Meet Tracie Banister

Today’s featured debut author is Tracie Banister. I LOVE the concept for her chick-lit book, Blame It on the Fame – following the five nominees for the Best Actress Oscar from the time they learn about their nomination until the winner is revealed during the awards ceremony telecast. Which of this year’s nominees do you think would be most interesting to follow? Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, Michelle Williams, Viola Davis or Rooney Mara? 

Name: Tracie Banister

Name of book: Blame It on the Fame

Book genre: Chick lit

Date Published: January 18, 2012

Publisher: Self-published

What is your day job? Prior to embarking on a full-time writing career, I was a personal assistant to an entrepreneur for over a decade.

What is your book about? Blame It on the Fame tells the story of the five nominees for the Best Actress Oscar from the time they learn about the nomination until the envelope is ripped open and the winner is revealed. Readers will get to take a peek behind the velvet curtain and see how the media frenzy surrounding the Oscars affects these five very different women and takes a toll on them both personally and professionally.

Why did you want to write this book? I’ve always been fascinated by Hollywood, all the glitz and glamour, the premieres, the parties, the designer gowns, etc., and there’s nothing more star-studded and fabulous than the Oscars. What we see on the red carpet at this event every year are the public faces of the nominees. I wanted to know what was going on behind-the-scenes with these actors and actresses. How overwhelming was the whole experience? How thrilling? How terrifying? How did being part of the Oscars change their lives? And that’s how Blame It on the Fame was born.

What would you say is the most challenging part of writing a book? For this particular book, the most challenging part was having to interweave the stories of five different heroines over a specific period of time. I had to use a big dry erase board and multicolored post-it notes (each color representing one of the main characters) in order to keep the timeline straight, see where the different stories had their climaxes, and make sure that each heroine was getting her fair share of pages. It was all quite mind-boggling!

Did you conduct any kind of research in order to write this book? I always do research for all aspects of my books. For Blame It on the Fame, I had to get details on current celebrity hotspots, the venues where the different awards shows are held, Oscar statistics, and most importantly, I needed info and visual aids to help me with all of the red carpet fashion that’s discussed in the book.

What motivates you to write? I’ve always got stories knocking around in my head, and I enjoy giving my creations life on the page. I don’t think I’d be happy if I didn’t write; it’s something I’ve done since I was a little girl.

Did you experience writer’s block? I don’t think I’ve ever had writer’s block per se, but I’ve definitely experienced writer’s burn-out. I’m a perfectionist, and I can get very frustrated with myself when my stories don’t turn out the way I want them to. At times like these, I have to step away from the computer and recharge my batteries by hopping on the treadmill, going to a movie, or chatting with a friend.

How long did it take you to write this book? This one took quite a while because it was the longest (almost 500 pages) and most complicated of any writing project I’d ever tackled before. I wrote the first half of the book over a two-year period (I was running my own Avon business at the time, so I didn’t have a lot of spare time for writing). But when I switched gears and started devoting myself full-time to Blame It on the Fame, I was able to write the second half of the book in about 8 months. So, I’d say three years total to write, revise, and complete Blame It on the Fame.

Why did you decide to self-publish? Unfortunately, traditional publishers are not high on women’s fiction at the moment unless it involves vampires and/or a heroine who is under the legal drinking age. I actually sat on Blame It on the Fame for two years, hoping and praying that the publishing pendulum would swing back towards Chick Lit, but it never did. Meanwhile, digital publishing exploded, and I saw all of these indie authors publishing their own books and having amazing success by going that route. So, I thought, Why not? I’ll just take my book straight to the people. I have confidence that there is a huge audience of Chick Lit fans out there who would love to hear from some new voices in the genre.

Was the self-publishing process easier or more difficult than you thought it would be? It was a much more involved and time-consuming process than I’d first imagined, but I’m a control freak. So, I absolutely love being in charge of everything — editing, cover art, marketing, etc. I have learned SO much along the way to self-publishing my book, and I think it’s been an amazing and enlightening experience!

What is the biggest misconception about writing a book? That it’s easy. It’s not. Writers have to have a tremendous amount of focus, self-discipline, and determination to see writing a book through to the end. It can be fun and rewarding, but it can also be very daunting and enervating.

What was your favorite aspect of the writing process for this book? I always love it when the characters go from being an abstract idea in my head to a real, multi-dimensional person on the page. My non-writing friends think I’m nuts when I say this, but my characters take on lives of their own, and I love it when they do and say things I didn’t expect them to! For me, it’s the unplanned bits in a book that are almost always the best.

What tools/methods have you employed to promote your book? What advice would you give to writers regarding promotion? I can’t say enough good things about Twitter as a marketing/networking tool. I have become a part of the most amazing community of writers and readers on Twitter who have been so supportive and encouraging throughout this whole publishing process. Facebook is another good avenue for connecting with people and talking about your book. And I think it’s crucial for authors to have a blog, although you shouldn’t let blogging distract you from your writing. My advice for writers is to build buzz about your book in the months and weeks leading up to your release. Get people excited about what you’re going to be selling. And don’t give away too much in advance. You want to entice people with just enough info to make them want more.

How has life changed for you since the publication of your book? Well, I’m not rich and famous yet, but I do have a great sense of accomplishment, which is something I value highly. As scary as it was to put my book out there for public consumption, I’m glad I took the risk because I’ve loved getting feedback from readers. To know that I’ve entertained people with my stories and characters is truly a gift.

Do you find yourself obsessively checking sales stats? Not yet, but give me time. My book hasn’t been out for long. I’m sure that I’ll be a sales stats-checking maniac a month from now!

Do you plan on writing another book? Blame It on the Fame is actually the third book I wrote. I’m hoping to release book two, a Chick Lit novel with a Latina heroine, this summer. I’m currently working on several projects, a Regency novel, which I’m hoping will be the first in a series, an era-hopping romance with a paranormal twist, and I’ve been playing around with a YA novel as well. So many ideas, and so little time to write them all!

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 would definitely agree that luck is difficult to come by for most authors, myself included. The publishing industry is in a state of flux, and it’s next to impossible for new writers to get their voices heard. So, you have to go out and make your own luck with hard work and perseverance. The opportunity for me was digital publishing, which was something that wasn’t even an option just a few short years ago. My advice to everyone is to never give up on a dream because there is always more than one way to make it come true.

Advertisements

Meet Juliette Sobanet

Today’s featured debut author is Juliette Sobanet, a French professor who writes fun, sassy women’s fiction with (you guessed it!) a French twist. Thanks, Juliette, for a terrific chat — and, by the way, I just LOVE the book cover!

Name: Juliette Sobanet

Name of book: Sleeping with Paris

Book genre: Chick lit/Humorous women’s fiction

Date published: October 8, 2011

Publisher: Self-published (though Amazon and Barnes & Noble)

What is your day job?  French professor

What is your book about? Charlotte Summers is a sassy, young French teacher who is two days away from moving to Paris with the love of her life and from fulfilling her dream of studying at the prestigious Sorbonne University in France. But when she discovers her fiancé’s online dating profile and has a little chat with the busty redhead he’s been sleeping with on the side, she gives up on committed relationships altogether and decides to navigate Paris on her own.

Determined to stop other women from finding themselves in her shoes, Charlotte creates an anonymous blog on how to date like a man in the City of Love—that is, how to jump from bed to bed without ever falling in love. But, with a slew of Parisian men beating down her door, a hot new neighbor who feeds her chocolate in bed, and an appearance by her sleazy ex-fiancé, she isn’t so sure she can keep her promise to remain commitment-free.

Why did you want to write this book? I spent a year in Paris completing my Master’s degree and accumulating all sorts of fun, exciting, and sometimes bizarre experiences that I knew I’d want to write about one day. I’ve also been an avid reader and writer since I was young, and after I completed my Master’s in France and returned back to the States, I knew it was time to write the story that had been swimming around in my head and was dying to come to life on the page.

So, using some of my own life experiences and my time in France as inspiration (and then exaggerating it all, of course!), I came up with the concept for Sleeping with Paris. My goal in sending this story out into the world is that readers will find a book that they can relax with at the end of a long day, laugh out loud, fall in love with a sexy French hero, romp around France, crave a little chocolate, and fall asleep with nothing too heavy on their minds.

What would you say is the most challenging part of writing a book? Editing and rewriting. It is so difficult to swipe whole scenes, whole sections of your draft and start over again. But to have a solid final product, it simply must be done. Still though, acknowledging what isn’t working in your story and being willing to scrap it is no easy task.

Did you conduct any kind of research in order to write Sleeping with Paris? I studied abroad in Lyon for six months during undergrad and then completed my Master’s in Paris. My time in France helped me to create an authentic view of the setting and the characters from the viewpoint of a young, newly single, sassy heroine. Also, in this novel, I explore issues that all women have dealt with from time to time: love, broken hearts, infidelity, the importance of friendships, family relationships, and career aspirations. Drawing from some of my own personal experiences and from those of my friends as “research,” I hope that women (or men) who read this novel will be able to identify with some of the characters and their problems, while still having a ball romping through Paris!

What motivates you to write? I guess it goes without saying, but I love writing. It’s something I’ve always felt drawn to, ever since I was a little girl. I have stacks of journals saved up underneath the bed, and I’ve been creating stories whether on the page or in my head since as long as I can remember. I love that each writer has a unique story to tell, and with Sleeping with Paris, I was able to tell mine. Well, the first of mine, that is. There are many, many more stories in me. This is only the beginning! So, to properly answer your question, I’m motivated to write because with the exception of drinking wine on a cobblestone street in France, there’s nothing I’d rather be doing!

Did you experience writer’s block? I don’t think I’ve ever experienced full-on writer’s block. Of course, I’ve had those moments where I’ve stared at the screen and wondered, “What next?” But thankfully, for me, that is only temporary. I figure it’s better to at least get some words down on the page (even if they’re not the greatest) than to write nothing at all. That’s what editing is for!

How long did it take you to write this book? I began the first few chapters in December of 2006, but I really got down to business and wrote the whole first draft in spring of 2008. Two years of editing, revising and rewriting later, in the summer of 2010, I had a finished product. And just before publication, I went in for another round of edits. You see? The editing never ends until publication!

Why did you decide to self-publish? Last year, after Sleeping with Paris won first place in the Washington, D.C. Romance Writer’s Marlene Awards, I signed with my agent, polished up the manuscript and got it ready to send to New York. We went on submission with this novel last fall, but because of the trend away from this type of light women’s fiction/chick-lit, the book didn’t sell. Thankfully, even though we didn’t find a place for this story going the traditional route, I did receive positive editorial feedback, so I didn’t give up hope in finding a home for my first book. I recently began paying attention to the massive rise in self-publishing and saw it as a fantastic opportunity to get my work out there and gain a readership. And so I took the plunge and am so happy that I did! It took a lot of courage to get to this point, but I wouldn’t do it any differently.

Was the self-publishing process easier or more difficult than you thought it would be? Some aspects were easy breezy, while others definitely had me reaching for the wine bottle… J  Overall, though, it was quicker and more fun than I could’ve anticipated. The positive reader feedback I’ve been getting since publication has made it all worth it.

What is the biggest misconception about writing a book? That after you finish your first draft, you are almost finished. Writing the words “The End” is really just a sign that now the real work must begin. That’s when you find out that everything you wrote (or at least some of it) isn’t as fabulous as you thought . . . and then it’s time to revise and rewrite!

What was your favorite aspect of the writing process for this book? I loved the very beginning, before I had a clue what I was doing! Transferring those raw ideas to the page in any way I wanted, without worrying about “the rules.” Letting the creative juices flow, so to speak. There’s nothing more fun than that!

What tools/methods have you employed to promote your book? What advice would you give to writers regarding promotion? I’ve been blogging and using Twitter and Facebook on a regular basis as a means of promotion. I’ve also been doing interviews (like this one), have created an author profile on Goodreads, and have posted a bit on the Kindle Boards Forum. There is an endless amount of things that can be done for promotion, so the trick is to prioritize and not allow all of the promotion to steal too much time away from your writing!

How has life changed for you since the publication of your book? At first, I was so excited, busy and tired that I thought my head was going to spin off! Things are calming down a bit now, but the best and most rewarding change has been having new readers come across my book, read it, and tell me that they enjoyed it. I can’t even describe how happy that has made me.

Do you find yourself obsessively checking sales stats? Guilty as charged. Amazon updates them almost hourly, which is both helpful and a time-sucker!

You mentioned you have lots of books in you. When do you plan on writing the next? I’ve already completed a second book, called Kissed in Paris, and I am currently at work on edits for my third novel, a magical women’s fiction with a hint of mystery, called Dancing with Paris. And when this one is finished, I plan to keep on writing!

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 completely agree. We all have dreams and aspirations, but I do believe that we must do our best to work toward them, to prepare in any way that we can. With writing, that means spending a ton of time . . . writing! Then rewriting. Then asking others to read and critique our work. Then editing and revising again! The process never ends. It can be long, exhausting and time-consuming, but you won’t become a solid writer without putting in the time and effort. And then, like Oprah said, there will come a moment of opportunity, and if you’ve been working hard, hopefully you’ll be ready to jump in and take it.