Red was coming off the patio when she saw a group of boys hovering around a booth. It did not take a second to recognize Ben Woodard in the center of the hoard. She grabbed a cuppa and headed off to talk about boys, eagles and secret sex scenes.
M3: Give the M3 Readers your publicist’s description of you.
BW: A spellbinding storyteller, Ben is active in SCBWI and in a children’s writing critique group. His first story was in 2008, and he has since written picture books, middle grade and young adult. Stories of adventure and wonder. Stories that inspire and educate, and, most of all, entertain.
M3: Who do you need to show gratitude?
BW: Tons of folks, but especially my wife. She has been my biggest supporter, my constant encourager, and an in-your-face critic. Also my critic group. All writers should have a critic group, but a good one is hard to find. Mine’s the best.
M3: A man who can appreciate being married to a Grammar Nazi…sweet. Let’s start with critics. Do you think the traditional publishing industry is critical of self-published material because they see it as inferior?
BW: I believe that they did, and some still think that, but their attitudes are rapidly changing. And this is because of the success of so many indie authors. Not just the big names, but those who are making a few hundred dollars a months selling their books. Indies are becoming the new mid-list, and trad publishing has noticed. The “big six” is already trying to figure out ways to tap into this. There will be many more changes in the next few years.
M3: Any bone in particular you have to pick with the brick and mortars?
BW: A whole skeleton full. Traditional publishing has its collective head in the sand. They’ve been too slow to recognize the move to electronic books and the value of self published books. What will happen if Barnes and Noble goes under and independent bookstores continue to fail? Where will they sell books? And Amazon is not the problem. It’s a corporation exactly like them. Only a little smarter.
M3: I am wondering what we are going to do after the libraries all close. Tell the M3 Readers where you got started on the yellow brick road of publishing.
BW: Years ago I wrote technical manuals and instruction books for various companies as a marketing consultant. Talk about boring. When I left that job, I never wanted to write again. Then, I started telling stories – first to my grandkids, and then in schools. I was stunned. I could make up stories on the spot. My wife, a former book store owner, told me to write them down. And I have, for the last five years.
M3: What a creative rebirth! If you are talking in schools, is it safe to assume the M3 Readers will not care about your day job?
BW: Probably not, but those aspiring writers reading this should know that I don’t have an outside job. My part time work is done in my home office and I live in an old house with part of it rented, so I often work on it. Many writing folks don’t have the luxury to spend so much time at home.
M3: And most of the ones who do are married to the house or the children. Has the economic state changed the way you do things?
BW: It has. I’m writing more. I’m partially retired with a part time job when work is available. There hasn’t been much in the last few years. So I have less money, but more time. And starving writers get more done, right?
M3: The ones who are not already zombies. Speaking of starving writers, any advice for the newbies?
BW: Write, write, write, and edit, edit edit. I heard somewhere that you don’t really learn to write until you’ve written a million words. I’m a third of the way there. And please, for the sake of Indie authors everywhere: don’t self-publish a book that has not been edited by someone qualified.
M3: You need million word meters! What are you working on to get those numbers up?
BW: A three-book adventure series written mostly for boys. It’s realistic historical fiction set in the twenties and based in a small town in Kentucky. The stories are loosely based on my dad’s boyhood as an orphan, but with mysteries and bad guys. And, of course, there will be guns and explosions, as well as dead bodies and secret caves. A couple of my short stories on Amazon introduce the boys. Check out The Trestle.
M3: We like explosions. It sounds like you are keeping busy. How do you find time to write?
BW: I don’t find it, I claim it. Most writers’ lives are a mess. Going in a dozen directions, overwhelmed by family and work, and trying to snatch a few minutes to write. This doesn’t work. You have to claim writing time. Make it a priority even if it’s only fifteen minutes a day. And find a method that works for you. I get away during the day to a coffee shop that doesn’t mind me lingering. Maybe once a month, I’ll go to a nearby state park, get a cheap room, and stay for a couple of nights. Whatever works.
M3: That almost sounds like a working vacation, which are words around here which get your knuckles rapped. Do you ever go on hiatus?
BW: Oh yeah, you have to take breaks. Set a schedule and write like a fiend. Get something finished even if it’s a short story, and then rest. For me, I can write every day for several weeks to meet a self-imposed deadline, but then I need to get away from the computer for a while. A couple of days is all I need, but some of my writer friends need a longer break, especially after getting a book published.
M3: Between you and me, that is me, and soon. What do you want to keep just between you and me?
BW: That I write the most awful sex scenes the world has never seen. I have a YA WIP where I tried to write a mild petting scene. My wife roared so hard that you’d thought I’d written the greatest comedy ever. But I wasn’t trying to be funny. Oh well, I guess I’ll never get rich writing 50 Shades of Grey books.
M3: (Laughs) Tell me some more about your writer friends.
BW: My colleagues are other writers, and I love ’em. All the writers I know, unpublished, self-published, or traditionally published have given me incredible support. They have critiqued my work, been beta readers, and even bought my stories. The writing community is one of the few groups that genuinely supports one another.
Writing is a solitary activity that transports you to new worlds, allows you to meet unusual people with fascinating lives, and immerses you in emotional turmoil – all in your imagination. You have to be part child, part dreamer, and part researcher. There’s nothing like it.
M3: The work you love will never be a job. What makes this work so close to your heart?
BW: In elementary school, the public library was my second home. It was in walking distance from my school and at least twice a week I’d go there and bring home a stack of books. I looked forward to rainy days so I could stay in and read. It breaks my heart to learn that boys today don’t like to read. So, I’m trying to write stories that will hook boys. I’ve been told by editors that my stories are not commercially viable, but I’m not writing them only for money.
M3: Laudable reason for writing. You are not in it for only the money, but you are doing marketing. How important is your social media marketing?
BW: Vitally important. An indie author is an unknown with no one to tell the world about your books. You have to do it. Fortunately there are many ways to get your work known, and you have to use them all. I believe, that in the beginning, half of your time should be spent marketing and half writing. The marketing part is not nearly as fun as the writing, but if you want to sell books you must do it.
M3: Yes, you do have to find an edge. Have you managed to turn an edge into a triumph over the industry?
BW: Maybe not over the industry, but a personal triumph nevertheless. I wrote and published a book. Think about that. In the history of the world the number of people who have written a book is minuscule, and the ones that got a book published is even smaller. Sure, I had help. With editing, proof reading and illustrating. And, yeah, I published it myself as an ebook. But, to me, that’s an amazing accomplishment.
BW: The Boy Who Flew With Eagles is a short adventure story written for reluctant readers, especially boys. I wanted to write a story that boys (and girls) could read easily and quickly, and yet get caught up in the story. Many middle grade books look daunting to a reluctant reader due to length and book design–too many words per page. This book is illustrated by a professional artist and this breaks up the usual book look that turns off non-readers. Other similar stories of myth are available, but I think this book offers a unique blend of adventure, and easy reading.
M3: Interesting concept to add in art. Be your own agent and tell the M3 Readers in 15 words or less why they should buy your book.
BW: Because I’m writing fun and exciting books for reluctant readers, especially boys.
M3: Looking forward to the next one, Ben.
Dearest M3 Readers,
Take a few minutes to stop by Ben’s website and check out The Boy Who Flew With Eagles. You can follow him on Twitter and friend him on Goodreads and Facebook. Enter to win one of two copies of Ben’s book below.
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