I feel like I’ve been friends with today’s featured debut author, Torre DeRoche, for years even though we only stumbled upon each other late last year through Twitter, sit on opposite sides of the globe and have never met. Still, we are kindred spirits in that we are both “crazy” people, what Torre likes to call hardworking and hopeful writers who write in their robes (so what if she calls it a “Slanket” and I call it a “Snuggie”?), and have similar mindsets about writing and publishing. Torre was kind enough to guest blog for me earlier this year and in that post I predicted the imminent publishing of her book and her ultimate success. What can I say? Just call me Nostradamus. :)
Name of book: Swept: Love with a Chance of Drowning
Book genre: True Adventure/Memoir
Date published: September 1, 2011
Publisher: Gauguin Media (self-published)
What is your day job? Graphic designer
What is your book about? In my mid-twenties, while away from my Australian home for a year of work and fun in San Francisco, I fell for a 31-year-old dreamer who had a humble sailboat and a plan to set off exploring the world. Terrified of deep water, I wanted nothing to do with his plans, but eight months after we first met in a bar, the time came for him to depart and I had two choices: leap into watery oblivion with him or watch the man I was in love with sail away forever. I leapt.
What would you say is the most challenging part of writing a book? That persistent earworm that nags in your brain: Do I have something worthwhile here, or am I just a crazy person who sits at home, tapping at a keyboard, while wearing a robe well into the afternoon? There’s no income to validate your good deeds. You have to believe in yourself for a long time, and that’s tough for even the most confident person. For a self-doubting person like me, that part was torturous.
What motivates you to write? I have an itch to tell stories. I want to entertain people and make them laugh. I love bringing readers into a world I’ve created with words, and I secretly enjoy making people feel vicariously seasick.
Did you experience writer’s block? Yes. I sometimes tumble into a muddy bog of self-doubt, which always blocks me. The best cure for this is reading a wildly successful book that sucks. It’s a reminder that there’s no magic formula to art or success. In reality, all writers are just crazy humans sitting at home, tapping keyboards, while wearing robes. (Okay, so maybe I’m alone on the robe thing?)
How long did it take you to write this book? I began dappling late at night around 3 years ago.
Why did you decide to self-publish? As I began to research self-publishing as my Plan B, a funny thing happened: it started to feel like Plan A. I’m well positioned to do this on my own. My sister is a talented editor with 16 years of experience, I have over 10 years of experience in design and marketing, and I’m entrepreneurial. It also felt dangerous and thrilling, and I’m not opposed to taking risky leaps. While I was flirting with the idea of self-publishing, my manuscript was tied up with an agent in New York who’d requested a read. It seemed unprofessional to tell him, “Sorry! Changed my mind about the whole agent thing!” So I waited to see what would happen, but in my gut, I was dreading getting a “Yes.” After 6 weeks, I wrote to ask how it was going, and he replied saying that what he’d read was very promising, but he wasn’t having much luck selling memoirs. He still wanted to consider working with me, but he warned that the process was taking much longer than usual. I took that as my chance to fly solo.
What is the biggest misconception about writing a book? I made the mistake of believing that my first draft was the end of the hard work. Family and friends also assumed that I was done wearing robes past midday, but oh no! It became really difficult to explain why I was still working on the book a year later, and even the people closest to me began to wonder if I’d acquired some sort of obsessive-compulsive tick. Recently, I connected with a memoir writer’s group, and I discovered that my time investment is pretty standard. There’s an insane amount of dedication involved. (Literally—you need to be a little bit insane.) Not many people understand that.
What was your favorite aspect of the writing process for this book? I enjoyed living the ocean life again in my head, but this time, I got to stay dry! I also love hearing people’s reactions after reading the book—I get a special kick when people say, “I laughed so hard that I peed my pants.” So not everyone is staying dry, and that’s a huge compliment!
What tools/methods have you employed to promote your book? I began a blog in February, and I’ve been hanging out on social networks a lot. It doesn’t feel like work, though. I adore some of the connections I’ve made. On my blog recently, I posted several options for book covers and I asked for help selecting one. The response I got was incredible: more than 100 opinions! At that point, I realized the power of social networking.
What advice would you give to writers regarding promotion? Have a little chutzpa about asking “out of your league” people for reviews. They can always say “Get lost!” If they do, just move on and ask the next high profile person. How can you know whether or not Lady Gaga has time for you unless you’re willing to ask her?
How has life changed for you since the publication of your book? I’m smiling like a fool from 7:30 a.m. to midnight daily. It’s wonderful to finally get feedback. Unsolicited reviews are popping up and lots of people are saying, “I heard about your book from [complete stranger].” It’s only been out for one week! Perhaps I’ll wake up tomorrow saying, “I had the most magnificent dream …” It certainly feels dreamy.
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? I agree with Oprah. Having just launched, I can’t call myself a “successful writer,” but I know one thing for sure: I’ll never be successful if I’m not willing to give it everything I’ve got. That’s not luck, that’s hard work. If you believe only in luck, you’ll always be a victim to your circumstances, and that’s a shame. With lots of hard work and a pinch of luck, maybe one day I’ll be considered a successful crazy person who sits at home in her robe until noon, tapping her keyboard.