Today I am interviewing Fred Staff, author of the Bass Reeves Trilogy.
Fred is a retired teacher living in Bolivia. A lover of history and writing he has a varied and eccentric background from cattle rancher to Florida’s Director for Rural Economic Development then Florida’s Director of Migrant and Farm Labor Programs. He’s even owned a construction businesses, mined gold and worked as a private investigator!
He has also played on a his National Championship Football Team, coached a National Championship Marketing Team and was a National Champion Swine Judge.
Somehow he found time to write a trilogy of books and has let me ask him questions about them!
So Fred, why did you decide to write a book?
I am a retired history teacher and often felt that history was boring if all you did was make students concentrate on dates and big events. There are thousands of stories buried in the events and each one should give the student more reasons as to why history is important. Therefore, I decided to write about places and people who were very important to history yet had been negelated in the overall story of the events surrounding the bigger events. My hope would that it would make history more alive and meaningful.
The stories I write are not only historical, but action packed and exciting.
How long have you been writing?
I started writing in 2010.
How long did it take you to write this book?
Interesting question, it took me about four months at the computer, but I had thought about and rewrote the story over and over in my mind for about 15 years.
I got the story for my first book: ROCHA’S TREASURE OF POTOSI while I was on a visit to Potosi Bolivia and was fascinated by the vast history of the place and on a visit with a local heard the story. I loved it and asked if anyone had written the story. When I found that no one had I said, well someone should write it. So fifteen years later I did! It became a best seller and I was hooked on putting stories to print!
What do you use to write your books?
I use a computer.
In fact, if it wasn’t for the computer I wouldn’t write. I spend as much time researching as I do writing. I do everything I can to make sure that everything I write happened or could have happened. The research often gives me other characters or events that I entwine in the story.
What problems did you encounter?
In all of my writing, I have had only one slowdown and that was due to the fact that I had a character that had been raised so strangely that I couldn’t figure out how he could have developed into the person he was. I spent sessions with four psychologists trying to untangle this and it still left me in a state of insecurity as to how to put the story in readable but understandable form.
Is there anything you wished you’d known when you started writing?
I hope that I have improved each time I have written. I think probably the best advice I have gotten came from Earnest Hemmingway. He said each day read all you have written before you write and never complete a story always have something to start the next day.
Do you structure your plots or just go with the flow?
I first know the character I plan to write about, because of my research. I then visualize if these things happened what must have been going on around him and then I do research on the characters and events that should have influenced the person and events. I take these and develop a story that I strive to make come alive through use of dialog or action and adventure.
Do you work on a set amount of words per day or does it change?
It changes drastically.
I have written as high as eight thousand words in one day, but many days I spend thinking about where the story is going and how I will get there or in research. Usually, when I do write I write between two thousand and four thousand words, because I have it all laid out in my head and simply then have to put it on paper.
Do you do a lot of research when writing a book?
As I have said, I do a vast amount of research. I want my books to be entertaining, but they must be also a teaching tool and to do that they must be as accurate as possible. To accomplish this I read history books and use the computer to the fullest. I am in a place where there are no libraries in English, so I order books, but mainly use the computer.
How would you describe your writing process?
I think I have covered that. I spend a lot of time thinking and researching. Then I turn it into a movie and I actually visualize the events and at times even can see and hear what is going on. All I have to do then is put it on paper.
What time of the day do you find is best to write?
I have an old desk that I set at and feel very comfortable there. I usually spend four to eight hours a day here and write when it comes together in my mind. I do feel that I am at my best in the evenings.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I am driven to make stories that teach history, while at the same time entertain.
What draws you to this genre?
I am a lover of history and have truly spent very little time in my life reading for pleasure. Therefore, history is what I write about.
Have you ever tried to write other genres?
I have written some short stories about true events in my life. I have had a vast amount of experiences and therefore have a lot of strange stories. I also have had a lot of humorous and unusual things happen in my life, so writing about them seems very easy.
Can you relate to any of your own stories?
My first short story was about a murder investigation I was involved in that turned out to be a humorous story, strange I know, but that is the kind of life I have led.
How many books have you written?
I have written five books to date and am nearly finished with my sixth.
Have you ever written in collaboration with another author?
Tried to do that once and it was very inspiring, but our time schedules didn’t match that well so I went ahead and finished the story myself. I might add that I think I learned some things with this effort that has helped me with the other books I have written.
Who designed your front cover?
I have a good friend who has done all of my covers. He lives here in Bolivia and is a design specialist. His name is Nelson Sanchez and he also lays out my books. If anyone would like I would be glad to get you together. He is far less expensive than anything in the states and does an excellent job.
Who was the first person you showed your novel too?
I can’t remember. I showed it to several people all about the same time and was actually blown away at their response. Several said I wrote like Hemmingway. A funny story that goes with that, I told my good friend that as he was reading the book and he said, “That is crazy. I have read everything that Hemmingway ever wrote and he is often boring and you’re not.”
Have you ever dedicated a book to someone?
I dedicated the Bass Reeves Trilogy to several people. One was my history professor who made my enjoyment of history turn into a love affair with the old west. Another lady was a person who had helped me with editing and had always been very supportive in all that I had done. Another was to a friend who I had worked with as well as been a teammate with on our Universities National Championship Football team. By the way we were both inducted into the University’s Athletic Hall of Fame this year. The last one was the friend who had so strongly encouraged me to start writing. He has told me that I was one of the best story teller he had ever heard and that all I had to do was get started.
How do you market your books?
My books are in both e-book and paperback and are carried by all the distributers. I also use facebook some, but my greatest enjoyment is book signings. I love visiting with people and hearing their stories. My problem with that is that I live in Bolivia and can only do this when I make infrequent trips to the States. There are also several museums that handle my books. I am proud to say that the NATIONAL COWBOY HALL OF FAME is one of them. I also have several book stores that care them in the area that I write about.
How do you deal with bad reviews?
I have had very few and two of those were because I submitted an e book in the wrong format and it came out with hundreds of mistakes. It was totally my fault and I deserved the criticism, because I didn’t check the copy before releasing it. I have only had one other that bothered me and I feel sure that person just wanted to be contrary, because he really slammed me for something that I had numerous reviews that were in exact opposite of what he said.
Do you use an agent?
No, the time it would have taken me to get one and the added time it would take to get the agent to find a publisher seemed to long for me.
How much time do you devote to marketing your books?
Not near enough. I am in Bolivia and it is very difficult to reach my audience in the States.
How do you get your book reviews/reviewed?
I have had one or two reviewers post reviews, but mostly readers, mostly from my Amazon sales.
Do you ever run free book promotions? Have these worked for you?
A few times, but I found it not worth the effort.
Do you do all your own proof reading and editing?
I have a few friends who help with that, but I mostly do it myself. I hired one person to edit my first book, but it was so expensive that I didn’t see that it was a good investment.
How and where are you publishing this book?
All of my books are self published now. I had a company do my first book and got ripped off. OUTSKIRTS PRESS still owes me money and want pay me.
What are the main benefits of being an independent author?
You know when something goes right that you have yourself to thank for that, but I really would like to have someone help me with marketing and give me input.
When did you learn you liked books?
My great uncle was a famous poet in Florida and on a visit he got me into Robert Service. I was amazed how he used words to make things come alive and I had visions of great adventure.
Who is your favorite author/book?
Hemingway TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT.
What is your favorite book to film adaptation?
Where are your favorite places to read?
My desk is where I do most everything.
When you read do you prefer a book or a kindle/tablet?
I prefer my computer.
Any tips for aspiring authors?
Do it and keep doing it. The world is waiting for your story and it can’t read it unless you write it.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today Fred! What’s next?
I am nearly finished with book six, CHEROKEE BILL, THE OTHER GOLDSBY. It is a sequel to my last book. I am in talks with a large production company in Hollywood about my Bass Reeves Trilogy and hope that comes to pass. I have a goal of doing ten books, before I stop and have three more in research now.
Where can my readers find your books!?
Every day and night I think of the refugee children.
I am a little man who has very limited resources, but I must do something.
These children bring tears to my eyes as I see them standing and crying, looking at the sky with rubble at their feet.
There only mistake is being born in a time and place that should have never happened.
I reflect on how lucky I was not to have been dealt the same hand and if I had, would someone reach down and help me?
I strongly believe that a person never stands as tall as when they stoop to help a child. Therefore, I will donate ALL of the PROCEEDS from the sales of any of my E BOOKS on AMAZON until I have run out of matching money.
These funds will be given directly to SAVE THE CHILDREN for the relief of the children who are suffering from the insane acts of man in the Middle East. I ask you simply put the word RELIEF in the review site for any or all books.
My next request is that you SHARE THIS WITH YOUR FRIENDS AND THE PUBLIC. If we work together we may insure that the children don’t go to bed hungry on top of dreaming of what unspeakable thing may transpire tomorrow.