On the Trail with Author Mindy McGinnis

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Today’s cyber hike is with Mindy McGinnis, author of NOT A DROP TO DRINK, coming out in September from Katherine Tegan/Harper Collins. I’m a big fan of her fantastic blog “Writer, Writer Pants on Fire,” and am beyond excited to chat! Here’s more on her debut novel:

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Regret was for people with nothing to defend, people who had no water. 
Lynn knows every threat to her pond: drought, a snowless winter, coyotes, and, most importantly, people looking for a drink. She makes sure anyone who comes near the pond leaves thirsty, or doesn’t leave at all.

Confident in her own abilities, Lynn has no use for the world beyond the nearby fields and forest. Having a life means dedicating it to survival, and the constant work of gathering wood and water. Having a pond requires the fortitude to protect it, something Mother taught her well during their quiet hours on the rooftop, rifles in hand.

But wisps of smoke on the horizon mean one thing: strangers. The mysterious footprints by the pond, nighttime threats, and gunshots make it all too clear Lynn has exactly what they want, and they won’t stop until they get it….

With evocative, spare language and incredible drama, danger, and romance, debut author Mindy McGinnis depicts one girl’s journey in a barren world not so different than our own.

BC:  Hi Mindy! Before we jump into yipping about your shiny new book with the stunningly beautiful cover, can you give us the skinny on where we’d be hiking if I actually had the cashola to fly out and conduct this interview in person?

MM: We’d be going for a walk in my parents’ woods in Ohio. I pretty much grew up under the canopy there. The second I was off the school bus I headed for the woods and stayed until Mom called me for supper. I built a little shelter, played “survival games” and everything. My little makeshift home is completely gone now, but I returned to the spot to film some of the footage for the trailer of NOT A DROP TO DRINK (coming soon), so there was a nice full circle thing going on there.

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BC: I love the premise of your book. Talk about high stakes! Just reading the bio makes my throat feel all dry and parchy. Did you get thirsty writing it?

MM: No, because my dirty secret is that I have a backyard pond. I’ve got no worries. 🙂

BC: Let’s talk marketing and promotion – something I haven’t covered before in my author interviews. So much goes into launching a new title, both from the publisher’s perspective and the author’s. The paradigm is shifting, and now so much of the responsibility rests on the author’s shoulders. Can you help us understand what your publisher provides, and what is expected of you, the author?

MM: That’s a tough one because it’s different for everyone. What the publisher provides is different from house to house, sometimes even imprint to imprint. And through talking to my fellow debut authors it’s clear that everyone handles their relationship differently.

In my own case, I’m a go-getter. I started my blog (thanks for the shout-out!) as soon as I was agented by Adriann Ranta, then followed up with a Facebook page and a Twitter account when NOT A DROP TO DRINK was sold. Recently I jumped into Tumblr (although I’m still a noob there). I have a G+ account as well, and participate in Circles there. I actually like G+ a lot and wish more people were active there.

Beyond social media, I printed up my own swag – bookmarks, water bottle stickers – and promotional postcards to send to libraries and bookstores. I also printed up little tent cards with a brief bio of myself on one side and the book on the other, for shelf displays in bookstores and libraries. As a librarian, I know sometimes you want to showcase certain books and you’re like… but what do I DO?!??! Answer: Tent cards. (If any librarians or bookstores would like a tent card, email me at bigblackcat97@gmail.com and I’ll send you some!)

So that’s my end. On the publisher’s end I’ve been fantastically blessed with an imprint that is backing me tremendously. They’ve implemented a Goodreads giveaway (20 copies of NOT A DROP TO DRINK available) ARC mailings and e-ARC availability for reviewers and librarians, plus I’ll be on the Fall leg of the Dark Days tour (dates and locations to come).

There’s also a lot of what’s called “invisible marketing” at work – title placement in bookstores, word of mouth among the industry and buzz that’s created by people in your publishing house talking up your book. Yes, we as authors are definitely expected to promote ourselves, but my arena of influence is only so big. They still do all the heavy lifting!

BC: Like many writers, you have a blog. I have to say, your blog is one of the best out there. I’m amazed at how you crank out content five days a week, and it’s always entertaining and informative. How do you manage this, plus all of the other responsibilities of life? Not to mention writing your next book! Maybe you’re secretly a mad scientist and have created a Mindy clone in your basement?

MM: Thank you! I’m always so pleased when people compliment Writer, Writer. It truly is a work of the heart. Blogging isn’t something you get an immediate return on. Is every reader of Writer, Writer going to buy a copy of DRINK? Probably not. But, I’m OK with that. I use the blog to promote writing, fellow authors, and literacy in general. I work full time as a YA librarian, so the blog is an outlet for my other passions as well – not just a promotional tool.

I also contribute to the group blogs From the Write Angle, Book Pregnant, Friday the Thirteeners, The Lucky 13s, The Class of 2k13 and The League of Extraordinary Writers. Yes, I’m insane. A lot of these blogs are writing blogs geared towards helping the un-pubbed, or newly pubbed on their path by sharing our own experiences. I’ve had some amazing help from people more than a few rungs ahead of me on the publication ladder, and I believe in paying it forward.

Also, this is where networking comes into play, and how I’ve met some amazing people. For example, The Class of 2k13 has a panel at ALA 2013 moderated by Veronica Roth. Yeah. I would’ve missed out on one hell of a promotional opportunity (plus meeting new author friends in real life and working out with Debra Driza at 6 AM in a hotel) if I weren’t involved with the group blog. Is that payoff worth blogging once a month? Um, yeah.

BC: In addition to the blog, you have an author presence on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr. Does a certain medium work better than others for reaching readers, in your opinion? What advice would you give to aspiring writers regarding the plethora of options out there?

MM: Only do what you like and want to do, and do it often. If you set up a Twitter and never use it, or only hop on sporadically it looks like you’re not very interested in connecting with your readers. I think no presence is better than an absent-minded one when it comes to social media. The same is true of blogging and your site. If you’re not going to be updating (and often) don’t do it.

The other thing is that different avenues attract different crowds. My blog is very writer-centric. I use G+ to promote literacy in general with giveaways and what I call Librarian Book Talks of books that I’ve enjoyed. Twitter is more personal for me – I use that to say something silly about what I’m doing, or eating, or something my pets did. It’s a way to show people that you’re a real person too, not some mysterious writer with a persona that encourages them to keep their distance. Tumblr I use for bite size digestibles – quotes, pictures, random funny crap. I also have an AMA button (Ask Me Anything) on my Tumblr, which I hope will be utilized by fans once DRINK has dropped.

BC: You’ve waited two years for your book to come out. That’s not counting the time it took to write the blasted thing, procure an agent, get a book deal, etc. What will you do in September to celebrate? Can you share what you’re working on now, or is it top sekrit?

MM: I have been waiting a long time- but I was writing and failing for ten years before that, so I’m not complaining. Right now I don’t have any concrete plans for release day. Knowing me, I’ll forget that it’s my release day and be out mowing the yard while my Twitter stream explodes and I’ll come in at 11PM and slap myself in the head.

I’m not actually working on anything right now. I had eye surgery recently (voluntary) and it’s made reading and writing both pretty difficult. So I’m mowing. And mulching. And going to the gym.

BC: Mindy, thanks for the inside scoop. Folks, you can learn more about Mindy and where to buy the book here. Can’t wait for your novel to come out!

 

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On the Trail with Author Paige Stirling Fox

If you’re new to this blog, my “On the Trail” interviews feature people who follow their dreams and live creative, unique lives. If I had my way, I’d jet around the globe and join these amazing folks on their favorite trails, but for now, cyber hiking will have to do.

Today’s guest is Paige Stirling Fox, a life coach and facilitator of personal growth and spiritual programs and workshops. She believes in the power of circles of women, and has created and led many programs including Women Circling the Earth, a year-long retreat and coaching program, and Breathing Space, circles for women who have survived cancer. In addition to working as an early literacy specialist, Paige is also a reiki master, a certified labyrinth facilitator, and the author of The Flowering House.

Beth: Welcome, Paige! I’m so excited for our hike today. Tell us about this lovely trail you’ve chosen.

Paige: Hi Beth. I’m excited as well for our ‘hike’. This trail is close to home in Whitby, Ontario about an hour east of Toronto. It’s in a conservation area, called Heber Down where I used to do creek study in primary school and now hike regularly with my family. It’s where my children have learned to skip stones, studied beaver dams and whittled sticks with my husband. It’s also where we regularly walked with our black labrador, Pumpkin, shown in the picture, who is now too old for long hikes. So, lots of great memories.

Beth: Congratulations on releasing The Flowering House. Tell us all about it! What prompted you to write this book? And what did it feel like to actually hold the first copy in your hands?

Paige: Thanks Beth. I wrote the initial story of The Flowering House over ten years ago, after I had just gone through a major transformation in my life. In the story, Camilla keeps a perfect facade, but lives with the hidden truth of sealed off rooms and a trashy backyard, until the day she hears a ringing bell behind a closed door. The story is a metaphor for all that we hide away and what happens when we courageously open the door and follow our hearts.

The story was simple and inspiring and I initially thought it was a children’s story, but I was conflicted because it seemed to have so many lessons for adults. My life changed and grew over the past ten years while the story lived in a drawer. About a year and a half ago, my Mom passed away and I had a strong prompting to take this piece of writing out. Then it all became clear – this was my story, but also a story for all women who hear the call to ‘something more’ in their lives. I wrote a guided journal or workbook to accompany the story and decided to publish.

It is a joy to hold it in my hands and now to begin sharing it more widely. There is a deep sense of fulfillment and also an excitement for me about the new connections it is allowing me to form with others.

Beth:  Because the story was simmering in your subconscious all those years, did you find that it just flew out once you set pen to paper? What was the process of writing a book like for you? Were there serendipitous or surprising moments along the way?

Paige: Yes, the initial story did just fly out. I like to think that it was a true creative act in that Spirit/Universe/Muse (whatever you like to call that something larger that we tap into) was guiding the story even before I could see the significance and meaning of the metaphor.

Then the real synchronicity is that I was not equipped ten years ago to write the second part of the book. In that time, I deepened my own spirituality, became a life coach, and began creating and facilitating personal growth programs and retreats for women. These women’s lives then informed the book in ways I cannot even fully acknowledge. So when I took to writing the journal workbook it flowed because I had the knowledge, skill and lived experience. This is where I think we are challenged – to really trust in the right timing of our projects. It makes sense to me now that The Flowering House could not have been written ten years ago as I was not yet who I needed to be to be ready for it.

Another wonderful surprise in the bringing The Flowering House to life was affirming how to have intention guide the creation process. So my main intent for the writing and production of the book was “ease and flow” and that anyone who was to touch the project would add more joy and love to what I had already created. Honestly, the greatest joy for me was finding and working with incredible women who added their skill through the illustrations and editing and publishing of the book. And I know that the reader will feel the energy of the illustrations as a perfect complement to the words.

Beth: The community that comes together over the birth of a book is such a gift, and one I never expected to find when I first started writing. The illustrations by Lena Ralston are stunning. How did you find each other? What was it like working with an illustrator?

The Flowering House - Lena Ralston, Illustrator

The Flowering House – Lena Ralston, Illustrator

Paige: Yes, absolutely. It was an unexpected gift for me too. You think of writing as a solitary endeavor and yet there are incredible groups to support you in the writing process and then it is a group effort to publish.

I found Lena online in a portfolio site for children’s illustrators. There were hundreds of portfolios so again I followed my intuition. When the “R’ page opened, Lena’s illustration was at the top of the page and I just knew she was the one for me. I opened her work and saw that she was a symbolic artist as I am a symbolic writer. Of course, it took a little convincing to bring her to take me on as a client – Lena works with traditional publishing houses of children’s books, and here I was a self-publishing author of a book for women.

I got her to agree to just read the story, and that was all that was needed. Lena tells me that the story resonated with her at a deep level and allowed the artwork to just flow for her. And it was so easy to work together – I gave Lena complete freedom because I loved and trusted her work, and she thrived with this freedom which is not always provided when working with other larger clients. Joy for us both.

Beth: Now that the project is complete, I imagine you’re busy with the business side of writing — marketing, book signings, etc. What do you do to satisfy your creative nature? Is there another book in the pipeline? What’s next on your bucket list?

Paige: Yes, it’s interesting… when you’re done with one book, the next one starts to call to you. I do have a series of books in mind about the power of personal story to guide us through transformative life experiences. It’s not just something I will write, but will plan to facilitate workshops for others to learn about the power of their story. So it’s percolating…

I am, however, trying to stay present to all the opportunity to learn from and grow from this experience of bringing The Flowering House into the world. You are right – there are book launches, marketing, promotion, etc. And so far what I’m recognizing is that because this book resonates for so many women, there are opportunities for me to form and deepen connections with women who are telling me about their life transitions and what they are longing to bring into the world more fully.

To satisfy my creative side, I also do soul collage work, and learned yesterday a little bit about felting, so there are some fun things to keep my hands busy as my mind begins to create.

As for bucket lists, I trust new dreams will be born of this experience. I would love to be a Hay House author in the future, and I enjoy public speaking. And it’s a balance of dreaming new dreams while staying grateful for the present. I love my life and I am doing what I love…my family, being a mom, impactful work, great colleagues and friends, lots of women’s groups, yoga etc. I trust that the next part of my life will unfold just as it’s meant to.

Beth: At a conference I recently attended, super-agent and author Donald Maass said that there’s never been a better time to be a writer, in terms of personally connecting with your audience. While Twitter intimidates the crickets out of me, I know that so many great connections can be made there. You’re active on Twitter (@floweringhouse) and Facebook, and I’m sure you’re already experiencing the joy of meeting people who have connected with your writing. How can readers purchase a copy of The Flowering House?

Paige: Yes, Beth, I agree that there has never been a better time to connect with people who are interested in your writing. I too am just at the baby steps of learning about Twitter, but I’ll get there. Facebook is more natural for me.

Anyone interested in learning more about The Flowering House can visit my website at www.thefloweringhouse.com and link directly to my publisher’s website to purchase the book. It will also soon be available widely through online bookstores such as Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Beth, thanks for the opportunity to chat with you today.

Beth: Congratulations again on fulfilling a wonderful dream, Paige. You’re truly an inspiration! My copy of your book is en route as we speak, and I can’t wait to read it. Thanks so much for sharing your time, and best of luck!