Author Interview: John Abramowitz
The interview series with members of my Twitter community continues with author John Abramowitz. Enjoy!
Author John Abramowitz
Bio: I'm a long, tall Texan (sorry, Lyle Lovett) born and raised in Fort Worth, Texas. I got my formal education in the Midwest, and consider Iowa my second home state. I now live in Austin, Texas, where I'm working as a lawyer during the day, writing books in the evenings, dating someone far more creatively brilliant than I am, and sleeping very little as a result of all of those things. In my nearly-nonexistent free time, I follow the news and play video games.
Google+: As myself
Q: What is your genre? Why did you choose it?
Abramowitz: That's a tough question, because I do a lot of genre-mixing in my stories. But I would say that I'm a fantasy writer first and foremost. I chose fantasy because I think that, with fantasy, you have more opportunity than maybe any other genre to love the story you're telling, because literally anything is possible. You can mix gritty, serious themes with wacky, outlandish touches and make the reader believe it. I mean, really (SPOILER ALERT), what other genre would let you write about a capital murder trial and have one of the characters turn someone into a frog in the middle of the book?
Q: How many books have you published? Are they traditionally published, indie published, or a combination?
Abramowitz: I've published two books and a short story. So far, they're all indie-published through my imprint, On The Bird Publishing. I'm not saying that I'll never go the traditional route, but I'm having an awful lot fun doing it myself.
Q: Your novel "Atticus for the Undead" is very creative. How much did your real-life experience as a practicing attorney influence your plot, settings, and characters?
Abramowitz: Well, obviously I've never defended a mage or a vampire (that I know of). And none of the places I've worked for have ever been funded by anonymous billionaires. And I've never first-chaired a murder trial (I don't even practice criminal defense).
Having said that, the influences are there. First of all, a lot of the case law discussed in the book is real case law that I learned about either in law school, while studying for the bar, or while practicing (yes, as far as I know, sex offenders really do have guardianship rights in this state!). And I do use the book to give vent to one of my biggest issues with the legal profession in general. Namely, it prides itself on doing good works, on making a positive contribution to our society, and yet some of the areas of law that have the most potential to do real good in people's lives, are areas that lawyers are actively discouraged from working in.
I remember at one point I handled a Social Security disability case as a favor to a friend of mine. I was unemployed at the time, and so when I applied for jobs after that, I thought, "Hey, now I've handled a hearing all by myself! This will look great on my resume!" But more-experienced lawyers advised me not to put it on my resume because it might actively discourage firms from hiring me, because Social Security law is so lowly regarded in the profession. The same goes for foreclosure defense, apparently.
Basically, the system is set up so that the amount of prestige a legal field has depends on how lucrative it is. Well, the problem there is obvious — then there's no incentive to work in areas that help poor people, who are often the ones who need lawyers the most. So Hunter's frustration with that is my frustration.
Q: If the movie version of Atticus for the Undead was being cast right now, who would be your first choice for the lead, Hunter Gamble?
Abramowitz: I think I'd go with Enver Gjokaj. He's not incredibly well known, but he played Victor on Joss Whedon's Dollhouse and I was so impressed with his acting talent.
And after watching Once Upon A Time, I'd do some serious lobbying to get Robert Carlyle (a.k.a. Rumplestiltskin/Mr. Gold) cast as Weldon Gamble, Hunter's father.
So if either of those gentlemen are reading this, and want to make a few phone calls to a movie studio or two...
Q: How much time do you spend on Twitter each week? What about Facebook and other social media?
Abramowitz: Oh, hours and hours. And it's all devoted to advertising. Yup. I never procrastinate or waste time. Nope nope, not me!
(In seriousness, in the evenings, if I’m not writing or hanging out with the girlfriend, I’m usually at least passively logged on to Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.)
Q: Have you outsourced editing, cover design, formatting, web design, marketing, etc.?
Abramowitz: I've outsourced editing. There's a saying that "the lawyer is a fool who has himself for a client." Well, the same goes for an author who has himself for an editor. Of course I often re-read my own recent writing and look for ways to improve it, but I make sure to have several outside voices to help with both content editing and technical editing.
I also outsource cover design, because I'm a wretched artist. No one would buy my books if I did my own covers.
Q: Do you work with a writing group?
Abramowitz: Yes, the one I made myself. They're the original 'On The Bird' group, and I give them a credit in the 'Acknowledgments' section of every book. It started as a group of my creatively-talented friends from college, but as I’ve gone on through law school and into the world beyond, it’s expanded. I may join up with some other writing groups, but these people understand what I'm trying to do with my stories. They know my authorial heart. So I trust them to help me make the book I want to write better, not to try to make it their book.
Q: Have you published any of your work for free? Why or why not?
Abramowitz: Not yet, simply because I couldn't afford to. Having said that, stay tuned....
Q: How long did it take for your first book to go from an idea to a published work?
Abramowitz: I think I had the idea for Weaver over Memorial Day weekend 2011, and the book published in early August, so, about 2.5 months. On the other hand, I'm now entering the fourth month of working on the sequel.
Q: Tell us about your path to becoming an author. Did you have any idea at the start what the process really entails?
Abramowitz: Well, I'd been making serial short fiction and running RPGs for years. And then I noticed that for several weeks in a row, the episode plots on one of my favorite shows were very similar to things I'd just done in the serial I was working on at the time. So I thought, "Huh, maybe I can play in the big leagues."
As everyone knows, the economy is awful, so I figured I had nothing to lose.
As far as whether I knew what I was getting into, yes and no. I knew what the writing process entailed — long hours, lots of hair-pulling, lots of re-writes, etc. What I didn't know at the time was just how hard it was to get your name out there as an unknown indie author. I started with the idea that I'd tell my friends about my books, they'd like them and tell their friends, who'd tell their friends, and so on. Turns out, that's not enough.
I put up a blog and a Facebook page and such, but it took me a while to get into Twitter and I had no idea what Goodreads was. That was a mistake. I also should have done more research about book review blogs and sent Weaver to a bunch of them right off the bat.
Q: What tips or advice would you offer to writers who are about to join the self/indie published community?
Abramowitz: First and foremost, write good books. Second of all, get rid of your sense of pride/shame. Once you finish writing, you're going to be writing to a lot of blogs to set up your blog tours or ask for reviews. Some of them will say no. Some of them won't even answer. That's normal. Don't get discouraged.
Don't be afraid to talk to random people on Facebook or Twitter and ask them if they'll read or review your book. Offer them free copies in exchange — that way, it doesn't feel like you're doing a sales pitch to someone you've never met. That can turn people off.
Always be searching for articles or blog posts to leave comments on. Twitter is a good place to find those. I left a comment a few days ago on a blog post about whether our criminal justice laws would apply to the vampires from Buffy. I swear, I've gotten more blog hits from that lately than anywhere else.
And lastly — make friends with other indie authors. We're your best support network.
Q: Is there another writer (or two) in the Twitterverse that you would recommend newbies follow?
Abramowitz: There are lots, actually. Lindsay Buroker was incredibly helpful to me at the start of my writing career, and she writes awesome steampunk novels. One of the first authors who agreed to read Atticus and has been very helpful to me in promoting it is Angela Scott, author of the upcoming Zombie West series. Also Christine Butler. There are so many!
Q: Do you have a blog? Would you like to share a link or two to some of your favorite posts?
Abramowitz: I certainly do have a blog! Some of my favorite posts include my Indie Author's Pledge of Quality and Dancing With The Stars, which is about my favorite part of being in indie writer.
Q: Have you done a blog tour? Any advice or cautions?
Abramowitz: I did one for Atticus. Two pieces of advice: 1.) take the number of websites you think you'll need for the amount of publicity you want, and add two. Better yet, add four. Especially as a beginner, there's no such thing as too big a blog tour, only too small. 2.) While they're helpful and necessary, don't look at blog tours as a guarantee of sales.
Q: Have you participated in Amazon's KDP Select program?
Abramowitz: Not yet. And if you think that answer leaves wiggle room, you're right.
Q: Do you create an outline before beginning a new book?
Abramowitz: Sort of. Probably my biggest flaw as a storyteller is that I'm in such a rush to get to all the great ideas in my head that I often leave minor matters like believability behind, as well as audience sympathy for the characters. So I come up with the broad strokes of a novel (or a series) at the outset, and then write it chapter-by-chapter. After each chapter, I have my trusty team of beta readers review what I've written and give me detailed feedback on whether I'm hitting the desired emotional notes, whether the characters feel believable, and things like that. If they're not, then the chapter gets re-written.
Q: Do you work on more than one manuscript at a time?
Abramowitz: I'm sometimes tempted to (like right now) but usually not. I'm a lawyer in the day job, and there are only so many hours in the day, so I usually don't have time.
Q: Do you use specialty software?
Abramowitz: Nope. Plain old MS Word for me.
Q: What is the best comment/compliment you have received about your work?
Abramowitz: Oh, that's a tough one. As a new author still building a readership base, every kind thing that gets said about my work is incredibly meaningful. But one thing that was certainly very meaningful, and that appears on my blog, is the person who said that "If you do not think that self-published writers are worth the effort, try John Abramowitz first before you decide. He will change your mind."
Since I'm on something of a one-man quest to change the general stereotypes and opinions about self-publishers, that was a big sign to me that I'm succeeding, at least a little bit.
Q: Let's flip things around for a moment. As a reader, what factors do you consider when deciding whether or not to purchase a book?
Abramowitz: Originality and appeal of the premise. Whether I've enjoyed previous work by that author. Things my friends have told me about the book. And, since I now know a large number of both indie and traditionally-published authors, if I know and like the author as a person, sometimes I'll buy and try their book just to help them out.
Thanks for being here today, John! We hope you'll come back and visit with us again.
On Barnes & Noble
The Antlerbury Tales:
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Atticus for the Undead:
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