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

 

 

 

 

 

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New Cover Reveal, New Beginnings!

Yesterday I found out that the new cover of ‘A Decent Woman’ (ebook) is on Amazon! Kudos and many thanks to the multi-talented Ally Bishop and her awesome team at Scarlet River Press, an imprint of Sixth Street River Press, for coming up with the super retro, artsy cover with the lovely title font. The woman in the image reminded Ally of the character Serafina, and I have to agree! I love the colors and how they match the International Latino Book Awards badge, which I’m very proud to display.

The paperback will be available on Amazon soon! I can’t wait to hold a copy of my “new” book.

I love fresh, new beginnings, don’t you? Have a super week, everyone!

Ponce, Puerto Rico, at the turn of the century

Ana Belén Opaku, an Afro-Cuban born into slavery, is a proud midwife, the only one in La Playa. After testifying at an infanticide trial, Ana is forced to reveal a dark secret from her past while she continues to hide a more sinister one. Pitted against the parish priest Padre Vicénte and the young Doctór Héctor Rivera, Ana must fight to preserve her twenty-five-year career.

Serafina is a respectable young widow with two small children who marries a wealthy merchant from a distinguished family. When she’s attacked during her pregnancy, she and Ana become allies in an ill-conceived plan to avoid scandal and preserve Serafina’s honor.

Set against the combustive backdrop of a chauvinistic society where women are treated as possessions, Eleanor Parker Sapia explores the battle of two women defending their dignity against the pain of betrayal in a society resistant to change.

ABOUT ELEANOR PARKER SAPIA

ellie

Award winning novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was born in Puerto Rico and raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s career paths as an artist, counselor, alternative health practitioner, Spanish language family support worker and refugee case worker, continue to inspire her stories.

Eleanor’s debut novel, ‘A Decent Woman, set in turn of the nineteenth century Puerto Rico, is published by Sixth Street River Press. The book is a finalist for Best Historical Fiction, English, in the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now, and was selected as Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club. Eleanor is featured in the award-winning anthology, ‘Latina Authors and Their Muses’, edited by Mayra Calvani. Eleanor is a proud member of Las Comadres Para Las Americas, PEN America, The National Association of Professional Women, and the Historical Novel Society. She is a contributing writer at Organic Coffee, Haphazardly Literary Society.

When not writing, Eleanor loves facilitating creativity groups, reading, gardening, and tells herself she is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time. She adores her two adult children and currently lives in West Virginia, where she is at work on her second novel, ‘The Laments of Sister Maria Inmaculada’ and thinking about the sequel to ‘A Decent Woman’ titled, ‘Mistress of Coffee’.

http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK

 

Sometimes a visit to crazy town is necessary.

Earlier this week, nearly twenty days after my debut historical novel, A Decent Woman was published, I set about creating a to-do list that included, answering emails, writing articles for ezines, replying to author interview questions, and trying to keep up on social media sites I’m part of. The list of what I needed to accomplish post-publication seemed overwhelming, and I didn’t expect to feel new, strange emotions–I was a bit disoriented, and felt flustered and overwhelmed. The book I’d worked on for five years was no longer in my hands–it was in readers’ hands. All I could do was stand on the sidelines and watch my protagonists, Ana and Serafina, take over–it’s their story. At this point, my book, the story, must stand alone. I just happened to write it. But, of course, I got in my own way.

When A Decent Woman first came out, I was overwhelmed with feelings of pride and joy, much like a parent when their firstborn goes off to school. I was grateful to Booktrope Publishing for taking a chance on an historical novel about an Afro-Cuban midwife, who lives and works in Puerto Rico, and thankful to my publishing team, who were a dream to work with on this project. I was thrilled and grateful when readers left wonderful comments and reviews. I was humbled and felt dizzy. Much like my experiences when my adult kids left the nest, who are doing wonderful things in the world, by the way, I knew post-publication that it was time to get a life.

I realized I had to write another book, but how? I couldn’t concentrate, and in the first ten days, I obsessively checked Amazon, looking for new reviews so I could thank the kind reader (if I knew them). Checking my rankings on Amazon was a daily ritual, which I didn’t know how to do until my marketing guru, Anne told me where to look. Then, I realized being a best selling author is an hourly thing, and I soon gave that up. I now look weekly and hope that stops. During the first ten days, I found it difficult to have ‘normal’ conversations, and discovered it was extremely difficult not to mention my debut novel to the mailman, the guy at the post office as I mailed out copies of my book, and to the guy behind the deli counter, who loves historical fiction. I went a bit nutty reminding my very kind and tolerant family members and friends not to forget to post an honest review for A Decent Woman on Amazon. Sheesh.

I was sick of me, and this isn’t me. Although I know how important social media is, and how very important reviews are to an author, I lived alone for five years, writing and rewriting a story that  loved. In the pre-publication days when I was writing, I wouldn’t speak to a soul for days on end, save for a quick phone call, emails and texts to family and friends to catch up and let them know I was alive. I did talk with my cat and my Chihuahua, Sophie, who as it turns out, is an extremely good listener if you don’t mind her licking your face. I knew how to do all that. I just didn’t know how to be humble and a social animal, when all I wanted to do was write more books. Life is all about balance, and I wasn’t feeling particularly balanced right after publication.

So, I wrote an email to my friend and writing mentor to many writers, including myself, the master storyteller, Jack Remick. Sensing that I was experiencing, as he calls it, “Firstitis”, he kindly wrote back with a diagnosis that was spot on. He gave me the definition of this curable illness and the cure–get back to writing. Immediately. He was absolutely right. It was sage and timely advice from an incredibly talented writer and a composed, generous man to a discombobulated, but well meaning, new author.

Thank you, Jack. The craziness has diminished. I’m getting down to the business at hand–writing my second book–and I’m at peace. I should have written sooner, but I learned valuable lessons, and I’ve always learned the hard way.

Ana Belén, you are on your own, my love. I’m onto The Island of Goats, my second historical novel set in 1920 Puerto Rico and Spain. I’m getting to know my characters, Alta Gracia and India Meath, and accessing my experiences on the medieval route of El Camino de Santiago de Compostela, The Way of St. James, in Spain, which I walked with my then-teenage children.

But, I’ll see Ana and Serafina again when I get to writing the sequel to A Decent Woman called Mistress of Coffee.

Sometimes, you must visit crazy town to find peace and sanity again.

About Eleanor

Puerto Rican-born novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s life experiences as a counselor, alternative health practitioner, a Spanish language social worker, and a refugee case worker inspire her stories. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, and is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.

A Decent Woman is her debut historical novel. Eleanor is the mother of two adult children, and she currently lives in West Virginia.

A DECENT WOMAN available now on Amazon 

Ponce, Puerto Rico, at the turn of the century: Ana Belén Opaku, an Afro-Cuban born into slavery, is a proud midwife with a tempestuous past. After testifying at an infanticide trial, Ana is forced to reveal a dark secret from her past, but continues to hide an even more sinister one. Pitted against the parish priest, Padre Vicénte, and young Doctór Héctor Rivera, Ana must battle to preserve her twenty-five year career as the only midwife in La Playa.

Serafina is a respectable young widow with two small children, who marries an older wealthy merchant from a distinguished family. A crime against Serafina during her last pregnancy forever bonds her to Ana in an ill-conceived plan to avoid a scandal and preserve Serafina’s honor.

Set against the combustive backdrop of a chauvinistic society, where women are treated as possessions, A Decent Woman is the provocative story of these two women as they battle for their dignity and for love against the pain of betrayal and social change.

amazon.com/-/e/B00U05ZO9M

 

A DECENT WOMAN Has a New Look!

I am very excited to share the new book cover of A DECENT WOMAN with you!

It has been an intense week of designing, changing fonts and backgrounds on a photograph I shot of a hand-painted wood statue of the Virgin Mary of Montserrat I purchased in France many years ago.

Although I was deeply disappointed to discover we couldn’t use our original book cover because two authors had already used it on their books, I love this image which personifies some of the important themes of A DECENT WOMAN – faith, tradition, and change.

I hope you like it as much as I do. My thanks to my Cover Designer, Greg Simanson, and Mindy Halleck, my Book Manager for working with me and sharing my vision!

A DECENT WOMAN is coming out Fall 2014 with Booktrope Books!

THE LAST AND FINAL BOOK COVER!

Choosing the Right Book Cover and Title

USE THIS IMAGE OF BOOK COVER (NO NIPPLE! lol!)

At a recent gathering, a woman I’d just met, joked – ‘I’m not decent enough to read A DECENT WOMAN.’ A couple of weeks later, another person said the same thing. While I understood they were joking, I started thinking about the importance of a great title and awesome book covers.

As a reader, I love asking authors how they came up with their titles and book covers. My recent experiences with the jokes prompted a conversation with my best friend who suggested I write a blog post about how I came up with the title of my historical novel, and why I selected an image of a bare-breasted black woman for the book cover. Thanks for the great suggestion, K!

During the writing and editing of a novel, a writer is very close to their story, so much so, they may forget readers are from every part of the world, speaking dozens of languages, and have entirely different life experiences to ours. Reader’s interpretation of book titles, book covers, and stories will be as varied as grains of sand on the ocean floor. Now, while an author can’t control how their title, book cover image, and their story are received and interpreted by a reader, she can write blog posts about how I came up with my title and book cover image!

The title, A DECENT WOMAN, and the image on my book cover are perfect for my historical novel.

BOOK COVER –

I chose to use a portion of an image of the painting, Portrait d’une Negresse by Marie-Guillemine Benoist because I fell in love with the painting during one of my many visits to Paris. Years after I finished my manuscript, I discovered the symbolism this painting inspired when it was exhibited at the Salon in Paris in 1880 – the emancipation of women, the abolishment of slavery, and the rights of black people. I was thrilled. The protagonist of A DECENT WOMAN, freed slave, Ana Belén, is a single midwife living in 1900 Puerto Rico who fights society and male medical doctors as they enter the birthing room. Perfect.

I sent my ideas along with a copy of the vintage-inspired font to the cover designer I’m working on for this project, Greg Simanson, and he put together the awesome cover. I’m sure Greg will do as great a job on the back cover, as well. I leave that to the cover designer pros!

TITLE –

The original manuscript of A DECENT WOMAN was called, ‘The House on Luna Street’. My Puerto Rican grandparents lived on Luna Street in Ponce, Puerto Rico before they moved from the city center to the suburbs. I later discovered Rosario Ferré’s novel, ‘The House on the Lagoon’ and the novel, ‘House on Mango Street’ by Sandra Cisneros. Too close for my comfort. After much deliberation, I scrapped the title and filed the photograph I’d taken of an old front door painted light aqua with a half-moon cut out for a future book. Now, I’m very happy I didn’t use that title– it no longer fits the novel that evolved after rewrites and a bit more research.

Through my research of turn of the century Puerto Rico, I realized the themes of my story were decency and indecency, and the dark side of our personality that often comes out when we are abused, lost, desperate, struggling, and poor. I explored how easily good people can fall into indecent situations that lead them to the dark side. I continued exploring themes and the word ‘decent’ kept popping up, but I still couldn’t come up with a title.  Sometimes the simplest and amazing titles are the ones right under our noses!

The character of Ana Belén, a hard-working woman who struggles to lead a decent, honest life, is plagued by a crime she committed as a slave in Cuba. Her dark past must remain a secret if she is to continue working as a midwife in Puerto Rico. When a second crime is committed, this time on Ana’s behalf, the themes of light, forgiveness, and redemption enter the last half of the book.  You will have to read my book to see what, why, where and how Ana deals with all that!  The title fit and stuck.

A DECENT WOMAN is a story of betrayal and choices, sacrifice and love. The combustive backdrop of 1900 Puerto Rico after the United States invasion of the island offers a provocative look into the complex lives of women of that era.

A DECENT WOMAN, COMING OUT AUTUMN 2014 WITH BOOKTROPE.

 

 

Book Covers and Design Questions

Last night, I sent Mindy Halleck, my Booktrope Editor and Book Manager, a fresh copy of my manuscript, A Decent Woman, for editing. I had a hard time pressing Send, though. I know my book is in her very capable and experienced hands, but I kept thinking that I should read it again to make sure I hadn’t made any dumb mistakes! I had to let that thought go. It is what it is at the moment and can be tweaked later. What made me feel better was that I found out that Mindy and I share many of the same favorite movies and books. She will get my book, I thought and she likes the Rumi quote I’ve selected for the opening page.

I’m honored to work with very talented folks–Laura Bastian is Project Manager, Jennifer Gracen is Proofreader, and Greg Simanson is the book cover designer. I find it exciting to work as a team which is so different from my everyday life since I live alone. For decades, I’ve painted alone and since 2005 when my children went off to college, I’ve written alone. As a single person, I make all my decisions and I have to say that I am loving being part of a team! I just have to keep my mind off the editing for now which isn’t hard to do with all the social media and blogging I’m doing and the web site design that will begin soon. I’m ready to work hard and do whatever I have to do to make this book the best representation of my work. I know my Team will help me make that happen.

I love the image we’re using for the book cover–Portrait d’une Negresse painted in 1800 by Marie-Guillemine Benoist, which hangs in the Louvre. I’ve always loved this painting and have wanted to use it for years. I am thrilled with all the positive response I’ve received to the painting as the book cover. It was the symbol for women’s rights at that time and also, the symbol to end racial oppression. As my protatonist, Afro-Cuban Ana Belen was a former slave, it is THE perfect image. The fact that it was painted by a woman is the icing on the cake for me.

Late last night, there was a question about the book cover type and size and the size of my name. The original version Greg showed us resonates with me. I like it very much because it resembles the block letters with which I sign my paintings. I was open to trying out a more feminine type which Greg very kindly sent us, but it didn’t work for me. A little too girly for my taste, but I am entirely open to looking at different types. We’ll see what the team thinks and what Greg comes up with. I’m sure it will be great.

So, my homework this morning was to look at my personal library in the third bedroom where I will be writing as soon as I unpack the boxes that have lined a wall for two years. The closer I get to seeing this book published, the more I am motivated to unpack the boxes and turn this room into my writing room! So, I pushed a couple of boxes over and looked at dozens of book covers and created a stack of what worked for me. The type that I seemed to gravitate toward was the more blockish types, not the script or curvy types. I agree that my name should be larger, remain in the crimson color that matches the sash around the woman’s waist, and the title should remain in white, but now size is a new concern. Should my name be the same size as the title? Should I add “a Novel” to the book cover, right under the title? I like that idea very much.

So many questions and at the end of the day, it’s all very subjective, isn’t it? Art and design are like that. There are no stead-fast rules to follow in art and I’m not well-versed in design. You either love or hate a book cover and if you don’t like the image, you might love the title or the short synopsis on the back cover. But, the book cover is what draws you to that book in the first place! The book cover is so important, but I can’t please all my readers, however. I think my Team and I will come up with the perfect book cover. I’m going with my gut and hope my team members agree because now I have to contact my friend Janet about creating my new author website. More design questions! My editor’s idea of using the same colors in the image of the painting/book cover in my website is spot on. Raw sienna or parchment, crimson and black would look great along with the same type as the title on the book cover.

Decisions, decisions. These types of decisions, I can live with and enjoy!

Ellie