Ed Protzel interview with David Alan Binder
Post date: Aug 23, 2017 3:57:45 AM
Ed Protzel interview with David Alan Binder
1. Where are you currently living?
I live in St. Louis, Missouri.
2. What is the most important thing that you have learned in your writing experience, so far?
You must, first, put in the work daily. Even if you are temporarily blocked, work on the first part of the next scene or a later scene that will become important (you’ll need to revise important scenes repeatedly anyway). Once you get going, it will come. Also, I am working on a historical trilogy. That means lots of research. You’ve got to fill up the reservoir if you want water in the spigot. Here’s what I do: If I am having difficulty coming up with something or resolving something, I think about it right before I go to sleep. By morning, I often wake up with the answer or an even better idea than the one I’ve been working on.
3. What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
Having written screenplays for a number of years, I start with the best original “high concept” I can imagine. This overarching idea will guide me to produce a catharsis in the reader and bring out my higher themes. From that, my novels have strong characters and dialogue, structure, and surprising plot twists—all to support my main idea.
4. Tell us your insights on self-publish or use a publisher?
I have chosen not to self-publish. My advice on publishers: don’t always take the first offer your agent hands you and get the best publisher you can, one that’s right for your audience.
a. Who is the name of your publisher and in what city are they located? The publisher for my Southern historical DarkHorse Trilogy is TouchPoint Press, located in Jonesboro, Arkansas.
5. Any insights eBooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?
It may sound old school, but print was always of utmost importance to me; that’s the way I read. My publisher publishes both ebooks and print, which accommodates both kinds of readers.
6. Do you have any secret tips for writers on getting a book published?
Just keep seeking a good agent no matter how often you are rejected. I know people who were rejected a hundred times until they hit an agent who really appreciated and loved their work—and who got them a publisher.
7. How did you or would you suggest acquire an agent? Any tips for new writers on getting one?
Write the best professional query letter and synopsis you can, and target an agent closest to specializing in your work. Go into each agent’s website and personalize to address their interests and fit their submission requirements. Generic emails or letters won’t do a thing for you.
8. Do you have any suggestions or help for new writers (please be specific and informational as possible)?
Just keep writing. Don’t expect a bestseller. If you enjoy writing, do it. If you don’t, there are far easier ways to make a living. And read more than your write if you can.
9. What was one of the most surprising things you learned with your creative process with your books?
Surprisingly, I learned that no matter how stuck you are on a story, something wonderful and unexpected will arise as a dramatic solution. Also, often, if you listen to them, your characters will give you the best dialogue in your script or novel.
10. How many books have you written?
I wrote five screenplays for feature film before I turned to novels. I have written three novels and am working on a fourth. These include my historical DarkHorse Trilogy, which brackets the Civil War, from 1859-1866. The Lies That Bind, the first in the trilogy, was published in late 2015 and takes place in antebellum Mississippi. The second, Honor Among Outcasts, scheduled to be published this fall, is set in Civil War Missouri. The third, Something in Madness, due in 2018, returns to Mississippi during Reconstruction. I also have completed a futuristic mystery/thriller novel, The Antiquities Dealer, which is currently being shopped to publishers by my agent.
11. Do you have any tricks or tips to help others become a better writer (please be as specific and informative as you possibly can)?
Yes, maximize the conflict in every scene. There should be conflict that continuously moves the plot or characters forward—or else people will put your book down. Even if there is repressed conflict, or a character has inner conflict, that is all to the good. One way to do this is to see things from multiple points of view, even from the antagonists. Also, there should be ambiguity in every scene (as in life), and looking at all sides will contribute to that.
12. Do you have any suggestions for providing twists in a good story?
Simply be inventive. Think things through from multiple angles, and you’ll discover twists, turns, and surprises that are dramatic and, depending on your themes and structure, often ironic and humorous, too. Twists are one of my specialties, but it all comes from actively seeking another angle to your story. My novel The Lies That Bind is replete with twists, most of which will surprise. I spent a lot of time going over and over the story and adding twists and turns.
13. What makes your or any book stand out from the crowd?
The Lies That Bind has a fairly original “concept” for the protagonists: a trickster and a group of slaves form an egalitarian partnership to build their own plantation, while fooling the town and dealing with contentious issues in their own unusual setup. Their scheme serves to shed light on my themes of social justice (that all of us are just people with our own strengths and weaknesses) and adds a lot of irony and humor to the story.
Opposing the partners—and a reverse reflection of them—is the town’s wealthy establishment family, mother and son, which have their own contentious relationship. Further, the town itself has an antagonistic relationship to both sides and is itself an oppressive character in the novel. The novel is constructed with many such interlocking dramatic triangles, which gives the reader much to chew on.
14. What are some ways in which you promote your work?
I love doing dramatic readings, and talking about the book and the historical periods. I have a website, use social media, make presentations at bookstores, schools, radio interviews, etc.
15. What is the one thing you would do differently now (concerning writing or editing or publishing or illustrating) and why?
I am trying to find a good critique group or partner. Poor critique groups can be worse than none at all, however.
16. What saying or mantra do you live by?
17. Anything else you would like to say?
Enjoy reading and writing for the love of it.
A follow up question:
How did you get into screen writing?
I had what I believed was a great story idea, a "high concept," (DarkHorse, which later became the basis of my novel, The Lies That Bind, published by TPP). I read up on writing screenplays. I really like the form. The best book, to me, is Syd Fields' Screenplay, which is in paperback now. All the basis and theory for a good script right there in a shorter read. Highly recommended. Fields read 3,000 or 30,000 scripts professionally and did an Aristotle for film scripts.
I wrote the best DarkHorse script I could and a couple other scripts when I was living in Hawaii. Missouri Playwrights recognized my DarkHorse script and had a reading in St. Louis. I moved to LA and was introduced to a relative I hadn't known existed, who got me in to see Murray Silverman, president of 20th Century Fox MTI division. Mr. Silverman sent my script to Sherry Lansing, head of production. Ms. Lansing read DarkHorse and called it "a great script." Mr. Silverman thought I had a career locked. However, right then, that week!, Rupert Murdock bought the studio, Sherry Lansing moved on to become president of Paramount, Mr. Silverman left Fox for another company, and naturally, new writer Ed Protzel fell through the cracks. It's a big crazy place out there.
I moved back to St. Louis--I just couldn't handle LA at the time. Later, I sent the script to an independent producer, and he said it was the best script he ever read. He offered to option DarkHorse, but it was a bad deal for me both up front and after production began, with no reward on the back end either. I turned it down. While I was still living in St. Louis, Mr. Silverman also asked me to do a treatment for a remake of The Manchurian Candidate, which they later made with Denzel Washington. Frankly, my treatment was lousy, and life took me away from that connection. I also tried to produce one of my scripts myself, shoot it right here in St. Louis, and there was interest, but it didn't work out. I didn't lose any money, so that was okay.
Now I'm writing novels exclusively. I still love the format and think I could write some great films, but I just don't want to go through all that Hollywood studio stuff.