Thursday, January 9, 2014

Why I Write

Publishing is a crazy, unstable business and few writers earn enough money to pay their expenses. The last I heard, 95% of us earn less than $15,000 a year and the average book sells fewer than a hundred copies.

So why would anyone in her right mind devote so much time and effort to writing and marketing books? Is it the desire to give birth to something unique? A need for recognition? Or the desire to inform and entertain? Perhaps I can’t answer the question. I just know that writing is imprinted in my DNA.
I sold my first book in 1981, a collection of interviews with politicians, authors, artists, craftsmen and ordinary people who had accomplished extraordinary things. The book was published by Pruett Publishing in Boulder, Colorado, and sold some 2,000 copies. I traveled around the state to take part in signing parties and sold 40 books the first time at a small town in eastern Wyoming. My signing parties then slid downhill from there.
My second book required more than three years of research and writing and eventually became a college textbook. I shudder to think how little I’ve earned for my time spent although the books have sold steadily over the years from different publishers. My third was a book of interviews with well-known writers of the West, including Louis L’Amour and Hollywood screenwriters. It’s still selling online but I’ve never received a royalty payment because I was told it didn’t earn out its advance.

After checking WorldCat, the library site, I found that there are still copies of Maverick Writers available in 114 libraries, including Yale, Harvard, Stanford and Baverische Staaftsbibliothek in Munich, Germany. Now, there’s a reason to continue writing. The advance I received barely covered travel expenses, so satisfaction and eternal hope are also motivations to continue writing as well as the satisfaction I receive from it.
I then decided to write my first novel from leftover microfilm research. Escape on the Wind took a number of years to write and was helped along by the advice of two award-winning western authors, Richard S. Wheeler and Fred Grove. It’s now in its fourth edition and retitled Escape, a Wyoming Historical Novel. It remains my best selling book.

I next began work on my first mystery novel, originally titled Shirl Lock & Holmes, a humorous senior sleuth novel, which was originally published in 1999 as an ebook and later in hardcover with another publisher, which eventually closed its doors. I then changed the characters’ names and it was republished as A Village Shattered in print, Kindle and soon-to-become an audio book.
I’ve written a number of nonfiction books along the way, none of which sold more than several hundred copies, so I decided to write what I enjoy reading most: another mystery novel, Diary of Murder, the second in my Logan & Cafferty series, which was followed by Murder on the Interstate, Gray Wolf Mountain and A Murder in Paradise. I enjoy writing about my senior sleuths, Dana Logan and Sarah Cafferty, two 60-year-old, feisty widows who are not afraid to push the envelope when it comes to crime detection, or to brave the elements by driving their motorhome through a Rocky Mountain blizzard. Dana and Sarah are like old friends whom I thoroughly enjoy visiting each day and eavesdropping on their conversations.

I think I’ve found the answer to the question I asked. I write because it’s fun and deeply satisfying.

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