Interview with Margaret Meps Schulte

What do you mean by "Strangers Have the Best Candy?"
Every person I meet has something to offer. A stranger might offer me a smile, a kind greeting, or a flash of insight. We might strike up a conversation that turns into a fun adventure together or a lifelong friendship. This is what I mean by "candy."

Every story in the book is true, and every stranger in the book is a real person. I use the power of humor to illustrate the huge benefits of talking to strangers, something valuable to readers of all ages. "Stranger danger" makes sense when children are small, but it limits us as adults.

Any grownup can benefit from more encounters with strangers -- researchers have actually proven that talking to strangers is good for us. I'm delighted to hear that when my readers put the book down, they often find themselves going out and looking for strangers to talk to. You can call my philosophy "Proactive Encounterism" or "Mepsism," but either way, sharing candy with strangers can be a very good thing.
Why is the Diagram Prize a breakthrough for all Indie authors?
In 2014, Strangers Have the Best Candy was the first independently-published book ever nominated for the Bookseller/Diagram Prize for the Oddest Title of the Year. And it won! This international prize represents a huge breakthrough for self-published books.

Diagram Prize winners are not odd books, they are books with quirky titles. In order for a self-published book to even be considered, it had to appeal to a very wide demographic. The graphics, layout, and editing had to be professional-quality to go toe-to-toe with the traditional publishing establishment.

Every independent author has access to these tools now. It's just a matter of using them to create top-quality books that bypass the morass of traditional publishing.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Living High, by June Burn
June inspired me to be who I am. She and her husband began their wanderlust lifestyle in the 1920's, and her autobiography showed me that there have always been whimsical, adventurous women like me.
Voyaging on a Small Income, by Annie Hill
Annie is another woman who has cast off the everyday life and chooses a life of adventure. She's a radical do-it-yourselfer, and her book is incredibly encouraging.
A Walk Across America/The Walk West, by Peter Jenkins
Peter's books were the ones that first influenced my thinking and turned me into a life-long nomad who talks to strangers.
Kon-Tiki, by Thor Heyerdahl
I can't count the number of times I read this classic since I discovered it as a child.
Murder Must Advertise, by Dorothy Sayers
This is the only piece of fiction in my shortlist. With her crisp prose and excellent dialogue, Sayers pulls the reader into the petty white-collar working world of the 1920's. Not only were there adventurers like me a century ago, there were also wage-slaves who needed to be rescued.
What are you working on next?
I am working on a book of teddy bear philosophy with a white, furry co-author, Frank Lloyd Bear. Despite his small size (he's about 10 inches tall), he is very active and opinionated. The book is vaguely reminiscent of The Tao of Pooh, but readers will discover that Frankie has his own unique voice, and we work well together.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
I love being creative. I love writing, whether it's a book, a limerick, or a friendly Facebook comment. I love making art -- drawing, painting, making "stuff." I wake up every morning with a million ideas in my head, and what gets me out of bed is knowing that I have a limited number of hours to capture them before the day ends.

That, and coffee.
Describe your desk
What desk? Am I supposed to have a desk?

I am a full-time adventurer and nomad. I have a laptop, and I write wherever the fancy takes me. I love writing in libraries and bookstores, because being surrounded by thousands of books reminds me that I CAN DO THIS, TOO.

I also love writing in coffee shops and cafes. I have never spilled a cup of coffee on my laptop, but I believe strongly in regular hard drive backups, just in case.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Three things: Impatience, lack of confidence, and a DIY obsession.

Once I completed the manuscript of Strangers Have the Best Candy, I wanted to make sure it was in print before my 50th birthday. I lacked the confidence to shop it around to agents or publishing houses, so I had to self-publish.

I am not merely an author. I am a designer, artist, typographer, and marketing expert. It would be impossible for me to delegate any of these tasks to someone else, so indie was the best way to maintain control. I spent months second-guessing that decision until I won the 2014 Bookseller Diagram Prize. Once I made it into the Huffington Post and Wikipedia, I realized that my indie book was just as professional as any traditional publishing house would produce.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
People say that I have a positive impact on their lives through my writing. I find this rewarding and incredibly humbling.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up taking lengthy road trips with my parents all across the US. I read voraciously in the back seat, and I don't understand people who get carsick when they read in the car. I find scenery to be like television, and I never get bored in the car.
When did you first start writing?
I mastered breathing, talking, and writing in my first few years of life. I've never given up any of the three.
How do you approach cover design?
A great cover depends on a great title. Strangers Have the Best Candy depends on curiosity to grab the reader and pull them into the book. What is this book about? Why is there a fake nose on the cover?

I believe the best book covers use original illustrations, rather than photographs, to make themselves stand out.
Published 2015-05-26.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

The Joyful Bear: A Furry Philosophy for Overcoming Adversity and Finding Happiness
You set the price! Words: 18,910. Language: English. Published: January 3, 2018. Categories: Nonfiction » Self-improvement » Personal Growth / General, Nonfiction » Inspiration » Personal inspiration
A wise stuffed polar bear named Frank Lloyd Bear shares his charming teddy bear philosophy of mindfulness and self-compassion. He shows the reader ways to overcome adversity in their own lives, including depression and anxiety. Features 32 original teddy bear illustrations by Margaret Meps Schulte, author of Strangers Have the Best Candy.