October is all about celebrating the fantastic local talent here within our SCBWI Oklahoma group. I’ll be sharing great insights from our phenomenal fall retreat and highlighting some of our brave authors who allowed me to interview them here on the blog.
No stranger to this blog, back in early August, Doug shared the cover reveal of his latest book with us. Doug’s third self-published book, RIVALS (SKID #2), is celebrating its book launch this week. Doug really knows the business of self-publishing and knows how hard one has to work to take this challenging route to publication.
Now for the even harder part, answering my probing interview questions.
(Make sure you stay tuned. There’s a chance for awesome prizes at the end.)
Valerie Lawson: Your protagonist in RIVALS is a female racecar driver, what unique challenges did writing about her world from her POV present for you?
Doug Solter: Well, one big challenge was writing from a teenage girl’s POV. Honestly, I couldn’t have done that without reading piles of young adult novels by female authors. This allowed me to step inside Samantha’s head and present her in what I hope is an honest representation that other girls can empathize with. Another challenge was exposing female readers to the world of racing without turning them completely off. Maintaining a balance between Samantha’s person life and racing was crucial is this regard. Based on feedback from readers of the first book, many were surprised how interested they were in the racing scenes. I think it was because they were experiencing it through the eyes of a character they’re invested in and so they’re willing to open themselves up to that strange world of racing.
VL: Tons of research and engage the reader by making them care about the character. Very sound advice.
What was the inspiration for this book?
DS: Rivals is the second book of my Skid young adult racing series. The inspiration for Skid was initially a screenplay I wrote called Season of Speed. I wanted to do a racing story involving someone from Oklahoma who moves away from a small town and steps into a much larger world. One big thing was that I wanted the driver to be a young woman instead of the usual guy. When I made the switch to writing young adult novels, this screenplay became a book and I knocked down Samantha’s age to 17 instead of 23. Rivals is a continuation of Samantha’s story, dealing with her second season in Formula One.
VL: We’ve personally talked about your background in screenplay writing and how you’ll write screenplay adaptations for your novels. I love how you do this just as an exercise and how it helps you write more visually.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer? When did you start pursuing that seriously?
DS: It happened in two stages for me. My brain was always filled with creative juices leaking out in the form of day-dreaming and thinking about “what if”. But then I didn’t know how to channel that creativity in some form of art. Creative writing itself seemed too daunting at the time. But in my twenties I worked as a production assistant on a local film that a friend of mine at the time was producing. The script was awful. Bad dialogue, cardboard characters, predictable ending. It caused me to think about writing my own screenplay. I did write one and it got me hooked on screenwriting. After my fourth script made the semi-finals in the prestigious Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting, I finally believed that writing was something I did do well and I should really pursue it. Stage two. I wrote eight scripts and submitted those to film production companies and Hollywood agents with some interest here and there but no deals. And then the economy in 2008 tanked and the screenplay spec market dried up. No one was buying scripts from unknown writers, so I switched tactics and decided to write my first book. And here we are.
VL: Switching gears a bit, let’s talk about your formative years. What was the worst job you ever had while going to school?
DS: I didn’t work during high school, but on one summer break from college I worked at a telemarketing company. I would call people using the phone book (pre-internet) and tried to convince them to buy passes for a charity event that was suppose to help local kids. It was awful and I hated it. Plus I wasn’t sure if the passes we were selling actually did raise money for the kids. I quit after like a month or two.
VL: Yikes. That definitely qualifies as an awful job. I applaud you for lasting that long.
Tell me about the most interesting place you have ever lived. What did you like/hate most about it?
DS: After graduating college, I lived in Fairfield, Iowa for two weeks to work at a video production company that did info-commercials. What I didn’t know was that Fairfield is the center of the Maharishi Transcendental Meditation movement. Almost everyone there is a self-proclaimed “meditator” so I instantly felt like an outsider, especially when people were constantly asking me if I was one of them. The town was out in the middle of nowhere and there was nothing to do there but…meditate. The only good thing was meeting Dawn Wells (Mary Ann) of Gilligan’s Island fame when she came to do an info-commercial about rice cookers.
VL: That is completely surreal. And sounds like the plot of a great story.
Tell us about your self-publishing experience. What’s harder/easier about this path to publication? Why was this path right for this story?
DS: Self-publishing takes more work. It’s all up to the writer to handle all the publishing steps and to maintain a level of quality that the reader expects when they hand over their money. The book must go through beta readers, a thorough editing process, and finally a proofread to purge as many errors as possible. I can distribute the eBook quite easily on-line and also have a paperback version available for giveaways, local signings, and those readers who prefer paper. Do I get into Barnes & Noble? No. But 90% of my sales are through eBooks anyway so it’s not that big of a deal.
I went the traditional publishing route with my first book Skid. Queried over 60 agents. Sent out manuscripts to publishers and all that. I did receive positive feedback from a few people, but not enough to take on the book. So after that process, I decided to try the self-publishing route as an experiment in order to learn the process and see if it was a viable last option. The process was harder than I thought going in, but I’m still glad I did it. I’m convinced that Skid or Rivals would have never been published otherwise.
VL: Any tips you’d give other writers considering self-publication?
DS: You still must act like a professional. That means don’t take short cuts with your work. Hire out professionals to do your book cover and editing. If you can’t create the eBook or paperback yourself, you can hire those professional services too. The eBook revolution is not a gold mine. You must publish a lot of books and readers must find them among the sea of titles that are available. You must build up a fan base from scratch. This takes time, good marketing, and patience. You must think and act like an entrepreneur because your writing is a business and you must treat it as such.
VL: Very sound advice. And it looks as if you followed it to the letter. Your covers are so captivating and from the pages I’ve read, you’ve really taken the time to craft your story. I love Samantha. We need more characters like her.
What has been your favorite book to read/book you’ve been most excited about over the past year?
DS: I finally read Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell this year and loved it. The setting took me right back to school in the 80’s. I was on that very same bus that was described in the book. Perfect representation of that time period. I loved both characters and the story itself felt more down to earth and real. Not so much plot driven but character driven in many aspects.
VL: Loved, loved, loved, that book! I felt my hair getting bigger as I read each page.
What are you currently working on?
DS: The next book I’m working on is Skid #3 which I hope will be out by early spring of next year.
VL: Doug, thank you so much for sharing your time and your knowledge with us.
Good luck with your book and the rest of your tour!
Book Tour Itinerary
To Learn more about RIVALS (SKID #2) and to follow Doug on the remainder of his launch tour or to catch up on stops you may have missed, here are stops:
September 29th – Guest Post – BC Brown – http://bcbrownbooks.blogspot.com
September 30th – Character Post – Jess Mountifield – http://www.jessmountifield.co.uk/
October 1st – Guest Post – Mandy Anderson – http://twimom101bookblog.blogspot.com/
October 2nd – Guest Post – Skyler Finn – http://randomofalife.blogspot.com/
October 3rd – Author interview – Valerie Lawson – https://valerierlawson.wordpress.com/
October 6th – Character Interview – Jessica L. Brooks – http://www.coffeelvnmom.blogspot.com
October 7th – Character Post – Melissa Robles – http://thereaderandthechef.blogspot.com
October 8th – Author interview – Dani Duck – http://daniduckart.blogspot.ca
October 9th – Gif Interview – Kate Tilton – http://katetilton.com/blog
October 10th – Guest post – Jasmine – http://bookgroupies2.blogspot.com
Learn more about Doug Solter here.
Follow Doug on Twitter here.
Doug has a fantastic launch-wide giveaway that you can enter right here. He’s giving away two autographed copies of his books – one copy of SKID and one of RIVALS. Click on the link below to enter.
ENTER HERE!!! ➤➤➤ Doug Solter’s Rafflecopter giveaway