Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
My wife and I wrote the Robby's Quest children's storybook series about a group of birds, life-long friends, who travel across America searching for adventure and making new friends.
Cathy grew up in Chicago. I grew up in the Cleveland area. Fortunately, I lived in the country. We spent a great deal of time outdoors playing football, baseball, camping out and hiking. I learned to appreciate nature at an early age. I was always fascinated watching birds and that's why we decided to write about a group of birds.We tend to write about places we have also visited or lived in.
When did you first start writing?
We spent most of our adult lives working or raising children. English was never one of my stronger subjects in school (thank the lord for book editors) so later on in life I took a couple college English courses and to my surprise, I enjoyed creative writing. I retired in May 2009. I needed to do something to keep busy. I considered writing a book about different management styles or motivating employees, however, I just couldn't put the words down on paper.
Cathy and I often watch the birds early in the morning. We were fascinated with the teamwork and we began thinking about writing a children's book. Cathy and I would bounce ideas back and forth about where the birds might travel to or what they might see along the way. We started writing Robby's Quest for Seed in the summer of 2009. Before we knew it we had written 5,000 words over several chapters. We never really expected to publish our story but we began hearing about self-publishing and decided to give it a try. At the same time our grandson Rylie was born, giving us the extra incentive we needed to finish our first book. We wanted to leave something behind for our children and their children. Since then we have written three additional books about Robby the Robin and his band of feathery friends.
What's the story behind your latest book?
One of our favorite scenic road trips in America is the coastal route in California alongside the Pacific Ocean. I just love the drive and the beautiful scenery. Spectacular!
In our fourth and latest book, our birds decide to fly north, from San Diego to San Francisco, alongside the ocean. As you might expect, the birds discover some amazing places along the way. They stop off at Muscle Beach, ride a Ferris wheel and high-speed turbulent roller coaster, see Alcatraz Island on the back of two whales, ride a cable car through Chinatown and do bird bungee jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. Except for the bungee jumping, these are all things Cathy and I enjoy doing.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I would have liked to have gone the traditional publishing route but I'm not a patient person. After our first couple rejections we decided to just do it ourselves. We weren't getting any younger and we thought our books were pretty good.
We found a very good book editor and a talented illustrator, both living in Europe. Once we were ready we published our first eBook on Amazon then built the paperback at Createspace. There was a great deal of trial and error. We took down the books and re-formatted them many times before we were pleased with the results. Now we feel that our stories flow nicely and our illustrations really help bring our books to life.
By this time we heard about Smashwords. At Smashwords,you upload your book once and they format it for all the popular readers including, Kindle, Kobo, Apple, Nook, Sony, PDF, etc. That's actually very nice.
We are still looking for a publisher to assist us with marketing. It would be nice to have some help but we do enjoy the freedom of doing the things we like.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
We really like to make children happy. When we receive a favorable review, it pleases us to know someone appreciates our work and they get the things we are trying to say. We try to teach children about leadership, teamwork and friendship.
A while back, we delivered several paperback books to a local hospital for the children to read. A week or so later we received a thank you note from the hospital, signed by the children. There is not much that can top that feeling.
What do your fans mean to you?
The fans are very important. We have many followers on Twitter and Facebook. Our website is growing and so is our presence on Pinterest and on our Blog. We need to grow our fan base. I think this happens over time and through word of mouth.
As we were writing the second and third books, we held a contest asking our fans and followers for ideas on what to name certain characters, including a Pink Flamingo and a Whale. I think our fans and friends enjoyed the challenge because we received many names, all of them wonderful. Eventually we named the characters, announced the winners on Facebook and added their names to our dedication page.
What are you working on next?
Right now we are finishing up Robby's Quest: Thrills and Chills. The book has been proof read and edited and we are waiting for the illustrations. This book promises to be the most exciting one in the series.
We spend most of our time trying to promote and market our books. This process is very difficult, especially for a self-published author. We will be reading from our books on a few upcoming radio shows and hopefully visiting some of the local schools to read for the children.
Other than promotions, we do not have any further plans to write although I wouldn't rule it out. There could be one last book in our series where Robby and his friends finally go back home to Ohio, where it all began. We are looking for a Publisher or Publicist to assist us. If we could find some help in this area, maybe we could spend more time writing.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
We enjoy taking road trips. Since we live in the Phoenix area, we love to drive north to Sedona or Flagstaff. We take walks, babysit for one of our grand daughters and try to stay busy promoting our books. I'm on the computer a lot checking and answering email. Cathy loves playing Bingo. We use to visit Laughlin or Vegas often but we can't afford to do that these days. San Diego is only a six hour drive. We love driving to Coronado Island and walk along the beach. The view is inspiring.
We watch quite a few movies, mostly action adventure. Also, we have several TV shows we love including CSI Miami, Criminal Minds, Bates Motel, Law and Order, Last Man Standing, Vikings and Homeland. Our daughters refuse to play movie or TV trivia against us. They know better.
How do you approach cover design?
We usually send our book to the illustrator so she can read the story. Then we come up with an idea for the cover from one of our favorite parts in the book. For instance, in the latest book, we like the part where several of the birds ride the Roller Coaster and we thought this would make a great cover illustration. We asked Daniela to rough sketch the proposed scene then we approved it before she painted the final illustration.
Daniela always chooses a color scheme that we love. This time we specifically asked for a red Roller Coaster in the drawing. Her final picture is very pretty and we love it. Daniela has illustrated the entire series and understands each character, maybe better than we do.
What do you read for pleasure?
Cathy and I are big Stephen King fans. I wish I had the imagination King has. I enjoy reading crime novels like the Godfather and The Sicilian by Mario Puzo or true crime novels like In Cold Blood by Truman Capote.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I only have a computer so I download the free eBook reader software from places like Amazon or Barnes & Noble, so I can view our eBooks to make sure they are formatted correctly. Cathy has a Samsung Notepad and she loves it. There's an app for everything!
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Nothing yet to speak of. We have 1,500 Twitter followers and we try to tweet several times a day. We have 500 Facebook followers as well. I think Facebook has been our best source of getting the word out so far because we are able to send out messages and include a picture or an illustration. We like to post a picture with a short excerpt from one of our books. We could use more Facebook followers, www.facebook.com/dcrushbooks
Currently, we are trying to grow our internet presence at both Pinterest and Linkedin. There are so many places to network but I think you have to choose a couple places and stick with them. Don't bite off too much. We also write a Blog but don't have many followers. We could really use more book reviews however, they are hard to come up with because everyone is so busy these days. Our website is getting some hits now www.dcrushbooks.com and we are posting the work from other children's book authors in return for a link back to our home page. We plan to read on a couple radio shows. The marketing process is very difficult and never-ending.
Describe your desk
I'm neat and organized. A place for everything and everything in its place. Many years ago I taught on-site classes for organizational skills in the workplace. I guess some of the lessons rubbed off.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
We just listed our books at Smashwords and we are hoping for good things. I've read promotional material from the founder at Smashwords. This guy is very knowledgeable. I love the idea that our books are available in many different formats for every imaginable reader.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.