Welcome to our February 2012 Featured Indie Author Interview. We will be having a Featured Indie Author each month to give you the reader the chance to learn of the Indie Authors and their work.
I’m very pleased to have this opportunity to introduce you to Author Walt Lamberg. Let’s begin-
The readers may not know this, but you have been a published author for quite some time. How long have you been published and can you share with us some of your eariler books.
My first major publication was in 1980. I co-authored a college textbook for Rand McNally, Reading Instruction in the Content Areas. My first published fiction was a short story “The Souvenir Shop,” in The Baltimore Review, 1997. (I revised and re-published that story as a Kindle book in 2011.)
When did you first realize you wanted to become an author?
When I was in first grade, our teacher asked us to write about what we did during the summer. For some reason, I decided to write a fictional story based on TV news stories about flooding along the Mississippi River. The TV showed houses with water up to the roofs and families on the roofs waiting to be rescued. It took my teacher a little while to realize that my family and I had not actually been in a flood. She was very impressed that I had written a “made up” story. I think that’s when I decided to be a writer.
How have your life experiences inspired your writing?
A major part of my life experience has been reading good literature. Reading and enjoying countless books has inspired me to write. I also find inspiration in good films and more recently in the excellent HBO mini-series, such as John Adams, The Pacific, and Boardwalk Empire. My three years in the Army inspired me to write a series of (so far) eight single Kindle Army short stories.
What genre do you gravitate toward?
My main interest is contemporary fiction, both novels and short stories.
Have you written under more than one genre?
In the past I published language arts textbooks and workbooks. Now I concentrate on fiction, but I also write country music songs.
I understand you recently published a mystery novel. Would you tell us a little about it and what makes it different from the other books you’ve written?
I published Death and Downsizing as a Kindle book. It is a murder mystery/police procedures novel, but there is a lot going on in addition to the murder mystery. It takes place in Baltimore in the mid 1990s, when the city was slowly recovering from the recession of the early 1990s. The novel addresses downsizing along with corporate politics, greed, and corruption, issues that are relevant today. I think the characters are unusual. The murder victim is an American-born Caucasian, who has become obsessed with Japanese culture and history in particular, the Code of the Samurai. The main characters are the two homicide detectives assigned to the case. They are good friends, but they have quite different backgrounds and personalities. Finally, in spite of the subject matter, there is a good deal of humour throughout the novel.
When you write a book do you lay out the plot completely or do write it on the fly?
For the novel, I started with a rough outline, which I revised and expanded as I wrote the novel. After I completed the first draft, I wrote a chapter outline, summarizing each chapter in three or four sentences. That helped me improve the story line and add some complications to the plot.
Are any of your characters, traits, or settings based on some of your real life experiences?
All of my fiction has some relationship to my experiences. For example, I worked for a company that underwent downsizing. If I had not served in the Army, I would not have written my Army short stories.
How do you get your ideas for your next book?
I’m not sure. Sometimes, a conversation or film or book will trigger a memory. Some time later, I will return to that memory and see it as a starting point for a book. Here’s an example. In an episode of The Pacific, a group of marines, who were on an island, were running low on supplies. They ate fish and rice for breakfast, lunch, and supper. Then some supplies came in including cans of peaches. They were thrilled to get the canned fruit. That reminded me of an experience I had in Basic Training. Usually we ate meals in the mess hall, but sometimes we ate C-Rations, which our drill sergeant said were probably left over from the Korean War or WWII. The rations consisted of a few small cans of food. I and many other trainees always hoped we would get a small can of peach slices in peach juice. It was very refreshing especially after spending hours in training on a hot summer day at Fort Jackson, South Carolina and drinking warm water out of a canteen that looked like it was left over from the Korean War or WWII. Two months after I watched that episode, I started my first Army story, in which one of the characters talks about how much he enjoyed the canned peaches in his C-Rations.
How would you explain your writing work habits?
Do you have any strange rituals you do when writing? No rituals. I work at home, and my computer is on all day. Whenever I have some spare time, I do my writing.
Do you ever base your characters on real people you’ve known?
As I say on my copyright page: “Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.”
Who is the author you’d most like to be compared to and why?
That is a hard question to answer because I have so many favourite writers. I think I would like to be compared to James Jones because his novels so effectively convey the reality of the life of a solider.
What’s the most outrageous thing you’ve ever done to research for a book?
I don’t think I’ve done anything at all that came close to being outrageous, at least not for research for a book.
Do you have anything special you do when you finish writing a book?
When I finish a book, I put it aside for a few days and then go back to do another final proofreading. Usually, I wind up doing some more editing, which means I need to do another final proofreading. I have decided it’s best to put the book aside for another few days before I do that final-final proofreading. In the meantime I start on the next book.
Do you hire an editor or do you do that job yourself?
I do the editing myself. I have worked for many years as an editor. I am a very tough editor on my own books. If one sentence, though grammatically correct, does not sound right when I read it aloud, I will spend a great deal of time revising it until it does sound right.
Describe the highlight of your writing career.
So far I have had two highlights, publishing the textbook with Rand McNally and publishing my first Kindle book, Death and Downsizing, which I had worked on, on and off for about ten years.
Out of all the books you’ve written which one is your favourite and why.
My favourite is my short story War Forever After because it talks about the really good people I served with in the Army and it is meant to be a thank you for all the good people today who are serving in our military.
What do your books have to offer a reader?
Interesting stories that keep the reader guessing as to what will happen next; interesting, well-developed characters, who might be like people they know; dialogue that sounds like real people talking and that helps readers understand the characters; humour that helps the readers deal with sometimes painful experiences.
What are the reactions of others when you tell them that you’re a published author?
Some are impressed. Some are like, “Hey, are you trying to get me to buy your books?”
What do you think of the ebook industry and self publishing?
Twenty years ago, if you had asked me if I would like to read or write books in electronic form, I would have said, “No way!” Now, I read only electronic books, thanks to Kindle. I cannot image writing a book without a computer. I do not know how I managed to write books with a typewriter. I think Amazon.com has revolutionized writing and publishing.
I know we could never be a writer without the love and support of our family and friends. Would you like to send a shout out here?
My shout out is to my son, Alan, who, besides being my most helpful, encouraging reader, is a very talented writer, actor, screenplay writer, and film maker. He and I are co-authoring a novel, Casualties of the State, which is based on an independent film, produced by Alan’s company, Corner Film Productions. The film will be available this year. In addition, Alan created my book cover for Death and Downsizing with a photograph provided by a good friend and excellent photographer, Doug Miller.
I know the readers would love to read an excerpt from your novel Death and Downsizing available on Amazon:
From Chapter One, Death and Downsizing:
“President and chief executive officer. Baltech, Inc. They do computer systems. Office building on Calvert, about four blocks north of the Inner Harbor. That ought to sound good on the evening news, won’t it? Just what this city needs. CEO murdered in his downtown office.” Detective Joseph Isaacson filled his cup and carried it to one of the small tables in the coffee room. His partner, Daniel Burns, joined him, setting his cup down on the scratched, chipped surface.
Isaacson grimaced at the taste of the coffee. “I don’t know how you can stand to drink this crap black.”
“I don’t know how you can stand to use that artificial creamer crap. Who found the body?”
“Secretary–-CEO’s executive secretary. Name's Jennifer Hill. She arrives at work. Assumes the boss is already in his office. He gets in early, stays late."
"Dedicated company man," said Burns.
"Well, I got the idea maybe there's problems at home, but she didn't want to talk about it. Says, 'I really wouldn't know anything about that.'"
"Sure, like how many secretaries don't know about their bosses' personal lives?"
"Exactly. But I didn't pursue it; she was barely able to talk to me as it was. We can bring it up when we talk to her again. Anyway, she comes in, does whatever it is an executive secretary does first thing in the morning, turns on her computer, checks the fax machine, whatever. Then she makes him tea. Tea. Never drinks coffee. Japanese green tea. Has this expensive Japanese tea set.”
“What’s his name again?”
“Nobel. Howard Carlton Nobel, Jr. Caucasian, if that’s what you’re wondering. Seems he's very much into Japanese culture. Before he took this job, he was CEO of another company, which was bought out by the Japanese. You know, when the Japanese were buying up American companies, real estate, left and right."
Burns said, "Rockefeller Center, I heard they bought that.”
"Oh yeah? Well, they bought this company where he worked, Southwestern Investments, in Phoenix, and he really got into this Japanese thing. I got a bunch of notes on that. Tea, see it's not just something to drink with the Japanese. There's a whole tradition, a whole ritual to it.”
“Sure, I know that.”
Isaacson described in detail the tea set. Described Hill in detail as well: petite, short blonde hair, blue eyes, terrific body shown off to great advantage by her short dark blue dress. Described in detail the furnishings in the CEO’s office: beaucoup bucks spent there.
Burns, impatient, started doing that thing he did, tilting his head from side to side, a habit left over from when he was a jock in school, baseball and track. Isaacson smiled. He knew that Burns, who was all business on the job, got annoyed with his leisurely briefings. Isaacson did it anyway, Burns thought, sometimes just to bug him. After three years of being partners, Isaacson could still irritate Burns with his quirky personality traits, and Burns could still exasperate Isaacson with his conservative attitudes.
A noise caught Isaacson’s attention, a police helicopter taking off from the roof of the Baltimore City Police Headquarters building, twelve stories up. He twisted around to look out the window. Burns smiled. You can take the boy out of the Nam, but you can’t take the Nam out of the boy.
We would like to thank you for joining in on our February 2012 Featured Indie Author Interview and we hope you will come back regularly for more fun interviews and updates.
Bob and Linda L Barton
The Barton Writing Team
Featured Indie Author
for February 2012
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Feb. 1, 2012