When asked what her favorite part of the writing process was for her novel, Swimming with Wings, today’s featured debut author Lee Libro says, “For years I carried [my characters] around with me, partly consciously, partly in my subconscious, and now I’ve been able to release them.” I completely relate, having had Baby Grand rolling around in my brain for some 15 years. And isn’t it interesting how after finally getting their lives down on paper, new characters take their place almost immediately?
Name of book: Swimming with Wings
Book genre: Literary Fiction / Coming of Age / Romance
Date Published: March 2010
What is your day job? I have several. I currently split my time as a writer, designer and freelance artist offering graphic services for novelists with my position as a Marketing/Real Estate Assistant in the Sarasota, Florida area.
What is your book about? Sometimes the simplest act of kindness will live on and penetrate through generations of misunderstanding. Swimming with Wings is a young woman’s journey out of grief and the religious and social restrictions of a small southern town in the 1970s. When Lark Jennison meets Peter Roma, one of the misunderstood “river gypsies” in her town, she finds a kindred soul and falls in love, except he misinterprets his inherited legacy of being a mystical healer as a calling to become an evangelical superstar and gets swept up in the craze of the era. Her compulsion to seek answers to life’s greater questions through a universal spirituality fueled by her artistic drive, clashes with his intolerant religiosity. Love as a romantic notion becomes just that, the false “happily ever after” of storybooks and movies. But their families, thought to have been from such disparate roots, his from Italian immigrants and hers from the gentrified Pre-Civil War south, share an interesting history, one which will reveal a fundamental truth that will bond them forever.
What was the most challenging part of the writing process? Maintaining a taut balance between plot and character. The novel grew from a short story I had written years ago, and because I was compelled to develop the story mainly due to the characters, creating tension in a plot of novel length presented a challenge I had never before attempted.
What motivates you to write? Anything can motivate me to write. Anything from a visual cue to a current event. It usually starts with a sense of a character and then a whole set of ideas begins to conjure up in my head and I have to organize them into a story.
Did you experience writer’s block? I used to experience writer’s block when I first started creative writing back in college, but I’ve learned that writing anything, even if it comes out nonsensically, is better than a blank page, because, regardless, it’s your thoughts manifested. What you produce is like clay that can either be remolded or seed a growing story.
How long did it take you to write this book? As I said, I started Swimming With Wings as a short story back in college, so that was twenty-six years ago. I dabbled with it over the years, but once I finally sat down and made a continuous effort to write the novel, researched it, had it critiqued by several readers, professionally edited and proofread, then edited some more (you know how that goes!) it took about two years.
Why did you decide to self-publish this book? I needed the cathartic process of putting it “out there.” I also knew it would be the first of many other novels I wanted to write. In a way, it was my “training” novel. I’ve learned tremendously from it and though I love the story, just like any child one gives birth to, I know it’s not perfect. Technically speaking, it is well written, has the proper arc of a story, but perhaps leans too much toward the languid pace of some literary fiction for some people’s taste. I know there are areas that could be better.
What is the biggest misconception about writing a book? That the purpose of it is to make some money. While the income producing part of writing is wonderful, I wouldn’t write if I didn’t do so out of a very visceral need to do so. The ideas brew and converge, the characters are born, and the story must be told and told in the most accurate and skillful manner possible. That’s what writing a book is about.
What was your favorite aspect of the writing process for this book? My favorite part of the process was getting to see my characters finally take a role in the little world I created where they were able to grow into full bloom. For years I carried them around with me, partly consciously, partly in my subconscious, and now I’ve been able to release them. They no longer haunt me, so to speak, but most of all they no longer clog up my creative juices with their incessant cries to be born.
What tools/methods have you employed to promote your book? What advice would you give to writers regarding promotion? Well, I’ve incorporated my author persona into my social media activities, but there’s nothing more annoying than blatant self-promotion. Authors shouldn’t set up Twitter accounts, blogs and Facebook pages to serve simply as a billboard for their book. They need to offer truly valuable content and in the process demonstrate the same great writing that one might find in any book they have written or will write in the future.
I’ve participated in blog tours, book fairs, radio interviews and most recently I was interviewed on a “Twitterview” held by NovelPublicity. That was a lot of fun. My advice to writers regarding promotion is to make sure you do enough, but don’t burn out on it. Especially if you are self-published, promotion is entirely up to you unless you hire a publicist. It’s hard to find the right balance between continuing your craft and promoting the book you’ve just completed so you need to tailor your time and energy effectively.
Oprah has 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? Yes, I would most definitely agree, but I would add that some opportunities we make ourselves. Many view opportunity as something that will fall in their lap as opposed to something to proactively go out and get. As a writer, opportunity can be viewed as being able to attain a select few readers or it can be sealing a deal with one of the big-six publishers and having the next best seller. However you look at opportunity, when it comes to writing, know that the real reward of it lies in the talent itself. Who else can write an untold reality into existence, but a novelist, and be the god of their own universe?