Today’s featured debut author, Lauren Santaniello, was diagnosed with dyslexia at a very young age. She discusses how that impacted her writing and shares with us the process of getting her debut novel, Death of Ignorance, published.
Name of book: Death of Ignorance
Book genre: Modern fantasy/psychological thriller
Date published: October 2011
Publisher: Eve Adams and Stories to Tale
What is your day job?: Full-time student at Ramapo College where I study literature, Italian, and secondary education
What is your book about?Death of Ignorance is the first book in a physiological thriller trilogy that incorporates elements of mythology to weave a heart-pounding tale. It tells the story of 19-year-old Alex Sharrock who cannot escape the darkness in his life, and he consequently attempts to commit suicide. However, he cannot escape his destiny either. Alex’s failure sends his life spiraling in an unimaginable direction, and he finds himself caught in a battle between immortal Gods and the Underworld. In this gritty, adrenaline-pumping trilogy, Alex must struggle to survive and overcome his ever-crippling ignorance. If he fails, the world may very well fall to ruin, and there will be nothing left to save.
Why did you want to write this book?: Death of Ignorance is a story that wanted to be written. I almost had no control over it. It started out as a short story (which is now the prologue), and it kept going. I couldn’t seem to stop. I wanted to keep going and find out what would happen next at the end of every chapter. Many find it hard to believe, but I wrote the first book without having any clue how it would end. Eventually, when Death of Ignorance did end, I realized there was more to this story. Two more books had to be written so I could learn what would become of the characters. It seems strange, but essentially I wanted to write this book just so I could find out what would happen next.
You were diagnosed with dyslexia at a very young age. How did that impact the writing of this book? It made it very hard. Storytelling comes naturally to me, but to actually be able to put words that are spelled correctly down on paper is extremely difficult! I’m constantly misspelling words or writing the wrong word (for example “saw” instead of “was”) and these are mistakes that Spell Check cannot recognize. No matter how many times I read and reread a sentence, my mind will not recognize the error, so that has made this process all the more challenging.
Did you conduct any kind of research in order to write this book (visit certain locales, etc.)? A lot of research went into this series. My character goes to rehab early on in the book. I knew nothing about drug addiction or rehabilitation clinics, so I had to do a lot of research on that by reading textbooks. In the end, I strayed a little from the truth and took some creative liberties so I would be able to tell a functional story; I think readers can forgive me for that. My character also goes to France. While I had been to Europe, the closest I got to Paris was an overlay in the airport while switching planes to Italy. GoogleEarth really helped me make the story come alive. I was able to explore the streets of Paris from my own home. Technology is really amazing! I also took some classes at my college that I thought were relevant to the story and they helped me in developing this series.
What motivates you to write? Writing is my passion. I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life. I want to tell stories and take people to places they have never seen or could have ever imagined. I want to make them feel. I want to invoke feelings of fear, passion, heartache, and joy. I want to take readers so far from everything they know and leave them with a lasting impression. That is what motivates me to write, and I cannot imagine ever losing that spark.
Did you experience writer’s block? ll the time! I often have nightmares because I fear I will never be able to write myself out of this situation or another. Sometimes I get so upset I have to put my computer down for a week at a time, and I lie awake at night thinking what I can possibly do next. I have found the best thing that really helps me, though, is to listen to music. During these breaks I listen to bands like Muse and Breaking Benjamin to help inspire me. I also will talk to some of my friends who have helped me from the very beginning. I will run ideas by them and ask for their opinions. They will tell me honestly if something doesn’t seem right or just doesn’t fit. Sometimes I have to rewrite entire chapters to dig myself out of the hole I have created, but usually when I do this it is for the better.
Tell me about the publishing process. How did you go about finding a publisher? Was the process easier or more difficult than you thought it would be? I always knew I wanted to be a published author, I just never knew how to be one or what to do. Two years after I wrote Death of Ignorance, a friend of mine began interning for Stories to Tale. I decided it was time to see if I could get Death of Ignorance published. I sent in a copy to my publisher, Eve Adams, and it took some time before I heard anything back. Then, in November of 2010, Eve sent me a publishing contract. I knew nothing about the publishing industry so I had to learn a lot from Eve. She has always been very helpful and is always giving me advice and pointing me in the right direction. Eve has made the process very easy for me, but I try and help out with whatever I can.
What would you say is the biggest misconception about writing a book? The biggest misconception I had is that when you write a book you’re suddenly done and everyone knows who you are! False! As a new writer you have to work incredibly hard to get your name out there and to have people recognize you as an author. You have to prove to readers that you are worth their time. Sometimes I feel like I have to scream and jump up and down to get people to notice me, but I know in the end all of this hard work will pay off. It is a labor of love.
What was your favorite aspect of the writing process for this book? Developing my characters. I love all of them! I have an affair with each character, the good and the bad. I love writing their dialogues and working on their interactions with each other. They are all so unique and have something exciting to offer. For fun, I will write mindless dialogue when I have nothing to do just so I can listen to the characters speak and see what sort of trouble they can get themselves into. They are more than just fictional characters. They all are very real to me and developing them was perhaps the best part of the writing process.
What tools/methods have you employed to promote your book? What advice would you give to writers regarding promotion? As I am learning, promotion can be really hard. I gobble up any opportunity I can get my hands on. I have done newspaper interviews, radio interviews, and speaking engagements. Sometimes I have had to email people a couple times before they have given me any sort of chance, but I make sure to show them that I am well worth their consideration. The best advice I can give writers is to never give up! Keep pestering and pestering people until they take notice! Perseverance is everything!
Have you begun writing the second book in the trilogy? I have already written the second book, Death of Innocence, and I am currently working on book three, Death of Beauty. I plan on writing for the rest f my life so there will be many more books to come!
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 absolutely agree. Personally I don’t believe in luck. I do, however, believe in hard work. You have to be willing to work hard to achieve anything. As a writer, I have to work hard and find opportunities to promote myself and my book. Stephen King, for example, isn’t going to find my book by chance, read it, and suddenly decide to promote it. I would have to work to get him to ever consider looking at it, and after wearing him down, maybe, just maybe he would decide to open the front cover. No, luck does not exist, only hard work, and I am willing to work hard and prove to King and distinguished writers like him that I will make my mark in the literary world and nothing is going to deter me from seeing that happen.