Episode 100B – Will Pepper – Switching Genre

Overview

Will is an interesting writer. When he started writing, he wrote kids choose your own adventure books. Now he is switching to writing adult thrillers. That’s what he loves, and it makes the writing more fun and leads to a better story.

We discuss his influences, which are a bit surprising for a thriller writer, and what’s next.

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Transcript

[00:00:50] Stephen: Yeah. All right. So let’s talk some author stuff, which we do quite a bit. Yes. And the publishing the [00:01:00] business, and there’s a whole lot to it. Now you said you wrote the, choose your own adventure books almost as an experiment, which I thought was great because I did the same thing with a few fiction books.

I wrote them to see if I could do it, to see what it’s like to publish, see if they would sell, see how all of that jet. What did, what were some other things you learned from writing the, choose your own adventure books that are helping you now writing thriller?

[00:01:28] Will: Yeah. They cover that showcases your general.

I say that because we were very fortunate that we had a great cover artist who did the first two covers for our a series of fund mistakes. He donated them and he is very tired. He is a comic book artist though. So the covers people contacted us and said, I don’t have all the images. I don’t have all the illustrations.

And that was something that we had not thought about. So the last two books go [00:02:00] more along with the John. So I would say your cover is extremely important. Study others in your genre and don’t feel bad if you think I’m stealing from them. Everybody steals from everybody. Okay. If you are writing a mystery and there is somebody with a magnifying glass and a trench coat on another book, see how that book sold.

Okay. Maybe you need something just like that or just a variation. And the other thing I’ve learned is to listen to your fans. I had no intention of writing an entire saga for port. Until the fans started saying, where does it go? What’s next? And then it really helped me get feedback to start saying, okay, let’s take the character in this direction.

Let’s see what people think. Let’s listen to our launch team, see what they think about this. So it really was something, listen to your fans and get a cover that fits your job. There

[00:02:55] Stephen: you go. And I agree. Over and over, [00:03:00] even from J D Barker, J D burger’s been with Jim Patterson on the, a New York times bestseller.

And he said, if the guy over here in your genre is selling books and he has a girl looking to the left and there’s a sunset behind her, you should put a girl looking to the left with a son. It is not just because the cover is what. Need to say, oh yeah, I like that type of book. It’s not to say, oh, the story in that book looks great.

[00:03:32] Will: You don’t see a vampire book with just like a ship on the cup. It might take place on a ship, but you need to see something that is power related. You need to see things, you see blood, you need to see a bat and you see it. But you know, it takes place on a ship then maybe you see like bigger and a cake Dracula on a ship, but you don’t have.

And

[00:03:54] Stephen: I think it’s changed through the years. I think sometimes people look at stuff from like the seventies [00:04:00] that they read loved growing up and they go, oh, I want it like that because you mentioned vampires. I believe Kings Salem’s lot. The first cover was black with two teeth and red blood dripping off the one.

And that was the cover, which worked well at the time. It still may work well now, but you can’t necessarily say what worked in the seventies works in 20. So

[00:04:24] Will: definitely. And speaking of Stephen King, we listened to his book later that came on a road trip recently, and the cover is a kid and a lady leaning against her car.

And it later is about a kid that can speak to dead people, but he’s Stephen King. He can do that. He’s earned the right to just have a cover. Yeah. Okay.

[00:04:49] Stephen: It’s interesting you say that because he’s probably one of the very few that really could do that. Cause even like James Patterson, which we’ve mentioned, he still gets [00:05:00] covers that fit the genre.

He writes in tons of genres with multiple people, but the cover always fits in. I don’t think very many of Patterson’s books do something stylish or whatever, you know? So, yeah, there you go. So what software do you use to write and what services do you like?

[00:05:21] Will: I would say I start with Scribner. Let’s start with scaffold.

Scaffolding is a corkboard type program where you can go through and just move. You can put in information and say, okay, act one, act two, act three. And you move things around and see where they work from there. Move it into. Which is a word processing program. I use pro writing aid, which is a editing program that will tell me, okay, that’s a little too passive or that word doesn’t exist.

Well, you’ve got to come up with something. And then from that, I think actually one of the things I do is this is my notate. Okay. And the reason I love my note eight, this is my favorite quote of all [00:06:00] time. I’m not sponsored, but I have my stylist and I can write anything that I want right here. So if we are going somewhere and it hits me, I can just jot it down there.

Oh, there you go. Oh my gosh. Yeah. Okay, cheers on that. Awesome man. Yes. I love this thing. So that is just generally what we use. How about you?

[00:06:23] Stephen: I’m pretty much the same setup. It’s funny though, with the phone more often than not, I’ve been using, I think it’s Google live transcribe. And if I think of something, I’ll just start talking into that and it just puts it on text and then I can just copy it out.

[00:06:37] Will: That’s all. I’ve got my voice recorder when I’m driving and an idea hits me and I just like, oh, And of course, I don’t look at it within 24 hours ago. Why did I say airflow? Was I hungry or was there a bear claw involved in something almost exactly

[00:06:54] Stephen: the Scrivener, which I personally love. And it’s probably because my analytical brain nicely organized the thing.

Is [00:07:00] that what you used to get your, choose your own adventure laid out? Or how did you plan those? What was your steps?

[00:07:09] Will: I had not started using Scribner until the last book. And I had didn’t even have scaffold. When I wound up getting scaffold, it made the world, it made it so much easier because I was completing a story and I needed to answer the questions that happened in act one of the first book.

So I had a wonderful way to move things around too, and it really helped me move things in a logical. But before that, I just literally had paper and word, and I just wrote like that. I just saw where it went, but it probably would have been a lot easier if I outlined more than just doing something in a list, being able to take an idea and say, what if this happens 10 pages earlier and move it up here.

Does that increase the pacing? Does that hurt character development? So I did not do it like that, but for the last book, Very [00:08:00] satisfying. Some fans have said, okay. Yes. The answer, the questions that I was wondering about it really helped to have the outlining software of scalpel and Scribner where I could just move things around.

[00:08:11] Stephen: Yeah. I agree with that. Have you looked into any of the interactive fiction software that’s out there?

[00:08:18] Will: I have not. I, I honestly have not looked into it. I’ve heard so little about. I know that there is a in game theory, there’s some stuff out there that people talk about that I have not looked at. Okay.

[00:08:31] Stephen: I was just curious because I’ve looked into a few because what’s nice about some of them is you can, once you export it, it’s in HTML and JavaScript.

Put it on, you just put the pages on your website. So I thought it would be a great way. Have the story available without having to necessarily go through all the publishing, plus then you can do fun things like put in weapons and stuff, and then the next time you come to that room, it’s not there, but stuff like that, that you really can’t do on a published book.

So I was just [00:09:00] curious, do you have any thoughts or plans of doing any more your own adventure at some point going back to doing that

[00:09:07] Will: maybe right now, I have this series that I’m working on and I have an idea for another series. Uh, that are outlined and it is something that I could see coming back to at one point, but it is not going to be next.

I’d say a few years, I’ve really got some stuff that I want to get out there to get the ideas out of my head and actually on paper and away from me. But I could see revisiting it at one point.

[00:09:35] Stephen: Okay. So I’ve got a couple of years. I can get mine out, not going to hit my

[00:09:41] Will: look. It is fun. I wrecked me. It is, it is a great way to do it.

So I’m excited for you, man. I would love I’ve had other authors ask me, as I said, how do I do this? And I would love to share, I would love people to take it and run with it. I would love for this to it. We should

[00:09:57] Stephen: not. Now down the road a couple of years after [00:10:00] I do some of the things I’m doing, we should elaborate on like how to write a, choose your own adventure.

That’d be a lot of problem because it’d be cool.

[00:10:07] Will: It’s module based. It is, you know, basically coding saying, okay, where do you move certain modules? What do you mean? What mistakes you make? How do you look back? So it is a lot of computer, but it’s computer thinking, but I think there’ll be a lot of

[00:10:21] Stephen: fun.

Yeah. Oh, that’d be cool. We’ll have to keep that in mind. That’d be fun to look at doing that a couple of years down the road.

You went from kids’ books to join adventure fund kids books. And you went great. Now that I’ve got some writing, I’ve got established a name out there and author named I’m going to scrap all that and go with something completely different and different genre, different age group, every. Why make that you already said you wanted the right thriller, but I know a lot of people that would have been hard because you already spent time on this and building and you could have put out some more kids books and probably got a bigger [00:11:00] audience, easier quicker.

So was there anything other than, Hey, this is really what I want to do.

[00:11:07] Will: It was tough to say, okay. We’ve I just said we developed a following. You have people that like. And it’s one of the reasons that I wanted to complete the story before I went on to write growth. I’ve known I’ve as a reader, I’ve read too many authors that I’ve been a fan of their work, and then they just stopped writing it, or they said, why didn’t I write this other thing?

I’m a big fan of shiny object syndrome. Okay. If I see it, I want to grab it. Okay. I want to write something else. I think the loyalty to the fans of okay. Have to complete the story. Yes. I don’t expect all those fans to follow us because they, they were reading for nostalgia. Some people were reading it to their kids because they said, I grew up with this and I want you to have fun reading this.

We’re gonna go through and make the choices together. I know people that did this as a family and just sat there with, make the choices, just make a night of it. [00:12:00] And then there is a broader book where you got as a single person reading the book. It is business-wise, it’s changing the brand, it’s changing the genres, but this is really where I’m passionate.

This is where I get to really shine. And this is going to be a lot of fun to read, because I appreciate this type of reading. This is something that I’m going to go to the bookstore. I’m going to grab this book and I’m going to read this. And so writing something that I like to read, I hope that my passion shows through and people say, okay, I see why he made it.

[00:12:36] Stephen: Okay. Nice. And you are, you’re using different pseudonyms 3, 2, 1, right? Yes. It’s.

[00:12:42] Will: It’s funny. My, the, a series of fun events had the name w a pepper, the third, it written out phonetically. And the reason is the us census for some reason. [00:13:00] Sent me, my census in my name spelled out like that. They had me as Mr.

The third and I had to explain to somebody over the phone. Okay. I am the third person named this. I am named after my grandfather. He was named after my father. My name is not the third. And they said, I don’t know what that means. And I’m like, so WAP, the third lives on, in an interactive. But w period, eight period pepper is going to be my thriller.

[00:13:33] Stephen: Okay. So you’re releasing the book in June, it’s in editing right now. So it seems like you could release it sooner. So what are some of the things you’re doing to prepare because you use the other books to learn from, which is perfect and great. So I assume you’ve got some things in mind to build up for that release.

Could you share some of the.

[00:13:54] Will: What we want to do is want to have the book as ready as possible and get it out. [00:14:00] Advanced reader, copies to people, get them out, reviewers, get them out to people that are fellow writers, people that could give us some feedback that we could actually have build kind of a momentum before it’s just released.

And we also want to do this with an audio book because so many people will say, you have told me, oh, I understand you’ve got a book, but I only listen to audio. We want to be able to, if we release at the same time. Great. If we don’t tend to tear it to say this week, the paperback comes out the next week, the audio book, because we want to push the momentum as much as the snowball effect as possible.

So we’re just now reading about booklet. Programs about, if you want to get reviews, if you want to get in the trades, if you want to give them the libraries, you want to get awards. So we’re learning all this. And so that’s what we’re learning so that we can put that together for the book launch. So that’s why it’s June.

So we can learn, try some stuff and then say, okay, this gives us a chance to get this book as [00:15:00] good and out there as possible to give it a fighting chance.

[00:15:02] Stephen: Nice. Okay. And it’ll be interesting to keep up with you a little bit. But some of the things you do, and if we talk again later, find out what worked and what didn’t, that’d be great.

I

[00:15:13] Will: would love to, it’s a, it is a group effort here learning. I love sharing what I’ve learned and I can say I’ve made many mistakes. My wife, I don’t know if you’ve seen this meme, but there’s a meme of Skeletor and Skeletor’s the enemy from He-Man and he says something and then he runs away. And so I made this for my wife.

Will you have a real problem with tents in this book, see you in six weeks. And I did, I had a problem with tents because I was not thinking about it. I said, I want to write in present active. I want to do it like they did the hunger games, maze runner. And then I was like, I wrote in past tense. Oh. So I had to make all these changes because I want people to feel more in the moment.

Those are the mistakes that I’ve made as a novice writers is somebody is putting [00:16:00] out their first full length. And I’m, I’m going to be learning. I’m going to be making mistakes and I’m excited to make those mistakes and to share them with everybody. Yeah.

[00:16:11] Stephen: And I myself have been learning the story part of that’s one thing and some of the craft part, and it started off like a lot of authors.

Oh, I wrote something. Let me send it to an editor. I got a lot of. But I definitely kept the mindset I’m learning. And I took that as a learning thing. And the first thing I wrote, literally I ripped out half 70,000 words. I took 35,000 out. Cause I’m like, this is all crap. I see that. But I haven’t even done anything with it to set it aside.

Cause I moved to something else. And the advice I would give somebody who’s even newer than me. Right. A bunch of things, write a short story, write a long novel, write another short story, get it edited, learn what you’re doing. Bad use pro writing aid and use it as a learning tool. Don’t be so focused on, I wrote something, let me [00:17:00] publish it.

That’s what I learned myself. Okay.

[00:17:02] Will: And there’s some people that can do that and more power to them. I would love to get to that point that it’s just done. And like when my wife said, if you ever get to the point that you write something and it’s perfect, we have other issues to deal with. I really, I’m not a person that initially liked feedback on one of my manuscripts.

My wife bounds a major plot holes, and I just stared at her and she could just see like fire shooting from eyes. And it took three days for me to say, okay, you’re right. You’re right. That’s an issue. Otherwise I’m just like, oh, it’s done. It’s break. I don’t even think it’s great. I think it’s, I was going to buy this one point on eBay or Amazon.

There is a fake gold. Okay. And that’s the way I feel about my writing right there. Oh, but it’s gold, but it’s crap. Okay. And so if I finished something and say, I feel I’m gonna have to put it away for a bit. Cause I don’t know how I feel about it. That’s a good sign because that means I’ll be more open looking at it [00:18:00] later.

Yeah, absolutely. It is growing in the writing. That’s the thing with the 2017 manuscript, my writing has changed and I came from a screen writing background. So I would be more dialogue. And you’d have less SIG. Now I’m learning how much setting is a character itself. You don’t have the shining without the, without the hotel.

Okay. It is a creature. All right. And it is something that you sit there and you have to craft. So it’s, it’s, I’m becoming more patient, but I’m also like, Ooh. Maybe it’s done, then I’ll put it to the side, come back and look at it, but you can edit something to death. So that’s why it’s off to an editor right now.

And they can tell me, okay, this works, this doesn’t work, and we’ll go from there. And

[00:18:46] Stephen: that’s something that I learned from JD. I’m still learning is some of the little things people get nit picky about and worry about and change again. And that’s when someone reads your story. [00:19:00] They get done with the whole book.

They’re not gonna remember every individual sentence and word choice. They remember the overall story. So that’s the most important part. And I think sometimes that gets lost that a lot of authors myself included focus too much on the grammar, the spelling, and what should I put this in a Tallix or not Italian?

I was doing that in J D basically said, shut up. Who cares if I tell you to Italax put it in Italian. So if I tell you to pick it out, it doesn’t matter. Move on with the story.

[00:19:29] Will: And so rarely are those things that fatal flaw. My wife and I were listening to a different book and a character made the complete opposite choice that we thought was going to happen.

And so we had to stop listening to the boat for about 10 minutes. Okay. Just very mad at this writer because they don’t know what they’re doing. They don’t know. And then they hit planes that go in a few minutes ago. Okay. That’s why they did that. Okay. Okay. Still not very happy with it, but I can see. So it’s something that didn’t make us stop.

Listen, look, [00:20:00] no, we just had to take a break and get angry for a minute and then say, okay, all right. It

[00:20:04] Stephen: works. Yeah. It makes me laugh even more now because you get those. I haven’t seen them on my stuff, but others you’ll see, someone will give it a one-star because I found this word that was missing an apostrophe really?

That’s a one-star reason that that’s gotta be some other writer. That’s just trying to knock other people down.

[00:20:27] Will: Yeah. And it’s, I don’t want to be that person because there are times that I just get so mad because some writer there I’m comparing their current work to the old work, and that is completely unfair.

I should sit there and just be learning to be patient about it and say, okay, look at it from just this. No, this silo point of view, this book, I’ve got a one store review before it did not have comments because I was going to, they’ve been awesome. I’ve seen people put on a mug or one star. Anybody watching this that does not mean give me a one star review and if you do, [00:21:00] I’m sorry.

[00:21:01] Stephen: Yeah. Move on to a different author. That’s right.

[00:21:05] Will: I recommend other people, the people that I just talked about, the bread melters, Ruth weighers please read their work. I do. They’re

[00:21:11] Stephen: great. Yeah, I agree. Of course, it’s been great talking to you. I had a great time. I’m glad we met this summer and we’re catching up on things.

But before we go, though, what last minute advice would you give to new authors out there?

[00:21:28] Will: I that’s a very good question. I think I would like to say this. I wrote my first book, my first manuscript when I was 15 years old, as in. I had an idea. I really worked on it and I sent it out to agents and I actually had one agent call me.

And when she found out that I was 15 years old, she said, there’s no way you wrote this and hung up on. And that shook me to my core, but I [00:22:00] thought that people would think I was plagiarizing. I thought people would say, I was like, I thought, I thought all these negative thoughts that were already in the back of my head because to the writers and, uh, future writers that are watching this, that have those doubts, those are normal.

They are there. Do not listen to them because I let 20 years pass before I wrote my next manuscript. And you will have. That say you can’t do this. They will say things like, oh, anybody can write a book. You only, you can write your book only. You can write your story. And your thing is, if you’d like it, if you really are passionate about it, somebody else is going to love your book.

It may be a kid. It may be somebody who’s in their nineties or something, but you’re going to have somebody that is going to tell you, they loved your book for one reason or another. And it is going to be something that you need to put in a book. And you need to sip on a time because you’re going to have these doubts, like, oh, maybe I should leave this project and go work on something else.

Maybe I shouldn’t write at all. Do not [00:23:00] listen to those voices. You are bigger than that. And you’re writing the world needs it. So please write. And I’ll say also this, please edit. Okay. Cause I don’t like it. I don’t like editing, but that first. You’re going to have to take it from my cold dead hands to Charleston, paraphrase Charlton Heston, because I’ve said the first draft.

Okay, it’s ready. And then I’ll put away for a month read and go, okay, this does need some work, but write, edit, and believe in yourself. Yeah.

[00:23:31] Stephen: And I would add to that, give yourself the mindset that the first five books are your teaching and training books, and look forward to the editor because that’s your teacher, but that’s where your.

From that’s how I approach have approached it. That is that’s

[00:23:47] Will: exactly right. And being patient being, I want to get words on the page every day. I want to do that and I want them to be new words. I would rather look at a blank page and edit a page, but [00:24:00] be patient with yourself. It is a, this is a career.

This isn’t just no something that you do a little bit. This is a long journey. You’re going to have times that you sprint there are going to be times. Be patient with yourself.

[00:24:14] Stephen: There you go. Alright. Appreciate it. It’s been great talking to you, man. Yeah, man. You have a great day. Yeah, wife. I said hi.

[00:24:22] Will: Sounds good.

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