Tell us a little bit about yourself, your books and any new projects you are working on.
I am a late-blooming debut novelist. I published The Italian Prisoner and started my own imprint, Burgundy Bend Press, with Gatekeeper Press’s help on April 11, 2022. A work of historical fiction set in the Sicilian community of New Orleans’ French Quarter, the book illuminates a true but little-known story involving Italian prisoners of war on the U.S. home front during World War II. It’s an engrossing tale of wartime love, family secrets, and a young woman’s struggle to chart her own course at an inflection point in American history. I’m currently working on book #2.
1. When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
From a very young age. I was an early and voracious reader as a child and have always loved to write. I believe my mother has kept some evidence of me declaring I either wanted to be a marine biologist or a writer when I grew up.
- How long have you been writing? How many books have you written?
I’ve was editor of my high school and college newspapers, and freelance journalist early in my career. Then I took a thirty-plus year detour into work in the environmental protection and water resources field before coming back to writing fiction a few years ago. During that time, I wrote a lot of articles, blog posts, emails, reports, and press releases, but no fiction. So, if you don’t count an unpublished children’s book I wrote in my teens called “Platypuses are People Too,” this is my first real book.
- What made you want to self-publish?
After completing my manuscript, I spent about a year and a half immersed in the “publishing-industrial complex,” networking like crazy, reading books and articles, attending conferences and webinars, and honing my pitch. I flung about 70 query letters into the void and had some nibbles from authors and publishers. Alas, no deal, and I learned from published author friends with agents about how frustrating things were for them, the long, drawn-out timeline for moving a book into the world, the expectations that authors would be their own publicists. The more I learned about indie publishing, the more it seemed like a better path for me. I’m 61 years old, and my research partner for the book was in his mid-80s. He kept pestering me, saying, “when is this thing coming out—I’m not getting any younger.” Sadly, he just passed away this week (May 23), so I’m glad I didn’t wait.
- Would you recommend new authors self-publish, and would you recommend Gatekeeper Press?
I would for sure. It really depends on your goals, your circumstances, and whether you have the means to invest in your project. I’m grateful that I had the ability to do it—and do it right–by getting professional help.
- What do you do marketing-wise to help announce and sell your books?
I had a long career and have lived in several places. Thanks to social media, I’ve stayed in touch with family, friends, and colleagues over the years, so I have a lot of networks. Luckily, a lot of my professional work was in strategic communications and marketing, so I had the experience to develop a comprehensive marketing plan for pre-order and launch campaigns.
- What advice do you have for a new or fledgling author?
Put some real thought into marketing long before your pub date. Think about who will want to read your book and how to get to those people. If you don’t have the expertise, maybe you have a friend who does or if you can, hire a professional to help. Many authors just want to write, but the books don’t sell themselves!
- What social media platforms are you on?
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
- What is the one piece of advice you wish you had known when you first started out?
That the traditional publishing route for most rookie writers is a crap shoot. I spent a long time banging my head against the wall trying to get an agent because that’s what I was told you had to do to be a “legitimate” author. Not true. I’ve found most readers could care less who your agent or publisher is. A well-written, professionally-produced, widely distributed book will find a home with readers. I took my cue from my musician friends, most of whom long ago went “indie” and produce their own records without agents and record companies taking a cut. One band I’m friends with won a Grammy last year with an independently-produced album—that was an “aha” moment for me.
- What do you feel is the biggest challenge authors are facing going into 2022 (and beyond)?
For many of us it’s finding the time and space (literally and emotionally) to actually write. There are a lot of demands on our time, and the world seems to have gotten crazier over the last few years. I also think it’s hard to cut through the clutter in the publishing industry to find resources that will actually be helpful—rather than people who just want to take your money and make wild promises about what you can do with your writing career.
- Have you won any awards or contests that you would like to mention?
My book was a finalist in the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing competition as a novel-in-progress in 2019.
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