What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Facebook! Not only because my friends have been supportive and instrumental in spreading the word about my novel, but also because my book is of interest to a very specific subculture of people--those who followed the Grateful Dead around. I belong to several groups for Deadheads, and my novel has been received warmly there. I appreciate the love and hope it helps people relive those days that we are so nostalgic for!
Describe your desk
It is a mess! Right now it's covered in books, papers to grade, lesson plans, lotions, hand sanitizers, fake flowers, a little koala bear....an enigmatic bunch of clutter!
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Chicago, so I have been exposed to everything. There is so much culture in Chicago, so much ethnicity, great food, great art, great theater, great museums. There is also crime and all the problems that plague a huge city. Even though I had a pretty good life in a pretty good neighborhood, you can't grow up in Chicago without being exposed to that other side. I'm currently writing a book of short stories about urban youth, somewhat influenced by my students and somewhat influenced by things I've seen in my life.
When did you first start writing?
I have written for as long as I can remember. I wrote my first poem before I was in Kindergarten. I have always loved to write: poetry, short stories, essays, speeches....I even enjoy writing research papers! I kept a journal from the age of 14 until the age of 25 in which I wrote religiously--mostly about boys, in retrospect--and I believe that might be the only thing that kept my sanity through those tumultuous years.
What's the story behind your latest book?
When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I followed the band the Grateful Dead around the country. There was a whole subculture of people following them from show to show, camping together, selling things in the parking lot. It was a unique experience that can't be truly understood unless you were there. The protagonist of my novel, Free, brings that scene to life for readers who didn't experience it, and will be pleasantly familiar to those who did. I always went home after each tour, but there were plenty of people who remained nomadic until the next one, who went to new towns, stayed with new people, found new ways to survive. This intrigued me, and Free is the story of one such person.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Well, I wrote a book! After years of writing short stories, poems, and unfinished novels, I finally finished one. Then nothing happened for the next few years, because I had no idea what one does after writing a book. Eventually my friend Kevin encouraged me to get it published, and I found a small-press company who published it. They are no longer in business, so recently I republished my first novel under my own label, Scribomusings Press.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
I am very new to Smashwords, so time will tell! But Smashwords is user friendly and very fair to authors from what I have seen so far.
What do your fans mean to you?
I love the feedback I've gotten on this novel. My fans see things in my book and in my characters that I might have missed, adding a richness to the story. My fans inspired the book I'm currently working on. So many people have asked for a sequel. They want to know where Free is now, how she turned out. My next book isn't going to be about Free directly, but it will answer these questions. I'm really enjoying revisiting her.
What are you working on next?
I'm working on two things at the moment: a compilation of short stories featuring urban youth, and my second novel, which is not a sequel to my first but does piggyback on it. The short story project will be completed first, and will probably include an excerpt from the novel. I have been a high school teacher in an urban community for over 15 years, and my students have influenced a lot of the stories in my compilation. They find it meaningful to read literature that reflects their lives, that they can relate to. I want to be able to give this to them.
I started writing my second book due to multiple requests from my fans. They want to see where the main character from my first book is now, and as I thought about it her story began to unfold. However, this time it will be told through someone else's eyes.
Who are your favorite authors?
There are so many. Harper Lee and Carson McCullers are probably at the top of my list. I think To Kill a Mockingbird is the greatest book ever written, and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter a very close second. I have also read nearly everything Stephen King has written. He is a master at characterization. No one can develop a character like King. My favorite books of his are his Dark Tower series. Lately I've been reading Hugh Howey, a science fiction writer who got his start through internet publishing. His Wool Omnibus series is brilliant. Another favorite book is The Mists of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley. It is fantasy meets historical fiction, and takes place during the time of King Arthur. I could go on. S.E. Hinton, who probably influenced the style of my first novel more than anyone else. William Golding. Barbara Kingsolver. Douglas Adams. Neil Gaiman. Maybe I should compile my top 100 list!
What inspires you to get out of bed each morning?
Well, I'm not a morning person by any stretch of the imagination. If I had my way I'd sleep until at least 9 every day. But what inspires me? People. My son. My family. My friends. My students. I am naïve enough that I still believe deeply in the inherent good within people. I see this manifested every day, in so many ways. I see beauty in everything. It calls to me. It beckons my soul. I have seen enough hardship in my life to know that sadness and beauty are inseparable, that suffering is crucial to living, and that 'this too shall pass'. If there is pain, there will be joy. You'll see it in children playing, in a cat curled up in the sunlight pouring through a window, in flowers pushing up through frozen ground. This is what inspires me to make art. This is what inspires me to live, to breathe, to be.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I remember the first play I wrote! It was called "The Car Crash", and it was about a mother whose children were yelling in the car and caused her to crash. All the children died but she survived. In the next scene she is at home mourning her children, and their ghosts come back to haunt her. It ends with her jumping out the window to her death. I think I was six when I wrote this. I was always a little macabre.
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