Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Interview with the Author

D. A. Welch

Debra A. Welch, author of Flashback, currently resides in South Carolina. She has worked in several related computer programming and management fields. Her first novel is set with the beautiful island Low Country as a backdrop. Deb Welch has been quite successful with the location tie-in promotion of her book. Read the interview to discover how she did it.

Tabitha: What inspired you to write Flashback?

Deb: Hypocrisy… it angers me, harms people and damages our world. Regardless, I’m an optimist with a creative streak. Writing is an outlet for my feelings; I envy artists and musicians.

Tabitha: Were you at all concerned that potential customers might confuse your book’s title with Timothy Leary’s famous book?

Deb: Confusion with Timothy Leary’s autobiography never dawned on me; Flashbacks was written in 1983. To some, he was a thought-provoking man. To others, he was just provoking, but he forced us to think outside the box. I admit that Timothy Leary fell off my radar screen along with his orbiting ashes.

Tabitha: Define for us exactly what constitutes The Low Country.

Deb: The coastal region of South Carolina is called The Low Country. Here is a passage from Flashback that explains the term: "From Hilton Head Island to Myrtle Beach, the entire coastal area of South Carolina is known as the Low Country. It’s named for the topography. The region is flat, and much of it is wetland that gently melds into the sea. The terrain includes marshes, tidal basins, and estuaries flowing eastward toward the sounds that separate the barrier islands from the mainland."

Tabitha: I would expect that the obvious tie-in with an actual geographic locale would generate interest and, hopefully, spur book sales. Have you reaped any specific benefits from your subject matter and/or subtitle?

Deb: Despite the distribution challenge faced by POD authors, brick and mortar bookstores in Charleston, Beaufort, and Hilton Head Island have stocked Flashback in the local literature sections. Along with intense promotion and sincere groveling on my part, the Low Country subtitle helped put Flashback on their shelves. The area is a tourist destination and visitors gravitate to books featuring the Low Country.

Tabitha: I see from your Authors Den page that you had a local television interview last August. How did you secure such an interview and how was the experience? Do you think it helped your book sales?

Deb: In August, I appeared on WJCL/Fox 28 News in Savannah, Georgia. A press release announcing a Beaufort book signing triggered the interview. Trish Hartman, the anchor and producer of a morning news program, invited me to appear on her show. The interview went very well and it had to create interest in my book. Here’s a frustration many POD authors experience. Two weeks before the interview, I sent publicity kits to three bookselling chains in Savannah announcing my television appearance and I followed up with phone calls. The day before the interview, I visited the bookstores to sign their Flashback stock. No one had ordered the book. During this live broadcast, I couldn’t tell Savannah residents where to buy my book locally; the stores and I missed sales opportunities. Where have all the entrepreneurs gone?

Tabitha: The brief descriptions of the weather or scenery of coastal South Carolina add a nice touch to the beginning of each chapter. Have you envisioned Flashback as a screenplay?

Deb: Absolutely! I’d love to see a movie version of my book. With adaptation, the location, plot, characters and dialog would make a great screenplay. Your review stated Flashback could be a Lifetime Channel movie with an R rating. Nora Roberts did it with Carolina Moon and others. Why not D. A. Welch with Flashback?

Tabitha: In my reviews of Flashback, I commented on the beautiful cover. Who designed the cover? Did iUniverse create it strictly from your ideas, or did you supply the artwork or other elements? Are you satisfied with the cover?

Deb: The Flashback cover image was a collaborative effort between my husband and me using two different photos. I submitted the front cover design to iUniverse and received positive feedback. When the iUniverse Publisher’s Choice committee became involved, the problems began. I received a proof that I flat-out rejected. The font had become over-stylized, unreadable and sissified. The title and subtitle had been moved into the sea oats at the bottom of the cover. After much debate and correspondence, we compromised. I approved the cover design you see to gain the coveted Publisher’s Choice designation, but I still believe the title font is weak and the subtitle is too obscure.

Tabitha: Have you expended much effort seeking out an agent, and have you had much success in that regard?

Deb: Flashback was my first attempt to write a novel and I had much to learn about the process. I made a conscious decision to minimize the pain and maximize the lesson. Based on Flashback feedback, my efforts were not in vain and I’d like to find an agent for my next book. Right now, I’m learning how to find one. Any suggestions?

Tabitha: Flashback has received three honorary notations from iUniverse: Publisher’s Choice, Editor’s Choice, and Reader’s Choice. Do you feel as if any of these has aided your book’s success?

Deb: When I decided to publish my first novel, I had no literary credits so I needed every iota of recognition. The iUniverse honorary notations gave Flashback and me legitimacy. The awards are tiered and I earned them sequentially.

Editor’s Choice was given for outstanding editorial quality. After submitting my initial manuscript, I received honest, painful, and valuable feedback from iUniverse editors. Within four months, I completed two major rewrites and shortened the manuscript considerably before earning Editor’s Choice. I’m proud of the result. I’ve read books released by traditional publishers that would not meet the standards set by the iUniverse Editorial Review Committee.

Publisher’s Choice was awarded for cover design. The honor gave my book an eight-week spot on a local Barnes & Noble New Release table. During those eight weeks, Flashback appeared on the local fiction table instead of the New Release table. Regardless, my book was in a Barnes & Noble store and that is not an easy feat. I advertise Flashback’s availability at my local Barnes & Noble and visit the store frequently to sign copies of my book. When the store runs out of stock, which they often do, I ask them to reorder.

Reader’s Choice was awarded when 250 books were sold, one-half through non-author purchases. It proves a smidgen of commercial success, one achieved by authors who pound on doors and promote their work. I refer to these honorary designations in every promotional piece I create. I’m aiming for the iUniverse Star program: 500 books sold and a Kirkus book review.

Tabitha: From reading certain statements on your various web pages, it appears that you like to express your opinions concerning certain hot-button political issues of the day, and there is an undercurrent within the theme of Flashback. Have you received any particular feedback, of either a positive or negative nature, from the political views you have subtly expressed?

Deb: In the initial draft of Flashback, I was not so subtle with my opinions. The iUniverse content editor strongly suggested I tone down the rhetoric to avoid alienating readers. Apparently, I took his advice to heart, because no reader has taken issue with any political, religious, or feminist undercurrents. What fun is that?

Tabitha: Did you attend writer’s classes or workshops before releasing the book? Did you hire a professional editor or proofreader?

Deb: I did not attend writing classes but I read Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. The Elements of Style by Strunk and White sits on my computer desk. I purchased content editing and proofreading from iUniverse. The content editing service greatly improved the quality of my book. The proofreading service added to the quality, but iUniverse and I missed some errors.

Tabitha: Your bio pages indicate that you are quite computer literate, and I would think this skill has helped you immeasurably in your various book marketing endeavors. Would you care to elaborate on this issue?

Deb: I use my computer skills to create flyers, event signs, mailing lists (e-mail and snail mail), publicity kits, press releases, bookmarks, ad layouts, bookstore lists, and promotion plans. I’m a techie to a fault. The mechanics of word processing, Web design, graphic layouts, Internet research, and data management are my comfort zone. I spend too much time on easy tasks when I should be writing my next novel or pounding on new doors for Flashback sales.

Tabitha: Did you consider other publishers before you selected iUniverse?

Deb: I compared LuLu and BookSurge services and pricing before I chose iUniverse. I did not seek a traditional publisher for Flashback.

Tabitha: How satisfying has your experience with iUniverse been?

Deb: This was my first attempt to publish a book, so I can’t compare iUniverse with other publishing organizations. Overall, I am satisfied with their service and feel positive about the company. I’ve already mentioned iUniverse plusses and minuses. Add a plus for professional, courteous, and responsive employees. Printing and binding quality is top notch. I’d recommend iUniverse to other self-publishing writers.

Tabitha: What is the most significant thing you have learned as a POD author? Do you have any advice to offer to new or prospective POD authors?

Deb: First, I learned that retail bookstores don’t want to stock or sell POD books. Second, I learned that retail bookstores don’t want to stock or sell POD books. Third, I learned that retail bookstores don’t…. So I advertised for bookstores, negotiated to get shelf space, and followed up incessantly to maintain a presence in a handful of stores. I also learned that Amazon.com is great. Despite POD fulfillment, Amazon delivers and delivers quickly. The challenge is attracting buyers. I have several direct links from various Web pages. Along with retailers, Amazon appears on my bookmarks and all printed and electronic material.

Tabitha: Who are some of your favorite authors and books? What genres do you like to read?

Deb: Wow! I could go on for pages. I dislike the term genre because it pigeonholes books. Flashback is classified as romantic suspense; I read books by several authors within that genre, but I gravitate to authors beyond the category. J. D. Robb’s In Death series is a favorite. The Plum series by Janet Evanovich is entertaining mind-wash. Vince Flynn novels are favorites for political intrigue. Every John Grisham novel teaches me another lesson about our flawed legal system. I read novels by David Baldacci, Michael Connelly, Michael Crichton, John Sanford and Tom Clancy. I’m not a James Patterson fan. Laurell K. Hamilton became too grotesque and I tired of her ramblings. A very long time ago, I read every Ian Fleming novel; all Bond movies pale in comparison to Fleming’s thrillers. Some favorite classics are Lord of the Flies, To Kill a Mockingbird, Fountainhead, Stranger in a Strange Land, Tale of Two Cities, Gone with the Wind, and The Count of Monte Cristo.

Tabitha: What have you been reading lately?

Deb: I just finished Lone Survivor by Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell and Patrick Robinson. It was a great book, but a sad and frightening account of our involvement in Afghanistan. Recent noteworthy reads were Kite Runner, Water for Elephants and Innocent in Death. I plodded through God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything and I’m working on Black Swan, but I keep falling asleep. Theoretical non-fiction writers should take a lesson from John Stossel. A few years ago, I ripped right through Myths, Lies, and Downright Stupidity.

Tabitha: Yes, I admire Stossel’s style, too. What sort of educational experience do you have, and is it relevant to your writing or the subject matter you have chosen?

Deb: Having attended parochial school, I could diagram complex sentences by the fifth grade. I was the editor-in-chief of my high school newspaper and took electives in creative writing. I graduated with honors, began working full-time, and took undergraduate courses in business administration and advanced writing. I don’t have a college degree.

Tabitha: What about your work career? Has your choice of profession influenced your writing?

Deb: During successful careers in retail, information science, and property management, I developed important business and expositive writing skills. I also learned by doing: computer programming, systems analysis, managing budgets, directing projects, solving problems and leading people. I didn’t wait for someone to teach me; I just learned. In March 2005, I put an item on my ‘to do’ list. Right after balance bank statements, I added write novel. Once it’s on the list, it becomes a goal. I started writing a book that had been swirling around in my head for two years. It became Flashback: A Low Country Novel.

Tabitha: Are you currently working on another book? When and where will the next release by D. A. Welch be available? Will it be a sequel to Flashback?

Deb: I’ve started a Flashback sequel and it must become a higher priority. A few chapters have made their way into my word processor and my mind is constantly churning through plots and sub-plots. I hope to finish a manuscript and find an agent by June 2008.

Tabitha: Do you have any further books in the pipeline?

Deb: After I write the Flashback sequel, I must decide if the characters deserve another novel. Much of the future depends on my publishing options. I can’t finance a writing career forever.

Tabitha: What’s next for Debra Welch, the writer?

Deb: What’s next for Deb Welch, the writer, is still uncertain. As a person, I’ll continue to enjoy my Low Country life, travel with my husband and spend time with family and friends. I’ll read voraciously. If I don’t write other novels, I might try short stories and see where that takes me.

Tabitha: Do you have any final remarks to address to your readers or our audience?

Deb: Keep reading… anything and everything. Visit my website!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A very long time ago, I read every Ian Fleming novel; all Bond movies pale in comparison to Fleming’s thrillers.

I honestly cannot agree with this statement. Granted, Fleming seemed to have a talent for interesting characterization and detailed settings, most of his plots left much to be desired. In fact, I believe that plotting seemed to be Fleming's weakness as a novelist.