G.F. Skipworth has toured much of the world as a concert pianist, symphonic/operatic conductor, vocalist and composer, but also worked in speech, comedy and academic writing. Educated at Whitman, The Peabody Conservatory, Harvard and UCLA, he sat down to compose a while back, but a four-volume fantasy series came out instead. Moving to historical fiction, Stormfield-Tales from the Hereafter, based on Mark Twain’s final work, was released last year. Skipworth acknowledges his latest release, The Simpering, North Dakota Literary Society, to be his favorite – a tongue-in-cheek work set in the otherwise grim year of 1919. “Simpering” is available at rosslarebooks.com, and from almost every major online seller worldwide. You can find out more about his book at www.rosslarebooks.com.
Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, George. Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?
The Simpering, North Dakota Literary Society is my seventh book, and my second of historical fiction.
My first book, which is also published, is entitled Shindaheen, and although it was the first, I’m still fond of it. The series was completed with Fire and Iceland, Three Roads to Waitsburg and Airna of Karapin. Shindaheen is a non-dungeon/dragon fantasy set between the Pacific northwest and several off-world locations. Since I didn’t really know the ropes at that time, it took a tremendous effort to design, finish and edit it. Things have become increasingly easier since.
Q: For your first published book, how many rejections did you go through before you either found a mainstream publisher, self-published it, or paid a vanity press to publish it?
I went down the middle from the very beginning, creating a small publishing house from a pre-existing business of thirty years, dealing in large-scale classical concert management.This parallels the difficulty in getting started as a musician. You need the management to get the press, and the press to get the management. By doing it yourself with a legitimate organization, that paradox can be broken.
Q: How did the rejections make you feel and what did you do to overcome the blows?
Publishing through a pre-existing business, the rejection is moved to the realm of reviews. As a musician, I’ve been reviewed all my life, and have put certain things into perspective. The “like/don’t like” review without an accompanying thoughtfulness is lost on me – a cow can tell me that. The weekend amateur reviewer who enjoys the rush of cruelty is meaningless, and there’s no honor or talent in that. Likewise, the gusher can be helpful, but one has to be careful not to buy into it too much. All responses are considered for merit, and taken with a grain of salt. Now that I’m more experienced, it’s not so bad.
Q: When your first book was published, who published it and why did you choose them?
Rosslare Press (of Rosslare Arts International) had a thirty year record of efficiency and thoroughness from all its staff. There are so many parallels between music and writing that it was a natural segue.
Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?
It’s a special reward in itself, because it allows you to visit earlier times when everything was new – the first bicycle, the first composition, the first recording – the first book. The tactile experience of the book can make a child out of you for a day or two.
Q: What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?
The literary management wing of Rosslare had me in a string of Pacific Northwest libraries before the ink was dry, and there was a huge push to list the book everywhere on the internet. Even they were subject to a learning curve, however, and it takes quite an effort to get that title into people’s minds so that they will seek it out.
Q: If you had to do it over again, would you have chosen another route to be published?
No – In the same way I broke the impossible pattern by creating an artist management agency, the same thing is possible in literature. It’s an exhausting process, but I hope one that will begin to run itself. I was fortunate to have a truly professional editor with a lengthy fiction, non-fiction and academic list to her credit.
Q: Have you been published since then and how have you grown as an author?
The Simpering, North Dakota Literary Society is my seventh novel, and I believe that my naturalness of dialect is starting to smooth out. I grew up in a humorous, warm but linguistically formal family (Trust me – you don’t want to be a first-grader who says things like shan’t and daren’t.) My upper crust characters who have trouble dealing with the larger world are easy assignments, but to write dialogue for the plain-talking next-door neighbor is not always second nature.
Q: Looking back since the early days when you were trying to get published, what do you think you could have done differently to speed things up? What kind of mistakes could you have avoided?
In terms of the actual writing, I knew nothing about the publishing business, formatting or lines of inquiry. In this respect, the music industry was different enough to leave me in ignorance. I looked at the odds and bypassed the large houses entirely, and was so leery of the “come hither” publishers that my natural instinct to trust myself came to the front, despite the learning that would have to take place. Doing it over, I would begin the same way, but would seek the help of a high profile internet wizard, letting him or her go at it as one person selling only one author’s books.
Q: What has been the biggest accomplishment you have achieved since becoming published?
I would characterize the time as a series of very small, accumulative achievements. As the writing gets tighter, response has risen. One or two award nominations have come about. Libraries across the U.S. have expressed interest in several of the works, especially Simpering and Shindaheen. More ambitious future projects are taking shape.
Q: If you could have chosen another profession, what would that profession be?
If I could start over, remembering my life as a musician, which has been very satisfying, I would tend toward astronomy, cosmology, physics. The first time around, I had to do what I did. There was no other life I wanted. I’ve been on stage three times a week since the age of eight. Time to be the first concert pianist on Mars.
Q: Would you give up being an author for that profession or have you combined the best of both worlds?
Music and literature form a beautiful combination, and I work in both simultaneously with no difficulty. In fact, at times, they overlap significantly. Now that I’ve written “Winterreise – Winter Journey” on the twenty four poems of Franz Schubert’s song cycle of the same name, I will record the cycle this fall as both pianist and singer. The CD will be sold with the book.
Q: How do you see yourself in ten years?
Living a less hectic but fuller musical and literary life. More solitude, more writing. I have already traveled much of the world under the stress of concert tours. Now, I’d like to do it again, not as a tourist, but as an interested visitor seeking the flavor of every culture.
Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?
Don’t even pause in your writing at the sound of rejection. No author can capture the hearts of every reader. Use the good reviews, but don’t get giddy over them. Continue to perfect and subject your work to authentic criticism. Your imagination is exempt from right and wrong. You’re just trying to match it with like minds who buy your book, the same way we develop friendships. Remember that by being the one who dares put it out there, you’re the brave one – no apologies necessary, to anyone…ever.