Sunday, September 15, 2013

Author Interview: Scott Skipper

Please introduce yourself.

I am Scott Skipper, and yes, that’s my real name.

How long have you been publishing?

In 1986 or 87 I published a few things but after a year I decided I had best get back to my career in the metal fabrication industry.  Now that I am retired, I have renewed my efforts and have been publishing for about three years.

Tell us about your latest book.  

Face of the Angel is based on source material I collected in the middle eighties when the grave of Nazi doctor, Josef Mengele, was discovered in Brazil.  I thought I might write it at the time but I am glad that I procrastinated because much more bizarre information about his forty-year life on the run has been uncovered since then.  This is a fictionalized account of his strange exile in South America.

Who are your major influences?

Hemingway and Charles Tanqueray.

Is writing your full time career?

It is now.

What made you decide to become a self-published author?

I discovered that it was possible.  No traditional publisher is going to touch me because I don’t write for the mainstream.  I discovered that in the 1980’s.  When I found that I could publish at Smashwords and Amazon, and be in some respectable company, I sat down and finished Family Traits which I had been intending to write for my own satisfaction for fifteen years.

Do you feel that your material is different than traditionally published authors?

Oh, yes.  You will find no zombies or vampires in my work.

Do you deal with issues that traditional publishers don't normally touch?

You seem to focus on historical fiction. What is your interest in history?

It is an interest, simply that.  I read a great deal of history and historical fiction.  It is amazing how distorted our preconceived ideas about much of history actually are.

Are you interested in just the time periods that you have written about, or the subject in general?

I am fascinated by all time periods from the pre-Cambrian to modern times.

Many of your novels seem to focus on characters with your last name. How much of those characters is based on fact?

Family Traits and In the Blood are based on fact.  They are the result of fifteen years of genealogical research.

What kind of research do you have to do for your novels?

As I said, genealogical research got me started, but when I decided to write about it, I devoured everything I could find that was written in the time periods.  The Gutenberg Project was a tremendous help.  I also made a point to visit the locations of the settings.

Why did you choose to write a novel, rather than biography or non fiction piece on Josef Mengele?

Plenty of serious history has been written about Mengele.  I wanted to give him a personality and a face, hence the title: Face of the Angel.  Most of the world assumed he was a sadistic monster but he had a life for forty years that I thought needed some examination.

Do you have plans to cover more WWII history in your novels? (I'm a big fan of WWII history.)

Possibly.  My father and uncle fought in the Pacific and I’ve been trying to put some sort of story together about brothers at war.  I haven’t gotten very far though.  Unfortunately neither of them had very exciting military careers.  I guess I’ll have to do some embellishing.
Who edits your work?

Some self-published authors are a sort of a fraternity who are willing to trade proofreading and editing.  It is a practical solution and I am glad to be of help to other writers when I can.

Who does the covers to your books?

My wife, Hurricane Sandy Skipper, is a Photoshop guru.  We collaborate on the covers.  She is primarily responsible for the best ones.

What is your favorite part of being self published?

Getting a new reader.

What is your least favorite?

Social media.

What has been the most productive tool for promoting your books?

I’m still looking for that tool.

Do you have Facebook/Twitter? How effective are they as promotional tools?

I do not, therefore, they are not effective.  I just don’t get the Facebook/Twitter thing.

If a publisher came knocking, would you make the switch?  Why or why not?

If he had a large enough check, sure.  I’m not holding my breath.

How important are reviews to making sales?

It’s better to have reviews than not.  I suppose they are very important but nobody every contacted me to say that they bought a book because of its reviews.

How do you deal with bad reviews?

As far as I know I only have one and it is for a short story that dates from the 1980’s.  I give it away as a promotional device.  Somebody said it wasn’t worth it.  I get a chuckle out the idea that it wasn’t worth free.

Do you also review other writers?

I review every book I read which is about one per week.  I publish those reviews on my blog, Smashwords, Amazon, Goodreads, Shelfari and any other place that I find.  Furthermore, I make a list of typos, formatting issues and factual problems that I think I see, and if I can contact the writer, I share it with him.  Almost everyone has been appreciative.

How do you give a bad review?

Gently, but I don’t write many bad reviews.  Not that I’m squeamish, but if the book doesn’t appeal to me, I seldom read more than a few pages and don’t think that qualifies me to pass judgment.

What changes would you like to see in the self-publishing industry?

Better vehicles for promotion.

Do you participate in Amazon's KDP Select program? Why or Why not?

I do not.  I don’t want to give Amazon exclusivity even for ninety days.  I do better with the Smashwords network and they have my first loyalty.

What would you like average readers to know about self-publishing?

Some very good writers are doing it.  Excellent authors who are untouchable in the mainstream as well as successful, traditionally published authors are now self-publishing.  Certainly there is plenty of crap being self-published, but that is also true of traditional publishing.  You simply have to hunt for the value.  Look at the reviews I’ve posted on my website to get some recommendations for good reading.

Could any of your books be made into films?

Probably not for the same reason Simon and Schuster isn’t knocking on the door, there is an old boy network in Hollywood and I’m not part of it.  However, when I write, I visualize the scenes as if it were a film and I think that Family Traits and In the Blood would make beautiful movies.

What actors would play your characters?

Definitely Mel Gibson, Tommy Lee Jones and Johnny Depp, maybe Sandra Bullock and I’ve also got a spot for Halle Berry.

Do you blog? Why or Why not?

Yes, sigh, because writers are supposed to blog.  Blogs are another thing that I don’t get.  I only follow one, it is Clancy Tucker’s Blog by the way.  I mainly use mine as a place to post those reviews I do and I know it doesn’t get much traffic.  You might find my books interesting, but I assure you, I’m a dull old man.

Do you have any certain ideas or ideals that you try to instill in your work?

Ideals?  No, my work oozes with cynicism born of watching society degenerate for so many years.

Does self publishing carry a stigma?

It does and I think it’s a case of sour grapes.  People in the traditional publishing industry are protecting their turf by propagating the stigma.  I frankly don’t care.  After a long life of vicissitudes, I carry better stigmata than that.

If you could talk shop with any other author, who would it be?

Burt Boyar, because I admire his work and he is a fascinating man.  All his work is phenomenal, especially his memoir, Blessed.  He has led an amazing life.  I once had the pleasure to be invited to his home.  It was a delightful and humbling experience.

What have you learned from reading other people's work?

That I ain’t that bad.

Do you read more eBooks or physical copies?

These days reading a printed book is physical torture.  Ereaders are only way to go.

Do you think the traditional publishing format is an endangered species?

Yes, I do for several reasons.  eBooks are more cost effective.  You don’t have to go anywhere to buy them, you don’t have to pay for the overhead of a bookstore and you don’t have to store them when you are finished.  Self-published books offer a greater variety of content whether you are an eBook person or not.  From the writer’s point of view, the royalty is a bigger percentage and you can dispense with those annoying agents.

What would the consequences be of the demise of the traditional bookstore?

There will always be some printed books that will have to be sold in bookstores, coffee table books, for example, or rare books, or books intended to be keepsakes.  If you have ever been to the City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, you will know that there will always be a place for bookstores.  Also, keep in mind that all of our reading devices could be toast tomorrow if the terrorists explode an electro-magnetic pulse over us.


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