Tag Archives: book stores

TOP 5 Questions I have been asked about writing a novel

1.   Are you going to quit your job and just write books?

This is probably the question I get most often, and my writer friends are laughing right now. Reading for pleasure is on the decline, and overall reading ability is declining with it.   In the era of binge-watching Netflix, social media, and youtube at your fingertips, books can’t keep up.   Even if they could, there’s very little money in book publishing for all but the handful of super successful authors.     I was very grateful to earn enough with the sales of my last book to buy a new laptop and pay for a few nights in a hotel as I traveled for book promotions. So, no. I will happily be keeping my day job.

  1. Which character are you? (or worse: Am I in your book?)

unprotected was fiction, as is my new novel unattached.   Neither of the main characters is me. The social workers, cops, foster parents, and attorneys in the book aren’t based on anyone I know.       And the clients in the book are definitely not based on any of my former clients.   Data privacy laws are strict and I didn’t want to do anything that would put me in HIPAA jail.

  1.  How did you come up with the story?

I never know how to answer this.   I wish I could say that I had a grand plan with an elaborate outline, but I didn’t have anything of the sort.   It took me 12 years to write unprotected and three years to write unattached, and both times I had only a vague idea of where I was going with the story.    The fun times were when an idea spilled out, landed on the page, and worked.

  1. Do you enjoy book signings?

I will say this as graciously as I can: no.   I expected book signings to be exciting, but the truth is that I feel like the salespeople at mall kiosks selling perfume or cell phones.   Book store customers know what they are looking for, and they recognize that I’m there to sell them something they never intended to buy.    Honestly that’s fine with me.   We all work hard for our money, and if someone doesn’t want to buy my book then I don’t want him to.    But publishing is a business, so selling books is part of the deal.   Most of the time at book signings people avoid eye contact and shuffle by my little table at the front of the store.   At one of my signings, another author was there with 3 large boxes full of books. He huffed at me that he would sell out in two hours, and the jerk was right.   He approached (accosted) everyone who entered the store saying, “Are you a mystery reader? Do you enjoy reading about local settings?”   Some people wandered away, but his pushiness worked as his pile dwindled while few of my books moved.   So I am learning to stretch myself, plaster on an uncomfortable smile, and have awkward conversations in order to sell a few books.

  1. I’ve always wanted to write a book….do you think I could get published?

I have been surprised by how many people have confessed to me that they have a secret, half-written novel on a laptop at home.   Usually when people ask me this question they are stuck either because they aren’t sure how to finish, or they don’t think what they have written is good enough.   My answer is always the same (borrowed from Dory in the movie Finding Nemo):   Just keep writing!

That's me at a book signing at the Mankato Barnes and Noble
That’s me at a book signing at the Mankato Barnes and Noble

For most of us amateur writers, the fear of it not being good enough is what keeps us from moving forward.      I’ll be honest:   there are parts of both of my books that make me cringe.   I am well aware that I will never be known for my lyrical prose, and a writing instructor would put her red pen to work with my overuse of adverbs.     Lyrical prose was never my goal.   I write because I have stories in my head that I want to get on paper, and the process of writing is what I truly enjoy.

And in that spirit, stay tuned.   My second novel, unattached, will be released in September, 2015 by North Star Press.

New Girl

I am rarely the New Girl any more.
Eighteen years ago when I was a newbie social worker, I was always the New Girl, and I went to embarrassing lengths to convince people that I was a grown up. One of the first times I went to the local high school to meet with a teenager about a report, a secretary, thinking I was a high school student, asked if I had a hall pass.
“Um, I’m here to interview a student.” I was indignant. How was my new, early 90s, mushroom-shaped short haircut not convincing her that I was an adult?
Being the New Girl meant feeling incompetent most of the time. I was 23 years old talking with my elders about how they treat their children. Scary.
The New Girl at the office got the old stuff, including the mint green metal desk with a treacherous, skin pinching crack across the top. I was lucky enough to be able to pick out a new desk chair, but my director trumped my choice in color and decided on the teal green fabric that “matched” my desk. I could only nod, as he was my superior and thus had office-decorating wisdom that I must not have had.
As the years passed and my twenties ended, there were other New Girls, and my stock slowly went up. I graduated to a better desk and some increased responsibilities. My life evolved as well. My husband and I bought a bigger house and had kids—four of them by my 10th anniversary at the agency. The mint green chair remained, growing worn and stained, but held me through pregnancies and transitions in the office and out.
After 18 years I have become one of the senior members of the child protection staff. I am rarely intimidated any more. I can write a 5 page court report in an hour, if I have to, and I am confident in my ability to respectfully but firmly speak with most parents.
Then I wrote this book and got lucky enough to have it published. Suddenly I’m a newbie in a world of writers, publishers, and book store owners who speak a language I don’t understand.
And while I thought the most challenging aspect of my new authorhood would be writing the book, marketing my novel has brought out a level of neediness and insecurity that I didn’t know I had.
My publishing company is small, so promotion is my job. And thus I walk the line between persistence and stalking.
With about a gazillion books out there, persistence is the name of the game. Earlier this summer I mailed and emailed promotional flyers to dozens of bookstores. Response: nothing. I was a New Girl. So I was largely ignored.
So I followed up with phone calls. Trying to sound upbeat and professional, (while feeling incompetent and pathetic), I left messages with a great many stores, and this time I had more success. If I spoke to an owner directly, most were generous and helpful. Several stores have given this New Girl some much needed experience and exposure.
I recently attended a book fair aimed at independent booksellers, my job was to promote my book to store owners. My publisher had a table, so I had a 30-minute slot to chat up anyone who stopped at our table. More established authors have been reviewed, so their covers have flattering quotes from reviewers or other authors on their book covers. First novels rarely get reviewed, so my book looked a little naked next to those with quotes and stars across the covers. Many owners stopped by our table, their eyes washing over my unfamiliar cover and title. “Can I tell you about my book?” I blurted to anyone who came close. Again, people were generous, nodding and smiling and politely accepting their complimentary copy with my decidedly unknown signature.
My New Girl status is another commonality I share with Amanda, the newbie social worker and star of “unprotected.” Amanda feels incompetent and insecure most of the time. Those feelings were raw when I started writing the book twelve years ago, and they are back now that I am a New Girl in the publishing arena where I am small and insignificant.
Being new can’t last forever, and in the mean time I want to thank everyone who has already read and enjoyed “unprotected”. It is available on amazon and barnesandnoble.com and at area book stores. Thank you for your support!