Interview with Deanna K. Klingel

Personal: Getting to know the Author: Deanna K. Klingel Deanna

How long have you been a writer?

DK: I’ve been a compulsive writer all my life, but only writing for publication since 2009.

Which topics do you enjoy writing about most and why?

DK: I love writing historical fiction for young readers. I enjoy learning from the research I do, amazing facts and stories that are stuck in the pages of old books. I like to put young people in the middle of the action without their cell phones or GPS systems. I like to show them how their imagination would work if it were the only tool available.

What do you write?  What draws you to this genre?

DK: I’ve written historical fiction, non fiction and biography, as well as pure fiction. I also like to write short stories. Historical fiction is my favorite, probably because it’s my favorite to read.

Have you won any awards for your writing?

DK: Yes, thanks for asking. I have two short stories that were award winners, then the two Civil War historical fictions for middle grade each won a nice book award. The biography was up for the Orbis Pictis, which it didn’t win, but was in great company; Cracks in the Ice, the fiction, was a Selah Finalist. Three of my books have received the Seal of Approval of the Catholic Writers Guild.

What inspired you to write your first book?

DK: The first published book was Just for the Moment: The Remarkable Gift of theTherapy Dog. This is the true story of my own two golden retrievers whose therapy dog ministry humbled me and left me in such awe, I had to share their stories.

What do you think your books offers that others in the same genre do not?

DK: I’m going to talk now about Cracks in the Ice, my latest book. I am passionate about getting it into the hands of young readers. This is a story of Gina, a young figure skater with dreams of Olympic gold. What happens to her when she can no longer compete is what happens to many of our sidelined athletes who lose grasp of their identity and purpose in life. They are often addicted to their pain medication, and despair leads them into alcoholism.  Two people who never give up on Gina are able, with the help of Al-anon and AA, to show her she is still a loveable person who can reinvent her life for a higher purpose. My passion comes from the fact that there is another YA book that deals with drinking. It’s written by a well-known, award-winning author. It’s received a prestigious award that has put it into libraries, and schools and is even required reading in some schools. This book is about four teens who are left alone over the holidays at a boarding school. Three guys, one girl. There are no adults, no accountability. They are breaking every rule, promiscuous, and drunk. Okay. Those are YA themes. I don’t have a problem with that. What I have a problem with is this book betrays the readers. There are no consequences here. The drunken behavior is lively, life-of-the-party, funny. The word alcoholism isn’t used. As adults reading this book, we know: if you can’t start the day without ransacking your dorm room to find your vodka, you are an alcoholic. But do young people know that? Not necessarily. What kid reading this book wouldn’t go, “Whoa, this is the life!” No accountability. No consequences.Sleep eat, drink,break all the rules.Kids can buy into that. The subject matter isn’t the issue. These are important issues. We need to talk about them. Do you know there are eleven year olds binge drinking? We have to talk about this. But this book doesn’t address this. Even the ending where the girl dies after crashing her car into a barricade, doesn’t address the truths of the issue. Instead the police say her blood alcohol level was normal and drinking wasn’t a cause for her accident. I find that outrageous. The girl’s been drunk since Chapter 2. Of course alcohol had something to do with it. There are always consequences and there needs to be even if it’s fiction. Maybe especially in fiction. My book hits it right in the gut. Just as the readers learn to love this girl and share her dream, they watch her death spiral and know what’s happening to her even before she does. We call it what it is. It’s alcoholism. It’s addiction. It’s deadly. It has consequences. But we also see there is a way out. It’s not easy, but worth the struggle. The readers can still cheer for her. We see that life can offer us second chances, but we have to reach out for them. The end of my book has discussion questions. I hope parents will read this book, too. And I hope together with their young readers they can use those questions to start the discussion. Talk about the consequences of behaviors and the seriousness of addictions. There are way too many teenagers addicted to alcohol. I’m passionate about this. My book tells the truth.

What is your favorite aspect of the writing process?

DK: I love the rewrite. Especially on the computer. I love to see how many different ways there are to say the same thing and decide which way says it best.

Where do you find your inspiration? What motivates you?

DK: Well, I told you what inspired me to write Just for the Moment: The Remarkable Gift of the Therapy Dog. You’ve just heard my motivation for Cracks in the Ice. Other stories are like gifts. Sometimes it’s something someone says that niggles away at me, wanting to know more about it, the history behind it. Other times ideas are kind of born within me. I’ve no idea about those.

Who are your favorite authors? Why do they inspire you?

DK: I love how John Jakes in his Bicentennial Series recreated insignificant moments in history, showing us how those insignificant moments become the footprints of great moments as generations come and go. I loved that! Herman Wouk, I’m amazed how he can keep a story thread, a plot line going for 900 pages in Winds of War. An amazing story. Lalita Tademy wrote one of my favorite books, Cane River. I’m in awe of how she can make a place come alive with her rich details. I don’t know if she ever wrote another but if I could write one like that, one would be enough.

Is writing your career? Are you writing full time or part time?

DK: I write full time. Whatever that means. For most of my life I’ve been a full time mother and homemaking engineer. When our seven kids grew up and went off to save the world, then I turned to writing and started a new career. But, I’ve never been a part-time anything. Whatever I do, quilter, dog trainer, Girl Scouting, whatever it is, I’m in full time.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing?

DK: I’ve had lots of things I’ve enjoyed doing: quilting, sewing, crafting, dancing with dogs (called freestyle), animal rescue, dog training, golfing,aerobics, swimming, teaching faith formation, home decorating.  I guess I’m getting old. Now, when I’m not writing, I’m walking with the dog, marketing, and traveling with my books.

Books, Writings, and Routines:

What books have you written? Do you have a favorite?

DK: Naming a favorite book is like deciding which child I love the best. Probably my favorite is the one I’m working on at the moment; whichever one needs me the most at that time. I’ve written Just for the Moment: The Remarkable Gift of the Therapy Dog, Avery’s Battlefield, Avery’s Crossroad, Bread Upon the Water and Cracks in the Ice. I have a series of three or four Little Beth books, the first will be out this fall. I’ve written Waiting With Elmer, The Mysterious Life of Jim Limber, Walker Hound of Park Avenue, and Rock and a Hard Place, a Lithuanian Love Story. However, those last four haven’t been published yet. Patience. More patience.

When you write (books) do you have a specific regimen? If so what is that routine?

DK: I start writing. Writing and writing until I run dry. Then I let it sit for a day or two while I write something unrelated, and go back to it. I rewrite what I wrote, then I continue on, adding more. I repeat this over and over and over.

In your latest book, is there a specific message that you want readers to grasp?

DK: In Cracks in the Ice, yes.  Consequences, Alcoholism, Recovery, Resurrection, second chances.

Cracks in the Ice Cover FINAL FRONT

Do your books seem to revolve around the same morals and themes?

DK: My books are all Christian and Judeo-Christian in values. I can’t write any other way because that’s who I am.

Are experiences in your works often based on someone you know, or events you have personally experienced?

DK: Bread Upon the Water is the biography of a boy from South Vietnam who escaped as a “boat person” in order to follow his calling to the priesthood. I know him; he was our priest for a few years here in Sapphire. He told me his story in a series of interviews over a couple of years.

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

DK: No. I’m happy with it.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

DK: The hardest part of writing all my books has been knowing when to stop. Where does the story really end. When can I say this is it; this is the best I can make it?

What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing your latest book to life?

DK: My biggest challenge with Cracks in the Ice has been the marketing. I struggle to find the teen market.

How is your day structured? Do you set aside a specific block of time everyday to write?

DK: I like to write everyday, but life often gets in the way. I’m an early morning person, so I do a lot first thing. I usually know early on what the best time for writing that day will be. In the summer I know I won’t write from 1-3. The sun is above the ridge line in the middle of the summer and hits me smack in the face! So I plan to do errands and domestic chores in the afternoon in summer.

Do you write every day? If not what days do you write and why have you discovered this works best for you?

DK: I write something everyday. Sometimes it might be a synopsis or a guest blog, maybe work on my travel journal to create a blog for Selling  Books. Maybe it’s something for my writers group. I don’t always get to work on my work in progress, but I do write. Sometimes that’s deliberate because after writing a few chapters I like to let it rest a day or so before I read it. Then I rewrite where I see it needs it, then I move on with it.

Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?

DK: No. No I don’t. I’m amazed when I see on Facebook how many writers know exactly how many words they wrote that day, or what their goal for the day is. I think my mind works differently. I’m less concerned with how many words there are, and more concerned with words I’m satisfied with. I might spend an afternoon picking and shining and fine tuning one chapter, but the next day write several more brand new chapters. I don’t start keeping track on words until late in the process when it begins to matter.

How structured are you when writing? Do you draw an outline before beginning or do you enjoy writing freely from scratch? Or do you use another method?

DK: My first draft is totally unstructured. The structure happens when I have enough done to write (for my eyes only) the first synopsis. I pretend I’m submitting it. Make it the best I can. Ah Ha! Now I see what I have to work on. Now I can structure.

Do you develop your characters first, or the plot and events?

DK: I usually have a character in mind, probably even named. I know some things about that person, what I think will happen to him, what events will be life altering. But usually those things unfold as I write. When other characters are introduced and I follow the conversation. I “hear” what my character has to say, and “see” how he feels about things. Sometimes understanding my character better changes what I thought might happen. My character often writes his own life.

How long (on average) does it take you to write a book?

DK: Long time. From beginning, meaning the concept, to the end, which means publication…long time. But here’s the worst story you ever heard, I’ll bet. The Little Beth books that are coming out are picture books I wrote for my youngest daughter when she was four years old. They went to contract the week she turned 34! But, to be completely honest, that was the first time I’d submitted them.

Do you believe there is such a thing as writer’s block?

DK: No. I think there’s writer burnout, writer distraction, writer overload. But no writer’s block. Writers have to write. If you can’t write on your project, then write something else. If you aren’t writing it’s because you are doing something else.

Do you set your work aside for a certain amount of time before editing and rewriting? If so, for how long and why do you find this effective?

DK: I call it rising; like yeast dough. And I do it frequently. I work on something else while I’m letting it rise. I often have two projects going simultaneously for this reason. It lets me take my head completely out of the dough. Then when I read it I can read it like a reader instead of the writer. It’s not a certain amount of time; it’s whatever is needed. Like children, your work sometimes needs a lot of attention, and other times grows on its own.

Who edited your latest book and how did you select him/her/them?

DK: My latest book, Cracks in the Ice, was edited by Tracy Ruckman of Write Integrity Press. I submitted my work to Tracy, she offered the contract.  She, and I think her staff, edited the book.

Tell us about the cover. Did you design it yourself or have a team do that for you?

DK:  I didn’t design the cover, Write Integrity Press did. I had a concept I thought I really loved and had an artist I wanted to do it, but Tracy didn’t agree and she came up with this one. And she was right. It’s stunning! I love it. Editors do know their business!

Publishing:

How are your books published? Do you self-publish or go through a publishing company? In your opinion, what are the advantages and/or disadvantages of each?

DK: My first book, Just for the Moment: The Remarkable Gift of the Therapy Dog, is self published. My dogs were getting older and I wanted them to be with me when the book was published and marketed. I couldn’t wait for the long process. I’d not been published before, didn’t have the requisite platform, didn’t even know much about one. But I knew the book would sell. The disadvantages of self publishing, in my opinion, is the hurried process. I, too, was in a hurry. But we took our time and researched the different companies. There’s actually a guide, like a Consumer’s Digest, for self publishing. We studied it before making our decision. We chose one who was choosey. One that only took edited work. When Dog Ear Publishing accepted my book I had it edited by Steven Manchester. I’m proud of the book. That was in 2010 and the book still sells well and I still get notes from readers who just discovered it and loved it.

If you self-publish do you use print-on-demand?

DK: I don’t self publish now because the kind of books I write are books for libraries, schools, museums, and book stores. With that market, you can’t have self-published books. Those markets have to have the books available through their distributors. Most places where my books are sold won’t stock print on demand books.

Do you have any e-books? If so, how does the e-book process differ from getting hard copies published or put together?

DK: Avery’s Battlefield and Avery’s Crossroad are both available on kindle and on Kobo. These books are published by Bob Jones University Press, Journey Forth. Their catalog is used by foreign missions; missionaries use Kobo, thus the publisher’s choice. Bread Upon the Water is published by a small conservative Catholic press. It took them a few months’ of my complaints before it was available on kindle. The ebook market is new for them. Much of their reading audience is probably slower to move to e books. Cracks in the Ice is available on kindle and Nook. This publisher does a lot with e books and markets entirely on social media. Several places that stock my books have turned this one down because they are print-on-demand. Just for the Moment: The Remarkable Gift of the Therapy Dog is now available on kindle as just this year I asked the publisher for that service, which I paid for.

Social Networking and Marketing:

As an author, how do you feel about social networking? Have you been able to use it to your advantage? If yes, how so?

DK: Oh boy. How long do you want this to be? What I’ve discovered about social networking is that it is terribly addictive and time consuming. I’ve taken several seminars on this subject, on line and at conferences. I get the part about “being out there,” but I haven’t figured out how that translates into sales. I understand, finally, I think, how far-reaching it all is. But does it mean more sales? I don’t think for me it does.

Which website or social networking site is your favorite to work with? Have you had the most online success with this website?

DK: Facebook is certainly the most entertaining.  And the most time consuming and the most disruptive. But the most success I’ve had with meeting people who were really interested in my books has been Linked In.

What other ways have you marketed your books?

DK: Almost every weekend I am somewhere attending a Civil War reenactment where I dress as a period bookseller and sell the Avery books. While I’m in that town I visit bookstores, libraries and schools with my other books.

Where and how are your books sold?

DK: All my books are available through independent booksellers. I have their badge on my webpage so you can find the one nearest you. They are available in libraries and schools and sold in museum gift shops and bookstores. All are available on Amazon, of course. The dog books are available at some dog boutiques and pet specialty stores, I’ve sold them at dog shows and events. Bread Upon the Water is available in Catholic gift shops and bookstores as well. Cracks in the Ice I’m trying to get placed in high school libraries and with teen book clubs.

Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books?

DK: Put your other “hobbies” on hold. No one will sell these for you.

How much time to you devote to marketing your books?

DK: Every bit of time I can. It’s time I create for myself.

What do you do to get book reviews?

DK: I ask people I hand my books to, if they enjoy it would they write a comment. Some do. At conferences people will volunteer to read a book for a review. I give them my books.

Is there any marketing technique you used that had an immediate impact on your sales?

DK: You should check my blog, Selling Books. I post on Monday and Thursday and the post usually includes the technique I learned at that place. The earliest posts are what I learned straight away. Be there. Make eye contact. Your customer is the most important thing to you.

What do you think of “trailers” for books? (Most online trailers include a brief “movie” or slideshow of photos, music, and text to intrigue readers about a new and upcoming book, much like movie trailers do for films.)

DK: BJU Press Journey Forth made the trailer for the Avery books. It’s wonderful. I show it in schools on big walls in their auditoriums where the kids hold their breath. This 48 second trailer sells books.  It works because it makes you want to read the book. I’ve seen some trailers that have nice music, pleasant relaxing tide coming in and out, very serene and lovely but tell me nothing about what the book is about. If the trailer doesn’t make you want to read the book, it probably isn’t very effective, beyond entertaining.

Do you think that giving books away free works and why? Not for me it doesn’t. I have downloaded free books when authors have asked everyone to do that at a special time to help them out. But, I don’t like to read on kindle. If it looks like a book I want to read I go to the bookstore and buy it. I give books away to charity causes, door prizes at speaking engagements, that sort of thing. But I don’t offer my work free to the world on Amazon. Friends who do this are making a lot more money than I am. They’ve learned the solutions to the amazon number puzzles. I’m happy for them.

Books Signings:

Have you had a book signing? What all did the signing entail? ( What are some of the “do’s and don’ts” at a signing?

DK: I’ve had signings for all my books. I’ve had them at bookstores, libraries, restaurants, dog events, schools, conferences, Barnes and Nobel, Borders, private parties, book clubs,Red hatters, and even an outdoor skating rink. At reenactments I’m there all day for two days. Book stores usually a 2-3 hour block; conferences 1 hour. Everyone has been different. To follow them all, go to my blog.www.booksbyDeanna.com  Selling Books. They are all very different experiences.

In Conclusion:

Do you have any advice for other writers or new authors?

DK: Be nice to yourself. Don’t compare yourself to others. Follow your editor’s advice.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

DK: I hope you enjoy the book and will remember it when you are grown and will want to share it with your children.

What is the hardest thing about writing?

DK: Being alone so much of the time is hard. Not doing a lot of other things I also enjoy.

What is the easiest thing about writing?

DK: Writing it. Just letting it leak out all over the paper.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

DK: Get started. Don’t wait.

How can readers discover more about you and your work?

DK: I have a web page, www.BooksByDeanna.com. Each book has a tab and I’m just in the process of adding a Discovery Page for each book. More than the sales info & synopsis, it will be a page for students to learn more about the subject  matter of the book, background information, recipes, websites, all that pertain to the book. I hope it will be fun and interesting. I plan to change it frequently. My webpage has a blog, Selling Books. There you’ll find the stories of the places I go, the readers I meet, and what I learn about marketing. I have a facebook, Deanna K. Klingel is a social page, BooksbyDeanna is my book’s fb for readers and writers. I hope you’ll visit and leave a comment. I’d like to meet you.

Interview with Amy L. Peterson

Personal: Getting to know the Author: Author Amy L Peterson with Purrkins

Meet this week’s guest, Amy L. Peterson. Amy is a happily married wife, stepmother, author, amateur photographer, outdoorswoman, and keeper of numerous spoiled fuzzy animals. Her writing is diverse, her photography of animals and wildlife unique, and her pets have trained her how to get what they want.

How long have you been a writer?

ALP: If you count writing diaries to document important things like “Brent smiled at me” in 4th grade, I’ve been writing for a long time.  If you’re more likely to count an essay contest, well, I entered a Law Day contest in 7th grade and won a trip to meet a grumpy judge and witness two law students practicing the art of debating.

Which topics do you enjoy writing about most and why? 

ALP:I love writing about my pets, the critters that show up in my backyard (most recently, a chubby groundhog), and funny things that happen to me. Gosh, I’ve never thought about why.  I guess I write about what I love.

What do you write? What draws you to this genre? 

ALP: I blog about nature, pets and life at amylpeterson.com, and wherever possible, try to include relevant (if not super cute) photos. For magazines, I’ve written a few articles about trips and other adventures my husband and I went on, one of which was called “The Old Men and the Me,” about marlin fishing in Mexico. When it comes to books, I’ve written two humorous, touching memoirs, one—From Zero to Four Kids in Thirty Seconds–about becoming a stepmother to four kids ages 3,5, 13 and 15, and the other—Something Furry Underfoot–about raising a whole bunch of pets my husband kept bringing home.  My memoirs include tips, which make them useful in addition to fun reads.

Have you won any awards for your writing?

ALP: Not since middle school. How sad is that?

What inspired you to write your first book?

ALP: When I became a stepmother, the books about stepmother hood were as uplifting as anvils, so I decided to document my experience, much of which was humorous since I hadn’t a clue what I was doing.

What do you think your book offers that others in the same genre do not? 

ALP: From Zero to Four Kids in Thirty Seconds is an honest reflection of what I experienced and the tips included are useful to stepmothers and women contemplating becoming stepmothers.  Many other books on the same topic are either depressing or written by self-help “professionals.” What Something Furry Underfoot offers is a useful, fun read with tips about all sorts of pets.  Anyone thinking about bringing a pet into their home will benefit from reading this book.

mouse

What is your favorite aspect of the writing process? 

ALP: Probably the first draft.  The editing process can be sooo tedious.

Where do you find your inspiration? What motivates you? 

ALP: My stepkids motivated me to complete the first book.  And my pets—well, one look at any of my pets and they  make me want to write about them and photograph them.

Who are your favorite authors? Why do they inspire you? 

ALP: Erma Bombeck was my favorite author—I loved her sense of humor.

Is writing your career? Are you writing full time or part time? 

ALP: I work full-time for the state of Michigan, so writing and spoiling animals is only a part-time job.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing? 

ALP: Doing just about anything outside—running our 6-month-old puppies, hunkering down in the woods with my ghillie to see what wildlife walks by for a photograph, fishing, kayaking, pretty much anything outside.

Do you have a favorite motivational phrase? 

ALP: Writing and marketing can feel overwhelming at times, and there are times I wonder if I should be spending the time and money I do marketing my book.  So not too long ago, I put the words “No doubt” on my laptop, so that when I open it up to work on something, I’m reminded not to doubt myself.

Where do you enjoy vacationing?

ALP: Anywhere I can go tangle with a fish, especially ones that put up a good fight.  My favorite so far is fishing the Amazon River for peacock bass because they smack at a lure like no other fish.  And, of course, you can’t beat being on the Amazon.

Where are you currently living? Do you find inspiration in a certain room or space of your home or surrounding area?

ALP: I live in Mid-Michigan on a man-made impoundment that helps attract wildlife.  I write at the kitchen table where I am inspired—and also often distracted—by the critters outside my bay window, and by my husband and my pets.

Books, Writings, and Routines:

What books have you written? Do you have a favorite? Why? 

ALP: I have written From Zero to Four Kids in Thirty Seconds, about blundering and falling into becoming a stepmom, and Something Furry Underfoot, about figuring out how to care for and spoil a bunch of different pets.  My first book is mostly for stepmothers and has a limited audience; my second book will really help anyone debating getting a pet.  So I’d give the “favorite” nod to Something Furry Underfoot.  Just don’t tell my stepkids!

When you write (books) do you have a specific regimen? If so what is that routine?

ALP: Unfortunately, my routine is limited by my schedule: I work until 4 p.m. Monday – Friday, attend to pets and exercise needs, do dinner, and finally, at about 7 or so, I might get to sit down to write.  But soon, Winston, one of my puppies, walks by with an item in his mouth that isn’t supposed to be there—twigs being one thing he loves to sneak in from outdoors—so I have to tend to that. And after dealing with him, I need to make sure the other dog, Snickers, isn’t also into trouble. I’ll sit down for a while longer, before Purrkins, the cat, wanders by with a pitiful meooooww  to remind me I haven’t refilled her dinner plate.  My husband, meanwhile, will try to fill me in on the latest fishing lure he’s found online and what lake he thinks it’ll work best on.  And so it goes.  I call it my Interrupted-Often Routine.

dog

In your latest book, is there a specific message that you want readers to grasp?

ALP: The message in Something Furry Underfoot is that every animal has a story and I think our job as pet owners is to make that story as good as possible.  I think my book helps people make good decisions before they buy a pet and also how to care for certain pets.  Hopefully,  readers will realize that even two similar looking critters—like two hamsters or two birds—have different personalities and needs.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

ALP: Figuring out how to deal with the fact that pets die.  I didn’t want to gloss over that and I didn’t want to bum people out.  As a result, my book is mostly humorous in nature, but there are some very touching moments.

What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing your latest book to life?

ALP: By the time I got done editing it, gave it to a professional editor, and gave it to some friends to edit, I had re-lived the touching moments (e.g. sad parts) quite a few times.  And of course, the more I had to revisit something, the more I worried I’d edit too much…or not enough.

Give us an insight into your main character of your latest work. What does he/she do that is so special?

ALP: In Something Furry Underfoot I try to describe what it’s like living in a house where the only thing my spouse had to do is bat his puppy-dog eyes and he got to bring another pet into the house. I also try to convey what it’s like from my perspective having to deal with all the critters he brought home, most of which I knew nothing about.  Yet the thing is, neither of us really do anything special except try to make the best possible life for our pets.

Pork

Do you write every day? If not what days do you write and why have you discovered this works best for you?

ALP: If marketing counts as writing, I write every day.  And if it doesn’t count, well, I personally think it should.

Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?

ALP: I’ve never had that as a goal.  I’m more driven to complete the story I’m trying to tell. So, if it’s a blog posting, I try to get it done before the end of the weekend.  If it’s marketing, I try to get the interview finished so I’m higher up in the queue with the book blogger.  If it’s a book, I suppose it’s done when I’m exhausted with editing.

How structured are you when writing? Do you draw an outline before beginning or do you enjoy writing freely from scratch? Or do you use another method?

ALP: Because I’ve written memoirs thus far, my books pretty much are told in chronological order.  The tips I include help break up the chapters so the book can be read in chunks, which I think adds to its appeal.

How long (on average) does it take you to write a book? 

ALP: 2 years.

Do you believe there is such a thing as writer’s block?

ALP: Yes. While I haven’t run out of things to write about because I have been blessed with a great husband, great stepkids, great pets and great experiences in life, I have to say that when it comes to writing things like sympathy cards, I can get writer’s block pretty easily. I think because I’m a writer I feel some pressure to come up with something outstanding on sympathy cards and never come up with anything except “You’re in my thoughts.”  Which, granted, is probably better than, “Hang in there!”

Do you recommend any “tricks” or tips on how to get through writer’s block?

ALP: Here are my tips:

  • Before writing, put the words “No Doubt” on your computer screen or keyboard. That will help remove any doubt that what you are writing will be important somewhere, sometime to somebody.  Hopefully, LOTS of somebodies.
  • Sit down, write down the first thing that comes to mind about your subject and don’t stop writing until three of your body parts are completely cramped up—your two hands and your back, perhaps.
  • Go for a brisk walk to un-cramp all your body parts.  Follow this by jumping into a cold shower or a pool of freezing cold water.  Doing that will definitely give you something to write about. (In fact, perhaps you’ll be so kind as to write me a note to let me know if it worked for you, as I’ve never tried it).
  • Don’t try to capture everything.  I’ve known several people working on Master’s theses and they think they need to “get it all down on paper” because it might be their last paper on the subject.  Narrow it down to something workable.  In its earliest draft, Something Furry Underfoot included a lot of wildlife interactions—those all came out of my book so now I remain focused on indoor pets.
  • Repeat steps 2-4 as needed.

Do you set your work aside for a certain amount of time before editing and rewriting? If so, for how long and why do you find this effective?

ALP: I usually do my own editing first, then I hire a professional editor for at least the first 60 pages or so, then pass it off to a friend editor who learns from the professional editor’s changes, then I have friends read my book, then I do one last edit.  Then I hope for the best.

Who edited your latest book and how did you select him/her/them?

ALP: I hired G. Miki Hayden to edit the first 60 pages or so, then a secretary friend of mine, then I asked five friends to review an early draft.  Every single one found something that needed fixing.

Tell us about your book covers.

ALP:  I found my graphic designer, Patricia Adams, through a friend at work who hired her to work on a web site. For From Zero to Four Kids in Thirty Seconds, I sent Patricia a photo of my wedding cake and she recreated that for the cover of the book. It’s a great replication of my cake:  a bride and groom and four kids on top in a fishing boat, with the bride’s fishing pole connected to a bigger fish than the groom’s.  My web page graphic artist then put Patricia’s creation onto a nifty background.

From0to4kids

For Something Furry Underfoot, I wanted to include a bunch of my pets but I had no clue how to present them.  I sent Patricia photos of some of my pets and she created the bright, colorful cover of a woman looking a bit overwhelmed with her menagerie of critters, while her husband is all smiles.

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Publishing:

How are your books published? Do you self-publish or go through a publishing company? In your opinion, what are the advantages and/or disadvantages of each? 

ALP: I’d love to have an agent and for that agent to help me break in with a publishing company.  I tried that route about 10 years ago and was assigned a rookie agent whose query letter to publishers made it sound like she’d not read my book; the draft letter had typos.  When my contract with that literary agency came up for renewal, I didn’t renew.  The advantage of self-publishing is that anybody can get something published. The down-side is that the author has to spend a LOT of time marketing. Since August of 2013, I’ve spent every available hour in the evening doing social marketing to obtain contacts for reviews, interviews and guest blog postings. I’ve had a lot of good exposure, but I’ve also sent copies of my book to people who’ve not responded one way or another with a review, and not even a “Thanks, got your book, but not interested, so I’m going to donate to the library.”  So, it’s tough being a self-published author.  Which goes back to having the words “No doubt” on my laptop.

Do you have any e-books? If so, how does the e-book process differ from getting hard copies published or put together? 

ALP: I hired the same person to do my e-book and paperback conversions because I have no patience for that type of nitty-gritty detail.  I had the book converter do the e-book version first, then the paperback.  The paperback also required paying my web page graphic artist to help with the back cover and spine so it matched the specifications and matched the front cover.

How did you decide to price your e-book relative to your hardcopy?

ALP: I priced the e-book at $2.99 which is a pretty good price for a helpful book, I think. I priced the paperback at 50 cents over cost.  I think I priced them at a reasonable price to sell.  But I guess we’ll all find out, huh?

Social Networking and Marketing:

As an author, how do you feel about social networking? Have you been able to use it to your advantage?

ALP: Authors that self-publish need to take every advantage possible of social networking opportunities. Through networking sites I’ve found book reviewers, opportunities for written and speaking interviews, and bloggers who’ll post a guest spot.  Every Twitter lead I get, I check out the person’s web site to see if I can make any tie to my book.  I got a sci-fi writer to read my book because his Twitter photo has him posing with his dog.  I also just sent a book to a bunch of moms to review my book because my book will help moms decide what pet to get.

Which website or social networking site is your favorite to work with? Have you had the most online success with this website? 

ALP: GoodReads and BookBlog.ning have been my go-to sites until about October 2013, when I discovered MARSocial site, which has opportunities for authors, too, including contests.

What other ways have you marketed your books? 

ALP: Since Something Furry Underfoot is about pets, I am marketing my book on professional sites like PetPav and BlogPaws.  I’ve also found some sites where people blog about their own pets and in some cases, they have some affordable advertising rates. If they review my book and like it—which they all have so far–I explore advertising on their site.

I’ve also developed a video about the domestic duck we raised, and am working on another video featuring all sorts of different pets, with the overall message similar to my book.  My hope is that one of the pet blogging sites will want to add their logo to the second video and also help get the word out.  It’ll be like a book trailer, with supporters.

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Where and how are your books sold?

ALP: Amazon.com and Smashwords.com.  Amazon offers the Kindle e-book version and paperbacks; Smashwords has every other type of e-book format imaginable.

Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books?

ALP: If I wrote another book and had a relatively large budget to spend, I’d hire a publicist, because they know the ins and outs of social networking sites, and the good publicists have contacts that can really get the word out quickly.  If that’s not an option, then the author will be like me and need to look for every opportunity on their own.

How much time to you devote to marketing your books? 

ALP: Since I didn’t think my market for From Zero to Four Kids in Thirty Seconds would be very large, I only spent a few months marketing that book, primarily through a book blog tour.  Because I think Something Furry Underfoot has a broader audience, once I finished the print version in July, marketing is really all I’ve done.  I will continue Something Furry Underfoot until I have no more marketing thoughts, or until I get the bug to work on my next book. Or until my husband or pets say, “Pay more attention to me!”

What do you do to get book reviews?

ALP: I’m always on the look-out for more reviews and constantly track down new requests via social networking sites.  Most pan out, but some do not.  I also found participating in a book blog tour is a pretty good way to get book reviews.  Now, while I refuse to pay a lot of money for book reviews, people with big budgets should consider doing so because reviews do help sell books.

Did you make any marketing mistakes or is there anything you would avoid in the future? 

ALP: I spent money on two big-ticket items:  one, something called Review Direct, which gets your book included in a listing of books librarians can consider; and secondly, on a press release. Sales from libraries were minimal, so my next move is to make direct contacts with librarians in my area to see if they can “talk up” my book via their network of librarians. Sales from the press release were minimal because important people—the press and others you might want to reach–get too many press releases and many go unread.  Of the three press people that asked for my book after seeing the press release, one month later, none had contacted me for a follow-up story or interview.

What do you think of “trailers” for books? (Most online trailers include a brief “movie” or slideshow of photos, music, and text to intrigue readers about a new and upcoming book, much like movie trailers do for films.)

ALP: I would think trailers would be pretty effective if you’ve got the right distribution channel established and adequate resources to create one.  Marketing really comes down to where it’s best to spend your time and money, and thus far, I’m no expert on that.

Do you think that giving books away free works and why?

ALP: Unfortunately, I think self-published authors have to give away some books for free to get reviews from people, whether or not the person actually finishes the review they promised. As far as giving away e-books to a mass audience, that’s a tough one.  I did that for one day with my first book and gave away more copies than I’ve sold.  I did not do a give-away for Something Furry Underfoot because I think that any e-book that makes you laugh out loud and maybe also cry, is a bargain for $2.99.

In Conclusion:

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

ALP: I hope that people that read Something Furry Underfoot will laugh, and maybe cry, and that they come to agree that our job as pet owners is to make our pets’ lives as good as possible . . . even if it is a work in progress (says Purrkins, the cat, anyway).  Best of all, some proceeds from Something Furry Underfoot will benefit animal rescue organizations.

What is the hardest thing about writing?

ALP: For me, it’s waiting:  waiting for editors, waiting for book converter people, waiting for things to go live, waiting for people to discover my book, waiting for an interview to post, waiting to become a well-known author.  Other than that, there’s no waiting at all and I’m a very patient person.

What is the easiest thing about writing?

ALP: The easiest thing is the social marketing because I’m meeting a bunch of great people I’d otherwise never have met.  I’ve met a mom in the UK who went out of her way to tweet about my book, and a woman in Nigeria who was part of my book blog tour.  People all over the world are out there looking for books and willing to help authors out.  It’s been quite amazing.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

ALP:  Put the words “No Doubt” on my computer when I was 20.

How can readers discover more about you and your work? 

ALP: It’s best to go to amylpeterson.com and from there, you can click on the cover for Something Furry Underfoot to see a chapter-by-chapter summary and photos of some of my pets. On my web site you will also see an “About Me” page that is mostly truthful, my videos, and my blog, which is mostly about pets, including several 10 Ten Things You Should Know Before You Get a [fill in the pet] series.

Interview with John and Nancy Petralia

Happy Wednesday! Today my honorary guests are John and Nancy Petralia, authors of Not in a Tuscan Villa. The book is the story of two sixty-somethings who abandon a comfortable retirement to move to Italy for a year. The experience-good and bad-recaptured their youth, reinvigorated their romance, and gave them a new perspective on America and how they want to live the rest of their lives.

Personal: Getting to know the Authors:

How long have you been a writer? Best

J&NP: This is our first book. We aren’t writers by profession. It took us about 18 months to complete Not in a Tuscan Villa.

Which topics do you enjoy writing about most and why?

J&NP: I guess we enjoy commenting on life around us. Living abroad, your perspective is quite different. You can’t help comparing the foreign place to what you know in America. And the insights it gives you–about culture, family, relationships, and yourself–are things we like to share.

What do you write? What draws you to this genre?

J&NP: We’re non-fiction writers. Nancy, because I’m no good at making up stuff, and John because it fits his commentary style.

What inspired you to write your first book?

J&NP: We figured out how to have our dream of living in Italy for a year, as ordinary citizens. When we came home, the experience had so changed the way we wanted to experience the rest of our lives that we wanted to share it. We NEEDED to share it.

What do you think your book offers that others in the same genre do not?

J&NP: It’s not a travelogue. It’s not like Under the Tuscan Sun or some other book about buying a run-down house in the country and fixing it up with funny workmen. It’s not about picking grapes and olives and eating out under the stars. It’s about real life in Italy, where you have to negotiate the everyday mysteries of train ticketing, public and private bureaucracy, getting the cable fixed and the internet installed, and you might end up in the hospital–twice. It’s about looking for ways to make friends and become part of a local community, and the rewards of rediscovering your romance.

Who are your favorite authors? Why do they inspire you?

J&NP: We love and are inspired by Bill Bryson. What travel writer wouldn’t be. He’s adventuresome, insightful, irreverent, and hilarious. He’s also a VERY skilled writer who knows how to weave a complex story and deliver a punchline. We learned a lot about writing by reading and analyzing his work.

Do you have a favorite motivational phrase?

J&NP: “You are what you read.” It’s the motto of our book club.

Where do you enjoy vacationing?

J&NP: Italy of course, but we still want to go to South America, spend more time in Spain and some of France. The Balkan cruise to St Petersburg is on the list. It’s actually a long list.

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Books, Writings, and Routines:

When you write (books) do you have a specific regimen? If so what is that routine?

J&NP: We found the discipline of the library writers’ group helped us finish the book. We had to show up each week with four pages each to read. Sometimes we wrote quite a bit more, but we always had to have at least four.

In your latest book, is there a specific message that you want readers to grasp?

J&NP: Whatever your dream is, to live abroad, to climb a mountain, to try your hand at sculpture, whatever. JUST DO IT. The experience will change your life in ways you never expected and energize the rest of your life.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

J&NP: Learning how to craft a story. We had lots of source material, but creating the story arc, within the chapters and throughout the book was the hardest part. We cut, rearranged, edited many times to get it where we wanted. Also, figuring how to start was difficult. The approach we finally took was suggested by a critique at a writers’ workshop.

What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing your latest book to life?

J&NP: Figuring out how to write it together. We settled on alternating chapters and forcing the styles to be different. Nancy’s style is more narrative, and John’s is more commentary, closer to that of an essayist. In both cases there’s an intentional attempt to emphasize our personality quirks so it’s obvious who’s speaking.

Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?

J&NP: We could read four double-spaced pages each at our writers’ group. In the beginning we would write to the four pages each week. Eventually we learned that we needed to tell the STORY in whatever space it took and just read four of the pages. But the discipline of producing every week drove us to completion.

How structured are you when writing? Do you draw an outline before beginning or do you enjoy writing freely from scratch? Or do you use another method?

J&NP: Since the book is a series of essays, we had to figure out the point of each chapter and then how they fit together to tell the overarching story. We find ourselves in situations and then develop the story around those situations.

Do you believe there is such a thing as writer’s block?

J&NP: For us it was just the opposite. The stuff was inside us and had to come out.

Tell us about the cover. Did you design it yourself or have a team do that for you? If you did not design the cover yourself who did and how and why did you select that designer?

J&NP: The publisher provided a designer who’s done over 600 books. She’s a fabulous artist and extremely creative. She used several of the photos Nancy took as the basis for a variety of different approaches. We fell in love with the one we chose.

Not in a Tuscan Villa cover

Marketing & Book Signings:

What ways have you marketed your books?

J&NP: Book signings, lectures about related topics. We’re also interested in reaching book clubs and Italian cultural groups.

Where and how are your books sold?

J&NP: Amazon, some B & N, independent bookstores. Amazon has recommended it on their Hot New Releases list and in their email marketing.

What do you do to get book reviews?

J&NP: ASK everyone we can reach who’s read the book, to post on Amazon and Goodreads. A few will actually do it. Sent copies to professional reviewers.

Is there any marketing technique you used that had an immediate impact on your sales?

J&NP: We have a personal email list of about 300 people. I’ve sent announcements to them about the initial publication, the Kindle release, and will send one about holiday purchases. That spiked the initial sales for both the print copy and Kindle version.

Do you think that giving books away free works and why?

J&NP: Don’t know yet. We’ve given some to reviewers and will try the Goodreads giveaway program. But other authors have told us this wasn’t particularly helpful in generating sales. We don’t fit the profile of authors who are promoting a series or plan to write many more books, so I don’t know how useful it would be.

Tell us a little about your latest book signing. What all did it entail? How long did it last?

J&NP: We spent a few minutes introducing ourselves and why we wrote the book, then each of us read a short section. Our library time spanned two hours so we repeated that process at the top of the second hour for those who came in later. We answered a lot of questions in both venues.

We coupled it with a reading or Q & A from book clubs so it lasted 1-2 hours.

In Conclusion:

Do you have any advice for other writers or new authors?

J&NP: Read. And not just the genre you want to write in. If you want to be a good writer, read people who are great. Invest in learning to write better. We started with our writers’ group, but also went to a writers’ conference, had two professional critiques, and had the manuscript critiqued by a carefully selected group of avid readers, including a former professional editor for a major publishing house. Use professionals for editing, cover, and your interior design.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

J&NP: Open your mind to another view of the world. Take the time to SEE, not just observe the world around you and consider what that means.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively over the years as a writer?

J&NP: We’re much better writers than when we started. And much better readers. Writing makes you a more critical reader and vise versa.

What is the hardest thing about writing?

J&NP: We write non-fiction so it’s about turning what happened into a story.

What is the easiest thing about writing?

J&NP: Stream of consciousness–getting it down the first time.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

J&NP: Go for your dreams earlier. Don’t get hung up on all the reasons why you can’t do it.

How can readers discover more about you and your work?

J&NP: Visit the FB page for Not in a Tuscan Villa. Visit our website, NotinaTuscanVilla.com. And Nancy’s Goodreads author page. Send us an email or post something…we love to hear from readers.

Facebook

Website

Goodreads

Amazon

*Extra Credit Questions*

Is Not in a Tuscan Villa a memoir? DSC03549_2

J&NP: Not exactly, although it is our recollections of things we experienced during our year in Italy. We like to call it “adventure learning.” The adventure certainly changed us, and we take the reader on our journey of discovery. We take turns with the chapters which is something different.

How have you changed from the experience?

J&NP: We came home wanting to recreate the daily experience we had in Parma–and to relocate to a city. Both consciously and unconsciously we’ve applied the lessons we learned to our search for a new hometown. To our surprise, the place we chose has even more of them than we originally thought so we’ve certainly internalized a new perspective.

Author Interviews

Hello friends! In celebration of the November release of Tales of a Sevie, I will be posting an author interview once a week each Wednesday afternoon.

Over the past few months I have consulted with dozens of authors of diverse genres from all around the world to hear about their journey, writing regimen, and their latest events and books.

IT’S ONLY WEDNESDAY?!?!  

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To rejoice getting half way through the week, have some fun each “hump day” and join us to discover:

-What inspires an authors first book

-The dos and don’ts of publishing

-Fiction vs nonfiction discussions

-Characters vs plots

-How to create your own book cover

-What some authors wish they would have known before marketing their work

-The fastest way to increase your book sales

-The cure for writer’s block

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Check back each week to see just who I will be chatting with.

 The first few months will include visits from:

Ashleigh Galvin

Maryanne Raphel

Renee Novelle

J. Conrad 

Nancy Petralia

Amy Peterson

Deanna Klingel

Adrian Collins

June Hyjek

Mary E. Dawson

George Duncan

Teenage Writers…I want to hear from you!

Hello friends! I’ve created a new section on my site under the Teen Community tab. I want this section to be all about my readers.

If you are roughly between the ages of 11 and 18, I would love to hear from you and post your writing. Please send in your poetry, short stories (no longer than one Microsoft Word page), song lyrics, favorite quotes, or anything else that you would like to share and I will feature you on my website!

Please fill out a form on the “Stalk Me” page to enter. In the message box please include your age and briefly tell me what your piece of writing is about.

I cannot wait to hear from you!

Writing. It can be a scary thing.

One of my favorite past times from elementary school and junior high, was good old math class. I spent countless hours sitting in the back of those chalky stuffy rooms writing stories on time travel and being a rock star as the rest of the class evaluated expressions and fractions. Writing is in my blood and has been an excellent emotional release for me since I can remember. I’ve always found the best part about scribbling down your every thought and emotion, no matter how ridiculous it may seem & sound at the time, is knowing you’re doing it for you and no one else. But suddenly, all that changes when you, ya know, publish a book and all. Suddenly a fun silly thought or five, that was completely safe and alone by itself on a sheet of notebook paper, is now about to be viewed by hundreds…gulp…maybe even thousands OR OMG I don’t even know how many people??!?! And so suddenly it sinks in. More than ever before… “No, REALLY. What if I actually am terrible at this whole “writing” thing? …..I think Elizabeth Gilbert puts it rather well:

 

“The thing to realize is that all writers think they suck. When I was writing “Eat, Pray, Love”, I had just as a strong a mantra of THIS SUCKS ringing through my head as anyone does when they write anything. But I had a clarion moment of truth during the process of that book. One day, when I was agonizing over how utterly bad my writing felt, I realized: “That’s actually not my problem.” The point I realized was this – I never promised the universe that I would write brilliantly; I only promised the universe that I would write. So I put my head down and sweated through it, as per my vows.”

 

…..boom. Amen sista, amen!