Please give a big welcome to RON ESTRADA.
rem: Welcome Ron! Tell us a little about yourself. Where were you raised? Where do you live now?
RON: Tricky question. I was a navy brat, so I was raised from Hawaii to Virginia and points in between. I loved that life! I saw the whole country by the time I was in 7th grade. Now I live in Oxford, Michigan. Apparently I was sick of warm weather and sunshine.
rem: Air Force brat here, and I went coast to coast – Mississippi to SC to California and back to Mississippi – before I was born! Tell us three things about yourself.
RON: Three things about myself…let’s see:
- I was in the navy myself and went around the world once, through the Panama Canal and everything.
- I’ve been married for 25 years and it sure doesn’t feel like we’re that old!
- I love “camping” in our 29ft travel trailer. My dream is to travel and write my novels out of the trailer.
rem: Great dream to have! And doable, too. Which book have you read the most in your lifetime?
RON: I rarely read a book twice. But I probably would read Watership Down again. Possibly my all time favorite.
rem: What is your most treasured possession?
RON: My Macbook! How did I live without one for so long?
rem: Not a Mac, but same question re my laptop. What is your greatest fear?
RON: That my children will drift away from Christ. But, at 19 and 21, there’s no sign of that being a problem. They’re probably more worried about me.
rem: Sounds like you and your wife have laid a solid foundation for them; I bow to you, Sir. What is your greatest regret?
RON: Not going after my passion for writing at a young age. Now I always advise the listeners of my podcast to “Pursue your passions and it will lead to your success.”
rem: Man, oh man, can I relate to that… What is your favourite quotation and why?
RON: “Any man willing to sacrifice his freedom for security deserves neither.”- Ben Franklin
It sums up what freedom really means. We are free to make good decisions and bad. Too many people today don’t want that responsibility. I fear America is becoming the government we once rebelled against.
rem: Good quote, and valid point. What do you most value in a friend?
RON: Someone who will call me out when I’m messing up. God has set high standards for me. A good friend would hold me accountable.
rem: We all need that, even if we [ahem] resent it at times. What quality do you most admire in a man or woman?
RON: Confidence and humility. Yes, one can have both. We call them “success stories.”
rem: They are not mutually exclusive as some might assume.
Dogs or Cats? Which do you prefer?
Dogs. Whoever said that cats were quiet, clean animals has never owned one.
rem: No, cats are not always quiet – one of mine [I have five]is chattering now – but they are mostly clean [ish.]
What is your Writing Routine?
RON: I write in the evenings. I write my current draft for one hour. I’m currently using the “5,000 Word Per Hour” method as outlined in Chris Fox’s book by that title, and using the iPhone app he created. I’m not up to 5k yet, but I’m doing 1,600 words in 2 twenty-minute “sprints.”
After my hour of drafting, I edit the previous novel for an hour. This way, since I write series, I can always fix things as I go to make sure everything lines up.
I use my lunch hour at work to outline my next novel. So, actually, I’m always working on 3 at the same time, just in different stages. My goal is to put out a novel every three months. So far, I’m hitting it.
rem: That’s impressive – and so structured; must be the Navy training! What are your Top Writing Tips?
RON: Get through the first draft as quickly as possible. Don’t edit. Don’t fact check. It’ll be horrible, but you’ll finish. And by the time you do, you’ll know how to fix your characters and plot.
Speaking of…learn to plot. I love pansters, I really do, but I think there are extremely few people who can get away with it. Most just write themselves into a corner and give up on a project. At least plot the major plot points on a sheet of paper. Now, at least, you’re not writing blind.
rem: Yes, well, die-hard Pantzer here – maybe about 10% plotter. Tell us a little about your writing journey.
RON: Typical, I think. Wrote as a teen. Gave up. Life life life. Started again when I was around 30. Got some magazine articles published. I wrote novels, badly, off and on. I spent 15 years writing 4 novels, then in 2004, wrote the next 4. That’s when things started to click. I actually applied the things I’d learned. I made half-hearted attempts at traditional publishing. My problem is that I rebelliously prefer to be in command of my own destiny. When indie publication took off, I knew I’d found a home. I published my first two books of the Cherry Hill series this year, and will have two more published by Christmas (try that with a trad publisher!). I’m already planning the next series, which will be a darker turn into the paranormal, but with a Christian flavour.
rem: “…I rebelliously prefer to be in command of my own destiny…” I think we all do to some degree. What do you enjoy most about being a writer?
RON: The freedom, I think. Someone once said that writing is the purest form of art. We have only our words to paint a picture. I love spinning a tale and knowing that it’s good, because I’ve taken the time to learn the craft and I can have that confidence (and, of course, humility).
rem: What is the hardest aspect of being a writer?
RON: Getting noticed! The onset of ebooks means that anyone can publish a book. Unfortunately, anyone is publishing a book. It’s difficult to get noticed by the reading public. I suppose it’s always been the case, but all authors have to work ten times as hard these days to give away a book, let alone sell one.
rem: I know that’s true! Sheesh! What was the hardest thing about publishing? The easiest?
RON: The hardest thing about publishing is patience. Whether you go indie or traditional, you have to take the steps to learn and grow as an author. Going back to the glut of indie books, one of the biggest problems is new writers self-publishing their first attempt at a novel. It gives indies a black eye and is the reason self-publishing has a poor reputation. I might have done the same thing back in the day, because I thought my first book was golden. Now I look at it and wince. Not pretty.
The easiest thing about publishing, to me anyway, is letting go of that last book and moving on. Must be because I’m a man. We shove our kids out the door when they’re old enough and let ‘em fly on their own. Same thing with my novels. The more I publish, the easier it gets to let them go and not spend two years editing them to a bloody pulp.
rem: Ah, patience. [UGH] What advice would you give to aspiring authors for writing and/or publishing?
RON: Learn. Your. Craft. I heard a good quote today. An amateur works at something until he gets it right. A professional works at it until he can’t get it wrong. That’s what you have to do. Don’t just say “good enough” at some point and start cranking out books. You can never stop learning. When you do, fold up the Macbook. Time to retire.
rem: I could not agree more! I’ve written for years, created them even longer. When I published my first novel, Tessa, last year, I was clueless of how to go about it, i.e. editing, etc. I just threw her out there. I’ve learned much in the past year, and now working on the sequel, Clara Bess; while she’s with my editor, Tessa will have some serious revisions done.
Most authors I know dread the marketing required, yet you say you’re a “marketing junkie.” What’s your marketing strategy and what would you suggest for other Indie authors?
RON: My marketing “strategy” is to be adaptable. We claim that things change too rapidly with the internet, but marketing has always been like that. Blogs worked two years ago. Now you can’t get your own mother to read it. So you look at other sources. You find your audience. They’re out there. You’ve got everything from Facebook to Twitter to Wattpad and a dozen others to work in. And yes, you may have to pay for ads. Welcome to the big leagues. Anyone who wants to sell anything will have to pay for advertising. You either pay a publisher the cover price of the book to do it, or you shell out a few hundred bucks and do it yourself. Facebook ads aren’t that bad when compared to other sources. The one long term strategy I have is to set up my website as a sales page. Blogs are on life support if not dead. So use the website to showcase your books. And give something away free to build you mailing list. It’s the one thing you control. Once you have a few thousand subscribers, nothing Amazon or Facebook does will matter to you.
Right now I’m primarily focused on Wattpad and Instagram, because that’s where my YA audience lives. You have to get active, though. Both are social media. So socialize. It’s hard work, but marketing always has been.
rem: My next big push is to get my blog converted to website which will feature my books. That and the illusive mailing list…
I like what you said, “I may fail miserably as an indie author, but if so, I would have certainly failed just as miserably if I’d stuck with the traditional route.” [quoted from Novel Rocket]
Did you start out as an Indie author? What made you decide to go Indie?
RON: No. I tried to go traditional for a long time. To be honest, I just despised all the letter writing and proposals and all that. I’m a firm believer in “value added” work. Meaning that every word I write (even these) is to advance my career or go into a book. I like to have control. Right now I’m trying to decide whether to write my next series as full novels or in a serial. You could never make that decision on your own with trad publishing, not before Amazon. Now we can break all the “rules” and find out what works best for us. I love it. And yeah, I may fail, but it won’t be because one person in a publishing house didn’t like my book or a publisher decided to cut its fiction line just before my book was scheduled to launch. I think I’ll succeed because I’ll just keep working until I do. But either way, it’s all on my terms and by my work. That’s the way I like it.
rem: Gotta confess, I feel the same way about query letters. Then again, I never got the coveted contract from any of mine.
Where do you get your greatest ideas for writing?
RON: Who knows? We’re writers. It’s the way our brains work. Everyone walks by a thousand story ideas every day. A writer manages to hold on to three or four.
rem: Exactly! Do you have a favorite book or work that you’ve written? If so, why?
RON: Angel ‘n Me, the second book in my series, is special to me. I wrote most of it during NaNoWriMo last year, and I discovered that I can write fast and write a good story. Okay, I plotted the heck out of it beforehand, but that was another valuable lesson. And it was really just a fun book. A total rip off of “All of Me,” except the rolls of Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin are filled in by teenagers. It was a blast. So far, my readers agree.
rem: Love that movie! Who are your favorite authors to read? What is your favorite genre to read?
RON: I’m all over the map. I grew up on Stephen King, though I’ve given up on him now. These days I’ve been enjoying guys like John Green and Gary Schmidt (fantastic middle grade). Though lately I’ve been slipping back to my paranormal roots. My next series will go darkly paranormal except, unlike other authors, God will have a say in the matter and faith will win the day.
rem: Talk a little bit about Teen Writers Publish! What inspired it and what does it involve?
RON: A weak moment? I’ve become a podcast junkie over the last year or so. There are some great author podcasts out there. After teaming up with Gina Conroy, who teaches writing classes to kids, and since I write YA at the moment, we came up with the idea of a writing podcast for teenagers. I couldn’t believe it when I couldn’t find an active podcast on that topic (I’m telling you, podcasting is the new blogging). So I figured out how to make it all work. And yes, there is substantially more learning to do than in setting up a blog. Gina provides the nice “radio” voice and teaching ability. We record a couple shows on available Saturdays or interview someone. All this is done with Skype and a neat little recording program. I edit in Audacity and run the show through several other hoops to get it ready for broadcasting, then post it on Libsyn. You can’t post a podcast on your WordPress site, they’re too big. I learned all this from a great guy who has free videos at podcastincubator.com. You can pay for more advanced training, but the six free videos are fantastic. I still had to write down each step in OneNote so I can repeat them, but it’s not so hard once you get rolling.
rem: That’s impressive. I am not ready to take that plunge – which is weird ‘cause also I’m an actress; you’d think I’d be ok hearing my voice on a podcast!
Tell us a little about your latest book? What is your current project?
RON: I’m working on book 4 of the Cherry Hill Series while editing book 3. They are actually a two-book series within the series. Cherry Hill starts out fairly normal in book 1 and things get progressively weird from that point on. Book 3 is called Cassandra’s Crossing and it involves some magic and time travel. After that gets all screwed up, Lydia Leach has to straighten things out in Book 4, Lydia’s Way. I’m waiting to see how sales go before deciding on book 5. In the meantime, I’m plotting my possible serial novel, Night Moves, about a Detroit Gang Unit detective who stumbles upon a gang that enjoys calling up demons to possess their drug-abusing victims. Fun, huh?
rem: I know that feeling! Not so much the productive part, but the stories clamoring for attention. What is one take-away from your book(s) that you hope readers identify with?
RON: That we need to look past the outer layers of the people around us. Authors already know this, but people aren’t just bad or good, there’s layers beneath that we never see. We have to work hard to find them, but the payoff is amazing!
rem: Since my stories deal with identity, I’d have to agree with you on that! Thank you, Ron for being on my blog this week.
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