Wednesday

Kindle Author Interview: Connie Corcoran Wilson

Connie Corcoran Wilson, author of It Came from the '70s, discusses her book, her journey as a writer, and self-publishing on Kindle.

DAVID WISEHART: What can you tell us about It Came from the '70s?

CONNIE CORCORAN WILSON: It Came from the '70s: From The Godfather to Apocalypse Now was a book I had talked about writing for the past 41 years, ever since my days as film and book critic for the Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa). I served as the film and book critic from 1970 until the mid eighties and saved all of my reviews and pictures and press kits and promotional things from the day. I wanted to put together a truly entertaining book that would be a "stroll down memory lane," which would capture the zeitgeist of the decade. It is a selection of 50 reviews I wrote at the time the films were new, plus major cast, 76 photos and trivia. I worked on it, off and on, for 8 years. A few of my reviews couldn't be found, despite extensive searching through my scrapbooks and library microfilm. Those few had to be written from the vantage-point of today, with some background on what went into the filming, how the special effects were created at that time, etc. This book was a real labor of love. I think that anyone who takes a look at it will find it entertaining. Libraries should find it to be a terrific reference tool, as well. (*Librarians: take note!)

DAVID WISEHART: What do you love best about '70s movies?

CONNIE CORCORAN WILSON: The '70s were a fantastic era for films. The films of the '70s were character-driven. The films of that ten-year span mark the rise of directors like Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, John Frankenheimer, George Lucas and Brian DePalma, who were young guys starting out then. In '70s films, you had great acting as in The Godfather movies (I and II) and great directing. It wasn't just about special effects and blowing things up—although Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Star Wars both came out in the '70s. Looking back, it was truly a second Golden Age of Hollywood. How can you go wrong with pictures like Rocky, Alien, Chinatown, The China Syndrome, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest?

DAVID WISEHART: Who do you imagine is your ideal reader?

CONNIE CORCORAN WILSON: My ideal reader is anyone who loves the movies. The films and the pictures will have special significance for those who "were alive in '75," but my 23-year-old daughter uses the book as a guide to seeking out some of the truly great classic films of the decade. Who wouldn't like to know a little bit more about Rocky and the circumstances which Sylvester Stallone found himself in before that breakthrough role? Don't you wonder who the studio REALLY wanted to play the part? (Trivia 101). It is not only entertaining, with trivia questions following each film (so that there is an interactive quality to the book, with the answers printed upside down on the page or on a separate page in the Kindle version), but it is a peek at life in the '70s, with the rise of the horror film (the original Halloween, Alien, The Omen, Burnt Offerings) and the rise of women's lib (Jill Clayburgh's An Unmarried Woman). It truly captures what it was like to be alive in the '70s, while offering witty critiques of the films, themselves, and nudging our collective memories about films as fine as One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Chinatown, Marathon Man, and Sorceror, to name just a few.

DAVID WISEHART: What was your journey as a writer?

CONNIE CORCORAN WILSON: I've written, for pay, for 55 years, beginning at age 10 for my hometown newspaper. I went to school on a Ferner/Hearst journalism scholarship, and I've been writing ever since, along with teaching writing. I have written for 5 newspapers and 7 blogs and taught writing at 6 colleges/universities. My article "The Best Films of the Decade 2000-2010" has had over 80,000 hits, so I'm still writing about film for Yahoo and Associated Content and on my own blog, www.WeeklyWilson.com. I have also written 8 longer works, beginning in 1989, including an award-winning screenplay ("Writer's Digest," 2007). I have a new novel The Color of Evil coming out soon. My short story fiction collection Hellfire & Damnation placed 7th in the preliminary balloting for this year's Stoker awards [three places ahead of Stephen King's Full Dark, No Stars.] I'm working on Book 2 of the trilogy that The Color of Evil starts, have a children's Christmas book that should be ready by December (The Christmas Cat in Silly Hats), a book of humorous essays entitled Laughing Through Life that will be out soon, and I still review 9 TV shows for Yahoo and write 3 political pieces, weekly for Yahoo. I covered both the 2004 and 2008 presidential campaigns with press passes. I hope to cover at least the Iowa caucus race for 2012. More, if I have time. I'm a graduate of the University of Iowa and have additional degrees and study (30 hours) from WIU, NIU, Berkeley and the University of Chicago.

DAVID WISEHART: What is your writing process?

CONNIE CORCORAN WILSON: I keep at it and make myself stay in the seat. I let ideas "marinate" in my mind. I go back over my work multiple times to fix long sentences and other figures of speech that sound klutzy. Often, I ship myself to Chicago where I have a "writer's lair" so that I can concentrate completely on getting a book done. That is how I finished 3 volumes of Ghostly Tales of Route 66 (www.GhostlyTalesofRoute66.com). Those stories will be coming out in ebook format very soon. Mainly, I try to keep at some form of writing for a large portion of the day. I like to write late at night, when everyone else is sleeping, since I'm a night owl. I do know my plot(s) for Books 1 and 2 of The Color of Evil, and I have a very good idea of how the 3 books will end up. John Irving says he always has to know where he's going (see his remarks up on Yahoo now, from an AWP lecture in NYC). I let my characters lead me, but I have a very good idea of where we are heading before I start. It's a little like getting in the car and knowing you're going to go to a certain city to a nice restaurant. You don't want to head in the wrong direction. There are a lot of fine restaurants, so you talk to other people about whether they want to eat Italian, or Chinese or Mexican or French. You get input. But, ultimately, you make the decision as to where the characters will end up and what will happen to them, consistent with the character's description. In other words, you take your guests (i.e., readers) input about the restaurant, but if you're picking up the bill, you get the final say. You are driving the car. I also derive inspiration from everyday news stories and weird things that happen, which, I'm sure, is like most writers. William F. Nolan, who did the Introduction for Hellfire & Damnation, advises that one always carry a notebook around to write ideas down. I do usually have a notebook in my purse, but that is because I need to take notes while reviewing movies or TV shows.

DAVID WISEHART: What authors most inspire you?

CONNIE CORCORAN WILSON: I'm a big fan of John Irving. William F. Nolan (Logan's Run) has been incredibly supportive of my writing and said some very nice and kind things to me about my talent, and I genuinely admire his work. David Morrell is a real gentleman, whom I enjoyed interviewing. I also loved Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.'s work—especially God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, or Pearls Before Swine—although he was a tough interview. I interviewed him at age 19 at the University of Iowa, where he was teaching then in the Writers' Workshop. I also had his daughter, Edie, at the University Lab School when I was student teaching. She later married Geraldo Rivera for a while, so I often would smile thinking of Kurt Vonnegut as Geraldo Rivera's father-in-law. I liked Joseph Heller (Catch-22). Today, I love Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lathem. I'm not as big a fan of the names of his characters in his new book Chronic City, but I like Lathem a lot, among today's writers, and Tana French's books have been intriguing. I want something to happen in the books I read, so I have not yet acquired a taste for Anne Tyler, as much as for the plots of Stephen King as with Under the Dome, which I physically carried all the way to Cancun (a good argument for the Kindle), but I realize there is a big divide between those who categorize themselves as "serious, scholarly" writers and genre writers...whether mysteries or horror or thrillers. My goal has always been to write "one of everything" before I die. So far, I've written a scholarly book (my first book, Training the Teacher As A Champion for Performance Learning Systems, Inc), a collection of humor and poetry, an award-winning screenplay, two novels, four collections of short stories, this nonfiction book about movies, and, soon, a children's book. I'd say The Color of Evil is a plot-driven thriller with horrific overtones. It takes the character Tad McGreevy (from Hellfire & Damnation's story "Living in Hell") and jumps him forward to the age of 16. Tad was an 8-year-old boy in the original story, when his parents hired Pogo the Clown to entertain at his birthday party. The short story ended with Tad essentially having a nervous breakdown. Pogo was loosely based on John Wayne Gacey. I log-line the book as Carrie meets TV's The Medium meets Firestarter, because Tad has precognitive abilities and sees "auras" around people that tell him whether they are "good" or "bad" (although his parents tell him to keep quiet about his special ability). Tad subsequently dreams about the evil-doers, seeing their crimes either as they are happening or slightly before they occur. When Pogo the clown, a serial killer, escapes, all bets are off.

DAVID WISEHART: What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you'd written yourself?

CONNIE CORCORAN WILSON: That's a tough call, but I've always admired John Irving's 1978 novel The World According to Garp, and the fact that he was able to follow up with Cider House Rules and A Prayer for Owen Meany just proves his greatness. I like his repetitive lines, like "Keep passing the open windows." In The Color of Evil, the line is "Sometimes, you walk away from your life; sometimes, it walks away from you." John Irving and I were on campus at Iowa at the same time. Of today's writers, Motherless Brooklyn impressed me. I'm sure there are many others I am forgetting, but you asked for one, and I've already given you four.

DAVID WISEHART: How have you marketed and promoted your work?

CONNIE CORCORAN WILSON: Both Hellfire & Damnation and It Came from the '70s have been winning awards, for which I am very grateful. I mentioned the notice of the Stoker voters for Hellfire & Damnation, but it did not make the Final Ballot, being knocked off by writers like Stephen King and Peter Straub. The two newest books (Hellfire & Damnation and It Came from the '70s: From The Godfather to Apocalypse Now) have each won Silver Feather awards from the IWPA (Illinois Women's Press Association) which I pick up on May 21st in Chicago at the Union Club. Then they go on to compete nationally. I had 3 books that were winners in the first E-Lit Awards. The third book was Volume III of Ghostly Tales of Route 66. The two newest books are also up for 3 IPPY (Independent Press) awards to be announced during the BEA on May 23 in New York City. I have had some promotional things made...in the case of It Came from the '70s, luggage tags that are actually usable, and I am taking the books to both Austin, TX for WorldCon (April 28-May 1st), the BEA in NYC from May 24-26 and to Printers' Row in Chicago from June 4-6. In addition, I'm doing a tour of Family Video stores in five states with the movie book, and I'm hoping that the writers in the Iowa Quad Cities, through the Midwest Writing Center, are getting us a booth to sell books for the Bix weekend in Davenport, Iowa, which is in late July. I have a P.R. rep who is helping me with Internet promotion(s) and, of course, I'm doing this interview. (Thank you!) I've done a few podcasts for the Ghostly Tales of Route 66 trilogy and spoken at some Route 66 celebrations, primarily in St. Louis. I can't promote all the time. I still have to finish Book 2 of The Color of Evil, get the children's illustrated cat book ready for Christmas (The Christmas Cat in Silly Hats), and continue assembling stories for Hellfire & Damnation II, which is based on Dante's Inferno and the 9 circles of hell, as was the first book. I do a lot of out-of-the-box promotional things. One of them has been to send press releases with an 8-track enclosed with ordering information attached, to promote It Came from the '70s. It just so happened that I had some 8-tracks that weren't doing me any good, so Frampton has come Alive again as a promotional tool. I once held book signings in bank lobbies, and I've done a tour of Colorado prison towns for the Hastings chain, where I played the accordian while in the store, for a book of humor entitled Both Sides Now, which was a very interesting experience.

DAVID WISEHART: Why publish on Kindle?

CONNIE CORCORAN WILSON: Everything is moving to the Internet. I just read, on David Morrell's blog (mine are www.ConnieCWilson.com and www.WeeklyWilson.com) that the original estimate of when electronic books would overtake regular books was 5 years, but no less an authority than David Morrell is now predicting 2 years and the "tipping point" has already been reached. When Christmas comes and more people buy Kindles, the ebook trade will become even more important. As an author, if you publish with Kindle, and you price your book at, say, $2.99, you reap $2.07. The return to the author is much greater than with traditional publishing and it is automatically deposited into your bank account. Right now, there is a big controversy because Leisure Books isn't paying its authors. If you publish it on Kindle yourself, you never have to worry about being cheated by an unscrupulous publisher (large or small) again. You never have to worry about it "going out of print" again. You have total control of the cover art, when the book goes up. I thought, back in 2004 when I did a book—the only one I self-published—just for my family of old humor columns (Both Sides Now) that I really liked having that control, but the onset of the Kindle platform has allowed authors to both have the control and keep away from all the really frustrating things about publishing. J.A. Konrath spoke on this very topic at "Love Is Murder" the first weekend in February, a conference I attended. David Morrell thinks that agents will come into play as total "packagers" now, helping with the cover design and the P.R. things that large publishing houses used to do. It's nice to have some paper copies, but unless these houses, big or small, are going to get behind your book Big Time, you are probably going to have to do all of your publicity and your promotion yourself, anyway, so why not control your destiny and publish on Kindle? And today's publishing houses only want to put out a book if they are sure that Hef's girlfriend has "written" her memoirs or there is a name like Grisham or King to sell it, thereby completely shutting down talented writers who do write well and have something to say. I do have an agent, but I've actually had her negotiate the deals for my last 3 books specifically so I retain the ebook rights. None of my books, other than Both Sides Now in 2004, was self-published. But you can both have a publisher for the paperback and try to retain the ebook rights, which, I think (as does Morrell) is where more and more of people's book dollars are going to go, because (a) the books are cheaper and (b) the younger generation is quite familiar with Kindles and Nooks and iPhones and iPads and all things electronic. As a result, Quad City Press has my ebooks, but I don't have to mess with mailing paper books around the country or any of that, as I have other publishers putting out my books in paperback format.

DAVID WISEHART: What advice would you give to a first-time author thinking of self-publishing on Kindle?

CONNIE CORCORAN WILSON: Make sure you're a good writer. Just as everyone thinks their child is "cute," almost everyone thinks they can write, but have you been at if for over half a century, as I have? Do you have the background, the education, the know-how, the chutzpah it takes to put it all together? And, if you're of the younger generation, I'd say it would be a good idea to learn how to convert your books from the print copies to the Kindle versions using the software. As for me, I have to hire it done. I'm lucky I can turn my computer on and off.

DAVID WISEHART: Thanks, and best of luck with your books.




ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Connie Corcoran Wilson graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in English and Journalism, but she began writing for her hometown (Independence, Iowa) newspaper at the age of 10 and was Editor-in-Chief of her high school newspaper. She continued her education, including a Ferner/Hearst Journalism Scholarship and a Freshman Merit Scholarship at Iowa, and then at Berkeley, WIU, NIU and the University of Chicago. Connie holds a Masters (+30) in English and Education. Her career path led to teaching 7th and 8th grade language arts (Silvis, Illinois) and teaching writing at 6 IA/IL colleges or universities, including a summer class teaching film at Black Hawk Junior College.

A life-long film buff, Connie began reviewing for the Quad City Times newspaper (Davenport, IA) in the ’70s and continued reviewing into the ’80s. She also reviewed books for the Times and interviewed local celebrities for the (Moline, IL) Daily Dispatch and wrote humor columns for Metro East and the (Rock Island, IL) Reminder.

Connie left the labor of love reviewing film when she founded the first of two businesses in 1987, Sylvan Learning Center #3301, and her second business, a Prometric Testing Center (Bettendorf, IA), in 1995. Both businesses and two children kept her busy during the years 1987-2002, but, since selling the two successful businesses she founded and served as CEO, she has produced 7 books in 7 years. An active voting member of HWA (Horror Writers’ Association) Connie’s collaboration with Michael McCarty on the novel Out of Time was released in December of 2009 by Lachesis, and several other solo projects are in the works.

Connie lives in East Moline, Illinois with husband Craig and in Chicago, Illinois, where her son, Scott and daughter-in-law Jessica and their newborn twins Elise and Ava reside. Her daughter, Stacey, is a student at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, majoring in Music Business. In addition to HWA, she is a member of Delta Kappa Gamma Professional Society for Women Educators, IEA and NEA. She maintains her own blog (www.weeklywilson.com) and was named 2008 Content Producer of the Year for the 400,000 member Associated Content blog for her on-the-spot reporting of the 2008 Presidential campaign, fodder for her next nonfiction book.

Check out her websites:
www.ConnieCWilson.com
www.WeeklyWilson.com
www.ItCamefromtheSeventies.com
www.HellfireandDamnationtheBook.com
www.OutoftimetheNovel.com
www.GhostlyTalesofRoute66.com

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