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Saturday, 27 April 2013
Author interview with George A. Bernstein (revisited)
Back in March 2013, I interviewed author George Bernstein for my interview-only WordPress blog. I hope you enjoy it...
Welcome to my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, scriptwriters, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with suspense novelist and non-fiction author George A Bernstein. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, George. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer?
George: My name is George A. Bernstein, and I’m located in sunny south Florida. I’m originally from Chicago, where I was the President of a small, publically held manufacturing business, but I’ve lived in Florida for 37 years, where I ran a fishing & hunting tour business. It was a dirty job, forcing me to travel all over the world, trying new fishing locations!
When I became semi-retired and looking for something to do, other than playing golf, I thought of a neighbor from my past, who, through a surgical accident during plastic surgery, became comatose. I always did well in writing classes and decided to craft a novel around a woman that suffered a similar event. She became the basis for my novel, ‘Trapped’.
Morgen: What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
George: I write in suspense, although I feel ‘Trapped’ really falls into Mainstream Fiction. My second novel, ‘A Third Time To Die’, for which we’re beginning the process of publication, is a Romantic Suspense, and I have 2 others that are a “non-procedural” detective series.
I’ve also written a non-fiction book, ‘Toothy Critters Love Flies’, about fly-fishing for pike and musky.
Morgen: What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
George: I’ve published my first novel, ‘Trapped’, with TAG Publishers. ‘Trapped’ won TAG’s Next Great American Novel contest, and they wanted to publish it. It’s also a finalist in the Florida Writers’ large (over 300 entries) RPLA Contest.
Morgen: You’ve self-published – what lead to you going your own way?
George: I had an agent for ‘Toothy Critters Love Flies’, and several publishers loved it but felt the market was too small, so I self-published it through Booksurge (now CreateSpace).
Morgen: Are your books available as eBooks? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
George: ‘Trapped’ is available in both Trade Paperback and as an e-book (Kindle, Nook, etc.). It’s also available in bookstore, through Ingram Distributors. Personally, I like to hold a book in my hands, but the Kindle-type device makes it easy to carry many books at one time.
Morgen: Do you have a favourite of your books or characters? If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actor/s?
George: I especially love the female protagonists in both ‘Trapped’ and ‘A Third Time To Die’. Even after a multitude of edits and rewrites, I can still get choked up during certain scenes I created for them. I’d love Katherine Heigl for my protagonist, Jackee, in ‘Trapped’.
Morgen: A great actress. Which author(s) would you compare your writing to?
George: I really don’t know. I love Dean Koontz when he writes something line “The Husband” or “The Good Guy,” but not his spooky stuff so much. And I always like Michael Crighton and James Patterson, when he did the writing. Don’t like his co-authors at all.
Morgen: The only James Patterson I’ve “read” (audiobook) was with Michael Letwidge so I don’t have any comparison but it’s one of my favourite books. Did you have any say in the titles / covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
George: Yes, they use my titles…and why not. They’re great, if I do say so myself. So does everyone else, by-the-way. I got approval for the cover, too, which I really like.
Morgen: It’s a great cover. What are you working on at the moment / next?
George: Final brush up on ‘A Third Time To Die’. Also a new novel for my detective, Al Warner, which I’m about third-finished on the first draft.
Morgen: Do you manage to write every day, or ever suffer from writer’s block?
George: Usually doing something every day. If not writing, then working on promotions. Rarely have writer’s block.
Morgen: Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
George: I outline every story, but it’s flexible, and they are dynamic devices that always change as I get into it. Things have a way of taking on a life of their own. I have to get tough with the editing pen after I’m finished.
Morgen: Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
George: Characters and their personalities just seem to come to me. I make up 4 x 6 cards for each, and add to them as I go, so I don’t mess up later. I try to keep names relatively common, so readers don’t have to struggle with them. And different! I hate books with Tim & Tom, or Mike & Mitch. It’s too confusing.
Morgen: It certainly can be. Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
George: I pretty much write to completion, and then edit. Yes, lots of editing. I’m often moving chapters, cutting here, expanding there. I don’t know any successful writer that doesn’t go through that.
Morgen: Do you have to do much research?
George: Only if I’m dealing with technical issues, like “Locked-in Syndrome” in ‘Trapped’. Then I want to get it as right as I can. With my Al Warner series, I rely in two retired cops for any details I need about weapons, CSI, and police procedures. Otherwise, I use my imagination.
Morgen: What point of view do you find most to your liking?
George: ‘Trapped’ is entirely first person. My other novels are mostly third person.
Morgen: Do you write any poetry, non-fiction or short stories?
George: My fly-fishing book, ‘Toothy Critters Love Flies’. I’ve also written a short (5,500 word) story, but haven’t pursued publication.
Morgen: Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
George: No, I hope not.
Morgen: Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
George: Tons. Although I constantly refined my submission letters, agents and editors seemed unwilling to take a chance on a first time author. Of Course, ALL authors are initially “First Time Authors.” Despite a bevy of rejection letters, I kept pitching. As I said, three of my novels were finalist it major writing contests, so I was confident of my skills and knew many now-famous authors had been heavily rejected before getting their first break. Among them John Grisham, Louis L’Amore (over 300!!) and J.K. Rowlings.
Morgen: And not forgetting Dean Koontz’s 500+. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
George: No agent, and I think they’re becoming less important. Many are already branching in to other areas, like publishing, and more publishers than ever are willing to consider direct submissions from authors.
Morgen: I’ve heard that too. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
George: Pretty much all of it. TAG does quite a bit for the E-Book, but print is largely up to me.
Morgen: What’s your least favourite aspect of your writing life?
George: Marketing. It takes away from the writing, but it’s a necessary evil. It can be overwhelming, but it’s very hard to sell any books with any level of success without a serious Internet and Media campaign. Too many other books out there, so why pick mine… no matter how intriguing it may be.
Morgen: Doing these interviews (over 700 to-date) has made me realise how many authors there are all trying to have their 10 minutes of exposure. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
George: Keep plugging, and I believe it’s imperative to attend several writers’ conferences or seminars (by qualified professionals!) and go to classes. It helped polish my skills and I was amazed at how many technically poor writers I’ve run into. I took my wife to several conferences, and a seminar by famous fiction agent, Donald Maass. It actually ruined her! She learned what makes great story-telling, and came to realize how much she used to enjoy was really poorly done!
Morgen: Oh dear. I’ve heard many authors criticise Dan Brown’s and JK Rowling’s writing but admit that they tell a great story. That’s what readers are after. If you had to choose a single day from your past to re-live over and over, what day would it be and why?
George: Can’t think of one. No matter how good or how bad, they were part of living life. It’s how we cope that matters.
Morgen: Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
George: Baskin & Robbins has 39 flavours for a reason.
Morgen: :) What do you do when you’re not writing?
George: Fly-fishing, but not often enough. I also build very fine cabinetry. I built every door (28!) and cabinet in my house. And I suffer through golf… or is it masochism! I also collect fine old ivory carvings.
Morgen: My house overlooks a golf course and I see some of my neighbours heading off on a Sunday morning. It doesn’t look like masochism to me. :) Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
George: I’ve joined several Fiction-writer forums, but have found them generally useless. A lot of authors either bragging or complaining, with a few good nuggets thrown in occasionally. Not really a venue to find many readers of my books. They clog up my e-mails. I’m looking for new, useful sites but am struggling.
Morgen: Being online is incredibly time-consuming and marketing is usually the answer to ‘least favourite’ question for that very reason. I find LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook enjoyable but am careful about how much time I spend on them, and yes, there are often others touting their wares but then we have to get known somehow. I prefer blogging but then I could be biased. What do you think the future holds for a writer?
George: More difficult than ever to get recognized by the Traditional market. It’s flooded, and they don’t care about you. Self-publishing is the thing of the future, as are E-books, but print is NOT going away. Self-promotion is the key… but it always was for any but the famous.
Morgen: Where can we find out about you and your writing?
George: My web site is: www.GeorgeABernstein.com. There’s an excerpt from ‘Trapped’ there, and the book trailer is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bWHMGC-QHK8.
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
George: Thanks for the opportunity. And I do ask anyone who decides to visit my book on Amazon, to “like” me, and if you read the book, PLEASE leave an honest review.
Morgen: Yes, please do. They should all be honest, shouldn’t they? We can live in hope. :) Thank you very much, George.
I then invited George to provide a synopsis of his novel…
Jackee Maren awakens from surgery to find a surgical accident has left her a physical vegetable. Only her eyes work, but her mind is still sharp. Her husband, Phil, hires a physical therapist, Kevin, who becomes her one connection to sanity, teaching her to talk by blinking her eyes. Then Jackee begins discovering she’s telepathic. As this strange new gift develops, she listens to other’s thoughts, learning her accident was NOT an accident! She eventually discovers who tried to kill her. Struggling to survive against their continued deadly intent, Jackee concocts a psychic plot for revenge, mentally manipulating the lives of those around her. But she must hurry, with only months to live.
George Bernstein is a youthful seventy-six-year-old, with a B.A. from Northwestern University, now living in south Florida, and the retired president of a publicly held Chicago company.
George's main interest is as a serious novelist. He has attended numerous writers’ conferences and seminars, including that of famous fiction agent, Donald Maass, and he has worked with independent editor, Dave King, all with the goal of improving his craft.
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