G.F. Skipworth has toured much of the world as a concert pianist, symphony/opera conductor, composer, vocalist and opera coach. Along the way, however, he also worked as a speechwriter, in comedy and as an academic author. His formal education includes Whitman College, Johns Hopkins, Harvard and UCLA. As he describes it, one day he sat down to write a fourth symphony, but a four-volume fantasy series came out instead, which he affectionately refers to as a “shoot ‘em up clang clang.” Following the “Fables of the Carpailtin Campfire,” he wrote a fantasy based upon the twenty four poems of Franz Schubert’s great song-cycle, “Winterreise (Winter Journey.) Moving on to historical fiction, he released “Stormfield – Tales from the Hereafter,” based on Mark Twain’s final incomplete work. Dr. Skipworth often refers to “The Simpering, North Dakota Literary Society” as his personal favorite, although writing dialogue for a cameo appearance by the razor-sharp Dorothy Parker was maddening, even worse than for Mark Twain (at least he paused to light a cigar now and then.) Currently, he resides in Portland, Oregon with his wife Barbara, where he serves on the faculty of Lewis & Clark College. Upcoming works include “The World-Weary String Quartet of Alliance, Nebraska” and “The Madonna of Dunkirk.” Please visit G.F. Skipworth’s site at rosslarebooks.com.
Thank you for this interview, George. Can we start out by having you tell us briefly what your new book is about?
Hello, and thank you for spending this time with my book. The Simpering, North Dakota Literary Society is a tongue-in-cheek tale set during the rather serious year of 1919. The lighter aspects of the story continually merge with the flow of that era’s events. The plot centers around card shark and ex-nun, Farika Zingarella, who wins the town of Simpering, North Dakota in the greatest card game ever played at the Huffy Hussy Billiards & Poker Parlor. Gathering five female geniuses to her side, she establishes a prairie empire that could take on the world – and it does. Simpering is not just another “oppressed women make good against staggering male odds” book. Actually, most of the men and women like each other just fine, or work hard at trying to. Every character has to face himself or herself, and life gets everybody (that doesn’t sound much like fiction, does it?)
More and more authors are realizing the potential for sales that derives from virtual book tours. Can you tell us your personal reasons why you chose a virtual book tour to help get the word out about your new book?
I wasn’t having any trouble getting my books listed or included on internet ads. They’re available online worldwide. However, I am unable to generate a flow of traffic to the book acting alone. In addition, there are high-profile, high-quality sites where I can’t go as a separate author, but I’ve been welcomed within the virtual book tour.
Is this the first time you have heard of them?
For months and months, I passed by them on the internet, casting a suspicious eye and moving on. Sometimes the fierce urge to go it alone is a virtue, but sometimes it’s just pig-headedness, and you need help. Perhaps, in time, I’ll try to set up one of my own, but I don’t have the experience that the developed tours have. Anyway, I finally took the plunge and am having a ball. News of the book is spreading far faster through the tour, and it hasn’t even begun yet! The presentation of my work is more well-educated to the industry, and the specific strategy takes me where I am most likely to succeed. Likewise, it prevents me from going where my book doesn’t fit.
What do you hope to achieve through promoting your book through a virtual book tour?
I don’t know how far this or my other books will go in the long run, but they deserve a look, and I believe this is the best way to get it. Dying on the vine, never finding out is the worst fate for anyone’s dreams. I’m allergic to “What-ifs,” so I’ll give it a try. So far, it’s working out very well.
Do you promote online through other means? Website? Blog?
Yes, but if I were to do it again, I would have an internet guru sitting by me all the way – one person selling one author’s books. I always get it eventually, but on the internet highway, I’m driving a ‘54 Studebaker. Blogging and website construction are child’s play to some. It takes me longer, but I sit there until it’s done. If you’re going to jump in, you can’t whine about being technologically obsolete.
Who maintains your website?
I do. Currently, it is entirely dedicated to The Simpering, North Dakota Literary Society and its prequel, The Simpering, North Dakota Sharpshooters.
What are your experiences with offline booksignings? Do you have much luck selling your book through that method?
Rosslare Press had me in a string of libraries around the Pacific Northwest before the ink was dry on my first book, which was set there, in part. Although there was a lot of interest in general, it varied from library to library, and it was very expensive to get there and back. It was also time spent in which I could have been writing. During the year, I have a full regimen of college teaching, and such signings will be impossible from September to May
Here’s a fun question. If money were no object, how would you promote your book?
Now, watch someone with a lot of money read this and do it (perhaps it’s already been done.) I would like to charter or purchase a cruise ship, along the lines of the Queen Mary 2, close off all phone connections to the outside world, invite hundreds of book clubs with avid members and sail the seven seas until everyone is too exhausted to read anymore. Even so, I still think that it would be the online coverage of such an event that would make it work. The event itself would be a fad without the networking to develop it into an institution.
Thank you for this interview, George. Do you have any final words?
Thank you for the opportunity. Congratulations to the authors who have had the courage to show their work. Our imaginations are exempt from right and wrong, and we’re trying to match our dreams with those of like-minded readers. You are Theodore Roosevelt’s “men (and women) in the arena.” A happy summer to all authors and readers.