Sunday, March 23, 2014

Bob Waldner* Self-Published Author

When your email inbox gets post-office full, do you find yourself doing the “Eenie, meenie, miney, mo thing?” (And, I’m not talking Justin Bieber and friends.) At times like that, are you selective and delete without reading? What if you miss something big?

The following interview is a result of one of those lucky times when intrigued, I opened the mail and discovered something big: Self-Published Author, Bob Waldner and his first novel, Peripheral Involvement. After reading a bit about Waldner and his book, I had to find out more. So, being the curious writer that I am – I asked.


Bob Waldner was born and raised in Trenton, New Jersey, before heading off to Duke University to study mechanical engineering. After spending two years working as an engineer in Maryland, he changed course and enrolled in the University of Michigan Law School. For the past fourteen years, he has represented banks and hedge funds as a transactional attorney in private practice in New York. He lives in Manhattan with his wife, Erinn, and his two daughters, Maureen and Madeleine. Peripheral Involvement is his first novel.


QWhile a senior in high school, you met General Josiah Bunting, the author of The Lionheads. His words, “everyone should write a novel” resonated with you over the years. What advice can you offer to future young readers?
AKeep an open mind. Don’t limit yourself to particular genres. There’s interesting stuff everywhere, and you never know whether something might grab you until you check it out. Revisit things as you get older – I’ve found that my tastes changed quite a bit over the years.

Also, if you’re thinking about writing, don’t feel like you must have everything figured out before you begin. Just come up with an idea for a character, and an interesting scene or two, then start running with it. Maybe it won’t go anywhere, but maybe it will. If you wait until you’ve got the entire plot outlined in your head, you may never get started. 

QWhat's your writing philosophy? 
AThe best quote that I’ve ever read on this is from Elmore Leonard, who said, “Try to leave out the parts that readers tend to skip.” I try to follow that advice as best I can. Beyond that, if I have any guiding principle at all, it’s to make sure I have fun. I’ve always figured if I don’t have fun writing it, my readers won’t enjoy reading it. For me, that means not getting too bogged down with worrying about the writing process. A lot of people talk about the need for a story to have three acts, or for certain literary techniques to be embraced (or avoided like the plague). I’m not saying any of that is wrong, but my approach is much simpler than that. I think of a character and a very general sense of time/place/overall feeling and then I cook up some scenes with that character. If I like where I’m at after that, I’ll move on and try to come up with more scenes, and eventually I’ll figure out (again, pretty generally) where the plot is headed. If not, I’ll try again…

QStephen King once said, “Writing is a lonely job.” What are your thoughts on that?
AI wholeheartedly agree with him, but I don’t see the loneliness of the job as a negative. In fact, it’s one of my favorite things about it. Most everything else I do in life is part of a 
collaborative effort, whether it’s raising my children with my wife or working alongside clients and colleagues in my law practice. I’m thankful that I don’t have to handle those things on my own, but I think it’s healthy to have an outlet like writing that allows me the chance to be alone with my thoughts. I really enjoy being in complete control of a story. That’s not to say that I haven’t gotten valuable input from others along the way, but in the end, the author’s the one who’s responsible for what winds up on the pages. 

QWhat is your reading genre and is it different from what you write?
AOver the years, I’ve probably read more non-fiction than fiction. History, biography, economics, anthropology… I’m always on the lookout for interesting stories that I haven’t heard before, or books that suggest new ways of thinking about familiar topics. Don’t get me wrong – I love fiction as well. I’m open to anything, but I’ve always been drawn to mysteries, spy stories and thrillers. I like stories with interesting “bad guys” – even better if it’s hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys altogether. If there’s a common thread that runs through the things I like to read, it’s a connection to “real” people operating in the “real” world, whether they’re actual, non-fictional characters who really existed or imaginary ones that live in a world much like our own. In that sense, I guess I do write what I read.

QAs a writer, I'm sure you've heard the expression, "Write what you know." To that end, did your day job add substance for Peripheral Involvement?
AThe answer is yes, it definitely did. The book isn't meant to be an in-depth dissection of a twenty-first century lawyer's life, but I think my experiences allowed me to convey a little bit about the current state of the profession, and the banking/finance industry that it supports. I should say, for the record, that there's nothing in the book that references the details of any matters that I've worked on, and the law firm/Wall Street characters entirely fictitious (although, they are in some sense composites who exhibit traits that I've observed fist hand over the years). I tried to capture the "feel" of the job more than the day-to-day detail of it.

QIs Peripheral Involvement the book you always wanted to write?
AYes. I don’t mean that the story was the exact one that I always wanted to tell. I didn't really figure out where the plot was going until I was about halfway through writing it. But it’s definitely the kind of book I always wanted to write, and it touches on a lot of ideas that I've been thinking about for quite a while.

QWhat was your “Aha moment” while writing Peripheral Involvement?”
AIt sounds silly, but it was when I realized I didn't have to tell the story in chronological order. When I wrote the first draft, it was very linear. That’s how I thought of it, but it took a while for the really interesting things to start happening. At some point, it occurred to me that I could jump around in time, and that I didn't have to account for every moment in the characters’ lives. I think those edits made the book much more engaging from the beginning.

QWhy did you choose to self-publish and how was that experience? Would you self-publish again? 
AI spent some time trying to get a literary agent and publish the traditional way, but as every author who’s gone through that process knows, it’s a very tough row to hoe. I had a hard time getting agents to even read the whole manuscript. From the few that did, I received very complimentary feedback, but they still wouldn't take it on. Since I was doing all of this on top of my day job, I eventually decided that it didn't make sense to continue spending time on agents. I still wanted to get the book out there, so I decided to publish it myself.

The experience has been great! I love the fact that everything about the book is the way that I envisioned it, from the cover to the layout. I wonder sometimes how different the book would have been if it had gone through a big publishing house. I’m sure it would have benefited from their editing and artistic expertise, but it wouldn't have been entirely mine anymore. I’m very happy with what I came up with on my own (although I certainly do envy the marketing muscle that a big publisher would have been able to put behind it – that’s the one thing that I haven’t yet figured out how to replicate).

The process was particularly rewarding for me because I've never been particularly handy with computers, so every step was a challenge. Three months ago, I had no idea how to format a document, or do cover art, or build a website. Getting all of those things figured out was really satisfying. The only thing that I couldn't manage was the formatting for the Kindle edition. I wound up contracting that out (tip of my hat to Allen at EBFormat.com, who did a great job for me on that front). Having gone through it once now, I’m much more comfortable with the idea of doing it again, and I’d certainly be willing to. I might take another shot at traditional publishing, as well. I guess it depends on how things play out by the time my next book is ready.

QHow do you reach your readership?
AThat’s the challenge I'm grappling with now. I've done a lot on Facebook and by directly contacting people, but that only gets me as far as friends and some friends of friends. I've encouraged (begged) all of them to spread the word as much as they can. I've also started a website where readers can learn more about me, follow my blog and (hopefully) have their interest piqued, and I just did a giveaway on Goodreads to get some attention there. I’ll keep reaching out to book bloggers and reviewers, but my biggest hope is that people who enjoy Peripheral Involvement will tell a few friends about it and it’ll continue to gather steam by word of mouth. 

QWhat are your future writing plans?
AI've been working on a second novel since August, a noir mystery, and I’m very excited about it. It’s not a sequel to Peripheral Involvement – it’s a completely different story with a new cast of characters. It takes place in the Florida Keys, and involves a disgraced ex-televangelist, his daughter, and a wealthy, old-money New York family. I've been working much faster than I did on the last one, but I still have to fit my writing in around my day job, so there are limits on how much I can do at a time. The first draft is probably about two-thirds done, and I’m hoping to get through the rest of it by the summer.

Beyond that, I've always wanted to try to write something more humorous, so maybe I’ll turn to that next. I've given it some thought in the past, but haven’t quite been able to settle on an idea. I figure that the world is full of things that are begging to be made fun of, so I’m hoping it’ll come to me eventually. 

Also, I never really envisioned a sequel to Peripheral Involvement, but enough people have brought it up that I've started to think about it. I’m not sure yet that it’s something I’ll pursue, but it’s definitely on my radar. 

QPlease finish the sentence: Writing is:   .......
AA wonderful escape! It’s a chance for me to step outside of my usual role, and have some fun with trying to tell a story.

To find out more about Bob Waldner, visit him at:  http://bobwaldnerbooks.com


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