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Interview with Elisabeth Amaral, author of ‘Czar Nicholas, The Toad, and Duck Soup’

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Elizabeth AmaralA native New Yorker, I have lived in the city for much of my life. My first jobs after graduating from NYU were jewelry design and case worker for the Departments of Welfare of New York City and Cambridge, Massachusetts. This was followed by co-ownership of a children’s boutique (Czar Nicholas and the Toad) and a restaurant (Duck Soup) in Cambridge near Harvard Square. I then worked as an industrial purchasing agent in New Jersey, and for the last 25 years have been a real estate broker in Manhattan, accumulating stories of the wonder and madness that is this city. I published a book of short stories (When Any Kind of Love Will Do), wrote two children’s books and a memoir (Czar Nicholas, The Toad, and Duck Soup), and am currently working on a novel.

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

I have published three books, the first in 2007. It was a short story collection titled When Any Kind of Love Will Do. That was followed by Elodie at the Corner Market, a children’s book. My memoir, Czar Nicholas, The Toad, and Duck Soup was published in late October, 2014.

Czar Nicholas 2Q: 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 self-published all three books. I chose this route because I wanted control over what I wrote, and specifically with the memoir, time was an issue. I had a heart attack last Spring and wanted to see the finished book as soon as possible. Certainly sooner than I would see it via traditional publishing. And it was the right way for me for another reason. Czar Nicholas, The Toad, and Duck Soup has a certain whimsical aspect to it and contains a lot of photographs, recipes from my 1970s restaurant in Harvard Square, and contributions written by others. I was told by an agent, who thought the memoir was a “small gem,” that unfortunately it was not for her. Another agent told me that I would have to make significant changes, and that would have altered the mood of the book. Self-publishing answered both needs.

Q: How long did it take you to get published once you signed the contract?

The process took approximately five months from the time I submitted the finished draft to iUniverse.

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

I was ecstatic beyond belief. I carried copies of my book everywhere and showed it to perfect strangers, and though I don’t recall celebrating, I’m sure I basked in my own glory for a while. With Czar Nicholas, The Toad, and Duck Soup I felt different. I felt quietly triumphant not only because I held the book in hand, but because I had survived. My husband and I celebrated by going to Madrid and Seville over the Christmas holidays.

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

Very little. I posted it on Facebook, did a few readings in public spaces in Manhattan, and took a table at a street fair. At the time, I was a real estate broker in Manhattan in a busy market. That book was published a year before the crash in 2008, and I was working seven days a week. The book deserved much more from me.

Q: Since you’ve been published, how have you grown as a writer and now a published author?

The difference in my writing from that first collection to the completion of Czar Nicholas, The Toad, and Duck Soup, has surprised me. The memoir took me almost three years to complete to my satisfaction and to feel comfortable not just with the writing but how it might impact those who appear in the memoir. The best part of the process was reuniting with people from my past who appear in the book, and sharing in their enthusiasm for it. It takes place in the mid 1960s and 70s, and we went through a lot of exciting times together. I wanted to do justice to the writing and the people, and took great pains with it. The day I no longer felt dissatisfaction on any page was terrific. I knew it was done. I knew it was good.

Q: What has surprised or amazed you about the publishing industry as a whole?

I can’t speak for traditional publishing. After my heart attack I forgot about query letters, agents, editors, and publishers. iUniverse had done a good job with my first book so I went with them. They considered Czar Nicholas, The Toad, and Duck Soup worthy of several internal accolades, which gave me a free month of Google ads and significant marketing advice. What surprised me was both the comparative lack of stress involved and the professionalism throughout. And I had my book, exactly as I wanted it.

Q: What is the most rewarding thing about being a published author?

Each time I look at my book I feel a sense of pride. And when I am told how much satisfaction it brought to the readers kind enough to share their feelings with me, that is enormously rewarding.

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

Be persistent and believe in yourself. If you have something to say, then say it. And then the next day, look it over and say it better.

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