My Life According to Barbie, discusses her book, her journey as a writer, and self-publishing on Kindle.
DAVID WISEHART: What can you tell us about My Life According to Barbie?
STACY McANULTY: My Life According to Barbie started with a question. Who’s the ultimate role model?
Recently divorced, homeless, and unemployed, Paige is in desperate need of a role model. She agrees to be the subject of her daughter's high-school sociology experiment—living according to Barbie for twelve weeks. (Yes, that Barbie!) In the process, feminist skeptic Paige may finally become a strong, independent woman for the first time in her life. And maybe even meet her Ken.
DAVID WISEHART: How do you develop and differentiate your characters?
STACY McANULTY: My characters start pretty flat. They have a few basic characteristics so I may recognize them, but that’s all. It’s similar to the way we (or at least I) describe people in life. Say if I wanted to talk about a new co-worker… “She’s the woman in HR with the bad dye job and big bangs. She talks like she’s from Long Island but she grew up in Tampa. She goes on and on about her Shih Tzus—Mork and Mindy.” Then, with any luck, the characters grow from there and react to their situations. Of course, they surprise me along the way.
DAVID WISEHART: Who do you imagine is your ideal reader?
STACY McANULTY: Kelly Ripa. Kathie Lee. Tina Fey. Gwyneth Paltrow. Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Amy Poehler. Julie Bowen. Wanda Sykes. Women with a sense of humor. (They’d all be a blast at a bachelorette party too.)
DAVID WISEHART: What was your journey as a writer?
STACY McANULTY: I’m classically trained as a mechanical engineer. (Read: I have a B.S. in engineering.) I’ve always wanted to write and started sending queries to magazines in high school. Then I took a decade off to focus on equations, opposing forces, safety factors, and such. In the late '90s I joined a writers’ group and really began to understand the crazy process of writing and publishing. I’ve become a conference junky. I try to attend at least one annually.
DAVID WISEHART: What is your writing process?
STACY McANULTY: Somewhere between sporadic and insane. I’ve tried the free-flow approach. I’ve tried the rigorous outline. I’ve written a novel in a month (NaNoWriMo) and I’ve spent three years on a draft (obviously not working daily). I’m constantly eliminating what doesn’t work. If I had unlimited resources—including a nanny, cook, maid, and trust fund—I would write in the A.M. (with coffee) for a three to four hours, then have a healthy lunch followed by a session with a professional trainer. Happy hour would begin at four where I’d socialize with friends, family, and other authors. Dinner would be prepared for my family and after the kids went to bed I’d soak in a tub and reread my masterpiece from the morning, making modest changes. Instead of this dream world, I irk out minutes in my day—if I’m lucky an entire, continuous hour. I love my laptop because I can work in the car while waiting for soccer practice to end, or at the kitchen table while kids do homework, or in bed while watching football with my hubby, or on rare lovely occasions, in a coffee shop.
DAVID WISEHART: What authors most inspire you?
STACY McANULTY: Malcolm Gladwell. In his book, The Outliers, Gladwell says success is largely due to practice. The 10,000-Hour Rule. I love this idea. Hard work pays off. I may not be a naturally gifted writer (my spelling is horrible and most grammar rules baffle me) but if I work at it, I may/will be a successful author. My own estimation has me somewhere between 6000 and 7000 hours currently.
DAVID WISEHART: What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you'd written yourself?
STACY McANULTY: The Bible. It sells so well and makes a great gift. I’m kidding. I don’t think I’m God so please don’t send me hate mail (but non-hate mail can be sent to email@example.com) I guess I’d have to say any of the Stephanie Plum books by Janet Evanovich.
DAVID WISEHART: How did you create your cover?
STACY McANULTY: It was my agent’s idea to publish My Life According to Barbie electronically. We’d tried to sell it traditionally the prior year and we both worked on the rewriting and editing of the manuscript. We’d had a few nibbles but no sales. So when she called me in May 2010 and asked if I wanted to try something new, I was game. Her sister, a professional graphic artist, designed a few covers and we picked our favorite. We also used a professional copy editor on the book. It’s been a collaborative effort and everyone gets paid off the sales. We are all on commission.
DAVID WISEHART: How have you marketed and promoted your work?
STACY McANULTY: Still working on that one. I’ll admit I have no set plan. I’ve been reaching out to friends and family thus far. I hope to start a new wave of attacks next month. Facebook. Twitter. Blogs. My website. Unfortunately promoting takes away from writing so maybe it’s time to come up with a plan.
DAVID WISEHART: Why publish on Kindle?
STACY McANULTY: I received my Kindle for Mother’s Day in 2009. Best gift ever! Once you start reading on a Kindle you’ll be hooked.
My agent tried to go the traditional route. We even did a three month rewrite for a publisher but she still did not bite. My agent, the most optimistic person I know, still believes there is an audience for The Barbie Book. Publishing electronically offers us a way to reach readers without storing a couple hundred books in my garage.
DAVID WISEHART: What advice would you give to a first-time author thinking of self-publishing on Kindle?
STACY McANULTY: Assuming you have a finished manuscript, read and become an expert in Kindle formatting. It took us several tries to get the book looking good. Read the basic instructions from Amazon.com and go to the forums for additional help. In the end I bought a Kindle book on how to format for a Kindle. I also exchanged several e-mails with tech support. If you submit a manuscript with formatting errors, it can be fixed, but it takes at least a 24 hour turn around between each submission. Agonizing when you are eager to see your work in digital ink.
More advice, be prepared for people to ask where they can buy “the real book.”
DAVID WISEHART: Thanks, and best of luck with your books.
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