Alice J. Wisler writes from her home in Durham, NC. Along with her novels, Rain Song and How Sweet It Is (with two more currently on the way), she teaches Writing the Heartache grief-writing workshops, designs and sells empathy/remembrance cards, and speaks at various conferences and book events. She loves to cook, and her favorite foods are tempura and sushi, thanks to her missionary kid up-bringing in Japan. Visit her website: http://www.alicewisler.com.
Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Alice. Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?
I currently have two Southern inspirational fiction novels out—Rain Song and How Sweet It Is.
Q: What was the name of your very first book regardless of whether it was published or not and, if not published, why?
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 went through lots of rejections from agents (at least 20), and finally, finally, after revising my manuscript for the seventh time, found one who wanted to represent me. Two months later she got me a two-book contract with Bethany House, a Christian publisher.
Q: How did the rejections make you feel and what did you do to overcome the blows?
Rejections always stink. There were times I wasn’t sure why a particular agent was rejecting my work. Then one agent told me she had trouble with the narrative voice of my main character, Nicole. I realized she was right; there was a problem. So I changed Nicole’s tone, and then sent it out to a brand-new agent. That’s when Rain Song was finally accepted.
Q: When your first book was published, who published it and why did you choose them?
Bethany House was the first publisher to say, “Yes!” and my agent and I were pleased with them, and what they offered, so we said, “Sure, thank you!”
Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?
I took my kids out to Kanki Japanese Steak House because they like that place. We took a lot of pictures—all of us were smiling, and so excited about Rain Song’s debut.
Q: What was the first thing you did as a promotion when you were published for the first time?
I sent out postcards with the cover of my novel on them to many people, and handed them out to neighbors and friends—basically, anyone who would take them.
Q: If you had to do it over again, would you have chosen another route to be published?
No! Years ago, I self-published two cookbooks of children’s memories under my organization, Daniel’s House Publications. For that type of book, I wanted the experience of doing it all myself. It’s certainly nice having a publisher behind me now, believing in me, and advertising my novels for me. When you self-publish, it’s hard to get the best exposure.
Q: Have you been published since then and how have you grown as an author?
My second novel, How Sweet It Is came out six months after my first novel, Rain Song. I have another two-book contract with Bethany House and Hatteras Girl will be making her debut this October. I am learning that there are a whole slew of authors with published books out there, and the competition is fierce. I want to continue to be the best author I can be, creating stories that are fun as well as meaningful.
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 could have written better. Instead, I spent too much time looking up agents and sending half-baked manuscripts to them. No wonder I was rejected so much! I should have been crafting a more exciting story with impeccable grammar instead.
Q: What has been the biggest accomplishment you have achieved since becoming published?
My alma mater, Eastern Mennonite University, invited me to be the speaker at their Writers Read event last fall. They usually fill this bi—annual event with classy writers, and yet this time, they chose me! What an honor. Another honor, almost equal to the first, was when Rain Song became a finalist for a 2009 Christy Award.
Q: If you could have chosen another profession, what would that profession be?
My degree from EMU is a B.S. in Social Work. I love the field of helping others and have worked some in social work professionally. I also find enjoyment in teaching and have actually done more of that, especially overseas.
Q: Would you give up being an author for that profession or have you combined the best of both worlds?
Now I think I have the best of both worlds. I use those social work skills to offer comfort to fellow parents who have lost a child to death as I have (my four-year-old son Daniel died in 1997 from cancer treatments). I speak and hold workshops at grief conferences and at writing retreats. I offer online writing courses as well at my website.
Q: How do you see yourself in ten years?
The author of a bestseller! I hope to have ten more novels out in ten years, too. Sometimes I feel my world is too small because I don’t think large enough. Hopefully, in ten years, I will be living larger!
Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?
Keep writing and learning. Do all you can to make your prose shine. Take a writing course, go to a conference, read a book on crafting the novel. Be open to change. Never give up!