Here are the most frequently asked questions about my writings that I have received, and their answers.
Q: When did you start writing the Welltower books?
A: 1994 is the earliest version of Welltower: First Run that I have. Ideas for the other books grew as I wrote the first. I didn’t publish the first book in the series until 2011.
Q: What are your writing qualifications?
A: Only my love of writing. I have no formal training or certification but I’ve been writing short stories and reading since grade school and I can immerse myself for hours at a time doing it today. I also have worked in the publishing industry for decades and have self-published several books. That is some form of qualification, if needed.
Q: Do you teach?
A: Not as an accredited teacher. I always teach some aspect of my interests through my website and appearances.
Q: Are you a full-time writer?
A: Not at this time. Actually, I will probably never be, even if my works become successful enough for me to be able to stay home and write, because I would continue creating my artwork as well. But eventually I would like to be able to quit my day job.
Q: How are your books classed?
A: The Welltower books are classed as young adult science fiction thrillers, aimed at the teenage and older markets. The Christmas Orange is classed as a picture book; some call it a childrens book.
Q: Aren’t the themes in Welltower too dark for teenagers?
A: Appropriateness depends on the individual, not exclusively the age group. According to feedback I’ve received, some readers have not been affected by the themes at all; some have been affected profoundly. One reader in the Philippines said that Kaehl’s encounters with his father in book one were so realistic that they gave him nightmares about his own troubled past. But he wrote a glowing review and has eagerly read all the books.
In any case, this series was written for teenagers and for children, too. They are the primary victims of the crimes listed in this series. Many of our youth have gone through much, much worse. Through works like these I hope to highlight their plight and help them in some way. My goal is that they will identify with Kaehl and Selda and find their own paths to freedom, confidence, forgiveness, and faith.
Q: Have you written yourself into your books?
A: I believe that it is impossible to exclude all of your experiences, beliefs and responses from anything you create, so yes, I am in here someplace. That being said, I have enjoyed a great life and a great relationship with my father and mother. I love them very much and am very grateful for their sacrifices in raising me. Kaehl’s experiences, in that regard, are not mine, except in his desire to honor them.
Q: What is your writing method?
- Theme first, ideas second, details third.
- I write in pen on paper because of its freeform nature. I love not being restricted in how I produce my ideas. With pen on paper there are also no problems with batteries running out or lighting making the screen unreadable and I’m not distracted by formatting issues and spell checkers. Ideas first; format last.
- I write whatever comes to mind in any order, refining the ideas later.
- As ideas multiply I switch to outline mode. Often, ideas come too fast for me to be able to capture them outside of an outline.
- At some point I have to enter the outline into the computer. Generally I format it into three thin columns, print it out, and continue adding to it by hand. Wonderfully convenient and portable.
- Refine the outline and begin research. Fill out bit by bit, refine ending as you change beginning, link ideas, etc.
- Outline eventually grows into final form.
- I’ve learned to throw nothing away. I’ve found that people love seeing the terribly crossed-out and marked up versions of my early attempts. They also love to see the evolution of my work, from silly notions to really bad spelling. I think it is comforting to them as they struggle with their own work.
- When illustrating one of my books I always finish the text first, letting image ideas percolate under the surface. Then I storyboard the artwork to match the text and marry them in a graphics or page layout program.
Q: Do you prefer to write on tablets, notebooks, or desktop computers?
A: I use all. Typing on tablets is slower than working on a desktop or notebook. Tablets are slow but the battery life is great for plane trips and slow times during conferences. Keeping the versions of the stories up to date on these devices is just a matter of saving my work into the Cloud someplace. To help with versioning I always add the current date to each filename.
Q: Have you tried voice transcription?
A: Yes. As of this writing the technology is so flawed as to be almost completely unusable even in the best of conditions, especially when you are writing dialogue. But I am sure that things will improve.
Q: How do you publish your books?
A: Generally I write in Microsoft Word, only because the format is so universally accepted. I create any artwork by hand or in the computer and put the book together in Adobe InDesign. This provides me one platform on which I can format the final product for print and most electronic devices. I then upload the book to the publisher, usually as PDF files.
Q: Why did you self-publish your books?
A: Because no authors reps or editors were interested in my ideas. I have grown to love the freedom that today’s inverted publishing model affords authors. Anyone can publish anything at any time instead of being limited to immense wait times under a few publishing houses. If your work is good enough, large publishers may pick you up. If not, you can do well staying in the self-publishing world.
Q: Do you have an editor?
A: Several, actually; one professional and several volunteers. Having people look at your work before throwing it into the marketplace saves much personal embarrassment. They also often have great ideas to help improve your work.
Q: Why Amazon Createspace?
A: I researched many self-publishing options and have printed books through several of them. There are some great resources out there. I chose Amazon for their integrated production, sales, and marketing ecosystem, especially since they have very broad distribution partnerships. I also feel that their pricing is very favorable.
Q: How did you create your website?
A: I am a web designer by trade. After having bought my own domain several years ago, I built my first website by hand. I then cobbled one together using related technologies. Today I have a responsive WordPress site. This means that it automatically adapts to the needs of most devices, including mobile phones and large-screen desktops. The look is based on a commercially-produced WordPress theme. Once I had the design I just added content, one page at a time.
Q: Do you have plans for future books?
A: Today I am writing Welltower 4 and 5. I have another picture book that only needs me to finish the illustrations, and a psychological fantasy that I started in 1994 awaiting final polish. Will there be more Welltower books? Perhaps. How about other books? Almost certainly.
Q: Will you ghost write?
A: I did once before and I could again, given the right offer. The same for co-authoring arrangements. I can’t reveal the book I helped ghost write because of contractual issues.
Q: Will you write in other genres?
A: Any that gets the message across.
Q: Why do you write?
A: Because I love to share the ideas I see in my mind. It is just fun. I think others enjoy sharing my ride; my hope is that we both benefit from the trip.
Q: Do you have a goal with your writing?
A: My motto says it: “Works that bring joy uplift, and change hearts.” I think we all have an obligation to do that. It is why we are here. It is why I create.
Q: You are an artist as well as an author. Which is your preferred medium?
A: Both. In an ideal world I would paint half days and write half days. I have the same goals for both and both are immensely satisfying to me. I have enough personal projects lined up in both disciplines to keep me busy for many years.
Q: Do you have any upcoming appearances?
A: See the Events section of my website, lesteryocum.com/events.
Q: How do I get a signed copy?
A: Come to one of my appearances. Some people have gone to the expense of sending me a book to sign. I am working on selling signed books through my website but that function will be a long time coming.
Q: Will you come talk to our group?
A: Yes! We just need to make the arrangements. Contact me for details.