An Author Interview with Christopher Werkman!
This week, and occasionally in the future, I will publish an interview with another author. I trust you will find it interesting and informative. Be sure to check out this author’s books listed at the end of this blog.
Christopher Werkman is a fiction writer and artist. He holds an MA in art education and taught for 30 years at Whitmer High School in Toledo, Ohio, and nine years as an adjunct art instructor at the University of Toledo. Christopher has designed covers for three published novels, a short story collection, and a poetry chapbook (for his partner, Karen Wolf). A native of Ohio, he currently lives on a few acres outside Haskins with his partner, Karen, and their cats. When he isn’t writing or painting, he enjoys playing too much golf and tennis, and rides his motorcycle anytime there is sufficient traction. Werkman has published numerous short stories. Difficult Lies is his first novel.
- Please describe your book in 6 to 10 sentences.
My novel, Difficult Lies, is a story based on the old saw, what if you get something you most desire? How will it affect your life? How will you handle it? One thing is certain, when something significant in a person’s life changes, everything changes. Surviving that kind of upheaval is, well, difficult. I think it made for an interesting starting point for Vic’s adventures in the novel.
My short story collection, Girlfriending,is a collection of stories, all of which deal with some kind of romantic relationship. Some are beginning, some are ending, some are accounts of characters just muddling through a relationship. At least one is merely a man’s fantasy and the relationships never really exist. There is humor, tragedy, and tenderness.
2) What was the impetus to write it?
Golf is the engine that drives Difficult Lies,but my goal was to write a novel that bridges genders and interests. Most golf related literature deals with professional golf. I’m an avid player and even I have trouble relating to stories of golf on that level. The golf in my novel is down and dirty, with talented amateurs slugging it out for big money. Money and the quest for it can affect relationships. In the end. Difficult Lies is a story about relationships.
Girlfriending is an effort to clear some unpublished stories out of my computer before I die. Some of the stories have been published, but the majority are fresh to the eyes of the reader.
3) What were the hardest parts or issues in writing your book?
For me, the hardest part of writing a book or a story is knowing what to leave in, what to expand on, what to diminish, and what to leave out. In short, editing. I worked with a very competent writing coach who helped me to shape the novel into what it now is. She also taught me enough that I can self-edit much more effectively than before we worked together.
a. Why? It’s very hard to see what a house looks like when you are inside the building. A writer is inside the story. It takes external eyes to help the writer see what the story he/she is building looks like from the outside.
4) How long did it take to write it from first word to publishing?
I started playing around with Difficult Lies in the late 1990’s. It was published in 2015.
a. How many drafts?
I have no clue. Two major drafts with my coach at the end.
5) Are you a fulltime writer?
Since my retirement, I’m not fulltime anything. But I write a lot. Not enough, but a lot. It’s my major creative outlet.
a. If not, what other work do you do or have done?
I teach people (teens and adults) to drive, part time. Eight to ten hours a week. I love driving my car and my motorcycle, and I love to teach. Teaching teens (and the occasional adult) to drive is always fun, sometimes scary fun.
b. When do you find time to write?
I do most of my writing in the mornings, but anytime is a good time. Finding time doesn’t work. I have to MAKE time.
c. Music when writing? Coffee or tea? Booze ? Computer or pen & paper?
Love to have Pandora playing when I write. Pink Floyd. Nirvana. Linkin Park. But I like it all. Music is important in my life, and it’s important in a lot of what I write, as well. Vic listened to and watched MTV (Difficult Lies is set in the 1980’s, back when MTV actually played music videos) constantly. I’m a sipper. Coffee. Coke. If after 5:00 pm, hell yes. A bit of Southern Comfort.
d. Did you outline the book first or write it by the seat of your pants? Or…?
Seat of the pants. I have to finish a story to find out what happens. No outline. No predisposition on what will occur or happen. My characters tell me where the story will go. If I don’t know what’s going to happen next, the reader won’t either.
6) What else have you published? Where?
I have over twenty short stories published in literary journals and anthologies. A lot of them are published in online journals, which come up if you Google my name.
7) If a novel, how do you make your characters so alive, so deep; their emotions so real?
Over the course of writing Difficult Lies, I got to know my characters as very human friends. I know those characters better than I know my friends because I created the characters. I know their innermost feelings, faults, and fears. That helps to make them live and breathe on the page.
8) If a memoir, how did you get to the pain, the joy, the humor without losing your sanity?
I never attempted to write a memoir. Maybe someday.
9) What was the publishing experience like?
I was rejected by so many publishers that when Rogue Phoenix Press said they wanted to publish Difficult Lies, the first thing that flashed through my mind was, what the hell is wrong with these people? Turns out, RPP is a wonderful publisher, like many small fearless presses who publish unknown authors. It was a lot of work. I had to distill my 166,000 word novel into a short catchy (I hope) blurb that describes the book and entices people to read it. I had to go through it to make certain it was as clean grammatically and spelling-wise as possible. I worked with a terrific cover artist (a woman named Genene, whose email is email@example.com) who took my idea and photographs and got it right. I worked with a wonderful copy editor (Kitty Carlisle, yes, honestly) who made suggestions and didn’t mind if I didn’t take them. I took most of them. I poured over the final draft (called the galley) and there are still a few mistakes, but very few. It was very time-consuming and very satisfying. Hard work I loved because it culminated all the hard work over the years it took to write the novel. I have to say, Rogue Phoenix Press made the work as easy as they could make it by taking me through it step by step, and by supplying me with excellent people to work with, all free of charge to me. RPP paid the freight, as all good publishers will.
10) Describe your experience working with AllWriters Workplace and Workshop in your writing of the book?
Simply put, without the coaching I got from Kathie Giorgio, Difficult Lieswould still be languishing in my computer.
11) Please list three of your favorite authors and or books?
I love Hemingway’s brevity, and try to keep it in mind when I write. The sweet ease with which Leonard Cohen (seems to) puts perfect words on a page (or into a song) bluffed me into thinking writing is so easy even I can do it. By the time I realized the truth, I was too hooked to turn back. My partner, Karen Wolf, writes poetry rooted in her incredible sensitivity and strong belief in justice and reverence for all living creatures. She’s a strong voice I relish reading. She has a chapbook, That’s Just the Way It Is, scheduled for publication by Finishing Line Press in April of this year. It is currently available for pre-publication purchase on Finishing Line’s web site.
12) Any advice to aspiring writers?
As Hemingway is reported to have said, “It is easy to write. Just sit in front of your typewriter and bleed.” And if that tricks you into heading to a computer with an idea for a story, pour yourself into it. Get into your characters’ heads and let the reader come to understand why they do what they do. Find someone(s) you trust to help you make certain that what you put down actually gets the idea across. When you are certain it says what you intended and is as clean as you can make it, DO NOT SELF-PUBLISH. Not to say that there aren’t good self-published books out there, but most are not. The flood of self-pubs make it harder for all authors to surface in a (unfortunately) diminishing pool of readers. If what you write is worthy of publication, there are hundreds of small presses who will do a great job of getting your writing into a professionally prepared and edited book, with no ups or extras. Free.
13) Where can your book(s) be purchased?
Both Difficult Lies and Girlfriendingare available in both hard copy and ebook formats.
Barnes & Noble:
I would be remiss if I didn’t say, “Thank you, Bill, for getting my books out for people to hear about on your blog.”