To celebrate World Schizophrenia Day (yes, it's a thing) I have an interview with fabulous mystery and YA author PD Workman up here today. One of her books, Looking Over Your Shoulder, features a protagonist with schizophrenia (as does my novella Every Last Thought). Here's an interview with the lady herself about her literary triumphs...
Hello PD! Thank you for agreeing to do this interview with me. Tell me a bit about yourself and your writing background.
I have always wanted to write books. Right from the time I was a little girl, stapling together construction paper and dreaming of filling them up with fascinating stories. At that point, I couldn’t read or write, so they were just filled with scribbles. I wrote my first novel (after three attempts) aged 12 and kept going.
I wrote for my own entertainment and didn’t start publishing until five years ago (realizing in the first year that during previous decades I was playing around and learning the craft). It is faster for me to write a new book than it is to fix one of the older ones to get it into publishable condition.
Book trailer for 'Looking Over Your Shoulder.'
You have loads of books out! Do you write several at the same time or focus on one book at a time?
I have learned to only work on one first draft at a time. But as I am working on that first draft, I have manuscripts in all other stages of publication. It can be interesting to keep track of them, especially if I have “extra” projects going on at the same time as my usual writing. April was an interesting month, working on two collaborative projects as well as my usual schedule.
Roughly how long does each book take you to write?
Writing a first draft generally takes 15-20 days. Then it takes six to eight months to take it to publications. My usual daily writing quota is a minimum of 5,000 words (which translates to about 20 pages.) For a longer book, such as the tomes in the Between the Cracks series, I may have a quota of 6,000-7,000 words per day.
How did you get yourself established as an author and what kind of promo/marketing do you do? Do you have a team to help you out?
It has been slower than I would like, and I am still learning the ropes as far as advertising and marketing go. I do weekly newsletters, at least two blogs a week, try to post to my Facebook page at least once a day, do AMS advertising and am still wrestling with Facebook advertising. I do some school or speaking events. I don’t have a virtual assistant; it is all me. Though I am trying to get some professional help with rewriting blurbs/book descriptions. I have an editor on monthly retainer and a team of ARC readers.
What main challenges have you faced as an author?
Marketing is a big one. Operating on a shoestring. Finding the time to write, even if it meant writing in parking lots. Things that take up my time, like working an office job, homeschooling, and family members going through their struggles. Do I sleep? At least a few hours a night.
What is your favourite genre to read/write in?
I read mostly crime — mystery, suspense, thriller. Some literary. A little fiction. Some children’s/young adult. Not much in the way of fantasy or sci fi, but you can tempt me with Orson Scott Card.
I started off writing young adult contemporary, and diverted so that I am mostly writing mystery now (a bigger, hungrier market). I hadn’t written fantasy since high school, so wasn’t sure how I would do with my paranormal mystery series (spun off from the Auntie Clem’s Bakery series). But Reg Rawlins, Psychic Investigator is such a fun character to write, and I have really enjoyed digging into various folk beliefs and mythologies to portray the magical races used in that series.
I really feel compelled to speak for those who have been marginalized and misunderstood. A lot of times, that means I am writing about abuse and mental illness. When I see an injustice, I want to tell people about it and to make them see it. The way I communicate those things is through story.
The topics that I feel the need to tell stories about may be in the news, something I have seen or experienced, or topics that my friends and readers email me about or send me articles on. They have talked to me about EDS, hair strand testing, electric shocks of autistic individuals, medical kidnap, the marginalization of aboriginal youth, and other topics that I’m sure I’m not remembering right now. It is incredibly gratifying to get an email from someone who says “thank you for writing about this” because it helps them not to feel so alone.
It is also so good to hear "I never knew that this was happening. I googled it as soon as I finished reading your book, and it's a real thing! I couldn't believe I'd never heard it before." Because that means I'm doing my job. I'm educating at the same time as I'm entertaining and people are really “getting it.”
Series versus stand-alones: which have you had more success writing and why?
Series definitely do better in the marketplace. Readers like to stay in your world and really get to know it. They ask for more. When is the next book in the series coming out? When I started publishing, I was putting out a lot of stand-alones, and while they are great books, they don’t have nearly the same sale-ability as a series. I am only putting out one standalone this year. When I have an idea I want to write about, I immediately think about which series it would fit into the best.
What is the most wonderful thing about being a writer?
I love to write and to create. I probably get more joy and satisfaction out of writing a book than my readers do from reading them. I love to explore characters and find out what will happen next. I love to reread them again later. I also love hearing from my readers and seeing the excitement on someone’s face when they find out that I’m a “real writer.”
Who are your main literary inspirations?
One of the biggest was probably S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders. Jay Bennet and Kristen D. Randle write the same type of thing. Deep, poignant characters, suspense, living on the edge or the wrong side of the law. Those kids really spoke to me.
I have a lot of other favourite authors. J.R.R. Tolkien, Agatha Christie, Earl Stanley Gardner, Lee Child, James Patterson, and so many more.
Finally, any advice for young aspiring writers?
Keep writing, exploring, and learning. Don’t let other people talk you out of doing what you love or put limits on you. Get into your characters’ heads and find out what happens next.
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pdworkmanauthor
Videos and images used in this post all credited to PD Workman.
Interview with Lauren Alder - https://www.thezarinamachablog.co.uk/2018/09/an-interview-with-author-lauren-alder.html
Reviewing contemporary poems - https://www.thezarinamachablog.co.uk/2019/05/reviewing-contemporary-poetry-books.html
Reviewing 'Sex, Death and Canapes' by Petrina Binney - https://www.thezarinamachablog.co.uk/2019/03/book-review-sex-death-and-canapes.html