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Saturday, February 16, 2013

Author Interview: Randall St. Germain

Today I am pleased to present to you all the 51st (notice I've gone numerical now!) in a series of Author Interviews. Recently I sat down with the menthol shaving-cream-covered Randall St. Germain and our conversation went something like this:

Paul:  I like to start my interviews by asking if you have any writing rituals?
Randall:  Writing well and productively starts the evening before with not eating late and getting a proper sleep. I like to wake up early, but not start writing until I feel creative. If my head is in a fog, it’s best if I do some other work. When I get tired, I’ll take a break. Sometimes, I’ll go outside for some fresh air, and maybe pull some dandelions out of the lawn. Other times, I just need to rest my eyes and mind. Lying down and closing my eyes, possibly with some light music and a blindfold, is the best to rejuvenate.
Paul:  What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?
Randall:  I read or listen to mostly nonfiction books, including travelogues, biographies, and self-improvement. I’ve always admired Bill Bryson, and just finished a brilliant book, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. I like humor too, and enjoy listening to Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart, among others. For books on writing, I believe all writers should read Stephen King’s aptly titled On Writing.
Paul:  If someone had the power to step into your creative mind what would they see?
Randall:  Hmmm... that’s pretty scary. Let me think... a crankshaft, a fountain pen, barbed wire, bunny rabbits with wings, and lots of diet cola floating around.
Paul:  What is a typical day for you? 
Randall:  A typical day is waking up early, checking emails, messages, and tweets. Get to work on my blog, writing, emails, workshops, seminars, while working on my day job which I sadly still have and need. I like to go to the gym or out for walks a few times a week also. In the summer, I enjoy getting out one day a week for a good hike.
Paul:  Do you have a favorite character in each of your series, aside from the lead? If so, which one and why? 
Randall:  My book features the Camino de Santiago, and I feel I play a secondary role to the pilgrimage.
Paul:  In all the years you’ve been publishing your work, what is the biggest mistake you made that you could share so others can avoid making it? 
Randall:  This is my first book so I haven’t been publishing for long. I’ll say that of all of my many, many mistakes, I think my worst was not having much of a platform and no promotion set up when my paperback was released. I just put it out there, and not much happened. It was a year later when my Kindle version was released that I had even a little buzz. I recommend everyone to think about their platform well before their book is released. Make connections and solicit reviewers early. Don’t wait for six months like I did. Also, I need to learn not to be so impatient.
Paul:  How do you find the time to write?
Randall:  It’s not only finding time to write, it’s finding time during my most creative time that is important. It takes planning, and cooperation from those around you. I mentioned a good sleep is important, especially as I get older, as well as good nutrition and removing all distractions, if possible. I get distracted easy and try not to multi-task. The goal is to have the clearest, most productive mind that one possesses. I do the best with what I have.
Paul:  What is one thing you hope I do not tell the readers?
Randall:  When I need to wake myself up at some point during the day, one of my methods is to put menthol shaving cream over certain parts of my body. I would prefer not to talk about it. Maybe, we should just move on.
Paul:  If you are self-published, what led to you going your own way?
Randall:  I remember going to a writer’s conference before I began my book. A woman stood up during one of the panels, and asked the publisher on stage why her manuscript hadn’t been looked at for 18 months. The publisher said they were so backlogged with manuscripts, that he didn’t know when he would get to it. Of course, that was only to review her book and nothing was guaranteed. I also knew someone who contacted an agent and was told about the same time frame to review her manuscript. I couldn’t imagine waiting that long. I could be dead in 18 months; hell I could be dead in 18 days. I also met someone who had been shopping her book for 20 years, and felt a little sorry for her. I believe my experience with the music industry also influenced my decision. If I didn’t have inside contacts, there was no way I was going to get even listened to by a major publisher. I just worked on my book until it was published, and then thought about the next steps.
Paul:  Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Randall:  My book is a travelogue of a pilgrimage so I guess you can say that once I decided to write a book, I walked with it. I’m sorry. Seriously, my book is an honest recount of my journey and I hope the reader appreciates that. I took the reader right across the French Way of the Camino de Santiago.
Paul:  Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Randall:  I self-edited probably more than I should have, but I wanted my journey told in the manner that I saw, and not in someone else’s eyes. My editor helped a lot with punctuation and grammar. She also told me when she thought I went overboard with my attempted humor.
Paul:  Do you have to do much research for your stories?
Randall:  I wanted to keep the history portion of the book light. Historical reference books on the Camino de Santiago have been published for centuries. It wasn’t my intention or desire to write another one. Much of my research involved dating and naming buildings and other monuments along the Camino. I know I have one mistake in my book where I wrongly identified a vegetable. I’m truly a city boy.
Paul:  What is your most recent book? Tell us a little about it
Randall:  My recent book is actually my only book. It’s entitled Camino de Santiago In 20 Days, and recounts my journey across Spain on the famous pilgrimage, the 500 mile French Way of the Camino de Santiago. I wrote my book hoping the reader finds it entertaining and funny, while gaining a better understanding about what it’s like to walk the pilgrimage. When people find it inspiring, it makes me feel very happy.
Paul:  What inspired you to write this book?
Randall:  My walk and book are dedicated to my late mother. She encouraged me to go, before she passed away. As for the actual idea for writing the book, let me just say, when you’re walking by yourself for much of the time, up to 14 hours a day, there are many ideas that go through your mind. My idea happened to be a book although, I wish it was something more lucrative, such as a billion-dollar software or internet company. Why couldn’t I think of Pinterest?
Paul:  Do you also write any poetry, non-fiction or short stories?
Randall:  I don’t write poetry, but I’m a songwriter. I have a catalog of songs that I hope to incorporate into my publishing company one day. If there is anyone out there who is, or knows, a talented young singer, please contact me. Otherwise, I have ideas for books that are fiction, but they won’t be written any time soon. My next book will continue my journey from when Camino de Santiago In 20 Days was first published, through my second pilgrimage, the 530 mile Camino Del Norte.
Paul:  Do you have any pieces of work that will never see the light of day?
Randall:  My high school journals. I still have them and nobody will ever get to see them. I also have some very poor songwriter demos.
Paul:  Do you enter competitions? Are there any you could recommend?
Randall:  The last competition I entered was for baking cookies, but I think you mean competitions regarding writing. Sorry, I have never entered one. I like to think just publishing a book in a world with so many books, many of which are free, is enough of a competition.
Paul:  How much marketing do you do for your published works or for your ‘brand’?
Randall:  Early on, I did little marketing at all. In fact, I didn’t know what to do. I decided to build up my brand through blogging and social media. It was difficult at first, learning Wordpress and blogging, and continuing through the early days with very few visitors to my website. It’s better now, although I strive to become a much better writer, not only on my blog, but for my next book. I have dozens of emails and could spend a considerable amount of money on advertising and PR programs. I haven’t participated in any yet, but if something makes sense from a business standpoint, then I’ll consider it. That’s probably a question I should ask you for advice. I also have to be comfortable with each level of promotion. I’m still learning and do the best I can.
Paul:  What’s your favorite / least favorite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Randall:  My favorite aspect is when I write something that makes me chuckle or even laugh aloud. The least favorite aspect are the days, or parts of days, when I’m staring at my computer but can’t think of any words. What has surprised me? I learned a lot about myself while writing. It was very similar to walking the Camino. I touched upon it earlier with having a better understanding of your mind and body, and to take advantage when I’m at my best. On the Camino, it was walking well when I felt my best. With writing, it’s writing to the best of my ability when I feel creative. I never did fully understand the correlation until my book was finished, and I could think more about it. I’m exploring the topic further right now.
Paul:  What do you do when you’re not writing? Do you have any hobbies or party tricks?
Randall:  I enjoy hiking, going for walks, photography, nature, sunsets, and monster truck driving. Okay, I’m kidding about monster truck driving. I do have a party trick but I prefer not to discuss it here. I am very shy.
Paul:  Well thanks, Randall, that was great. I wish you lots of success with your book.

About Randall St. Germain: Randall St. Germain is the author of Camino de Santiago In 20 Days. which recounts his 20 day walking journey across Spain on the 500 mile French Way of the Camino de Santiago. This past summer, he completed his third Camino, the 530 mile Camino Del Norte. Randall blogs at his website, Camino My Way, where there are over 70 posts, and 1,000 photos from his journeys. He enjoys photography, writing, reading, nature, hiking, long-distance walking, and sometimes, relaxing.

Randall's Blog: Camino My Way
Randall on Twitter: @CaminoMyWay
Randall on Facebook: Camino De Santiago
Randall's latest book: Camino de Santiago in 20 Days (Amazon)

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  1. Paul, thanks so much for the interview. I really enjoyed it.

  2. Thank you Paul for the interview with Randall. I've just recently come across his site and have enjoyed following his posts on his Camino journey. I love the pictures he has posted and the windy video.