It's Indie Author Sunday! Every other Sunday, we're posting an interview with a different indie author along with posts about them on all our social media accounts. This week it's Barbara Schreiner, the author of The Travels and Travails of Stella Bellamy.
WW: Tell us about your experience with indie publishing.
BS: Over the years I have published through various approaches – mainstream non-fiction and fiction, self-publishing and through an online and POD publishing house. It’s been an interesting range of experiences. In terms of my self-published anthology of poetry, Broken Hearts and Restless Dreams, I was able to do the entire thing from beginning to end – write the poetry, take the photos, do the layout and design and then get it printed. So, the creative direction of the work was entirely within my control – which was great. But it also means that there wasn’t the critical eye of a professional editor over the work. And distribution is always the challenge with self-publishing. And I guess I didn’t really expect a poetry anthology to sell well, so I haven’t done much marketing other than making it available when I have been reading poetry in public. My most recent book, The Travels and Travails of Stella Bellamy is published through Rebel-e Publishing House which is an online publisher. They provided an editor who worked with me to considerably improve the book. They were excellently quick in responding to the original manuscript and to the various versions that I sent through. So, it’s been a pleasure to work with them. But it still needs a lot of hard work on my part to publicise the book.
WW: Tell us about your book.
BS: I call my book a novelogue – it’s a mixture of a novel and a travelogue, following the travels of Stella Bellamy around the world and through her own life. Stella is contemporary, middle-aged, chubby, grumpy, and single. But she has learned that when life gives you lemons, forget making lemonade, drink gin and tonic. Clutching a gin in one hand and an acerbic and hilarious sense of humour in the other, she travels the world and her own history. Whether in foreign airports or hotels, aeroplanes, tuk-tuks or crumbling taxis, or the comfort of her own home, Stella provides a poignant yet funny view of a diverse and colourful world. Stella revisits her complex emotional past and present, from her teenage relationship with a friend of her father’s, her fear of intimacy, to her relationship with her dying mother from hell. Stella invites and entices the reader to laugh at this absurd world.
WW: What made you want to write in the genre of your book?
BS: This book sort of just happened, there wasn’t really a moment of choice about what genre. I started writing it in dribs and drabs in airports and hotels around the world, trying to capture the essence of the cities and countries that I was visiting. And then, one evening, in a torrid hotel in Nairobi, Stella stepped into my life and the novel was born.
WW: What has been your favorite part of being an Indie Author?
BS: The creative freedom to do my own thing, and the joy of being in control of the creative process from beginning to end. Social media and the internet have really empowered one to do one’s own thing and get it out there.
WW: What do you wish you knew before going the indie-publish route?
BS: I wish I had known more about the various groups and platforms for reviewing and publicizing books, and the very supportive people engaged in indie publishing.
WW: What books or authors have inspired you?
BS: Wow! How much space do you have?! Kazuo Ishiguro – all of his books are incredible. He writes with sparse clarity, creating visual images and taken one deep into the soul of his characters. Michael Ondaatje, who can craft a sentence of such elegance and beauty that one is just blown away. Ngugi wa Thiongo, who writes of the human condition in the post-colonial complexities of Africa. Lauren Beukes, Zoo City, a funny, poignant thriller set in a gritty, crime ridden city in which people who have transgressed against society in some way have an animal partner that is attached to them which represents their social deviance. Salman Rushdie, Gabriel Marquez, Louis de Bernieres. Love the magical realism genre.
WW: Are you working on anything now?
BS: I’m working on a thriller, set in South Africa. It has to do with corporate fraud…
WW: What does your writing space look like?
BS: Like a laptop. I write anywhere, anytime, and if I don’t have my laptop with me I scrawl in a notebook and transcribe it later.
WW: What is your writing process like?
BS: I’m a part-time writer, so writing gets squeezed into the interstices of a very busy professional life, motherhood, and keeping contact with friends. It depends whether I am writing poetry or prose what the process is, although there is an organic nature to both. I have taught myself, over the years, to be more rigorous and to return to my writing and to polish and revise it.
WW: What advice would you give writers looking at indie publishing?
BS: If you don’t have an editor, you need to find other ways to ensure that your work is top quality before getting it out there. I have a friend that has self-published two books without even seeming to have done basic editing on them. That’s not good. You need to do your own rigorous and unrelenting editing of your own work. Then give it to other people to read and critique – not your best friends who are going to say “it’s great” just because they love you. You need people who will really read it and critique it and give you tough feedback on it. Only after you have really worked through it and over it and under it, should you put it out to the public. You owe it to yourself and to your readers.
WW: How connected are you to the indie publishing community? What is that experience like?
BS: I’m only just beginning to get connected and find out how much of a network there is out there.
WW: What platforms do you use to promote your work?
BS: Facebook, website, blog, Instagram, old fashioned word of mouth!