Interview with Ace Collins
1. How old were you when you knew and begin to writing novels?
a. I actually didn’t start writing novels commercially until I was around 50. I had a long career as a nonfiction writer, but even as I was doing four nonfiction books a year for a couple of decades I was playing with fiction on the side. When I decided I had the experience, gained from working with some of the best editors in the country, to properly tell a story, I made the move. And while I still write nonfiction books, it has been the novels that have driven me the past five years. I just love the experience of being able to create books from the ideas floating around in my head. It is the greatest challenge I have ever faced as a writer and one I enjoy more than I can begin to explain.
2. What other employment experiences have you had, and do they come into play when writing a novel?
a. I have been a teacher and basketball coach and I worked in public relations before I quit to become a fulltime writer. I am not sure those work experiences have played into my books much, but my interests and hobbies have made a huge impact. I love old movies, history, classic cars, I constantly read biographies and interview people whose lives I find fascinating, and I think it is those areas where I really gain a lot of my ideas. Now my locales are based on places I have either lived for visited.
3. Where do your ideas for characters, scenes, and plots come from?
a. Could be anywhere. I find an interesting historic fact and it spurs an idea. I read something in a newspaper and it gives me a concept for a character. I listen to a lot of old radio programs from the 1930s and 1940s, and the rhythm of the writing in those dramatic programs fits well into modern literature, so I have learned a great deal about pacing from shows like The Whistler, Richard Diamond, Candy Matson, The Saint and a hundred more. There is a character in one of my current releases who has a unique beauty mark that I first observed on someone I recently met. The bottom line is that when I get an idea, I write it down. I have about 100 book concepts in my files waiting to written and I am adding to those everyday. It is really all about vision, there are great stories all around you if you will just look.
4. To date what has been your favorite article, novel and etc that you have written?
a. I don’t know that I have one favorite. In my nonfiction mode I have loved the books that told the stories behind songs, especially behind Elvis’ #1 hits and the songs of Christmas. There are some stories there that really surprised me when I did the research. In my novels I find each character interesting in their own way. If I had to choose one it would likely be Janie from Farraday Road and Swope’s Ridge. She is one of the few characters I wrote into a story based on someone I actually knew. It was fascinating to deal with a character who was blind and then to have to explain how she saw the world.
5. Do like to hear from readers of your writings? How can people interact with you?
a. I get email, my address is on my website and I also get a lot interaction on Facebook. Whenever I hear from readers I not only answer their questions, but I ask a bunch of my own. I want to hear what they liked in the stories, what characters really hit home and what scenes worked. Their input helps me to become an even better author on my next project and provide characters and plots that they want. After all, as they are the readers, they are also my bosses. I am working because they are reading my books. That makes them a lot more important than just about anyone in my life.
6. Are there others in your family who have been or want to become authors?
a. No, I laughingly tell folks that the other members of my family are much more sane than I am. They don’t have all of these characters running around in their head demanding to be let out to play. One of our sons does have a desire to write for TV and movies and he in Hollywood trying to make that dream happen.
7. How of you keep the passion for writing alive as well as fresh?
a. I love to write about all kinds of different things, so I am never really writing the same style books in a row. I might be writing a values type novel, such as Darkness Before Dawn, which comes out in 2013, for a few months and then I jumped into writing a devotional book, which is due out late next year. After I finish that I have a modern courtroom drama, followed by a 1930s Hollywood romance and then comes a 1940s comedy/mystery/whodunit. Thus every book brings to it a new challenge, new pacing, new characters, new time frames and locales. As an example of current books, in Reich of Passage I have a “save the world” adventure book where I pull a hero and villain from the past into the present. The Yellow Packard is a mystery/romance set in the Depression where a car drives the plot for almost six years and The Christmas Star takes place over four days in 1945 and the central character is a 16-year-old boy whose father died a hero in World War II. So the different styles and their unique storytelling demands keep me challenged and hopefully fresh.
8. Is there any information about you that readers would be surprised to know about?
a. We have a rescue dog that is a blind collie and I write regular blogs on Sammy to encourage others to adopt special need dogs and cats. I do play-by-play for college basketball, I run sixteen 110-yard wind sprints 5 times a week while wearing a 25-pound weight vest. My wife and I feed about 30-40 college kids at our house every Sunday night. I love classic movies and we not only have three classic cars, a 1934 Auburn, 1936 Cord and 1965 Mustang Fastback, but a working 1949 Coke machine and a 1959 Wurlitzer Juke Box. I am a political junkie, but only my closet friends actually know how I vote. I never share that information with the public.
9. How long have you been married? Where did you meet your wife?
a. My wife, Kathy, is an education professor at Ouachita Baptist University and she is the really bright and talented member of our family. We met on our first day at Baylor University. I flipped a coin on whether to ask out Kathy or her identical twin sister, I couldn’t tell them apart. We actually didn’t date until three years later and we have been married for 37 years.
10. Is there anything in the writing process that you would readers to understand? What is the process you go through in the development of your stories?
a. I develop an outline from my ideas. I write and rewrite each chapter at least five times. At some point in the book, as I have a chance to flesh them out, the characters begin to write them book. At that point each book changes due to the characters whims. The last week in my writing is really a sad time for me as I come to realize these people, the characters, that have become so real to me, will be finishing their adventures and I will have to likely say goodbye to them forever. I hate that. It is almost like losing a friend.
11.Why were you named “Ace” or is that a pen name?
a. My real name is Andrew and you can tell how long folks have known me by what they call me. My family calls me Andy or Andrew. In college I won a heart’s tournament by playing an Ace of Hearts as my last card on a run. Folks began to call me Ace after that and I simply couldn’t get away from it. By the time I was in my mid-twenties I embraced the nickname and it has since become my common name. And, as an ace reporter is a known as a pretty good writer, I just try to live up to it.