Interview with Lev Raphael - Author of more than 20+ traditional published books who has now released his second self-published Indie Book: Writer's Block Is Bunk.
Writer's Block Is Bunk is an Advice for Writers eBook which deals with the Myths of Writer's Block as well as the often surprising realities of the Writing Life.
Lev Raphael grew up in New York but "got over it" and has lived more than half his life in Michigan, where he came into his own as an author.
He has traditionally published twenty-two books in genres from Mystery to Memoir to Mashup and has done hundreds of invited readings from his books on three continents and Michigan State University has purchased his literary papers.
Interview with Author Lev Raphael
Lev Raphael: I've been writing and reading since second grade, and I've been publishing for thirty years: books in over ten different genres as well as hundreds of reviews, essays, and blogs. I love every aspect of writing, from brainstorming to revisions.
For two and a half years I had what was in effect a giant writers group: an MFA program, which helped me work to deadlines and prepare me for later years as a newspaper reviewer who sometimes had to "turn" a book in 24 hours.
Who are your favorite writers, your favorite book, and who or what are your writing influences?
I have many favorite books, but I think my oldest favorites are I,Robot by Asimov and The Three Musketeers by Dumas. I started to read very early and read both books a dozen times before I was done with elementary school. Each one taught me the power of story-telling and imagination. Since then, I've fallen in love with many different authors: Anita Brookner, Joan Didion, D. H. Lawrence, Philip Roth, James Baldwin, Balzac, Olivia Manning, Edith Wharton, Stefan Zweig, Richard Russo, Zola, Jean Rhys.
"I don't work set hours, that would kill me."
Tell us about your writing process. Do you have a writing routine?
I don't work set hours, that would kill me. I devote myself as completely as possible to whatever I'm working on, and sometimes that means three books at once. I plan things out, but only in a general way because I trust my experience and my unconscious. I can usually see a certain distance into a project and never lose faith in the process of working it all out. I might start a day thinking, "This chapter will end with the terrible phone call," and then as I'm writing and get close to the end, realize that the scene I'm in is going so well it should be rounded off without the phone call, which can lead the next chapter.
What do you find easiest about writing? What the hardest?
I wish I had clones who could work alongside me because ideas come to me with more speed than I can work them out. I don't type well or fast, so they would help enormously.
When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer?
When i walked into our local public library which was from the early 1900s and as beautiful and impressive as a cathedral. I was probably in first or second grade. I wanted a book of mine to be on those shelves!
"Indie authors make more off their eBooks [...]"
After being a "traditional" published writer of nearly 20 books - what made you going "Indie"?
To be honest, one of the main factors was money, something writers shouldn't be ashamed to talk about. Indie authors make more off their eBooks than if they were being published by traditional publishers who were sharing the profit. That's why so many major authors have gone indie.
From your experience - what are the advantages/disadvantages of being also an "Indie" now?
It's definitely harder to get review attention because even though 1/4 of the top 100 Kindle books are currently by indie authors, there's a lot of suspicion from the established reviewers. But the best things about going indie for someone like me who started traditionally and published 19 books that way is that I carry some name recognition, and that I have control of who edits, proofreads, and designs my book. The process moves faster, and the financial aspect is much clearer. Traditional royalty statements can be puzzling; that's not the case with statements from amazon and B&N.
Lev, please tell us a little about your Book: "Writer's Block is Bunk."
It's an advice book for everyone from wannabe to experienced authors, explaining things like how to do a good reading from your book--and where. Nuts and buts presented with humor.
"[...] has a provocative title."
Your 24th book has a very provocative title, Writer's Block is Bunk. What do you mean by that?
It's not real, despite the huge industry of books and workshops that's grown up to cure people of this "condition." To combat that misinformation, I put together a book of advice for writers to help them deal with the myth of writer's block as well as the often-surprising realities of the writing life. Nobody prepares you for the realities of publishing and what coems afterwards. Not teachers, not editors, not agents.
|Click to Read an Excerpt|
What inspired you to write the book?
I wanted to share my experiences with writers at all levels because I've been writing, publishing, teaching writing workshops, talking and blogging about all aspects of the business for years. And because I've seen so many authors puzzled and challenged by the realities of a career they didn't understand or predict.
Speaking of workshops, can writing be taught?
To quote Chariots of Fire, "You can't put in what God left out." You can't build talent where it doesn't exist, but you can help writers develop aspects of their craft, make them more conscious and conscientious writers.
Do you see Indies as your target readership or is this book also for traditional published authors?
The book is for every single author out there, and even those who only dream of being writers, because all of us have plenty to learn. I'm still learning about my craft and about my career--which is exciting. There's always something new around the bend!
How would you describe the success of your book so far?
It's only been out for a month, and a few weeks after publication it was #1 in two Kindle categories and inside the top 1,000 Kindle books.
How long did it take you to write the book?
Please, tell us where you self-published the book.
Amazon. [KDP Select]
"Indie authors need to put together a good team [...]"
How smooth did the self-publishing process go? Any issues? What are things to look for when self-publishing a book?
It's my fifth indie book and all went well. Indie authors need to put together a good team at every level from editing to formatting so that there's no difference whatsoever in the quality of their book vs. a similar book published traditionally.
Did you hire an editor and/or Cover Designer for your book?
Yes, absolutely. You need people who are experienced and people you trust. But even though I worked with a designer, I'm the one who chose the cover art and also picked the font, font size, and layout of the cover. That's something I could never do when I published traditionally.
"[...] no book can ever be perfect."
Can you give some tips for other Indie Authors regarding the writing and self-publishing process?
Perfect your craft through workshops, writing groups, classes. Never publish a book until you think it's as close to perfect as you can make it, knowing that no book can ever be perfect. Still, readers deserve the best. Study the competition; know your genre; learn the business; and read, read, read. A widely read writer is an educated writer is a good writer.
Are you working on another book project? Can you tell us a little about it?
I'm working on a new memoir, another vampyre book, and a mystery in my Nick Hoffman series.
Are you planning to move forward as an Indie Author or are you looking forward to have one of your next books to be traditionally published again?
Unless someone makes me an offer I can't refuse, why would I give up finally having control of my career? :-)
"I think specialty stores [...] will survive[...]"
Where do you see the book market in 5 or 10 years? Will there be only eBooks and will book stores disappear like record stores disappeared?
I think specialty stores, like Aunt Agatha's, the crime fiction store in Ann Arbor, will survive because they offer something more than algorithms can.
Do you write full-time or do you have another day job?
I write full time as well as reviewing for Bibliobuffet.com and the NPR station in East Lansing, MI. I've also recently begun teaching creative writing at Michigan State University as a visiting author.
Thank you very much for the Interview, Lev.
About the Book Writer's Block Is Bunk:
Written with encouraging humor and honesty, "Writer's Block is Bunk" offers advice for both newbies and experienced authors on writing and the writing life. Ranging across topics like how to do a book reading, building your audience, responding to fans, and finding inspiration, Raphael doesn't pull any punches, but he also has fun, and so will you reading this smart and timely little book.
"Thank goodness for this forthright and practical guide! Lev Raphael draws on his immense experience to offer honest and useful insights into the writing world. His style is quick, informative, and generous. From debunking the concept of writer’s block to warning about the dangers of over-exuberant copywriters, he gets it right with advice that's both down-to-earth and downright wise. There’s charm and wry wit in his anecdotes; the tone is sensible and warm-hearted; and he’s here to help with no-nonsense guidance."
--Anne-Marie Oomen, author of Pulling Down the Barn & House of Fields
"In Lev Raphael's delightful collection of essays about the writing life, he sagely advises us to stay focused on writing and reading and, above all, to maintain a sense of humor about the business. He demystifies the work of book promotion by reminding us it is just that—work! He doesn’t mince words as he details his twisty, uncertain path through the world of MFA programs, book reviews, author tours and more, all without the safety net of an agent or a university professorship. On every page you’ll find a profound love of the written word and a joyful outlook by this self-described 'working writer.' ”
--Bonnie Jo Campbell, author of the national best seller Once Upon a River
Links to the Author and the Book
Link to Lev Raphael's Website
Connect with Lev Raphael on Twitter: @LevRaphael
Link to Book Writer's Block Is Bunk on Amazon with Excerpt