A transplanted Californian who in 1973, hitch-hiked to New York City from an Oregon commune and never looked back. He’s worn lots of hats, including tree planter, fruit picker, frame carpenter, sign carver, illustrator, adman and copywriter, graphic designer, ski mechanic, guitar picker and repair luthier, Indian Trader and Business Improvement District director. Then he began writing fiction. Six titles so far, several more coming down the ‘pike in several genres. W.T. Durand is a pen name he’s using for Western based Family/Mysteries
What inspires you to write?
Since I’ve had a good, long run at living so far, I guess my muse just keeps finding all sorts of inspiration from the things I do, the people I’ve met and the places I’ve been. I seem to have the ability to see conflict below the surface in almost every situation. I’ve also tried my hand at a lot of different ways to earn a dollar, so my resources just keep expanding.
Tell us about your writing process.
I’ll see something, maybe a boat, maybe a Navajo rug, maybe a tin pennywhistle… I never know how a story is going to present. Visual clues mean a lot to getting my brain processes engaged. While the nuance of interactions, reactions and personal failings come from internal memories, I’ll jump right into a story — even if it’s something that seems completely new to me — explore the setting, find appropriate characters and press ahead. Actually, the characters seem to usually find me. They show up in dreams most often, fully formed, telling me quietly, to “get it right, please…”. Research is something I really enjoy and since the old days of Compuserve and dial-up, I’ve been able to track down a lot of information without leaving my office. Of course, some stories make me travel. I need the smells, sounds and grit in my shoes to really get to know a setting. Knowing a setting well enough to make it real for readers is really important to me. At some point, I just start writing at the keyboard, the story spilling out of my fingers with little apparent brain interaction. My seat-of-the-pants process usually means lots of rewrites, but it is also so incredibly compelling and exciting while I’m absorbed in a draft. I’ve tried all kinds of ways to write, including pre-plotting, outlining, starting at the end, etc., but I’m most comfortable with the “organic approach” which lets it grow the way it needs to before beginning the pruning and shaping which will doubtlessly come after.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
During a draft passage involving revelations and lots of dialog, I’m almost used to the whispering. Most of my characters are folks I’ve gotten to know well, one way or another, so they are merciless when it comes to my presenting them properly. Sometimes, they’ll give me a complete scene, intact, in a dream. Other times, one will grab my collar and turn my head just in time to see something taking place int he real world, exactly the way they know it should be written. It gets to the point where I almost feel like a tradesman working away under the direction of a committee. Sometimes, they can surprise me by revealing something internal I hadn’t yet figured out… and those moments can be a little scary, actually.
What advice would you give other writers?
Read a lot. Take chances with genres you’re not completely comfortable in and read translated fiction fro other cultures as well as your own. Stories connect with other stories, so you need to have a lot of raw material to write stories that feel honest and true.
Write a lot. Try lots of styles, but always know where to come home. Most of us have a unique voice in our writing, which readers will eventually recognize, if we’re smart enough not to try too hard or massage the message too much. Try not to preach. Let your characters do the preaching for you. Don’t be afraid to write for a variety of readers to discover which ones “get” your work. Write reviews. They train your brain to look critically at writing, but also to express your feelings that arise from an enjoyable read. It makes the writers work easier, and makes your own writing better.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
The economy and market realities dictated, by the time I got around to writing fiction, that the publishing industry was becoming much more selective in their choices of debut authors. I knew from the beginning that my work wasn;t going to be main stream, block-buster material. Still, they say perseverance furthers, so I actively pitched my books for the first six years after I had something to show. I got lots of useful feedback, and learned a lot about the world of publishing I hadn’t known before I embarked. After I realized that even with a well-honed property, I might never secure a contract in the cross-genre, stand-alone niches I write in; I decided to try the Indie Thing. I knew it hadn’t been a mistake when I began getting unsolicited reviews and royalty checks. Now, they aren’t big checks so far, sometimes they cover restaurant meals, but I’m keepin’ on. Six titles, so far. Staying in the pool was critical for me, as discovery is an evolving thing, almost an organic in the ways that connections work. The playing field is still rolling in waves so keeping responsive is important for a writer. The only thing that is absolute though, is that it all takes a lot of time. I still would enjoy seeing one of my books get the Colbert Bump or show up in the NY Times Review, but I’m honest with myself enough to know it may never happen, so I’ll stick to what I know how to do.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
There are more choices today, for readers and book buyers than ever before. It can only be good for authors and eventually, once they streamline their margin needs and their expectations, for publishers, too. I’m optimistic even about the longevity of print. I know that as long as my generation is still around, we’ll remember that getting all the way through a read without having to plug in the reader is a really good thing. Even for younger readers, paper is sometimes still preferable, but since it is a premium cost product, printed books may someday become luxuries. Wherever publishing finally settles, there will always be lots of stories that need to be told and lots of readers who want to soak them up.
What do you use?
Professional Editor, Professional Cover Designer, Beta Readers
What genres do you write?
Fantasy, Historical Fiction, SciFi, Family Saga, Mystery
What formats are your books in?
eBook, Both eBook and Print