Robert Dalby

Read more about Robert Dalby.

Interview By: Tamazon

Date: July 16, 2010

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Please tell us your latest news!

A Piggly Wiggly Wedding' is the third of the Piggly Wiggly series novels to go to trade paperback. Putnam/Penguin publishes the hardcovers, and their Berkley imprint does the trade paperbacks. The fourth novel in the series, 'A Piggly Wiggly Christmas,' will be released in late November in time for a big December book tour. All four novels--including the first two--'Waltzing At The Piggly Wiggly' and 'Kissing Babies At The Piggly Wiggly'--revolve around the same characters and setting--fictional Second Creek, Mississippi and are sequels to each other. Readers, however, can join the ongoing story of the Nitwitts at any point and go forward and backward as they please.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

I am very satisfied with 'A Piggly Wiggly Wedding' and would not change anything. I especially like the unique way I have worked the disappearance and reappearance of fireflies into the plot.

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

Actually, my favorite author is very different from myself. While my work relies upon Southern quirks and humor, the works of Ayn Rand rely upon a firm, inspirational philosophy of life that challenges the reader to become the very best person he or she can be. Anyone with lifelong goals would benefit by reading 'The Fountainhead.'

Do you have a specific writing style?

My style is strong on dialogue, as a recent review in 'Mississippi Magazine' attested: "Pitch-perfect dialogue is certainly (Dalby's) strong suit. (He) must have had his ears wide open...during a lifetime of social gatherings to get that much good material." I also like to write cinematically because I believe the entire series will one day find its way onto the big screen.

Do you see writing as a career?

It is already my career. When 'A Piggly Wiggly Christmas' is released after Thanksgiving, I will have had six of my novels published. I would like to write until I drop.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

Very definitely. My father came out of WWII as a fighter pilot in the Pacific and immediately got a job in New York as a writer and editor creating 'pulp fiction' stories about dogfights against the Japanese. He also wrote detective stories. Later, when I was old enough to read and understand adult material, I enjoyed his stories and thought, "I want to be published, too." I was about eight or nine years old, and I began writing little stories in my ruled tablets. In general, if you want to become a writer, you have to write, no matter how small you begin.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

I will repeat what I said above: if you want to become a writer, start writing. Short stories, novellas, whatever you can manage. If you can attend a workshop or conference, do so. Get some criticism of the work you have done. I was smart enough to go to my father as an adult and ask him to help me with technique. Although no one can be given talent or ideas to write, they can be straightened out technically. Be vigilant if you are serious about your writing, and when you think you are polished enough, try to match your work with an agency that represents that kind of writing, send a query letter and offer the send chapters. Or network with published writers and heed their advice.

How does your family feel about having a writer in the family? Do they read your books?

My father was thrilled that I became the second generation in our family to be published at the New York level. I also honored him by using his middle name as my pen name--Robert Dalby. My aunts, cousins, brother and his family also support my work by remaining avid readers.

What did you do before you became a writer? Do you write full time?

I continue to work at my day job, which is representing a distributor of non-fiction small presses to public libraries in a selected territory. However, I chose this job for a reason. Many of my librarian friends have invited me to their libraries for booktalks and signings over the years because librarians love writers, especially those in the making. I wanted to help pay bills by staying involved with books and the people who love books best. It paid off for me big in that I was able to get my wonderful New York agent through networking on the library vending side of the business. I don't write full time but that is my ultimate goal, and I am very close to it.

What is your writing process? Do you outline, fly by the seat of your pants or a combination of both?

I do outline my plots. For the most part, I title my chapters and when I am writing a specific chapter, I put the title on my wipeable board to remind myself of what I want to accomplish within that chapter. I do leave myself free to make changes if something better occurs at any juncture. I do find that often certain characters will 'speak' to me, and I will realize that something I had planned for them will not work. So I change that particular bit. This is part of the creative process and perhaps the most interesting part.

Do you have a favorite object that is pertinent to your writing? If so what is it and please describe it. (Pen, Coffee Cup, Pet, Blanket, Chair)

My trusty computer. Actually, I have two computers. One I use for business. The other for manuscript writing. The one for manuscripts does not have a modem, and I do not go online with it. That way, no virus can get to my files.

Do you have a ritual when it comes to writing? Example..get coffee, blanket, paper, pen and a comfy place

I just sit down at my manuscript computer, reinsert the CD and begin self-editing immediately. My editor has mentioned that by now I need almost no editing on her part because I edit so much as I go. I'm a big believer in delivering a very polished piece of work to my agents and editor. My editor, who is Southern like myself, says I am very easy to work with, and I like hearing that.

Robert Dalby, author of the Piggly Wiggly series