For the first IndieView I’m happy to introduce you to Wanda Shapiro, author of, Sometimes That Happens With Chicken.
About the book:
What is the book about?
Sometimes That Happens With Chicken is a literary novel with a large cast of characters whose lives become inextricably intertwined due to the life choices of a complete stranger. It’s set in the Village in New York City with historical threads reaching from Texas to Saudi Arabia.
Chicken contains a fairly sizable surprise that I studiously avoid ruining for my readers. It’s not the usual kind of surprise a story delivers because it comes closer to the beginning than the end but it’s a surprise none the less.
What genre is the book in?
When did you start writing the book?
I started writing Sometimes That Happens With Chicken in 2002. I’d have to look back through my journals to find an exact date.
How long did it take you to write it?
Chicken was written in fits and starts and it took me several years to finish.
Where did you get the idea from?
I do not presume to understand the human faculty of imagination, but mine is vivid and I feel called to translate those images into words and sentences.
Were there any parts of the book where you struggled?
This novel posed some unique challenges in terms of keeping the characters straight in my mind. I won’t say more than that or I’ll ruin the surprise.
What came easily?
For me writing the book is the easy part. It’s the editing and the design and the publicity that I find taxing but I don’t just want to write books, I’d like to sell them too. So I put in the long hours after a book is done so I can bring it to market. The good news is this part of the process is getting less arduous now that I have my first novel under my belt. My second novel is currently in the editing and design phase and it’s definitely proving easier the second time around.
Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know?
Sometimes That Happens With Chicken is not autobiographical in any way. Tiny snippets and observations from real life made it into the novel but they are incidental details, not story lines or characters.
We all know how important it is for writers to read. Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write and, if so, how have they influenced you?
The three novelists who have most influenced me are John Irving, Ernest Hemingway, and Tom Robbins. I love many other writers and their novels, but these three all caught me at a certain age and influenced me deeply.
Do you have a target reader?
The audience for literary fiction is an all-ages scene and my audience is very diverse. I’m always on the hunt for that old-fashioned book lover.
Do you have a writing process? If so can you please describe it?
My writing process has evolved over the course of my first two novels and these days most of my time is spent as a publicist, not as a writer per se. However, I am beginning work on my second novel which is very research intensive. My process at the moment involves reading about violins and listening to classical music.
Do you outline? If so, do you do so extensively or just Chapter headings and a couple of sentences?
I don’t outline, but I do create timelines so I can see the lives of my characters in the context of historical events. I created a very large (6 feet x 20 feet) timeline for my first novel which necessitated a very strange arrangement of furniture. I covered 100 years of history with focus on a few applicable areas. For Chicken I also had a large chart on an adjacent wall which was a sort of map of my characters.
I’m anticipating a weighty timeline for my third novel but I think I’ll upgrade from brown paper and sharpies to some sort of timeline software.
Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished?
I edit both as I go and when I’m finished.
Did you hire a professional editor?
I have a volunteer editorial team. There are five of us including myself and we work together through several iterations. We just finished the first editorial pass of my second novel.
Did you submit your work to Agents?
My sister-in-law sent my novel to an agent friend of hers and a friend of a friend sent it to a small publisher friend of hers but I never went through the famously grueling submission process. When I finished Chicken I wasn’t considering going indie but I was contacted by a small publisher and offered a book deal before I got around to starting the submission process.
After my small publisher went out of the business and released me from my contract I began preparing for the submission process but I ended up going indie instead. To date, Chicken has never been submitted to or rejected by any publisher.
What made you decide to go Indie? Was it a particular event or a gradual process?
A coincidence lead me to a book, which lead me to a thought, which lead to a lot of research, which lead to my decision to go indie. In the end, I decided to go indie because it seemed like the most likely way to make a living as a writer. I know that might sound strange to some, but the math was compelling and the indie business model is booming across a variety of industries and genres.
The publishing industry has managed to create a vacuum in the literary arena in much the same way the film and music industries squeezed out quality via homogenization and popularization. When large media providers fail to deliver a certain level of quality and originality, a certain segment of the audience will look elsewhere. Applicable advances in technology came sooner to the film and music world, but now writers have been similarly empowered.
And now, in my opinion, indie authors writing literary fiction are particularly well positioned to fill the void left by a publishing industry that has largely abandoned literary fiction for more commercial properties. Readers are ready for indie literature and as soon as writers start providing it, they’ll come to love it the same way people love indie films and indie music.
After all my research and thinking, when I stacked the potential of indie literature up against the rapidly decaying publishing industry, going indie was the obvious business decision.
Did you get your book cover professionally done or did it you do it yourself?
I did not do my book cover myself though I was deeply involved in the process. My cover was designed by Brett Franklin, a graphic designer friend of mine who is the creative director at a website development company. This was his first book cover but he’s a genius and an incredibly talented artist across many media. We also enlisted a graphic designer who had print specific work experience to prepare the final files for the printer. It was a collaborative process and now Brett and I are beginning to work on the cover for my second novel.
Do you have a marketing plan for the book or are you just winging it?
I spent more than a year preparing for the debut of my first novel, including a marketing plan, but one must remain flexible in today’s social media driven world so a certain measure of just winging it is always called for. The core of my market plan has remained intact but I wouldn’t have guessed I’d be planning an event in Exeter, New Hampshire at the behest of one of my fans I met on Twitter. I can’t stress enough the importance of both having a plan and remaining flexible. Tara Hunt (author of The Whuffie Factor) has the best language for this. She advises, embrace the chaos.
Any advice that you would like to give to other newbies considering becoming Indie authors?
The indie lifestyle is not for the unmotivated or the uninvolved. It’s true that anyone can self-publish a book but it takes a great deal of hard work to set yourself apart and spread the word in an effective way. It’s also extremely rewarding but those rewards require a kind of long-term dedication that not everyone is prepared for.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in the Adirondack Mountains of Northern New York State in a tiny town that was still very much like the 50s, even when I was growing up.
Where do you live now?
I now live in Los Angeles.
What would you like readers to know about you?
I’d like readers to know how much I appreciate them. It seems like the publishing industry has largely forgotten that books are really about readers, but I don’t ever forget it.
End of Interview
Thanks Wanda for your frank answers. I’m also really pleased to hear that the book is not an autobiography. That would have freaked me out. That’s all I’m going to say about Wanda’s book; except that I enjoyed it. Funny, sad, wacky, and insightful – a good read. You can find out more about Wanda here at her website OneGirlOneNovel.
Or better still go buy the book: http://www.onegirlonenovel.com/index.php/buy-now-or-download-free/.