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Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Rudolf Kerkhoven (& Daniel Pitts, by proxy), Authors, Interviewed.

“The Adventures of Whatley Tupper: A Choose Your Own…” By Rudolf Kerkhoven & Daniel Pitts.   Before the interview, I checked out and found some amazing reviews of the book, one by the well-known J.A. Konrath. No bio for this one, as the information is in the body of the answers to the questions.
Tell us about The Adventures of Whatley Tupper in a few sentences.

The Adventures of Whatley Tupper is about a middle-aged, Magnum P.I. obsessed janitor working at a university.   It’s a choose your own adventure style for adults, and so from there the reader decides where the plot goes next, ranging from silly (taking on a mysterious group of rogue custodians), to inane (taming a troglodytes murderer who lurks in the disused campus network of tunnels), to absolutely ridiculous (travelling into parallel universes that include other plot-lines from the story).  So, yeah, it’s a comedy.

What qualities do you need to be a successful writer?

While I can’t call myself successful in terms of writing, I would think the following qualities have definitely benefited me:
A love of coffee or other liquid stimulants.
An ability to type quickly.
The assumption that if I just don’t give, then eventually something good may come of this before I die.
An ability to shrug off rejection letters.

What is your working method?

Well, The Adventures of Whatley Tupper is not typical of my writing.  It’s the only collaboration I’ve worked on, as well as being the only piece of comedy I’ve written.  So, the method for this book was quite unique. 

My friend, Daniel Pitts, and I decided way back in the summer of 2003 to try an experiment.   Together, we agreed on a single character (a middle-aged janitor), his name (Whatley Tupper), and a basic setting (a university), pretty much in that order.   We wrote the first page together, and then Daniel took it home with him (he lives about 1000 km away in Calgary, while I live in Vancouver), where he’d finish a section, give a few choices, and then email it back to me.  I’d then carry on from one or two choices, write another few sections with new choices, and then email it back to him.  Back and forth, we kept this up for three years, never really knowing where the story was going until it was emailed back to us.   What this all lead to was a wild variety of different plots that quickly veer off into insane places, as well as a strangely complex book for something so silly.  

After the draft was finished, we then spent two years editing the manuscript, again emailing it back and forth, which was itself a daunting task.   Since we each made up the story as we went along, there was a great need to tighten up the entire manuscript.  After that we tried getting it published the old fashioned way all to no avail.  And then this summer I discovered Amazon’s self-publishing program and rejigged the manuscript to work on a Kindle.

What is the single biggest mistake made by beginners to writing?

Assuming that there aren’t another million people out there doing the exact same thing, all trying to get published, all inundating publishers and agents with their manuscripts.

If you have a favourite character in your novel, why that particular one?

The character of Robert Nudge, who is the head of campus security.  He’s an absolute stock character—the overweight, slovenly trigger-happy cop wannabe—but every scene with him was a joy to write.  He’s just so vile and repugnant.  And he always refers to himself as “The Nudge.”  It makes me smile just writing this.

How can people buy your book(s)?

It’s only available as an ebook through the following sites:

To what extent are grammar and spelling important to a writer?

A great extent, especially when self-publishing.  It annoys me greatly when I find typos in my work after it’s released, although with ebooks it really is easy to update versions online.  When I look at other people’s self-published books and I see typos on the first or second page, I have to say I make pretty quick judgments about the book, and I know most people do the same.

How much revision of your MS do you do before you send it off?

Usually I try to do at least 8-10 revisions.  With The Adventures of Whatley Tupper it was a little more difficult because some plots are hard to find, and therefore when editing they weren’t read as often.  In getting it ready for the Kindle, I really noticed a ton of errors in some sections that I thought were thoroughly edited.

What are your writing habits?

I go in phases.  I’m a teacher, so some days I’m terribly tired and find it really hard to write after work.  However, the summers are wonderful and I usually try to write as much as possible.  If I’m writing something new, I usually can’t write more than a couple of hours (usually in the morning), but if I’m editing, I can do this for hours and hours.  I actually quite enjoy the editing process.

When I started writing, some 12 years ago, I used to be able to write much more at once, but looking back I also realize that I was just writing for the sake of writing.  I try to be much more succinct now, perhaps because I appreciate how much I tend to cut out in the editing process.

What sort of displacement activities keep you from actually writing?

Damn you, Google.

How long does it normally take you to write a novel?

This varies greatly.  The Adventures of Whatley Tupper was an exception in every way for me.  Like I said, it took three years to write the first draft.   When working on my own, I used to be able to write a first draft in a matter of a few months.  Now, probably a year for the first draft, but I’ve become much more picky about what I write.  I used to give myself a rule that I had to get x number of pages done a day.  But then I’d end up writing filler and cut it out later.  Now, I just try to write something I think I’ll like, even if it’s just a paragraph.

And I must say, when I was single I would write much more.  But then again, I was also bored much more.

Is there any aspect of writing that you really enjoy?

I love the entire process, from just daydreaming ideas and characters and plots, to slogging through the draft, to editing over and over again.  The very act of creating something never ceases to feel enlightening.   Writing gives me purpose, it makes me happy, even if it will never be published.  It’s as simple as that.

Do you have a website or a blog that readers can visit?

Anyone Can Write (a Blog): Self/Indie Publishing with Amazon’s Kindle

Given unlimited resources, what would be your ideal writing environment?

I’d buy a cool condo in the Kitsilano area of Vancouver, which is full of an assortment of unique coffee shops, my absolute favourite being Benny’s CafĂ© on Broadway.  I’d wake up every morning, go for a jog, then walk to Benny’s, take up a table up on the mezzanine, and write for several hours, enjoying one of the last remaining places on Earth that still offers decently priced refills.   I could do that for a long, long time.

Unfortunately, the Kitsilano community of Vancouver is one of the most expensive places in the world to live, and so…

Where do you actually write?

…usually these days I write at the local Starbucks just a few blocks from my place (there are no independent coffee houses within walking distance).   I can write at home, but I’ve always found it much more inspirational to get out of the house and sit somewhere with a coffee.  I need the bustle of people, I need the clamour of voices and cascade of passing strangers.  I’ve never yearned for a secluded cabin in the middle of nowhere, not for writing at least. 

The Amazon page is here:

and the Amazon UK page is here:

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