by Cyrus Webb
March/April 2011 Issue of Conversations Magazine
Bestselling author Chassie West is one of those authors that you read one of her titles and you are hooked. She has managed to remain not only relevant over the years, but pick up new readers along with retaining those who have been joining her work for some time. When I reached out to her initially, I wasn't sure what to expect. To my pleasant surprise she responded by quickly and the result is the interview you find here.
Regardless what your profession, I think Chassie says something that all of us can appreciate and learn from. What did I take away? There is a huge difference in getting by and getting through, and all of us should be pushing to see what's on the other side of this chapter of our lives.
Enjoy the conversation.
Chassie, I have been reading your books for several years now. When did you realize that writing was something you wanted to do in your life?
I come from a long line of tellers of tall tales and outright liars. I've always made up stories, have always written, but never thought of it in terms of being paid to do it until I was in my 30's. A creative writing teacher at Antioch College insisted that I should take writing more seriously, that I was good enough to be published. She nagged until I began a story just to get her off my back. Still, it was ten years before my first book was published. By then I couldn't have stopped writing whether I was published or not. The bug had bitten and I was well and truly infected.
You have found success and a following all around the world. Has that been a pleasant surprise for you?
Oh, you betcha. You could have knocked me over when I began getting fan mail from Australia. And Germany. And, of course, the US. It's been humbling and I'm always touched by the fact that someone took the time to correspond at all. Most readers may absolutely love a book, but it doesn't occur to them to let the writer know it. I'm as guilty as everyone else. So I make an effort to express my appreciation to other writers. Sometimes it's the only thing that keeps us going.
For some writing is a personal thing, but fur authors like you, there is always interest in what's coming next. How do you keep your head when so much is expected of you?
That's a problem, especially given the state of publishing today. My first book, one for young adults, was published in 1981. It's a different world today, a different business, the operative word being "business." It's six times harder to be published and just as hard if your sales aren't stellar. But writers, being writers, keep at it anyway. Once it's in your blood, you have no other option.
Looking forward, what's coming up for you this year?
Well, I've just seen my first and I swear my last non-fiction book published last month No Reason for Goodbyes: Messages from Beyond Life. It's so far from my previous twenty-five books that it took me seven years to get it done. Its theme is after death communication, a collection of over a hundred narratives, plus my own, relating the experiences of people from the US, Canada, the United Kingdom and as far away as Australia, who have had contact of various sorts from the departed. It's far more common than everyone thinks, but people who've been on the receiving end of them rarely if ever talk about it for fear of being considered Fruit Loops. The intent of the book is to come out of the metaphysical/paranormal closet. It happens. We experienced it. You can believe it or not, but for us, it was a miracle and we're not about to keep quiet about it any longer. Ergo No Reason.
But my first love will always be the mystery genre. Now that No Reason is done and out there, I can return to more familiar territory, the mystery I began over a year ago. I'm a slow writer under the best of circumstances, so heaven knows how long it will take me to finish this puppy. But I will. Too pig-headed not to.
Chassie, have there been characters we have been introduced to before that you are thinking about revisiting?
Not at this point. Once I got Leigh Ann and Duck married, I was done. Every now and then I fantasize about Tank and Tina. Who knows? Maybe some day you'll see them again. But the bottom line is that the sales of the series weren't bringing in big enough bucks to make the publisher consider continuing it. And the bottom line carries the day.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers looking to make it in the business?
1. Don't talk about it, just do it. Sit your fanny in front of the computer or curl up with your pen and paper if you write better that way, and get the words down. Believe me, that takes discipline and persistence. But the only way to consider yourself a writer, published or not, is doing it.
2. Write what you love to read. One tends to do that best. But make the story your own, giving it your unique perspective. Write it from an angle you haven't seen yet, something fresh and different. And FINISH IT!
3. Do your homework. Make certain your manuscript is both polished and formatted correctly. Hit the library or buy the current year's Writers Market, which lists publishers from all over the world. Find the publishers who have published books similar to what you've written, i.e., don't send a romance to a publisher interested solely in mysteries or thrillers or science fiction. Note the name of the editor at the publishing house so you can send it directly to him or her. Determine whether the editor prefers a query letter first or three chapters of your book and an outline of the rest, or whether they want to see the whole manuscript. Send it out along with a self-addressed and stamped envelope unless they indicate otherwise. Then start writing your next book, since it may be as long as six months before you hear a peep from that publisher. No point in wasting time. If you're a writer, then write. And don't be discouraged by rejections. Unless they tell you, you can never be sure why they turned you down. Your writing may be mind-blowing but if they already have a similar book in the pipeline, they won't want another. So send your manuscript to another publisher. Then another. And keep writing. You'll get there yet.
Thanks for your time, Chassie, and continued success to you. How can our readers keep up with you online?
My Web site for mysteries is www.chassiewest.com with an e-mail address listed. For the new non-fiction book, the Web site is www.NoReasonforGoodbyes.com , the contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for this honor. All of us out here appreciate your support, Cyrus Webb.