Today, I kick off my series of author interviews with my good friend, Jennifer Zwaniga, who has published four Young Adult novels on Amazon in both e-book and print format.
I met Jennifer about six years ago at a continuing education class on how to write a novel and we immediately hit if off. We continue to meet each month in our writing group–without Jennifer’s gentle but firm nagging, I never would have finished my book!
Welcome to Writing to Save My Soul. What is your book about?
Someone Else’s Life is about Keri, a teenage girl who is struggling with her identity and with her strained relationship with her mom. When Keri’s mother has a mental breakdown, Keri is sent to spend a summer at her grandmother’s plantation home in South Carolina. From the moment she arrives, strange things begin to happen and Keri soon learns that her family is keeping a dark secret from her. Determined to uncover the truth, Keri begins putting the pieces together and realizes that the mysteries of the past have more to do with her than anyone in the family could have known. It is a journey of self-discovery, mending old relationships and (naturally) discovering new love.
What was your biggest challenge in getting your book written and out for the world to see? How did you overcome that?
Getting my book written wasn’t such a big problem. Getting it out for the world to see was the bigger challenge for me, since I tend to shy away from the spotlight. When I made the decision to publish, it meant that I would be responsible for getting the word out there and doing my own marketing. The problem is I’m a terrible self-promoter. That’s a big challenge to overcome. In the end I just realized that there was little point in publishing my book if I wasn’t prepared to be proud of my accomplishments and announce it to the world, regardless of what their opinions may be. I had to stop worrying about what other people think and just do what I needed to do. It was a decision more than anything.
What is the best writing advice you’ve ever come across?
Allow yourself to write crap. Knowing that it’s okay to get the story down without worrying that every last detail is perfect in your first draft takes a lot of pressure off of the writing process. Fine tuning and perfecting your story is what the editing process is all about.
Who, or what, inspires you?
The people in my writing group regularly inspire me. I find having that support group invaluable. They give me a reason to keep writing when I don’t feel like writing and they give me encouragement when I’m having doubts and bad days. They are like a my lifeline. I don’t know if I would still be writing today if it were not for them.
Have you ever read a book that made you think ‘wow’? If so, what book was it and why did it have such an effect on you?
It’s so hard to narrow it down to one book. Authors Kristin Hannah and Jodi Picoult make me think ‘wow’ after just about every book of theirs I read. Picoult’s book deal with the most interesting, unique and controversial subjects that you can’t help but be somewhat in awe after reading. Both authors have a way of making you care deeply for their characters. I don’t even know how many times I cried while reading Kristin Hannah’s latest book ‘Night Road’. When an author can stir up that kind of emotion in me, it makes me think ‘wow’.
If you were going to mentor a new writer through the publishing process, what pitfalls would you warn them against?
Aside from the more obvious things like it being a considerable amount of effort doing all the writing, editing, formatting, publishing and promoting yourself I would warn new authors to be realistic in your expectations. Just because you’ve published your book and it’s out there, doesn’t mean that you are going to instantly have huge sales and make big bucks. You might also be a little surprised and disappointed by the lack of support you get from the people (friends and family) that you most expect to be your biggest supporters.
What kind of promotion have you tried? What do you find to be the most effective?
Honestly, I’m just in the early stages of promotion. One of the first things I did was email and Facebook my friends and family to let them know. I opened a Twitter account where I am starting to network with some other writers (you can follow me @JZwaniga) and I started a blog: http://jenniferzwaniga.wordpress.com. At this point, I’m still waiting to see what will be the most effective.
Tell us a random fact about yourself.
I was an extra in a movie once. Guilty as Sin, starring Rebecca De Mornay and Don Johnson.