Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Emerging Women Series: An Interview with Joan Verlezza

I'm pleased to feature my interview with colleague, friend and author Joan Verlezza in this week's blog. Verlezza has been researching and collecting family anecdotes since childhood. She believes every family has stories worth telling. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Romance Languages, and has worked in law and communications. Warming Up is her first novel.

Q: Why did you write Warming Up? Where did you get your motivation?
A: A few years ago a friend told me someone broke into her uncle’s house and took a valuable harmonica. A few days later he thought he heard someone playing it in the neighborhood and was sure it was local kids who were responsible for the break-in. I thought it would be a great story and I tucked it away. When I sat down to write I asked myself the logical questions: What could an old man do about that? Who’s telling the story? Where does this all take place? Why would someone steal an old man’s harmonica and refuse to return it? I decided to place the story in my old neighborhood and use the people I knew growing up as types for the characters.  After that the story took flight. I knew the characters so well they sometimes told me what they were going to do. Then it was working away page by page.

As for motivation, I was the little girl in the story who always wanted to travel the world and write stories.

Q: How many pages did you write a day? How long did it take to complete?
A: There were times when life intervened, as it can, and I didn’t write much at all. There were also times when I would wake up, start writing first thing in the morning and keep going until lunch time. That was great! Once a story gets to you, you’re never satisfied until it’s done, so I just kept going, whatever was happening. I would say I worked off and on for about three years.

Q: Did you spend as much time editing the book as you did writing your first draft? How was that process different?
A: This was my first time tackling a full length story so I learned a lot about the revision process. You edit for two things: Is what’s down on the paper what I meant to say? Am I satisfied with the way I’ve said it? I read as much as I could find by writers talking about the craft. There’s some very good advice from wonderful writers. I tried to apply what I could and, at a certain point I felt the need to work with a professional editor.  

Verlezza's book cover
Q: Why did you decide to self-publish?
A: It’s about access. It’s very difficult to break into the ranks as a first time author. Also, as I wrote, the publishing business changed so much. In the May 20, 2012 New York Times Sunday Review section Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder, talked about the digital revolution “eliminating all the gatekeepers”. That’s exciting. I think there are a lot of talented writers out there who simply have no access to the traditional publishing world. Bezos also pointed out that “Sixteen of the top 100 best sellers on Kindle today were self-published.” Access is just about universal now.

Q: How are you promoting Warming Up?
A: After some research, I chose to go with Book Locker to publish Warming Up. One of the reasons was their experience in marketing. The company is run by Angela and Richard Hoy, who have published and marketed several of their own books. They generously provided a copy of their book 90 Days of Promoting Your Book Online. I’m following their plan. One of the first steps is to create a blog, Second Avenue Story Club where I have an excerpt from the book and link to Book Locker. At Book Locker you can purchase an ebook or hard copy of Warming Up

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers who want to write and publish their stories?
A: GO FOR IT! If you’ve ever wanted to write you know it just doesn’t go away. You’re compelled to do it. Take a course and/or read up on the craft yourself. Find a good editor, and most of all, don’t let anything  or anyone stop you.

Q: What's the next story you plan to write?
A: I have a few stories percolating. It’s going to be fun to put what I’ve learned from this experience to use. I like stories that are transformational. I like to see a character learning and growing. It will be another story with that kind of theme.

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