Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Interview with Thea Atkinson

Briefly describe your journey in writing your most recent book.  How long did it take you to finish that manuscript?
First off, thanks so much for having me. The questions are pretty thought provoking, and I hope I’m articulate enough to deliver the answers satisfactorily.

My journey for Anomaly? Well, I've always found it difficult to talk about my writing process, mostly because it's a mystery even to me.  I could say that I give considerable thought to the story or that the characters have percolated enough in my mind that I know them really well before I start.  Those would be lies.  The truth of the matter for Anomaly, is that as I began writing I started to realize that I couldn't give the main character a gender.  By the first few words in, I knew J was transgendered; that wasn’t the issue. What was the issue was nailing down J's actual natal gender.  That led me to thinking about a seminar I sat in on a few months earlier on gay and lesbian tolerance.  I began to think as I wrote that perhaps the reason I couldn't identify the gender of my main character was because J was resisting the notion of being labeled.  Once I realized that J. was struggling with the same issue, I totally understood where the novel was going and why it was going there.  I had about 3000 words before I could settle into exactly what gender Jay had been born as, and that made all the difference for me, being able to ‘see’ J for what J was and not by anything else.

The journey itself throughout the novel was an exploration in my own sense of acceptance and education.  I find it interesting that in every community there is some kind of bias and some struggle with marginalization.  With Anomaly, I tried to show that even in special communities there is prejudice of some sort.  That it's a very human quality to set boundaries and feel threatened when those boundaries are breached.

So to speak about what the journey was like while I wrote it, I’d have to say that the writing itself was a struggle.  At the beginning I remember saying to my daughter, "Why would my muse give me a transgender character?  I know nothing about transgenderism."  Then I realized that the novel wasn't just about transgenderism it was about the human condition; it just happened to have a character in flux.  That made it a lot easier

It took me about a year to write the novel because I picked it up and put it down so often as I researched and it took me an additional six or seven months to edit.

Did you try the traditional route to publishing, i.e. querying agents/publishers?
I did send the manuscript to my agent, who I think is a wonder of the publishing world, but she didn't feel she could get on board with it.  I decided right then and there that I would publish it myself through because I really believed in the message of piece.

What factors influenced your decision to self-publish to Amazon?
Exactly what I mentioned above.  The novel doesn't fit into the typical or traditional model.  It's a little short of 70,000 words and it isn't a mass appeal type of story.  It's very character driven and it doesn't tie up things into nice, neat packages.  I feel pretty proud of it, actually, not because I think it's the next best thing, but because I ended up liking J very much and because the journey opened so many realms of possibility for me in my ways of thinking.

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 did design the cover.  One of my hobbies is graphic design and although I can't draw a stick figure, I love putting things together visually.

What is the biggest thing you’ve learned during your self-publishing journey?
I always expected the self-publishing journey to be difficult.  Which is why I always ran in the direction of traditional publishing.  I just couldn't believe I had the wherewithal to go through the self-published author struggle.  When I realized that traditionally published writers still have to follow through with promotion--the biggest hurdle for me--I realized I might as well give it a shot.  The lessons are still coming.  And for me they're all about promotion.  I'm not very good at it.  I'm terrible at it.  I have to force myself to do it, and I know that I always do it badly.  What I am learning to do right now is critically assess how others handle it.  It takes so much time to promote well that I don't believe this particular lesson will ever really be finished.

Besides Amazon, are there any other sites where your books are for sale?
Yes, my books are available on Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Diesel ebookstore and Kobo.

What kinds of social media [twitter, facebook, webpage, blog, forums] are you involved with for promoting your book(s)?
I've kept a Facebook page ever since I created an account.  In the beginning it was about trying to find a way to mentor new writers but I dissolved that page even though it had quite a few followers and started afresh so that I could blend that idea with the idea of promotion. So now I use the page to offer writing exercises to those that want them, to provide guests who start specific discussion topics, and to notify fans about my progress with my writing and my books.

I also tweet a bit and blog a bit, but I'm not very good at either one yet.

What’s next for you?
I've begun to outline a young adult paranormal series.  It has nothing to do with vampires or zombies or werewolves.  It's about a real girl with what I think are very possible powers.  I plan to tell the story in five books.  That's a huge commitment for me, I like the idea enough that I think I can manage it.  I will probably continue to write short stories and flash fiction because those are nice little short gratifying that can begin and end a much shorter time.  They usually submit those to literary journals and have no plans to try to sell them on Kindle.