Deborah Reed will be speaking Friday night, June 24th about how she recently landed a 3-book deal. Her talk is titled My Way: Truth, Risk & Lies. If you’re discouraged, burned out, and just plain confused, she’s got answers and insights that will show you the way. A Small Fortune will be published on July 19th and Carry Yourself Back to Me on September 20th. I’ve read them both and guarantee you’ll find yourself sighing with envy over the gorgeous language and story lines.
Q: Could you give us a preview of your Friday night talk and tell us a bit about how you chose a roundabout way to landing a book deal and why you did it?
A: Roundabout seemed my only option. The mindset of publishing over the last few years was (and still is to some degree) going mad, imploding really, at the time my then-agent was trying to sell my work. As a writer of fiction–the hardest genre to sell–I knew I could either go down with it, or take a risk and make something happen on my own. I’ve always been a do it yourself kind of person so it wasn’t much of a stretch for me to pool my resources and take off. The moment I did I felt an overwhelming sense of freedom, calm, and control.
I was chastised more than once by my agent for making too many connections on my own, so I made even more in secret, and it was those secret connections that led me to a 3-book deal.
But there are many good reasons not to break out on one’s own in this way, and I will touch upon those as well.
Q: What is your best advice for someone who is frustrated at not being able to break into publishing?
A: You are not alone. Even the most published are frustrated with the hoops and changes taking place. Quality doesn’t always equal a publishing contract. It’s important to remember this. Becoming a published writer is not for the faint of heart. You have to keep pushing. There’s the old joke about what do you call a writer who never gives up? Published.
Most of all, keep writing, and don’t forget to read with the same amount of focus and passion you put into writing.
It’s also impossible to talk about publishing without talking about the writing itself, which is where one needs to live and breathe 99% of the time. I was offered a book deal at the same time I got accepted into an MFA program. For all of about 10 minutes I considered not attending the program. Becoming a better writer must be your biggest goal. Not writing well enough is, in my opinion, your biggest hurdle.
Q: What is your biggest challenge as a writer and how do you tackle it?
A: From a pure working perspective, my biggest challenges seem to double as gifts. Having a family certainly makes it difficult to devote all the time and headspace I would like to devote to writing, while at the same time having a family makes for relationship dynamics that I often draw on in my writing. It’s within this realm of closeness with my children and husband that all the essential stuff of life gets played out–all the misfiring in communication, the good intentions suffocating another’s spirit, the tender hearts swelling with love, breaking a little, and healing, over and over and over.
But perhaps the biggest challenge for me is me. I’m self-critical and insecure about my writing. Sure, there are wonderfully warm moments when I feel on solid ground, but they are so damn fleeting. Success has not equaled security for me, and if you think it will for you I’m willing to guess you’ll be disappointed. One way I deal with this, at least in one half of my writing life, is something I started doing by accident–I use a pseudonym to write genre fiction. Taking on another persona has wildly resulted in confidence. My alter-ego Audrey Braun has taught Deborah Reed a thing or two about getting words on the page.
Q: What is your best advice to writers in 10 words or less?
A: As Richard Bausch likes to say, stay in the chair.
Q: Sushi or pasta?
A: Neither. I’m a fruit and veggies kind of gal.
Q: What’s on your nightstand?
A: A lot of dust. And Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones, The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore by Benjamin Hale, and Marriage Confidential: Love in the Post-Romantic Age by Pamela Haag.
Q: What project is next for you?
A: I have one year left of graduate school before I receive my MFA in creative writing so I will finish up with that, while I’m currently working on another suspense novel in the Audrey Braun series, which I hope will be out by summer 2012. I’m also working on a literary novel that I will use as my thesis. I like to keep a pile of balls in the air.