The Writing Life Interviews: Meghan Holloway

Welcome to the Tuesday Author Interview series at The Writing Life. I am very pleased to welcome Meghan Holloway, author of the romantic suspense novels, A Thin, Dark Line and As Darkness Gathers.

Welcome to The Writing Life, Meghan. Please tell us about yourself.

“My dearest darling…” That was how my grandfather began all of his letters to my grandmother while he was stationed in Okinawa in World War II. I never knew my grandfather, but I’ve poured over his letters. I used to draw lines up the back of my legs, just as my grandmother had as a young woman whose nylons had been donated to make parachutes, and I’ve endlessly pestered my paternal grandfather for stories of his childhood and service. The worn letters and patiently-told stories cemented my interest in history, especially in the WWII era.

I found my first Nancy Drew mystery in a sun-dappled attic at a friend’s house and subsequently fell in love with the grip and tautness of a well-told mystery.

I flew an airplane before I learned how to drive a car, did my undergrad work in a crumbling once-all girls’ school in the sweltering south, spent a summer and fall in Maine picking peaches and apples, and traveled the world for a few years. Now I’m settled down in the foothills of the Rockies, working on a masters in a once-all girls’ school in the blustery north, writing my third and fourth novels, hanging out with my standard poodle, and spending my nights helping solve crime.

meghan-holloway

What are the genres of your books?

I’ve previously published two romantic suspense novels under the pseudonym Emma Elliot, but my work in progress is a venture into a new genre for me:  historical fiction.

meghan-holloway-booksmeghan-holloway-book

Welcome to the fascinating world of historical fiction. Please describe what your work in progress is about.

My story is about a Welsh sheep farmer, who is a veteran of World War One and whose son is a conscientious objector in WWII. After the Somme, my protagonist swore he would never set foot in France again, but after almost three decades, he’s forced to renege on that vow to save the son he thought lost to him.

How did you come up with the title?

I love a rousing battle speech, and one that became cemented in my mind in my undergrad studies is from Shakespeare’s play, The Life of King Henry the Fifth. In Act III, Scene I, before Harfleur in France, Prince Hal, the titular king, gives this incredible rallying speech to his soldiers. It begins with the lines:

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;

Or close the wall up with our English dead.

In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man

As modest stillness and humility:

But when the blast of war blows in our ears,

Then imitate the action of the tiger.

My protagonist is a quiet, stalwart man, very set in his ways, a salt of the earth type. But he’s forced back into the height of violence and tumult because of his love for his son. Thus, I’ve purloined a bit of Shakespeare for my title:  Once More unto the Breach.

What inspired you to write Once More unto the Breach?

I’ve long been fascinated with the WWII era. It was an age of tremendous courage and sacrifice and duty, and I think the title of Greatest Generation is a well-earned one. My grandmother told me stories of turning in her stockings to aid in parachute production, and when I was young, I drew lines up the back of my legs as she did. My grandfather was in Okinawa, and in an old hatbox in the back of a closet, I found the beautiful letters he wrote to my grandmother while stationed in Japan. My great-uncle was a medic, and when I asked him, only once, to tell me about his time in the war, his eyes welled with tears and he refused to speak of it. The men and women of that era have been greatly honored, but they’ve also been greatly haunted, and that kind of juxtaposition—glory and horror—has always intrigued me. Writing has long been my passion as has studying WWII, and combining the two has been my goal as an author.

This particular story was inspired by a friend who frequently challenges me with writing exercises. After a specific writing prompt, my characters, Rhys and Charlotte, were born.

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

The heroines of my two previous novels—A Thin, Dark Line and As Darkness Gathers—shared certain aspects of my personality. Eloise in my first novel has my passion for books and librarianship and my stubbornness. I like to think I’m as resourceful as Finch, the main character of my second book, and as quick-thinking in tough situations.

The novel I’m currently working on is my first exploration of a male main character. I’m certain aspects of myself come through on the pages, and while Rhys isn’t based on any particular person, he most resembles my grandfather and the friend of mine who originally inspired the story. He has my grandfather’s physical features—the towering height, the large, strong hands—and he has my grandfather’s taciturn nature. He has my friend’s unflappable, rational personality and strong sense of responsibility and honor.

It’s been intriguing and very much a study in psychology to write in a male perspective.

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

I just finished The Girl on the Train the other day, and I loved it. When I’m writing, I don’t read books in the genre in which I’m writing. I think a writer’s brain is very osmotic, and I don’t want to absorb someone else’s way of writing about the same era and events about which I’m writing. So when I write suspense, I read historical fiction; when I write historical fiction, I read suspense.

With The Girl on the Train, I very quickly guessed the whodunit, but I loved the way Hawkins wrote such a layered tale with such incredibly unreliable narrators. 

Who are some of your favorite authors?

I love Alyson Richman’s books, Sarah McCoy’s, Tessa Dare’s, Paul Fraser Collard’s, Rick Atkinson’s, and Ellen Marie Wiseman’s. They are some of my automatic buys. I also love Loren Eiseley’s work, and my all-time favorite author is Mary Stewart.          

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

Mary Stewart has been a tremendous influence on my writing. I first stumbled upon her romantic suspenses when I was about twelve years old. I loved how vividly she detailed a setting, how she used dialogue to convey action, and how classy, vulnerable, and strong her heroines were.

In my undergrad work, I studied Creative Writing, and two of my professors, Dr. Randall Smith and Mr. Howard Bahr, were instrumental in teaching me not merely how to be a good writer but how to be an effective storyteller. 

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

I love the idea of a private study, but in actuality, I do most of my reading and writing on the couch with my standard poodle playing lichen to my legs. I wrote my first novel, A Thin, Dark Line, sitting at my kitchen table. But all my subsequent writing has taken place on the couch.

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

Well, let’s see… When I was a child, I wanted to be a Navy SEAL; I flew a plane by myself before I ever drove a car by myself; I rafted down the Nile for my eighteenth birthday; and I am an excellent markswoman.

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

The most challenging aspect of writing for me is getting that first draft down on paper, to eke out a solid, riveting tale from my imagination and from the events of history. I’m a muller when I write in that I ruminate over every word and turn of phrase. I’m also a perfectionist, so if something I’ve written doesn’t strike the right chord with me, it is scribbled out of my notebook, and I begin again.

What is your favorite part of writing?

My favorite part of writing is the editing! I love fleshing out that first draft, filling in any plot holes that were left, rounding out the characters and especially the secondary ones, creating a more seamless, cohesive story. After I finish writing out the first draft—and I write everything longhand and then type it—I print out the draft and sit down with it, a slew of red pens, and a stack of legal notebooks. I relish that phase of writing.

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

I always research different aspects of my books, but this has been the book that, by far, required the most research. So much so that in the beginning I had a hard time even putting pencil to paper. I felt like I needed to be an expert at every aspect of not just the war, but the location, the weaponry, the clothing, etc, etc, etc. I was beginning to obsess over the fact that I felt like I would never know enough to feel comfortable writing about an era in which I had not lived and experienced. That was a learning process for me, to realize I don’t—in fact, I can’t—know every single detail about every single aspect of the war and what life would have been like then.

The publishing process was a very significant learning experience, because publishing has taught me how to write a marketable book. Being an author is very much about being a business and being saleable, and that is the publishing house’s job:  to take your story and to make it a book to be sold to the largest market possible.

What do you hope readers will gain from your books?

There are always themes and undercurrents in my books. In A Thin, Dark Line, the main theme is that history is cyclical and the image one presents to the outside world is not always an accurate one. In As Darkness Gathers, the question that was asked throughout the story was “are those with whom you’re closest truly the ones you can trust?” My work in progress explores the idea that war is fought on many fronts and that even the smallest act of courage can have a rippling effect.

Mainly, I write to transport the reader. I want the reader to be engrossed and consumed by the story I tell, to feel what the characters are feeling, to be able to visually see the scene unfold, and to be left thoughtful and moved.

Looking back, Meghan, what did you do right that helped you write and market your books? What didn’t work as well?

To be frank, in my first venture as an author, I did not market successfully. Now, my goal in that first venture was to be published, and in that I succeeded as a writer. But the publishing house I signed on with was small and didn’t have the resources to market on anything but a minuscule scale, and I didn’t have the business savvy to market either at that point. I was worried about coming across as pushy and obnoxious, so I didn’t try to sell myself or my books with anything but an occasional post about my stories. That didn’t work. I didn’t have the following built up to be able to write a book, have it published, and then sit back and watch it sale.

So I had a learning curve in that aspect. Being an author is very much a business, and the author is very much a salesman and spokesman for the book. But the example of other authors has shown me there are ways of doing that with elegance and class.

Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

When I finished my first novel, I spent a lot of time researching publishers. I created a list of publishing houses that would accept an unsolicited manuscript (meaning, you didn’t have to go through an agent to publish with them), and I started going down the list and submitting. Put together a stellar synopsis, and abide exactly by the rubrics the publishing house lays out when asking for submissions. And know that rejection letters are par for the course in this profession. I was lucky enough to receive only one before signing on for a three book deal with a publishing house. However, that house went under right after I published my second book.

With my work in progress, I’ve decided to go through an agent, and my best advice as someone who’s still in the process with this is to do your research and be courteous.

Website and social media links?

My website:  http://authoramholloway.my-free.website

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/authormeghanholloway

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/AuthorMHolloway

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/33653434-meghan-holloway

Where can we find your books?

A Thin, Dark Line

https://www.amazon.com/Thin-Dark-Line-Betrayals-Book-ebook/dp/B0093NNL1A/ref=sr_1_10?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1479227766&sr=1-10&keywords=a+thin+dark+line

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-thin-dark-line-emma-elliot/1112591419?ean=9781612131061

As Darkness Gathers

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00MU8V856/ref=pd_sim_351_1?ie=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=GBH0XAEWYXZ7JGKT06NN

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/as-darkness-gathers-emma-elliot/1119897996?ean=9781612133263

At this point, you can only find my work in progress in my notebooks and on my laptop. It was put on the back burner for a couple of years while I finished my graduate work, but I will soon be working on finding an agent for the manuscript and then a publisher. I will certainly keep you posted, though!

Wonderful, please do! Meghan, what’s next for you?

After I find a publisher for my work in progress, I may venture back into modern suspense for a story that’s been niggling at my mind for a while now about how little justice there is in the judicial system and whether or not vigilantism has its place in society.

Thank you for chatting with me, Meghan. I enjoyed getting to know more about you and your books. All the best with your books and writing!

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 for Best Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now, was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015. Eleanor is a writer, artist, and photographer, who 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 and writes in Berkeley County, West Virginia.

Eleanor’s book, A DECENT WOMAN: http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK

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

 

My Writing Life: How I Made It Happen

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The research material for my work in progress, The Laments of Sister Maria Inmaculada, rests in three full notebooks, scribbled on scraps of paper, and written on junk mail that day I ran out of paper. My first book, A Decent Woman, was published in February 2015.

On Saturday, after a book reading at a local bookstore, a writer asked me the following question:

“How did you make all this happen?”

I am excited, honored, and committed to doing what I’m passionate about–writing and making art full time. How did I make this happen? I’m glad you asked.

Beginning in 2011, I learned to say no. I sacrificed a lot. I changed my life. I was honest with myself. I trusted my gift. Listened to my gut. I shut out the negative, toxic, and even well-meaning voices, who offered negativity and fear when I said I would give up my job, a comfy life, and healthcare to write full time. I was afraid, but more afraid of what it would mean to never publish my book. I jumped off the cliff to my new life. I had BIG faith. Moved to a new state with lower cost of living. I was brave, tenacious, and firm. Practiced discipline and sat/sit at the writing desk every day, no matter what. I adopted a writing mentor. I refused to join a writing group for many reasons. I grew more patience than I ever thought I possessed. I’d turned 50 in 2006 and realized that time would not wait for me to be ready. I got rid of cable TV. Stopped reading newspapers. Read more books. I believed in myself and my story. I honored my gift; never took it for granted. I felt that what makes my heart soar, cry, and love a story would matter to one reader. I showed confidence on the days when I had very little. I learned from others. I strive to continue improving my writing each day. I work very hard. I play. I trust my gut. And so much more.

Most importantly? I kicked my inner critic/censor to the damn curb. But, that’s just me. That’s what worked for me.

I wish you the very best in whatever you choose to do. Oh, and today, I have health care for those who kindly asked. Thank you and happy writing to you!

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 for Best Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now, was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015. Eleanor is a writer, artist, and photographer, who 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 and writes in Berkeley County, West Virginia.

Eleanor’s book, A DECENT WOMAN: http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK

new-book-cover-a-decent-woman-june-2016

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

 

 

Author Interview: Jennifer J. Chow

 

Welcome to the Author Interview series at The Writing Life blog.

Each Tuesday, I am excited to share my talented author friends with readers. We have a a great line up of fabulous authors scheduled until June 2017. Please do check back in and meet a new author next week.

Today, I am very pleased to welcome Jennifer J. Chow, a multi award winning author, who writes multicultural fiction with intergenerational drama.

Jennifer’s short fiction has most recently appeared in Hyphen Magazine and Yay! LA Magazine. Her Asian-American novels include Dragonfly Dreams, The 228 Legacy, and Seniors Sleuth. Jennifer lives in Los Angeles, California. Visit her author website: www.jenniferjchow.com

 The 228 Legacy
-Honorable Mention, 2015 San Francisco Book Festival
-Finalist, 2013 Foreword Reviews’ Book of the Year Award
Seniors Sleuth
-Finalist, 2015 CLUE Award
            -Runner-Up, 2015 Beach Book Festival

 

Welcome to The Writing Life, Jennifer.

jenniferjchow

What is your book’s genre/category?

Young adult paranormal

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Please describe what Dragonfly Dreams is about.

It’s 1880 in Fresno, California when 17-year-old Topaz Woo dies after giving birth. She can get an extension in a non-physical body—if she uses The Ten Commandments to influence her newborn. Over the course of ten years, she finds herself stymied in parenting by intergenerational drama and spiritual battle. Will she adjust to an otherworldly existence and give her daughter a solid foundation? Or will she become mired in family disputes and forfeit her soul to evil?

Very interesting and unique synopsis. How did you come up with the title?

There’s a myth that dragonflies live only 24 hours. Dragonfly Dreams signifies pursuing your dreams to the utmost in a short amount of time—as Topaz does.

What inspired you to write Dragonfly Dreams?

I wanted to couple a love letter to my hometown with a classic good-versus-evil spiritual battle.

 

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

I’m also a mom like Topaz, so I have a deep maternal love. Unlike her, though, I’m not so uncertain about my identity.

Jennifer, what is your favorite part of writing?

Creating new worlds, having stories arise from the blank page.

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

Making my vision shine on the page. A billion thoughts float around in my head, but pinning them down and conveying them clearly to the reader is still difficult.

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

The Rose Society by Marie Lu. I really like the concept behind the making of a villain, the bond of sisterhood, and the imaginative setting. At the same time, though, the book is a bit unsettling and gets quite dark. 

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Jean Kwok: for down-to-earth Asian American characters you can root for, whether in the confines of a sweatshop or the expanse of a ballroom.

Markus Zusak: I think he’s got a great way of spinning words together and helping young people find meaning in their lives. Plus, he’s a genuinely nice guy.

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

Mrs. Okada, my sixth-grade teacher, really nourished my love of writing by first exposing me to different types of poetry (haiku, tanka, diamante, etc.). She also poured out encouragement to me. 

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

As a mom, I love writing in those squeezed-in times while waiting for a class to end, so that I have a hard deadline to motivate me.

For reading, I have this couch placed in a sunny spot in my home. It gets a lot of light (and bird songs in the morning), and it makes me happy to relax there.

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

I used to be part of the drama club in high school. Even though I’m an introvert by nature (as many writers are), I actually liked the excitement of acting.

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


Authors form an amazing tribe. Even though we write in solitude, the network of writers is strong, and people in the field are very supportive of one another.

The publishing process requires a lot of patience. When you think you’ve waited long enough, wait some more.

What do you hope readers will gain from Dragonfly Dreams?

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Deeper insight into a spiritual realm that exists beyond the surface, and the idea that one person in a family can really influence the bond between relatives.

Those ideas appeal to me as a writer and as a reader. Looking back, Jennifer, what did you do right that helped you write and market Dragonfly Dreams?

It was great having a solid team behind me (editor, cover designer, book manager, etc.).

What didn’t work as well with this book?

Being able to locate my niche audience, to connect with them so they know about the book.

Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?


First, write. Then research ways to get your work published. There are so many options to getting your foot in the door nowadays: literary magazines, e-zines, self-pubbing, independent presses, literary agents, and The Big Five. Choose the path that fits your personality—or pursue a blend.

Great advice. Website and social media links?
www.jenniferjchow.com

https://www.facebook.com/JenJChow

https://www.instagram.com/jenjchow/

https://twitter.com/JenJChow

 

Where can we find Dragonfly Dreams?


https://www.amazon.com/Dragonfly-Dreams-Jennifer-Chow-ebook/dp/B01GFJ89BQ

What’s next for you, Jennifer?


I’m submitting another YA novel (but it’s set in the future instead of the past) while editing a multicultural, intergenerational contemporary mystery set near Los Angeles.

Thank you for a wonderful interview, Jennifer. I’ve enjoyed getting to know you better. I wish you the best with your books and your writing life!

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. Eleanor is a writer, artist, and photographer, 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, A DECENT WOMAN: http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK

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

 

 

 

2016 International Latino Book Awards Finalists

Book Award LOGO & Image rgbI offer my heartfelt congratulations to all the Finalists of the 2016 International Latino Book Awards, and my gratitude to Latino Literacy Now for their continued dedication to Latino literature and to the Latino community. I’m deeply honored ‘A Decent Woman’ was selected as a Finalist for Best Historical Fiction, English.

“The Int’l Latino Book Awards is a major reflection that the fastest growing group in the USA has truly arrived. The Awards are now the largest Latino cultural Awards in the USA and with the 257 finalists this year, it has honored the greatness of 2,171 authors and publishers over the past two decades. These books are a great reflection that books by and about Latinos are in high demand. In 2016 Latinos will purchase over $675 million in books in English and Spanish. The 2016 Finalists for the 18th Annual Int’l Latino Book Awards are another reflection of the growing quality of books by and about Latinos. In order to handle this large number of books, the Awards had nearly 200 judges. The judges glowed more than ever about the high quality of the entries and how many great books there were. The Awards celebrates books in English, Spanish and Portuguese. Finalists are from across the USA and from 17 countries.”

Click below for the complete list of Finalists.

https://app.box.com/s/si0noqeuz45an4e8yzo7jp3fg3b5ryna

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

 

Book News!

I have great book news to share with you!

After a difficult, scary, and confusing month of worrying myself into a near panic over my first publisher, Booktrope Editions, closing the doors on May 31, 2016, I am thrilled to announce that my historical novel, ‘A Decent Woman’ found a new home with Sixth Street River Press, LLC.The book will be republished under the imprint, Scarlet River Press, headed by Ally Bishop, editor of ‘A Decent Woman’ and the fabulous host at ‘Upgrade Your Story’ podcast. I am grateful to Ally and her fabulous publishing team, and relieved beyond belief.

‘A Decent Woman’ is now AVAILABLE in ebook format on Amazon, republished by Sixth Street River Press, with the paperback version soon to follow! And we might have a new book cover design, still featuring the Our Lady of Montserrat. Lots to look forward to!

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A special thank you to my loving kids, family, friends, FB and Instagram friends, and blogger friends, who offered great information, love, and support, while pushing and encouraging me to keep writing despite an uncertain publishing future.

Now I can finish my second book, ‘The Laments of Sister Maria Inmaculada’, knowing my first ‘child’ has an awesome, new home and a brighter future. Lots of lessons learned this month…

and Mercury is out of retrograde! Hallelujah. Be well and happy writing to you!

More to come…

ABOUT ELEANOR

ellie

Award winning, Puerto Rican-born novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was 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 writing her second novel, ‘The Laments of Sister Maria Inmaculada’ and the sequel to ‘A Decent Woman’ called ‘Mistress of Coffee’.

http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Survival Mode

In Survival Mode

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As of last Thursday, I had a published novel (February 2015) and two manuscripts in the works. My first book, ‘A Decent Woman’ was doing well, still on several Amazon best seller lists, and I’d hoped to offer the completed manuscript of ‘The Lament of Sister Maria Inmaculada’ to my new editor at Booktrope in a few months time. The sequel to ‘A Decent Woman’, called ‘Mistress of Coffee’, was to be published next. My kids were well, my best friend was visiting me from North Carolina, and life was good. By late Friday evening, my life was turned upside down. I was in a real panic, sick with worry, and heartbroken after reading the opening statement of an email I’d received from Booktrope:

“We are deeply saddened to share the news that Booktrope will be ceasing business …”

I am deeply saddened for all my fellow Booktrope authors and our supportive author community which includes editors, proofreaders, cover designers, and book managers, many whom are authors, who must now find jobs and are scrambling to find homes for their wonderful books. As am I.

You best believe I had a mini pity party Saturday and Sunday, while keeping in mind that Booktrope took a chance on me in 2014, and that I have one month before my book and ebook are removed from Amazon, except for third party vendors. I don’t have a lot of time. I have a lot to learn. I’m rewriting my query letters and researching publishers and agents.

My mind, body and soul are in recovery and regroup: survival mode.

Once again, I find myself facing a new mountain after hoping I’d found a home for two more books. God knows, I’m no stranger to mountains, but this learning curve is steep and the timing sucks. But maybe not. I’ve grown and learned important life lessons over the past years; maybe I’m due another life lesson. But anxiety is in place as I research other publishers and look into self-publishing. We shall see. I am not giving up. I will see my book republished and will publish more books in the future.

My deepest thanks to my fellow authors, writers, readers, friends, and family who have bought my book, read and reviewed, and shared with me during my writing/publishing journey. I am very grateful for your love, support, and encouragement. I am blessed to know you.

Best of luck to all my fellow Booktrope authors around the world. Any information about self-publishing and small press publishers will be greatly appreciated!

If you are interested in buying ‘A Decent Woman’ on Amazon, please do so before May 31, 2016. On June 1st, it will not be available, unless I decide to self-publish in May. I may wait to republish at a later date.

I don’t know what will happen after June, but of one thing I am certain–my writing career isn’t over by a long shot. I will keep you posted on my journey.

Thank you for reading!

ABOUT ELEANOR

ellie

Puerto Rican-born novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s careers 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, was selected as 2015 July Book of the Month for Las Comadres & Friends National Latino Book Club. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, ‘Latina Authors and Their Muses’, edited by Mayra Calvani, and in the soon-to-be released anthology, Organic Coffee, Haphazardly Literary Society, edited by Allie Burke. 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, reads, and tells herself she is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.

Eleanor adores her two adult children and currently lives in West Virginia, where she is happily writing her second novel, ‘The Lament of Sister Maria Inmaculada’.

http://www.amazon.com/Decent-Woman-Eleanor-Parker-Sapia-ebook/dp/B00TUP47W

 

On Characters: I Resemble That Remark

How much do characters in novels resemble the writer and the writer’s journey?

Before and after the publication of my novel, ‘A Decent Woman’, I accepted many kind invitations for written interviews to introduce and market the book. One interview question provoked much personal introspection about my character Ana Belén, an Afro-Cuban midwife born into slavery, who lives and works as a midwife at the turn of the nineteenth century in Playa de Ponce, Puerto Rico.

The interviewer, a fellow author and good friend, emailed the questions and added a smiley face after this question, “How much do you resemble the character, Ana Belén?” My long-time friend knows me well, so the jig was up. A few weeks later, I sent her my responses, and wrote this next to the smiley face, “I resemble that remark in more ways than I feel comfortable owning up to at this time!”

Of course, the character of Ana is like me, in many ways. How could she not be? I created her and the world she inhabits from my imagination and a few family stories. But. I’m not a statuesque, Afro-Cuban midwife born a slave, living in Puerto Rico at the turn of the nineteenth century. I’m a five-foot-tall, green-eyed, Puerto Rican-born writer, currently living in West Virginia. How much could I possibly have in common with Ana?

As it turns out, we share many common traits: feistiness, courage, bluntness, loyalty, a fierce love of family with a strong commitment to protecting the rights of women and children. Was it in my genetic makeup or life experience (when I was writing the book) to respond and behave in similar ways to threats, happy circumstances, and impossible challenges the way Ana did? No, not in every circumstance. Tough as nails and compassionate Ana is my heroine, but we are all survivors of something. I had a few life experiences to draw upon during the writing.

Along with a few positive traits, I share a couple negative traits with Ana, such as stubbornness, sensitivity to unfair criticism, impulsiveness, and at times, short-sightedness, especially when I think I’m right. In my story, Ana is forging a path in a difficult, new world; a world I was discovering and exploring through writing, research, and my imagination. A bit or a lot of ourselves is bound to emerge in our characters, but it was only after the book was published that I realized how closely related our journeys were and where they overlapped.

For the rest of 2015, I journaled about that question, and like the author of ‘The Artist’s Way’, Julia Cameron says, after the midway point of journaling three pages in longhand, the truth came out: I’d been working through stuff while writing Ana and Serafina’s stories, even the men’s stories, and I hadn’t realized it. Here’s what I discovered.

In 2010, I pulled out the draft manuscript I’d begun in 2005. After two years of a difficult separation and divorce, a few more years of working in an entirely new field, having my heart broken and finally, moving to a new state, I was ready to write again. My world had been continually rocked with so many unknowns that it made my head spin during that time and even now as I think back to what we went through as a family. Between 2006 and 2010, questions plagued me at every turn: What will turning 50 look and feel like? Will we be safe and will I find work? Where will I live? Can I support myself while writing full time, and if not, what the hell will I do to make that happen? Will anyone hire a fifty-year-old woman with an old resume? Should I go back to school and find a new career? Are my kids okay? Will I find love after divorce? Will this book ever be published?

I survived and so did my kids. We’ve grown and flourished where we were planted, but it was a tough road. My kids graduated from college, found good jobs, and in 2011, I bought an old house in West Virginia. At the next fork in the road, I gave up sending out resumes that I knew would never be answered—I would write full time, which was a huge gamble and risk for someone living on a small budget. The decision was made. I sat down to write and soon discovered Ana’s story had to change. I had learned many valuable lessons and developed new skill sets, more than I’d ever dreamed possible, that had enriched my life as a woman and mother. The original Ana was merely a skeleton of the woman she was meant to be; it was time to put meat on those bones. I rewrote the story, worked with two editors and sent out the manuscript. The book was finally published by Booktrope Editions in February 2015.

Ana’s journey of learning to read and write, and moving from La Playa to Ponce when male doctors entered the birthing room for the first time, threatening her livelihood, were born only after I was reborn. It makes perfect sense–I had gone back to school and moved from Virginia to West Virginia. What I did not realize until after the book was published was that Ana embodied everything I’d needed during the difficult years after marital separation and divorce: a protector, a loyal friend, an advocate, a mom. Serafina, the young, motherless widow in the story was me, a motherless child, as my beautiful mother had passed away in 1992, and I missed her terribly. The characters I created, my heroines, mimic and embody the internal and external life struggles I experienced and helped me through a difficult time. All my characters gave me the courage, guts, and tenacity I needed during the writing and publishing journeys, and later with marketing the book, which continues today. I might not have all the answers, but I am leaps and bounds ahead in my journey.

Writing ‘A Decent Woman’ was a journey and as it turns out, a quest toward wholeness. I believe in starting your journey, whatever it might be, from where you are standing, and I believe in paying attention along the way.

Fast forward. I am currently writing a second novel called ‘The Lament of Sister María Inmaculada’, featuring a young Puerto Rican nun, an old Franciscan friar from Spain, and a young Protestant minister sent to Puerto Rico from the United States in 1920. The characters, most definitely from different worlds, find themselves living and trying to work together on a barren islet of La Isla de Cabras, The Island of Goats. It is a challenging, joyful, gut-wrenching, and empowering story to write, set in a new, unknown world to me, and I am loving the process. And I am including male point of view in a story for the first time.

A new, unknown world…is it really?

We shall see. I am excited about what I’ll learn and discover through these new characters, and already, I have discovered something amazing: I didn’t think it was possible to love a new character as much as I love Ana Belén, but I do. Her name is Sister María Inmaculada.

About Eleanor

ellie

Puerto Rican-born novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s careers 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, was selected as 2015 July Book of the Month for Las Comadres & Friends National Latino Book Club. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, ‘Latina Authors and Their Muses’, edited by Mayra Calvani, and in the soon-to-be released anthology, Organic Coffee, Haphazardly Literary Society, edited by Allie Burke. 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, reads, and tells herself she is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.

Eleanor adores her two adult children and currently lives in West Virginia, where she is happily writing her second novel, ‘The Lament of Sister Maria Inmaculada’.

http://www.amazon.com/Decent-Woman-Eleanor-Parker-Sapia-ebook/dp/B00TUP47W