Wednesday, November 25, 2015

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Stephanie A. Collins

1.     Tell me about yourself. What got you started in writing?

I never set out to write a book at all, but in what felt like the blink of an eye, I went from being a young woman wrestling with a temperamental marriage to a single mother of an asthmatic, autistic toddler and an epileptic infant in heart failure. There were suddenly an overabundance of [bad] moments, and "I can't even remotely believe this is happening" moments. I began writing therapeutically, and I found my recollections came in layers. 

I would first write what happened (like, the baby stopped breathing in my arms, but I didn't start CPR right away as I should have), and I would think, "Oh, I handled that horribly; I'm such a rotten mother!"  Then I'd remember, "Oh yeah; this was going on, too," (like, the fact that I was a young, sleep-deprived, postpartum mother who had just bore witness to hours of failed IV attempts, was reeling over a rare, potentially fatal diagnosis, holding onto hope for survival, but not having any idea what that survival would actually mean for me or my baby, while simultaneously preparing myself for the very real possibility of her passing...oh, and also "mourning the death” of the healthy child I thought I had before receiving her diagnosis). 


Then it would hit me that 3 other things were happening at the same time (for instance, a failing marriage, pathetic financial woes, and my other daughter's increasingly bizarre behaviors), and so...if that portion of my parenting career didn't exactly resemble June Cleaver, well...no wonder! Those were some pretty extreme circumstances!

Then other people (specifically nurses and therapists) began to read what I had written, and said things like, "Wow, I'm working with another family right now, and I'm certain the mom is struggling with the feelings you wrote about here, but she doesn't seem comfortable sharing her thoughts. I think she's ashamed or afraid to open up, and I think reading something like this would really help her to know she's not alone...that the way she's responding to what life is throwing at her right now is only natural." After many similar comments, I decided to take a deep breath, close my eyes, and bear my exposed, bleeding heart to the world. I figured if sharing my tale would help just one family facing similar challenges, my fear of criticism from the rest of the reading world would all be well worth it.

1.   How do you schedule your writing time? When do you write?

Because I had no intention of publishing, I was in no rush with the writing. That part of the publishing journey lasted a good fifteen years or so. In the beginning, I wrote mainly at night, when I had to stay awake for the needs of my daughters. Later, I wrote when it was quiet at work (on the medical unit at Seattle Children’s Hospital on the 11 PM to 7 AM shift). Once the decision was made to publish, however, I took about two years to put the book together. That work was done whenever I had a spare few minutes between running any of the kids to doctors’ appointments, therapy sessions, and/or extra-curricular activities. Then I spent about a year working with my editor/publisher. That was more “structured”. Luckily, the kids were in school through much of that time, so I had block hours in which to work.

2.   How and where do you write? Do you prefer a lap top or some other method of getting your words down?

I just wrote whatever way I could, whenever I could on whatever I could. Sometimes it was longhand, like when we were stuck at the hospital (before laptops were the norm). Once laptops became available, I worked that way, too. I did the bulk of my writing, however, on our home PC.

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 What's your favorite part about writing? Your least favorite part about writing?

My biggest challenge in writing my story was digging through the layers of circumstance and emotion that made it necessary to write therapeutically in the first place. It was very important to me that I was completely honest in all I wrote (what good would it be, otherwise?). Sometimes, though, truth can be lost in excuse and/or confusion. Interestingly, clarity was a surprising side-effect of changing the names of all involved and re-writing the book in a third person perspective. Those alterations allowed me to set aside some of the raw emotion, which – oddly – helped the whole process. For instance, I found I had much more patience and understanding for “Laura” than I did for myself. It was fascinating to me that altering the writing in preparation for publication ended up becoming an even more therapeutic process than the original writing! So…I guess you could say that the most difficult aspect of writing – finding my therapeutic truth – was also my favorite part of writing – being set free by my therapeutic truth.

4.   What types of marketing do you do to promote your writing?

I mainly focus on social media. I started exclusively on Facebook, but soon began to see that I may be irritating/alienating my Facebook friends with a steady stream of posts about the book. From there I branched out…Goodreads, Google Plus, LinkedIn, Pinterest…and, finally, Twitter. I started off knowing nothing about Twitter, but now I practically live there. I’ve grown from approximately 20 followers to about 49,000 in the last 18 months or so. Aside from that, I run 2 promotional $0.99 sales per year, one in October, one in May, and I use various book promoting sites (People Reads, Fussy Librarian, EBooks Grow On Trees, etc. – along with Twitter, of course) to advertise those sales.

In addition to social media, I’ve reached out to many colleges and universities around the nation. Multiple nursing and special education programs have added my book to their “suggested reads” lists, and a few have even made it mandatory reading for their class!

6.   What are you currently working on? Do you have a new book out?

I’ve been asked to write a sequel, but I don’t plan to write another book. As a compromise I’ve begun a monthly blog, which is something of a continuation of the epilogue on the book’s website. It’s been fun, therapeutic, and rewarding to receive so many responses from people around the world!

7.   Do you have a project on the back burner? Tell me about it.

LOL…current projects on the back burner include the dishes, the laundry, raking the leaves in the back yard…

In all seriousness, though, the book is currently in the process of being translated to Spanish, and I have equipment to begin recording for an audio book. I’ll be getting to that as soon as I get caught up on those dishes, laundry, and leaves!

8.   What would you tell a beginning writer who wants to publish     but doesn't believe he/she has enough talent?

I say, if you want to write, write. Plain and simple. When you’re done writing, if you want to publish, find yourself a really good editor. Trust me. Money. Well. Spent.

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Thank you, Stephanie!

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