C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

See all my books at AllThatChazz.com.

Author Profile: JE Knowles on her book Arusha

Arusha by JE Knowles

Author J. E. Knowles grew up in East Tennessee, began her writing career in Canada and now lives in London, England. Her first novel, Arusha, is the story of a gay marriage—between one man and one woman.

From the book cover: Edith Rignaldi clearly understands that she and husband Joe remain together for the sake of their children. It is why they married in the first place. But she never foresaw the lifeless emotional landscape they both now occupy after eighteen years together.

Teachers in a small, God-fearing Tennessee town, they cannot insulate themselves entirely from the cultural encroachment of the late ’80s: the inexorable march of the feminist and gay rights movements, the spread of the AIDS epidemic. When the faithful, steadfast Joe is finally overwhelmed by his desire for men, the lives of all four Rignaldis explode.

CW: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?

JEK: Probably as soon as I knew what an author was. I remember being nine years old and finding out that there was already an author in the Guinness Book of World Records younger than nine. I was very disappointed!

CW: Tell us about your book. How did you get the idea for your book?

JEK: Arusha is the story of a family—a woman, her husband and their children—and of the parents’ love. First, their love for each other, which brought the family together, and later their love for themselves and others and how that pulls the family apart. I’ve had the characters in mind since I was about fourteen but I didn’t know what their story was. I’d been living with the characters so long that the story just seemed to grow out of them.

CW: What research was involved in your book’s development?

JEK: The climax takes place in Arusha, Tanzania and I visited Tanzania before I knew that I would eventually write this book. It was the trip of a lifetime. East Africa, with its wild animals and incredible landscapes, has such a place in Westerners’ imagination. At the same time, journeying to someplace so far away brought home for me how different are the life experiences of people in various parts of the world. None of this really felt like “research”—the book developed out of where I’d been and what I’d thought about.

CW: What is your writing process? Do you have any formal training in writing?

JEK: I was already publishing articles and a few poems and stories when I went to the Humber School for Writers. That was my only formal training in writing, but what I really learned there was how to self-edit, how to make my work professional enough to be published. I met some wonderful fellow writers with whom I still exchange work. My writing process is the same as it was in elementary school: I get paper and a pencil and scribble down whatever comes to mind.

CW: How long did it take you to write the book and find an agent and publisher?

JEK: It took me about two years to write the manuscript, then another two years to find a publisher—about four years in total.

CW: What’s the most surprising thing you discovered in writing this book?

JEK: That the story wasn’t going to be principally about the daughter, Dana, but about the mother, Edith. I’ve never been a mother or married a man, so writing Edith’s (and even more, her husband’s) story took all of my imagination.

CW: Do you have any stories of rejection or inspiration to share with writers climbing up the mountain?

I have a story of rejection and inspiration, and it is the same: I received more than 100 “No”s to this novel before I got to one “Yes.” Many rejections were from agents or editors, just form letters saying don’t send the manuscript at all. Some requested part of the novel to read, but ultimately said no. A few read the whole novel, then decided it wasn’t for them. But I only needed one yes!

CW: What was the hardest part of the publishing process? What did you most enjoy?

JEK: It took about as long to place Arusha with a publisher as it did to write the novel and that was very discouraging. I found it hard to see so many books that, to me, were published with less time and care, while I was still struggling to sell a book in which I truly believed.

What I most enjoyed was holding the published book in my hands, seeing people buy it and ask for my signature. The book launch was the party of my life at that time—nine years in Toronto came together there.

CW: What advice would you give unpublished writers?

JEK: Write. This isn’t original advice, but it’s more important than ever now, when anyone can e-publish to a certain extent. Publishing is a separate business from writing, and if you start by focusing on getting published, you’ll never give the writing the time and energy it truly needs. Write an excellent, excellent story. Then you’ll have the faith in your writing that you’ll need to persevere through all the rejections and the business side of things.

CW: Have changes in the book industry forced you to change how you published or marketed your work?

JEK: Not really “forced.” More and more people are reading e-books, so I’m glad that my book was simultaneously published in that format, for readers who choose to purchase it that way. Certainly, the Internet has made it easier to find out exactly what publishers want in terms of a query or submission (just visit the publisher’s Web site), and if they’ll accept a letter or submission by e-mail, that saves time and money as well. I don’t think there are any shortcuts, however. The fact that I can instantly post or “blog” about what I’m writing doesn’t mean readers want to read something thrown together slapdash. I try to write minimal marketing copy, because the more time I spend on that, the less time I have to perfect the writing itself.

CW: What’s your next book project and what can you tell us about it?

JEK: I’ve just finished my second novel, with the working title of The Trees in the Field. It’s about a United States Senator from Tennessee, a Republican woman, whose ambition is to be president…until she runs into inconvenient obstacles from her past and future and begins to question what patriotism really means.

CW: How important do you feel contests and awards are in getting published or getting attention for your book? Do contests curate?

JEK: I like this question, although it’s not an easy one. I looked up curate to get its precise meaning, and it seems to have been back-formed from curator, with its origins meaning to take care of. So, do contests guide readers and tell us what we should be reading? I actually don’t think they do. There are so many awards out there now—anyone can put their favorite books in X or Y category on a Web site, or start a poll and suddenly you’re the Grey City Journal Irish-American of the month (a real, albeit tongue-in-cheek, example).

I’m happy to have been a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award because of the Lambdas’ history and the many writers I admire who have won them. But I admired the writers’ work before they won. At their best, awards confirm quality we already know about.

To read more from J. E. Knowles or join her mailing list for information on new work, please visit jeknowles.com.

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Stephen King: On Writing Under the Dome

It helps to be a fast typist. It helps to write fast and edit fast.

The reason is, you have to keep it all in your head. Maybe you’ve written out a plan or maybe you’re writing a day at a time without knowing how the story will twist to its end. Even if you don’t feel you have to know everything ahead of you, you still have to keep the details clear in what’s happening behind you. It’s a lot to track.

If you’re writing your first book, aim for the low end of the acceptable word count. If your first attempt is a vast sprawl of a trilogy, there’s an excellent chance it will suck. Finishing a book at all is an amazing accomplishment. Don’t try to write too long too quickly.

JK Rowling wrote a sprawling series with Harry Potter, but the first book is relatively short compared to the big bricks that came later.

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Check out Sue Kenney’s My Camino

In case you missed this morning’s nice comment from the post below, here it is again! Woo-hoo, Sue! That sure made me feel good.Sue_Kenney
Chazz. Glad you got your very own copy of My Camino. Hiring you to do an edit/polish, I felt confident and relieved to have another chance to clean up the grammar, tenses and spelling mistakes before the next printing. Your expertise and attitude made this editing process exciting for me. My Camino came out in 2004 with a small publishing house and I was told it had ‘long legs’ (just like me) and might survive 3 years on the shelf . Who would have thought that 7 years later the book is a national best seller, there is a feature film adaptation in development (I co-wrote the script with Bruce Pirrie) and in the next couple of weeks it will be available on Podiobooks as an audio book. What a journey and now you are a part of it. Thank you so much. It was truly an honour to work with you. See you at the movie première in 2013! (fingers crossed)

Go to her website here: Sue Kenney

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Amanda Hocking VIDEO

Good for her.

Good for all of us.

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Author Profile: Nairne Holtz

The Skin Beneath

Nairne Holtz

Nairne Holtz was described by the Globe and Mail as a “writer to watch.” She is the author of This One’s Going to Last Forever (Insomniac, 2009), which was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award, and The Skin Beneath (Insomniac, 2007), which won the Alice B. Award for Debut Lesbian Fiction and was shortlisted for Quebec’s McAuslan First Book Prize. She lives in Toronto with her lover and miniature dogs.

This One’s Going to Last Forever is about relationships that are, for the most part, destined to fail. From campus lovers to a middle-aged man who performs drive-through weddings dressed as Elvis, the characters in these darkly comic stories search for love in all the wrong places. They also find love in the most unexpected places. 

In The Skin Beneath, Sam O’Connor is a “yuffie,” a young urban failure who is covered in tattoos and preoccupied by picking up girls she quickly discards. But there’s one woman she can’t forget—her dead sister, Chloe, a conspiracy freak who may not have killed herself. Tracing Chloe’s final days in this noir coming-of-age tale of swapped, hidden, and altered identities, Sam discovers everyone has another layer and secrets they hide from themselves—including herself. 

This One's Going to Last Forever

 CW: When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

NH: One of my fourth grade teachers assigned creative writing exercises for homework and that sparked my interest in writing. I decided I wanted to be a writer, a spy or a private detective. I’ve wound up working as a librarian and being an author. I can’t talk about the spy stuff. 

CW: How did you develop your book idea?

NH: My ideas come from my imagination, reality, and skewed reality. The reality isn’t necessarily mine. Sometimes I draw on the lives of friends or complete strangers. I’m always reluctant to say what is real and what isn’t in a specific story or book, but I will say I was amused when a reviewer of my first novel, The Skin Beneath, described the only character in the book inspired by a real person as “unlikely.”

CW: And what research was involved?

NH: Research involved trips to various libraries and searching the web. Being a librarian helped.  

CW: What’s your personal approach to the writing process?

NH: My writing process for longer work involves outlines, revised outlines, and endless drafts. The process is often tedious as is discussing it in my opinion. As to training, I have a graduate degree in English from McGill University. I also completed the Humber College creative writing program, where you are paired with a writer who edits chunks of your work for eight months.  

CW: How long did it take you to write your first book and find an agent?

NH: It took me a little over two years to write my first novel, but I was lucky at that time not to be doing much paid work. Humber College has an agent, and I sent my stuff to her when I finished the program, and she took me on. That process took about a year and a half.

CW: What were the surprises and challenges on your route to publication?

NH: My first attempts at publication were in Canadian literary journals. I received one acceptance and fifty rejections, which was quite discouraging. My girlfriend kept saying, “There is always more than one way,” and indeed, my stories eventually found print in American lgbt literary journals and anthologies. While my books have received glowing reviews in the mainstream, basically my audience is lesbian.    

The hardest part of the publishing process was realizing the extent to which manuscripts languish in slush piles. The mainstream presses look at books represented by agents whom they know and the indie presses tend to publish their friends and aren’t necessarily impressed by agents. What I enjoyed about the process was how much I learned about both writing and marketing. Also, of course, it was such a thrill the first time I walked into Chapters and saw my book on the shelf.

CW: What advice would you give unpublished writers?

NH: You have to decide what you want and make peace with it. If you want to write novels, this will likely mean periods of not working fulltime at a paid job, which has obvious economic consequences. If you tell a story with non-mainstream characters or you have an experimental style or you write poetry, you will likely limit your audience. You have to decide whether it is more important to have a wider audience or to tell your story in exactly the way you want.

CW: Have changes in the book industry forced you to change how you published or marketed your work?

The closing of so many gay and lesbian and women’s bookstores has meant fewer places to sell my books, but the web has offered more opportunities in terms of publicity. I think Amazon, not to mention all the second-hand booksellers online, will mean a longer life for my books, and I was quite happy to add my first book to Google’s free electronic library. For my second book, I focused more on the web in terms of publicity. For instance, I had my publicist give my book to a few bloggers and some places where I did readings used Facebook as their main publicity tool.

CW: What’s next?

NH: I’m working on a new novel set in Nova Scotia in the ’70s and ’80s about a Quaker hippie family.

For more information, Nairne’s website is www.nairneholtz.com.

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Writers: The Power of Small (and why press releases don’t work)

A picture of author Carolyn See

Image via Wikipedia

When I worked in a city newsroom, one of my jobs was to go through press releases to find gems. There weren’t many of those clichéd diamonds in the rough. Reporters see so many press releases, they begin to look upon them with suspicion and even resentment.

What’s an author to do? You want an interview. You want your book reviewed. How do you make it happen? The traditional approach was to send out lots of press releases and books. It wasn’t very effective. In fact, sending out a lot of review copies is expensive.

There’s an alternative:

Go small. Go low-tech. Write a note.

This isn’t a practical approach for in-house publicists working for major publishers (but they usually work in short bursts for particular authors, anyway.) The low-tech, patient strategy is for indie authors looking for ways into the media. Unfortunately, publishers focus on very small windows of opportunity. They are looking to move a lot of books quickly (before the book stores send them all back for credit.) Marketing in book publishing has been long periods of silence interspersed with short frenzies. As an indie author selling e-books, you’re opting out of big, expensive and short-term strategies. This isn’t so much for Wiley (publishers since 1807!) authors. This is especially for wily indie authors.

As an independent author and publisher, you can play the long game instead. You can write a note or two a day. One author/guru Carolyn See made it her practice to write a “charming note” every day to an editor or publisher or agent.* Why not to reporters, too?

But there’s a trick to making it effective. You know how I’m always saying that if you want to hit up an agent, don’t look for the big, established names? Agents fresh from the factory who are up and coming in established agencies are better bets. They are still hungry and not as jaded. They don’t hate all queries yet. They still have hope and the scales have not yet developed over their eyes.

The same is true for reporters. The book editor of a large magazine already has lots of books lined up. The independent author has lots of indie-spirit, but most book editors still look down on them. So screw them.

Work on getting into smaller newspapers. Send a charming note to a general reporter who would love to do a cushy author interview instead of chasing some city council member who doesn’t want to speak to them. I’d rather talk to an author than cover a house fire any day.

You know why it will work?

It will work because you will be charming (“Loved that piece you wrote on the local scaled railroad hobbyists so I thought…”)

It will work because general reporters think entertainment reporters have a cushier job (and they’re right.)

It will work because all journalists also want to write a book some day.

And while we’re talking small, send off a friendly email to book bloggers. That counts as a charming note, too.

Ask to guest blog. Bloggers love a break and crave hits, connection, track backs, links and love.

Ask for an author profile. I profile an author on Chazz Writes almost every week. It’s not the New York Times Review of Books, but since they aren’t calling, how about alerting like-minded people to your creations? If you can’t go huge, you can still be ubiquitous.

Instead of just showing up at a bookstore and asking to see the manager, send a charming note ahead of you to break the ice and soften her up for a reading. Better, be even more charming and offer to organize readings for your local bookstore. (Later this year I’ll profile an author who did just that. Not only did he help many other authors, his own career got a boost from building community among colleagues.) 

Your book needs attention. I’m sure you’re already working on developing and maintaining your audience. Don’t forget that etching away at it a day at a time over the long haul can reap big rewards. With patience, you can build your empire. Don’t underestimate the power of a low-tech, targeted, personal and charming note.

These days, the mail is mostly for bills. This approach is more powerful than it ever was because you hate what’s in your mail box. But when you get a letter, you’re excited. It will work because it has worked.

*Read Carolyn See’s Making a Literary Life for details. Or, don’t fool around and head straight to Amazon to buy her book.

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Author Profile: Anthony Bidulka’s Date with a Sheesha

Anthony_BidulkaAnthony Bidulka’s mystery series tells the story of a world-travelling, wine-swilling, wise-cracking, gay Canadian PI living a big life in a small city. The Russell Quant series is a multi-award nominee including for the CWC Arthur Ellis Award, and was awarded the Lambda Literary Award for Best Men’s Mystery. Anthony Bidulka has enjoyed time well-spent and misspent in the worlds of academia, accounting, footwear, food services, and farming. In 1999, Anthony Bidulka, BA, BEd, BComm, CA, left a decade-long career as a chartered accountant to pursue writing.

The Russell Quant books are: Amuse Bouche (2003), Flight of Aquavit (2004), Tapas on the Ramblas (2005), Stain of the Berry (2006), Sundowner Ubuntu (2007), Aloha, Candy Hearts (2009), Date With a Sheesha (2010.)

CW: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?

AB: Pretty much as soon as I could put pen to paper. As a youngster I was completely entranced by the power of storytelling and my greatest wish was to be someone who could do that. Instead of spending my allowance on candy or toys, I’d buy books and comics. As a teenager, I began writing and illustrating stories for my nieces and nephews. In truth, those were the first books I authored.

CW: Tell us a little about your books.

AB: I write a mystery series, which is not exactly what I set out to do. My first serious attempt at a book—as an adult—was a thriller. While I was waiting for the offers to pour in, I thought it might be a good idea to spend time on something just for the pure love and fun of writing. I created the world of Russell Quant, the first and only half-Ukrainian, half-Irish, wine-swilling, world-travelling, wise-cracking, ex-cop, ex-farm boy, gay, prairie-dwelling, Canadian private eye being written about today anywhere by anyone! (I dare anyone to contradict me.) That was ten years ago. Russell Quant has been my literary companion ever since.

The current release, Date With a Sheesha, deals with a young Canadian researcher travelling to the Middle East to buy antique carpets. Unfortunately, he’s found dead in a Dubai souk wrapped in a carpet. Russell is hired by the young man’s father to discover whether this was a simple tourist mugging gone bad as the authorities insist. (Of course, it is anything but). What follows is a magic carpet ride of an adventure from Saskatchewan to the frankincense fields of Oman and scorching sand dunes of Saudi Arabia.

CW: What research was involved in your book’s development?

AB: In each of the Russell Quant books, although much of the action takes place in Saskatchewan, Russell always finds himself embroiled in some sort of shenanigans in foreign locales. He’s been to the south of France, New York, Africa, Hawaii, and now, the Middle East. Each of the locations is chosen because of time I have spent there snooping about and wondering if this is a good place for murder and/or mayhem.

CW: What’s your writing process?

AB: I am very much an outliner. I like having at least a basic structure on which to build. I like knowing where I’m going. That said, I also think the most exciting—and sometimes nail biting aspect of writing fiction is the unknown. Although I create outlines, they are only the bare bones. The flesh is all the rest of the good stuff that comes out as you write the story, develop characters, create a world that only you control. Heady stuff, it is.

Once I have a first draft, I’ll go through a number of revisions until the piece gets to the point where I think it is the best it can be. Then I send it to my editor and she tells me why it isn’t.

CW: What’s the most surprising thing you discovered writing this book?

AB: I’ve sometimes wondered if writing a series would get boring or formulaic but I don’t findDate_with_a_Sheesha that to be true. I’m writing the eighth and I’ve attempted to give each of the books in the series a slightly different flavour. One is more romantic than the others. One is more of a caper. Another is more of a thriller and one is the scariest of the bunch. It’s a delicate balance because, to maintain the essence of what people liked about the series and characters, you don’t want to change things up too much. My hope is to keep the series fresh, the readers engaged and on their toes. That keeps me interested and excited to write more about Russell.

CW: What’s the hardest part of the publishing process?

AB: Today I think the most difficult part of the publishing process is keeping up with the speed-of-light changes in the industry. How we write, read, publish, and promote the written word is changing into something that was unrecognizable only five, ten years ago.

CW: How has that changed your book marketing?

AB: Extreme change had just begun to show its face as my first book was being published. Oddly enough, this has been a boon to me. I have only known upheaval in this industry. Just looking back over the past eight to nine years, one of the biggest changes is that the majority—the majority!—of small independent bookstores at which I gave readings in Canada and the US are now gone. They were the ones willing to give a new Canadian a chance. 

Oh yes, the world has changed and we must evolve with it. We used to give away electronic copies of the books for free, thinking that people would never read an entire book on screen, but perhaps it would entice them to buy the hard copy. Many of my colleagues now produce trailers for their books that rival those of blockbuster movies.

I have always seen the key to marketing a book as developing an ever-changing toolbox full of tricks. You try ten things and hope two of them work well. And even so, those two things will likely have to be tossed and replaced with something else before you blink. Daunting? Yes. Exciting? Yes. The essence is to be creative, be communicative, never give up trying.

CW: What do you most enjoy about being an author?

AB: There are so many enjoyable parts of the writing life. The firsts are top of the list. Getting that first signed contract. Seeing your book in galley format. Seeing it in a bookstore window. Getting emails from readers (who aren’t related to you!). Having your book reviewed in a major newspaper or magazine. Flying into a city you’ve never been to before and having people actually show up at a reading just to see you. It’s all so wonderful and fun and a truly unique experience.

CW:What advice would you give unpublished writers?

 AB: Get involved in the industry. Join writers groups, go to conferences, meet other writers, volunteer on boards and committees. As I’ve discovered in every part of my life, when you give back, you get back ten times more.

CW:What’s your next book project?

AB: A brand new edition of the first book in the Russell Quant series, Amuse Bouche, is being released soon. I’m currently working on a few different writing projects, one being the eighth Russell Quant mystery, tentatively titled Dos Equus.

CW: Thank you, Anthony! For more information, please visit www.anthonybidulka.com.  




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Author profile: Alicia Hendley’s Subtle Thing

Alicia Hendley’s book A Subtle Thing tells the story of Beth, a young woman who attempts to navigate through life while experiencing recurrent clinical depression. Throughout the novel, Beth copes with life’s difficulties. Beth’s trials may resonate with many readers, especially those related to education, career, parenthood, and relationships.


Alicia Hendley, author of A Subtle Thing


Alicia was born in Kitchener, Ontario in 1970. She completed a B.A. at Wilfrid Laurier University in psychology. Then she progressed to her Master’s degree and PhD in clinical psychology at the University of Windsor. Alicia’s a psychologist in the Counselling Centre at the University of Waterloo. She’s on maternity leave with her fourth child. She lives in Guelph with her husband (a journalist.)

CW: Alicia,when did you first know you wanted to be an author?

AH: That’s a good question, but a hard one for me to answer. I can’t remember a time in which writing and reading stories were not integral parts of my life. When I was growing up, my mother was a librarian and my father was a philosophy professor so books were fundamental to family life. When I was about ten, my parents gave me an old manual typewriter. From then on I spent much of my free time pounding out stories and poems. My writing continued and became a welcome stress reliever for me. I count on writing to ground me, no matter how busy or pressured the rest of my world. Now as a psychologist and mother of four, writing is something separate that just belongs to me. It’s vital for maintaining my sense of self.

CW: Tell us about A Subtle Thing. How did you get the idea for your book?

AH: Indirectly, the idea of writing a book about depression likely came from my job. I’m a clinical psychologist, so thinking about mental health is normal for me. I’ve always been interested in the more complex side of human experience. What probably drew me to psychology in the first place was my interest in more existential stuff: the importance of meaning, resilience, and authenticity in people’s lives.

CW: What’s your writing process?

AH: While I don’t have a formal writing process, per se, the way I start writing something new (whether a poem or a story) is often the same. Basically, I jot ideas down whenever they strike. Ideas seem come at me rather than me sitting down and consciously thinking about what I want to write. I wrote much of A Subtle Thing while on maternity leave with my third child so I had limited time to devote to it. Parts of the book were written on the back of receipts and paper bags, whatever I had handy at the time. I then used the small breaks I did have in the day to develop those ideas.

I perfected writing in spurts when trying to finish my dissertation in grad school. I was a single mother of two then, with very limited time to research or write. I was forced to learn how to immediately take advantage of free time when it became available, be it a half-hour nap period or early in the morning. Writer’s block is not a term known to single mothers, at least not to me)!

CW: How long did it take you to write the book and find an agent and publisher?

AH: I’d say that the book took about a year to write. The short stories upon which The book is based on short stories I wrote during lunch breaks in my office. I completed the rest of the book on my maternity leave.

CW: And your path to publication was…?

AH: After I completed the first version of A Subtle Thing, I sent it to a few small presses. I received positive feedback from one, but they rejected it. I then learned from my brother Nate (who is also an author) about a fairly new, independent publishing house (Five Rivers Chapmanry.) He encouraged me to send my manuscript to them. The feedback I received from Five Rivers was encouraging. They suggested I lengthen the book and resubmit it.

CW: What’s the most surprising thing you discovered writing this book?

AH: A Subtle Thing struck me as an odd little book, something I thought might be considered too dark, too out of the mainstream for most readers to embrace. Since it’s been published, however, I’ve learned that a lot of people do connect with it. For example, I know of a men’s book club that recently read my novel and gave it positive feedback. I like being surprised!

CW: What were the obstacles you faced getting the book out? 

AH: I guess the biggest challenge now that it’s published is getting exposure for the book, getting the word out. As a previously unpublished, unknown author, this can be really tough. I had assumed all books were on a level playing field with regard to getting book reviews. That’s not necessarily true, which can be frustrating. To me, negative feedback is much better than indifference or silence.

CW: Publishing can be a hard road. Did you doubt yourself along the way? 

AH: I’d say that the hardest part of the publishing process is maintaining your motivation level and belief in yourself in the face of rejection. As a psychologist, I’m used to pretty instant feedback in my work—I learn very quickly if what I’m doing with a client is helping or hindering them. What I most enjoy is hearing feedback from readers. After a lifetime of writing mainly just for me, this is exhilarating.

Sending out manuscripts to publishers is a different beast altogether. For about three years I sent out one manuscript (a memoir) to publishers. I received a number of standard rejection letters, but was able to get over the first “hump” a few times, with the manuscript being sent out to readers. I would then learn several months later that the manuscript had again been rejected. In hindsight, the memoir did need revision. I found the process equal parts discouraging, humbling, and frustrating.

CW: What advice would you give unpublished writers?

AH: My advice would be twofold: be tenacious but also be open to constructive criticism. When a professional writer or publisher has taken the time to actually give me feedback about my writing (rather than a standard rejection letter), I listen. At the same time, what one publisher might not like another could, so writers need to lick their wounds, rework what needs reworking, and then try, try again.

CW: Have changes in the book industry forced you to change how you published or marketed your work?

AH: I am still very naïve when it comes to the book industry so I haven’t changed anything I’ve done. That said, following the advice of my wise publisher, Lorina Stephens, I have done things that, as a fairly shy person, I would not have believed possible, such as blogging and tweeting.

CW: What can you tell us about your next book?

AH: I recently completed a book about childhood female bullying and the impact such aggression has years later. Tentatively called The Bystander, it’s not the story of a victim or a victimizer, but rather that of an observer who, through silence and distancing, may imply tacit approval. I attempt to raise various ethical questions for the reader, including questions related to goodness, accountability, responsibility, and tolerance of differences.

I’ve also just started writing a new story, which may become a book. The main character is an 11-year-old boy who was inadvertently the cause of his twin’s death. We’ll see where that goes.

CW: Thanks telling us about your work, Alicia!

A_Subtle_ThingA Subtle Thing is Alicia’s debut novel, published by Five Rivers Chapmanry Visit their website at http:www.5rivers.org. A Subtle Thing is available at Amazon and www.chapters.indigo.ca.

Find her on Twitter (@AliciaHendley) and visit Alicia’s blog at http://aliciahendley.blogspot.com. 

Filed under: Author profiles, author Q&A, authors, publishing, writing tips, , , , , , ,

Author Profile: Sue Kenney & My Camino

CW: Most authors I speak to know they want to be a writer in childhood. That wasn’t true in your case. Tell us about that. 

SK: After being suddenly downsized from my corporate telecom career, I walked 780 kms on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, a medieval pilgrimage route in Spain on a search to figure out what was important in life. When I came home I started telling stories about my journey. It was during this time that people asked me to write a book. I kept saying I wasn’t a writer. Over time with the encouragement of many people, mostly strangers, I felt it was something I was called to do.

CW: It sounds like your audience found you first and demanded you write about your journey.

My Camino

Sue Kenney

SK: People told me they wanted to read more about what I was thinking about and how my perceptions changed as I walked. The book is the true story of how I confronted my deepest fear. I start talking about the events that led to my decision to walk the Camino and why I went alone in the winter. Then, I tell stories about the people I met, the experiences I had, what I was thinking and how it impacted my perspective on life.

CW: How did you begin?

SK: I researched the Camino’s rich history extensively, the pilgrims (modern and pilgrims of old), miracles and the folklore. I took a course at Ryerson University in creative writing before I wrote my first book. My process was to sit down and write 1000 words a day for 2 months to complete a first draft manuscript of at least 50k words. I was disciplined about keeping to my goal and I met it.

 CW: How long did it take you to find a publisher?

SK: I went to Toronto’s Word on the Street and found three publishers who were interested in my idea. I was asked for a writing sample by one of the publishers but I hadn’t written anything. Fortunately, I had a storytelling CD called Stone by Stone I recorded. I transcribed those stories. Then I picked the longest story and gave it a chapter number and title. I sent it as my writing sample along with a strong marketing plan. White Knight Books agreed to publish My Camino the following year. The whole process took about six months because I was insistent on having the book published quickly and I delivered what was requested by the publisher on time.

CW: What surprised you the most about the writing process?

SK: If I surrendered to writing the truth then I was guided in the process. When I tried to control the process, I had more struggles. Early on, I decided to surrender to the creative process and I was completely surprised that I never experienced writer’s block.

CW: What was your biggest challenge you experienced through this book?

SK: Editing the book was a big challenge and an inspiration. Initially, I wasn’t impressed with the way the publisher edited the book because I felt as though my voice was being changed. He agreed to let me look for another editor. I found Bruce Pirrie. He hadn’t edited a book before, but he was a professional screen/stage/television writer who worked on The Red Green Show. He had also directed several Second City comedy shows. I took a chance on him and it proved to be the right decision. Bruce would give me notes, I’d make the revisions and then he would read it to me out loud.

When I asked him why he wanted to do that he said, “How do you know what it will sound like?” The inspiring part of this story is that I believe as a result of reading the book out loud, it is more visual. This was important when we pitched a screenplay adaptation to Pierre Even, (C.R.A.Z.Y.) a producer in Montreal. The book is now in development as a feature film. Bruce and I co-wrote the screenplay. In five years I went from being an Account Executive in the telecom industry to writing two books, a stage play, a screenplay and recording a storytelling CD.

CW: What was the hardest part of the publishing process for you and what did you most enjoy?

SK: The hardest part was getting the bookstores to keep copies of the books on the shelves. The big box stores want to sell volumes of books and being a first-time author, I didn’t have a well known name.

The part I most enjoyed was doing the book signings and readings. Often authors loathe doing this but I love it. In the first year, I did 54 author events. I gave free stones to people walking by and this always stirred up interesting conversations. When people find out I walked 780 kilometers across the north of Spain alone in the winter they’re intrigued. It took me over two years to become a Canadian bestseller but I never gave up. I believe my life purpose is to tell stories to inspire people on their life journeys. At book events I get to live my life purpose. It doesn’t get better than that!

CW: Any advice would you give unpublished writers?

SK: If people ask you to write your story, do it. Set a goal and write every day until it’s done. NaNoWriMo is a great event to help develop discipline. Don’t worry about getting a publisher or how you are going to sell books. Just get the story down on paper.

CW: Have changes in the book industry altered how you market your work?

SK: It’s easier to market now. I can blog, Facebook, tweet and send out my newsletter with updates. When I wrote a second book about the Camino called Confessions of a Pilgrim, I decided to use a self-publishing house because it gave me everything I needed to get a book on the market quickly and efficiently.  

CW: What’s your next project?

SK: I’m narrating an audiobook version of My Camino this month. This allows me to use my “voice” to share stories, something I’ve wanted to do since the book was published. In January, I’ll be offering a download version of the book on my website www.suekenney.ca initially for FREE co-incident with the launch of my new website. The CD audio book version will be launched on International Woman’s Day on March 8, 2011. I’ve penned the first draft of a novel about a woman who travels to India in search of pure love. I believe there is a correlation to walking and creativity so I walk every day.

CW: Thanks for doing this, Sue.For more on Sue Kenney, go here:



Facebook: My Camino

Filed under: Author profiles, author Q&A, authors, Books, publishing, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , ,

Author Profile: Nate Hendley

Nate Hendley is a Toronto-based author who was born in Connecticut in 1966. He is a full-time journalist and writer and has published

nate hendley

Nate Hendley

over a dozen books, primarily on true-crime topics. He lives with a demanding cat and has a website at www.natehendley.com. You can check out his latest works on the Five Rivers website at http://www.5rivers.org/index1.html

His books: Motivate to Create: A Guide for Writers (Practical tips on how to start up or step up a freelance writing career) & Al Capone: Chicago’s King of Crime (An intimate portrait of America’s most famous gangster)

Previous works by Nate Hendley:

Edwin Alonzo Boyd: The Life and Crimes of Canada’s Master Bank Robber, The Black Donnelly’s: The Outrageous Tale of Canada’s Deadliest Feud, Dutch Schultz: The Beer Baron of the Bronx, John Lennon: Music, Myth and Madness, Crystal Meth, American Gangsters Then and Now: An Encyclopedia, Bonnie and Clyde: A Biography, Jean Chretien: The Scrapper Who Climbed His Way to the Top, William Lyon Mackenzie King: The Loner Who Kept Canada Together

 CW: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?

NH: I was around 10 or so, living in England (where my dad took a year-long sabbatical in 1975-76). I recall I started writing—by hand—a long war story that I ended up calling “Tank Tracks in North Africa”. As might be surmised by the title, it was all about a bunch of guys in a tank fighting Rommel in the desert in World War Two. That’s the first long-form book I recall putting together. I think it ran to something like 50 pages.

CW: Tell us about your book. How did you get the idea?Al_Capone_book[1]

NH: Two books actually. One of them is on Al Capone, the other is about motivation for writers. The Capone book was originally part of a series of gangster tomes I penned for Altitude Publishing, an Alberta-based company that ,alas, is no longer around. When Altitude went belly up, Five Rivers Chapmanry kindly bought some of my Altitude books for republishing.

The second book, Motivate to Create: A Guide for Writers, is a rather drastic revision of a book I initially self-published. Lorina Stephens, publisher at Five Rivers, liked the concept of my book but wasn’t totally excited by the contents. I ended up rewriting quite a bit of the book, making it more professional and taking out a lot of the personal anecdotes that filled my self-published tome. The newly revised book is considerably better than the original, which demonstrates the power of having a good editor crack down on your material.

 The idea for Motivate to Create came from the fact that there is a dearth of info out there on motivation for non-fiction writers. Almost every writers’ motivation book is aimed at creative writing, which is fine, but not what I do. A lot of the existing books seemed very sappy, too—all this crap about “finding and unleashing your inner muse.” I was more concerned with concrete, practical advice that had already been field-tested by other, established writers.

CW: What research was involved in your book’s development?

NH: Researching Al Capone involved reading all the available literature on the man (which is quite considerable) and tracking down newspaper and magazine articles from the period in which he lived. I was pleased to be able to correct certain falsehoods about Capone that have been perpetuated throughout the years. He was never a national crime boss, for example. He controlled the Chicago underworld but certainly didn’t control organized crime across America.

For Motivate, I queried various writer friends and acquaintances and used some of their quotes throughout. The rest of the material was thought up by me.

 CW: Do you have any formal training in writing?

 NH: I went to journalism school after finishing university. I never actually completed J-school, having failed desk-top publishing three times in a row. Anyway, journalism school taught me the nuts and bolts of news and feature writing and was an invaluable experience.

 CW: What is your writing process?

I don’t really have a writing process. One of the tips I offer in Motivate to Create is not to get too precious about your writing time (i.e. “I only write when the golden sun rises from the horizon and the muse dances upon my forehead”). When I have a writing project to do, I just sit down and do it.

CW: How long did it take you to write the book and find an agent and publisher?

NH: Capone took about a year to put together (research, writing, editing.) Motivate was spread over a longer period because I essentially rewrote the book when Five Rivers purchased it. Self-publishing is a pain in the butt so I am glad that a real publisher took the book over. I still have about 30 copies of the original book sitting around my apartment. Unless you’re really interested in marketing and promotion, I would not recommend self-publication.

 CW: What’s the most surprising thing you discovered in writing this book?

motivate_to_create[1]NH: Can’t really think of any. I was pleasantly surprised at the number of freelance writers willing to respond to a general questionnaire I sent around for Motivate to Create.

CW: What was the biggest disappointment you experienced through this book? 

NH: The biggest disappointment was that I didn’t get fabulously wealthy through self-publishing. I thought orders would come flowing like a river. More like a trickle from a tiny pond.

CW: What was the hardest part of the publishing process? What did you most enjoy?

NH: Research and editing are by far the hardest part of the publishing process. Writing is the most enjoyable. When you self-publish, doing all the promotion and marketing is the hardest part.

CW: What advice would you give unpublished writers?

 As Creedence Clearwater Revival once expressed it so well, “keep on chooglin’.” In other words, just keep at it. Practise doesn’t necessarily make perfect but it does make you more professional.

CW: Have changes in the book industry forced you to change how you published or marketed your work?

NH: Yes. Thanks to websites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn I can do more to promote my wares online.

CW: What’s your next book project and what can you tell us about it?

NH: I’m revising a book about the drug methamphetamine for Five Rivers. It is a revamped version of a book I initially did for Altitude that came out in 2005. The new version has new interviews and updated statistics.

CW: Thanks for doing this, Nate! You can follow Nate on twitter at http://twitter.com/natehendley or email me at nhendley@sympatico.ca . The Five Rivers site is located at http://www.5rivers.org/. Best to check the Five Rivers site for any info on upcoming book signings.

Filed under: Author profiles, author Q&A, authors, Books, publishing, writing tips, , , , , ,

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