Monday, May 2, 2011

On Writing and Publishing

As a writer I’m always interested in how other writers deal with their craft and the publishing life, and that’s why I’m posting the interview here. I hope it helps! The questions in this interview are by Justin Ryan Schwan, and the answers are mine.

- How many books have you published, and what are some of them about? So far, I’ve published 16 books and just signed a contract for the 17th,  which is already written, but I need to revise. Two are novellas and the others are non-fiction, covering subjects that I find interesting and that I can write about from experience, such as eating disorders, relationships, pregnancy and child-rearing and of course, writing and publishing!

- What is your favorite topic to write about?
I don’t have a favorite topic. I do have a favorite voice, hopefully unpretentious and to the point.

- When you were growing up did you ever imagine yourself as an author?
I don’t remember. I grew up around books. My grandfather wrote and had his own small publishing press. His brother was a linguist and a writer. My father is also an author. I watched both my dad and my grandfather write all the time. My dad helped me publish my own 4-page magazine when I was around 7. My younger sister did the drawings. Alas, my dad wanted me to be a marine biologist. But, I chose to write.

- Was writing something you worked for or did you fall into it?
Perhaps writing fell into me. I didn’t question it. It took me a while to actually decide to write for publication. That happened when I was 29. Until then, I wrote aimlessly. One day I realized that I needed to get a certain story off my chest or I would remain forever blocked. That was my struggle with an eating disorder. I wrote it in three weeks, and in less than one month I had three or four publishing contracts to choose from. My first book was published when I was 30. I never stopped writing and publishing after that.

- How has speaking two languages affected your writing career?
I lived in Spain when I started publishing, so it made sense to continue to write and publish in Spanish. I was there to promote my books on TV, for example. When I moved to the US in 2004 I wondered if I would finally dare write in English for publication, but to this day I get more meaningful gigs in Spanish.
Last year I finally wrote the rough draft of my first novel in English. I feel more confident about it now that I live here, surrounded by the language. My English has always been a little too “proper”, having attended a British school, and I wasn’t familiar with the day-to-day American slang that makes writing more fluid.

- Do your books sell better in English or in Spanish?
My books are all in Spanish and other languages that include Portuguese, Czech and Catalan. I will get back to you on this one when I publish my chick-lit and YA novels that I’m working on! That’s my next big challenge.

- Is the book industry very different in either culture?
Somewhat. In Spain you didn’t need an agent until recently, and even then … I’ve worked with and without agents and the main difference is that the agent usually gets you a bigger advance. There is a lot less editing work done on books in Spanish than in English. I haven’t heard of or experienced Spanish publishers trying to change a story or working on a book alongside the author for a year. They mostly let the author do his or her thing. This is a double-edged sword.

- How has motherhood affected your writing career?
It’s given me new material for my books: one on pregnancy and two on creative parenting. Other than that, I finished writing my first published novel the night before my first daughter was born, and when she was a year old, I checked into a hotel for three days to work on it. I´ve written on a deadline with my kids napping or crawling under the table. I´m a writer. Now I´m also a mom, but if I respect myself as a writer, I know that makes me a better mom. My kids are already great readers at 6 and 9 years old. I also got a steady gig at because I´m a mom and because I´ve written books about being a mom!

- What are the challenges of raising children and writing?
Similar challenges as with living and writing. Before kids I was always juggling free-lance work as a translator and interpreter with my own writing. I’ve written through life’s ups and downs, being single, married and divorced, with and without children. Life is always going to happen, and it better happen doing what you want to do.

- Have you ever faced adversity in publishing—dealing with an agent, editor, or publisher?
Many times! From being told that there was a flood in the warehouse and therefore no royalties from the copies that were affected to having my name misspelled on the cover, I could write a book about publishing anecdotes. I take them in stride and I don’t get bitter about any of it. I write because I want to and it’s up to me to deal with it all. I’m lucky to be publishing at all and to be paid vs. paying for being published. 

- Who inspired you most in writing? How so?
All the authors I read when I was a kid, from Nabokov to Poe. I don’t think or philosophize about that too much! I’d rather write. I’m a doer.

- How do you structure your days? Are you a strict disciplinarian or are you flexible with life?
I write like I run: I’m committed for life. I don’t need to discipline myself to do it – I make the time, but I’m flexible. I used to write at night before I had kids. Now I write when I can.

- What are your methods for meeting a deadline?
I´m not a procrastinator. I usually finish long before a deadline. I don´t like the feeling of unfinished business, so I tackle things as they arise. Making a living as a freelancer taught me that.

- What do you tell up and coming authors?
To write as much as possible, even if you feel it´s bad. I taught creative writing for a few years, after my kids were born, just to get out of the house and interact with other adults. I believe that if you don´t have any material to improve upon, you will continue to put off writing until you can do it well enough, and if you don’t write, that day will never come.

- What do you tell yourself about writing, and handling the ups and downs?
I´ve been writing for publication for 18 years now and know that most of the highs and lows are in my head. One day you feel that you are a pretty good writer, and the next, you know you suck. I used to think the next book would be the one to bring in the big bucks, the huge recognition, eternal happiness … But of course it never is. Now I mostly try to keep writing and enjoy the ride. I´m grateful that not being a 9-5 job kind of person, I´ve made it this far in life as a free-lance writer and translator. I get to run on the beach when others are working, but then on the weekend I may need to choose writing over hanging out with friends.

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1 comment:

  1. Wonderful! I'm glad you put them up here so other people can see how awesome this was.