Author Interview: John Wait
1. What inspired you to become a writer?
I always loved both reading and writing, but never had time to write for fun. I did a lot of technical writing though as a business consultant. That all changed when I battled terminal cancer. I found writing about my experiences to be therapeutic. When I recovered, I made the commitment to devout myself full-time to writing.
2. What's your favourite book of all time?
Too many to choose from. I am a big fan of classic sci-fi, with Asimov being my favourite author, but there are so many!
3. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Same as I do for cancer patients. Quoting Jim Valvano – “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up.” I think the hardest thing is simply learning to write correctly. This is something I have had to really work on. You may have great ideas, but if you cannot communicate it effectively, with grammar acceptable to editors, you find it really hard to get published.
4. What is the most frustrating thing about being an author?
There are many things. First, it is nearly impossible to make a living as a writer, which is extremely disappointing. But, for me, it has been editing. Getting the grammar acceptable to readers and editors. Learning how not to use filtering and passive voice all the time.
5. What's your favourite movie?
Again, too many to choose. The first that pops into my mind is Star Wars (the original three). But I also love classic comedies going back to “Whats up doc?,” “Airplane” “A Fish called Wanda” and any Mel Brooks film.
6. What's better, dogs or cats?
I love them both. We have two dogs and seven cats – and not one of them did we go get. They are all rescue animals that found us. They are both wonderful in very different ways. As I type this, one of my cats is on my lap. And one of the dogs asleep at my feet. My issue with two of my cats, in particular, is that they always want to help me write – but they are terrible typists.
7. If money was no object, how would you spend your life?
Traveling and seeing the world.
8. Do you draw from personal experiences when you write?
Absolutely. I include in that, though, things I observe as well as those things that have happened to me personally.
9. What is more important? Strong characters or a strong storyline?
Both are essential to be really great. But I think the story line is most important. You can have wonderful characters, but if the story is boring, the reader is not going to continue. You can get away with shallower characters than you can a bad storyline.
10. What advice would you give to first time writers when submitting their work to publishers or literary agents?
1. Expect bad news.
2. Don’t get discouraged when you get the bad news. Instead, remember your goal is to be as good as you can. Take their criticisms seriously and not personally.
5. Edit. Make sure you read your story/book aloud. You will catch a lot more that way. We tend to skip over the words because we are so familiar with what we wrote. Another trick is to read the paragraphs is reverse order. It won’t necessarily help with continuity issues but will help you see more grammatical errors and typos.
6. Before submitting again, do your homework. Research the agents or publishers first to make sure they are a good fit for your work.
7. I have found attending writer’s conferences to be very helpful. Sit down with agents while you are there.
John Wait is the author of Mortal Musings: Waiting for Dawn (memoirs of a cancer victim) and Dusty Plains & Wartime Planes.