Thoughts on Writing Novels in the Trump Era

In the summer of 2015, after the publication of my debut novel, A Decent Woman, a comment on a writing blog got my attention. It encouraged writers to focus on writing and marketing their books and refrain from sharing strong opinions and political views on social media platforms. The reasoning? So as to not alienate readers and potential readers; in essence, to limit their opinions and dialogue to discussions with friends and family. Good to know, I thought. The advice made sense to me at the time–nothing can turn a lovely dinner party into a school food fight quicker than heated debates about religion, politics, or other family members–but what about that business of writers potentially courting disaster with future book sales and alienating readers by speaking out on public forums? Was there any truth to that? I tucked that nugget away.

I kept my focus on learning the ropes of marketing a book. Little did I know marketing my novel would turn into an intense year of written interviews, podcast interviews, writing blog posts, participating in book fairs, and encouraging readers to post book reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and Barnes & Noble. That same year, I set up an author page on Facebook, opened a Goodreads author page and set up a Twitter account–lots of moving parts in addition to keeping up with a writing blog, interviewing fellow authors, and paying attention to my author website! And of course, I was thinking about writing a second book. A brief text exchange with my friend Wayne sparked an idea and I ran with it.

In early 2016, I began the preliminary research for my second book, as yet untitled. On June 16, 2016, Donald Trump officially announced his plan to seek the presidency. I started writing The Laments of Sister Maria Immaculada, now titled, The Laments of Forgotten Souls. From June to November October 2016, I watched the presidential campaign/sideshow on my laptop (I haven’t had cable TV since 2011). I kept writing and diligently researching the lives of nuns in 1927 Puerto Rico, the history of Old San Juan, and the little known (to me) islet of Isla de Cabras, five miles off the coast of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, where the ruins of a Spanish-built leprosarium remain. I kept writing and became increasingly distracted by politics. How could anyone possibly avoid it? I began to think about a writing retreat, away from home where I was buying the Washington Post on a daily basis and New York Times, when I could find a copy in my adopted West Virginia town.

In January 2017, I licked my wounds along with millions of Americans and participated in the now-historic Women’s March in Washington, DC. The political attacks and distractions from the White House began immediately and were unrelenting. I kept up with Rachel Maddow’s informative and timely blog posts for political analysis and information and watched MSNBC videos on Youtube. I learned a lot from Maddow, and for the first time in my life, I knew the names of all the key players in Washington, DC and their positions. I was paying attention. It also occurred to me how much my antagonist reminded me of Trump. A light bulb moment. What a strange and interesting twist. I zoomed in on Trump’s behavior and mannerisms, the way he speaks, and what his base sees in him.

I kept up with Twitter, Facebook, and I wrote a blog post about my experience at the Women’s March, always thinking about the advice to writers I’d read the year before: keep your opinions off social media. But how? I mused that might have been a popular opinion before the last Presidential election campaign. Before Trump became President. Before the march in Charlottesville. Before the brutal attacks on the protestors of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Before Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, the island of my birth, and Trump callously threw paper towel rolls at Puerto Ricans in Puerto Rico after the hurricane. Before 20 shootings took place on American school campuses. Before Trump brought us to the brink of nuclear war by antagonizing Kim Jong-un. Before Trump ordered the barbaric directive to separate children from their asylum-seeking parents at US borders. Before our planet was threatened by Trump directives and decisions. Before, before, before. I’ve left out dozens and dozens of events, I know. My apologies, this is what immediately comes to mind as I write this blog post. Fill in the blanks, please.

The attacks from the Trump White House seemed endless, unrelenting, and more cruel with each passing day. Then I remembered–our country, Americans, have suffered and endured cruel directives that go back to the founding fathers. Our history is full of racism, white privilege, misogyny, bad decisions, and crazy makers. Had we learned anything? Apparently not. I was reminded of the old French saying, “The more things changes, the more they stay the same.” But I was changing–as a woman, as a proud Puerto Rican, and as an American who’d lived overseas for over 25 years. As a novelist, I was wide awake. History was repeating itself before my very eyes and I was outraged.

You see, before January 2017, I’d never marched in protest, never held a placard, and had never called my elected officials. I had voted, of course, and in my previous jobs as a refugee caseworker, Spanish language Family Support Worker, and as a counselor working in Brussels, Belgium, I’d worked with and tried my best to assist and support those less fortunate in my community. To walk hand in hand with those who were hurting and needed help—that came easily to me. I was a mom. But to be a vocal activist? To be outraged and shocked enough to say what I felt in a public forum, on social media? That didn’t come easy. I was raised to be polite, fair, and to be diplomatic, whenever possible. But I found it increasingly difficult to remain silent. I kept writing and in my continuing research, I kept digging deeper into the dark corners of religion, faith, and humanity. World events were certainly changing my work in progress. How could the story not be affected? How could I remain unchanged? As I saw it, it was imperative to remain informed, but to also strike a balance–I needed to turn away from the news in the evening and force myself to remain in my writing chair. I was losing discipline and valuable time, but with each new event in the US and abroad, I gleaned valuable research material. I felt like a literary vampire.

What I came to understand was that in many ways, art and the making of art and literature is a political act.

Among the early reviews of my first published novel, A Decent Woman, two respected writer friends called my first novel a political statement, a feminist novel. After my initial surprise and feeling so grateful for their generous book reviews, I realized the two men were absolutely correct. In the early stages of writing A Decent Woman, (and in my newbie writing mind), I’d simply set about to tell a story about the lives of women in 1900 Puerto Rico. Then I remembered. Just before the manuscript went in for the final edits, I came across documents and a book about the rounding up of prostitutes in Ponce, Puerto Rico (the setting of the novel) and about the forced sterilization of thousands of Puerto Rican women by the US government. The book had to change. I had to change. It was necessary to grow a thicker skin in the public arena and speak my truths, instead of opting to remain in the shallow end of the pool. So I wrote that book.

Interestingly enough, the same thing is happening with my second book, The Laments of Forgotten Souls, which explores faith, religion, and the Catholic Church in 1927 Puerto Rico, with all its’ ugliness and scandals, community works and good intentions. Once again, I’ve had to dig deep, record history, and speak my truths as I discover them in my research and from my memory. I’m still reading several online newspapers and calling my elected officials. I buy newspapers and still watch Rachel Maddow during the day. I write at night like I always did, with less fear than before. The balancing act of being ‘woke’ and finishing this book is easier these days; I’m not as reactive to the news. I use it all.

In the telling of a story, writers stand, exposed and raw, for all to see. So be it.

Will President Trump and this White House stop the unrelenting attacks on Americans, on the poor and the marginalized, on our democracy? Will Trump be impeached? All that remains to be seen. We have no choice but to soldier on, persist, and resist when the need arises. And as writers, we must keep writing. Lord knows there’s a plethora of material out there for novelists these days.

ABOUT ELEANOR PARKER SAPIA:

ellie

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the award-winning novel, A Decent Woman, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, set in turn of the century Ponce, Puerto Rico, garnered Second Place for Best Latino Focused Fiction Book, English, at the 2017 International Latino Book Award with Latino Literacy Now. The book was awarded an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English, at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now. A Decent Woman was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015, and Eleanor is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses, edited by Mayra Calvani.

A writer, artist, and photographer, Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, The Laments of Forgotten Souls, set in 1927 Puerto Rico.

 

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Author Interview: Marsha Casper Cook

Welcome to the Tuesday Author Interview series at The Writing Life. Each Tuesday, I have the great pleasure of chatting with authors across genres about books and writing, and marketing and publishing. 

Today I am very pleased to welcome Marsha Casper Cook, a talented screenwriter, novelist, editor, and writer of children’s books. Marsha, who hails from Chicago, is a radio show personality on Blog Talk Radio, which is how we met a few years back. Her World of Ink Network partner for the last five years is V.S.Grenier, an author, editor, and radio show host, who lives in Utah. Marsha’s group discussions always feature interesting and talented writers and center around writing, publishing, screenplays, and books. I love her show, and always come away with pages of writing tips.

In this interview, Marsha graciously offers readers a glimpse into the business of turning books into audio books, and I’m excited to begin.

Welcome, Marsha!

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marsha-cc-book-cover

What is your newest book’s genre?

Romantic comedy.

Please describe what Grand Central Station: Some Relationships Are Just Meant to Be is about.

A famous child psychologist, who has authored several bestselling books on raising children, discovers he doesn’t know as much as he thought he did when he meets a pediatrician and mother of three. Neither of them imagined how their lives would change when they shared a flight headed for Las Vegas for a medical convention.

For Jack Winston and Victoria Feingold, whatever happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas. It follows them back to Chicago.

Jack doesn’t want to fail, but he’s not sure he’s emotionally prepared to live with Victoria’s three children. Not to mention her mother, sister, dog, and needy ex-husband.

Grand Central Station is a fast-paced ride and a lot of fun! 

Congratulations on Grand Central Station, Marsha! How did you come up with the title?  

There was so much going on in the story, and it seemed as if Grand Central Station would be the perfect fit. A busy house with so many characters coming and going. 

What inspired you to write this romantic comedy?

It’s taken from one of the screenplays that I had written several years ago and loved. It had been optioned, but never produced.

How exciting that the screenplay was optioned, Marsha. In my mind’s eye, I can see this romantic comedy on the silver screen. Best of luck!

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

Actually, there really were no similarities to any of the characters in my book, but I felt the family quarrels were most likely a part of any family, including my own.

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

Not coming up with another story while I’m working on one. I usually think any idea that pops in my head might be better than what I’m writing, but usually the feeling passes.

That’s a familiar scenario when I’m writing, as well. What is your favorite part of writing?

I enjoy the fun of not knowing exactly how my story will end. I always feel if I don’t know the ending, the reader will be just as surprised as I was when I wrote it.

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

I have been lucky to meet wonderful people all through my life that have guided me in my writing by telling me their stories, and in turn, I listened with open ears and learned how to write good characters with real problems.

Marsha, many of your books are now audio books. Could you tell us about that process? I know I’m more than interested.

One of my favorite passed times is listening to audio books. When I hear an audio book, it’s becomes a special event and very entertaining. The story comes to life, and it’s so enjoyable I sometimes wish the story could go on forever; however I do agree with the common complaint about the narration. If you like the voice behind the words, it’s such fun to imagine the setting and the story, but if you don’t, the feeling is not the same, and sometimes it’s enough to make you go on to something else. It doesn’t hold your interest.

I never thought my books would become audio books, but because of Audibles and the sharing method between the producer of the audio and the author of the book, it became possible.

The children’s books that I have on audio were a great learning experience for me. I got to hear every word and realized that after reading a book and listening to the audio, the experience is far greater than just the read, especially for children.

I urge authors and readers to give audio books a chance.

For authors go to www.acx.com

http://www.audible.com/search/ref=a_hp_tseft?advsearchKeywords=marsha+casper+cook&filterby=field-keywords&x=0&y=0

http://www.audible.com/search/ref=a_search_tseft?advsearchKeywords=lady+jane+sinclair&filterby=field-keywords&x=0&y=0

Thanks so much for sharing, Marsha. I love audio books, and would love to go down that path with my first book. 

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

I love writing in coffee shops or restaurants when I’m by myself. That’s when I truly feel I’m completely in my characters world. 

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

I’m very organized, however as a teenager I wasn’t and didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. I usually try to tell parents not to judge their children so harshly because life has a way of working itself out and growing up isn’t easy. Every child needs their space as do adults.

True words and great advice for parents. As a kid, my interests were varied and appeared to have no rhyme or reason to many adults. Looking back, the common denominator was creativity and a healthy imagination.

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

Over the years, I have learned so much from writing and doing my radio shows, which in turn gave me the best education ever on how to independently publish, and not worry that a publisher may have rejected my work. If the story is good, readers will enjoy your work regardless of who published the book. Enjoy writing and try to remember that if your book makes you laugh or cry, that is always a good thing because your readers will probably do the same.

I also feel that because things have changed over the years in publishing, authors have an open field for fulfilling their dreams. They just have to be persistent.

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What do you hope readers will gain from your book?

It’s always good to hear your reader understood what you were trying to convey in your story, and as authors that is the best feeling imaginable.

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

I used my own judgement. Listening to too many people can end up causing a writer to feel insecure and not finish their story. Finishing the story works!

I agree wholeheartedly–finish writing the book! What didn’t work as well as you’d hoped?

Usually by the time my story is written, I’m hopeful that everything worked during the journey because if I felt uncomfortable on any level, I would try to re- work my story until I got it right.

Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

My suggestion would be if you are having trouble getting an agent or publisher, find an Independent service and publish your own book, but don’t skimp on three very important aspects of successful publishing: editing, formatting, and getting the best artwork you can for your cover.   

Website and social media links?

Radio Show Blog – http://worldofinknetwork.blogspot.com/

Author Blog – http://whatsnewwithmarsha.blogspot.com/

Marsha’s Website-   http://marshacaspercook.com

Radio Show Website – http://worldofinknetwork.com

https://www.facebook.com/marshacaspercook

Where can we find your books?

https://www.amazon.com/Grand-Central-Station-Relationships-Meant-ebook/dp/B01B8CBDMC

https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/michiganavenue

https://www.kobo.com/us/en/search?Query=marsha+casper+cook  

A list of Marsha’s books:

Novels: Grand Central Station – romantic comedy & audio book; Guilty Pleasures series – erotica

Children’s books: The Busy Bus; No Clues No Shoes – also audio; The Magical Leaping Lizard – also audio; Snack Attack -also audio; I Wish I Was A Brownie- also audio

Screenplay (book): It’s Never Too Late

Non-Fiction:
To Life 

What’s next for you?

I have several projects in my head. One is to write another romantic comedy, and the other is to add to my Guilty Pleasures series.

Thanks so much for joining us today, Marsha. It’s been a real pleasure getting to know more about you and your books. I wish you the very best with your many books and audio books!

About Eleanor:

ellie

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

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

 

 

 

World of Ink Chat with Jack Remick, Marsha Casper Cook, and Eleanor Parker Sapia

March 1, 2017

Eleanor will be chatting with novelist/screenwriter and World of Ink host, Marsha Casper Cook, and novelist and short story writer, Jack Remick, about telling a good story on March 1, 2017. Please join us!

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/worldofinknetwork/2017/03/01/telling-a-good-story-host-marsha-casper-cook#.WKvO6byENao.linkedin

Let’s Talk About Writing Host Marsha Casper Cook

MARK YOUR CALENDARS AND JOIN US TOMORROW!

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/worldofinknetwork/2015/08/13/lets-talk-about-writing-host-marsha-casper-cook

Join Marsha Casper Cook on August 13 at 4PM EST 3PMCST  2PM MT 1PM PST- When she welcomes Jack Remick and Eleanor Parker Sapia. Jack Remick is a poet, short story writer, novelist and a frequent guest on the World Of Ink. He has contributed to the show by bringing wonderful authors to the network and with each visit he is appreciated that much more.

Jack has brought to the network Eleanor Parker Sapia, a Puerto Rican-born novelist, poet, and artist, raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Her life experiences as a counselor, alternative health practitioner, Spanish language social worker, and refugee case worker inspire her passion for writing.

Marsha is a Partner of the World of Ink Network, Award-winning Script Writer, Novelist, Writing Coach, Media Release Specialist, Blog Talk Radio Host and Founder of Michigan Avenue Media. Marsha is the author of 11 published books and 11 feature-length screenplays, a literary agent with 15 years of experience and the host of BTR’s World of Ink Network shows: A Good Story Is a Good Story, and special editions of The World of Ink Network.

Call in number (714) 242-5259

For more info   http://www.worldofinknetwork.com

            http://www.michiganavenuemedia.com

 

Author Interview Friday

My guests for Author Interview Friday in April and May are:

  • Barbara E. Struna, author of historical fiction novel, The Old Cape House.
  • Meredith Schorr, author of chick lit novels, Friends With Benefits, State of Jane, Blogger Girl and a 3-Book Collection of the same titles.
  • Jennifer Hotes, illustrator/author of YA suspense novel, Four Rubbings.
  • Patricia Mann, author of women’s contemporary fiction novel, Is That All There Is?.
  • Mayra Calvani, multi-genre author of over a dozen books and author of YA dark fantasy, The Luthier’s Revenge, coming out May 15, 2014.

Our first Author Interview will be with Barbara E. Struna on Friday, April 11, so please join us!

As you won’t want to miss these interviews,

please FOLLOW this blog before you leave today. Click LIKE, share this blog with your friends, and please leave comments. I always love hearing from you!

For those who enjoy book reviews,  please read my review of the novel, GABRIELA AND THE WIDOW by Jack Remick.

May’s review will feature the novel, BREATH, EYES, MEMORY, by Edwidge Danticat.

Thanks and have a great weekend!

Ellie