Author Interviews Can Be Insightful

Today, my latest author interview is live at https://authorsinterviews.wordpress.com/2017/09/22/here-is-my-interview-with-debra-daugherty/comment-page-1/#comment-17842

 I’ve found that author interviews can be insightful, not necessarily to the reader, but to me. Let me explain:

I enjoyed being interviewed by Fiona Mcvie. She asked some tough questions. The one easy question, “What is my age?,” I messed up. I said I’m a young 61, but realize now that the interview is online, I’m actually 62. LOL.  If one has to be wrong about anything, being wrong about age is good, as long as it’s making you younger, not older.

(My take on this – I can and do make mistakes.)

Doing author interviews is fun and thought provoking. The questions can be simple, like “What is your favorite color?,” to tough,  “If you could meet any person, past or present, who would it be and why?”

 (I have to think a long while sometimes before answering.)

When pondering answers to some questions, I learn new things about myself. I never thought before about what my favorite music was, but thanks to Fiona’s question, I realize when it comes to music, I’m stuck in the 60’s, the years of my youth. I’d rather listen to a Beatles’ song than a Justin Biever’s. No offense, Justin. My young niece is still a fan.

 (I discover long hidden pieces of me, my likes and dislikes.)

Interviews renew my love of writing. I am reminded of when I started, who inspired me, what is my favorite genre,and what motivates me.

 (I rediscover why I write.)

I’m never sure how many people read author interviews. The jump in book sales don’t materialize. I do get likes and congrats from fellow writers when I post the links on twitter and my Facebook pages. I’ve discovered that writers are my biggest source of encouragement. We all share our disappointments and successes on line, and commiserate or rejoice together.

 (My biggest supporters are other writers.)

When answering interview questions, the writer in me takes over. My answers can run long, as if I’m writing pages for a book. I do my best to write flawlessly and with intelligence, calling on my writer’s voice to answer for me. And like with my writing, I am never satisfied.

 (I am never satisfied.)

When I read my interview once it’s posted, I think, “Why did I say that?” when I should have said ….something else.  There’s no do-over with an interview. Once it’s online, those words will always be “out there” to make you cringe and feel like you could have done better.

 (Again, I am never satisfied.)

There’s no need to worry. Tomorrow, the next interview will be live, and yours will fade away from everyone’s memory but your own. When doing an interview, have fun. “Enjoy the ride.” Bask in the “15 minutes of fame.” And strive to do better next time.

(There’s always tomorrow.)

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Always Be Prepared

In June I attended the Writing Workshop of Chicago because several of the guest speakers were people whose writings and blogs I have enjoyed online. Also, the promise of agents, both speaking and accepting 10 minute pitches, made this an opportunity not to be missed.

One agent’s name stood out. I have queried her in the past, and have gotten encouraging responses. I decided to pitch my YA novel to her in person, and this would also be a great chance to thank her.

For days I practiced my pitch. I typed out what I wanted to say, then timed myself to fit my speech in the 10 minute time frame. I memorized the words, and while driving, watching TV, and in bed at night, I recited my pitch. I arrived in Chicago, feeling confident that I could do it, no problem.

My pitch time was set for the morning, about 30 minutes into the sessions. At least I didn’t have to worry and fret all day about what to say. I could get in there, say my speech and get it over with!

When it came my turn, I made an initial blunder. I called the agent by her first name, not Miss so and so. Granted, in her emails to me she had signed just her first name, but I didn’t plan on calling her by it upon our first meeting.

I sat down and everything I had memorized evaporated. I hesitated, then said, “I’ve never done this before. Where do I start?”

The agent couldn’t have been nicer. She told me to just tell her about my story, which I did. Along the way she asked questions and gave input, and before I knew it, my time was up.

I must not have done as badly as I thought, as she asked for 30 pages. I left her table feeling grateful and encouraged.

As a moderator for the SCBWI – IL Springfield Area, I tried something new at our last meeting. Knowing 3 of the members were attending a writers conference this weekend, I asked one to pitch her story in six minutes, all the time we had left before the meeting ended. Another member acted as the agent and listened to the pitch and asked questions.

I know I put this writer in a pressured situation, but she handled herself quite well. The “agent” had great questions, and based on this practice session, the writer realized how ill prepared she was to talk about her book. She is now working on her pitch, and she’s going to be ready, and confident, when she meets an agent or publisher at this conference.  If they say, “What do you write? Tell me about your book,” she is going to have a quick response.

Writers need to be like the Boy Scouts, always prepared. Yet, even the best prepared can stumble. It’s the finish that counts.

My Season to Bloom

April. Springtime. Warm weather. Rain. Flowers. This is the Season to Bloom, not just in nature, but in my writing. It’s time I shed the winter blahs and get busy writing, editing and querying. My goal this year is to connect with an agent. Having an agent would free time for me to write, and that is what I want to do. It seems like I spend most of my days researching literary agencies and their agents, and then querying the ones interested in the genre I write.

I enjoy twitter pitch days, and #Kidlit and #TKA20 were on the same day, April 5th. I had a fave from each, and I sent my query letter and pages, only to meet with disappointment from both agents this week. My writers group believe a rejection is good as it shows we are trying, we are putting ourselves out there. But they still aren’t easy to take. I find hope in the fact that so many great authors met with several rejections before offered a contract. The most famous that comes to mind is J.K. Rowling, but even Margaret Mitchell had trouble getting GONE WITH THE WIND published. I’m in good company.

I find help, suggestions and great writing tips and advice in other authors’ blogs and websites. I especially enjoy reading Janice Hardy’s articles on revising in Fiction University.  Sub It Club and Kidlit 411 are great sources for writing help and advice. And so is sharing with the writers in my critique group.

At first it was hard to listen to any negative comments about my writing, but I’ve learned to trust the members in my group. They do know what they are talking about, and when I take their advice, my writing improves. Because I know how hard it is to receive criticism, I have a hard time giving it. I just tell myself, if it was me, I’d want to know if there was a problem in my writing that I could fix. My input is only to help, not to be hurtful.

I remember a story I wrote about a grandmother who couldn’t hear. I thought it was funny, and my 5 year old nephew loved it and laughed every time I read it to him. I sent it out to several agents and publishers, with no luck. I then submitted it to Rate Your Story, a site where authors offer advice and criticism on the stories, including a rating from 1 to 10, with ten being the worse. I was shocked when I received a 9 rating, and told the grandmother in my story was mean. I never thought of her that way, but after some reflection, I realized that was how she sounded. I was embarrassed because I had sent this story out and probably alienated the agents who read it. They would probably never want to read another one of my manuscripts.

I had shared this story with my writers group, yet no one said the grandmother was mean. Maybe they thought so, but didn’t want to hurt my feelings. It’s better my feelings be hurt in our small group than for me to foolishly submit it to agents and publishers as it was written. Someday I will re-examine this story and fix it, but even now I’m too embarrassed to read it.

I know that for my stories to bloom, I have to accept criticism and then revise. I guess criticism could be compared to the fertilizer applied to plants and flowers. It stinks, but in the end, it’s the reason the flowers and plants grow and blossom.

This is my season to bloom. I plan to work on my writing and accept criticism as a gift. And then, oh, how my garden of words will grow!

SPRING IS HERE!

March 20, 2017
Happy Spring to all! It’s finally here. The sun is shining, the temp is in the low 70’s and I’ve shed my jacket. My back door is open to let in the refreshing Spring air. My dogs are loving it, running in and out at will. It’s too beautiful a day to spend indoors, and after I finish this blog, I’m heading outside.
In my last posting I wrote about the exciting news I received from a publishing company. The publishers offered me a contract for my YA series. My search for an agent to help in this deal failed, although I did receive some lovely notes from some, and congratulatory wishes.
I turned down the offer. After reading the clauses in the contract, it didn’t feel right for me. I feared giving away too much of my rights as an author. An agent might have been able to negotiate changes to my benefit, but being unsure of what needed to be done, and also hesitant because this was a new publishing company just starting out, I decided it was not the right home for my novels. So I am back to submitting to agents and publishers.
I do wish this company loads of success, and may someday regret my decision, but I had to go with my gut feeling and intuition.
As the new Springfield Area SCBWI network representative, my first order of business was arranging a place for a guest speaker. Author Alice McGinty. to give her program on “psychological needs being met in children’s books to make emotional power in writing.” Pizza Ranch restaurant in Springfield, IL has agreed to let our writers group meet there for this program, even though our number is less than the usual number needed to have a private room. I promised twelve, but hope more will come. Spouses and guests are invited to this, and Juli is asking the downstate writers group to join us. I’d love to fill the room. Alice is kind enough to drive this distance to speak to us, I’d like to see a large crowd to benefit from her words.
March was the month to submit for SCBWI’s Work-in-Progress grant, and I have already sent mine in. I’ve also encouraged others to submit, too, and am especially pleased that some writers in my group have already.
Writing has its ups and downs, its highs and lows, and this month has shown me plenty of both. I hope the next time I have good news, it will stick, and I’ll be able to say, “THE LONDON INCIDENT is under contract.” This book and its sequels have tremendous potential and I need the right agent and the right publisher to see it.
Keep writing, but don’t forget to take time out for yourself to enjoy the small wonders and beauty around you.

Exciting News

March 6, 2017
I have some exciting news!
Last week a publisher for a small press company requested the FULL, after reading the first five pages I sent with my query letter. This is a quote from her letter:

“Thank you for taking the time to submit THE LONDON INCIDENT for our consideration. I shared your submission with my partner Stephen Hall, and we both were interested immediately.

The only disappointment I had with  the 5 pages was that I wanted more right away!  The writing was tight and exciting.  I liked the concept quite a bit and am glad to hear you have plans for a series.  Are those finished, or are they still works in progress?  (It’s fine either way.  I’m just curious.)”

A few days later I received this news from the same publisher:

“Congratulations! I have read and reviewed THE LONDON INCIDENT and Stephen and I would love to offer you a contract for publication with Melody Press, our Middle Grade and Young Adult imprint!
The book was such a fun story!  It moved along at a great pace and I literally could not put it down.  I can’t wait to read the sequels!
If you are interested in signing a contract with 50/50 Press for publication of your book, please let us know when you will be available to speak with me over the phone.  This weekend will be busy for us, but I have some availability on Monday or Tuesday, if that would work for you.  Just to let you know, we are in the Eastern Time Zone, so keep that in mind when finding a time.  I’d like to discuss your manuscript and the next steps in our publication process.
We loved your book and we’re excited about the opportunity to work with you.”
Our phone conference is set for Wedneday, March 8, at 2:30 P.M. EST, 1:30 P.M. my time. I do know this is a print and ebook publishing house and 20% royalties to the author. Not knowing much about contracts, despite the fact I did one with MeeGenius and then Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for picture book CALAMITY CAT, and with Astrae Press for THE DRAGON’S RING, I have been contacting agents. One has definitely promised to get back with me, and she would be a dream agent to work with. I am hoping she sees the potential I have to offer.
Besides the good news on my YA series, a publisher has also shown interest in my picture book, COLIN CAN’T CROW. After reading my query, she asked for the manuscript, and from the tone of her letter, I sensed she liked my story idea.
On a sad note, the leader of the Scribes,my writers group, Cynda Strong, is stepping down because of conflicting schedules. She asked me to take her place. I accepted only if two other ladies in my group were asked first, as they have been members of our group longer than I have. They declined, so the job is mine. Cynda is a touch act to follow, so I hope I do her proud. Tonight is our meeting, and the first time I’ll be in charge. We meet the first Monday of every month at the Chatham, IL Library. As the new SCBWI Network rep, I will be working with the Illinois Chapter. One of the members of this chapter is Alice McGinty, and tonight our group will be discussing having Alice as a guest speaker at our April meeting.
Since I have a new position with my writers group, my job as treasurer is being passed on to Pam Miller. I know she’s going to do an excellent job.
I am so proud of the ladies and gents in this small group. Many are already published. One has recently signed with an agent. Besides being excellent writers, a few are also fantastic illustrators. Some are gaining confidence and are now submitting to agents, publishers and entering writing contests. And all are supportive of each other, offering words of advice and encouragement, and sharing in the good news of each member. We’re a small group, but mighty and productive.
One member of my writers group paid me a compliment last week. She said I was the perfect replacement for Cynda, that I am already leading by example. I appreciate her kind words and hope I live up to them.

November – A Time to Give Thanks

It’s November already! When I was younger, time moved slowly, but I’m coming to realize what people mean by the saying, “time flies.” Where has this year gone?
2016 has been an eventful year. I planned on it being one of the best years of my life. On the January page of my calendar I wrote, “This is my year! Seize it!” I also added three goals for the year. 1. Sign a contract with an agent. 2. Get a book deal 3. Expand myself – do school visits.
This calendar is the one I use to keep track of writing events, conference dates, webinars, twitter pitch days, my writers group meets, etc., and looking back at the pages, I feel a sense of pride and accomplishment at all the events I participated in. I am putting my work out there, with contests and submissions to agents and publishers.
On February 3rd I pitched on twitter – #Pit2Pub (Pitch to publication), and amazingly had 6 faves on 4 of my manuscripts. From these faves, I found a publisher for my YA romantic fairy tale, The Dragon’s Ring. Stephanie Taylor offered me a contract on February 23rd with Clean Reads/Astraea Press, and I returned it, signed, on the 24th.
What a happy, joyous feeling! My story was going to be published!
During the days of celebration, I was also experiencing fear. In early January I was having female health issues, and after numerous doctor visits, a sonogram and a biopsy, I learned I had endometrial cancer, Stage 1. While doing edits for my book, I underwent surgery in mid-March. A total hysterectomy and removal of lymph nodes proved successful. My doctor is confident the cancer is gone. I did not need chemo or radiation, and my only health requirement is quarterly office visits. I believe the knowledge that my book was being published gave me hope and a purpose, and kept me going. I stayed positive and never gave in to feeling sorry for myself or tears. I didn’t let my medical issues slow me down and never missed a deadline in returning my edits to my editor.
Believing my release date was August 28th, I received a pleasant surprise from my publisher on August 1st. My book had been released July 28th. Oh happy day! My wonderful, supportive writers/critique group surprised me at the August 1st meeting with a cake decorated like my book cover and gifts. A touching and sentimental gift was a silver charm bracelet with a star (for reach for the stars), and a crown (for the princess in my story).
Since the release of my book, I’ve been devoting much of my time to interviews on authors’ blogs and social media promotions. The Springfield, IL newspaper reporter, Tamara Browning, wrote a 2 page interview for The State Journal Register. I’ve also designed and had printed nearly 300 bookmarks, with a gold ring tied on each with a ribbon.
Promoting a book is hard work, and trying to keep each interview fresh and different takes time. It’s also exciting and esteem building. I’m growing more confident with each new step and hope soon to do number 3 on my goal list, school interviews. I’ve also visited some area libraries and offered my services.
My next step is to concentrate on goal #1, finding an agent. In between sending submissions, I’ve also been writing and revising. I’ve decided to change the POV for my YA series, from 3rd person to 1st, hoping to draw in the reader.  The first of the four books is completed. Though part of a series, The London Incident can standalone. So instead of doing NaNoWriMo this year, I’m working on revisions.
2016 has been a remarkable year, and there are still a few weeks left before it ends. Perhaps my final goal will happen before the year plays out. I’ve had several ups and downs, some terrifying moments as well as ecstatic news. Thanksgiving is November 24th, but after a year like this, I’m starting early to give my thanks. My first huge THANK YOU is to God for watching over me this year, (and always). I have two favorite sayings, “Trust in the Lord,” and “Count Your Blessings.” When I learned I had cancer, I did both, and am happy to say I’m a survivor with many, many years ahead to continue to do what I love, and that is write.
I’m grateful for my family, my friends, and the people in my writing world, my writers group, the authors I’m friends with on Facebook and in life, my publisher, and the other authors with Clean Reads who continue to offer support and advice. There are so many amazing people in my life, and I wonder sometimes how I came to be so lucky. I’m blessed and grateful for those who have touched my life in a positive way. Thank you, everyone!

 

My Newspaper Interview

Earlier this month I received a phone call from Tamara Browning, a reporter for the Springfield, Illinois newspaper, the State Journal Register or SJ-R. She wanted to interview me for a human interest story for the paper. Free publicity for THE DRAGON’S RING – of course I accepted, even though it meant telling about my ordeal with cancer while I edited my book. This is the article that appeared in the Sunday paper on August 7, 2016.

    • Perseverance pays off: Author works on book while battling cancer

  • Author Debra Daugherty holds a T-shirt with a picture of the book cover of her newly released book "The Dragon's Ring." Daugherty prepared the book for release through Clean Reads while dealing with a cancer diagnosis.
    Author Debra Daugherty holds a T-shirt with a picture of the book cover of her newly released book “The Dragon’s Ring.” Daugherty prepared the book for release through Clean Reads while dealing with a cancer diagnosis. 
  • PHOTO BY TAMARA BROWNING/THE STATE JOURNAL-REGISTER
    Author Debra Daugherty holds a T-shirt with a picture of the book cover of her newly released book "The Dragon's Ring." Daugherty prepared the book for release through Clean Reads while dealing with a cancer diagnosis.A picture of author Debra Daugherty's book cover for "The Dragon's Ring." Amanda L.
    By Tamara Browning
    Staff Writer

    Posted Aug. 13, 2016 at 7:00 PM

    PLEASANT PLAINS — Author Debra Daugherty was immersed in an imaginary world of knights, witches, dragons and unicorns even as she was battling cancer in real life.

    The preparation of her latest book, “The Dragon’s Ring,” for release July 28 through Clean Reads/Astraea Press helped keep her mind off her diagnosis and treatment for Stage 1 endometrial cancer, she said.

    “The book … gave me something to do and keep my mind on and gave me a goal and a focus and a future,” said Daugherty, 61, who did preliminary edits and returned her manuscript to her publisher Feb. 28, before her outpatient biopsy on Feb. 29. She was told March 4 that she had cancer.

    “Surgery was scheduled at St. John’s for March 14. All the while I waited for this surgery, I continued to work with edits and proofs. My editor did not know about my medical problems or diagnosis,” Daugherty said. “I didn’t tell my publisher what was going on. I thought, ‘If she knows, she may decide I’m too much of a risk.'”

    Daugherty’s character Sir James Trueblood faced his own dilemma in “The Dragon’s Ring,” a young adult romantic fairy tale.

    Trueblood is determined to capture a unicorn so he can marry Princess Isadora. Unknown to the knight as he begins his quest, the princess is following him in disguise. He has a predicament when he learns the unicorn will die if not set free: Should he marry the princess or free the unicorn?

    Stephanie Taylor, owner and editor-in-chief of Clean Reads, recently learned of Daugherty’s serious medical problem.

    “What a great woman. She never missed a deadline and has always had an amazing attitude,” Taylor said. “People like that really inspire me. I personally have had thyroid cancer, so I understand what’s going through her mind right now.”

    Stick-to-itiveness

    Daugherty grew up off McQueen Road in the New Berlin School District and still lives on land her mother’s family has owned for over six generations, since 1892.

    “(My mother’s) grandparents, Sigmund and Anna Hemberger, were the original owners of the old homestead. … There’s just one acre left. That’s what my house is on, one acre,” said Daugherty, whose family now consists of her twin brothers, Dennis and Dan, their children and Daugherty’s two dogs, Honey and CeCe.

    A 1973 graduate of Springfield Sacred Heart Academy, Daugherty took a few courses at Lincoln Land Community College. She began working soon after high school, including as a clerical/typist for the state, hairdresser, cafeteria worker, nursing home employee and caretaker for relatives.

    • Page 2 of 3 – “What was scary, my mom passed away from cancer in 1997,” Daugherty said. “We did hospice at home with her. I took care of her, too.”

      For the last 11 years, Daugherty has been doing bookwork for her brother, Dan, who runs Double D Builders.

      “I’ve always loved to write, even in grade school (St. Mary’s in New Berlin). Most of my life I have written stories. Actually, ‘The Dragon’s Ring’ that’s come out now, I started that 20 years ago,” Daugherty said. “I kind of was just writing for my nieces and nephews to read to them or entertain them because I enjoyed it. I did send it out a few times.

      “I didn’t have internet at that time. There wasn’t where you could submit it by email … postage got expensive sending everywhere, so I just kind of put it in a drawer and forgot about it for a while.”

      Honing skills

      A couple of women in Daugherty’s tour group in 2012 to the home of poet William Wordsworth in Grasmere in the English Lake District helped bring out the professional writer in her.

      As they sipped tea at a café in Grasmere, Daugherty learned both women were from the Chicago area and that one was a writer/illustrator and the other was also a writer.

      “They told me I needed to join SCBWI (the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators),” Daugherty said.

      She credits joining the society and a local writing group with helping her hone her skills. She sent “The Dragon’s Ring” to one of the women she met in England, who gave her suggestions and ideas.

      “After I had seen what she had written, something clicked, like, ‘Oh, now I kind of know what to do — how to polish this and what to put into the story and what kind of emotions,’ ” Daugherty said.

      Over the past four years, Daugherty has completed other projects like publication of “Calamity Cat” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) and short stories “Let Your Imagination Soar!” and “The Mystery of the Ghostly Thief” in the Guardian Angel Kids’ e-zine.

      Last summer, Daugherty won first place in the Litchfield Student Education Foundation’s writing contest for her children’s story “Heart of Stone.”

      Making her pitch

      Daugherty pitched “The Dragon’s Ring” on Twitter during #Pit2Pub (Pitch to Publication) day Feb. 3. If an agent or publisher likes a manuscript, then authors submit their stories.

      • Page 3 of 3 – Taylor, of Clean Reads, was among two who “favored” Daugherty’s pitch.

        “In all of submissions, I look for a book that grabs my attention from the very first page. My favorite part of her book is of course the unicorns,” Taylor said.

        Three weeks later, she sent Daugherty a contract to sign.

        “The only reason I was home to pitch on Twitter that day was because my sonogram was canceled,” Daugherty said. “Had I gone to the sonogram — which I really wanted more than anything because I was wondering, ‘What’s going on?’ — I wouldn’t probably have pitched that day. I always think, ‘Well, things happen for a reason.’”

        Daugherty had a total hysterectomy and removal of several lymph nodes to treat her Stage 1 endometrial cancer. She had a good checkup in July.

        “I never cried once from whatever started when I was told I had cancer and everything. I knew what my mom had gone through, and she had been so brave,” Daugherty said. “I thought whatever happens will happen, and I just put my trust in God, and he took care of me.

        “Two of my favorite sayings: ‘Put your trust in the Lord’ and ‘Count your blessings,’ and that’s what I did.”

        — Contact Tamara Browning: tamara.browning@sj-r.com, 788-1534,twitter.com/tambrowningSJR.

        Links for purchase of ‘The Dragon’s Ring’ by Debra Daugherty

        Amazon https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01J73OAUG#nav-subnav

        Kobo https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/the-dragon-s-ring

        Smashwords http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/654404