Interview with Ryan Watkins

How do you approach cover design?
I'm not a visual artist, so I know my limitations here. I've worked with a few talented artists over the years who have helped me concept and with implementation. I typically come up with a general idea or vision for my covers and discuss that with my designer. After they put together a few samples, I choose the one I like best and we move on from there. My input mostly concerns coloring, fonts and word placement. Once we agree on a concept, I leave the heavy lifting up to my designers.
Describe your desk
My desk is a mess. I have a terrible habit of leaving bits of things, trinkets or whatever, on my desk for lengthy periods of time. I have a mechanical keyboard that I use when I write. I have two monitors. The larger monitor is on the left. That's where I have my word processor open. The second monitor on the right usually has a music player.
When did you first start writing?
My mother is a writer and was always working on a draft of a book here or there. I remember wanting to write a story when I was very young, maybe six or seven, in the universe of a video game. I don't think it was very good, but I remember my parents being proud of the initiative.

I abstained from writing until high school, when I started playing music. I decided I would be the band's lyricist and wrote in the style of some of my favorite progressive rock bands of the 70s and 80s. Genesis, Yes, Rush and a few other groups with cerebral, sometimes fantastical or science fiction-based lyrics really appealed to me then.

In college, I wrote for the school newspaper and eventually found myself wanting to branch out more into other areas. I started working toward a career in journalism and eventually went on to write for a motorsports publication and a family of newspapers. My personal writing took a backseat while I worked in journalism.

I eventually moved on to a career in marketing and found myself with the time and desire to write for my own reasons. That's when I decided to write stories about my travels.
What's the story behind your latest book?
My newest book, "Tales from Southern Trails," is a collection of stories from hiking and backpacking trips I've taken in the Southeast, specially the Appalachian region. I've been an avid outdoorsman for several years, and I've always written detailed reviews and stories from my trips. I decided to compile these stories together under a loose narrative and expand on them until I had a book's worth of content.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
For the longest time, I simply wanted a physical copy of my work to hold in my hands. I knew that chasing after a traditional publishing deal would be difficult for my niche. After finishing my first book, I deleted to self-publish because I wanted that to have some kind of meaning, some kind of physical existence. My writing has been featured in magazines and newspapers but never as a standalone book.

Plus, I'm not a huge fan of rejection. I don't think I would have been happy with receiving all of those letters.
What is your writing process?
This is a difficult question to answer. My stories are born from real life experiences, most often from my travels. Because these stories come from a place of actual truth, it's easy for me to outline how the story should flow because I've already experienced it firsthand. I don't spend a lot of time conceptualizing a work.

If I have the creative spark after a trip, I usually start by collecting notes and cataloging what should be in each section in a simple outline. I keep a notepad with me when I travel and add to it often, even if I never use the notes for any projects.

If there were people involved, I make sure to write out their features, characteristics and a general idea of what those people said in relation to the story. I take notes on the people, places and events of a particular day. Once I have a good idea of how each section of the story should flow, I start expanding on those notes until I have enough words on paper to mold into a draft. I repeat that for each section of my story, usually in chronological order.

After I have a decent working draft, I go through several rounds of self-edits. I may read through my work four or fives times looking for some of my common mistakes like echo words, repetition, too many adverbs or inconsistent dialogue. When I'm comfortable enough with the draft, I send it off to my editor that goes through the draft a few times, marking up notes and making copy changes.

I then hand the book off to my beta readers who add their own notes. Once I have a few people who have reviewed the work, I go back and read through their notes and update, if necessary.

I've always spent more time editing, revising and rewriting than I do writing my first draft.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I enjoy writing itself. Sitting down at my computer, unplugging from the world around me and focusing solely on the task in front of me is my favorite aspect of writing. Sure, it's nice to have a copy of my book on my bookshelf next to some of my favorite authors, but by the time I have a printed work in front of me, I'm already thinking about my next project.
Who are your favorite authors?
I grew up reading science fiction and fantasy stories, and those two genres are still among my favorite to this day. Some of my favorites include Michael Crichton, Terry Brooks, J. R. R. Tolkien, Philip K. Dick and Frank Herbert.

My style is very different from the above mentioned authors, however. I find myself most often looking to Hemingway for guidance on style and prose structure. His stories were not always as grand or intricately detailed as Dune or a work from the Shannara series, but his mastery of the English language and ability to simply convey complex emotions and themes is second-to-none.
Published 2017-10-18.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

The Longest Mile: Nine Days in the Great Smoky Mountains
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 40,270. Language: English. Published: October 18, 2017. Categories: Nonfiction » Sports & outdoor recreation » Hiking, Nonfiction » Sports & outdoor recreation » Backpacking
For nine days in early May, Ryan Watkins along with two brothers, Jeremy and Chris Jones, backpack the world-famous Appalachian Trail through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The trio meets a colorful cast of characters while experiencing the most physically demanding and personally rewarding nine days of their lives.