Interview with Lorraine Devon Wilke

Published 2016-04-13.
What do you most want readers to get from your work?
The pleasure of a good story. The experience of feeling something. A plot that takes them places, holds their interest, pushes them to turn the page. The feeling of being inspired or transported. Enjoyment of characters that make them laugh, piss them off, get them to think; maybe consider a new idea. The pleasure of time spent in a world that's not their own, but one they might recognize, might find intriguing. The sense of seeing their own lives reflected, with people they know, experiences they've had, places they've been... at the same time, introducing them to something and someone new. Just a really good, solid, meaningful read. With a good ending. Gotta have a good ending. :)
What's the latest in your writing world?
1. I was thrilled to hear that AFTER THE SUCKER PUNCH was awarded "Honorable Mention" (Mainstream/Literary Fiction category), in the "3rd Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published e-Book Awards." It is, of course, also available in print, but given the stature of the organization and the prodigious number of entrants, particularly in that category, it was quite the honor.

2. HYSTERICAL LOVE garnered a wonderful review from book behemoth, Kirkus Reviews. A coveted accolade for any author, indie authors are particularly honored to be recognized by this promotional juggernaut: "“Wilke is a skilled writer, able to plausibly inhabit Dan’s young male perspective… A well-written, engaging, sometimes-frustrating tale of reaching adulthood a little late.”

3. AFTER THE SUCKER PUNCH was chosen as a Finalist for The Independent Author Network's 2015 "Book of the Year" Award...a great honor.

4. It also received a brilliant review from UK author/blogger, E.L. Lindley: "After The Sucker Punch is an aptly named novel because it packs a mighty punch and raises so many questions, I was left literally reeling by the end of it. Lorraine Devon Wilke commands our attention with a splendidly dramatic opening and never lets us off the hook until the very last page."

5. HYSTERICAL LOVE was reviewed by Tracy Slowiak at Readers' Favorite Reviews, who wrote: “Oh my, oh my! I just finished reading Hysterical Love, the newest novel by Lorraine Devon Wilke, and I must say, I simply adored it! Lorraine Devon Wilke’s writing style is witty, pointed and funny, even hilarious at times.”

6. HYSTERICAL LOVE was reviewed by Literary Fiction Reviews & Awards: "Hysterical Love is a deftly told tale about not only the search for love in the 21st century, but about seeking a greater understanding of the intricacies of the human heart, about love in all its various forms and disguises: puppy love, lost love, emerging love, enduring love, and of course, hysterical love.”

7. HYSTERICAL LOVE was awarded the coveted indieBRAG Medallion for 2015.

So, yes, lots of good news! Links and detail about these and other interviews, reviews, and media can be found at my blog's Media & Reviews page @
Give us 10 reasons why we should read your latest novel, Hysterical Love.
1. There’s an ice cream truck on the cover.
2. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll get the urge for a slice of pie (see Chapters 7, 21, 35...).
3. The story’s told from the POV of a thirty-three-year-old man...come on, who doesn’t want to get in there?!
4. The family at the heart of the story is both completely nuts and instantly recognizable.
5. There’s an unexpected mystery, leading to an unexpected road trip. Road trips are fun. Sometimes.
6. Digital technology of every kind is candidly debated. And you can read the story on your phone or iPad.
7. There’s a stunningly gorgeous character named Fiona who’s featured in a pivotal dream...ponder as you see fit.
8. Despite the humor and whimsy, deeper topics are front and center, some of which will likely strike a chord or three.
9. Love, sweet love, is at the glowing center of everything and it is explored with wit, candor, and tremendous heart.
10. There’s an ice cream truck on the cover.
How do you approach cover design?
The quality and artistry of a book's cover are essential elements of the presentation. A cover is, after all, the visual introduction to the book, and so it has to convey not only the tone and style of the book, but its quality overall. We DO judge a book... well, you know!

As a photographer, I've always been drawn to covers that use photographs as the central image. So far I've been able to use my own for my three book covers (I also have a short story up at Amazon), which gives me tremendous leeway in terms of usage and the variety from which to choose.

As for the design itself, I'm not one who believes a book cover has to "tell the story" of the book, be a literal representative of the story. But I do believe it has to be of the highest quality: professionally designed, using the best images available, with the most eye-catching fonts, and a high degree of artistry in the design. The cover should transmit the style and tone of the narrative, suggest at least some measure of the mood of story. It should be intriguing. Beyond that, it's somewhat subjective. Except for "eye-catching." Eye-catching is always non-negotiable. :)

I love the cover of After the Sucker Punch because it's mysterious and evocative without being on-the-nose; it shows a woman's face, clearly pensive and brooding, with the words "AFTER THE SUCKER PUNCH" emblazoned over it. I've been told by many readers that the image actually does tell the story: it will be about a woman who's responding to some kind of challenge in her life... and that's exactly what the story's about!

Hysterical Love has a slightly different tone; still a mix of humor and drama, but with an undercurrent of whimsy in its storytelling, elements of a man's nostalgia, so the image of the ice cream truck (which factors into the actual story!) was a perfect choice.

Both my covers were designed by Chicago artist, Grace Amandes, who is a tremendous talent and has a wonderfully fresh imagination. Given that she's also my sister, I'm delighted to have my cover designer "in-house"!
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Beyond my writing, I'm also a singer/songwriter and a photographer... though, given that both could be full-time careers in and of themselves, time leaves me a bit of a dabbler with each! But whenever I can, I get out and shoot, process, and curate the images at my photography site. As for my music, I keep up with songwriting when opportunities arise and I'm reconnecting with first guitar player I worked with when I started out, doing one of those, "Let's put the band back together!" things, so I may be up on the rock & roll boards yet again! Beyond that, it's all about my family and traveling whenever and wherever I can.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I input the phrase "best literary fiction" into whatever search engines and/or sites I'm using, then scroll through the listings. The books' covers and descriptions are my first criteria: if a cover looks professional and the description engages my interest, I'll likely jump in.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Marketing is always a conundrum, particularly for independent writers. Finding the most effective mix — one you can afford AND has impact — is the quest of anyone out there "doing it for themself"! For me, it's been a combo of social media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, Tumblr...), blogging (my general blog and my "indie publishing" blog), article writing (Huffington Post, Indies Unlimited, etc.), even press releases and blogs on my photography site. There's a glut out there, so it seems to take a critical mass of it all to stir up real response. With my new book, Hysterical Love, I'm working with a top line literary publicist in the effort to reach out to an even wider audience.

I know quite a few authors use, and find effective, the various "free, countdown, bargain" programs. I did some reduced-price countdowns a few times, and while I racked up some nice numbers in terms of sales, I didn't see a responsive influx in reviews or full price purchases afterward. Which suggests the current conventional wisdom — that people place less value in reading, sharing, or responding to free or low-priced books — is likely true at this point. Some believe the model has peaked, and doesn't have the impact it used to.

Personally, I'm also wary of exceedingly low-priced books. Too often I've found they're not of the quality I'm looking for, and so I tend to gravitate towards mid-priced selections: anything from $5.99 - $9.99. Hence, I keep my own novels priced within that framework.

What I've found most effective is word-of-mouth, generally inspired by online and offline conversations with actual readers, bloggers, and other artists. Book readings and signings, book store events, and book clubs are great avenues. Basically, anywhere where you can make actual contact, create relationships, and show people who you are, both as a person and a writer, seems to work best in the long run.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
To be honest, I originally pursued traditional publishing, wanting the heft and stature of a big company with its name, marketing budget, and overall reach... the general sense of "bona fides" offered to traditionally published authors that indie authors tend to have to scrape for (an unfortunate stigma I could do without!). That pursuit meant jumping into layer upon layer of "auditioning" activity (query letters, wrangling agents, chapters out, tap dancing for editors, etc.), those loads of steps required before you can even get close to any real connection with readers. Ultimately, after too many years of that, with not enough meaningful progress, I decided to shift gears. I needed and wanted to simply move forward, and it also became very clear that I’d worked too hard and believed too strongly in my book – its narrative, title, cover art, etc. – to cede control of those elements to others, which is what invariably happens with legacy publishers (I've got friends going that route!).

So the choice was made in late 2013 to independently publish and I’ve had no regrets since. Certainly I would've loved the perks that come with traditional publishing, but, more importantly to me, After the Sucker Punch and Hysterical Love are exactly the books I wrote – for better or for worse – and that creative choice for me as a writer was a priority. Getting them out to the world at large, well... that's what sites like Smashwords are all about!
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
The first joy of writing is just the DOING of it. For whatever reason, I'm not one who suffers in the process. I don't think that's required (given some "famous writer" quotes, you'd think it was!). Writing has always been an invigorating and exhilarating activity for me, something I look forward to and can do for hours, days, without stopping. Sometimes even sleep seems disruptive (of course, my very red eyes would disagree!).

One of the "funnest" times for me is that point when I've got the beginning, middle, and end worked out, and a first draft done... then I get to go back in to PLAY: tweak, fatten, rearrange, flesh out, expand, rethink. Tell the story. All that creation activity is endorphin producing... like running a great race!

My next best moment has to be when the book is done: it's up, it's out, and you start hearing engaged feedback: "I laughed so hard," "It made me cry," "I LOVED the aunt!""Why did you let that happen?!" "It really got me to thinking..." and so on. Given that our goal as writers is to provoke thought, entertain, inspire, engage, etc., when you start finding out you've actually achieved some measure of that goal... well... nothing better.
What do your fans mean to you?
Everything. Because, really, who are we writing for? Our readers. Our fans. They're an essential part of the equation.

Yes, as an artist, you are writing for yourself — to communicate your ideas, tell the stories you want to tell, convey the ideas and philosophies that are meaningful to you. That's important to any writer; it's an endemic part of who we are and something we're compelled to do. But "telling a story" is a two-part equation: it requires a writer AND a reader. A listener. An audience.

As an avid reader myself, I well know the power of books, words, stories, to transport, inspire, entertain; spark new ideas, make you feel something, make you feel seen and heard, not alone. So when I write the words, stories, books that I write, I always have my readers in mind: thinking about how an idea may strike them, how the rhythm and pace of the narrative flows in the reading; what the emotional content is, and how and what it will make the reader FEEL.

I want to write the kind of books that results in all my readers becoming fans: people who are excited by the work, who get it, get what I've written, and are moved, provoked, intrigued, or entertained by it. When they do, there is simply nothing better. And I'm grateful. Will always be. Fans are no small thing.
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