Monday, March 12, 2018

Interview with Rook Winters, THE BRANCH OFFICE


Can you give us a brief overview of your latest book? Is it part of a series?
The Branch Office is about a band of coworkers at a tech company. I call it part tribute and part lampoon of office life. At the heart of the story are two cubicle neighbors at different stages of their careers and with very different aspirations. One wants to get ahead while the other just wants to be left alone, but things at work and in their personal lives aren’t making that easy for either of them. The book has quirky personalities, absurd behavior, awkward situations, brogrammers, company softball games, and plenty of doughnuts.

It’s not a series yet, but I do have a short novella (Minivans and Baseball) following one of the minor characters from the same time as the start of The Branch Office. I have plans for two more novels in the same small city with some of the same characters in new circumstances.

Do you have a favorite character?
Oh, that’s a tricky question. For me, the office itself is almost a character and if I had to pick a favorite, that would be it. But that’s kind of a cop-out answer. The real answer is no because there are aspects of each character that fascinate me.

Briefly describe your journey in writing your first or latest book.
“Write a novel” was on my bucket list for years. Like a lot of aspiring authors, I have a collection of opening chapters to books squirreled away in a folder. When I left my corporate job in the first half of 2017, I had some vacation time to use up. I’m not one to sit idle for long and I wanted to channel my energy into something creative but not directly work related. Since I’m a software developer, that meant shunning my initial instinct to build some kind of app. I joined a novel writing workshop and was really encouraged by the positive feedback I received from everyone. I decided this would be the book I would actually finish and we’d see what happens. And here we are!

What factors influenced your decision to self-publish your book(s)?
When I got serious about writing the book, I started listening to a few podcasts about writing fiction. One in particular, The Creative Penn, has a heavy focus on self-publishing authors. Binge listening to the archive of episodes gave me a crash course on the state of indie publishing. I have an entrepreneurial bent and everything about it resonated with me. After talking with a successful self-published author about his experiences, I knew it was the right path for me.

I’m not dead set against traditional publishing but I’m not pursuing it because so much about indie publishing feels natural to me.

Do you belong to a critique group? Have they helped improve your writing?
I do and they did. I owe a huge debt my critique group and a couple other people beyond the group who provided thoughtful critique on my drafts.

What is your writing process? Do you listen to music or do you like silence?
I need variety. I have a sit-stand desk with a mechanical keyboard (I’m a computer keyboard nerd—tenkeyless with Cherry MX Brown switches for those who care). I normally tackle some administrative tasks early in the day. I find my brain isn’t ready for creative writing for the first hour or two. I’m trying to learn to write while standing. So far, I find it easier to write fiction while sitting and do other work while standing.

Since I like variety, I don’t have one set routine for background noise. Some days I blast music over a speaker. Other days I like the isolation of headphones. I have to listen to instrumental music or music that I’ve loved for many years so the lyrics don’t distract me. The best writing days are when I start an album and don’t notice when it ends because I’m so absorbed with my characters. I’ll often head out to a coffee shop or library for an hour or two in the middle of the day for a change of scenery and sounds.

Do you outline your story or just go where your muse takes you?
A bit of both. I’ve had a coarse outline for everything I’ve written so far but once I’m really into the story, I only let the outline keep me from getting totally lost while I follow the flow of the story.

Did you hire an editor to review your manuscript before publishing?
I did. I was resolute in my decision to find an editor but I was quite anxious about finding the right fit. As is my way, I did a ton of research. Ultimately, I hired Christine Gordon Manley from Manley Mann Media. Even before she did a sample edit, I had a feeling we were going to be compatible because she wrote a blog post titled “Who gives a blank about the Oxford comma? (Christine does.)” The tone of the post was great but, more importantly, she was pro-Oxford comma. Maybe it’s the fastidious programmer in me talking but the Oxford comma just makes sense.

What kinds of marketing [twitter, facebook, blog, forums] are you involved with for promoting your book(s)?
I’m most active on Twitter. I’m @rookwinters there and on Instagram. I have a Facebook page where I post occasionally. I’m also starting to get more active on Goodreads.

Do you find it difficult to juggle your time between marketing your current book and writing your next book?
Absolutely. There’s always more you can do for marketing and I enjoy things like talking with bloggers and writing guest posts. I’m working on a middle grade book before I write the sequel to The Branch Office and my daughter asks me every day after school if I’m working on “the good book,” so that gives me some extra motivation to not neglect the new book.

Besides writing, do you have any other passions?
My world revolves around my family. That’s my number one passion. I enjoy hiking, reading, cooking, and Oxford commas. OK, maybe the Oxford comma isn’t a passion per se but I’d be pretty unhappy if that list was missing one.

Oh, and dad jokes. I love dad jokes. The more groan-worthy, the better.

Some fun facts about you, which do you prefer – dogs or cats? Chocolate or vanilla? Coffee or Tea? Talk or Text? Day or Night?
Dogs. Vanilla. Tea. Those are three of the best things in the world right there!
I’m an introvert so it’s text before talking. I’m a natural nighthawk, which is terribly inconvenient when your wife is a morning person and your children are in school. I end up being sleep deprived more often than I should.

What’s next for you?
When not promoting The Branch Office, I’ll be finishing the first draft of my middle grade book so my daughter can critique it. I’m hopeful that will be a positive experience for both of us (fingers crossed). After that, I’ll be writing the sequel to The Branch Office. I have the premise of that book ready but I won’t get serious about outlining the story until the middle grade book is in my daughter’s hands.

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Author Bio:
Rook Winters is a tea drinker with a writing habit. In 2017, he left his corporate job and focused on writing full-time. His debut novel, The Branch Office, was released in January 2018. 

He lives in New Brunswick, Canada with his wife, children, and Australian Shepherd. He’s a stickler for Oxford commas and a sucker for dad jokes. He’s @rookwinters on Twitter and Instagram.