Deed So, discusses her book, her journey as a writer, and self-publishing on Kindle.
[I interviewed her last year about her mystery novel, A Pointed Death.]
DAVID WISEHART: What can you tell us about Deed So?
KATHARINE A. RUSSELL: Deed So is a coming-of-age story set in Southern Maryland in 1962. I call '62 the last year of innocence. It was the year before the assassination of President Kennedy. It was the year The Feminine Mystique was published, which shed light on the constrained lives women were leading in post-war America. The Civil Rights movement was still largely non-violent, and there were casualties in the Vietnam War, but nothing like what was to come. Deed So stands astride a tipping point in American history, a time when the safe, family-oriented world the Greatest Generation built after shedding their khakis starts to come apart. This is the hand that was dealt to the Baby Boomers, and the fissures that opened in society during their teens years, swallowed a generation.
Deed So is the story of Haddie Bashford, a bright young girl living in a sleepy town who wants nothing more than to leave it behind for the big city, or an exotic destination, like Vietnam, where her older pal Gideon is going. Haddie witnesses the murder of black teen by a white farmer, and the subsequent trial brings the outside world crashing down on her community. The case divides the town, an arsonist is unleashed, and long buried secrets involving Haddie's family are unearthed. Haddie wants to heal the town, but finds herself fighting for her friends' lives and, finally, her own.
DAVID WISEHART: How do you develop and differentiate your characters?
KATHARINE A. RUSSELL: For this book, I have taken a thematic approach which is a departure for me. I have built characters around certain points-of-view that have to be heard in this story, and I have created young characters who represent specific emotional responses to the process and problems associated with the journey from childhood to adulthood.
DAVID WISEHART: Who do you imagine is your ideal reader?
KATHARINE A. RUSSELL: People who like to think about life's journey. How we get to be the people we are. What experiences in life build character? What is important and what is illusory? I think many Boomers have reached a point in life when they are meditating on how it all started for them. What their contributions to the American experience have been and why? Deed So is a very good "companion" book for that meditative process.
Although Deed So does not technically qualify as historical fiction because it is right on the cusp of fifty years, readers who enjoy historical fiction will like this book. That said, I think young readers will enjoy the coming-of-age aspect of Deed So. A younger blog reviewer said that Deed So helped her understand her mother's world, the experiences her parent had lived through that made her who she was. She could connect with her mom in a different way, now that she had "experienced" those times through the novel.
DAVID WISEHART: What was your journey as a writer?
KATHARINE A. RUSSELL: I spent my career doing all kinds of business writing, from strategic plans to press releases, and from annual reports to ghosted CEO speeches. When I retired, and was liberated to do fiction full time, I went wild, but then I had to get control of this strange new process. I enrolled in the Writer's Program at UCLA, and, although I hadn't intended to do so, stuck it out and earned my certificate in creative writing. I CANNOT recommend this program highly enough.
I also think the skills I learned in journalism school have had a strong influence on my fiction work. Observation and description are very important to me. I believe I am good a putting the reader in the picture. Readers have told me that the scenes in the town of Wicomico Corners have authenticity and power. That feedback is music to this writer's ears.
DAVID WISEHART: What is your writing process?
KATHARINE A. RUSSELL: I like to carve out big chunks of time and go deep. When I am in the zone, I think the house could burn down around me. I have truly murderous thoughts about people who interrupt me when I am way, way down in the fictional world I have created. Sometimes, I want to dissolve and flow into the computer where I could live a cyber life and not have to stop writing to eat, or bathe or pay bills. Yes, I love to go down the rabbit hole. Is that you, Alice?
DAVID WISEHART: What authors most inspire you?
KATHARINE A. RUSSELL: I loved To Kill a Mockingbird, and Deed So is a bit of an homage set thirty years later. So Harper Lee is definitely one. William Faulkner is another. I loved the way he kept revisiting the same fictional place almost like a stage set where he worked out human problems. I think I might be able to revisit Wicomico Corners, Haddie's town in that way. I like authors who are fearless about exploring truth, who don't have a PC bone in their body.
DAVID WISEHART: What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you'd written yourself?
KATHARINE A. RUSSELL: John Barth's Sotweed Factor. The wit is just too, too delicious. I don't know enough yet to poke fun a great literary traditions, but here is a master let loose with a very sharp prod indeed!
DAVID WISEHART: How have you marketed and promoted your work?
KATHARINE A. RUSSELL: I have been exploring the utility of the new Internet tools. I am in the middle of a virtual book tour and also will be appearing on a book club community web site this Spring. I've issued press releases and done some guest blogging. I am speaking at Left Coast Crime later this month in Santa Fe NM, which is more of a venue for my mystery, A Pointed Death, than it is for Deed So, but I do hope to make some progress building my brand. I also have been experimenting in a small way with Google and Facebook ads, particularly as a means of reaching certain geographical audiences. For example, Deed So is set in a fictional Maryland town, so I would like to attain more visibility for the book in Maryland.
DAVID WISEHART: Why publish on Kindle?
KATHARINE A. RUSSELL: Kindle is the future. It represents a breathtaking new opportunity for beginning and established mid-list authors. Face it. The bricks and mortar industry abandoned us long ago, they just won't admit it out loud. We just need to establish more ways for Kindle authors and readers to find each other, like your forum, David!
DAVID WISEHART: What advice would you give to a first-time author thinking of self-publishing on Kindle?
KATHARINE A. RUSSELL: Make Kindle a priority in your publishing strategy. Back up your Kindle book by providing lots of helpful information to prospective readers through your Author Central account on Amazon. Reach out to the Amazon reviewer community and get your book reviewed early and often. When you speak at a book club be sure to mention that your titles are available on Kindle. Be sure to take your Kindle with you. I have found that many readers, particularly older readers, just need to have somebody show them how easily the thing works, and hold it in their hands a minute, and BINGO, another Kindle convert!
DAVID WISEHART: Thanks, and best of luck with your books.
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