About the Author:
Published author since 1996, Boston-based author Rob Watts’ writings run the gamut from poetry, music culture to dark fiction. An avid traveler, Watts’ adventures around the globe have imprinted and shaped his style of writing, as evident in 2011s Huldufolk, which was inspired by his time in Iceland. Late 2012s Crabapples tackles the ever-increasing issue of bullying in a downward spiral fashion which leaves the reader in a bewildered state of confusion. When not writing, Rob enjoys spending time with friends and family, taking advantage of the restaurants around the city, the beaches, and of course his dog Murphy.
MF: You have a degree in Culinary Arts and spent twelve years in that field. How did you transition from that field to writing?
RW: That’s a great question. There will always be a special place in my heart for that particular line of work. The creative elements, the fast-paced environment, the fact that food brings people together and you’re part of a social structure—those were the high points for me. Unfortunately, like any other working environment, things got a little stale and sour, and a change was needed. I had the opportunity to become a partner in a fairly new independent business which offered a lot of creative opportunities and a lot more flexibility. Once I had my nights and weekends open, I began dabbling in my writing once again. I had written a couple of books for a tiny press back in the 90s which went nowhere. After I left the culinary industry, I began freelancing as a live music and album reviewer for a couple of local music rags here in Boston. I spent a few years doing that in attempts of developing and sharpening my writing skills. By 2009, I was ready to enter the world of fiction writing and begin work on a project that had been floating around in my head for a while.
MF: You’re in the process of writing and releasing four novellas that will eventually be released as a full-length novel. What inspired the series and the idea to release as novellas first?
RW: I think we as Independent authors are living in a very exciting day and age. With all the benefits of new technology which allows us to take a hands-on approach in publishing our work, we’re getting closer and closer everyday to one day being on a level playing field with the last of the big-named publishing houses. With that being said, I think there’s still a fair amount of shortsightedness which runs tandem with laziness within the writing community. There’s a lot more to being a respected author than just throwing a piece of crap together for the sake of putting something out on the market. Right off the bat, I wanted to be noticed for doing something a little more unique—and dare I say a little more artistic. I could have taken my short stories and released them all at once, but I didn’t think that was the way to do it. We’re living in the age of go, go, go! Everyone is on the run and let’s face it, people aren’t sitting down with books the way they used to. We’re living in an ever-increasing age of short attention spans where people are reading books on Kindle’s while listening to music, watching television, cooking dinner, or what-have-you. I decided to take each storyline within the project and release them one-by-one as stand-alone novellas. It’s my desire to take the reader on an adventure, while piecing each novella together until it creates one cohesive storyline. To make my life harder during the writing process, I’ve been creating book soundtracks which are included with each release. It’s a little more work, but the reception has been great so far and it adds to the uniqueness of the project.
MF: You do a great deal of book signings and interviews. How has this helped in marketing your work and do you have other avenues of promotion?
RW: It’s probably the most important part of my book’s sales. I have a hard time believing that independently published authors sell astronomical amounts of their books simply by posting their Amazon link on their Facebook and Twitter accounts. It’s not possible, simply because most people aren’t paying attention to that constant stream of self-promotion on their feeds or walls. It becomes a turn off after a certain point and people begin to unfriend you or unfollow you. The reality is, you’re only going to sell books to 4 or 5 people for every 100 “Likes” or “Followers” you have. And unless you’re a trashy reality TV star, or have had your YA novel adapted on the big screen, the books just aren’t pouring from the shelves without doing some serious promotional work. My way of thinking has always been if you spent so much time and effort on writing your book, doesn’t it deserve more attention than just going on a social media site and saying “click here to buy my book?” I’m devoting a lot of time into my books so I want them to get the most attention they can possibly get. I’ve done signings at book shows, craft fairs, comic cons, horror conventions and in-store appearances. Some venues have been better than others but it’s not always about big sales. It’s about networking. Not one event has gone by where I haven’t made a new friendship or valuable contact. New professional relationships can be just as important, if not more important than book sales.
MF: Your website is very professional looking and easy to navigate. Did you design it yourself or hire someone?
RW: Thank you, I designed it myself. I basically taught myself web design back in 2003 when my company needed a web presence. Since then, I’ve designed 8 websites including my own. I come from the school of thought where less is more. You only have the casual visitor’s attention for a couple of minutes. Give them everything they need to know about you and your products in an easy to read and easy to find layout. When I stumble on a lot of author’s sites, I’m amazed at how much they’re expecting a visitor to read about them on just the home page. I’ve had my computer freeze up on more than one occasion, ha, ha.
MF: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
RW: Good question because that’s a tough one for me to give you a definitive answer. I would be lying if I told you I enjoyed reading as a kid. I hated it and some of my schoolwork suffered as a result. I think as I got older and was in college I developed more of an interest in reading once I could choose what I wanted to read. Once I began reading some classics such as “The Time Machine” by H.G. Wells and “Ralph 124C 41+” by Hugo Gernsback, I developed an interest in telling stories the way they did. Ironically enough, they were of the Science Fiction genre and I’m about as far away from writing Sci-Fi as you can get.
MF: What do you read? What do you re-read?
RW: I’m much more of a non-fiction reader so I tend to re-read a lot of that material. I read a lot of travel material because I travel extensively for pleasure. I’ve also recently become very fond of reading mathematics books, which would make you laugh if you were ever in any mathematics classes with me from 5th grade through college. Let’s just say it wasn’t my best subject.
MF: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
RW: Bret Easton Ellis for starters. I love his technique and satirical style of character development. His latest novel “Imperial Bedrooms”, which is a sequel to “Less Than Zero”, is rather brilliant. I’m also a big fan of H.G. Wells and John Irving. All their work moves me in one way or another.
MF: What is your favorite writing tip or quote?
RW: “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” Benjamin Franklin
MF: Do you have any advice for other writers?
RW: Well, speaking from personal experience, my best advice for anyone writing or considering writing a book is to learn how to go about publishing it on your own. Congratulations to you if you’re fortunate enough to sell your story to a large publishing house, but that’s happening less and less these days. Whether you go with the big publishers or independently, it’s good to educate yourself on some dos and don’ts in the publishing business. The importance of owning your own ISBN numbers instead of having one assigned to you by POD publishers. Having a distribution plan in place and knowing how to keep a good watch over your inventory. The necessity of professional editing—these are all key elements in your success as an author. If you’re looking to be successful in selling your book, you have to devote time into promotion and getting your book into reader’s hands. Like I said before, some writers think that all it takes is giving their friend’s a few pages to read from their book, have them go on Amazon and write stellar reviews about their book, and voila, instant success. It doesn’t work that way. Find creative ways to get your work into people’s hands. And most importantly, learn to take rejection well. Not everyone is going to like what you do. It’s no one’s fault, people just like what they like. Hell, I can’t stand the Twilight series but it’s sold about a gazillion copies all over the world. So what do I know?
MF: If you could jump into a book, and live in that world … which would it be?
RW: I was going to say “House of Leaves” by Mark Danielewski but that book is so bazaar, I’m afraid I’d never get back, ha, ha, ha. I remember about nine years ago I was in a bookstore in Bermuda, and I found a book called “No Exit” by Al-Saadiq Banks. It was about a gang leader and crack dealer in Newark, New Jersey. There I was, sitting on a beach in one of the most beautiful places in the world, reading a book about gangs and drug dealers. It was so vivid and engrossing that I felt as though I was on the streets of Newark with these characters. Those are the type of books I’d love to jump into—as long as I can jump back out safely!