Author Interview: Yadhira Gonzalez-Taylor

Welcome to the Tuesday Author Interview series at The Writing Life, where I have the great pleasure of chatting with authors across genres. Today I’m very pleased to welcome fellow Puerto Rican writer, Yadhira Gonzalez, who celebrates a birthday today!

Yadhira Gonzalez

Yadhira Gonzalez-Taylor was born in Bronx, New York in 1973 to Puerto Rican parents. She is a graduate of the New York City public school system and also attended elementary school in Caguas, Puerto Rico. She served her country as a Military Police Officer in the US Army Reserve, assigned to the 812th MP Co., 800th MP Brigade in New York State between 1992 and 2000. 

 She received her B.S., magna cum laude and M.A., in Criminal Justice in 1999 from the City University of New York, John Jay College of Criminal Justice. A graduate of New York Law School, she received her J.D. in 2002. Upon graduating law school, Ms. Gonzalez-Taylor served as an Assistant District Attorney in Bronx County where she prosecuted economic crime cases until 2006. Her career path led to an appointment as an internal prosecutor for the NYC Police Department between 2006 and 2009. Currently, she is an administrative law judge for the NYC Department of Education. An attorney by day and a writer by night, she is inspired to write by her three daughters and her own upbringing, traveling between New York and Puerto Rico. Presently, she is working on more adventures for the Martina series and other literary projects and workshops.

Ms. Gonzalez-Taylor is published in Bronx Memoir Part I as an essay contributor. She is a member of the Full Circle Ensemble and has performed spoken word at the National Black Theater with her writing circle. She is also a contributor to the Anthology, Mujeres, the Magic, the Movement, a poetry collection written by fierce warrior women resulting from a women’s literary workshop facilitated by the poet Peggy Robles-Alvarado. The anthology book launch will be occurring soon and the book will become available within the next few weeks on Amazon.

Bienvenida, Yadhira.

Please describe what your books are about.

The published books are within the folk / fable family in children’s literature genre. Martina Finds a Shiny Coin is an offshoot of La Cucarachita Martina, an old Caribbean folktale first put to print by New York City’s first Puerto Rican Librarian, Pura Belpre. In the story, a little roach finds a coin and goes on a shopping spree. She ends up buying make up, and what follows is a journey of self-discovery, courtship, randomness, and the meaning of true love.

Martina 1

Once the first story was published, I got an idea to do a spinoff using the same character. In Martina and the Wondrous Waterfall, Martina goes on a musical journey with all her friends from the Barrio.

Martina 2

How did you come up with the titles?

Martina Finds a Shiny Coin was inspired by the main character finding the coin. This sets off La Cucarachita on her journey, not only on her shopping trip, but that of her meeting many suitors on the road to discovering her true worth. Hence, Martina Finds a Shiny Coin.

The second title, Martina and the Wondrous Waterfall, came about because the main concept of the story is the journey to a magical, wondrous waterfall that Martina and all her friends go on.

They’re lovely books. I’m saving my signed copies for future grandchildren 🙂

What inspired you to write children’s books?

As a mother, I was always tasked as the sleep time storyteller. I kept repeating the same fairy tales that were not representative of my own culture, i.e., Goldilocks, Three Little Pigs, etc. One day, my husband asked if I had any stories from Puerto Rico. Immediately I remembered La Cucarachita! The rest is history. We adapted the story with different things and interests for the main character and a new illustrated version of the story emerged.

The second book, Martina and the Wondrous Waterfall, was inspired by a trip I took with friends to a majestic waterfall in my hometown of Caguas, Puerto Rico.

I tell new writers to write what they’d like to read. Looks like it worked beautifully for you and your children.

Does your main character resemble you? If so, in what ways?

I think my lifelong struggle with weight had a part to play in how I wrote the story. I have struggled with self-esteem, so I know what it’s like to people please or change one’s appearance to satisfy others. For example, I once had a boyfriend who criticized me every time I wore my hair in a bob. He preferred long hair, I guess. So I kept my hair long for a while just to satisfy this relationship, which eventually ended. Probably because I wasn’t being my true self. So in that way, I can relate at an intimate level with the main character. I have grown so much since then.

Today, despite all my professional and personal successes, I still struggle. And who doesn’t? It’s part of being a human being, I think. The difference now is that today, I look at myself in the mirror and I remind myself that I am made by the universe to be alive, to love, to live, to educate, to nurture, and to be of service to my fellow humans. None of those responsibilities are affected by the way I look, unless I let it, so I affirm that I am a human first and everything else is gravy.

Exactly, everyone struggles with one thing or another. When I stopped the people pleasing, a few toxic relationships ended soon afterward, which was a good/sad thing and probably inevitable. Looking back, the experience made me stronger and opened new doors.

What is your favorite part of writing?

My favorite part of writing is having the ability to purge feelings, positive and negative, into an artistic medium. I journal, write poetry,  and perform my poems (sometimes), and I write stories. It’s a form of positive escapism. If you are going to have a vice, I would say writing is a healthy one, unless you forget to bathe, then you are running into potential problems if you share space with other humans 🙂

Too funny. I live alone, so I don’t bother anyone with my late night writing sessions, but my Chihuahua complains when I leave the light on.

Yadhira, what do you find is the most challenging aspect of writing?

Procrastination. I can write almost anything. It’s the editing that gets me stuck. I use verbal prompts, images, and writing workshops to crank up the writing. It’s what happens next that I find tedious. However, it is necessary to produce quality work that someone is going to be willing to pay for, or even trek to the library to borrow my book. I believe a writer’s success is measured by the quality of their work. It’s one of those things where word travels and reputations can hurt your ability to market yourself. Especially in the world of self-publishing.

Very true. Most writers I know have unique ways of dealing with procrastination. I show up at the writing desk every day and force myself to write, no matter what. If the writing doesn’t move me that day, I switch to doing research for the book I’m working on or reading, which usually gets me motivated and reinspired. But I remain at the writing desk.

What was the last book you read? What did you think of it?

I am currently reading a few books on writing as I am working on editing a manuscript. This one is not a children’s story. The last book I read for fun was Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. How could I not like a story written by a genius? I loved it. The sad tragic story of the main character coupled with his undying love for the love for a woman who abandoned him and his undying need to punish himself with self-destructive behavior is a reminder that sometimes we just have to let go; that love is not supposed to hurt.

Definitely one of my favorite books. Marquez was a genius and a masterful storyteller. I’m currently reading Love in the Time of Cholera in Spanish and loving it even more than the English translation.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Isabel Allende is a favorite. I love magic realism and she does it fabulously well in her books.

Another favorite. What authors or person(s) have influenced you as a writer and why?

I enjoy authors who show their own defects and spiritual struggles in their writing. Isabel Allende is one of those authors. She is unafraid to embrace the dysfunctions and sadness of life and it shines through in her writing.

Do you have a favorite place to write? To read?

Writing, no. I have to adapt as an urban dweller who spends a lot of time outside. So sometimes, I write in a journal and sometimes on my laptop when I have a lunch hour to spare at work. Reading however is a different story.

I have an old winged back chair in a corner, by the large windows at the front of my home. There, I have set up a nice cotton area rug for my feet to be warmed, I’ve placed many of my (70-plus) plants in that area, and I have a space to place my coffee mug. That is where I do my best reading. It is also,where I sit to quietly meditate and read the paper on Sunday mornings.

Yadhira reading nook

Looks like a great place to read. I think everyone should have a sacred space in the home.

Tell us something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

I once ran after a moving tractor-trailer truck. I was about 20, crazy, and still in the Army. I still had a lot of recklessness in me. The truck hit my mom’s car and kept going, but we were in heavy traffic so the truck wasn’t going that fast. I ran after it, climbed on the step and banged on the window to make the driver stop. Looking back now I realize it wasn’t very good idea.

Wow, the hit and run driver must have been shocked to see you on his truck! Now, I want to know the ending of that story.

Did the writing process uncover surprises or learning experiences for you? What about the publishing process?

The writing process reminds me of my propensity for procrastination, the writer’s worst enemy. It’s easier for me to create content than it is to edit and re-write. I struggle with that issue. I try to carve out time. However, writing though my passion, is not my full time employment, so I have to squeeze in writing and editing time when I can.

I learned a lot during the self-publishing process. I tried traditional agents and publishing houses, but I was unsuccessful. I had to do all the work myself. I hired illustrators, editors (of all stages), even the guy who produced the trailer for my first book. So I became well versed in the lingo of the industry, which I believe adds to my credibility as a self-published author. Many people out there are discovering createspace or other self-publishing platforms. They are buying ISBNs or using the createspace ISBN, and putting work out there that is not edited by anyone. Oftentimes, the first draft is published and we, self-published authors, have to compete against the presumption that self-published is of a lesser quality than a traditionally published book.

To your last comment, that’s a common complaint among self-published authors. Self-publishing is a lot of work!

What do you hope readers will gain from your book?

Both stories involve a journey of self-discovery. There is also the underlying theme of self-reflection and personal improvement woven within the story. It is never too late to change your perspective. A positive perspective in any situation can lead to positive changes and therefore, genuine happiness.

Looking back, what did you do right that helped you write and market your books?

I was blessed to meet so many people because of writing the first book. When I first published Martina Finds a Shiny Coin, I participated in the Brooklyn Book Fair. It was there that I met Maria Aponte, a fellow author, who is very involved in the Latino writing community. She was my shiny coin! After meeting her, I met countless others that shared the same desire to produce quality written content as well as people willing to share resources and information and that is how a natural marketing process began. Today I have so many new friends, including you, Eleanor, whom I have met through my adventurous development as a writer.

Maria is a shiny coin! I was very happy to finally meet you, Maria Aponte, Bobby Gonzalez, Theresa Varela, and Manuel Melendez at the Comite Noviembre Puerto Rican Author Book Expo last year. It’s a great Boricua event, and I hope to participate again this year. My son lives in NYC, so it’s looking good.

What didn’t work as well as you’d hoped in the writing or marketing of your books?

I stay away from paying Facebook for ads. I don’t have an exuberant budget and I found that the amount of money I was paying for highlighting my main character’s Facebook posts was not paying a dividend.

I’ve thought about Facebook ads, and heard the same feedback from many authors. I find book blasts, book tours, and Thunderclap campaigns are good ways to introduce new books.

Any advice or tips for writers looking to be published?

Editing is an important part that cannot be skipped or minimized. I am not going to buy any subsequent books you publish if your first one is riddled with errors. Editing, editing, and more editing is the bulk of our writing. Also, don’t go straight to self-publishing. Try the traditional way first. Publishing houses have far more resources than an indie author could ever dream of having. You’ll still have to market yourself as an author, writer, etc., but you will have more support in the background.

I completely agree with you on editing and trying for traditional publishing. I recommend checking out smaller publishing houses; that’s how I got my foot in the publishing door.

Website and social media links?

You can follow me on twitter @gothamesq

Martina has her own Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/martinafindsashinycoin/

And my author page can be found on the net at: www.ygtbooks.net

Where can we find your books?

You can find both titles on Amazon.com and of course, directly from me by emailing ygonzaleztaylor@yahoo.com. I can mail a signed copy right to reader’s doors, or to their gift recipient’s door.

What’s next for you?

I am attending workshops to hone my craft as well as writing and reading as much as I can. I am hoping to finish editing a manuscript and will begin the process of finding agents to represent me in that endeavor.

Yadhira G

I just love this photograph of you! This is the happiest way to end a great interview. Best of luck on your writing journey, Yadhira. I look forward to the release of the anthology.

About Eleanor:

ellie

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the award-winning historical novel, A Decent Woman, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, set in turn of the century Ponce, Puerto Rico, garnered an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now, and was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015. A writer, artist, and photographer, Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, The Laments of Forgotten Souls, set in 1920 Puerto Rico.

Eleanor’s book: http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK
Please visit Eleanor at her website:
www.eleanorparkersapia.com

 

 

 

 

 

Author Interview: Kelly Bennett Seiler

Welcome to Tuesday Author Interview series at The Writing Life. Today I’m pleased to welcome Kelley Bennett Seiler, writer of Contemporary Women’s Fiction.

Since it’s Valentine’s Day, won’t you please show us some love by clicking ‘Like’ at the end of the interview? Thank you in advance!

Kelly Bennett Seiler is the author of The Plan and Shifting Time.  A former high school English teacher and school counselor, she has written articles for such websites as eHow and Livestrong, in addition to creating questions for nationally standardized exams. She’s been featured by Woman’s Day magazine, NPR and PBS and was on the cover of Military Spouse magazine. Kelly has edited numerous books, including a New York Times bestseller. She received both her Bachelor’s degree and her Master’s degree in English from Bucknell University in Pennsylvania. A native of New Jersey, Kelly currently lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and three children.

kelly-seiler

Welcome, Kelly!

What is your book’s genre?

I believe the ‘official’ category is “Contempory Woman’s Fiction.”

Kelly Seiler book.jpg

Please describe what The Plan is about.

Claire Matthews’ entire world shatters into a million pieces the night she’s the only survivor of a brutal car that claims the lives of her husband and three children.  Irishman Callum Fitzgerald, a tri-lateral amputee, has built a life and a career around encouraging others to find a purpose for their pain, with the reassurance there’s always a greater plan. Claire and Callum – two individuals with seemingly little in common – yet, their lives will unexpectedly converge, thus beginning a love story so profound and enduring, it could turn the darkest tragedies into spectacular triumphs.  

How did you come up with the title

It was the easiest of my titles to decide upon.  The entire book is about how there is a larger plan for one’s life – one we, very likely, will not see or understand as it is unfolding.  The Plan was the natural title choice for this book.

Kelly, what inspired you to write this book? 

This book began as a screenplay.  My agent signed me based on that screenplay, with the agreement I’d turn it into a book.  So, although it is my second novel, THE PLAN is actually the beginning of my writing journey.

What is your favorite part of writing?

I enjoy “having written,” but not necessarily the process of writing.  I’m proud of myself once I have written during the day, however, forcing myself to actually sit and write is often a struggle.  I am easily distracted.  Having said that, once I begin writing, I get lost in the work and the story and I find it to be therapeutic.

I feel the same way about distractions and getting lost in the story once I’m writing. Does your main character resemble you?  If so, in what ways?

Claire is similar to me in that she is a wife and a mom of three children.  The struggles she encounters, however, are well beyond anything I have ever had to experience.  I hope I could say I’m as strong as she is, but I don’t think any of us would know what kind of strength we have until we are faced with such huge adversity.

What do you find is the most challenging aspect of writing? 

As I mentioned earlier, sitting and actually writing is my greatest challenge.  I am easily distracted – by the dishes, the laundry, the TV, my kids, etc.  Once I’m writing, I’m good to go, but getting myself seated in that chair is always quite an accomplishment in and of itself. 

What was the last book you read? What did you think of it? 

The last book I read was “Mrs. Perregrine’s  Home for Peculiar Children.”  I read it with my children.  I enjoyed it, though, not quite as much as I’d hoped – that might be because my kids complained a lot during the reading!  I’m excited to see the movie, though!

The movie is on my list! Who are some of your favorite authors?

Stephen King, Jodi Picoult, John Grisham, Jennifer Weiner

What authors or person(s) have influenced you as a writer and why? 

Stephen King says, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time to write.”  I believe that’s true, and along those same lines, each book you read is bound to influence you and your writing in some way – be it for the better or not.  Many books I read introduce me to new concepts and ideas and even vocabulary.  Some just remind me of what I do not want to do as a writer!  Thus, I wouldn’t say there is one particular author, but all the authors I’ve read ‘as a whole’ are the ones who have influenced me. 

Do you have a favorite place to write? To read? 

I tend to “read” by audiobook, thus that occurs a great deal while I’m driving.  As for writing, I write in a variety of places – my home office, Starbucks, Panera – but my favorite (and most productive) place is the local community college library because it is so much more quiet in there than in a restaurant or even the public library.

Kelly, tell us something personal about you people may be surprised to know

I was on the synchronized swim team in college.

Did the writing process uncover surprises or learning experiences for you? What about the publishing process? 

The greatest surprise for me, during the writing process, was that I am capable of writing a 450-page novel in six months!  I would have never thought I could accomplish such a task, but when Simon and Schuster gives you a deadline, you meet it!  Regarding publishing, I was surprised that, though the book may have only taken me six months to write, it then could take over two years to get into print!

kelly-seiler-book

What do you hope readers will gain from your book

I hope the readers will gain actual hope.  THE PLAN is a story with great sadness, but it is also a story about how there is a purpose to the pain we experience in life, though we might not be able to see it as we are trudging through it.

I agree. Pain can be a great teacher. Looking back, what did you do right that helped you write and market this book?

I networked!  I rarely ever lose touch with the people I meet.  Many of my book sales came from friends and acquaintances and their friends and their acquaintances.  I also used social media to the greatest extent to publicize my novels.

What didn’t work as well as you’d hoped

I have passed out fliers to some of my book signings in the past and I don’t believe I ever really got very many guests based on those notices.

Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published? 

I wrote an article for The Muse that might come in handy for aspiring writers.  It’s called “How I Networked my Way to a Book Deal.”  https://www.themuse.com/advice/how-i-networked-my-way-to-a-book-deal

Thanks for sharing your great tips with us. Website and social media links?

www.kellybennettseiler.com; @kbennettseiler  (Twitter); Kelly Bennett Seiler (Facebook)

Where can we find your book? 

Hopefully, wherever books are sold!   Specifically, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Walmart.  Also, many public libraries and local independent bookstores have it.

What’s next for you?

I’m working on the screenplay for my first novel, Shifting Time, and working on a new adult novel.

Thank you for chatting with me, Kelly. I wish you all the best with your books and screenplays!

About Eleanor:

ellie

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the award-winning historical novel, A Decent Woman, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, set in turn of the century Ponce, Puerto Rico, garnered an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now, and was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015. A writer, artist, and photographer, Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, The Laments of Forgotten Souls, set in 1920 Puerto Rico.

Eleanor’s book: http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK
Please visit Eleanor at her website:
www.eleanorparkersapia.com

Two Gateways to the Garden of Creativity

My friend Beth G. Raps, Ph.D. is a linguist, mother, fundraiser, moneycoach, and philosopher, as well as a writer, editor and French translator. We share many common interests, and most of our conversations revolve around a gentle, kinder life, and about writing and creativity.

After a recent email exchange, I invited Beth to write a guest post on writing and creativity. My reply (which she encouraged me to share) to Beth’s inspiring piece is at the end of the post. I am very pleased to share my creative friend’s widsom with you, dear readers.

Dear Ellie,

The invitation you’ve given me to write for your blog is so sacred. I’m really into structure! And having to work within the structure of a single post–on someone else’s blog, where no one knows me–is especially enticing. I think a lot of writers secretly love structure, even though nowadays it’s not as popular as its complement, freedom. For me these are two gateways to the garden. If one gateway gets overused, its as if it got stuck in the “on” or the open position…the garden suffers.

This letter to you is about my love of taking “the gateway less traveled,” to paraphrase Robert Frost, the one less often opened nowadays–structure. I like structure so much I’m writing a whole book about it!  I see structure as an opening to creativity and more: manifestation. That’s an area in which I work with some of my coaching clients and even my consulting clients when they let me! If it’s appropriate, you can send people to find out more at this link: www.raisingclarity.com

My “Structure Book” (what is it about titles? I’m one of those writers who gives them at the end, not the start of a manuscript; right now I have five different titles) is in manuscript. It’s being read by a dear friend and I’m ready to see how it lands with others if anyone’s interested!

In it, at one point, I draw on the history of the mnemonic arts by Frances A. Yates, The Art of Memory, especially her chapter on the classical memory art taught Cicero. Cicero said if you wanted to remember a speech, you created a house for it that was unusual, and then created rooms in your house for each major part of your speech, then placed unusual objects (like sculptures in wall niches) in the rooms that reminded you of the things you wanted to be sure to say in each part of your speech. To help you remember your whole speech, you enter the house, and go room by room to stand before each room’s unusual objects.

The ancient memory arts gave me permission to make even thinking about my writing important enough to set aside time and space for.
For me, thinking is tantamount to writing: once I’m in my set-aside time and space, I begin thinking. And then my fingers start to itch to write. What I write may be drivel! But I know I am putting in the time I need to on my writing.

You can see how natural it was for me, when you invited me to write, and because it was so sacred, to respond that that I would meditate on the subject of my post before getting back to you.  And then, in the magical way that life’s microcosms are a fractal of its macrocosm, I realized that the act of setting aside time to meditate on a piece of writing was probably more unusual, and more useful, to your readers than anything else I could write about.

Let me anticipate some readers’ response, and add that one of the best reasons to set aside time is what you may fear the most: having nothing come from your fingers once your set-aside time begins.

I’m sure many of us have read Writing Down the Bones: Natalie Goldberg’s advice in the event of “nothing to write” is simply to write anyway–write nonsense, keep the arm and fingers moving. Similarly, once you are in the time and space you’ve set aside, you are in the garden. If you keep faith with it, it will keep faith with you. The act of entering a creative space is itself creative.

Being present in our creative space just means showing up, committed but not always clear. The most glamorous garden activities are the most visible ones: planting seeds, or flowering, or fruiting or harvesting. We don’t always have to be in glamour mode. In our garden, we can weed or water or compost or simply contemplate what we’ve done thus far, our garden in its present state. We can noodle around or research or plan or meditate. We can read something inspiring or juicy or controversial to us, and free-write in response to it. We can take a bath (why can’t the garden have a bathtub in it?) and contemplate the back story of our main character. Or a minor character we find interesting. We can make ourselves a special treat in the kitchen, taking our time and dedicate it and the enjoyment of our treat to the fruition of our short story. We can go to a museum or a cathedral and walk around and think about the relationship of what we’re seeing to our essay or history.  We can re-read our last draft from start to finish as my favorite book on writing, Walter Mosley’s This Year You Write Your Novel, says is when the real work begins, and we understand what we’ve created in an entirely new way.

I have lots more specific ideas but I’d love to hear what other readers of your blog think about and do with this idea!

Thanks again for inviting, Ellie!

–Beth

My response to Beth:

Dear Beth,

I’m very pleased to share your wonderful, insightful piece! I found myself nodding and smiling as I read along. Thanks for accepting my invitation; it’s an honor to share your wise words.

After reaching 57, 467 words with my work in progress, The Laments of Forgotten Souls, I couldn’t decide on an ending. My characters were doing things I hadn’t expected, so I stopped writing to sit with the story. I also watched movies, puttered around the house, painted a few pieces of furniture, and bought two books for further research.

As much as I’d like to put out one book a year, I must remain patient with the story, the characters, and with myself. I listen to my gut and spirit, and try not to fall prey  to kind and generous cries of, “We are ready for your next book.” I wasn’t ready.

Last night, the ending came to me, and how the entire story and characters fit together! How important it is to sit with our characters and the pasts we’ve created for them in order to know and understand what their next moves might be. My job is to listen, write, and not rush the characters and story along. And I agree with you: what I do in between is also important and necessary to the creative process.

I love my new story, I’m happy with the ending, and now, it’s time to think about structure, while remembering that the story is still baking until I write, ‘The End’. Even then, I allow myself time to think and honor my ability to edit and rewrite, just as I did for 25 years as a painter. When is a painting, a story ready to be shared with the world? When my gut tells me it’s time.

All the best with your book, Beth!  Thanks again. Off to write.

–Ellie

About Beth:

beth-raps-photo

Beth G. Raps, Ph.D. is a linguist, mother, fundraiser, moneycoach, and philosopher, as well as a writer, editor and French translator.  She blogs at:

http://www.raisingclarity.com/blog/

https://bethrapsblog.wordpress.com/blog/

https://www.tumblr.com/blog/rapsraps

About Eleanor:

ellie

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the award-winning historical novel, A Decent Woman, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, set in turn of the century Ponce, Puerto Rico, garnered an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now, and was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015. A writer, artist, and photographer, Eleanor is never without a pen and a notebook, and her passport and camera are always ready. Her awesome adult children are out in the world doing amazing things. Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, The Laments of Forgotten Souls, set in 1920 Puerto Rico.

Eleanor’s book: http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK
Please visit Eleanor at her website:
www.eleanorparkersapia.com

 

 

My Thoughts After The Women’s March on Washington

photo-by-andrew-caballero-reynolds-the-womens-march

Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images

Mission and Vision 

“We stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families – recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country.”

Shared from The Women’s March on Washington website.

My experience of standing shoulder to shoulder and marching with thousands of women, men, and children at the Women’s March on Washington on Saturday, January 21, 2017, was one of peace, inclusivity, unity, and respect. I am grateful to the women who marched with us in 600 sister marches in their respective countries, and I’m very grateful to the organizers and co-chairs of the Women’s March on Washington, who worked hard to organize what turned out to be a massive, historic event.

The short speeches made by six-year-old immigrant rights activist, Sophie Cruz (who won my heart), America Ferrara, Amanda Nguyen, Scarlett Johansson, Angela Davis, Cynthia Hale, Rabbi Sharon Brous, Gloria Steinem, LaDonna Harris, each of the co-chairs of the March, and Ashley Judd reciting a poem written by 19-year-old Nina Donovan from Tennessee, and many others, left me feeling represented at the March—as a Latina, as a mother, as a sister, and as a woman. As a mother, my heart broke for the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Dontre Hamilton, Eric Garner, and Jordan Davis. The mothers and their sons were rightly remembered that day.

I took away nuggets of wisdom from all the speeches, heard the truth of each speaker, and felt fortunate to be part of a march that demanded unity and respect for ALL. My group left just before Madonna came on stage, so I can’t speak to her message.

What I can say is that women and men, from across the United States and Canada, carried signs with deeply personal messages on a wide range of issues. The signs around me included messages about the LGBTQ community, the Black Lives Matter movement, women’s rights, human rights, domestic violence, immigration, the environment, education, Pro-choice, Pro-life, keeping our young women safe on college campuses, unity, and respect, among many messages against Trump and his decisions. And no, not every woman at the March was pro-choice as I’ve read recently. I saw plenty of women carrying pro-life signs standing next to plenty of women carrying pro-choice signs. So to me, it is incorrect to say or assume that it was a women’s pro-choice march as it has been described; it was much more. I never thought it was a case of “us” versus “them” that day; not at all. That’s not how I choose to live, and it pains me that many women and men are painting the March in that divisive light. Maybe you had to be there?

We were single and married women, mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers, activists, members of the clergy, members of every denomination, faith, belief, and then some, standing together with our children, partners, and friends. The march wasn’t a dangerous, violent, hate-filled event, where you, your beliefs or your children were in danger of being trampled and hurt like I’ve read this week. I didn’t witness animosity or shaming of women by women; everyone simply spoke from their hearts as women do on matters that are important to them. Instead, it was a peaceful, rowdy, wonderful march with lots of respect, kindness, humor, and comradery among the marchers. I experienced patience, polite and kind behavior, and good humor, which was incredible, given the huge number of marchers, the long hours of standing, and the frustrating lack of large screens and microphones for thousands of our fellow marchers who weren’t close enough to the stage to see or hear. But who could have predicted the massive turnout?

I know women multi-task like nobody’s business, but on that day, we were physically limited to carrying one large sign, or two small signs as some did. I felt we were more than the signs we carried that day, as I would venture to say most women who participated (myself included), hold many, many issues close to our hearts. It was heartening to see the different messages around me; many that expressed my own feelings. I wished I’d had ten hands for ten different issues!

To say the Women’s March wasn’t focused, organized, or inclusive doesn’t describe the March I experienced—women have big hearts and we hold many issues close to our big hearts, and thank God for women—ALL women. Are we perfect? Will we always get it right? Will we always agree? No, and there is still plenty of work to do for future generations, and lots to learn.

Obviously, I can’t know if the March was a wonderful experience for all the marchers, but I pray it was. If it was less than a positive day for you, I’d certainly like to know how we can do better. I was proud to march with women for women’s rights, for respect, compassion, and for unity in this country. I certainly marched for the rights of my sisters, neighbors, and for children around the world—refugees most definitely included.

‘Respect my existence or expect my resistance’ was the message I chose to bring to the Women’s March. I wrote the message on my poster board in English and in Spanish. That message still resonates with me and my heart as I believe it includes the rights of all men, women, and children in this country and the world. I took home a lot more understanding of the human experience, and how we all do the best with what we’ve been dealt with in life. I am grateful for the eye-opening experience.

Thank you to the thousands of women who couldn’t march with us and who took the time to knit and donate the pink pussy hats most of us wore with pride on that historic day.

Lastly and most important of all: you may not like or agree that women marched and protested on Washington as is our right. You may not like or agree with the many messages women brought to the March, but please know women marched for YOU, too. And we will keep marching for you because we that’s important. Women’s rights are human rights, and human rights are women’s rights.

For a list of speakers and performers at The Women’s March on Washington:

https://qz.com/891175/the-full-lineup-of-the-many-many-speakers-and-performers-at-the-womens-march-on-washington/

About Eleanor: 

ellie

Former counselor and family support worker for immigrant and refugee families, Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the award-winning historical novel, A Decent Woman, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, set in turn of the century Ponce, Puerto Rico, garnered an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now, and was selected as a Book of the Month selection by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015. A writer, artist, and photographer, Eleanor is never without a pen and a notebook, and her passport and camera are always ready. Her awesome adult children are out in the world doing amazing things. Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, set in 1920 Puerto Rico.


Please visit Eleanor at her website:
www.eleanorparkersapia.com

 

 

The Writing Life Interviews: Elizabeth Passo

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Welcome to The Writing Life blog, where I have the pleasure of chatting with authors every Tuesday for our Author Interview series. 

I enjoy taking a December sabbatical from writing to enjoy the holiday preparations for our annual family Christmas visit and dinner. This year I decided to host one special author. Since Christmas is all about love, wonder, fun, and family, especially children, please welcome award-winning author of children’s books, Elizabeth Passo.

Elizabeth Passo has always had a happy knack for rhyme and stories, and impulsively bombards her friends and family with her imaginative creations. The challenge of finding a more than very special way of delivering a more than very special Christmas gift for her daughter, led her to create the tale of the Reindeer Gift. This particular story captured her heart, and she founded Happy Knack Publishing, LLC. Now the reindeer gift-hiding tradition is available for you to include as part of your annual family holiday for those more than very special Christmas gifts. Cries for more prompted Elizabeth to continue the reindeer capers into Easter. And bored students inspired her hilarious vocab building comic book. All have won national book awards and are available on Amazon. Elizabeth lives in central Pennsylvania with her two number one fans as well as a not quite perfect, but beautifully golden and rosy nosed pit bull and a gargantuan pussycat. She’d love to hear from you! You can learn more and contact her at elizabethpasso.com or reindeergift.com.

Welcome, Elizabeth!

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What are the genres of your books?

  1. The Reindeer Gift: A Fun, Easy Christmas Tradition – Holiday/Children/Family
  2. The Reindeer vs E.A.Ster: A Fun, Easy Springtime Tradition – Holiday/Children/Family
  3. Birthday Party SBD – Vocab Building Comic Book

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Please describe what your books are about.

The Reindeer Gift tells how Santa’s reindeer have gotten bored with standing around on the roof. They’ve decided to get in on the gift giving fun. Now they’re taking turns going down the chimneys and hiding a special reindeer gift somewhere in the house for each person to find. Since they take turns, you’ll want to find out which reindeer came to your house, so the last page of the book provides an interactive website www.reindeergift.com. Go to this website and click on the big, red Reindeer Reveal button, and a different nameplate will be emailed to you for free each year that tells you which reindeer hid your gift.

People clamored for a sequel, so I came up with The Reindeer vs. E.A.Ster. This continues the reindeer adventures and also tells the fun story of the bunny’s real name, which not too many people know. There is nothing for reindeer to do in the spring, so they decide to play a prank on their buddy. But he’s not as distracted as Santa and catches on pretty quickly. Well, those reindeer don’t give up. There’s a lot of action and drama and a surprise ending that you won’t see coming. There’s also the same interactive website you go to at Easter to vote for who you want your Easter present from: the reindeer or the Easter bunny. We’ve done this two years now, and both years the majority of kids have said, “We want the reindeer to bring our Easter present.” We’re going to keep track of this friendly competition each year. We’re hoping the bunny can reclaim his holiday.

Birthday Party SBD packs 75 words that students should know into the funniest story I could think of for kids. The Silent But Deadly subject matter really makes them laugh. I decided to put it into a comic book format to give context clues to the vocab words. If the students don’t know what a word like “cacophony” or “exhume” means, they can flip to the Glossary in the back for the full definition. Teachers have assessed it as being appropriate for grades 4 through 8.

How did you come up with the titles? 

I wanted the titles to tell people instantly what the books were about. They’re each unique and fun ideas, so I didn’t want to make the titles too obscure or difficult to figure out.

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Elizabeth, what inspired you to write this book?

My daughter is my muse. When she was 3 years old, she was particularly excited about a very special gift that she wanted. It was so highly anticipated that it didn’t seem right to simply put it under the tree with the others. So I came up with the idea to bring the reindeer in on the action. They’re just standing around on the roof with nothing better to do, so why not? On Christmas morning, we hid the gift. After all the under-the-tree presents were opened, I told her one very special gift was still somewhere in the house. One of Santa’s reindeer had come down the chimney and hidden it for her. Her eyes got as big as Christmas tree ornaments, and she loved looking for it. She’s 14 now, and it’s become part of our Christmas tradition so she still loves doing it.

When she entered middle school, she told me that school was getting boring, so that’s what made me come up with the vocab building comic book idea.

Now she’s in high school, and I’m writing my first full length young adult novel.

What is your favorite part of writing? 

I love brainstorming ideas. After that, I love developing the characters. I enjoy giving them each full and complete personalities, which is why I added a page for each reindeer on the www.reindeergift.com website where you can find out each reindeer’s favorite activity, favorite food, favorite color, birthday, etc. and root for the reindeer you want to come to your house. I also have little known facts for each such as who each one likes to hang out with the most.

Select one book and tell me which character resembles you? If so, in what ways?

Blitzen probably most resembles me. She has an insatiable curiosity and likes exploring. In fact, she tries something new every single day. I’m always researching something and trying new recipes. Her favorite food is pasta because of all the different things you can do with it. Pasta is definitely a “go to” food for me. And her birthday is the same as mine.

What do you find is the most challenging aspect of writing? 

Editing. Definitely. Making sure all of the grammar and punctuation isn’t too creative. And if it is creative, that it’s acceptably so and doesn’t look like a mistake.

What was the last book you read? What did you think of it?

Bartimaeus by Jonathan Stroud. I loved it and am working through the series now. He’s just come out with the 4th book. I really like his unconventional use of adjectives, and the sense of humor he injects and his dialogue banter. He made me laugh out loud so many times. He seems like he has a lot of fun while writing. I could picture him cracking himself up as he wrote.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

The author who’s been on my Favorites list for the longest amount of time is Jack Kerouac. A recent addition is Rick Yancey. The Fifth Wave was just OK for me, but his Monstrumologist series is pure word art.

What author(s) or person(s) have influenced you as a writer and how have they influenced you?

My daughter started bringing home Cassandra Clare books and raving about them, so I got curious and started reading them. The stories are along the lines of magical realism: vampires and werewolves and such existing among us and the challenges they face by being friends with us. I researched the author to find out more about her and found that she has an enormous, devoted following. The writing isn’t necessarily award winning, but she’s captured the imaginations of millions. Her books made me think that I could do that too – that being an author who wasn’t a household name, but still enormously popular was possible. It got my imagination juices flowing and prompted an idea for my first novel.

Do you have a favorite place to write? To read?

I love chairs that move: rocking chairs, gliding rockers, swings. My husband bought me a giant, overstuffed chair that glides. It’s so big, you can sleep in it. I curl up in that, pull my laptop onto my lap, and glide and type. It’s also my favorite place to read.

Tell us something personal about you people may be surprised to know? 

I have a full drum kit and take drum lessons.

Did the writing process uncover surprises or learning experiences for you? What about the publishing process?

I think the amount of marketing and getting in front of people after the book is published is still somewhat surprising. We always hear about those overnight successes such as Amanda Hocking, the indie publishing sensation whose self-published novels have sold millions of copies all over the world, and Waffle House waitress Anna Todd’s four-book deal worth half a million. There’s a part of me that still keeps expecting to get “discovered” like that, I think. Until then, I keep plugging away at my book signings.

I must look up Anna Todd! Goodness, what luck. As we both plug away with our books, Elizabeth, what do you hope readers will gain from your book?

I really hope kids have so much fun with the reindeer gifts that they become fun, easy holiday traditions that are carried on for generations. The kind of traditions that provide families with moments where they come together in love and laughter and make those “Remember the time when Comet hid my new bike in the bathtub?” memories that they’ll always cherish.

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Lovely. Looking back, what did you do right that helped you write and market this book?

The very best thing I did was hire talented artists to illustrate my books. We did not rush this process. It took a year to hand oil paint the illustrations for each reindeer book and the comic book artist took about 6 months to hand ink the SBD drawings. People consistently comment on the quality of the illustrations.

The second best thing was to enter each of my books into the National Indie Excellence Awards. My first book, The Reindeer Gift: A Fun, Easy Christmas Tradition, won the 2015 Holiday category. My second book, The Reindeer vs. E.A.Ster: A Fun, Easy Springtime Tradition, won the 2016 Holiday category. And my third book, Birthday Party SBD, placed second in the 2016 Comic and Graphic Novel category. Displaying these awards on my book signing table at the various shows I do has consistently made an impression on people and, I suspect, been instrumental in pushing a wavering mind into the “I’ll take it” decision.

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The third best thing is that I’m relentless about researching new venues to get my book out there. We typically go to art and craft and holiday shows and set up a book signing booth. We’ve gone from the Michigan State Fair to the Charleston, SC Christmas Show and everywhere in between. Since my books aren’t available in e-format yet, getting out and talking to people is what sells the books. Just doing the shows part time has resulted in over 2,100 reindeer book sales since its release in 2014.

What didn’t work as well as you’d hoped? 

I was amazed that putting my books in actual bookstores did very little. Since there’s an interactive part to the books, walking people through the process really helps them to appreciate it. I think that having the books sit on a shelf surrounded by scads of other books with no understanding of what makes it special just doesn’t work.

The Harrisburg Small Business Development Center actually got Costco interested in carrying my books. A buyer at Barnes & Noble contacted me. And Books A Million also expressed interest. But I was afraid that I’d pay to ship them out, they’d sit, and then I’d have to pay to have them shipped back in questionable condition. So I didn’t do it. I’ve always wonder whether that was completely stupid of me.

Soon after I published A Decent Woman, I had the same experience with Books A Million, and like you, I decided against it for the same reason. I often wonder if I should pursue that venue with the second book.

Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

Persistence is paramount.

Determination is demanded.

Courage is crucial.

Marketing is mandatory.

Website and social media links?

www.elizabethpasso.com

www.reindeergift.com

https://www.facebook.com/elizabeth.passo.3

Elizabeth, where can we find your books?

www.reindeergift.com

The Reindeer Gift – https://www.amazon.com/Reindeer-Gift-Easy-Christmas-Tradition/dp/0989496805/ref=sr_1_9?ie=UTF8&qid=1480966418&sr=8-9&keywords=the+reindeer+gift

The Reindeer vs E.A.Ster – https://www.amazon.com/Reindeer-E-Ster-Springtime-Tradition/dp/0989496813/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1480966457&sr=8-1&keywords=reindeer+vs+easter

Birthday Party SBD – https://www.amazon.com/Birthday-Party-SBD-Joe-Badon/dp/098949683X

Aaron’s Books in Lititz, PA

Irvin’s Books in York, PA

The Midtown Scholar Bookstore in Harrisburg, PA

Strawberry Gifts in Strawberry Square, Harrisburg, PA

What’s next for you?

I’m coming around the bend towards finishing my first full-length novel. The tentative title is Foresight. About a month ago, I needed to take a step back and regroup, so took some time away from it and wrote a chunk of a second, completely unrelated novel.

I’m so close to getting Foresight 100% done that I’m on a big push with it now, and plan on shopping it around to agents and trying the traditional publishing route – to see what it’s like. I have plans for it being a trilogy.

You can keep posted on my progress, where I’ll be signing books, and also read some silly poems on my author website www.elizabethpasso.com.

Thanks very much for chatting with me today, Elizabeth. I wish you a warm and Happy Holiday season, and best of luck with your books!

ABOUT ELEANOR PARKER SAPIA: 

ellie

Eleanor Parker Sapia, Puerto Rican-born author of the award-winning historical novel, A Decent Woman, is published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, set in turn of the century Ponce, Puerto Rico, garnered an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now, and was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015. A writer, artist, and photographer, Eleanor is never without a pen and a notebook, and her passport and camera are always ready. Her awesome adult children are out in the world doing amazing things. Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second historical novel, The Laments of Sister Maria Inmaculada, set in 1920 Puerto Rico.

Happy Holidays to all!

Eleanor’s book: http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK

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PLEASE VISIT ELEANOR AT HER WEBSITE: HTTP://WWW.ELEANORPARKERSAPIA.COM

 

 

 

 

 

Author Interview: C. P. Lesley

Welcome to the Tuesday Author Interview series at The Writing Life. We have a wonderful line up of talented authors into May 2017, so please check back in next week.

Today I’m very pleased to welcome C. P. Lesley, a historian who has published six novels. Her Legends of the Five Directions series, set in Russia during the childhood of Ivan the Terrible, so far includes The Golden Lynx, The Winged Horse, and The Swan Princess.

C. P. also hosts New Books in Historical Fiction, a channel in the New Books Network.  http://newbooksnetwork.com

Welcome to The Writing Life.

carolyn-pouncy

 

What is your book’s genre/category?

Historical fiction, with elements of romance and adventure.

Please describe for our readers what The Swan Princess is about.

The Swan Princess is no. 3 (North) in Legends of the Five Directions, a series set in the 1530s featuring a Tatar princess, Nasan, who marries a Russian nobleman. In this book Nasan, whose ambition in life is to imitate the warrior heroines of old, feels abandoned by her husband, who has gone off to war and never writes, as well as suffocated in the rigid household run by her mother-in-law, Natalya. When Natalya decides to undertake a long pilgrimage for her health, Nasan sees a path to regaining the life she loves, but she soon runs afoul of an old enemy determined to avenge what he perceives as unjust treatment from her and her husband. Fortunately for all concerned, she has more skills to draw on than the domestic knowledge her mother-in-law considers the only acceptable pursuit for women.

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I’m currently reading and very much enjoying The Swan Princess.  How did you come up with the title?

Well, as has happened throughout this series, the title came to me before I knew what the image meant for my story. I had to hunt down legends about swan maidens and swan wives before I could figure out what my subconscious was trying to tell me. I discovered that such legends are widespread throughout the world, including in the Tatar lands. One version, familiar in the West, appears in the ballet Swan Lake, but most often the story involves a young woman who has been captured and forced into domesticity until she can reclaim her wings, which her captor has hidden from her, and fly away. That urge for freedom drives Nasan’s character development here. But swans also symbolize marital fidelity, and the loss and recovery of her relationship with her husband are also an important theme in the novel.

What inspired you to write the Legends of the Five Directions series?

The series came about because I have spent four decades studying this fascinating place and time: Russia between the Mongol invasion (1237-40) and the reign of Peter the Great (1689-1725). I wanted to share it with people in an accessible way, and fiction seemed like the ideal means to do that. In particular, I love to explore the many different ways that women adapt and grow in societies that restrict their choices and have low expectations of their abilities—historically, most societies. Every one of the women featured in this series, from Nasan, the descendant of Genghis Khan, to Grusha the slave girl, has to address and solve the question of where she fits in the larger world; each one responds in her own unique way.

What is your favorite part of writing?

I love every part of writing except the final proofreading. Because I tend to start with sketches and fill them in as I go, I’d say that my absolute favorite part is the second stage, when I can see the broad lines of the story but still have lots of room for creativity and invention. But I find even the revision and pruning stages satisfying in their own way. 

C. P., does your main character resemble you? If so, in what ways?

Well, psychologically, all my characters—even the antagonists—must represent some part of me, right? I just don’t always want to admit it! Nasan is braver than I am and does things I’d never think of, like impulsively going after men-at-arms with her sword. Her emotions lie on the surface, whereas mine tend, in good Scots style, to remain hidden. She is like me in terms of having a practical approach to life, and she loves to read, which I do, too. But I have worked to make her different from me, unlike some of my earlier heroines (Nina in The Not Exactly Scarlet Pimpernel; Sasha in Desert Flower and Kingdom of the Shades). By the way, it’s easier, in my view, to write a character less like the author; it gives me some much-needed distance to appreciate both her virtues and her flaws.

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What do you find is the most challenging aspect of writing?

Character development always gives me fits. My brain goes to plot first, and so left to my own devices I would shove my poor characters into situations without considering how they feel or even why they would act that way. Fortunately, my critique group (Ariadne Apostolou and Courtney J. Hall) exerts steady pressure until I stop contorting the characters and focus on who they are and what they need to learn.

What was the last book you read? What did you think of it?

Martha Conway’s Sugarland, a mystery set in semi-segregated Jazz Age Chicago. I read it for New Books in Historical Fiction, http://newbooksnetwork.com/category/historical-fiction/ a podcast channel that I host for the New Books Network, and I really enjoyed it. It has a nice twisty plot and believable, not always admirable characters, as well as a fast pace, good writing, and great historical detail.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

That would be a long list, but the ones I always come back to include Agatha Christie, Laurie R. King, Elizabeth Peters, Dorothy L. Sayers, and for real literary comfort food, Georgette Heyer. No one since Jane Austen has managed to nail a character in a line and a half the way Heyer could.

What authors or person(s) have influenced you as a writer and why?

I enjoy reading books on the craft of writing. Particular favorites include John Truby’s The Anatomy of Story, Lisa Cron’s Wired for Story, Debra Dixon’s Goal, Motivation, and Conflict, and Jordan Rosenfeld’s Make a Scene. So those authors have all influenced me. But my critique group, which has now expanded to include the writers of Five Directions Press, http://www.fivedirectionspress.com are the ones who help me figure out how to apply the advice to my own work.

That’s a great list, thanks. Do you have a favorite place to write? To read?

I write at my computer, which is in my office. Reading, though, is an activity for the couch and evenings, unless it’s research—then that, too, takes place in my office and during the day.

Tell us something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

I took twenty-five years of classical ballet class—with teenagers, no less—starting at thirty-six, when most ballet dancers start thinking about retirement. That’s where my two nonhistorical novels, Desert Flower and Kingdom of the Shades, come from. They star a ballerina and were great fun to write.

Good for you for following your passion! Did the writing process uncover surprises or learning experiences for you? What about the publishing process?

My characters surprise me constantly. No matter how much plotting and outlining I do, they get on the page and act like they have minds of their own. I’d heard other people say that, but experiencing it amazes me, even now. And the research, which I love, produces wonderful story twists and possibilities that I might never have considered on my own. As for publishing, the climate has changed so fast in so short a time, I don’t think I—or anyone—could have predicted what it would like today or will look like five years from now. 

True words about characters and the publishing business. What do you hope readers will gain from your book?

To appreciate the resilience of the human spirit. It’s easy to think of women, especially, in the past as being downtrodden victims or ignorant housewives, but that ignores the influence of social standing and wealth as well as individual creativity. Some of my characters—Natalya, Nasan’s mother, Nasan’s sister-in-law Firuza—thrive in their traditional world. Others—like Nasan and, in a different way, Grusha—fight to align society’s expectations with their need to stay true to themselves. Maria, my current heroine, conforms outwardly but suffers inside and takes out her unhappiness on those around her. She would excel in the modern world but needs a huge push to get herself moving where she is. This complexity seems more real to me than sticking everyone into a single box.

I’d also love to push people’s understanding and knowledge about Russia beyond Vladimir Putin’s latest stunt or even the Cold War. It’s a thousand-year-old country with a rich and varied history that is tailormade for fiction and film; it deserves to be seen as more than an enemy state or a foe of democracy and capitalism.

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Looking back, what did you do right that helped you write and market The Swan Princess?

I wrote what I love, without worrying about whether it would sell, and took good advice everywhere I could find it. I agreed with my writers’ group to set up our own publishing cooperative. That was an even bigger learning experience than the writing, and we’re only now starting to figure out what works and what doesn’t, but it’s been an amazing journey over the last four years. I started a blog, which I update every Friday, and dipped my toe into social media. And I accepted the position as host of New Books in Historical Fiction, which has given me a platform, as well as introducing me to writers both famous and not so famous.

What didn’t work?

I don’t think anything has really failed, but marketing is still a work in progress for both me and the coop. I probably need to do a lot more with social media than I do, for example, but there are only so many hours in the day.

Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

Revise, revise, revise. Find people you can trust, whose writing you respect, and work with them. Don’t assume that your first draft will be your last, because first drafts are hardly ever publishable, even when experienced writers produce them (experienced writers know this, unlike beginners). And if you decide to self-publish, which is very easy nowadays, do yourself a favor and hire a copy editor who understands the requirements of fiction, a typesetter who knows what goes into producing a physical book, and a professional cover designer. Nothing will sink your book faster than an amateurish cover and a book riddled with typographical and grammatical errors. The only exception to that last is where a character uses nonstandard speech as evidence of his or her background and educational level, and even then, you need to be careful not to slip into dialect. 

Great advice. Website and social media links?

http://www.cplesley.com

http://blog.cplesley.com

https://www.facebook.com/cplesley.authorpage

https://plus.google.com/u/0/b/103313436359988009047/+CPLesleyAuthor/posts

https://www.twitter.com/cplesley

https://www.pinterest.com/cplesley/  (where I have boards for each of my books)

Where can we find your books?

All my books are on Amazon.com. The Golden Lynx and The Not Exactly Scarlet Pimpernel are also available as e-books at Barnes and Noble and to libraries via Biblioboard http://self-e.libraryjournal.com. The best way to find any of my books is to go to http://www.fivedirectionspress.com/books and click on a cover picture. A page will open with purchase links, a description, endorsements, and excerpts for that book. The page for The Swan Princess is http://www.fivedirectionspress.com/the-swan-princess

What’s next for you?

The Vermilion Bird (Legends 4: South). I have four chapters and a prologue in reasonable shape, plus goal/motivation/conflict charts and a vaguely defined plot. Now I need to figure out how to put the two halves—plot and character—together into a functioning story.

Thanks very much for your visit, C. P.  It’s been a pleasure getting to know you. I wish you the best with the publishing coop, the podcast, and on your writing journey.

About Eleanor Parker Sapia

ellie

Eleanor Parker Sapia is the Puerto Rican-born author of the award-winning historical novel, A DECENT WOMAN, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, 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, Latina 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

 

 

Rejection and Bad Reviews: What’s to Be Done?

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“What began the change was the very writing itself. Let no one lightly set about such a work.” – C. S. Lewis

Negative book reviews certainly aren’t a walk in the park for an author. Yes, the book that took you years to research and write; the one that was finally, finally published was rejected and trashed by a reader, and they couldn’t leave it well alone. They wrote, in excruciating detail, mind you, how much they hated your book, and how no one should read it for many reasons that you find awfully unfair.

Okay, breathe. First of all, the reader isn’t rejecting you personally, unless perhaps the review was written by your disgruntled neighbor with the precariously leaning tree that you’ve complained about to everyone and anyone who will listen. Or maybe the negative review was written by your ex under another name. Well, that’s another story.

Let’s take a look at negative reviews. In truth, most authors will receive one or more negative reviews for each of their books. Rejection and negative reviews can sting and feel unfair, and sometimes what the reader says in their review might really tick you off. I’ve read some pretty mean-spirited book reviews about other books that raised my eyebrows, elicited a quiet “damn”, and reminded me of Thumper’s father’s advice, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.” If you dislike a book that much, stop reading, put the book down, and say nothing. That’s what I do. Wouldn’t that be kinder to the author? Of what possible value is a negative review?

There is value in every book review. No, I haven’t lost my marbles. I know experiencing rejection through a negative review can hurt and sting, but at the same time, the experience can be helpful to a writer–if the writer chooses to view and understand it from another angle.

My debut novel garnered a few negative reviews; they’re part of the writing life. We writers put ourselves out there with every book, so buck up; it’s going to happen. Did I like reading those less-than-glowing reviews of my book? No, I didn’t; I’m human, but deep down I knew I could learn something from them. And besides, my sage writing mentor told me to in so many words to quit whining, ignore all reviews, and keep writing because I am a good writer. He was right. I never whined again.

What did I learn and remember as an exhibiting artist of nearly 30 years, before I discovered my passion for writing books?

Art is subjective. The same is true with books. In a group of 10 book club members, five readers might come away with a similar reaction to a book, but be sure that each reader will filter your story through their life lens, their life experiences. The story will mean different things to different readers. Keep writing.

Accept that not everyone will love your book. You won’t appeal to the masses and that’s okay–that’s not your job. Your job is to write the best book you can possibly write, and to write an even better book next time with what you’ve learned. Keep writing.

For goodness sake, don’t write what you believe will sell! Write the story that’s in your heart. Keep writing.

If two or more reviewers touch on the same or similar issues with your story, take a serious look at what they are saying. I don’t care how many editors or advanced readers have read at your book–the reader(s) may be right. Or not. Be open to explore the possibility, and consider the reader may have a point. Keep writing.

Use all feedback to improve your writing. Be grateful to readers who’ve bought your book, read it, and took the time to write an honest review. Reviews are gold. Keep writing.

Whether your book is your debut or seventh novel,  learn from your mistakes. Don’t beat yourself up, especially if it’s your first book. Major kudos to you for doing what most people will never do–you wrote and published a book. Keep writing and learning.

Don’t obsess over reviews–good or bad. That’s easier said than done; I know. My writing mentor encouraged me early on to not read my reviews…I still find that difficult. I checked my Amazon reviews this morning. I am #stillwriting.

Lastly, I humbly offer this one bit of writerly advice:

Never. Never ever, challenge, argue, or discuss a negative review with the reviewer. Don’t blog about it or out the reviewer on social media. Save yourself the grief, negative publicity, and possible public embarrassment and social media backlash (hey, it happens). Remain mute when it comes to receiving negative reviews or negative comments. Grit your teeth, cry for a couple hours max, and then focus all your attention on your work in progress, improving your writing skills, and growing your readership. Develop thicker skin and accept the negative reviews as constructive criticism. Learn from them. Keep writing.

Always remember to thank and interract with your wonderful readers on social media.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart, dear readers, for buying and for sharing your honest reviews of my book.

Do you have any advice or suggestions for dealing with a negative review? If so, please share.

ABOUT ELEANOR:

ellie

Eleanor Parker Sapia is the Puerto Rican-born author of the award-winning historical novel, A DECENT WOMAN, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, which garnered an Honorable Mention for Best 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, Latina 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