Self-publishing & Selfies: Interview with Eileen Goudge
I first learned about Eileen Goudge and her prolific career as a novelist when she presented the keynote address at the La Jolla Writers Conference in 2010. What I liked most about her then was her commitment to writing. With at least 20 titles on her author list, hers is the story of a real working writer.
And with this week’s publication of Bones and Roses, the first in her new Cypress Bay mystery series, she joins a growing trend of successful, traditionally published writers choosing to self-publish. Sure to please her women’s fiction fans and new readers alike, Bones and Roses tells the story of Leticia “Tish” Ballard. Almost four years sober after flambéing her real estate career in an alcohol-fueled blowout, Tish discovers a human skeleton that rocks her world and plunges her headlong into solving a decades-old crime.
In our interview below, Eileen and I discussed reinventing the self, self-publishing, selfies, and the sexy, vulnerable self.
Kristy: What inspired the Cypress Bay series?
Eileen: I got the idea while walking on the beach in my hometown of Santa Cruz, CA. When I first moved to Santa Cruz with my infant son in the 1970s, I was a welfare mom. I went on to marry Mr. Wrong, and things went downhill from there.
Tish Ballard, the amateur sleuth in my series, is my alter-ego in a way. She experiences some lows, and at one point does a crash-and-burn, then pulls herself up by her shoestrings and reinvents herself. You could say I did the same. My journey to becoming a writer was similar: ill-considered and bumpy at times.
Kristy: But then you had some success.
Eileen: Yes, I've been in this business for over 25 years and traditionally published for most of it. My first novel, Garden of Lies was a New York Times bestseller. But the changes in the publishing industry have not been kind to many authors, me included. So I decided to take control of my fate.
Kristy: By self-publishing.
Eileen: Exactly. It's been a huge undertaking! Lots to know and do! I feel like I'm getting a master's degree in social media.
Kristy: Your blog is great. I loved the Selfie story.
Eileen: Selfies? OMG, the WORST. I think they should come with a warning label: Do Not Attempt Past the Age of 40! You want to hear my instant face-lift trick? Lie on your back and take a selfie. Wrinkles won't show. But it's exciting to be on the cutting edge of publishing in the digital age. I just wish I had the energy I had when I was in my 20s. In the beginning I lost sleep over it. I think I also have gray hairs I didn't starting out. But it's been rewarding and empowering, too--knowing I'm in control, for better or for worse.
Kristy: Tell me about the difference between self and traditional publishing, from your experience.
Eileen: Being traditionally published is like being an adult child living at home. Everything is done for you. Back when I was first published, social media didn't exist, so I did book tours instead. Two weeks and you're done. With self-publishing it's an ongoing process.
Kristy: And what have you learned from the process?
Eileen: The best piece of advice I can give to anyone embarking on the same path is to find the joy in it. If you think of it as a chore and roll your eyes at the mention of Twitter, you're setting yourself up for failure. Through Twitter, I’ve built an online support group of fellow authors that got together last winter for a weekend at the beach in Santa Cruz. We had a blast. We call ourselves The Beach Babes.
Kristy: And speaking of process, can you tell me more about yours and how it’s changed over the years?
Eileen: The biggest change in my writing process has come from being an empty nester and having a really understanding husband. I go away for weeks at a time to write, if not to the beach then to a remote country retreat by a lake in Wisconsin where a dear friend owns a house he lets me use. I get more done in a month than in 3 months here in New York City.
What hasn't changed is that I'm usually up and at my desk by 5am. I get my best writing done by candlelight in the pre-dawn hours. I just sit down and the words come to me, just like when I used to play Ouija with my sisters when I was growing up. There's a kind of magic to it. The hard work comes in the rewriting.
Kristy: Candlelight! That’s sexy and so old-fashioned. Do you also write by hand?
Eileen: I think I forgot how to write by hand! It's all word processing all the time these days. Though when I started out, I wrote on a manual typewriter, if you can believe it. Cut and paste was literally that. I would type out the longer inserts, then cut them out with scissors and Scotch tape them to the corresponding text in my manuscript. When I was first starting out, I wrote for the teen series Sweet Valley High. Half those books were written longhand while riding the subway.
Kristy: I think the only thing more sexy and cool than writing by candlelight might be writing on the subway. Any more sexy advice for us?
Eileen: With both sex and writing, it's about allowing yourself to be vulnerable and not holding back. Whenever I'm asked where I find the time to write, I think it's the wrong question. The real question is: Where do I find the time for everything else? Writing is the main focus, always.
The Sexy Grammarian meets amazing writers wherever she goes and loves bringing them to readers on the blog. Read Eileen Goudge's new, self-published novel Bones and Roses now. To meet more writers in social media, follow The Sexy Grammarian on Facebook or Twitter.