Author Interview With Roy Pickering
Today for our Black History Month featured authors, we have Roy Pickering talking about his journey into the indie publishing industry and insight about his book, Matters of Convenience! Matters of Convenience is a romance and is linked below. We’re so excited to share the interesting answers we got from this interview.
Thank you for being here today, Roy. Your book, Matters of Convenience quite evidently features a marriage of convenience, as well as friends to lovers, love triangles, and even an accidental pregnancy. What inspired you to write it?
Inspiration for any work of fiction that I end up writing is a divine mystery. As life is experienced, ideas come to me whether or not I’m concentrating on trying to pull a plot from thin air. With my first novel Patches of Grey, while it is not autobiographical, various details are based on my own life such as the Bronx setting.
I did not need to imagine what being a high school age Black kid was like. When I settled on the general idea for my second novel Matters of Convenience, which if memory serves came to me in my 9-5 day job office, I can’t say what prompted the idea. I wasn’t married yet and it wasn’t inspired by anyone else’s marriage. I’ve never found myself in a love triangle like the characters of my book. I just thought it would be interesting to write about a woman with aspirations that ended up opposing each other rather than working in concert. If Audrey chooses door #1 she gets to pursue success in her professional career that means a great deal to her. Door #2 leads to happily ever after kind of love with the man of her dreams. Ideally one can have both. But when life provides a situation that is not ideal then hard choices need to be made. And so Audrey finds herself with Marshall personifying door #1 and James personifying door #2.
Even though the primary choice that my book presents must be made by Audrey, the perspectives of James and Marshall were equally intriguing to me. So the story alternates point of view between the three of them. I am not a reader of romance novels and did not set out to write one. What I wanted to write was a love story, love stories actually, ones beset with problematic timing and unequally requited passions. The end goal was not to give readers a Happily Ever After conclusion, but to reach a plausible destination where everyone gets something they want, but nobody gets everything.
Who are your favorite characters?
I don’t have a favorite between Audrey, James and Marshall. I stepped into each of their shoes when writing from each individual perspective. I identify with all three of them, even as their objectives are in opposition. If I could somehow transport myself from being the writer to being a character in my own story, I would probably try to smack some sense into Marshall’s head to spare him unnecessary anguish. But like myself Marshall is a writer, so I understand that yearnings of the heart don’t necessarily bend towards what is most sensible. The heart wants what it wants.
What was the hardest part of writing Matters of Convenience?
Not getting to do it full time is the hardest thing for me about writing this or any other novel. If I was a more regimented author and pushed myself to write for a certain number of hours per week, or to reach a certain weekly word count, that might make things easier for me. But I tend to write in spurts as time and inspiration and energy level allows. Having a sporadic writing schedule when it’s your only job is one thing. Helter skelter manuscript crafting while having a full time job plus finding time for everything else means that I need to make those concentrated writing spurts really count.
Matters of Convenience was published about five years ago. What’s it like being a self-published author trying to get attention for your past work?
There isn’t much of a difference in my mind between promoting a book I wrote years ago and one I finished yesterday. The most recently completed work does get the most attention because the older ones had a head start in finding an audience. But regardless of what the pub date is, if a reader has not read a book of mine then to that reader it is a brand new release. So I do what I can to draw attention to Matters of Convenience while also shouting out my first
novel Patches of Grey from time to time, and every so often plugging my novella Feeding the Squirrels which was written in between the novels.
My most recent publication is The Absolutely Amazing Adventures of Ava Appelsawse, my first venture into the children’s book market. Unlike my novels and novella, Ava Appelsawse is intended to be in a series. The first one came out November of 2020. The second is written and awaiting illustrations to be done for it. By the time #2 is good to go I probably will have written at least a couple more. Book promotion is a necessary evil and I don’t pretend to be particularly
good at it. But when self-published you either do the work or else it remains undone. I have ended up learning that it’s a little easier to gain traction for a children’s book than a novel for adults. Even grown-ups who rarely read books think it’s a good idea for kids to read, so getting them to buy a book as a gift for a child can be easier than getting them to buy one to read themselves.
But overall, my personal experience has been that getting attention for your book is no easy feat no matter what sort of book it is. And there were more bloggers willing to take a chance on reading an indie published book for review back when I was querying them about Patches of Grey. By the time I was ready to start querying for Matters of Convenience I found that many bloggers are now in programs where major book publishers send them all of the free ARC’s they can handle. It’s impossible to compete with the Big 5 publishing house marketing machines. It’s easier than ever before to self publish a book, but probably harder than ever to achieve the necessary word of mouth to significantly expand your audience.
If my main goal was to become at least briefly famous I would abandon book writing and instead focus on putting shenanigans on TikTok until something went viral. But my fate was to be a storyteller.
What made you choose self-publishing?
I tried to go about it the traditional way with my first two novels. I secured a literary agent to send the first one around but didn’t get any bites. I was in a waiting pattern with no particular plan when a sales rep at a book printer reached out to me, because as it so happens, that day job I mentioned earlier is in book publishing and I worked with the printing plants. Self publishing was at an infant stage, not something I had given much consideration to. I wasn’t interested in paying some vanity press to print 1000+ books for me. But it was the early days of print on demand when suddenly you could have as little as a single copy of a book printed, and I ended up with the opportunity to have a few hundred printed for free, an offer I could not refuse.
I agreed and then figured out as I went along how to find people to buy it. By the time I had Matters of Convenience ready for readers, self publishing had come a long way towards becoming a mainstream option for writers. Amazon had become a major player, not just in being a place where books could be sold, but in the role of publisher/printer/distributor. So I made the decision early on to go that route with my second novel rather than watching the manuscript turn yellow as I waited to get good news from an agent and then a publisher.
By the time I had Ava Appelsawse ready to go, my plan from the start was to go the self-publishing route. My novella on the other hand was initially published exclusively in electronic format by an e-book publisher. The rights are now back with me and I’ve made it available for people to read for free either at my blog or else on Wattpad. Feeding the Squirrels is no longer a monetary venture, but exclusively my gift to the reading world.
Do you have any future projects you can tell us about?
I mentioned that future volumes of the Ava Appelsawse Adventures are planned. At the moment I’m working on my third novel which has the tentative working title of Brothers. It’s about the aftereffects of a questionably warranted, racially charged police shooting, primarily on the life of the cop who did the shooting.
Along with my irregular writing schedule I’ve made a change from the way I wrote my first two novels. Rather than guiding myself with chapter chapter outlines I’m taking more of a make it up as I go along approach. The story isn’t being written in linear fashion, and won’t be laid out that way even when I reach final draft form, so my writing approach is in line with the narrative flow – hopping back and forth. I may pursue the old fashioned traditional publication route for it when I get to that point.
Or I may keep things under my full control and timeline, utilizing what I’ve learned from publication of earlier books to build a self generated head of steam for the latest one.
We shall see.
Who are some of your favorite Black authors?
Where do I start? With Toni Morrison I suppose since there is no finer place to start when selecting a favorite author. Coming close to being her equal is the world’s greatest playwright – August Wilson. Other favorite Black authors include James Baldwin, Richard Wright, Zora Neale Hurston, Ralph Ellison, Alice Walker, Walter Mosley, Chester Hines, Terry McMillan, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Mat Johnson, Colson Whitehead, Octavia Butler, Jamaica Kincaid,
Zadie Smith, Attica Locke, Jesmyn Ward, Tayari Jones, Martha Southgate and Bernice McFadden. But that’s just for starters since I keep reading and adding to the list.
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Yes, my desire to be a writer goes back far enough that I would say it qualifies as “always”. As a child I devoured books, taking out as many in trips to the local library as my arms could carry. I had particular fondness for stories by Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary and those in the Encyclopedia Brown books served as a literary gateway drug for what would later become an addiction to Sherlock Holmes mysteries and books by Agatha Christie.
When I felt I was old enough to tackle something with a higher page count, the first “grown person novels” I tackled were by Jules Verne. Journey to the Center of the Earth
and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Around the World in 80 Days. By the time I was through with them I knew not only that I was a committed lifelong reader, but that I wanted to one day be the writer of books for others to enjoy.
Once I reached high school I was ready to take my initial stabs at long form writing and I’ve been at it ever since.
If you could give advice to yourself as a novice, what would it be?
I would tell myself to seek writing critique groups when first starting out. Other than writing done for college classes back in the day, I’ve mostly done the lone wolf thing. Finding the right group of fellow writers to provide instructive feedback is a great score, especially early on when you haven’t developed full trust in your voice yet. Being in a writing group isn’t a bad thing for writers at a more advanced stage either, but early on it would be especially valuable.
Where can readers find you?
If looking for my novels Patches of Grey or Matters of Convenience, or my children’s book The Absolutely Amazing Adventures of Ava Appelsawse, Amazon is your best bet. Anyone interested in checking out my novella Feeding the Squirrels can find it on my blog A Line A Day and on Wattpad. At my blog as well as my web site http://roypickering.weebly.com one can find various short stories that I have authored over the years.
For anyone looking to connect with me personally, I can be found spending too much time on Twitter https://twitter.com/AuthorofPatches and my Facebook is https://www.facebook.com/PatchesOfGrey. My page at GoodReads is https://www.goodreads.com/mplwdscribe and I also maintain the booktube channel Roy’s Book Reviews https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChxTtsj-XYu3cWqkT0iCXNg