Winner of The Naked Reviewers Godiva Book Of The Year award, Pres Maxon is in the house! I feel so honored to interview him. His book, Pigeon is amazing.
I met Pres when he submitted his book, Pigeon for review to The Naked Reviewers. How proud I am on him that he won their book of the year award. I can’t wait to interview him and get a peek into his life!
Please allow me to introduce, Pres Maxon.
Sherry: What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?
Pres: I remember the process for Pigeon as being really easy when I wrote it between 2016 and 2017. My first book, Bender at the Bon Parisien was already out there, and I’d learned some lessons about how to write a novel, so I was eager to put them into action on a second book. While Bender took two years to write, the idea for Pigeon developed pretty quickly – characters and plot both fell into place and felt natural.
The book I’m working on now has been a lot harder. Finding the right tone for the characters’ voices, the right turns in the plot line, has been more difficult. But that’s part of the fun of the creative process. So, if there is one hardest thing about writing, I’d say it’s the malleability of the process itself. What worked for me the last time around has morphed a little as I’ve gained experience and my skills have changed (hopefully improved), and it’s presenting new challenges this time.
Sherry: New challenges keep you on your toes. Are there any other genres you read besides the one you write in?
Pres: Oh definitely. I read historical non-fiction quite a bit. I love reading about American and European history. I really like classic literature as well. And every so often I sneak in something that will help the business and marketing side of my brain. I go through sprints of reading memoirs and biographies as well. I love the Beatles, so I like reading about Lennon and McCartney Springsteen’s autobiography was really something else. So vivid. I love reading about Lincoln, too. So it’s a good spectrum of genres.
Sherry: How much research do you do?
Pres: I’d say humor/mystery is decidedly not scholarly. I just try to write from things I already know. For instance, I’m working on a period piece (sort of) right now that’s set during a time frame I’ve read about a lot for fun. So, I haven’t cracked a book for purposes of my newest project. I just have what I already know from a decade of reading about that period for pleasure.
Another example: both Pigeon and Bender at the Bon Parisien are set in Paris, and while the characters inhabit and visit several places around town, most of those places (cafés, shops, etc.) are fictional. I need them to feel real, though, and if someone is familiar with Paris, I’d want those places to be believable (within the world I’ve created). So, I draw on places I’ve been for that I don’t pour over maps, look up pictures, or watch films set in cafés in Paris as I look for the perfect spot.
Sherry: Interesting take on research. Do you work to an outline or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you?
Pres: I do work from an outline, but I allow a lot of flexibility for ideas to pop up. By the end of the first draft, the plot line usually looks different from the outline that informed it. I know many writers who just see where the page takes them, but when I’m writing a mystery, I know I almost have to know the end first. If I don’t know where I’m going, the reader will probably be able to tell. I set up an ending that’s entertaining, meaningful, and satisfying all at once. And then the hard part: I have to actually deliver it. And I just don’t think I’m a good enough writer to do that without planning ahead with an outline.
Sherry: Do you proofread/edit all your own books before you submit them for traditional publishing or self-publish them, or do you have someone who does it?
Pres: I definitely give it to several other people before they get published. I need that outside perspective from people I trust. I usually go through a couple friends (almost as a focus group), plus one or two professional editors usually after the second or third draft, and the other, usually as the last line of defense, after the very last draft. I believe that outside perspective is super important to my creative process. Other people can see plenty of things I can’t, and that’s valuable. Pigeon and Bender at the Bon Parisien are both wildly better because of that.
Sherry: Where do you see yourself in 10 years regarding published works?
Pres: Honestly, I don’t see myself in too different of a place than I am now. Being a career creative is a long game, and I never expect any level of success overnight. All the good things that have happened so far have come after a lot of hard work with low expectations. So, of course, I hope I have more readers in 10 years, but at the same time, I am not expecting too much to change from what’s happening right now. I’m writing, and when I’m done, I work hard to get it read. Then after that, I keep writing. That’s the plan, and I’ve stuck to it for the last ten years, so I’ll stick to it for the next ten (and so on).
Sherry: What marketing strategies do you find most helpful?
Pres: I spend most of my day thinking about marketing since I sit as a copywriter on a team of creative people. For book marketing, I try to keep it simple. I write the book for myself, but when I’m done, I try the best I can to figure out, very specifically, who might want to read it. Then I spend most of my energy trying to reach those people. I try not to spend any money on things that I don’t have a reasonable belief will lead to book sales, and I don’t spend lots of time marketing to my friends—and because of that principle, I don’t do a lot on social media. Most of my followers know me personally, therefore, aren’t very often my audience. For me, the key is to keep it as simple as possible: every marketing decision I make is born from the desire to reach a new set of readers.
Sherry: That’s a good idea. Do you think that giving books away free works and why?
Pres: It’s definitely worked for me. You get a book for free from me if you 1. Are in the media, 2. Are or could be a member of my team in some way or 3. Know me personally. I want them to read it, and I don’t want 13 bucks to stand in the way. The world is full of millions and millions of readers who don’t fit in any of those three categories, so I’ll go ahead and try to sell it to them.
Sherry: Do you remember the first story you ever wrote? What was it about?
Pres: I’m actually not sure. I remember trying to write little stories in maybe 2nd or 3rd grade, little books I’d illustrate. I think they were about a crazy squirrel and his handler or something. I think my mom saved them. I remember in 4th grade or so entering a story contest I came up empty big time. I remember my parents coaching me through it, recommending I add more depth to the story. At the time, I wracked my brain to come up with some meat to put on the bones and came up with nothing. But I’d say writing stories became really fun in junior high.
Sherry: What is your favorite way to avoid writing?
Pres: I think just spending time with my kids, who are very young, is my most popular way to not write. But at this stage of life, I think that’s probably a healthy way to spend that time, both for them and for me. I also love to play music—piano, specifically. So that’s a good way to procrastinate.
Sherry: You are very talented in many creative areas. Thanks so much for giving us a look into your writing process and your life.
Want to read the reviews on Pigeon? Run as fast as you can over to The Naked Reviewers.
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