Author Interview with Rachel Kambury

I met Rachel Kambury in November at Historical Fiction Night at the KGB Bar in New York City, hosted by Monique Lewis, the founder of At The Inkwell. Rachel and I enjoyed each other’s readings and I knew then, I’d invite this talented writer to The Writing Life blog.

rachelk_7 small Born and raised in Oregon, Rachel Kambury developed a love for writing at the age of five. She decided to become a novelist after reading Kurt Vonnegut’s first novel, Player Piano, when she was eleven.

Rachel self-published her first work of WWII historical fiction, GRAVEL, in 2009, two months before she graduated high school in her hometown of Ashland. Following a six-week battlefield tour of Western Europe that summer, she moved to New York City for college with her first novel in tow.

In September 2010, Rachel began her second work of WWII historical fiction, The War Bound, writing the entire first draft and part of the second while in school. The novel is currently in its third draft stage undergoing rewrites.

Rachel graduated from Eugene Lang College – The New School for Liberal Arts with a BA in Literary Studies in May 2013. She lives in New York City.

Welcome, Rachel!

What is your book’s genre/category?

The War Bound is historical fiction.

TWB Mockup copy (1)

Please describe what the story/book is about.

Six days before the Allied invasion of France, Sebastian, a Nazi Lieutenant along with his young brother Jürgen attempt to escape Europe while their father Christoph, a Nazi Colonel, hunts them down for desertion.

As events unfold, the story’s more vulnerable underbelly becomes exposed, revealing what is at the heart of the novel: an intimate family drama about loyalty, trauma, free will, and sacrifice set within the horrendous conflict of World War II.

How did you come up with the title?

I knew I wanted the word ‘war’ in the title, for various reasons: it’s a word that people notice straight away and are drawn to; it’s also a very heavy word – when you see it, you have an almost instinctive understanding of its meaning, if only in a very general sense. I didn’t come up with the whole title on my own, though: I had a conversation over text with my dad and my sister where we bounced variations around to each other, things like “The Bonds of War” and “Bound by War” and things like that. Eventually we struck on “The War Bound,” and after a cursory Google search to make sure it wasn’t already taken as a novel title*, I decided that was it.

*The only other thing with a similar name is a group of MARVEL characters called “The Warbound,” which if anything is rather fitting given my love for MARVEL superheroes.

What is the reason you wrote this book?

There are so many, and frankly I could probably write a thesis paper about this.

I started writing the book because an idea came to me in class one day, but I’ve kept at it because in the four years since, I’ve discovered so many things about these characters and their interior lives and the world they live in and can’t give it up. I care so much about this history and the stories that have come out of it (and those that haven’t). As tasking as it is to write a long novel about Nazis, it’s also hugely rewarding.

It was important to me to delve into what it would mean to abandon the only life I’ve ever known for the sake of survival, which is a story that resonates with so many people but takes on an entirely new dynamic when it’s a story, however fictional, about the lives of Germans during WWII. I realized halfway through writing The War Bound that my groove, so to speak, is taking fictional characters and inserting them in very real historical contexts in order to get the audience – and myself – closer to the events and hopefully that much closer to a deeper level of understanding. Fact plays a very large role in my work, but so does the human aspect of what is a singularly human endeavor.

What is your favorite part of writing?

The buzz is nice; that creative high that keeps me coming back time and again. But more so it’s the characters themselves, especially after a good amount of time has passed and they’ve gone from being stick figures in the back of my head to fully realized people always hovering in my peripheral vision; they come to mean so much to me and writing the story they belong to feels like the only way to not let them down. I’m also a total sucker for that moment when a reader comes up to me and tells me how the story affected them. I’m seem to have a real knack for getting people’s tear ducts working…

What is the most challenging aspect of writing?

Sitting down and doing it. When I was in high school and college I had the luxury of having demands on my time that made me want to get around to writing as quickly as possible. As writing more and more becomes the center point of my life, I find it increasingly difficult to just do it. If we’re talking nuts and bolts, the hardest part for me is POV control. World building and detail? No problem. Dialogue? Sure! But hell if I can’t pick a POV and stick to it.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

J.R.R. Tolkien and Kurt Vonnegut; William Shakespeare. Michael Chabon, Haruki Murakami, and Jane Austen; Jonathan Hickman and Frank McCourt. John Le Carré, Sebastian Junger, Herman Melville, Elizabeth Gaskell, Mary Shelley, and Charlotte Brontë are also choice.

Can you tell I was a lit studies major in college?

What authors or person(s) have influenced you?

This is one of those Pandora’s Box questions – I could go on for days. Kurt Vonnegut made me want to be a writer and Tolkien taught me how to write, and like most writers I’ve learned to create my own voice by reading novels by a lot of different writers, but the people I’m influenced by vary widely and change often. A lot of people in film and entertainment, definitely; Charlie Chaplin, Steve McQueen, Robert Downey Jr., Ruth Wilson, Kathryn Bigelow, Peter Jackson; George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Robin Williams, Eddie Izzard…

The men of Easy Company (of Band of Brothers) are hugely important to me, too. Perhaps most of all.

Favorite place to write?

The lobby of the Ace Hotel in NYC, or in my room with my cat snuggled on my lap; there are a number of other coffee shops I’ve come to love over the years, both in NYC and elsewhere. I like places with lots of activity, a warm atmosphere, good music, and spectacular coffee.

Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

I have four tattoos (and have plans for many more)!

Any surprises or learning experiences with the publishing process?

It’s amazing how important the little things are. It could be a missed comma here or too much white space there, but every time I flip through my first novel, I see something – a formatting mistake or a typo or a missing word – that pulls me up short. They’re the kinds of mistakes I know would make me put down a novel by another writer, and so I’m extremely aware of them now in my own work, especially since that kind of stuff can make or break me in the submissions process.

Looking back, what did you do right that helped you with this book?

I listened to my mentors and readers. When a friend who works at a high profile literary agency told me “You need to work on your voice,” I took it to heart along with the line edits a former professor of mine sent along. Another friend mentioned that the manuscript was overly long and that one or two characters needed some fleshing out. I live for that kind of feedback, and it all makes each draft stronger than the last. Having people who provide unbiased constructive criticism as well as words of encouragement is absolutely invaluable, and I’ve only come as far as I have because of people who do those things for me. I am beyond lucky.

Any advice for writers looking to get published?

Be patient. Give the manuscript the time it needs to settle before you go around putting it in front of people’s faces. GRAVEL could have easily gone through another one or two rounds of edits before its publication, so now with The War Bound, I’m taking a lot more time to be diligent, to edit thoughtfully and carefully; the worst that can happen is that I start sending out queries later in the year instead of right at the beginning.

Website?

www.rachelkambury.squarespace.com

I’m also on all major social media channels as “rkambury”

Where can we find your book?

GRAVEL can be purchased online on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Lulu (for the ebook). Links are available on my website! And you can follow me on Twitter to get updates on my progress with The War Bound.

What’s next for you?

I’m gearing up for my first-ever crowdfunding campaign with Pubslush beginning January 1st! The goal is to raise enough money to give GRAVEL a second chance at life, so to speak, with a once-over for line edits, formatting, a new cover, a marketing campaign, and a whole slew of goodies for people who donate (signed copies, free ebook editions, posters, and more)! Be sure to check it out – click “Become a Fan” and be among the first to know when the campaign launches: www.gravel.pubslush.com

I’ll also continue working on rewrites for The War Bound, which is proving to be a rather daunting task considering I’m having to rewrite the first half, more or less. Just have to keep reminding myself that all good writing is rewriting, and each new page is a step in the right direction. Here’s to making some big strides in 2015!

Thank you for a great interview, Rachel. Best of luck with The War Bound and the crowdfunding campaign for Gravel!

What NOT To Do in a Podcast Interview

Today was my first ever Podcast interview with Ally Bishop of www.upgradeyourstory.com. My interview airs on September 28, 2014, and I hope you’ll join us. My thanks to Ally for having me on her super show!

As an author, I’ve been interviewed by fellow authors at their blogs, but the idea of this interview going ‘live’, being aired, and the fact that I couldn’t edit out dumb things I might say, kind of messed with my mind a bit this morning. Now, I’ve been told I’m well-spoken, and I enjoy public speaking, but boy, you couldn’t tell any of that on my first two takes today! I’ve listened to many of Ally’s awesome Podcast interviews, so I knew I was in her kind and very capable hands, and needn’t have worried. Ally always puts me at ease, and after a few funny false starts–me getting tongue-tied twice, and our dogs barking in the background–we were off and running. It was a fun conversation/interview once I relaxed.

Of course, we spoke about my debut novel, A Decent Woman, set in 1900 Puerto Rico coming out December 12, 2014, my second novel, Finding Gracia based on my walk on the medieval pilgrimage path of El Camino de Santiago in Spain, and Mistress of Coffee, the sequel to A Decent Woman, which picks up the story in 1928. Among Ally’s great questions were: how I came up with my protagonist, what my writing process is, what research I did, and why I started writing novels after 25 years as an exhibiting artist.

One interview question that sticks out in my mind tonight as I write this blog, and has me laughing, was this question:

‘What is one mistake you’ve made as an author?’

Well, I drew a complete blank. In that moment, I was thinking author/writer, and not about selling books, marketing, and social media, because I’ve certainly made early mistakes in those arenas. But, I couldn’t come up with an actual mistake I’d made in the writing of A Decent Woman beyond finding typos, and a weak sentence here and there in my draft manuscript.

The answer I came up with after the Podcast, of course, was I wish I’d written a very detailed outline of A Decent Woman at the beginning because when my awesome editor, who happens to be the awesome, Ally Bishop, asked me to send her a detailed outline, I immediately saw where the story needed more tension, and where the arc in the story really should have been. That has all been fixed!

And then as a newbie to ‘live’ interviews, I made what is possibly the faux pas for an author – I fumbled when I recited…er, tried to recite my author website. Yes, I did. The ONE thing I needed to state clearly for all to hear and remember, and I messed it up. Don’t ask me what I was thinking! I eventually got the web address out, so here it is in case you don’t catch it in the Podcast interview. All I remember in that moment was not remembering whether or not I’d bought my domain name, and I had. Stage fright!

www.eleanorparkersapia.com

Ah, the writing life.

** Don’t forget to listen in on September 28 for my Podcast Interview with Ally Bishop at www.upgradeyourstory.com ** You have my permission to giggle at the end when I fumble with my website address!

Thanks so much.

Ellie~

Author Interview with Carlos Alemán

nuno_cover-Carlos Aleman

I’m honored to welcome to The Writing Life, the multi-talented, Carlos Alemán, author of NUNO. I was pleased to learn Carlos and I wrote epic tributes to one of our grandparents, and turned those tributes into novels. I think you’ll enjoy this interview as much as I did.

Carlos Alemán is a Cuban American writer, painter, illustrator, book cover designer, digital product artist/prototyper and web designer. An early e-book draft of this novel entitled As Happy As Ling, was a finalist in the 2012 International Latino Book Awards. In 2013, the release in paperback of Happy That It’s Not True was named one of the best novels of the year by the Latina Book Club. He is a judge in the 2014 National Association of Hispanic Publications’ José Martí Awards.  Carlos lives in Sunrise, Florida with his wife Jean.

Welcome, Carlos!

What is your book’s genre/category?

It could fall into the literary fiction or popular fiction categories.  Popular fiction may sound a lot less pretentious and appeal to more readers.  It would also belong in the historical fiction category since the story begins in 1945.    

Please describe what the story/book is about.

My novel, Nuno, which is about to be published, is the prequel to Happy That It’s Not True.  It begins in pre-revolution Cuba and follows the life of an army officer that falls in love with a woman who was once a childhood friend.  As the world changes and brings much adversity, the woman becomes the inspiration and hope that helps him to survive a dark adventure.

How did you come up with the title?

Nuno is the name of the main character.  When I first heard the name, there was something about it that I thought was unique and interesting.  When I researched the name I discovered that it was the name of a famous Portuguese general.  The mental association I made with the name now made it easier for me to describe the life of a military man.

What is the reason you wrote this book?

My grandfather, Francisco, was a political prisoner in Cuba.  As I researched his life and what he had to go through, I found lots of elements that I thought would work well in a novel.  The book started out as an epic tribute to my grandfather, in which I made him a type of larger than life figure.  Eventually, I thought the story fit nicely as the first book of a trilogy. 

What is your favorite part of writing?

I enjoy the actual process of writing once I have a vague idea of where the plot is going.  A lot of writers say that writing is pure torture and hard work.  I’ve never felt that way.  I love to write.  Perhaps the dark humor keeps me happy and in good spirits for the entire length of a project.

What is the most challenging aspect of writing?

The hardest part for me in completing a novel is not having worked out how the next several chapters will unfold.  If I can picture some kind of sequence of events, this helps build up momentum and I can almost feel the finish line.  I suppose it’s like driving through the fog and you can at least see a hundred feet in front of you.  When you can only see a few feet in front of you — that is the most challenging aspect of writing for me. 

Who are some of your favorite authors?

On the very top of my list are Haruki Murakami, Khaled Hosseini, Amy Tan, Carlos Ruiz Zafón, Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

In a separate list for poets: Pablo Neruda, Rumi, Tagore, Walt Whitman

What authors or person(s) have influenced you? 

There have been many people who have inspired and influenced me.  Some are polar opposites of each other, such as Carl Sagan and Billy Graham.  Others include Neil deGrasse Tyson, Thích Nhất Hạnh, Rob Bell, Eckhart Tolle, Pope Francis, the 14th Dalai Lama, Brian McLaren, Bono, Ramana Maharshi, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and many others.

Favorite place to write?

When I write, I lose track of where I am, so it doesn’t really matter.  The quieter, the better.

Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

As much as I share on social media, I’m not sure there would be anything about me that would be a surprise to know.  Those that follow my activities are aware of my love Chinese and Japanese art, my own attempts at drawing and painting, and my constant weight training and healthy living. 

Any surprises or learning experiences with the publishing process?

I’m fortunate to have a lot of control over my writing and I get to design my own book covers.  One of the advantages of having a small publisher is how much it feels like family.  I was expecting the publishing business to be strictly about acquiescing to commercial and practical realities, but since Aignos Publishing specializes in experimental literature, it’s been a very satisfying experience.

Looking back, what did you do right that helped you with this book?

My first two books took me about four years each to write.  There was a little bit of overlap as I polished them and made lots of changes.  My third book and the one I’m currently writing seem like short stories to me even though they’re full length novels.  I might be able to write one or two novels a year now, but I’m glad I took my time with my first two books.

Any advice for writers looking to get published?

Put the ego and emotions aside.  Expect years of rejection.  If you stay at it long enough, talent and opportunity will converge.  When the first novel gets rejected, start on the second.  To actually get published, submissions to literary agents may not be enough.  Try to get well connected and get to know as many people as you can that are writers or reviewers or in any way part of the literary world.

Website?

http://www.carlosaleman.com

Where can we find your book?

Happy That It’s Not True is available on Amazon.  Nuno, and the final book of the trilogy, Diego in Two Places will be released soon and also available on Amazon.

What’s next for you?

I’m currently working on a coming of age story that takes place in the year 1980.  I’m also getting a series of paintings ready for an art exhibit in 2015.

Thanks for having me, Eleanor.

Thank you for a super interview, Carlos. Best of lDiego_in_2_places_cover- Carlos Alemanuck with your books.

Happy_TINT_cover Carlos Aleman

Author Interview, JT Twissel

 

CSIt is a great pleasure to welcome JT Twissel, author of the novels, FLIPKA and THE GRADUATION PRESENT. Some of Jan’s blog posts have me laughing out loud in quiet public places, and I loved FLIPKA. Jan is a wonderful storyteller and a people watcher which shows in her unique characters. I’m looking forward to reading THE GRADUATION PRESENT.

JT Twissel (Jan) was born in a small town in Massachusetts and raised primarily in Reno, Nevada, leaving home at eighteen to see the world.  Eventually she more or less settled down, living with her first husband in Chicago and then in the San Francisco bay area where she obtained a degree in English from UC Berkeley.  She worked as a newsletter editor, a secretary, a process analyst, project manager and technical documentation manager before becoming a full time writer.

Aside from her children, she’s most proud of the years she spent as a Make-A-Wish volunteer, interviewing children with life-threatening conditions and helping arrange their wishes.  Her later experience as a CASA, Court Appointed Special Advocate for at-risk foster children, inspired her to write FLIPKA. The necessity to take several long trips across the great state of Nevada – where wackiness is a virtue – created the setting and characters.

 

Welcome, Jan!

What is your book’s genre/category?

THE GRADUATION PRESENT is a coming of age, adventure, travel with some comedy and romance.  I believe it’s categorized on Amazon as coming of age.

Please describe what the story/book is about.

This review (which I love) pretty much sums up what the book is about: “A hapless hopeless romantic American girl called Riley O’Tannen heads for Europe to get a taste of the old world and instead encounters her drunken uncle who keeps a mistress, her randy aunt who keeps a gigolo, and a dead CIA man whose boss is a raving homosexual. On top of this she becomes an accidental fugitive hunted by the Swiss police. Oh, and she also finds love.”

How did you come up with the title?

The protagonist’s trip to Europe was a belated graduation present from an uncle she doesn’t really know very well.  To tell you the truth, we tried to come up with another title but just couldn’t think of anything.  I found out after the book came out that there’s another book with the same title.  Guess what genre?  Porn.  Whoops!

What is the reason you wrote this book?

I have so many memories of my time in Europe that I knew I had to get them down on paper in some form or another before they were all lost to time (or senility).   The hardest part was getting into the skin of a clueless, naive and overly imaginative girl.  I struggled with it for a long time, certain I’d never be able to do it.  And then a very special friend of mine was diagnosed with a terminal illness.  The last thing she said to me was “finish Oncle Boob!  The world needs to laugh” and that did it for me.  (Oncle Boob was one of the first titles the book had)

What is your favorite part of writing?

When a character really talks to me. Particularly if the person I based the character on has passed away.  I will often break down into tears over my keyboard.  It’s a miracle I haven’t been electrocuted!

What is the most challenging aspect of writing?

For me, it’s plot development, time-line stuff.  The characters and scenes pop up without a lot of effort but where I put them on any particular timeline doesn’t always make sense – particularly for my editor!

Who are some of your favorite authors?

I studied Victorian lit in college so I would say: Austen, Dickens, the Brontes, Trollope.  I’ve read and enjoyed so many contemporary writers that it would take all day to list them.

What authors or person(s) have influenced you?

The most influential person in my life was a lady by the name of Joellen Hawkins.  She was the model for the Fi Butters character in FLIPKA.  She opened my mind to so many things.

Favorite place to write?

I write in a slide rocker next to a window from where I can see the foggy, coastal hills.

Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

I was once a department store living mannequin.

Any surprises or learning experiences with the publishing process?

Oh golly, everything has been a big surprise and learning lesson!  I guess the importance of social media was the biggest surprise.

Looking back, what did you do right that helped you with this book?

Luckily I was already familiar with blogging and web designer.  Having that knowledge saved me a lot of work, agony and probably money.

Any advice for writers looking to get published?

A lot of writers I know who tried, but couldn’t find a traditional publisher have begun self-publishing and it seems to working out well for them.  One of them has even won a couple of awards!  Often they will self-publish a first book and then it is picked up by one of the hybrid publishers. Another piece of advice – don’t expect to become an overnight hit!

Website?

http://www.jttwissel.com

Where can we find your book?

The usual places!

What’s next for you?

I just finished a third book, as yet untitled, and sent it to my editor.  So I’ll probably take a break and then begin on Flipka 2.

Thanks for a great interview, Jan! Best of luck with all your books!CS

Author Interview with Jonathan Marcantoni

fss cover (1)

 

It is my great pleasure to welcome author, Jonathan Marcantoni to The Writing Life. I followed Jonathan on Twitter where we discovered a mutual friend–author, Mayra Calvani. I’d read Mayra’s interview with Jonathan a while back; it is indeed a small world. I am excited to read his Latino Crime Noir novel, The Feast of San Sebastian.

Jonathan Marcantoni is co-founder of Aignos Publishing, and author of Communion (with Jean Blasiar), Traveler’s Rest, The Feast of San Sebastian, and the upcoming Kings of 7th Avenue. His works focus on the struggles of Puerto Ricans on and off of the island. He is also the founder of the YouNiversity Project which helps college students learn about the publishing industry and prepare them for careers as professional authors. He lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with his wife and three daughters.

Welcome, Jonathan!

What is your book’s genre/category?

Latino Crime Noir

Please describe what the story/book is about.

The Feast of San Sebastian is about a middleman, Ilan, who arranges illicit deals for drugs, guns, prostitutes, and anything else his clients need. A former human trafficker, he has distanced himself from that life, but the deals he now makes still haunt his conscience since he knows that he is contributing to the destruction of the country he loves, Puerto Rico. To appease his demons, he turns to drinking and gambling, which land him in debt to San Juan’s biggest crime boss, Antonio. Antonio respects Ilan and approaches him with a chance to free himself without having to pay back another dime: by arranging the assassination of Aurelio Oviedo Narvaez, the corrupt Superintendent of Police. The plot will force Ilan to face his past as a smuggler and confront the contradictions and consequences of his actions, which are a microcosm of the moral and political dilemmas which face all Puerto Ricans.   

How did you come up with the title?

The climax of the book is set during the Calle San Sebastian street festival, which leads up to the religious festival which gives the book its title. I chose that title for the contrast of religious ideology and theory going up against the corrupt reality of everyday life. It emphasizes how far the people in the book have strayed from living honorably and humanely.

What is the reason you wrote this book?

To educate people on and off of the island of these issues that are so often swept under the rug or deferred to someone else to deal with. Many Puerto Ricans are not even aware that human trafficking is such a huge problem, since the victims are most often the poor from rural communities or foreigners. In the case of the book, the victims are Haitians, who are subjected to extreme prejudice on the island. Our modern mentality is to dehumanize in order to defer responsibility for injustice. It is much easier to say that an atrocity is someone else’s problem, but the world is so interconnected, now more than ever, that everyone is guilty to some degree. Human trafficking occurs because we want cheap products and cheap thrills like drugs and prostitution. General society makes human trafficking possible, without the demand there would be no need to exploit people in this manner. So we are all at fault, including myself.  

What is your favorite part of writing?

That moment when you finish a scene and know intrinsically that you hit it out of the park. It does not happen often, so when it does, you savor it.

What is the most challenging aspect of writing?

Working with an editor and performing self-editing. The whole editing process really is painstaking and rarely fun. When your edits are done and you are happy with the book, the suffering pays off, but the editing process, second only to the post-publishing process of marketing and fighting for readers in a sea of indifference (which I consider to be a part of being a writer, but not of writing itself), is the most humbling part of writing, and therefore the most challenging.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

That is too long a list to name everyone, but briefly, Toni Morrison, Hubert Selby Jr., Julio Cortázar, Juan José Saer, Fernando Pessoa, José Saramago, Naguib Mahfouz, Gabriel Garcia Márquez, Luis Rafael Sanchez, Miguel de Unamuno, Julia de Burgos, Luis Llorens Torres, Jorge Luis Borges, Juan Rulfo, and Pablo Neruda, to name but a few.

What authors or person(s) have influenced you?

My biggest influences have been Cortázar and Selby Jr. I borrow a lot from both of them, but Saer wrote my favorite book of all time, El Entenado, and his combination of poetry, horror, and philosophy is something I am moving toward. My newest works keep inching more and more toward allegory and spiritual meditation, not in a new agey way, but in a thoughtful way. My books so far have been very much about photo-realism, capturing life as it is. But now I am most interested in the transcendence of human nature and that internal struggle to be more than what society offers.

Favorite place to write?

I do not have the luxury to have a single place to do my creative work. I am a father and husband with a day job who also co-owns a publishing house, I am all over the place. So I write where I can, though I will say that music being present is a necessity, no matter where I am, even if it is just a tune in my head, music has to be present. 

Something personal about you people may be surprised to know? My day job is in the military, which is especially contradicting because I am a Puerto Rican independentista with an ideology similar to the macheteros, but you do what you have to do to make a living, I suppose. Even Albizu Campos served in the military, it is an honorable thing. I do not find it prevents me from believing in and supporting a free Puerto Rican nation. 

Any surprises or learning experiences with the publishing process?

Well, I have had the great opportunity of being an author, editor, editor in chief, and co-owner of a publishing house, so I have experienced publishing at every stage. I can say the biggest thing I have learned is to be patient and to be educated. The more you know about the process, the less of a headache it is. A lot of frustrations writers have come from a sense of entitlement that at times is essential, since you should not be a push over and having a sense of self-worth prevents a lot of people from taking advantage of you, but at other times gives both you and other writers a bad name. A writer must know when to be headstrong and when to be humble. Too many writers think because they do not get the world handed to them on a platter, especially the first time out, that publishers are evil or just want to hurt them and their work. There are legitimately bad publishers, but most of them are the biggest champions of literature and who love books in the sincerest, most profound way possible. But publishers have to always keep an eye on the business side of writing, as much as they want to be all about the art, they cannot do that and stay in business. Many writers resent the business side, but that is essential if you want this to be your profession.

Looking back, what did you do right that helped you with this book?

I guess I did not burn the wrong bridges. Had I, I do not think the book would have come out. I met the right people to support this kind of story and cultivated those relationships, and that is perhaps the biggest reason you are interviewing me right now. Had I been like I was at age 19, when I had my first paid writing gig, I doubt I could land a publisher. I had to humble myself and build friendships to have the opportunities afforded me today.

Any advice for writers looking to get published?

Get educated about the process so that your expectations are realistic. The more measured you can be about the process the better. Clear minds win good deals, and I do not mean that as solely financial. I mean working with the kind of people who fit you and your aesthetic. It may mean you are not making six figures as a writer, but a lot of writers who get the big bonuses end up with books being released that do not reflect their vision, where they had to make big sacrifices in the name of marketability. There is nothing wrong with being marketable, as long as you can live with the sacrifices. Even at a good company, cuts and changes will be made, but when you work with the right people, those changes will not only be less painful, you will find once you do them that you love them. But you need that team, I am a stickler for the team that a publisher gives a writer. That is why so many self-published books are awful, writers take the whole vision thing to an extreme that only feeds their ego. So find that community of people who force you to make the tough decisions because they are right for your story and right for you, and be willing to get your hands dirty promoting the hell out of the book that you and your publisher have put together, that is the only way people will take notice of you. 

Website?

YouNiversity Project and Facebook and Twitter.

Where can we find your book?

The Feast of San Sebastian is available in English at Amazon.com and in Spanish as an ebook at Casa del Libro. The book is also available for sale at La Casa Azul Bookstore in New York City and Twig Book Shop in San Antonio, TX.

What’s next for you?

I am currently, along with author Chris Campanioni, heading the YouNiversity Project. We have three amazing students, Yma Johnson and Emma Mayhood from Eastern Michigan University, and Julia Horniacek from Ramapo College, who are embarking on a year-long journey where we will assist them in writing a query letter, building up a web presence on social media, networking with other writers, publishers, agents, graphic artists, and radio personalities to learn about the interconnected world of publishing and entertainment, and workshopping their own writing so that by next year, they can begin seeking out publishers and/or agents.

I also have a new book coming out, Kings of 7th Avenue, which is a surrealistic drama set on the Tampa club scene that explores the effects of misogyny and abuse on individuals and society. I am also working on a Spanish novel for Araña Editorial.

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Thanks for a super interview, Jonathan! It was an honor to have you with us today.