Grandpa Hank’s Writer Interview – Ron Walters (Part I)

Posted by on Jan 30, 2014 in Writer Interviews | 1 comment

Grandpa Hank’s Writer Interview – Ron Walters (Part I)

Wooohooo, it’s interview time again. This time we’re headed to the wonderful world of fiction to speak with an incredibly imaginative writer out of Bitburg, Germany by way of Savannah, Georgia. His name – Ronald Walters. (Note: Read that last line in a James Earl Jones style voice. Here, I’ll give it to you again so you can hear it with the same resonant timber that Ron’s introduction deserves.)

His name – Ronald Walters.

Thanks for that wonderful introduction James Earl.

Ron is a stay-at-home father who has been tirelessly working on novels and short stories for the better part of a decade. Before moving to Germany (where he assures us that beer is blessedly cheaper than water) he worked as a reporter for a small town newspaper and supervised a college registrar’s office. I believe he’s the perfect person to interview for this blog because he represents so much of what being a writer is about. After many years of rejections and refining his craft, he’s finally broken through, getting at least a small dose of notoriety for his work, which you can check out here

Ron has a lot of great stuff to say about how he’s gotten to where he is, his favorite projects, and his definition of success. Enjoy.

GRANDPA HANK: Can you identify what tends to spark your stories if anything?

RON WALTERS: For what it’s worth, this was the hardest of your questions to answer. So thanks for starting with it.

If I do have anything like a muse or story spark, the fickle bastard lives inside my car. I’ll be driving along, trying to add up the numbers my four-year-old likes to throw at me (“What’s 152 plus 52? What’s 4 plus 87 hundred plus sixty-ten? What’s 3 plus 162-ten-forty?”), when all of a sudden a character appears in my head and is all, “Hey.”

Usually said character shows up with some sort of fantastical or supernatural baggage. If I’m lucky, he or she also lives somewhere. If they don’t, I’m kind of screwed because for some reason if I don’t have a setting in mind, it’s really hard for me to start a story. Settings are kind of my anchor, I guess.

However, until I sit down and start writing, I have no idea what the story is about. I’m not a planner. Believe me, I’ve tried. What I’ve learned is that attempting to outline a potential story is the surest way to kill it, at least for me. It works for other people, and more power to them. If I personally want something to work, I just have to let the words flow and not think about what I’m writing – which I know sounds super cheesy, and doesn’t make much sense, but such is my writing life.

Tangentially, I’m not the kind of writer who has a notebook full of ideas. When an idea does hit me, it’s usually completely unexpected. Sometimes I jot it down, sometimes I don’t. But I’ve learned that if it’s a really good idea—something I feel compelled to write about—it will stick in my head and start fermenting. I know, I like living life on the edge. I’m hardcore like that.

Overall though, I tend to gravitate toward stories in which an everyman sort of character finds himself caught up in a paranormal, urban fantasy type of situation.

Also, something usually explodes. Did I actually answer the question?

GH: Yes, Ron. You answered that question, but there’s a second and more treacherous question lurking. – How is your writing career different or the same than you envisioned when you first decided you wanted to be a writer?

RW: One word: Kids. Any notion of following “the rules” for writing got tossed out with the first soggy diaper. When you have kids, you cram in your writing time whenever and wherever you can. The problem for me is, I’m a morning person. But in order to wake up before my kids and be productive, I’d have to get up around 3 AM, and that’s just not going to happen. I’ve tried writing at night, but by the end of the day I’m totally burned out so I tend to write when my youngest is taking a nap. For that hour or two, my oldest gets to binge on cartoons.

When I’m actively writing—I’m a recent convert (by necessity, I guess) to the idea that you don’t have to write every single day, or even every week. I shoot for 2K words a day. (Editor’s note: He means “two thousand” not that he writes “kickboxing” and “kaboom” and calls it quits.) On a good day I can write around a thousand words an hour. Just imagine how many books I could write in a given year if I didn’t have kids! (Second editor’s note: Ron loves his kids dearly, he’s simply making a point.) Of course, then I’d probably have to get a job—I’m a stay-at-home dad, which is not without its frustrations, but for a writer is actually a pretty decent gig.

To be honest, though, I didn’t decide I wanted to be a writer until sometime in my mid-20s. I worked on my high school newspaper, cranked out college literature essays like no one’s business, and then after college got a job as a reporter for The St. Augustine Record. (St. Augustine, Florida) I always knew I had some sort of aptitude for writing. But it wasn’t until The Record that I realized two things…

One, I could actually write fairly well, and on a pretty strict deadline. (My personal best was when I had to write four articles between noon and 5PM on a Friday, without any prior prep on any of them.) And two, newspaper writing wasn’t the sort of writing I wanted to do. I kept trying to write more “flowery,” and that just doesn’t fly for most newspapers. At that point, I started writing really, really, really horrible “literary” short stories that were mostly flashbacks and had next to nothing in the way of plot or forward momentum. This went on for several years, until one day about six months after my first daughter was born, something clicked. I finally wrote an actual book. Which leads into the next question …

GH: What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome so far as a writer?

RW: Writing an actual book. The idea of writing an entire novel is still daunting, and I’ve done it twice now. Before I wrote the first, the most I’d ever written was maybe a 4,000-word short story. But then my wife came across NaNoWriMo, and I decided to give it a whirl. The idea is, you’ve got the month of November to write a book. That’s right, 30 DAYS to write a book. It’s madness. But I did it. I managed 58,000 words. The “book,” if you can even call it that, was utter crap. But I’d never written so many words about a single topic in my entire life. And that became my watershed. Granted, I didn’t sit down and finally write what I consider my first actual book for another year and a half. But I’d broken my word count barrier, and that’s what mattered.

When I did finally write my first “real” book, what ultimately helped was letting my mind go, the whole not thinking about what I was doing while I was doing it. To borrow a phrase from a novelist I once interviewed, I had to learn how to enter a writing “dream state.” It sounds hokey, but it’s true. Also, I wrote the first draft on an iPhone 3. Crazy as it sounds, the small screen helped me ignore what I’d written and focus instead on moving forward. This was huge for me. I can rework a single sentence for days if I let myself, but that sort of behavior belongs in the editing phase, which was something else I had to learn. Namely, you’ve gotta wait to wipe away the unnecessary crap until you’re done pooping out the rough draft.

See what parenting has done to my metaphors?

GH: As a new parent, I can relate. All my metaphors involve poop. But that was true long before my kid arrived.

Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion of the Ron Walters interview next week!

photo credit: szeke via photopin cc

One Comment

  1. OMG, you so clearly hate your kids …

    **snicker** Sorry, I couldn’t even carry it out for a full sentence. Thanks for the interview. It’s always fun to read how other writers find their ideas.

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  1. Way To Go, Ron Walters! | Grandpa Hank's Writing Shack - […] Award! Check out his first two chapters here and if you can, leave a review. Also, check out Ron’s …

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