were in control, not book lovers, which puts too much pressure on writers to write to a marketing slot/template and effectively suppresses one’s creativity. That’s why I’ve switched to humor and self-publishing. I now write for solely for joy to give joy, and am content to let the publishing chips fall where they may.
6. Where do you get your information or ideas for your books? Well, I have to admit it’s the humor element that spurs most of my ideas. I simply think up strange but comic situations (like the phallic lump in the princess’s bed), and then start to explore what people might do in those situations. But it’s the moral element that determines whether a story gets published. If in my quest for humor, I end up creating anything that’s negative in any way (crass, offensive, or potentially hurtful in the slightest), I put the story aside even if I have months of work into it. That’s why The Princess & the Penis and The Ballerina, the Gymnast, and the Yoga Master have strong moral centers in addition to their humor. I actually have one story that’s funnier than either of those, but I won’t release it because it has the potential to be slightly offensive, which I don’t condone (i.e. it’s not consistent with writing for joy to give joy).
7. When did you write your first book and how old were you? I wrote my first book when I was 19, basically following my realization that I loved literature more than anything else. Up until then, I was just an avid reader.
8. What do you like to do when you're not writing? Mostly travel and learn about different cultures. For example, I lived in China two years ago and currently live in Thailand.
9. What does your family think of your writing? My blood relatives have been extremely supportive, but it’s been hard on my romantic relationships. I do very well in the computer business when I’m working, but every time I save up money, I take off on another wild adventure to learn and write, and most women eventually grow tired of such shenanigans. They see my earning potential in computers and think more highly of that (i.e. as a potential mate) than they do of my low-paying writing exploits, which eventually leads to conflict and me heading for the exit sign. I don’t at all blame them for that stance, but what can I say? One has to follow one’s heart.
10. What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books? How much hard work it requires. There’s an internal debate over literally every word in my stories, and that’s on top of detailed planning re: plots, characters, etc. Being a computer programmer, I’m pretty a little more methodical than most writers that way, some of whom I know are so creative they can just sit down and let it flow. I can’t. I have to squeeze it out of me.
11. How many books have you written? Which is your favorite? Ten thriller novels, the first eight of which you can throw away as me learning my craft. Number nine helped me acquire a top agent and opened a lot of doors for me at the world’s biggest publishers, but they were too afraid to publish because of its controversial content. Number ten was me writing to their template/spec, which sickened me so much, it turned me into a humor author. Four delightful children’s books (co-authored), that I hope will soon see the light of day again in this new environment (though under a different name, as I can’t sanction any connection between adult humor books with sexual elements and children’s books). And five humor short stories, only two of which meet the humor/morality bar I’ve set for myself (the two that are out now). Finally, I’m currently working on three more humor pieces, the first of which should be out the end of this month.
12. Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?Only one: write from the heart. That’ll not only make you a better writer, it’ll make you happier, too.
13. Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say? I’m starting to. Keep in mind, the RJ Silver humor stories have only been out for less than a month, but, amazingly, I’m already up to 1500 page views a week on my website (www.rjsilver.com) and rising, so I’m now getting emails/comments daily. Mostly, they’re just supportive. My favorite, by far, is when people tell me that one of the stories gave them a humorous, one-hour escape from something stressful or depressing, as that fulfills my core mandate of writing for joy to give joy.
14. Do you like to create books for adults? Yes, though, the truth is, I generally try to connect to the child in them.
15. What do you think makes a good story? In my case, humor, heart, humanity. I believe people want first and foremost to be entertained, but also generally prefer if what’s entertaining them also has substance.
16. As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up? Mostly, until 19, I sought freedom and adventure, not a specific career goal. As mentioned, that didn’t occur until I was 19.
17. In particular, I want to know what it is your motivation in writing the two short stories: The Princess and the Penis, and the Ballerina, the Gymnast, and the Yoga Master? How long it take to finish these stories in the final form? Well, P& P, when you stop to think about it, is first a very funny situation (and not just the presence of the phallic lump, but also the reactions/personalities involved), but it’s also about Amalia following her heart, but with respect to her rejecting something everyone is encouraging her to do but which she ultimately feels is bad (i.e. marrying Prince Rupert), and embracing something everyone feels is bad but she senses is good (i.e. the penis). With BGYM, the message is about putting aside the superficial (Vincent’s fantasy-driven relationships), in favor of something real (true love with his pudgy, chocoholic poet), with the humor coming mostly from the hilarious implosions of those earlier fantasies.
NOTE: RJ, THANK YOU VERY MUCH for this rare opportunity for having you in my blogsite. Good luck and we are looking forward to your next story!