Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Interview with author Lisette Brodey
Lisette Brodey is our guest today. She is the author of the novel
Squalor, New Mexico. Lisette, would you answer a few questions for us about your novel and your writing career?
1. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
Hi, Penny. First, thanks so much for this opportunity. I began writing almost as soon as I learned how to print. My earliest recollection of fiddling around with the written word was probably around the age of six when I was crafting short poems. As I got older, I began writing stories, creating little magazines, and eventually writing to pen pals all over the world. Pretty much everything I did involved writing. That said, had you asked me during my childhood what I wanted to do with my life, I would have told you that I wanted to be an actress. When I was in the ninth grade, I wrote a letter to myself (to be read as an adult), begging myself not to give up on acting. I am very sure now that I wrote that letter because I knew in my heart that I would eventually seek out a writing career, and not one in acting.
2. Where do you think your desire to write comes from?
I really believe that most of us, if we are lucky, have the desire within to use the gifts we are given. Writing has always come completely naturally to me, and while I like writing some things better than others, I have always had a passion to paint “word pictures” with my “brush.” Additionally, being able to write one’s feelings out, whether as poetry or prose, is a great way to relieve stress and also to better understand oneself. For me, there is no better way to capture the world around me – to pay homage to what I find beautiful and often to rail against what disturbs me. Writing is a way to bring myself full circle, time and time again.
3. What steps did you take to become a published writer?
Though I have been writing for years, it was not until the late '90s when I actually tried to get published. Prior to then, I was writing plays and screenplays. I had actually begun several novels much earlier in my lifetime, but I was approaching the process entirely wrong and never got very far. I was very good at writing 100+ pages and then stopping dead in my tracks. So, years later, when I finally decided that I wanted to write novels and not plays (which are impossible to get produced), I was able to really give the process my all.
By the year 2000, I had completed two novels, Squalor, New Mexico and Crooked Moon. I spent many years reading guides to literary agents and submitting the two manuscripts. I got a lot of positive feedback from several top agents, but nobody took me on. One of the last agents that I contacted told me that she really wanted to accept my novel, Crooked Moon, but that she was turning me down simply because it was too difficult for her, as an agent, to sell fiction. Trying to get an agent was a very slow, painful process. I often got very depressed and stopped searching for long periods of time.
4. I understand you published Squalor, New Mexico yourself. Why did you choose to self-publish?
Well, it was a combination of two things, Penny: personal readiness and available technology. All of the efforts (to get published) that I explained in #3 were really debilitating to me. In 2007, when I began to learn that I could become my own publisher, I jumped at the chance. At the very least, rather than waiting for agents to respond, I could get my work out there. Not only had technology made self-publishing possible, but the Internet had already opened up amazing networking opportunities that simply had never existed before.
5. How do you come up with your ideas and settings?
The ideas just seem to find me. Sometimes they are just seeds that I water until they grow. Squalor, New Mexico began in just that way. Every time I heard the expression “He or she lives in squalor,” I always thought that it sounded as if squalor were a town or a city. I decided a great first line for a novel would be “My aunt lived in Squalor.” I had absolutely no idea what the story would be, but I wrote the line “My aunt Rebecca lived in Squalor,” and then I constructed a 445-page novel around those six words just because they intrigued me. As for settings, I believe it is important to write about places that you know. Sometimes I will write about a real place; other times I will use a fictitious name but will base it on a real place.
6. What is your writing process? Any rituals? Do you outline your books or just start writing?
I first write a rough outline, jot down massive notes, figure out all of the key elements of the story I think I want to tell, and then begin. There are some writers who will outline down to the tiniest detail. I’m not one of them. I do need to know where I’m going and have some pretty decent maps for getting there. However , whenever I write, my characters will always throw surprises at me that even I don’t see coming. For me, those surprises truly parallel real life.
One thing that I always do, meticulously so, is to keep what I call a time chart. Even if a specified time does not appear in my novel, as the writer, I need to know the day and time that all of the actions occur. This is imperative for me to maintain continuity, and it is also great when I need to review what I have written so far. The time chart helps me to see what I’ve written without rereading hundreds of pages every time I’m away from the book for a while.
And lastly, I start every day, as do most writers, by reviewing what I have done the day before. Doing so warms up the writing muscles and hopefully gets me into the “zone” where I need to go.
7. What have you been doing to market your books?
I try to maintain an active presence on as many networking sites as possible. I truly enjoy meeting people and learning about their lives and pursuits. I never go into a community expecting to simply promote my work and run. While I can’t always spend as much time communicating with people as I would like, I think that developing a personal connection is imperative to people caring about your work.
I also try to read as many blogs and articles about publishing and marketing as I can. Sometimes, there is not enough time in the day. Penny, one of the most difficult things for me is finding the time to market effectively and also have time to work on new projects. I’m pretty sure that is true for most writers.
8. Do you have any marketing tips for other struggling writers?
I think it’s really important for writers to connect with other writers. Being an author is hard work – especially if you are self-published. I never wanted to be a publisher or a publicist. But those are not only jobs I must do, they are jobs that I must strive to get better and better at as time goes on. I have discovered that every author learns something different in his or her travels. When we share what we know, it is a win/win situation for all. Every day, I try to throw more irons in the proverbial fire. No matter how thankless a task book promotion seems to be, I would advise all writers to keep plugging away at it, even when it seems as if we are walking uphill carrying two heavy buckets of water.
9. Tell us about your other work and future plans.
Squalor, New Mexico is my first-written novel. As you mentioned in your review, Penny, it is a book that can be read by young adults or adults. However, I am not a Young Adult author. For this reason (and others), I did not publish Squalor first. I was a bit afraid that readers would then expect all of my books to be YA, which is not the case.
In February 2008, I first published my second-written novel, Crooked Moon. It is the story of friendship, of love and lust, of betrayal and forgiveness, and the revelations of secrets. I enjoy writing strong, flawed, colorful, quirky, and oft-times humorous characters. I like compelling storylines that mirror real life with its twists and turns.
I’m currently 62,000 words into a third novel that is a comedy/drama. I’ve had to step away from it for a while to work on the promotion of my first two novels, so I look forward to returning to the writing and see where it takes me. I keep a journal that is filled with ideas for other books. Each idea is very different, so even I can’t tell you what I might publish the third or fourth time around.
10. Where can fans go to learn more about Lisette Brodey?
Readers are welcome to visit me at www.lisettebrodey.com. I always love to hear from people and hope visitors will sign my guestbook. On my site, there are synopses for both of my novels, an author bio, reviews of my work, and more. I am also on MySpace at www.myspace.com/justlisette, on Twitter @lisettebrodey, on Goodreads.com, AxisAvenue.com, and Facebook.
I would like to let everyone know that Squalor, New Mexico and Crooked Moon are available in both trade paperback and as Kindle versions on Amazon.com. Additionally, I am happy to announce that I will be selling Crooked Moon at a brand-new eBook boutique store called ireadiwrite.com. I'm very happy to be associated with this great new store as it enables readers all over the world to read eBooks in a variety of formats with no dedicated hardware necessary.
Thanks for stopping by and visiting with us today.
Penny, thank you so very much for having me. It was a pleasure speaking with you, and I look forward to reading your eBook, Ghost For Rent.