The Spruce Gum Box, discusses her book, her journey as a writer, and self-publishing on Kindle.
DAVID WISEHART: What can you tell us about The Spruce Gum Box?
ELIZABETH EGERTON WILDER: A spruce gum box is a wonderful piece of folk art produced by lumbermen working the Winter months in the Maine woods in the mid 1800s by carving a book like box with sliding top out of a solid block. They would collect spruce gum (resin globules) from the spruce trees (chew like gum) and take the boxes home to sweethearts in the Spring. It is an integral element in my story of a man making a life for his infant son in the treacherous wilderness of northern Maine in land that was claimed by both the US and Britain. The conflict led to the Aroostook War 1839-1839 where my characters are trapped not knowing what country controls their destiny.
DAVID WISEHART: How do you develop and differentiate your characters?
ELIZABETH EGERTON WILDER: I focus on one character and develop others to add strength to him or her. At times, though, the character takes of a life of its own and turns in unexpected directions. One I had felt would take the lead may fall out of line in importance. In other words, other than my focal point, most of my characters develop and differentiate themselves.
DAVID WISEHART: Who do you imagine is your ideal reader?
ELIZABETH EGERTON WILDER: The ideal reader would be one that enjoys historical fiction but I do hope that my stories would be enjoyed by people that enjoy other genres. I’m not out to teach history but to take a period of time and make it real through my imagination with people I can see in my mind’s eye as living through the times.
DAVID WISEHART: What was your journey as a writer?
ELIZABETH EGERTON WILDER: I began to write as soon as I could put words together. I keep finding short stories and poems that my mother would keep, things I don’t even remember doing. I’ve always had a fascination with words and with an art background I like to think I paint pictures with words. My busy life working and raising a family kept my creative writing at a minimum. The local paper would occasionally publish my poems and I would tell my children someday I’m going to write a book. That someday took a lot of years but it was launched on my 72nd birthday. From one of my sons—you really meant it this time! Growing up in the 40s and 50s and then 52 years of marriage leads to enough life experience to fill in the gaps of any story. I am working on a sequel to the The Spruce Gum Box which will be print but also Kindle and a story of growing up memories that will be an ePub.
DAVID WISEHART: What is your writing process?
ELIZABETH EGERTON WILDER: The Spruce Gum Box began as just a seed of an idea. I heard of the problems in Aroostook County Maine when fights began over lumber rights. I wondered what would happen to an infant caught up in the turmoil of the time. How would he survive—how could a father alone raise his son? As it was based on historical fact, it took 5 years of research to give me the background to begin. I knew how my story began and I knew how it would end and I wrote using the dateline of the story 1820-1844 as my outline to fill in the middle. I am doing the same with Granite Hearts, the sequel. It works for me and if I need to take time to do more research to get me from point A to point B—so be it. There are times when the words flow and time passes quickly and other times the words take more effort but with perseverance it comes together. Although I have taken creative writing classes, I find I have developed my own process that works for me. Some may feel there is a certain way to develop a story but I have always been one to generate a plan that works for me and at my age I don’t see me changing.
DAVID WISEHART: What authors most inspire you?
ELIZABETH EGERTON WILDER: I always enjoyed an author that uses description in a way that carries me into the story. They have inspired me to try to do the same. A reader wrote that they could actually smell the scent of the pine in the woods in my book, that is wonderful to hear.
DAVID WISEHART: What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you'd written yourself?
ELIZABETH EGERTON WILDER: There have been so many through the many years but if I were to pick a recent novel, I would say The Help by Kathryn Stockett.
DAVID WISEHART: How have you marketed and promoted your work?
ELIZABETH EGERTON WILDER: Speaking and local exposure was a start but the social network has brought a lot of attention to the book. I am a member of The Independent Author Network and Indie Authors United. This support from other authors has brought sales and exposure. We are thinking of mass marketing but have not picked the route that works for my books yet. I was the featured author for the month of February 2011 at IAN which awarded me exposure on many links. We have entered the book in a number of contests which have not closed as of this date. I write two blogs, have a daily e-paper and link my reaching out to aging issues to get my name out. Am always looking for new ideas that will work on a budget.
DAVID WISEHART: Why publish on Kindle?
ELIZABETH EGERTON WILDER: The obvious is the exposure. I feel fortunate to find myself at the beginning of the e-pub growth. I so enjoy my Kindle and have no problem handing out my business card and info on The Spruce Gum Box to anyone I see reading from their Kindle. This really works great at doctor offices. The more readers that can enjoy your book in a convenient form and lower price the better. They may in turn pass on the word of the story to others.
DAVID WISEHART: What advice would you give to a first-time author thinking of self-publishing on Kindle?
ELIZABETH EGERTON WILDER: Take the time to prepare your story as if it were going to hard cover publication. Don’t skimp on the importance of professional editing and page design. Your reputation as an author—print or electronic depends on the care you take to present your story in the best form possible. The reputation of Kindle depends on the quality of the work presented and with many major authors now using this format, it only helps add credence to the ever improving Kindle selections.
DAVID WISEHART: Thanks, and best of luck with your books.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
The Spruce Gum Box on my 72nd birthday. I have been asked if that was part of my bucket list. Hardly. That was the beginning of a new world for me, one that helped me figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. Whenever an opportunity arises, I spread the word of aging with abandon where age is just a number with a positive attitude.
"My book was inspired by historical events in northern Maine during the early 1800s. The story took seed in my mind during 5 years of fascinating research. The characters built slowly and in writing, I enjoyed how they surprised me at times.
"My husband of 51 years and I relocated from Maine to PA, settling in an active senior community. Here, I am able to pull from a life of many experiences and occupations to color my writing. Presently I am working on a sequel and a story that will go directly to e-form.
"I am involved with playing handbells, senior chorus—plus. The balance of my time is devoted to my family, grandchildren and of course Smokey the cat."
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