Today’s featured debut author (our first of the new year!) is Jennifer Cusumano, a freelancer, consultant and professor whose book Angels Around Her was published in September 2011. Welcome, Jennifer!
Name: Jennifer Cusumano
Name of book: Angels Around Her
Book genre: Romance/spiritual
Date published: September 2011
Publisher: Inkwater Press
What is your day job? I teach communications and media at several Long Island colleges as an adjunct, and I continue to consult with corporations and write freelance.
What is your book about? I think it is a book about our understanding of love as we age and the decisions we make. Of course, time and experience are great teachers. Sometimes, however, by the time we learn the lessons and come to understand ourselves better, we are either too comfortable or too afraid, or simply just not in a position to make a really big change. This book lets that happen for our heroine in a very magical, supernatural way.
Why did you want to write this book? My sister and I had this idea over 12 to 13 years ago. We wanted to write a book for people who could identify with the theme of creating a more authentic life for yourself, whether that be finding the right partner, or a new career, or children. After we wrote it, it sat in the closet for over ten years. Then, in the wake of all the upheaval of the last few years, the economic crisis, war, negative media… I just felt the time was right to get a happy, hopeful message out there.
What would you say is the most challenging part of writing a book? Working out the story and how the characters’ actions all affect the progression of the plot. We actually had several outlines and datelines we had to follow because the book keeps transitioning from the present to the past; it spans 25 years, so there was a lot of back story to tell.
Did you conduct any kind of research in order to write this book? We already had some knowledge about our Long Island, Manhattan and Paris settings, but we had to research so much more as landscapes and venues change so much over time. Actually, the research was some of the most fun we had with the book.
What motivates you to write? I’m a sporadic writer. I wish I could say I was one of those people who writes all the time, but I’m not. I really feel like I have to have something meaningful to say. Because I write for a living, by assignment, I’m often writing for other people or for academic pursuits. It’s rare that I get the time to just write for myself. I have to get better at making the time to do that. If it were not for my sister’s idea and nudging me to do this initially, I probably would not have written this book. Even then, it sat for 10 years after I finished it. Then, a couple of years ago, I decided to dust it off, reinvent it, re-edit it, and really aggressively started to market it. I’ve had so much positive feedback from people, I’m glad I did it.
Did you experience writer’s block? Well, it took three years to write, part-time, because I was working full-time. And then another two years recently to re-write and edit it. So I didn’t experience writer’s block so much as writer’s interference! Life just gets in the way sometimes, but it gave me the time to re-examine the story and the dialogue.
How did you go about finding a publisher? Why did you decide on Inkwater Press? After some initial rejections from traditional publishers, I went to BEA. I thought I’d find an agent or publisher, but instead what I found were all these indie authors who inspired me to either self-publish or look into author subsidized publications. I didn’t want a vanity press who would publish anything for money. Inkwater struck just the right chord with me. They publish beautiful books. They only take on a few projects a year so they really have to believe the book is of some quality and will sell. They offered me a fair contract and I chose to work with them.
What would you say is the biggest misconception about writing a book? Hmm… I think there are probably many, but I would have to say that it will be a profitable venture. Just because you write a book, doesn’t mean it will be well received or profitable. I didn’t go into this with that intention. In fact, I assumed it would not make money. If it does, that will be a pleasant surprise!
What was your favorite aspect of the writing process for this book? Writing for a variety of voices. Getting into the minds of each character and then trying to get the vernacular right for each character… that was a lot of fun. I hope I did a good job of that.
What tools/methods have you employed to promote your book? What advice would you give to writers regarding promotion? I do a lot of in-person appearances at book clubs and local shows, fairs. I also have some retail book sellers carrying the book. But I would have to say social media, by far, is the biggest and most important tool today. It’s very, very time consuming, and there’s a lot of strategizing I still have to learn. If you can afford it, hire a social media expert in PR and promotion.
How has life changed for you since the publication of your book? It hasn’t; it’s just busier because now I have to spend every free minute that I’m not teaching or freelancing promoting the book, or going to events, or researching new venues to sell the book. Phew! I’m exhausted!
Do you find yourself obsessively checking sales stats? Never.
Is there a second book in the works? There may be. I’m actually working on a movie script I’ve had on the backburner for a while and would like to give that some attention. But I did create a blog associated with the book where I have posed a question associated with the main theme of the book. I was hoping to collect people’s stories, if they wanted to share them, but so far, I think people have been reluctant to post a story. I thought the material might spur a second book, but we’ll see…
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? Well, I agree with Oprah’s statement, but I can’t say I’ve experienced much success yet as a writer yet! The book’s only been out since September. When I hit the 5,000 sales mark, or a big agent wants me or I get a movie deal… then maybe I can speak to the notion of success as a writer. But, seriously, it depends how you define success. Am I successful if my work is published, but isn’t selling? What if it sells like blazes, but the work itself is trash? Are those writers “successful” or just savvy marketers? I think society mostly defines success in terms of financial success, but I would consider myself successful as a writer if my book touched some people, covered my initial investment, and maybe generated at least some income so I could embark on another project.