Interview Transcripts

Mary Rosenblum:† Simon was born in Derbyshire, England. He graduated from university with a degree in history and has lived in Canada since 1990. He is also a graduate of the Institute of Children's Literature of West Redding, CT. Simon and his two children, dog and cat live in Calgary.
Simonís first novel for middle grade readers, The Alchemistís Portrait, was published in 2003 followed by The Sorcererís Letterbox in 2004, The Clone Conspiracy in 2005, The Emerald Curse in 2006, The Hereticís Tomb in 2007 and The Doomsday Mask in 2009. A seventh novel for middle grades, The Time Camera, will be published in spring 2011, along with Flashback, a novel for young adults.  Simon is also a contributing author to The Complete Guide to Writing Science Fiction Volume One, has written several books for younger readers with Weigl Educational Publishers and works as a writer for Dark Roasted Blend online magazine.
Simon offers a wide variety of presentations, workshops and author in residence programs for schools and libraries, covering such topics as the writing process, editing and revision, where ideas come from and how writers turn them into stories, character development, historical fiction and historical research, story structure, the publishing world and more. He works as a creative writing instructor for home school students, with adults with Chinook Learning Services and the University of Calgary and offers a variety of online workshops for both children and adults.
Simon is a regular presenter at conferences and festivals, and served as a juror for the Governor General's Literary Awards for Children's Literature, the Saskatchewan Book Awards, the Parsec Awards and the Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic. He offers a number of services for writers, including manuscript evaluation, editing, writing workshops and coaching, plus writing services for the business community. Full details can be found at his website www.simon-rose.com. You may also visit his blog at http://simon-rose.blogspot.com/
So, Simon, welcome back!  You've been a great guest in the past.  What's been going on in your life?  Fill us in! 

 

Simon Rose:† Hi Mary. It's good to be back and thank you for inviting me again.
I am currently busy with a number of different projects. I am an instructor in creative writing with home school students, am working with local girl guide groups for their writing badges, do a monthly teleclass with the National Writing for Children Center, write two articles a month for Dark Roasted Blend Magazine, have classes next month for adults with the university and the school board's continuing education department and am possibly running some kids camps at spring break, plus the usual ones in the summer. I am also busier these days with my own online workshops for both children and adults, my coaching and editing programs for writers and have been doing quite a few website copywriting projects in recent months. 
Flashback, a YA novel, comes out next January, so I am busy with that and have a novel for eight to twelves coming out next spring  which I am working on now as well. Details and synopses for these are on my website. I also finished three non fiction tiles towards the end of 2009 for an educational publisher. 
I still visit schools for presentations and workshops and even conducted a virtual visit in Colorado in December, something I expect to do more of in the future.

 

Charlie: Simon, thanks for being here.   Wow!   Talk about time management. How do you manage so many projects? Where and who do you keep in touch with to land so many different writing jobs?

Amanda: Simon, welcome and thanks for taking the time to answer our questions.
I agree with Charlie...Wow.  How do you meet those kind of deadlines?  Do you have an assistant?  Besides doing all these commitments, you also have to prepare...does it become second nature...or mundane?
What I really want to know is this; do the workshops, teaching, coaching and editing take you away from what you really want to do; which is write?  Or do you enjoy being this busy?  

 

Simon Rose:† Okay, lots of things to answer here, so in no particular order, here we go. 
The Time Camera, my next book for eight to twelves, is with the same publisher who has published the previous six, starting in 2003. They have liked all the other books, so are prepared to publish this one and hopefully more in the future. Flashback, the one for the YA market, was written in the summer of 2006, although it was one of the first ideas I had for a novel. It just took a while to find the time to write and sort out the complexities of the plot. The manuscript has been sent out to lots of publishers and a few agents without success over the course of over three years. I had faith in the project however and was prepared to wait, since I have completed other books since Flashback was finished, as well as keeping busy with everything else. After a few more rejections of Flashback last year, I sent out a call on Facebook, Linked In, to writers groups and lots of other places online to see if I could generate interest or if anyone had any recommendations about a publisher who might be interested in the novel. I had some good responses and one of them was from a smaller publisher, who I know but had never been in touch with before. They liked the manuscript and we signed the contact just before Christmas.  
Last November, I ran the first edition of a local event which you can learn about here www.calgarybookfair.com. One of the exhibitors was an educational publisher, who I knew of, but had never submitted anything to before. As a result of our conversations about the book fair, I was asked to write some non-fiction titles. These had short deadlines, but I managed to get three done between mid October and the end of the year.
My work with Dark Roasted Blend magazine involves a couple of articles a month on fascinating topics, so that is usually very enjoyable work. This is an online publication, but is run locally, so we do tend to meet in person to discuss upcoming projects on a regular basis.
Web copy work and anything related to business writing usually comes from referrals from my own website or blog, although I do work with a local graphic designer, writing the copy for his clients once he has designed their new site. The editing work, coaching and workshops online are also usually from website referrals.
I would prefer just to write, but until that alone pays the bills, I do all the other stuff. Unless you're a best selling author from the outset, you will have to do lots of other things if you plan on being a full time writer without a traditional day job. That being said, not too long ago I was always working in schools and traveling across the country, which really did take time away from the writing of the books that I had contracts to produce. I am mostly busy now with writing related projects, which is a step in the right direction, hopefully. I do prefer to be busy and be working at home rather than on the road. I have family and everything else to attend to as well, so this is more suitable.

 

Mary Rosenblum:You're doing a great job, I'd  say, in finding writing related ways of earning that paycheck. Considering the shift in publishing currently in progress, I am guessing that earning a living just from writing just what you want to write, unless you are fortunate enough to grab the brass ring of a blockbuster seller like Harry Potter, is going to be less and less possible.  So finding ways to use your writing skills to earn you money is going to be increasingly important. Well, it always has been. Teaching pays my bills as much as writing.  More so in many years. 

 

Simon Rose:† Yes, I'd probably agree with that, but at least its writing. I've also found that its not such a huge shift write non-fiction, since I do a lot of research for the books as it is, especially the historical ones.

 

Mary Rosenblum:Okay, Simon, we all know that everybody who starts writing dreams of living in a house on the Riveria (or your dream location of choice) and rolling in money.  We all wish!  But actually paying the bills as a writer is an impressive accomplishment.  You're doing it.  I'd love to have you talk about just what that means....really. 

 

Simon Rose:† Yes, I guess that would be most people's dream, but you have to be prepared to do other things, unless you're a best seller right away. The teaching and school visits are not really writing of course, but if I wasn't a writer of books, I would never get this type of work. I'd prefer to be paid for perhaps three or four writing related projects, rather then the fifteen or twenty I have on the go at any one time. It is also not the regular, same each month income that you get in a regular job. Some months are much better than others, sometimes it can be much slower. You have to be prepared for that and plan accordingly in terms of your finances, which is a constant challenge. 

 

Amanda: But the upsides are being your own boss.  You do have some control over your timetables and picking and choosing what projects to take on.  It's the stepping stones needed to get to the place where you ultimately want to be, I would think.  The place where you can stop participating in fifteen things and concentrate on two or three.
Must be stressful though.  Especially since you have dependents.  Are there times when you wish for a desk job with a steady paycheque?

 

Simon Rose:† Yes, all good points and hopefully I will eventually have four or five things at the most. Yes, very stressful indeed and yes, I do think about the steady pay cheque very seriously at times.

 

Mary Rosenblum:Don't we all think about that steady paycheck, who work without it!  And down here in the states, there's that very  nice health insurance that is pretty reasonable if you work for a company and pretty much out of reach if you work for yourself.   You really do have to decide what matters to you I think.  So what do you say, Simon?  You think it's worth the uncertainty?

 

Simon Rose:† Itís hard to say if it's worth the uncertainty, to be honest. I have often consider quitting, but as much of a cliche as it may sound, this seems to be what I was meant to do. I am an established professional writer and truly enjoy that, despite the precariousness of this calling. Its hard to explain really, but your own peace of mind is sometimes the main factor, I guess. As someone once said, "it's more important to do what you enjoy than enjoy what you do".

 

Amanda: Well, I admire you, Simon, I truly do.  You are succeeding at doing what you were meant to do with the skills and talents given to you and with what must be a whole lot of determination.  Which leads to a whole bunch of other questions....like, at what age did you realize this is the way I want to go?  Who helped you along the way or did you go it alone?

 

David: For the freelance writer who makes, or is trying to make, his living as a writer, is there any particular time of year that tends to be busier than another? Does it depend on the markets the writer is writing for? Does the freelance writer have the flexibility to, say, be very busy during winter months and less busy and even take a few weeks off during the summer months?

 

Simon Rose:† Firstly, I took the course with ICL in 1999, but had been writing with no real plans to try and get published for several years prior to that, mostly once my children were born. Some of the children's books I came into contact with around that time made me wish I could write something as good, while there were plenty of others that made me think that I could do much better. Once I started visiting schools and answering student's questions, I realized I had been writing ideas down much earlier, in my teens probably, but did nothing much with them. When the first book was actually published, I was still working in an office, but a few months later decided to do writing, but mostly all the other stuff like school visits and other paid appearances, full time. I don't recall any real help or encouragement along the way and I have never had an agent or participated in a critique group, for example.
Secondly, I would think it depends on the market you are writing for. If you are exclusively writing for the winter sports market, for example, you might be busier in the spring and summer, getting articles ready in time for the ski season and so on. If you are writing for several different markets, you could potentially be busy all year. You would expect the summer to be quieter as so many potential clients are on vacation, but you could easily get a contact in June and be working on it in the summer, even if the client is away. If you ended up landing a regular writing job or jobs you might be able to set your own schedule in a similar way to what you describe, but it would be tougher if you are working in multiple areas or with a number of different publishers.

 

Amanda: Simon, could you give us some idea of what pays.  If you were to break it down, what would it look like?  Book sales make up 50% of your monthly income?  Teaching, 5%?  Articles, 5%?

 

Simon Rose:† I'm not sure of the percentages, but personal appearances and teaching would be the largest portion by far, then probably website work, coaching, workshops online and articles, followed by book sales. Book sales would not be a monthly amount, but as part of a royalty statement.

 

Mary Rosenblum:For the most part, from what I know of my own life and that of other full time writers, your income is not going to be only from those books you write unless you are the next King, Rowling, Roberts, etc.  Being a professional level author does give you access to other writing related jobs....such as teaching for LR for example.  You won't get those jobs unless you are a published professional writer.  
That's my take anyway.  Simon? 

 

Simon Rose:† Yes, I would not be doing the teaching or being asked to visit schools and libraries without being a published author of books. I could probably get work as a writer of articles and web copy without having the books, but being published certainly helps.

 

Mary Rosenblum:So, Simon, you're also writing nonfiction these days?  Other types of writing besides your fiction?  Want to fill us in on what you're up to? 

 

Simon Rose:† Yes, I wrote three non fiction books for Weigl Educational Publishers towards the end of last year and you can see what these are like at their website at http://www.weigl.ca/home.html. These will be published sometime this year and hopefully there will be more work in the future. I also write two articles a month for Dark Roasted Blend online magazine, which you can learn more about at http://www.darkroastedblend.com/. Some of my articles can be found at the following links. 

www.darkroastedblend.com/2009/05/real-life-spy-gadgets.html
www.darkroastedblend.com/2009/02/totalitarian-architecture-of-third.html
www.darkroastedblend.com/2009/03/one-in-million-collisions.html
www.darkroastedblend.com/2009/10/british-pubs-signs-of-times-part-two.html
www.darkroastedblend.com/2009/04/wonder-weapons-of-world-war-two.html
www.darkroastedblend.com/2009/07/flags-of-forgotten-countries.html
www.darkroastedblend.com/2009/07/britains-colourful-pub-signs-part-1.html
www.darkroastedblend.com/2009/08/unusual-and-marvelous-maps.html
www.darkroastedblend.com/2009/05/cheers-to-beers.html
I have lot of articles published at Ezines http://ezinearticles.com/?expert_bio=Simon_Rose and also in my Simon Says Column at the National Writing for Children Center at http://writingforchildrencenter.com/category/simon-says/, but these are not paying markets. However, particularly at Ezines, this is far outweighed by the amount of traffic my articles can generate for my website and for exposure online in general.

 

Oceanscribe:† The Weigl site lists several new books, but doesn't cite the authors. Which titles did you write--or aren't you allowed to disclose that info?

 

Simon Rose:† My titles aren't shown because they aren't published yet, but they are books on the beluga whale, the Canadian dollar coin and a biography of Nelson Mandela for their Remarkable People series.

 

Dani: Did you get any of the info on Nelson Mandela from the man himself?  What about photos?
I think I read somewhere that primary sources are preferred for magazine articles. Is this the case for books too or are there exceptions?

 

Simon Rose:† No, no personal interviews held in South Africa, just good old research online and from other books. The publisher is responsible for the pictures.

 

Amanda: That Dark Roasted Blend is very interesting, easy to spend a lot of time there.  Enjoyed the British Pub signs.  I have never been to The Crooked Inn in Staffordshire (my family lives in Stoke on Trent) but I certainly will visit this year.  Also, that one in Wales, the oldest inn, where all the hangings took place and is haunted.  That's a must...I know this question has nothing to do with earning a living as a writer, but have you been to all the pubs you wrote about in those articles?  How much 'hands on' for lack of a better phrase, or maybe I should say, how much experience do you really need to write well, or is research and imagination enough?

 

Simon Rose:† Yes, it was a great article to write and we made the decision quite early on to split it into two parts. It may even warrant more articles on the same topic later on. No, I have not been to all the places in the article, but have always been interested in history and the pub sign is very much a part of the history of the British Isles. I knew where some of the names came from, but others were very obscure and it was fascinating to delve into the stories behind them.
I think you do get better with experience, simply because you are learning all the time the more you write, especially if you are writing in different areas like fiction, non fiction, magazines, copywriting etc and I even have some picture book projects just about ready to be submitted, which I worked on with a local illustrator. However, do you mean experience to write well for yourself or for a publisher? What constitutes good writing tends to vary and is often dependent on the opinions of others. A publisher, for example, might be looking for a humorous slant to a story and for a new take on a biography or a topic that has been covered many times in the past, to set it apart from previously published works.

 

Mary Rosenblum:Simon, how did you get the nonfiction writing assignment with Weigl?  Did they come to you or did you pitch a proposal to them?  And do you think your previously published status...even though it was in fiction...helped? 

 

Simon Rose:† Last November, I ran the first edition of a local event which you can learn about here www.calgarybookfair.com. One of the exhibitors was Weigl, a local educational publisher, who I knew of, but had never submitted anything to before. As a result of our conversations about the book fair, I asked if they were looking for writers and was then asked to write some non-fiction titles. Yes, I think my previously published work, as well as my articles on Ezines and Dark Roasted Blend, helped.

 

Mary Rosenblum:Simon are you using the social media like facebook, and blogging to promote yourself? 

 

Simon Rose:† Yes, I have a personal page on Facebook, plus a fan page and group pages for all the books. I run a group with almost 2000 members called Children's Authors and Illustrators on Facebook, which features an interview with an author or illustrator every few days. I try and have a new posting on my blog at least every other day, sometimes daily. These are usually of a promotional nature, although I do also run interviews with other authors on my blog, in exchange for them running an interview with me on their blog on the same day, so that we both benefit. My blog entries also feed into a number of other sites on the web, which all helps with exposure. Here are some of the links.
Website http://www.simon-rose.com
Blog http://simon-rose.blogspot.com
Twitter http://twitter.com/sorcerersletter
My Space http://www.myspace.com/thesorcerersletterbox
YouTube channel http://www.youtube.com/wordsmithman
Facebook fan page http://www.facebook.com/pages/Simon-Rose-Author/211746955865
Children's Authors and Illustrators on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=45035902458&ref=ts
Goodreads http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/199952.Simon_Rose
Jacketflap http://www.jacketflap.com/profile.asp?member=SimonRose
I also subscribe to a few writers listerv groups through yahoo.

 

Mary Rosenblum:You're doing a thorough job, Simon. Why don't you write me a short article on self promotion on the net for the LR website eh?  I pay!  :-) Thanks for being here, keep doing what you're doing and we all wish you great success! 

 

Simon Rose:† Thanks Mary, it's once again been a pleasure to be here.

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