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Interview with Garasamo Maccagnone, Author of ‘Sentiments of Blue’

Garasamo Maccagnone studied writing in the 80’s at Western Michigan University and Wayne State. He is the author of the well known novel, St. John of the Midfield, the Christmas novella, For the Love of St. Nick, and the collection of stories entitled, My Dog Tim: and other stories. Maccagnone’s latest release, Sentiments of Blue, is a collection of five poems and five stories.

You can visit Garasamo online at http://garasamomaccagnone.com/. You can view a video trailer for Sentiments of Blue at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d6Tgw6Ui4LQ

Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Garasamo. Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?

I’ve written and published, The Suburban Dragon, which is a children’s book,  St. John of the Midfield, For the Love of St. Nick, My Dog Tim: and other stories, and Sentiments of Blue.

Q:  What was the name of your very first book regardless of whether it was published or not and, if not published, why?

I published The Suburban Dragon in 1994. A local publisher, who liked the story, had 10,000 copies printed. I went around to local schools and sold the book. The kids loved it.

Q: For your first published book, how many rejections did you go through before you either found a mainstream publisher, self-published it, or paid a vanity press to publish it?

In all cases, related to complete works of mine, I assumed the works would be of little interest to mainstream publishers so I sought out avenues to publish on my own. As a young writer, I had sent short stories out to various magazines and had them all returned. The process was so time consuming and costly. I decided to just work for myself.

Q:  How did the rejections make you feel and what did you do to overcome the blows?

To give you an example about publishers, I’ll use The Suburban Dragon to give you an idea of how chancy this business is. Twenty years ago, I wrote the book. Kids who read it in their classrooms, used to send me pictures of their interpretations. I have stacks of them at my house.  The book was well received by critics and sold countless copies in the Midwest. A few years back, I sent the book to a mainstream publisher to see if they had any interest in a larger distribution and they sent it back without any interest. I’m not sure they even opened my package.

Here’s a book with a twenty-year track record and no one will look at it. You just have accept it and move on.

Q:  How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

Since The Suburban Dragon was a hit with all the kids, I was at peace with myself. I’m not sure I actually celebrated when the publisher first sent over the book though I’m sure I took my wife and kids out for dinner, since they were the inspiration for the story.

 Q:  What was the first thing you did as far as promotion when you were published for the first time?

My illustrator and I used to go to the schools and do a skit for the kids about the dragon. I would talk to the kids about not being afraid of dragons while he put on a dragon’s head and crept behind me. The kids thought it was so funny.

Q:  If you had to do it over again, would you have chosen another route to be published?

No. The course I’ve taken, allows me freedom. I’m not bound to anyone.

Q:  Have you been published since then and how have you grown as an author?

I’ve been published many times as I told you earlier. As an author, I’ve tried to diversify my portfolio to an extent, writing in different genres for the sake of curiosity, and for the sake of being challenged.

Q: Looking back since the early days when you were trying to get published, what do you think you could have done differently to speed things up? What kind of mistakes could you have avoided?

Back in the old days, only professors with a patronage published, and they were usually by small university print houses. I would have had to teach for ten years, get tenure, kiss the butt of my department head, before even getting a chance to see my work in print. Then, I would have had to read my stuff at small gatherings, libraries, coffee shops, dope dens – the beatnik circuit.  That wasn’t for me.

In the early days, I should have worked with better editors. I’ve learned that in all cases, regardless of the publisher or the marketing of the book, the most important relationship is between the writer and the editor.

Q:  What has been the biggest accomplishment you have achieved since being published?

I like when I receive correspondences from overseas about a book of mine. It’s nice to know someone from another country is enjoying your work.

Q:   If you could have chosen another profession, what would that profession be?

I’d have like to been a professional baseball player.

Q:  Would you give up being an author for that profession or have you combined the best of both worlds?

I’ve been a copy writer, broadcast engineer, business owner, CEO, coach, and teacher through this whirlwind of a life as a writer.  Though I’ve held various other jobs, I always think of myself as a writer.  I do see myself as having the best of both worlds.

Q:  How do you see yourself in ten years?

Fatter.

Interviewer’s comment: Come on.

You asked. Seriously, I’ll be doing the same as now. I like to mix in real life work as I write. It helps authenticate the characters I create. You must know them to write about them.

Q:  Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

Concentrate on your content. We don’t need anymore junk out there. Make sure you hire an editor that doesn’t coo in your ear. If you’re hyper-sensitive to criticism, get out now.

Interview with Nancy Stewart, Author of ‘One Pelican at a Time’

After having been both an elementary school teacher and a university professor of education, Nancy Stewart now writes full time. She, her husband and three sons, lived in London for eight years, where she was a consultant to several universities, including Cambridge. She travels extensively throughout the world, most particularly Africa. Nancy is the US chair of a charity in Lamu, Kenya, that places girls in intermediate schools to allow them to further their education. She and her family live in St. Louis and Clearwater Beach, Florida.

You can find Nancy online at www.nancystewartbooks.com/ and at her blog at http://nancystewartbooks.blogspot.com/. She is also on Facebook and Twitter.

Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Nancy.  Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published? 

One Pelican at a Time is my first book to be published, although it is one of three Bella and Britt books in a series of three.  They are all published by Guardian Angel Publishing, and all will be out this year.

Q: What was the name of your very first book regardless of whether it was published or not and, if not published, why? 

My first book, I Held You on the Day You Were Born, was written five years ago as a gift to my new granddaughter, Leah.  It wasn’t published for a couple of reasons.  It was my first offering, and I really didn’t know much about the publishing business.  I didn’t have a platform and began querying too soon.

Q: For your first published book, how many rejections did you go through before you either found a mainstream publisher, self-published it, or paid a vanity press to publish it?

The strange thing is that I wrote to only two houses for One Pelican at a Time, and both accepted it!

Q: How did the rejections make you feel and what did you do to overcome the blows?

I’ve had many rejections over the past four years.  I deal with them by just continuing to write, honing my craft and not looking back.  If I may, I’ll share something that just happened to me that illustrates what I’ve said.  About three years ago, I got a form letter back from a very well known NYC agent.  On the letter, he hand wrote something like, “Never submit anything else to me.”  That was not fun.  About a month ago, I got a request from this same guy to friend him on Facebook!  Needless to say, he’s not my friend, but it is all about platform and honing your craft.

Q: When your first book was published, who published it and why did you choose them?

After much deliberation, I went with Guardian Angel Publishing, a mainstream house, for a couple of reasons. And they’re important ones. First, Guardian Angel is so pro-active with the new technology of books, eBooks, etc.  Second, I just liked the culture of it.  It’s a terrific house and I’m pleased with them.

Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

It was an amazing feeling, and I was much more thrilled than I ever thought I’d be.  As it turned out, my son was home from England where he works, so my husband, he and I had a wonderful dinner at Sugo’s, our favorite St. Louis restaurant, and it was incredibly festive!

Q: What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?

I am fortunate to be in a wonderful critique group, and as it turned out, five of us all got contracts within a week of each other!  One of our group organized newspaper releases all over the area for us, and that helped so much.  I have my own media release and have used it many times as well.

Q: If you had to do it over again, would you have chosen another route to be published?

Absolutely not.  Nothing different.

Q: Have you been published since then and how have you grown as an author?

As I mentioned, I have two other books in the series coming out this year and am working on another book for Guardian Angel at the present.  I don’t think there’s room here to discuss how I’ve grown.  (That tells you something about how much I had to learn from the early days!)  I’ve grown tremendously in self-confidence as a writer.  For me, that took time.  I feel I have found my voice as an author, and I know what kinds of books I do best.

Q: Looking back since the early days when you were trying to get published, what do you think you could have done differently to speed things up?  What kind of mistakes could you have avoided?

Two words:  querying and platform.  Early on, I would finish the manuscript and quickly send the poor, half baked thing off to an agent or publishing house.  Second, well, there’s that platform thing again.  I had no experience in the publishing world and thought it wouldn’t make a difference.  I was wrong. I joined a critique group and began attending SCBWI conferences, both locally and nationally, built a web site and a blog and began to be noticed in the publishing world.

Q: What has been the biggest accomplishment you have achieved since becoming published?

I think it has to be having been an author presenter at the Illinois Reading Council Conference last week.  It is a huge conference with about 3500 people in attendance.  I spoke on Kids’ Saving Their Planet.  I also had the distinct honor of meeting Jane Yolen and spending a bit of time with her.  (Actually, I blogged about that experience.) 

Q: If you could have chosen another profession, what would that profession be?

I’ve already been a teacher, university professor of education, a management consultant, both in the US and London.  I have to tell you, though, this is the best profession of all for me, and I’d never go back.

Q: Would you give up being an author for that profession or have you combined the best of both worlds?

All those professions mentioned above prepared me for the writing I’m doing now. I’ve also been able to travel almost the entire world, meet many new people and that is such valuable fodder for the mind and for the pen.   

Q: How do you see yourself in ten years?

Well, writing.  I hope, as all authors do, to have quite a number of books to my credit.  I also want to still have the creativity to write good books and to make a difference in the world.  What else would one want?

Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

Persevere.  It’s the only way to do it.  As a very good author friend said to me when I began this adventure, “The only way to do it, is to do it.  There’s no shortcut.”  And he was absolutely right!

Interview with James Livingston: ‘…be sure to enjoy what you do.’

James D. Livingston’s professional career was in physics, first at GE and later at MIT, and most of his writings in the 20th century were in physics, including one popular-science book (Driving Force: The Natural Magic of Magnets, Harvard, 1996). As he gradually moved into retirement in the 21st century, he began to broaden his writing topics into American history, a long-time interest of his. His latest book in this genre is Arsenic and Clam Chowder: Murder in Gilded Age New York. This and his earlier books are described on his Author’s Guild website, www.jamesdlivingston.net.

Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Jim.  Can you start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?

First, thanks to you for hosting me in this interview. I’ve had three other books published before the latest one, two in science and one in history.

Q: What was the name of your very first book regardless of whether it was published or not and, if not published, why?

My first published book was Driving Force: The Natural Magic of Magnets (Harvard, 1996), a popular-science book.

Q: For your first published book, how many rejections did you go through before you either found a mainstream publisher, self-published it, or paid a vanity press to publish it?

I first tried commercial presses, and received over a dozen rejections. But as soon as I decided to try university presses, Harvard expressed interest immediately, and I had a contract within a couple of weeks. 

Q: How did the rejections make you feel and what did you do to overcome the blows?

Each rejection was certainly a downer, but I persevered, reminding myself that many famous books first received many rejections. And all the rejections make you feel even better when you do finally land a contract. You realize you’ve really accomplished something.

Q: When your first book was published, who published it and why did you choose them? 

Harvard University Press published it. Once I decided to approach university presses, Harvard was my first choice, partly because I have a degree from Harvard and partly because they are in Cambridge and I was working in Cambridge at MIT. It was easy to meet with the editor, and I got a couple of free lunches that way! And the name Harvard on the book cover seems to carry some weight.

Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

It felt great, and my wife and I celebrated with a bottle of champagne. But I have to confess that we used to drink champagne once a week whether or not we had anything to celebrate.

Q: What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?

The book was a popular science book about magnets. I had previously helped a company that made refrigerator magnets, and they provided me with a few hundred fridge magnets carrying the cover of my book. I used those for direct mail to many people and many companies in the magnet business. Back in 1996, I concentrated on targeted direct mail and traditional media, but today it is equally if not more important to do web marketing. This on-line interview with you today is part of my web marketing for my latest book, Arsenic and Clam Chowder.

Q: If you had to do it over again, would you have chosen another route to be published?

No, that route eventually worked well. Driving Force ended up with about 30 reviews, including one in The New York Times that probably sold the most books. The book sold very well by university press standards, and now, 14 years later, is still selling a few hundred copies a year.

Q: Have you been published since then and how have you grown as an author?

Since Driving Force, I’ve published an undergraduate textbook and two books in history. My professional career was in physics, and for the first 40 years, I published a lot in science, writing mostly for other scientists. Driving Force was the first where I aimed for a general audience. That was good practice for my two history books, A Very Dangerous Woman (2004, with my wife as co-author) and my latest book, Arsenic and Clam Chowder: Murder in Gilded Age New York (2010). They’re both aimed at a general audience. So I’ve grown in the breadth of the topics of my books, and in the size of the audience I’m writing for.

Q: Looking back since the early days when you were trying to get published, what do you think you could have done differently to speed things up?  What kind of mistakes could you have avoided?

Fortunately, I never depended on my writing for the bulk of my income. So, I didn’t have to feel myself a failure if my books didn’t reach the bestseller lists and earn lots of money. I might have done better if I had hired a PR firm, but didn’t want to spend the money.

Q: What has been the biggest accomplishment you have achieved since becoming published?

I considered each of my books a major accomplishment at the time, but I am currently proudest of my latest, Arsenic and Clam Chowder: Murder in Gilded Age New York. It centers on a sensational murder trial of the 1890s, but also provides a window into the fascinating wider world of Gilded Age New York. It’s a great story in a great setting. 

Q: If you could have chosen another profession, what would that profession be?

My professional career was in science, over 30 years in research with GE and about 20 years of teaching at MIT. Writing was an important part of both those jobs, but it is only in full retirement that my major activity has been writing. It’s fortunate that I now have pensions from both GE and MIT, and don’t have to rely on the royalties from book sales to survive. I couldn’t live on my book royalties, but they help cover my gas money.

Q: Would you give up being an author for that profession or have you combined the best of both worlds?

During my science career, I was an author of over 150 articles in scientific journals, book chapters, and encyclopedia entries, plus two books. So I was both an author and a scientist. Communication is important in all professions, including science. Now that I have retired from full-time science, I can focus more on writing, some in science and some in history, my two major interests.

Q: How do you see yourself in ten years?

I just turned 80, and life-expectancy statistics suggest that I probably won’t be here ten years from now. If I am, I probably won’t still be writing books. But I may still be busy trying to market the great book I published when I was 80, Arsenic and Clam Chowder.

Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

Until you are lucky and strike it rich with a blockbuster best seller, you should have another career that can provide you with sufficient income to allow you to have fun writing on the side. And be sure to enjoy what you do.

Interview with Jon Katz: ‘Don’t quit. Writing is as much about determination as anything…’

 

Jon Katz lives on Bedlam Farm in upstate New York with his wife, the artist Maria Wulf, his four dogs, Izzy, Lenore, Rose and Frieda, his donkeys Lulu and Fanny and his two barn cats, Mother and Minnie. He is an author, a children’s book writer, and a photographer. Rose In A Storm is his first novel in a decade. His first children’s book, Meet The Dogs Of Bedlam Farm will be published next spring.

You can visit Jon Katz’s site at www.bedlamfarm.com.

 Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Jon. Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?

Rose In A Storm is my nineteenth book.

Q: What was the name of your very first book regardless of whether it was published or not and, if not published, why?

Sign Off, a novel, took me five years to write and was published by Bantam Books.

Q: For your first published book, how many rejections did you go through before you either found a mainstream publisher, self-published it, or paid a vanity press to publish it?

I couldn’t count. Probably a dozen major rejections and as many smaller ones.

Q: How did the rejections make you feel and what did you do to overcome the blows?

I didn’t see them as “blows” but as opportunities to come back and succeed. Criticism is not an attack, it’s an honest response to work, and it is much more helpful than praise, though not as much fun. I was determined to be a writer, and determination is, to me, as important as talent. If you want to be a writer, you will have to handle a lot of rejection. If you can’t, then you almost certainly can’t be a writer. You won’t survive it. Rejection is healthy. It makes us listen and grow. And learn.
I studied all of the rejections, absorbed them, licked my wounds and went back to work.

Q: When your first book was published, who published it and why did you choose them?

Bantam Books was my publisher, and my agent chose them.

Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

It made me want to write the next book, which I started working on the day I hear about the first one being accepted. That was my celebration, and a good one. I’m not into the drama of writing. It’s work, and you have to do it every day.

Q: What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?

Some interviews and some book signings.

Q: If you had to do it over again, would you have chosen another route to be published?

No. It happens the way it happens.

Q: Have you been published since then and how have you grown as an author?

Yes, I have been, and I grow every day. I have good editors who give me good and tough feedback and I always appreciate it. If I ever think I have made it as a writer and can’t better, I’ll be finished. I can’t list all the ways I’ve grown – there are too many. And I have a long ways to go.

Q: Looking back since the early days when you were trying to get published, what do you think you could have done differently to speed things up? What kind of mistakes could you have avoided?

I don’t think that’s answerable, really. Writing is, in most ways, a series of mistakes overcome, and there are continuous mistakes in every book, which good editors spot, challenge and help you fix.

Sane people get regular work that pays each week. Crazy people write, or become artists.

The mistakes are the book in so many ways. The idea that you can write a book without making any mistakes is unfathomable to me. The only way to write is to write. And keep writing. I wouldn’t want to speed it up. It happens the way it happens, alas.

Q: What has been the biggest accomplishment you have achieved since becoming published?

Getting published. I make my living as a writer, and that is tough thing to do. I write every day, as often as I can. I love doing it, and am nothing but grateful. I think loving what you do is perhaps one of the greatest achievements in life.

Q: If you could have chosen another profession, what would that profession be?

Photography. Another way to tell stories, and I am now a professional photographer so I get to do both.

Q: Would you give up being an author for that profession or have you combined the best of both worlds?

No, I love writing and will always define myself that way.

Q: How do you see yourself in ten years?

No idea. I hope I am writing. I expect to be writing e-books.

Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

I wish you luck and happiness. I hope you keep on writing in the face of many economic challenges, great competition, and a constantly changing market. Don’t quit. Writing is as much about determination as anything, and if you look out at the writers who are getting published, you will find that most of them are quite willful. Live your life, and do not let anyone tell you it’s impossible or too difficult.

Interview with Cheryl C. Malandrinos: ‘Set goals and work hard to achieve them.’

Cheryl Malandrinos is a freelance writer and editor. A regular contributor for Writer2Writer, her articles focus on increasing productivity through time management and organization. A founding member of Musing Our Children, Ms. Malandrinos is also Editor in Chief of the group’s quarterly newsletter, Pages & Pens.     

Cheryl is a Tour Coordinator for Pump Up Your Book, a book reviewer, and blogger. Little Shepherd is her first children’s book. Ms. Malandrinos lives in Western Massachusetts with her husband and two young daughters. She also has a son who is married. 

You can visit Cheryl online at http://ccmalandrinos.com or the Little Shepherd blog at http://littleshepherdchildrensbook.blogspot.com/

 

Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Cheryl.  Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?

Thanks for hosting me today. Little Shepherd is my first published book, though I have had several time management articles published as a regular contributor for Writer2Writer.

Q: What was the name of your very first book regardless of whether it was published or not and, if not published, why?

The first completed manuscript I wrote was titled, The Sisterhood. It tells the story of three sisters who grew up as rivals, but who are forced to pull together when the youngest sister is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. I co-wrote it with my sister. We’re hoping to make time to edit it and see it published one day.

Q: For your first published book, how many rejections did you go through before you either found a mainstream publisher, self-published it, or paid a vanity press to publish it?

Little Shepherd was accepted by the first publishing house I submitted it to. I performed market research to help me know what kinds of books they were publishing, reading and reviewing several Guardian Angel Publishing titles, before submitting my manuscript to them. 

Q: How did the rejections make you feel and what did you do to overcome the blows?

While Little Shepherd was not rejected, I did experience rejection as a writer of magazine articles. I put together articles on parenting, women’s health issues, and gardening, but national magazines weren’t biting.

I think the fastest rejection came within a week of me submitting my query. That one stung for a bit.

Q: When your first book was published, who published it and why did you choose them? 

Little Shepherd was released by Guardian Angel Publishing (GAP). It is a small press owned and operated by Lynda S. Burch. I learned about GAP when one of their authors queried me for a book review. I was impressed by the total package: imaginative storytelling, stunning artwork, and a quality book that all these years later is still in one piece after many hands have flipped its pages. I began seeking out titles from other GAP authors to review and never found a bad apple in the basket.

While the idea for Little Shepherd came to me earlier than my introduction to GAP, when I sat down to write my story, I thought of everything I liked about GAP’s books and wrote it in that fashion. The polished version of the manuscript was accepted by Guardian Angel Publishing after some additional edits.

Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

On top of the world, over the moon, you know the regular type of feelings I bet most first time authors experience. I had dreamed of being a writer since childhood and now my dream was coming true.

Q: What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?

You mean other than emailing everyone I know, tweeting, and posting on Facebook about it? I feel so bad for my family and friends because I’m not a shy author. I work in the online world, so most of my promotional efforts have been online. I changed up my website, posted announcements on all my blogs, started a new blog just for the book, and began planning my two-and-a-half month virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book.

I also have local events planned in October and November.

Q: If you had to do it over again, would you have chosen another route to be published?

The only thing I would change is that I would try to find a way to have done this ten years ago. My lifestyle didn’t really allow for that at the time. I was newly married, working fulltime, with a teenager at home and baby on the way.

Other than that, I’m happy with how things turned out.

Q: Have you been published since then and how have you grown as an author?

I have a manuscript I am hoping to pitch to a publisher at this year’s Muse Online Writers Conference and I also have another work in progress about twelve chapters in. I’m waiting to hear back from a client on a ghostwriting project too, so I’ll be busy.

I’ve spent time honing my craft by participating in critique groups. Blogging regularly helps me to be a better self-editor, though I still edit others’ work better than my own. If this ghostwriting project comes to fruition it will be the first time I’ve tackled something of this nature, but I hope that will lead to additional work.

Q: Looking back since the early days when you were trying to get published, what do you think you could have done differently to speed things up?  What kind of mistakes could you have avoided?

I don’t know that I could have speed things up. I spent many years as a single parent and worked fulltime until 2004 when I quit to stay home with the children and tried to carve out a writing career. Perhaps I could have been a bit more persistent in those earlier years, but my girls were little and I had to focus on them. Now that they are in school during the day, I feel okay with spending that time writing and promoting my virtual book tour clients.

As for mistakes, when I began pitching to magazine markets I wasn’t as diligent in my market research as I am now.

Q: What has been the biggest accomplishment you have achieved since becoming published?

I am sitting on two panels at the Write Angles Conference in October. Along with several others, I’ll be discussing how to launch your book into cyberspace and how to make time to write. 

Q: If you could have chosen another profession, what would that profession be?

I love my job as a virtual book tour coordinator for Pump Up Your Book. It has allowed me to find some fabulous authors I might never have heard of otherwise. Many of my clients have become good friends.

When I was a child I wanted to be a teacher or a writer. As a mom I’ll always be a teacher, and I’m also a writer, so I feel blessed.

Q: Would you give up being an author for that profession or have you combined the best of both worlds?

Right now I have the best of both worlds, so I’m happy. 

Q: How do you see yourself in ten years?

Still promoting great books online and hopefully having several more books with my name on them available for sale.

Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

If God has graced you with the gift of words, you should do your best to develop that gift and look for opportunities to use it. It requires discipline to carve out time for writing amongst your other responsibilities, but if you feel called to do it, don’t ignore it. Set goals and work hard to achieve them. If it’s meant to be, it will happen.

Interview with Jackie M. Johnson: ‘Getting rid of fear and believing in yourself really helps.’

Jackie M. Johnson is an author and freelance writer. Her first book, Power Prayers for Women, has touched the lives of nearly 200,000 readers. When Love Ends and the Ice Cream Carton is Empty, a helpful resource for singles who need healing from a relationship breakup, was released in May 2010. She has also written articles, poetry, and hundreds of devotionals. A native of Milwaukee, Jackie lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Visit her encouragement blog, A New Day Café, at anewdaycafe.blogspot.com or website at http://www.jackiejohnsoncreative.com/

Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Jackie.  Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?

A: It’s good to be here. I’ve written two books: Power Prayers for Women (Barbour Publishing) was released in 2007, and When Love Ends and the Ice Cream Carton is Empty (Moody Publishing) came out in May 2010.

Q: What was the name of your very first book regardless of whether it was published or not and, if not published, why?

A: My first book was Power Prayers for Women. The publisher chose the name, as it often goes, but it packs a punch in four words.

Q: For your first published book, how many rejections did you go through before you either found a mainstream publisher, self-published it, or paid a vanity press to publish it?

A: My first book was published by a mainstream publisher. I had a few rejections. 

Q: How did the rejections make you feel and what did you do to overcome the blows?

A: Sure, you feel a bit discouraged. But I’m always hopeful. I have a lot of passion and tenacity, and I believe that every “no” brings you one step closer to your final “yes.”

Q: When your first book was published, who published it and why did you choose them? 

A: Basically, I sent letters to a number of publishers I was interested in working with (this was before you needed an agent to get a publishers attention) and I collaborated with the one who wanted to work with me. Power Prayers for Women was published by Barbour Publishing in Ohio. They have an excellent reputation in the industry for high quality work, integrity, and distribution success.

Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

A: Elated! Being a published author was a lifelong goal, so I was very happy when I got the phone call for my first book deal. I celebrated by going out for dinner with close friends. They brought me balloons, flowers, and cards—and shared my joy!

Q: What was the first thing you did as far as promotion when you were published for the first time?

A: I called a local radio station and booked an interview. Every May there is a National Day of Prayer in America, so I asked the station manager if he’d be interested in doing an interview since the topic of my book was prayer.

Q: If you had to do it over again, would you have chosen another route to be published?

A: No. Things seemed to be working well on the path I’ve taken.

Q: Have you been published since then and how have you grown as an author?

A: Yes, my second book When Love Ends and the Ice Cream Carton is Empty just came out in May. I feel I’ve grown in my writing because I’ve learned to write “tighter” and say things more succinctly. Editors have helped me grow, too, because they encourage you to use the best word possible (“be specific, not generic”) and to get to your point quickly. I think it’s always wise to polish your writing craft and desire to become a better writer.

Q: Looking back since the early days when you were trying to get published, what do you think you could have done differently to speed things up?  What kind of mistakes could you have avoided?

A: Getting rid of fear and believing in yourself really helps. I would have sent letters to publishers sooner. Years ago I didn’t have the confidence that I was good enough; now I know better. If you have something to say, and can present it well, then you need to just get out there and pursue publication. Have courage and press on!

Q: What has been the biggest accomplishment you have achieved since becoming published?

A: I’m certainly pleased with achieving nearly 200,000 in sales for my first book. But touching the lives of readers is what really gets me. Like the young woman in India who wrote to let me know how much my book helped her. Or, the woman on FaceBook who said that she’d only read the Introduction but already she was reduced to tears because the book was speaking to her need.

Q: If you could have chosen another profession, what would that profession be?

A: I would own a large spa in a resort location (perhaps by the ocean), oversee the work, and find joy in people coming to it weary and leaving replenished.

Q: Would you give up being an author for that profession or have you combined the best of both worlds?

A: Interesting idea to combine both worlds.  I am an author. For now, I will go to spas not run them. 

Q: How do you see yourself in ten years?

A: Content. Joyful. Connected with people who are life-giving and hope-filled, like me.

Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

A: Yes. Persevere. Hone your craft. Strive to be a better writer. Go to writer’s conferences. Join writer’s groups and get feedback. Write what you love. Believe in your dream. Have courage and lots of tenacity. You know what they say, “Success happens when Preparation meets Opportunity.” So, go get ready!

Beyond the Books with Historical Novelist J.M. Hochstetler

J. M. Hochstetler graduated from Indiana University with a degree in Germanic languages. She was an editor with Abingdon Press for twelve years and has published four novels. Joan is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Christian Authors Network, Middle Tennessee Christian Writers, Nashville Christian Writers Association, and Historical Novels Society. She and her husband, a retired pastor with the United Methodist Church, live near Nashville, Tennessee.

You can visit Joan online at www.jmhochstetler.com or at this book’s blog http://americanpatriotseries.blogspot.com.

Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Joan. Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?

A: I have published four novels. Daughter of Liberty, Native Son, and Wind of the Spirit, the first three books of the critically acclaimed American Patriot Series, are set during the American Revolution. One Holy Night, a retelling of the Christmas story set in modern times, is the 2009 Christian Small Publishers Fiction Book of the Year and was a finalist in the 2009 American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year contest.

Q: What was the name of your very first book regardless of whether it was published or not and, if not published, why?

A: The title is Falkenberg. It’s an epic medieval tragedy set in Europe during the time of the Holy Roman Empire, and it hasn’t been published. When I finished it, I submitted it a number of places and got a bunch of rejects. Meanwhile I was working on my next project, so I shelved it and moved on. I am going to resurrect it someday, though, and see if I can’t get it published. It’s a powerful story. I believe in it and I’d love to see it in readers’ hands.

Q: For your first published book, how many rejections did you go through before you either found a mainstream publisher, self-published it, or paid a vanity press to publish it?

A: Daughter of Liberty was rejected by just about every Christian publisher and a number of secular publishers before Zondervan finally accepted it.

Q: How did the rejections make you feel and what did you do to overcome the blows?

A: It never feels good to get a rejection. With every one you really question whether you’ll ever be good enough to succeed. There were a lot of times when I felt that I’d reached a dead end and should simply quit. And there were long periods when I didn’t write or wrote only sporadically. One thing that helped me the most in persisting was joining American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). That enabled me to develop a circle of writer friends who understood what I was going through and kept on encouraging me. I also finally admitted that writing is as natural as breathing to me. I held onto faith that I was called to do what I was doing, that there was a greater purpose in my work, and that the right doors would open at the right time.

Q: When your first book was published, who published it and why did you choose them?

A: I really didn’t choose them—they chose me. My agent submitted my proposal to Zondervan, and they made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.

Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

A: I was on top of the world, that’s for sure! I told everybody I knew, and then threw a party at a local venue.

Q: What was the first thing you did as far as promotion when you were published for the first time?

A: I made contacts with all the local news media and churches and sent out a bunch of promotional mailings.

Q: If you had to do it over again, would you have chosen another route to be published?

A: No. Although my first experience ended up not being a good one, it was a tremendous learning experience. I benefited from it.

Q: Have you been published since then and how have you grown as an author?

A: Subsequent volumes in my series are scheduled to release in the next few years. Crucible of War is next up and releases in 2011.

I feel that I’ve become stronger at the craft of writing and have developed a more distinct voice and style. As I’ve gotten older, I find myself thinking more deeply about life, which I think is typical of most of us. I have insights—and questions—I didn’t have in my younger days. I think that reflects in my stories.

Q: Looking back since the early days when you were trying to get published, what do you think you could have done differently to speed things up? What kind of mistakes could you have avoided?

A: Attending more writers conferences would have helped a lot. It would have allowed me to make direct contacts with editors and agents while learning the craft and the business. If I’d been able to find a writers group in my area, I’d have grown as a writer more quickly. Looking back on it, I also wish I’d done more careful market research and persisted in sending out those proposals instead of setting the project aside and moving on to a new one after I got a few rejections. I’m convinced I would have gotten a contract sooner if I’d kept at it.

I made some of the typical mistakes new writers make in paying for a critique by an agent and paying another agent up-front money to take me on. Don’t ever do that! Once I joined ACFW and got on the e-mail loop, I learned a lot of things that helped me to avoid subsequent pitfalls.

Q: What has been the biggest accomplishment you have achieved since becoming published?

A: Founding my own small press, Sheaf House Publishers is undoubtedly the biggest one. Now I can see things from the other side of the fence, and that has informed my own writing. I also have the privilege of publishing some truly excellent authors who inspire me to work even harder.

Q: If you could have chosen another profession, what would that profession be?

A: Something in the field of art or interior design. Or maybe archaeology.

Q: Would you give up being an author for that profession or have you combined the best of both worlds?

A: I really think I have the best of both worlds. I can incorporate all those elements in my stories, and I have total control over!

Q: How do you see yourself in ten years?

A: By then I hope to have most of my American Patriot Series published, and I’ll be on to some projects that have been lying about for a while, including Falkenberg. And Sheaf House will be prospering.

Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

A: Never give up. If all the doors slam in your face, find a way to make your own door. If Plan A doesn’t succeed, try Plan B and C and D and on and on. The race doesn’t always go to the swift. But it always goes to those who persist.

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