Saturday, January 22, 2011

Interview with Suzanne Tyrpak

Briefly describe your journey in writing your first book.
I wrote my first novel, Rosey’s Dream, over ten years ago, but Vestal Virgin, my third completed novel, is the first novel I’ve published. Rosey’s Dream grew out of a short story about a go-go dancer who gets caught up in the seedy underworld of New York City in the 1970’s. Okay, I admit it--a lot of the story is based on my own experience. That book taught me how to write a novel. After finishing the first draft, I attended the Maui Writers’ Retreat and Conference, and I was blown away by what I didn’t know, and blown away by what learned. I went home and rewrote the whole book—mostly I cut! And I worked with one of the terrific writers I met at the retreat, Elizabeth Engstrom, as my writing coach.

Did you query agents or traditional publishers before publishing on Amazon?
I’ve had two agents and have come close to being traditionally published a few times. My stories don’t fall into a specific genre and that may be the problem. Vestal Virgin is historical suspense, but it also contains elements of fantasy and romance, so traditional publishers don’t know how to market it, and they’re afraid to take a chance. Natalia Aponte, an editor at Tor, showed a lot of interest—and she essentially edited the first fifty pages. I had high hopes for Tor, but they don’t do much historical. I met a “big” agent at The Historical Writers’ Conference who told me, “No one’s interested in Rome.” I thought that was odd, especially since HBO was running their Rome series at the time!

What factors influenced your decision to self-publish?
My good friend, Blake Crouch (Desert Places, Locked Doors, Serial), convinced me to self-publish. I was caught in the mind-set of wanting to be traditionally published, because I had no idea about the world of ePublishing. Once I began to understand what’s happening, I couldn’t wait to jump onboard. And I love it!

Did you design your cover art?  If not, would you care to share your graphic designer’s information? How involved were you during the creative process for your cover?
I am hopeless technically, so no, I didn’t design my cover art. The wonderfully creative and generous Jeroen ten Berg designs my covers. He is amazing.

How did you feel when you got your first sale?  Are you pleased with sales so far?
Getting my first sale was wonderful. I’m pleased with the way my collection of short stories, Dating My Vibrator (and other true fiction) has been selling. I’m told novels sell better, so I’m curious to see how Vestal Virgin sells. It’s exciting to know that people are reading my work.

What is the biggest thing you’ve learned during your self-publishing journey?
Self-publishing may seem like a lonely journey, but it’s truly a collaborative effort. I’ve learned a lot about forums—Kindle Boards and Amazon are my first forum experiences: the good, the bad and the ugly. I love the way people help each other out on Kindle Boards. It makes me sad to hear about some of the nasty things that go on elsewhere. Self-publishing require the writer to also be the publicist—but these days that’s also true for writers who are traditionally published.

What kinds of social media [twitter, facebook, webpage, blog, writing forums] are you involved with trying to garner attention for your book(s)?
Aside from my beloved Kindle Boards and a few safe havens like Al’s Place on Amazon, I enjoy connecting on Facebook. Haven’t gotten into twitter, because I’m not into texting. I post on my blog, Who’s Imagining All This, a couple of times a week—or whenever I have something to share. I like to promote other writers. And I’ve held writing contests, offer information for writers and readers, post stories.

Besides Amazon, are there any other sites where your books are for sale?
Smashwords. And I’ll be publishing on Barnes & Noble and Google.

What’s next for you?
I plan to finish a novel I’m about a third of the way through, Agathon’s Daughter. It’s suspense set in ancient Greece. Here’s a description:

Born a bastard and a slave, Hestia has a gift—the power to read people’s hearts. This gift brings her notoriety and takes her on journey through the upper echelons of Athens. Sold to Lycurgus, a prominent statesman with sadistic tendencies, she becomes his consort. As Hestia’s wealth and fame increase, so does her despair. Determined to escape her cruel master, she faces enemies at every turn, but the fiercest enemy she faces is herself. To gain freedom, she must unravel the mystery of her past and confront the demons in her own heart. 

I also hope to put together another short collection of short stories—but no more dating! These will be probably be creepy. Just met a guy at work who was a grave digger—I’m hoping he’ll let me tag along. I’ve got some ideas for a story.