Shana Mahaffey lives in San Francisco in an Edwardian compound that she shares with an informal cooperative of family, friends and five cats. She’s a survivor of Catechism and cat scratch fever, and is a member of the Sanchez Grotto Annex, a writers’ community. Her work has been published in SoMa Literary Review and Sunset Magazine. She welcomes all visitors to her website www.shanamahaffey.com, and is happy to meet with book groups in-person or in cyberspace (phone/webcam/the works).
Her latest book is Sounds Like Crazy.
Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Shana. Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?
Sounds Like Crazy is my first novel published. My dream/goal is to be a multi-published author, though.
Q: When you were published for the first time, which route did you go – mainstream, small press, vanity published or self-published and why or how did you choose this route?
I went the traditional route to publishing—secure an agent and have the agent shop the book. This path was definitely a lot of work and stress. I created a detailed spreadsheet (one I have happily shared with many authors) that included agents name, address, email, contact preference, what they wanted you to send, etc., then I did a mass send. Eventually, I secure my agent, Kevan Lyon. She had me work more on my manuscript, and when it was ready, she sent it out to 17 editors. Finally, my novel landed with the New American Library (Penguin imprint) Accent program. It never occurred to me to take a different path. However, all the authors I know have successfully navigated one of the above mentioned paths.
Sounds Like Crazy was published 16 months (June 2009 to October 2010) after we signed the contract. It would have been several months later had I not had many Fall 2010 promotional opportunities.
Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?
The whole journey from signing with an agent, to securing an editor, to readying the book for publication, the receipt of the ARC (advanced readers copy), and holding the actual sale version in my hands was definitely surreal. Each step of the way the writing community, my friends, and my family all found different ways to help me celebrate—drinks, cards, etc.
Q: What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?
I actually started promoting Sounds Like Crazy before I had even signed with my agent. Every October San Francisco hosts a week-long literary event called, Litquake. I had the opportunity to read at the “Barely Published Authors,” event. The first promotional event upon release of the novel, was a speaking opportunity at the Carmel Authors and Ideas Festival. The festival takes place in late September. My publisher did a pre-release of my novel (the actual release date was October 6) to the festival. It was a real thrill to be a part of such an interesting festival with so many different authors. And, speaking to such a large audience was definitely a great way to jump into the publicity fray feet first.
Q: Since you’ve been published, how have you grown as a writer and now a published author?
Well, I worked with an editor, Paul McCarthy, who gave me the best advice for an author—your novel is finished when you know you’ve done the best job you can do at your current skill level as an author. The way you assess this is you know, twenty years from now, when see your book on the shelf, you wrote the best book you possibly could; and you don’t pick at things you could have done better, rather you are proud.
Sounds Like Crazy is definitely the best I could given my skill as an author when I was writing it. Since publication, I have received incredible feedback from readers, book groups, etc., all of which I have taken to heart and incorporated into my writing. Also, I have more confidence as a writer and this definitely helps me push my limits even more.
Q: What has surprised or amazed you about the publishing industry as a whole?
Coming from a technology background, I am surprised at how long it takes to publish a book. Given all the available software, etc., it seems like publishers could definitely reduce the amount of time it takes to prepare a book for publication.
Q: What is the most rewarding thing about being a published author?
What I enjoy most is hearing from/talking readers. Nothing feels better than knowing I touched/moved someone with my writing.
Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?
Writing is like training for a marathon or some other physically demanding undertaking. It requires dedication, consistency, and most of the time it is not fun. However, the moments of bliss when you find the perfect path, when your story opens up and goes unexpected places, and/or when time and place ceases to exist, these moments are what makes everything else worth the price and then some.