Wednesday, October 9, 2013

ASPIRING AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Yvette Aubusson-Foley

Welcome, Yvette! What does it really take to write a historical novel? Why is self-publishing the way to go?

Find out what Yvette thinks in our next aspiring author interview!


How long have you been writing? Why did you decide to write?

I love writing so much I chose journalism as a profession and spent almost 15 years working in that field. Over time I took on the role of writing features, which gave me the freedom to delve a little deeper into subjects and really flesh out stories and be a little more creative. I realized I really loved doing that and wanted more.
So when I resigned from that life I turned my attention to writing a fantasy series for my daughter. This project is on the back burner for personal reasons (too many international moves in a few years scattered my brain!) Instead I picked up on another book idea, to write an historical novel based on a real person.

Yvette Foley
It can be unbelievably hard sometimes to find space and the will to research and write with a busy family life but writing gives me a focus and satisfies that need to share stories.
What makes you keeping going?

Other people usually! I have a couple of close contacts who are my primary researchers so when they find something new, or I find something new, we share via email or Skype (I’m in Tucson, Arizona and they’re in my home town in New South Wales Australia called Dubbo). Absolutely every clue inspires new ideas for the story.
I’m pretty active in keeping myself focused on the job. Researching a real historical character is a huge task so there is NO END to material you have to research, read, find (I spend a lot of time in French online archives) and though sometimes this can be mind bogglingly dull, when you find a little gem of fact, it’s the next thing to spur you on.

Writing an historical novel also means watching films that depict the same era for ideas on clothing, manners, and behaviors, that sort of thing. As my subject is a French man, I watch a lot of French films too, for cultural nuances.
He also hailed from Bordeaux and when his life ended he was a winegrower. I “study” red wines from Bordeaux for professional reasons.

What does your writing day look like?
Messy. I also help out on my husband’s business besides taking care of three wonderful kids, so I write in snippets. I have a very annoying habit of putting everyone else first, so I grab bits and pieces of time here and there. Occasionally, I remember, ‘oh hang on, I’ve got valid work to do here!’ so will ask the family to politely leave our small apartment (I did it today), or remove myself to the library where I can work uninterrupted. Lord knows I’ve written in cupboards, on planes and on my arm if I can’t find paper. I’m constantly thinking about the story.

What do you do to study the craft?
The craft? Good question. I’m approaching this book 100% like a journalist. So I have certain conventions I follow automatically. Basically, I’m interviewing a dead man and like any other interview I pay attention to everything going on around my subject, not just their words, but including what pictures they hang on their wall, their clothes, pets, anything that will give me a clue to who that person is on many levels.

In a typical feature which might be 1000 words you are very aware of the importance of accuracy and entertainment as well, meaning the first line must grab the reader and every paragraph afterward must engage if you want your busy audience to read all the way to the end. Every word counts.
As I’m aiming for 60,000 to 100,000 words on my book, that is a little harder. So I read ‘how to’ books to keep me thinking about the craft, what my options are, who’s done what before; I attend writer’s workshop whenever I can and I do have a mentor which means the world to me knowing someone else out there believes in my project.

Do you have a goal when you'd like to be published? What is it? If you don't have a goal, why haven't you set one?
I know I’m just not ready. Because my story is based on fact there are certain things I want to confirm, or debunk as the case may be, before committing to a deadline. Also because my writing time is still haphazard I can’t even commit to myself a date. I would love it to be around a significant anniversary for my subject, so I keep an eye on those.

I do need to go to France as well before I can finally say to myself, ‘your research is done, now finish the book’. When that is going to happen I honestly cannot say.
Are you thinking to go the self-published or traditional route?

Great question. I went to a writer’s group lecture recently about this very thing and came away convinced self-publishing is the answer. I’ve met enough author’s to know that even with a big publisher backing you, you still have to do a lot of leg work show people the book, telling them about it, etc., so why not maximize your profits.
Tell us about the genre(s) you write and why you like them.

I often considered my next step after writing feature length people profiles would be to write a biography.
I was living in the town founded by my subject when I started my research and writing, and saw a market there for the story. To appeal to a wider audience however, who may not know anything about the town; I’ve switched the genre to historical novel and will add more romance, secrets, drama, conflict and human vulnerability.

My fantasy fiction is definitely something I will go back to and pursue in earnest once this project is done. What I love about that genre is the ability to be free with your ideas, anything can happen and anything is pretty much feasible.
Product Details
Why is Tale of Two Cities your favorite book? What have you learned from it to help you to be a better writer?

I’m sure if I were alive in the 19th century I would be a Dickens groupie. A Tale of Two Cities is very appealing to me at the moment as it relates to my own book, but Dickens was a genius, who could weave the tales of people’s lives together in such surprising ways and very subtle ways. Such a craftsman! His characterization too is immaculate. I feel it’s very easy to know his characters and engage with them. Yes, I am a devotee and I do use his writing as something to aspire to and try to emulate.
What would you tell a writer like yourself, struggling to get published?

Keep knocking on doors. Persistence is the key to success. If you give up at asking for the 100th time, “please publish my book”, you’ll never know it wasn’t going to be the 101st time a publisher would say yes. I think rejection is way over rated as well. Anyone with any book to peddle can’t possibly know on any given day what a publisher is actually looking for. They may not want your book this year, but the following year, be scrambling for something like it. I guess it pays to keep up with trends and know the publishing industry too. Try to understand it so your approach isn’t needy but informed.
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Thank, you Yvette. You can contact Yvette at: yafcreativ@gmail.com
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