“True deep desire breeds motivation.” That’s what Robyn Bradley said when I asked her what motivates her to write. I don’t think a truer statement was ever uttered. “True deep desire,” I believe as well, is the thing that separates the people who start writing novels from the ones who finish writing them. You’ve gotta want it. REALLY want it. ‘Nuff said.
Name: Robyn Bradley
Name of book: Forgotten April
Book genre: Women’s fiction
Date Published: April 2011
What is your day job? I’m a copy bitch by day (otherwise known as a freelance marketing copywriter).
What is your book about? Can two long-lost half sisters let go of the secrets from their pasts and learn what it means to be family?
What would you say is the most challenging part of writing a book? Letting it go out into the world. You give birth to this book, you “raise it,” you stay with it through the good and bad, but at some point, you gotta let your baby go forth into the world and stand on its own. That’s hard. And sometimes you question if it’s ready. I haven’t given birth to an actual human, but from the women I know who have, the analogy is apt.
What motivates you to write? I’ve wanted to be a writer since Mrs. Shea’s fourth grade class when she gave us a short story assignment. I slaved over it—drafting it in pencil first and then in pen. I had a moment where I felt the story “clicking” as I wrote it, like it all made sense, like I was doing exactly what I was put on this earth to do. I read it out loud to the class. They loved it. Mrs. Shea loved it. I was hooked after that and decided I wanted to write. Now, that’s the desire part. Your question, however, is about motivation. I think we all have things we desire, but I think when certain desires take hold and you can’t think about anything else, well… that’s when motivation kicks in. True deep desire breeds motivation. Some writers say it’s almost as if they don’t have a choice: they have to write. I think I agree with that.
Did you experience writer’s block? I actually don’t believe in writer’s block. I believe that there are times when the words don’t come as easily as other times, and that’s usually a sign from my soul, mind, and heart that I need to walk away. It took me forever to figure that one out, but sometimes the best thing I can do for my writing is to stop writing: I’ll take a shower, work out, read, go to the movies (that always works). When I come back to the page, the words start flowing again. They weren’t blocked… they just needed a few hours off.
How long did it take you to write this book? I worked on this book on and off for almost ten years. I went through five top-to-bottom, start-from-scratch rewrites. I buried it twice. The beginning always dogged me, but I had a breakthrough last fall, tackled it, and felt it was finally ready. Of course, by the time I had this breakthrough, I’d already queried the heck out of it.
Why did you decide to self-publish? I used to be the biggest self-publishing snob and felt it was a last resort for writer wannabes. Only someone who had been recognized by an agent and then a publisher was a “real” writer. (I mentioned the snob part, right?)
Fast forward to the summer of 2010 when I was re-reading one of my favorite books on writing – Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. In the section on publication, Lamott reminds us that validation won’t—and can’t—come from landing an agent or a book deal with one of the Big 6. She quotes from the movie Cool Runnings about an Olympic bobsled team and how the coach reminds the team members that if they’re not “enough” before the gold medal, they certainly won’t be enough with it. I’d probably read that section ten times before, but I didn’t really get it until that summer. Validation had to start with me. I had to believe.
I had this epiphany around the same time I was reading about the explosion of eBooks and the popularity of Nooks and Kindles. I had a backlog of short stories (some of which had been published in small journals) as well as the novel and figured “Why not give it a go and self-publish to Amazon and B&N.com?” I thought I’d be one of the first writers to do so (this was before I’d heard the names Amanda Hocking or Joe Konrath). I quickly learned that I was far from the first, and that many of those who had gone on before me were making a living doing it. So I jumped in and never looked back.
Was the self-publishing process easier or more difficult than you thought it would be? Believe it or not, I think it was easier than I expected. That doesn’t mean that there wasn’t a lot of work involved; there was, and there still is every day. But the process of getting a book on Amazon and B&N is extremely turnkey.
What is the biggest misconception about writing a book? We all have stories inside us. But rendering those “head stories” onto the page isn’t a one-step process (nor should it be). You don’t just sit down and bang out the words and you’re done. It’s easy to think that’s all it takes going into it (and God knows I was guilty of this magical thinking way back when). But it’s more involved than that.
What was your favorite aspect of the writing process for this book? This book got me past my fears of pitching 80,000 words out a window and starting over on page one from a completely different point of view. I’m much more willing to take risks now, and I’m much more open to radical revisions.
What tools/methods have you employed to promote your book? My day job as a marketing copywriter has served me well: all the stuff I’d preach to my clients I practiced myself. I’m not only active on Facebook and Twitter, but I also do my best to leverage both (more so with Facebook, just because I prefer the medium). I run FB ads, I work at engaging my fan base, and I try different things. I hang out where readers hang out, like Goodreads, Shelfari, and LibraryThing. I have a blog and YouTube Channel. And I’m willing to spend money and experiment (the adage is true: you need to spend money to make money).
I think the best advice I can give is this: You WILL need to spend money. Publishing houses spend lots of moolah to bring a book to life. You can’t expect to go from lots of moohlah to zilch and expect your book to take off. Bringing a book to market the right way (with professional editing, cover art, and promotion) will cost some bucks. It doesn’t need to be millions or even thousands, but you do need some sort of budget going in. If you don’t have it, get creative in how to get it: take on a part-time job, tutor, ask friends and family for money instead of presents for your b-day, get on KickStarter, see where you can save on monthly expenses (e.g. give up Starbucks or NetFlix or whatever just for a little while and put the savings towards your business). Remember, art is what you’re making behind closed doors when it’s just you and your story. But once the door is open and you’re putting the book “out there,” it’s a business. And businesses need money to operate. The same is true with your book.
How has life changed for you since the publication of your book? Aside from the call I got from George Clooney? ;) It hasn’t changed all that much; I continue to write regularly, which I’d been doing before.
Do you plan on writing another novel? My second novel, What Happened in Granite Creek, came out October 15. I know, I know. It’s always suspicious when an author puts out a book a year, let alone TWO. Here’s the thing: Forgotten April was pretty much done in late 2009. I had the breakthrough regarding the beginning in the fall of 2010. In the spring of 2010, I completed the draft of my second novel. I spent 2011 revising it. So I got lucky in the sense that I had two books to bring to market pretty much at the same time, even though I’d been working on one for close to ten years and the second for two.
I’m working on my third book right now as well as two novellas, which are companion pieces to What Happened in Granite Creek. I’m hoping to release those in 2012. I also have several short stories in various stages of “doneness” that I need to revisit.
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 writer? Joe Konrath says you need luck. But he agrees that you can help Lady Luck along and woo her. I think I agree with that.
That said, true “luck” in the terms of an “overnight success” is a lottery winner. You go to bed broke, and you wake up a millionaire. That’s luck, but, of course, that luck needed the opportunity: the gal had to BUY the ticket to begin with.
I believe there’s a market for my books. Readers have been responding favorably to Forgotten April, reviews have been good, and I keep picking up more fans on FB, Twitter, etc. I write and study and market and write and study and write and write some more. That’s my preparation. The opportunity is taking advantage of this exciting time to be a writer (because, really, it is – it’s a writer’s market for the first time ever). So I’m poised and ready and hopeful that Ms. Luck sees all this, looks kindly on her fellow sister, and sprinkles some of her fairy dust over me and my keyboard. Actually, I feel she already has in many ways. I’m grateful that I get to do what I love every day.