I am absolutely delighted to be one of the stops on the blog tour of the very talented Ana Spoke, fellow blogger and self-published author!
Ana’s debut novel: Shizzle, Inc. has just been released on Amazon and you can find it here. It has already reached #23 in the humor category! It’s my privilege to welcome her to my blog for an interview. Now, hang on while I channel my inner Oprah!
Ana, first of all congratulations on your sudden success! Since you describe yourself as a writer moonlighting as a middle manager, how much of your work experience gave you material for Shizzle, Inc.?
Thank you Dr. Meg! Fingers crossed it keeps going this way! To answer your first question: I think that it’s not only work – my life in general has been nothing but comedy material. Over the last twenty or so years, I’ve moved countries and changed professions multiple times. I’ve been a designer, a professor, a scientist, and a manager. Each of those changes was exciting, but inevitably brought on that dreaded feeling of “what did I get myself into this time?” and “I’ve finally bitten off more than I can chew!” This is exactly what happens to Isa – she dreams of escaping her mediocre life, but when she finally gets an opportunity, the stress of it all is almost unbearable. Poor Isa has certainly bit off more than she can chew, and now she has to chew like hell!
What were some of the challenges you faced as an Australian, writing a story set in the USA?
Hmmmm… have I mentioned that I am a Russian-born Australian? I actually used to live in the USA, in fact that’s where I spent my “formative years.” Still, it’s amazing how the Australian version of English took over my American memories. Also, since it’s been years since I left the US, I had to do a lot of research to make sure that Applebee’s restaurants still operate, and to check what they have on the menu. I’ve had to use a professional proofreader to replace my Australianisms with American versions of the same words. Good thing that there’s Google and Grammarly to make sure that what I remember is actually true!
Who was your inspiration for Mr. Hue? I was visualizing a wacky Richard Branson!
Haha, yes – some of Mr. Hue’s behaviors are caricatures of Richard Branson, but there’s also Donald Trump, and the dashing Mr. Peterman – Elaine’s boss on Seinfeld. At first, Mr. Hue was quite a flat, cardboard parody, and it bothered me. The billionaire playboy did not seem to have a personality! I had to go back through the first draft and add “color” to his dialogue and reactions. I’ve actually read books by Richard Branson to get an idea how an eccentric billionaire might think. After that, it was a matter of seeing the same through a “funny mirror”, and viola! Mr. Hue came to life!
Let’s talk about the writing/publishing process. You’ve stated on your blog that you’ve been writing for about two years. Has that all been on Shizzle, Inc. or were there other projects you started with?
Since I’ve started the blog, it has only been Shizzle, Inc., although the majority of those two years was spent editing and trying to pitch it to agents and publishing houses. Before that, I’ve started multiple other novels such as a dating-disaster chicklit novel and a dystopian YA novel. While I was writing Shizzle, Inc., I’ve had many other ideas but I just noted them in a document “for future reference” and put them away. I’m easily distracted so I’ve had to consciously discipline myself to finish one project. Maybe one day I will come back to them, like the one where a disgruntled office worker, obsessed with historical romance, starts a web of intrigue unmatched even by Marie Antoinette herself…
You, like many of us, have chosen to self publish. How would you describe the experience? And did you ever consider going the traditional publishing route?
I’ve spent at least a year trying to pitch Shizzle, Inc. to agents and publishers. It was a grueling process, and I have a spreadsheet with over 70 contacts to prove that I really, really tried. I’m truly happy that the traditional route did not happen as I originally hoped – I’m now completely in control, and I’ve had so much fun producing and marketing my book!
The self publishing project was very hard, but very rewarding as well. I hear they say the same about children? I’ve made a plan, which is set out on a large whiteboard in my bedroom. I saw it every day before going to bed – talk about obsessive! At the same time, I tried not to overload all at once, and just did one step at a time. Sometimes its best not tot think about how overwhelming the task at hand may be. Still, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy some of the steps were, like for example, uploading the finished book to Kindle. I only wish cover design was that easy!
My next project is producing a print version with Createspace, fingers crossed it will go smoothly. So far, I’ve only managed to create an account, had a look at the front page, got overwhelmed and put it aside for now.
What can we look forward to in the future? Are more adventures in store for Isa and Shizzle, Inc.?
Most certainly! I envision this series as a “trilogy in seven volumes” – in other words, it will keep going until Isa grows up, matures, and becomes boring… wait! She will never do that!
Without giving too much away, I’ve started working on the second installment, which will be set primarily in India. Now, that will be a challenge, considering that neither Isa nor I have ever been there!
I’m having a lot of fun creating new characters, but will definitely weave some of the existing ones into the fabric of the next story.
Finally, Ana, what would you like to say to the blogging community in general, and to aspiring writers in particular?
Don’t give up! This is not a new sentiment, and the history ia full of authors who have been rejected time and again, only to find success on a hundredth try. I myself have been rejected or ignored over 70 times, and yet here I am, with a self-published bestseller and huge psychologist bills!
Another message I have is that any success takes a lot of work, so you better start now. Also, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming or a chore – it can be like a game, a welcome distraction from the everyday monotony. If you become addicted to blogging or writing the way most people are addicted to Angry Birds or Candy Crush, you are guaranteed to be a success!
Thank you so much, Ana, for stopping by on your “world tour” of the blogosphere! I wish you all the best on your continued writing career and look forward to your next best seller! Once again, to buy Ana’s book, you can find it here on Amazon!