What is your book’s genre category?
My book is a collection of short and longer fiction and they are a mix of many genres, The Lights Went Out and Other Stories runs the gamut from humorous to the supernatural.
Please describe what ‘The Lights Went Out And Other Stories’ is about?
I always described this book as having a mix of differing themes from despair and love to loneliness and madness, however a recent reviewer very kindly wrote of a commonality that he noted between my stories that I will share here –
“Some more obvious commonalities or connecting threads between the stories is the feeling of “romance in the air.” The author is quite good at giving us dramatic, heart-stopping slices from the lives of young lovers. But she seems less interested in the Harlequin romance end of things and more interested in portraying the pains, insecurities, fears, trepidations, and heartbreaks that accompany young love, and the psychologically odd spaces lovers are drawn into, the way these romantic encounters leave them shattered, or in some way forever altered, and forever after haunted by eerie feelings of drug-like intensity it seems no amount of processing time will be enough to digest.”
I couldn’t begin to disagree with him. I like the discordant notes and unusual themes and there are plenty of these in my stories.
How did you come up with the title?
The title is taken from one of the longer tales – “The Lights Went Out”; a story of one man’s loneliness and struggle with the demons of his past. It’s funny because I had the title before the actual story was conceived. I just really liked the title- I thought it evocative and also slightly old fashioned.
That story was a pain in the ass – I lost the first draft on my laptop and the next time being super careful, I saved it onto my USB only for that file to become corrupted! It’s a fairly long story and I had to rewrite it fully to my chagrin, but perhaps the final version was the one I was meant to write. Personally, I dislike it because of the hassle it caused me, but a lot of people tell me it is one of their favourites.
What inspired you to write the book?
As a collection, each story comes from a different place. Some where inspired from personal experience – Blood Orange and The Saxophone Song, for instance. Others were pure fiction. Some were a mixture of both. One story in particular – Loose Ends was a spin off of a longer story that was causing me problems. I couldn’t decide what to do with a character and thought, what if this happened? And I came up with a nice little flash fiction piece along with sorting out the direction of the main story – I love it when that happens.
What is your favorite part of writing?
My favourite part of writing is the excitement that comes with an idea, the “quick, where is the pen?” moment and then the euphoria of the flow – when I am writing so fast in my notebook that I get a cramp in the wrist (yes, I write longhand). There is no better feeling.
Researching is also an essential and sometimes indulgent pleasure. It’s amazing where a few clicks of the mouse can take you – from your own living room into Victorian London or Medieval France.
What is the most challenging aspect of writing?
Procrastination. I have the attention span of a stunned goldfish and am very easily distracted – social media is both a blessing and a curse. I have to be really strict with myself.
Who are some of your favourite authors?
I grew up on the Brontes, Jane Austen, Daphne du Maurier, George Elliot and Thomas Hardy – I love how the landscapes are as much a character as the individuals in their stories.
I discovered the work of JRR Tolkien at a young age and found true escapism. I remember crying when Frodo left for the Havens in the final chapter. Contemporary literary idols are Susanna Clarke, Paul Auster, Sarah Waters and Jonathan Tropper. Also Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, and lashings of John Connolly because I love a bit of well written horror and suspense.
What authors or persons have influenced you?
I love the Victorian tales of mystery and horror and I would have to say that my stories in that vein are influenced by HP Lovecraft, Edgar Allen Poe, Shelley, and Stoker. My more contemporary stories are influenced by Joyce Carol Oates, Joanne Harris, and the wonderful Dorothy Parker.
Do you have a favourite place to write?
There is an old leather armchair in my living room that is rather comfortable for curling up on with a notebook; it’s also perfect for using the laptop. But in good weather I can be found outside on the bench on my deck beside the wonderful ancient hedgerow that runs the length of our long garden. It really is the most peaceful and inspiring place, and has provided many a blog post, poem, and chapter.
Fiona, tell us something personal about you that people might be surprised to know.
I live and breathe Tolkien, and have the first two lines of the poem that Aragorn shows Frodo in The Prancing Pony (written by Gandalf to vouch for Strider/Aragorn’s true character) tattooed on my left upper arm– in Elvish. Below is the English version.
“All that is gold does not glitter
Not all those who wander are lost”
What surprises or learning experiences did you have during the publishing process?
I’m self published, so everything was a surprise and learning experience! I really hurled myself at the process with little or no knowledge of how everything worked, and hence learned an awful lot in a very quick period of time.
My first book was always going to be an experiment and as such I don’t think I have done too badly. I designed the cover myself from one of my own photographs – a beautiful view of an old cottage through an old iron gate surrounded by ivy and overgrown hedge. That cover has gone through a few incarnations and I am delighted with the final version – I messed about with colouring on the picture and picked a segment for the cover of the paperback. I wanted it to be brighter and it looks amazing, especially the ivy on the back cover.
I figured out the formatting (eventually) and have been going at the promotion ever since. I hold a degree in Marketing, but old school stuff – the press releases and organisational side, digital marketing is a whole different animal and I have to say I love it. But apart from the inimitable joy of holding my book in my arms for the first time, I have to say one of the highlights of self publishing for me has been connecting with so many amazing and helpful authors (and now friends) online. I look forward to meeting these writers over time. It still astounds me how helpful and generous these people are; from sharing and re-tweeting, to buying and reviewing my book, not to mention the invaluable advice. I make it my business to do the same for authors I come across, and I do a lot of reviewing myself because I understand just how important it is to an author.
Looking back, what did you do right that helped with this book?
Well, if you don’t have the content, there really is no point in putting your writing out there. I had a large amount of stories that had never seen the light of day and I picked through them until I was happy with the fiction I put forward. Thankfully my reviews have shown that these stories are relevant and interesting to readers and this is gratifying. I was lucky with my promotion as a newbie, and hopefully I have created a nice amount of interest for my next books.
Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?
Make sure your writing is the best it can possibly be. For the first couple of months my book was out there, I couldn’t afford to get it professionally edited – I was forever correcting what I had thought perfect. A writer can only edit to a certain degree, it takes an objective professional to spot the errors that have been overlooked many times. As soon as I could, I hired a wonderful editor and now friend in New York, to work my book and she did a stellar job; it really is amazing the difference a little tightening can do.
(My next novel – Martha’s Cottage has been sent to an agent as polished as possible thanks to my editor)
Don’t be afraid to get your work out there, have people lined up to read your work and critique.
When your book is ready for publishing, make sure and have the best cover art you can get, either buy it or download a free image (although you do run the risk of someone somewhere using the same pic), or use a good quality picture of your own and photo shop it to your liking. You can format the document yourself or pay for someone else to do it, but YouTube has many free tutorials.
My first book arrived on Amazon with no fanfare apart from much screaming and clinking of wine glasses with my husband. Now, I know better and my next book will get a proper online launch with the help of my blog, Twitter, and hopefully my Facebook author friends. There will be giveaways and I will promote the hell out of it before it even goes live. I can’t wait.
Incessant Musings is full of snippets of poetry, my thoughts on everything from woolly socks to dogs, my love of nature and news on my books –
My Facebook page is a great platform for showing little bits of my work and also commenting on the writing process –
Where can we find your book?
The Lights Went Out and Other Stories can be found on Amazon. There are also links on my website and my author page on Facebook.
What’s next for you, Fiona?
I have sent my latest book; a romantic fiction – Martha’s Cottage to an agent because I want to try a traditional publishing house with this one. I am interested to see how things differ from self-publishing promotion and marketing wise.
I am currently working on a horror or I should say “wrestling with” as this book is doing its best to fight me hard. I also plan on self publishing a chap book of my poetry before Christmas and there is the second collection of short stories that is lurking about in the back of my mind. So busy, busy, busy. Busy is great.
Eleanor Parker Sapia is the Puerto Rican-born author of the award-winning historical novel, A DECENT WOMAN, published by Sixth Street River Press. Her debut book, which garnered an Honorable Mention in Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now, was Book of the Month with Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015. Eleanor is proud to be featured in the award-winning anthology, Latino Authors and Their Muses, edited by Mayra Calvani. Well-traveled Eleanor is a writer, artist, photographer, and blogger who is never without a pen and a notebook, her passport and a camera. Her awesome adult children are out in the world doing amazing things. Eleanor currently lives and writes in Berkeley County, West Virginia.
Eleanor’s book: http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK
Please visit Eleanor at her website: http://www.eleanorparkersapia.com