Among Women, discusses her book, her journey as an author, and self-publishing on Kindle.
DAVID WISEHART: What can you tell us about Among Women?
J.M. CORNWELL: Among Women is about a young woman who finds herself stranded in New Orleans. She is homeless and doesn't know where to turn, except that she can't turn to her family. Just when she's pulled herself up to within reach of a more normal life and can put being homeless behind her, she is arrested and thrown in jail. She's scared and anxious and afraid she's going to be stuck in jail forever. When a murderer reaches out to Pearl Caldwell, the main character, she reaches back and finds a safe place to get acquainted with what she believes is her new home. As the days and weeks pass, she becomes interested in, appalled by and eventually involved in some of the other women's lives. It's a turning point for her and the book is about her journey.
DAVID WISEHART: How do you develop and differentiate your characters?
J.M. CORNWELL: It's different with every book. I start from the main characters and work my way out from there, building the other characters as they emerge and respond to the main characters. Making them different isn't much of a problem because I usually see and hear them in my head first.
DAVID WISEHART: Who do you imagine is your ideal reader?
J.M. CORNWELL: Someone with eclectic tastes and a sense of curiosity and adventure.
DAVID WISEHART: What was your journey as a writer?
J.M. CORNWELL: Do you want me to include all the stops and starts? I first started writing at the age of eight and kept writing all through high school. I quit writing at about 17, just getting by doing homework assignments, and then picked up my writing again when I was 27. I haven't stopped since then. My first contract was for a bio-bibliography of Charlton Heston, but the company was bought out and my book was shelved. Two years down the drain. I kept writing stories and essays but didn't really hit until I wrote a short piece about a picture of my father riding a bucking bronco, later finding out when I was married and we were on our way to Utah through Colorado that the bucking bronco in the picture was a stuffed horse. That was my first clip and my first payment for writing. I haven't looked back since. I started out writing nonfiction, kept plugging away at fiction (which is really hard for me sometimes) and then broke through with a sort-of romance novel about changing the past, Past Imperfect. Among Women is the culmination of a story that began 30 years ago and I think it's my best work yet.
DAVID WISEHART: What is your writing process?
J.M. CORNWELL: I imagine the story in my head, writing passages and working out plot, characters, etc. and then I start typing. Once the book is done, usually in about two weeks, I go back and rewrite, add, subtract, and polish until I'm satisfied. I may go through one or two revisions or twenty. Depends on how the story changes with each revision and how satisfied I am with the results.
DAVID WISEHART: What authors most inspire you?
J.M. CORNWELL: That is a long list. I was first inspired by Homer and Edgar Rice Burroughs because they were my first introduction to what I saw as a magical world when I was eight. Since then I've been inspired by Andre Norton, Anne McCaffrey, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Julian May and Algis Budrys, who was a correspondent and critic of whatever I sent him to publish. He never published anything I wrote, but he kept telling me I was "almost there." He used to write long letters criticizing my writing, usually 2-3 page (single spaced typewritten) letters, and it was obvious he had typed them himself. I didn't really understand then that he was encouraging me to continue submitting. I finally quit after the first 40 rejections. I should have kept it up, but of all the fiction that was difficult for me, science fiction was the hardest, and that's what I wanted to write. Nowadays, I am inspired by Ian McEwan, Jon Land, Charlaine Harris, Kim Harrison and Robert Heinlein. I didn't get Heinlein for the longest time and then when I hit 40 I finally got him. Go figure. I love Terry Pratchett's sense of humor and word play. Throughout it all, Michel Montaigne has inspired me the most, as have Edgar Allen Poe, Stephen King and Stephen Ambrose.
DAVID WISEHART: What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you'd written yourself?
J.M. CORNWELL: Atonement by Ian McEwan, and I'd change the ending.
DAVID WISEHART: How have you marketed and promoted your work?
J.M. CORNWELL: Any way I can. I've done podcasts and interviews, solicited book reviews, talking, tweeted, facebooked and blogged about my work, and I'll even consider bartering my soul to get people to read my books, especially the latest one. It's a gently used soul with erratic mileage that has held up pretty well. Oh, and it's only marginally tarnished from a few incidents in my youth.
DAVID WISEHART: Why publish on Kindle?
J.M. CORNWELL: I probably wouldn't have tried it if it hadn't been for my editor, Mary Ann Peden-Coviello. I was still pursuing the traditional route (agent and publisher) and getting nowhere. Agents where really enthusiastic about Among Women but not enthusiastic enough to take it on. Same with publishers. They loved my writing and the characters, but just didn't think it fit their needs. I was getting frustrated and Mary Ann suggested I check out Joe Konrath's blog, so I did. The more I read, the closer I got to tipping over the edge, and finally I decided to just do it. After that, everything happened pretty fast. I commissioned a new cover, went over the manuscript one more time, put it into the right format, closed my eyes and hit the button. I haven't looked back since and I keep reading Konrath's blog, as well as some of the others. My journey takes up most of my blog posts. I'm still finding my way, but the whole process has been easier as I put up new projects.
Basically, I was tired of hearing yes, but not really, from agents and publishers. I knew I had a good book and I wanted to get it out there. If I had snagged and agent and publisher, it would have been another two years before the book came out in print, so it seemed like a no-brainer to go with Kindle, and Kindle was my first choice. I then twigged to Smashwords and Barnes & Noble's Pubit! and I was off to the races.
DAVID WISEHART: What advice would you give to a first-time author thinking of self-publishing on Kindle?
J.M. CORNWELL: I don't think it's any one piece of advice, but several bits. First of all, make sure you've done the best you can writing your book. Have it professionally edited. Hire an artist if you aren't good friends with Photoshop or Gimp and get the best cover possible. Comb the manuscript for errors. Stick to the formatting guidelines to make transition from manuscript to published book easier and just do it. Too many authors submit error-ridden work and sloppy covers. Make whatever you put up there the best possible book you can create and don't settle for less. Although self-publishing on Kindle is easy, it shouldn't be sloppy. Put your best work out there because it will come back to haunt you later.
DAVID WISEHART: Thanks, and best of luck with your books.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
http://fixnwrtr.blogspot.com) she blogs about writing, grammar, life, and relationships and can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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