Monday, February 27, 2017

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Paula Margulies

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

About 15 years ago, after working in marketing and public relations at the corporate level for more than three decades, I wanted to try my hand at something creative. I’ve always loved literature (I was an English major in college), so I decided to take a class in creative writing at one of our local community colleges. After the class ended, some fellow classmates and I decided to form a writing group. While I was a member of that group, I wrote a collection of short stories called Face Value: Collected Stories and then, in 2003, went on to write my first novel, Coyote Heart, which is set on the Pala Indian reservation here in San Diego. My inspiration for that novel was a visit to the Pala Mission, which happened while my kids were writing reports about the California missions for school. Coyote Heart was represented by an agent and published by a small press in 2009 (I later got my rights back and issued a second edition of the novel, which I now sell on Amazon and other publishing platforms).

I enjoyed working with the Luiseno and Cupa tribal members I met at the mission so much that I decided to try my hand at writing a Native American historical novel. In 2008, I wrote Favorite Daughter, Part One, which is a retelling of the Pocahontas story from her perspective (rather than the John Smith version of history that we’re taught in school). I’ve been a book publicist for the past 9 years and decided this year to write a book about publicity for authors. I published The Tao of Book Publicity: A Beginner’s Guide to Book Promotion in March of 2016.

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

When I first started writing, my kids were in elementary and middle school and involved in sports, so I didn’t have a lot of time to write during the week. I usually spent Sundays writing, with a goal of producing a complete scene on those days, and used the rest of the week to think about the next scene. Even now, after my kids have both graduated from college, I still look at Sunday as my writing day.

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

I write in my home office, unless I’m out of town or away on a writing residency. Then, I’ll use my laptop and transfer files to my desktop computer in my office later on.

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

I love hearing the voices of my characters when I write. Imagining each character, designing his/her background, and figuring out the storyline as it develops are the best parts of writing for me. My least favorite part has to be revising – once a book is finished, I’m anxious to get it out and move on to the next project!

How did you come up with your book idea? How long did it take you to write your book?

My books are written in different genres (short story, women’s fiction, historical fiction, non-fiction, etc.), so there have been different inspirations for each one.

My latest book, The Tao of Book Publicity, came about because as a publicist, I receive a lot of the same questions from writers who contact me about working with them. I found I was sending the same responses to questions over and over, so I decided to put the most common questions and my answers together in a book, so authors would have all the answers to their questions in one place.

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

Ha! Not as much as I’d like, unfortunately. In addition to being a book publicist, I also teach business classes at a local community college, so I can get pretty busy during the spring and fall. In-between those times, I try to do some local signings and work in a blog tour. I also periodically lower the prices on my books and advertise them on various ebook sale sites. I like to enter my books into contests and announce any wins on social media. And, occasionally, I’m asked to do an interview like this one.

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

I released The Tao of Book Publicity last March and have spent most of my time on marketing that book. I’m currently working on Part Two of Favorite Daughter and hope to have it finished in the next year or two.

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

Yes, I’ve been wanting to write another historical set in Hawaii. But I need to finish the Favorite Daughter series first, before I begin to dive into the next one.

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

I recommend taking a college writing class - it’s the best way to learn how to put a story together and get some experience writing in a safe, supportive environment. It also provides a chance to meet fellow writers in the local area, which will be important for forming future writing groups. 

As for publishing, there are lots of options. If writers want to try being traditionally published, then they need to get an agent. The best way to do that is to attend a writing conference that includes pitch sessions, which provide a platform to meet agents in-person and to practice talking about a book. 

If writers want to self-publish, they should plan to hire a professional editor (not a friend or family member!) and cover designer to ensure that the book has been scrubbed and packaged as professionally as possible before publishing.

Where is the publishing industry headed and how do you see it changing in the next 10 years?

From Paula:

This is an interesting question and one that I’ve grappled with for many years. There have been so many hugely transformative changes in the industry in the past decade, including the shift from traditional to self-publishing and from print books to ebooks. Those changes have altered how we advertise and purchase books and have resulted in the demise of brick-and-mortar bookstores and the consolidation of the big publishing houses. Fewer people read than in past decades and prices on books have fallen as a result of the number of books that are now on the market, which has changed how we market to readers (and made that task a difficult one). That said, the self-publishing industry, in particular, is probably as robust (and fluid) as it’s ever been, but where it goes from here is hard to tell. I’d be interested in hearing what you and your blog readers think about this question!

From Kathryn:

Great question. The publishing industry has changed, and quite a bit. Years ago, when I was putting my works out there, I was grappling with rejection letters, letters that gave me hope (they had either hand written comments on the rejection letter or the publisher asked for a re-write). I pretty much could have wallpapered a room with the rejection letters I received.

I have since discovered that I really prefer self-publishing anyway. Not only is my hand in every process, but I am able to make more money doing it my way. My first book was published traditionally, but after buying the rights back, I have been on my own and have never looked back.

I think readers will always want to read paperbacks, but I think more and more readers will vie for shorter books, and books that can be read electronically. 

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I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Goodreads, etc. My Goodreads page contains links to all of my books and book trailers.
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