Interview with Art Burton

Who are your favorite authors?
Stephen King, John Grisham, Dean Koontz, even though none of them write books similar in style to mine. Go figure. My writing leans towards murder mysteries and my reading leans towards narrative stories.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
The honest answer to that is my dog, Charlie. He's better than an alarm clock for waking me and getting me on my feet. Of course, that's not the intent of this question. Each day is new, exciting and unknown. I have to get up to see what's going to happen.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I live in Canada and heat my house with an outdoor wood furnace. I spend a great deal of time processing the wood that I burn and just tending to the fire. I read. Everyone should read. My wife says I spend all my time reading. She says I read milk cartons, cereal boxes, anything with words written on it. And this winter, I've spent a great deal of time shoveling snow. What happened to Global Warming?
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I'm on the mailing list of every book seller in the country. I check out their recommendations. I scan the stories on Smashwords looking for new authors that I might find interesting.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Story? The word begs definition. When I graduated from grade eight, I wrote a "what will happen to the people in my class in the future" story. The teacher liked it enough that I got to read it at the graduation ceremony with only one change. I suggested one kid in the class would still be trying to graduate from eighth grade 25 years later. She vetoed that remark. Damn editors. They still want to cut out the good parts.
What is your writing process?
In my murder mysteries, I come up with an interesting and different way to commit the murder. Then I work towards that conclusion. I usually have more than one book on the go at a time. I write the new one in the morning and edit the complete story ones later in the day. I seldom outline, unless I get bogged down. I put my fingers on the keys and watch the words appear on the screen.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
Probably not the first story I ever read, but the only one I remember from way back then was a science fiction story about a young boy on a space ship. Actually I don't remember the story. His name was Brian. All the way through it, I misread his name as Brain because he was being taunted by other boys in the story. Don't remember why, or how or what happened in the end. But the story did leave me looking for more adventure stories. My odyssey of reading had begun.
How do you approach cover design?
Cover design is a challenge. I create my covers in PowerPoint. Originally I planned on being always in the picture in some way and did this on four of my first five covers. The last one I didn't and the next one doesn't look like I'll be there either. I try to have the cover somehow tie into the story, but I'm not fanatical about that. I want the cover to attract attention. I work on several designs, show them to some friends for comment, sometimes listen, and then within the limits of PowerPoint create something I hope will work.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Lord of the Rings. I liked the way Tolkien could create new, interesting ways to get his little band of travelers out of any difficulty.
Pet Cemetery. King scared me so bad in places, I had to read it with my eyes shut.
The Rainmaker. Everyone likes to see the little guy take on and beat the big giants.
The Pelican Brief. Plot was so tightly woven and action kept moving that you could do nothing but sit there and turn pages.
The Stand. Another well-crafted story. I think that King wrote it so convincingly that it took little imagination to believe this could really happen, although the ending was a little weak.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I've only tried one e-reader, The Kindle. Works for me except that in Canada we can't get stories from our Libraries. Reading at the computer doesn't to it for me.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Marketing is my biggest weakness. I don't market well at all. What works best is going to craft shows and places where people are selling things and dealing face to face with the prospective readers.
Describe your desk
It's brown and made of oak. Bought it from a war surplus store. Not what you were looking for? I would never be accused of being a neat freak. I have a computer. Stacks of papers (drafts of stories, story ideas, stories that haven't made it yet), dictionary, Bible and thesaurus. For those who say you shouldn't use a Thesaurus, I say get over yourself. Somehow you have to expand your vocabulary and this is a good way of doing it.
When did you first start writing?
I first started seriously writing, that is every day, after I took an early retirement from the Halifax Herald at the beginning of 2003. Prior to that I would write in spurts, but life got in the way.
What's the story behind your latest book?
My latest book is a follow up to my short story book Hobos I Have Known. Several people who had read the first book, kept telling me I should put out a second volume. I would do readings from that book at various places and without fail someone would come up to me with their own memories of the hobos. I took those memories and used them to create fictional stories based on their recollections. Finally, I had enough to put out the follow up book: More Hobo Stories.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I tried the traditional route. Sent out query letters, followed up with early chapters and then complete manuscripts. Got mixed results. Some people liked them but they didn't fit their current needs. Others sent back a form rejection. Some didn't bother to respond. Regardless of the reaction, the costs were mounting — printing, mailing, waiting. Meanwhile my friends and their friends were reading my manuscripts, mostly to positive feedback. Then one night I got a call from a person I had only met once who had gotten a copy of a manuscript from his daughter. He called me long distance to tell me how much he enjoyed it. I asked myself "Why was I letting some stranger in New York tell me if my stories were good enough to publish?" From there I pursued the Indie route and have five books out there that people are buying.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Smashwords allows me to get my books out into the world where others can see them and have the option of buying them. Ironically, I have limited success selling on the Smashwords site, but instead sell through the companies that Smashwords distributes to. Now that ebooks are catching on, when people say "I don't buy paper books any more" I can quickly refer them to Smashwords. It sort of gives the books some street cred.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I enjoy sitting down and getting lost in stories of my own creation. I would, and did, write whether anyone was buying the books or not. Sometimes I'm as surprised as any other reader to discover who committed the crime.
What are you working on next?
My son came up with and presented me with the story idea, although he may not recognize my version of his idea. Basically, it tells of a group of fanatics who are trying to hold the US ransom by blowing up schools, one a night, until they receive a one hundred million dollar ransom. They don't want the money from the government but from the fast food industry who have made their profits on the backs of school kids. Still a work in progress.
Published 2014-02-16.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Calling Card
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 4,550. Language: English. Published: January 26, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Police Procedural
Political intrigue, freshly fallen snow and an observant paper boy help the local police to bring this murder to a quick conclusion.
The Adventures of Super Emily
Price: Free! Words: 6,130. Language: English. Published: June 16, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Action & Adventure / Survival Stories
These stories are fiction. I do have a granddaughter named Emily who inspired them and if there were a young girl with super powers, it would be Emily. Just the name exudes power. You don’t have to be eight-years-old to enjoy a book about an eight-year-old. Parents, aunts, uncles, everyone, dig in and enjoy these adventures. If you and your Emily enjoy them at the same time so much the better.
For Hire, Messenger of God
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 92,350. Language: English. Published: March 26, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Police Procedural
Wealthy businessman Matthew Lane fatally drives his car into a power pole, almost killing homicide detective Jim McDonald in the process. Jim throws himself into the probe to find out why Lane drove as if possessed by the devil. Three camps quickly form. Those who believe it was an accident; those who believe it was a suicide and Jim who knows it had to be a homicide. Now he must prove it.
Cabin Fever
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 9,710. Language: English. Published: March 21, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Short Stories
"In Texas, they think some men just deserve to die. That defense even stands up in court. Nothing lower than messing with another man’s wife. Breaks one of God’s fundamental rules." A disgruntled husband runs this explanation by his sheriff friend. Will it stand up? Karl doesn't care. He knows what he has to do.
Hobos I Have Known
You set the price! Words: 11,680. Language: English. Published: February 28, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Anthologies » Short stories - single author
Things during the Great Depression of the 1930s were much different than they are today. Men, soon known to everyone as hobos, threw themselves at the mercy of the residents of the towns and villages they traveled through looking for increasingly scarce work. These short stories tell their story through the eyes of one of the rural people who fed them.