Dolen Perkins-Valdez is the author of Wench, a debut novel to be published by Amistad/HarperCollins on January 5, 2010. Her fiction and essays have appeared in The Kenyon Review, StoryQuarterly, African American Review, PMS: PoemMemoirStory, North Carolina Literary Review, Richard Wright Newsletter, and SLI: Studies in Literary Imagination. She is a 2009 finalist for the Robert Olen Butler Fiction Award. A graduate of Harvard and a former University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellow, Dolen splits her time between Seattle and Washington, DC. Learn more about Wench at http://www.dolenperkinsvaldez.com, http://dolen.blogspot.com, or http://twitter.com/dolen.
Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Dolen. Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?
Wench is my first book-length publication. I have previously published short fiction and academic essays.
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 was fortunate enough to sell my novel to the first mainstream publisher who received it. Having said that, I was rejected by several agents before I found one who was interested.
Q: How did the rejections make you feel and what did you do to overcome the blows?
They made me more determined to succeed! How did I overcome the blows? Lots of wine.
Q: When your first book was published, who published it and why did you choose them?
My first book is being published by Amistad/HarperCollins. I was thrilled to have them publish the novel because I am such a great admirer of other books they have published. Edward P. Jones’ The Known World and All Aunt Hagar’s Children. Ravi Howard’s Like Trees Walking. William Henry Lewis’ I Got Somebody in Staunton.
Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?
I celebrated over dinner with my husband. It was a great feeling of accomplishment. I have worked very hard for a long time with little return. It is gratifying.
Q: What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?
I began to Facebook and Twitter regularly.
Q: If you had to do it over again, would you have chosen another route to be published?
No. I don’t even know another route. There is a great deal of luck in the publishing business.
Q: Have you been published since then and how have you grown as an author?
My first novel will be released January 5, 2010. I hope to publish more in the future. I would like to become a better short story writer. I am always growing and learning.
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 there is any way to speed things up. I had a baby during those years and that slowed me down a bit. Would I change that? Of course not!! Actually, I would say the biggest thing I have learned is to be more patient.
Q: If you could have chosen another profession, what would that profession be?
Without a doubt, I would be a jazz pianist. I crave music so badly it hurts to listen to it sometimes. I am absolutely positive that I was a musician in another life.
Q: Would you give up being an author for that profession or have you combined the best of both worlds?
I would love to do both. Wouldn’t that be fun?
Q: How do you see yourself in ten years?
I hope that I have accomplished a small, but admirable body of work in ten years. That is my goal.
Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?
Hang in there. Believe in yourself even when nobody else does.