Welcome to my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, scriptwriters, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with novelist and short story author William Marden aka Daniel Quentin Steele. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Daniel. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Daniel: I’m a recently retired high school teacher and currently live near Jacksonville in Northeast Florida. Before becoming a teacher, I worked as a PR rep for a professional medical state society for seven years and before that I was a reporter / editor / photographer for three Florida newspapers over 20 years. I was bitten by the writing bug in the fourth grade when I wrote a story about an adventure involving myself and four friends in a uranium mine. The class and my pretty fourth grade teacher all loved the story and I was hooked.
Morgen: So was I after one evening class back in January 2005. What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Daniel: For most of my life I’ve written science fiction, fantasy, horror, sword and sorcery and mysteries. That’s the prime area of my reading interests as well. I’ve written and finished five novels in those genres and more than 200 short stories. In the last three years I’ve entered a completely different genre, writing stories and now a very long four-volume series about male / female relationships, some of which might be called adult romances.
I call what I’m writing adult romances to distinguish them from what readers generally think about when they see the ‘romance’ tag on a novel. First and foremost, the central characters or viewpoint characters are, and probably will remain, males. There is a more realistic use of language, including profanity, and sexual elements.
Some of the stories I will write could be considered romances in that they fit the traditional mold of boy meets girl, fall in love and love triumphs. But most of my stories deal with the dark side of love. Usually, but not always, they involve infidelity and betrayal on the part of women, or other problems that cause relationships and marriages to founder or collapse. I think men tend to be wounded more deeply than women in such situations, even though the cliché is that it is women who are more often the victims.
But regardless of who did what or to whom, my stories tend to look at marriages and relationships wounded or dying. And I consider these love stories because somebody in the relationship has to love and hurt, or there is no story.
Morgen: There must always be conflict. What have you had published to-date?
Daniel: I’ve written and had one fantasy novel published under my name, William Marden. “The Exile of Ellendon” was published by Doubleday in the U.S. in the 1970s and by Robert Hale in England in the same period. I’ve had some professionally paid short stories published in the “Superheroes” anthology, “365 Scary Stories”, “Erotic Fantastic”, and genre stories in small press publications in the U.S., England, Canada and Australia.
I currently have two self published novels being sold on Barnes & Noble and Smashwords. They are: “When We Were Married – Volume One – The Long Fall” and “When We Were Married – Volume 2 – Second Acts”. They’re published under the name “Daniel Quentin Steele”.
Morgen: With your self-published works, what lead to you going your own way?
Daniel: I decided I wasn’t going to live long enough to get my books published in the conventional fashion. I’ve been writing for more than 30 years, sold one book, had one agent literally die on me in the process of trying to get another book sold, and firmly gave up and decided my novel writing days were behind me (twice) because there was no way I’d ever get an agent. I stopped writing, stopped submitting, stopped dreaming of ever getting published.
Then I started writing again, tentatively at first but I got into this long-range legal / courthouse / crime / adult novel and it consumed me. I happened to be at a writer’s meeting when a Barnes & Noble rep spoke about their PUBIT self publishing program. And I decided, what could it hurt? I had to rewrite a long serialized fictional project and turn it into the first 220,000-word 800-page ebook, then do the same to the second 165,000-word sequel, “Second Acts”.
I’m no threat to major writers, but I have a core group of readers who have bought both books at $9.95 a download, even though portions are available for free, and are continuing to push me to finish the third in a four-volume epic series. I’m on Smashwords because after I posted on Barnes I started getting emails from fans in England and Canada and France and Italy and Germany and Australia telling me they couldn’t buy from Barnes because that company didn’t sell outside the continental US. Getting those kinds of emails are the ultimate ego boost.
Morgen: Yay for your core readers. That’s the epitome of quality over quantity. Are your books available as eBooks? How involved were you in that process? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Daniel: Both “WWWM” books are available only as eBooks. Basically they were written, edited, formatted (with a little help) by me. Every word, with a little help from some good friends along the way. I had never read eBooks but in the last year I’ve started doing more. The problem is I will never live long enough to read the books I’ve already downloaded. But it’s a nice challenge. On the other hand, I will never live long enough to read all the paper books I’ve got. I used to review for two major American newspapers and I got tons of books for review. I’m about 18 years behind.
Morgen: Oh dear! Looking at the four bookcases in my office I can probably say the same about never getting to them all, and I have books in every room in the house, even in the lodgers’ rooms! Do you have a favourite of your books or characters? If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actor/s?
Daniel: That’s a toughie. Right now it would be “WWWM 1 – The Long Fall”. That’s the novel that has swallowed up my life over the last two years and “The Long Fall” set the parameters for everything that will follow. Probably my favourite character would be Assistant State Attorney William Maitland who is a tough, honest, fair and compassionate prosecutor and protector of the public good, but also an insecure, obsessive, angry, neglectful father and husband. He’s a very good man in a lot of ways, but he’s almost impossible to live with and he’s driven his wife into the arms of another man and driven his children away from him.
Morgen: It often happens, especially to those in the law ‘business’. Did you have any say in the titles / covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
Daniel: As a self published author the titles are all mine and the covers, which I think are incredible, are done by an artist friend of mine. I had no say in Doubleday’s selection of the cover art for “The Exile of Ellendon”, which again I thought was beautiful. But the title was mine and they never touched it.
Morgen: What are you working on at the moment / next?
Daniel: I’m writing the third volume in the WWWM series, “The Wind Is Rising” and trying not to get distracted by the ideas for short stories that keep popping into my head. After “The Wind is Rising,” comes “Nobody Gets Out Alive,” which is the climactic end of the WWWM series. IMMEDIATELY on finishing WWWM, the next one I’m going to do is a novel I started before WWWM, called “Here At The End Of All Things”. It’s about a guy who decides to kill himself on his 60th birthday. On the day of his suicide, he decides to go out for one last drink to end things in style, winds up picking up and bedding a 22-year-old cocktail waitress, and suddenly all his plans go awry.
Morgen: <laughs> Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Daniel: No. I wish. (That I could write every day). The past six months editing and posting and selling WWWM has killed my writing. But I’ve started back. I don’t have a regular system. I can go weeks without writing more than a few words and then do 25,000 in a few days. I did suffer from writer’s block a long time ago. It only killed my novel writing efforts for 17 years. But I got better.
Morgen: That’s what I love about NaNoWriMo; that I can write 50,000+ words in a month. I do write a short story (usually flash fiction) a day for my 5pm fiction slot. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Daniel: A combination. I usually have a fairly good idea of the plot of a novel before I get too far into it. I had written the first two, two and a half chapters of WWWM before I had a firm grasp of where it was going. After that, I’ve written more than 400,000 words and I still have a good handle on how it’s going to end and what will be in the last chapter. But, I started writing WWWM with only four words in my head and while the first 25,000 words or the first chapter were clear in the my head, I could see only as far as the end of the marriage of prosecutor Bill Maitland and his wife, Debbie Maitland / Bascomb. But I started writing that first chapter the day I heard those four words and I finished the first chapter in a few days.
Morgen: Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Daniel: Not really. Most of my characters come out of my subconscious without much, if any, forethought. The names also seem to come from somewhere. Most of my characters going back to earlier novels are driven by fairly understandable emotions and desires. With WWWM, the characters are driven by strongly felt emotions, their lives in a lot of cases, are screwed up by those emotions, and they often do stupid things that run counter to their best interests, just the way people do in real life.
Morgen: Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Daniel: I don’t do much editing. I proof for obvious mistakes, although I probably missed some, but as far as rewriting my novels, making major changes after I’ve written them, no. And that’s always the way I’ve written. It comes from my newspaper reporter background. On deadline you don’t have time to agonize about sentences, word choice. You have only a few hours, usually less, to write 1000-5000 words and probably no choice to even do a major rewrite. I’ve rewritten short stories, but even there I usually leave my first draft alone.
Morgen: I usually do little tweaking to the shorts but longer pieces always come back from my first readers splattered with ink blood. Do you have to do much research?
Daniel: Again, not much. On WWWM I used Google unmercifully for answering small questions, getting dates and days of the week straight. But the thrust of the novels didn’t require research. I was a police and court reporter in Jacksonville on and off for more than 15 years. I rode with cops, and sat and talked with them off the record about their cases. I talked to judges when they were alone in their chambers and prosecutors when they were in the middle of cases. I never betrayed confidences and thus I had a lot of people willing to talk to me. I also sat through a heck of a lot of cases and learned it’s really hard to guess which way juries will jump.
Morgen: I sat in on a case last year (a fake one for a police open day) and I got it wrong. What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Daniel: Probably first person is my favourite. Third I’ve used in a few novels. WWWM is a fairly unusual mix. Part is in first person from Bill Mailand’s point of view, and the rest is in third person, usually from Debbie Maitland. Can’t remember ever trying second person.
Morgen: I love it for short stories but wouldn’t recommend it for novels unless perhaps alternate chapters. Do you write any poetry, non-fiction or short stories?
Daniel: I wrote some poetry earlier in my life. I’ve written non fiction, articles for pay, my entire life and still do. The same with short stories, I wrote and submitted my first science fiction piece for publication about 45 years ago. Didn’t sell, but I have been writing since I was a teenager.
Morgen: Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Daniel: Of course. I have tons of beginnings of short stories and some completed that will never see the light of day.
Morgen: Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Daniel: Literally bags and folders full. Short stories. Novels. Flat out “no”s. A lot encouraging, “do this, do that”. Most of which I never did. Hundreds of rejections. Maybe thousands. I used to send out short stories religiously. Made a game out of it. I did sell some and that kept me going. I stopped sending them out when I finally gave up on novels. I could have sent out short stories and I still did once in a while, but I’d lost the heart for it and real life kept encroaching on the time I had available.
Morgen: What a shame. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Daniel: No. Sold my first and only book without one. Never could get an agent. I tend to believe you probably do need one, UNLESS you’re in an environment such as New York or another large city where you can make connections with people in the writing and / or academic community which can lead to publishers and agents. Colleges and universities can fulfil the same function. In other words, you have to have a presence in the literary universe, which I’ve never had.
Morgen: How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Daniel: Not near as much as I should. I’ve just retired and I’m only beginning to use Facebook, Goodreads, other online resources. I have a small body of readers who already follow my books and I hope to build on that. I haven’t posted on Amazon because I messed up there at the beginning, although I’ve been happy with Barnes & Noble and Smashwords, but there’s no doubt that Amazon is the 800-pound gorilla of publishing. I expect to publish on Amazon in the next little bit and we’ll see what happens. I’ve gotten some information on “branding” and I probably should do it. But as with a lot of other things, there are ten million things you have to do when you’re self-published, make that Indie, not least of which is continuing to write. It should be my first priority and it hasn’t been for a while. I intend to change that.
Morgen: It should. We are writers after all (says she who does very little). What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Daniel: I thought that when I retired I’d have all the time in the world, especially after the last two years of my working life. Didn’t turn out to be that way, because of the marketing/sales aspect of being an Indie author. The lack of time would be the least favourite part of writing. The actual writing itself, setting words down on paper (or in this case on the computer screen), getting lost in that fictional world, that’s the best part of this life.
Morgen: Snap. Nothing is as thrilling as writing. Lack of time is very frustrating. I don’t think there’s a writer out there who has too much of it. (If there is one reading this, let me know!) What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Daniel: A long time ago I read something that famed science fiction writer Robert Heinlein wrote as the secret to success in writing and I’ve never forgotten it. He said there were three things a writer had to do.
- Finish what you write.
- Keep sending it out until it sells.
And that’s really all there is to it.
Morgen: <laughs> W Somerset Maugham is quoted as saying, “There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” Looks like you do. Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Daniel: There’s an old time writer named Frank Yerby that I read when I was younger. Haven’t seen his stuff in decades. But in something he wrote about his books, he mentioned one of two titles I think he said he would like to have written. I’m pretty sure of one and I might have garbled the other but the two stick in my head. The first was “For My Great Folly,” and the second was, “For Loving You”. Again, I don’t know that I’ll ever write anything with those titles, but I’d love to.
Morgen: Maybe short stories? Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Daniel: I’ve done book reviewing in the past and would like to do book reviews for magazines or online sites. Have had a few comic book scripts written, published and/or produced and a few more lying around if any artists wanted to take a look.
Morgen: I’d gladly add you to http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/reviews. What do you do when you’re not writing?
Daniel: When gas didn’t take up your life savings, getting out and driving to be driving was a favorite activity. Florida has a lot of beautiful places to hang out. I tried to use some of them in “When We Were Married” – primarily St. Augustine and its environs. In earlier years my wife and I had an RV and would drive down to campsites south of us and hang out with the Canadian Snowbirds. I love movies and have wasted entirely too much of my life staring at godlike images on huge screens in dark caverns surrounded by strangers, but I don’t regret a minute of it. I’ve done a lot of movie reviews when I could find newspapers that would publish them. My wife and I love cruising (on cruise ships that is) and if there was any ship like the Bonne Chance sailing the Seven Seas, I would have loved to have sailed her. But no party tricks. Despite being a newspaperman for most of my life, and being able to walk into almost any situation cold including riots and closed meetings and emotional fatalities, I’m still shy. At any party you’ll find me in a corner watching people.
Morgen: Isn’t it great that we get to do that. 🙂 Are there any writing-related websites and / or books that you find useful?
Daniel: I love LinkedIn and Goodreads. There are probably others, but off the top of my head, they’re the best.
Morgen: What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Daniel: In some ways much better times, in other ways kind of scary. It will be much easier to publish on your own through companies like Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Amazon and Kobo. I think it will be easier for what are called mid-list or mid-level writers to earn some kind of income through their writing. If you’re any good, and write steadily and develop your reader base, you might not be rich but you’ll make enough to get by, maybe even be comfortable. But you’re going to have to work your butt off because you won’t have the supports of the big publishers from the old days, unless you make a name for yourself or get published by the old-style big publishers. The scary part is that there are going to be 10 million new books a year – or something like that – and Sturgeon’s Law that 90 percent of EVERYTHING is crap is true and most readers will simply at some point stop reading anything except by writers whose names they recognize. It will be that much harder to get your toe in the door UNLESS you bring readers in from some other venue or web site or unless you are, and can prove you are, the Vice President’s secret mistress or Elvis Presley’s love child. In other words, the rich and famous and their kids will get more rich and famous and most of the rest will be outside pressing their noses to the glass barrier between them (That Got) and us (That Don’t). Of course, it’s always been that way to an extent, so it’s not the end of the world.
Morgen: 🙂 which is why marketing (including guesting on blogs) is a necessary evil. Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Daniel: You can find the general page for “When We Were Married” at http://pubit.barnesandnoble.com/pubit_app/bn?a=mv&t=mytitles; or go to the product page for “When We Were Married – Volume One – The Long Fall:” at http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/when-we-were-married-volume-1-the-long-fall-daniel-steele/1106754384?ean=2940013654587.
And from there you can find the product page for the second volume at : http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/when-we-were-married-2-second-acts-daniel-steele/1108241609?ean=2940013760448
Or you can go to Smashwords:
You can find information about my writing at my website:
Morgen: Thank you, Daniel. I’m delighted you could join me today.
I then invited Daniel to include an extract of his writing…
What The Law – And Bill Maitland – Is All About
“The law is bullshit,” the billionaire said around a mouthful of choice French braised beef. “People that can afford it can do anything and little people get shit on. It’s the way of life, and the law doesn’t change anything. It just lets the morons think that there is some fairness in life.”
“I think you would probably differ with that opinion,” Dunleavy said mildly to me.
I looked at the billionaire and said, “The son of a man with almost as much money as you is sitting in a cell in Raiford today because he thought money would let him do anything he wanted. His daddy thought so too, but he found out the hard way that there are some things money can’t buy. As for the little people…”
I grabbed an escargot and popped it in my mouth and washed it down with hot bitter coffee before telling them the story of Lilly Mae Longstreet, the victim in the first case I ever argued as an Assistant SA.
“Her killer walked free. Stayed free for about two years until he tried to short-change someone in a crack deal. They found parts of him around the Westside for months after that. The ME—Medical Examiner – said there were strong indications he was still alive when they started dissecting him. Somehow, I think Lilly Mae is smiling somewhere about that.
“Her husband remarried the next year. His wife left him in a couple of years and he remarried again. He started drinking heavily after Lilly Mae’s murder and never stopped. They found him in bed a couple of years ago. The medical examiner said a heart attack. He was 45. Lilly Mae herself never completed high school. I don’t think anyone in her family ever got a diploma. She was just a hard working lower class woman who loved her husband and kids.”
I stared at the billionaire.
“Just Southern white trash as some people would say. No great loss to society. But she was a human being. She lived and had a right to a better end than taking a couple of .38 slugs to the head delivered by a stoned-out-of-his-mind crack addict. That’s what the law is all about; making everybody’s life count. Even little people.”
and a synopsis of his books…
“When We Were Married” is the story of the marriage of a driven Florida prosecutor and a beautiful professor and the four words that killed it. The first volume, “The Long Fall,” introduces Bill Maitland, a short, fat Assistant State Attorney in Jacksonville in 2005, married to Debbie Maitland, a tall, blonde Associate Professor at the University of North Florida.
Despite his personal shortcomings, Maitland is the man who actually runs the State Attorney’s Office, a job which has swallowed up his personal life and killed his marriage.
In “Fall,” an 18-year marriage seemingly doomed from the start, blows up. In its aftermath, Maitland will face baby killers and stone cold drug lords, mercy killers and deadly grannies, killer cops and drug cartels.
Against these and all odds, Maitland is armed only with a superb legal mind, the powers of the prosecutor’s office, bulldog stubbornness and a compulsion to do the right thing no matter what the cost. And a basic decency that gives him surprising allies from the Florida underworld to a Columbian crime cartel.
Outside the courtroom, Debbie will find that beauty is no shield against pain and loneliness and making a new life after 20 years is harder than it looks.
Daniel Quentin Steele is a Jacksonville author and native Floridian. A former educator, he has been a journalist and public relations professional. He has covered and reported on crime and cops, courts and trials in several Florida cities. He has worked as a speechwriter and political and media consultant. He has had one novel published in the U.S. and Great Britain as well as short stories published in the U.S., Canada, Australia and England.
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