A crucial element in all great books is the connection the characters have with you and your world. As a writer you have to “tie-in” to the reader. There must be an ordinary life element. A great way to do that is to give your lead character a problem. Make it small, dandruff, allergies, an unruly pet, or make it big, PTSD, a bad relationship, or the loss of a friend. Keep it real. Keep it believable.
Aspart of my interview series on the five things you need to know to become a great author, I had the pleasure of interviewing Daryl Reed
Daryl pursued his passion to write after serving nearly 25 years with the US Border Patrol. He flourished under the guidance of seasoned and successful writers. So far, he has authored a children’s book series called, “The Invincible Crew” and an adult novel titled, “A Killer’s Diary.”
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share a story about what brought you to this particular career path?
Ispent years telling my wife, my family and my friends that I intended to write. Of course, no one listened.
When I finally retired, we moved into an age 55-plus community in Henderson, Nevada. I joined a writers club called the, Anthem Authors, at the activity center. It proved to be the perfect learning environment! Some members of the club are well known authors. I was a bit terrified at first, but they proved to be the greatest source of help a novice could ask for.
Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?
The writing club featured smaller breakout groups that met separately from the general meeting. Within these units new material would be presented and critiqued at a more intense degree. I was assigned to one consisting of five other members. I had no idea how lucky I was.
I thought I was the next Ernest Hemmingway, till they got ahold of my first chapter. There was this one lady in particular, who went to town with the red ink on my work. She was good-natured about the corrections, and there were a lot of them. It didn’t bother me, but another fellow critique member thought it did. He pulled me aside after one of our sessions and said, “Do you know who she is?” I told him no and he said, “That’s Donna Mabry. She’s a big time author. If she tells you something you’d better listen. Go home and google her name.”
Well, I did. Donna Foley Mabry is the author of over 24 books. Her best seller, “Maude”, was the number one best-selling book for non-fiction on Amazon. If I wasn’t intimidated before …
I made it a point to thank her for helping me, but I had to ask her why she did. Her answer were words I will never forget. With a serious face she looked me in the eye and said, “If you weren’t any good I wouldn’t waste my time on you.”
What was the biggest challenge you faced in your journey to becoming an author? How did you overcome it? Can you share a story about that that other aspiring writers can learn from?
I truly believe each and every one of us share these same fears. “What will people think of my book, my work, me?” and “Will they like it?” I agonized over the grammar and the content. I worried about the perfect book cover. I sweated all of the details. I was afraid to let go of my baby. Once it went to publication I felt totally and utterly vulnerable.
So afterward, what did I want most of all?
I craved to know, “What people thought of my book. And, if they liked it!”
Get over yourself. Be proud of your hard labor and share it.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
My first book was fashioned from an under pressure made-up story created for a niece and her two brothers. While visiting one evening, their mother insisted I tell them a story at bedtime. I don’t have any children of my own, and I didn’t watch Disney movies. I had no clue of what to say.
I began, “There was this boy …” That was met with a joint demand of, “What’s his name?” I was stumped! I was too nervous to think of one! So, I blurted out, “He doesn’t have a name!”
And that, my friends, was the basis of my bedtime story … and first book with that title, “The boy with no name”.
After I published that first book, I was pretty impressed with myself. At the next club meeting, Donna Mabry, brought me back to earth. She said, “Well, you’re not done. You have to write the next book! Kids are going to want to know what happens next!”
So once again, I had nothing.
The learning process kicked in hard with that next book, THE RED ORB. During the struggle to write that book I learn the most valuable lessons of being a storyteller. I discovered how to build intrigue, suspense, and wonder. Before, I stumbled into writing those attributes without knowing I had. Furthermore, I realized the importance of relating to the reader; creating pictures in the reader’s mind.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I am still a rookie at this social-game thing. I am continuously building followers to my Facebook page, “Daryl’s [email protected]”. Visitors get my insights to the writing process, inside info about my books, and a nugget or two about me.
I have been working on a story about a border town. It’s in the very early stages of character development. I have several other storylines I’ve started, but they are still waiting for attention. A lot of writers have ideas on the back burner waiting for the author to breathe life into them.
Can you share the most interesting story that you shared in your book?
Okay, I have to let you all in on a little secret. The most interesting story about A Killer’s Diary is … there is a part I didn’t create!
The back story, I think my writer’s club made an assignment to write a short piece that evoked emotion. I told my wife about it and she thought it sounded easy. So, I challenged her to write one, and she did. She wrote about an incident from her childhood. I thought it was awesome.
Sometime later while I was writing, A Killer’s Diary, I found the perfect spot for her writing sample. I edited her story, changed a few things, and worked it in.
What is the main empowering lesson you want your readers to take away after finishing your book?
In my children’s book series, “The Invincible Crew” — I never describe physical attributes. I let the young reader visualize the kids however they chose to. I just nudge a little and the reader is allowed to do the rest. The characters can be any race, color or creed. The ultimate lesson? There is something special in each of us, but we might have to wait to find out what it is.
And, in “A Killer’s Diary” — We all have a weakness, every character did.
Based on your experience, what are the “5 Things You Need to Know to Become a Great Author”? Please share a story or example for each.
ONE — A crucial element in all great books is the connection the characters have with you and your world. As a writer you have to “tie-in” to the reader. There must be an ordinary life element. A great way to do that is to give your lead character a problem. Make it small, dandruff, allergies, an unruly pet, or make it big, PTSD, a bad relationship, or the loss of a friend. Keep it real. Keep it believable.
TWO — This one is a pet peeve. I absolutely hate having to stop reading to go look up a word. You are already doing an unimaginable chore by writing a book. You don’t need to try to impress the reader! I was told earlier in my life, to always write and speak as if addressing a fifth grade class. Seek “Understanding” as your target. What good is your message if no one gets it?
THREE — Okay, hold on to your hat for this next one. If you have developed a reasonably good character, (let’s call her Linda) and placed Linda in a reasonably good situation … Don’t always expect Linda to do what you expect her to do!
Have you ever used a GPS to navigate to a destination and made a turn before, or after, you were supposed to? What happens next? Recalculating! You are put on a new route to your destination. And Linda, will do that same unplanned turn in the flow of your story. She has a mind of her own and she will surprise even you, the so-called author, of what she decides to do! That unexpected turn is what makes Linda real to the reader. Let her drive! You just might like the new route and destination.
FOUR — Don’t run from criticism or feedback. And, don’t make it personal! You will not satisfy all who read your stuff. Oh, ignore most of what the friends and relatives tell you. They are trying to NOT hurt your feelings. “You are great, blah, blah, blah.”
Get opinions of those outside your comfort zone. Listen carefully. See if they are right. Notice I said “IF”, don’t lose the flavor of what you are cooking by adding too much of others’ spice.
FIVE — If you think you are done, you need to edit one more time. Be prepared to spend four, five, or eight more times of work on the editing part. You will be amazed at the mistakes, and not just misspelled words and punctuation, people will be in places they shouldn’t be yet, the wrong character will be speaking, or complete missing segments of time.
After repeat edits, set your work aside for a week or more. Come back to it, read the entire thing, and edit!
What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a great writer? (i.e. perseverance, discipline, play, craft study) Can you share a story or example?
Chess. It is the ultimate game. To play you have to use your brain. I have applied so much of the game concepts to my life. Those concepts go into every bit of my stories. In a chess game you must apply learned skills.
A few involved in my writing process: Deception, Boldness, Foresee alternate possibilities, Creating a set-up, A good opening, A planned ending, Keeping track of the whole as it relates to each part, Possible outcomes from decisions, Cleverness(my favorite).
Which literature do you draw inspiration from? Why?
Fiction. A storyteller starts from just a simple idea and grows it into a fascinating tale. It is truly developing something from nothing. Doesn’t that sound impossible?
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
In this cell phone world, we don’t chit-chat anymore. Houses lack big front porches where people used to spend the evenings. Cable TV keeps people inside. We used to know our neighbors. We need to talk, not email, not text, talk!
How can our readers follow you on social media?
My Facebook page, “Daryl’s [email protected]”
Thank you so much for this. This was very inspiring!