I met today’s featured debut author Charlene Knadle at the book signing of a mutual friend, Jeb Ladouceur, at the wonderful independent bookstore, Book Revue, in Huntington, New York. I’ll be back at Book Revue this coming Monday, October 15—this time for my own book signing! I’ll be speaking, Q&Aing and signing copies of my debut novel, Baby Grand. Yippee!
Name of book: Paper Lovers
Book genre: Suspense/Mystery/Romance
Date published: June 2005
What is your day job? I teach at Suffolk County Community College.
What is your book about? Dana Ritz, a.k.a. Charlotte Ruth, who writes romance novels, attends a banquet where writers exchange books. She meets a man who writes romances under a female pseudonym, Roberta Rhodes; she’s been curious about him and has read his earlier books. She goes with him to his car where he has copies of his latest. He throws her into the car and takes off. At his residence are four other women—some of whom she recognizes. Unlike herself, they are happy to be under his domination. Her presence inadvertently disrupts the peace; troubles ensue. With difficulty, she devises a means for escape. There is a trial, at which surprising events and revelations occur.
Why did you want to write this book? I liked the idea of combining the genres of suspense, mystery, and romance, but the trigger for the book was a dream that gripped me.In the book, it is only a half-page scene, but it was the seed for the whole drama.
What would you say is the most challenging part of writing a book? That’s really hard to say; there are so many challenges. For one thing, there’s the old cliché that “life interferes.” But once you begin writing and know in a general sense what your story is and who the characters are, it isn’t hard at all. Each bit of writing suggests the next. Then you have to stop to deal with other responsibilities. It’s important to find on-going time to write.
Did you conduct any kind of research in order to write this book (visit certain locales, etc.)? The book I’m doing next requires some research, but Paper Lovers is entirely a work of the imagination. It was somehow just “in me,” even though I’d never experienced anything like it.
What motivates you to write? Writing is my best mode of expression. In conversation, I like to listen as much as talk and to respond rather than initiate. I’m not a raconteur. Yet my thoughts build and intermix with stored things experience has taught me, and those “considered thoughts” seem worth sharing. When I first began to write to publish, I got a lotof personal essays into magazines and newspapers.
Did you experience writer’s block? I haven’t had whole blocks of lengthy time when I couldn’t write, no. But there have been moments when I’d get stuck and couldn’t go forward with something I was in the midst of doing. I usually take that as an indication that I’ve veered away from the right path, and I go back a paragraph or two and proceed from there without looking at the rest. What comes out is usually different, and I discard the previous attempt. The unconscious knows when to balk, and it’s a good guide. I think this works well for people who have a full interior life, and writers usually do.
How long did it take you to write this book? It took about a year, once I got started. Of course, the honest but flippant answer could be “my whole life.” But that would be true of every book.
Tell me about the publishing process. Was it easier or more difficult than you thought it would be? I didn’t work at it as much as I could have. I sent the manuscript to an agent I’d seen profiled in a magazine—The New York Times Magazine, as I recall. She took the time to send a lengthy letter detailing her reasons for declining to represent it, saying one of her readers was “very high” on it. A friend of mine knew a professional, a physician, whose several novels had been published by PublishAmerica, which gave advances and was discriminating and didn’t publish everything that was submitted to them. I gave them a try and was immediately accepted.
What would you say is the biggest misconception about writing a book? That it will earn the writer a lot of money and notoriety right away. There is an ocean of books floating constantly, and only a few become the white caps on the waves.
What was your favorite aspect of the writing process for this book? Living in somebody else’s psyche for a while. Writers want to live more than one life simultaneously, and through writing fiction, as well as through reading, we get to do that.
What tools/methods have you employed to promote your book? What advice would you give to writers regarding promotion? Very few books are allotted a big budget for promotion by their publishers, and some publishers leave promotion entirely up to authors. Regardless of whether your publisher advertises your book, it’s advisable to do so yourself in every way you can. With Paper Lovers, I’ve appeared in libraries and in quite a few bookstores,including Book Revue in Huntington, New York, a vital stop for celebrity and best-selling authors. I’ve of course let all my friends and family know the book is available. I’ve listed the book in Harding University and Stony Brook University’s alumni magazines and in the Writer’s Chronicle’s authors page.I’ve joined the Long Island Authors Group (LIAG), participating in group appearances at wineries, stores, museums, restaurants, even plant nurseries. The book is profiled on websites, including Long Island Authors Group and Two Cardinals Press.
I’ve welcomed opportunities to talk about it in interviews, such as this one, and with newspaper reporters, such as Long Island’s Elise Pearlman. I mention it with my signature when reviewing other authors’ books online or providing back-of-book blurbs. One author, Jeb Ladouceur, used my short blurb on the front of his just-out seventh novel, Mark of the Zodiac, naming my book along with my name. I’ve joined the Sisters in Crime (SinC) mystery-writing group, which is national and has regional chapters. This puts me in touch with a large and vital community.
How has life changed for you since the publication of your book? It’s added the dimension of spending time to self-promote, but I’ve become more eager than ever to make progress on the next novel.Along with teaching and other activities, I’ve never had so many conflicting demands on my time. The upside of that is that I’m never bored. I’ll still stop everything to spend time with my son Christopher and daughter Juliane, and this past summer a one-act play of mine, Last Meal, set in a prison kitchen, was chosen as one of seven (from 47 submitted) to be produced by the Minstrel Players in their first one-act-play festival. Each showing was sold out, and of course I was there each time with family or friends.
Do you find yourself obsessively checking sales stats? No. My attention is on what I can do, not what I can’t control. Sales stats are important, but I’m not obsessive about them.
My favorite last question: Oprah once famously said that there is no such thing as luck, without preparation and a moment of opportunity. Would you agree or disagree with regard to your own success as a write? There is something within us that knows what we want to aim for; we’ve felt it and envisioned it many times. That sense pushes us forward towards that goal and causes us to make choices that are in its direction. That’s the preparation. Some of the “stumblings”along the way are actually corrections to keep us on the path. Whenthe moment of right opportunity comes along, we go for it.