Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Interview with Patricia Fry

Patricia Fry is a full-time writer/editor and the author of 40 books. She is also the executive director of SPAWN (Small Publishers, Artists and Writers network). She says, "While I have written books on a variety of topics—grandparenting, local history, youth mentoring, journaling and even how to present a Hawaiian luau on the mainland—most of those I’ve written for the last fifteen years or so are for writers and authors." The most recent are Publish Your Book, Promote Your Book and Talk Up Your Book. While she established her own publishing company (Matilija Press) in 1983 in order to produce a comprehensive local history, some of her books have been published through traditional publishing houses. Allworth Press is the publisher for this trio of books. Patricia travels and speak at writers conferences and for writers groups throughout the U.S. on publishing and book marketing. She also writes two e-newsletters and a blog for authors and contributes numerous articles to other publications and blog sites each month. She says, "I spend most of my time promoting my books and working with other authors on their book projects. Of course, I also usually have a new book in the works. Most recently, I have started writing fiction." Patricia has generously given us some of her time today to talk about her novels and making the switch from nonfiction to fiction author!

Tell us about Cat Eye Witness. What was your inspiration/motivation behind this book/this series?

Thank you for asking. For my last birthday (in June), I decided to treat myself by finally attempting a work of fiction. I’d been writing nonfiction for nearly 40 years and wanted to try my hand at a novel. I like reading light (cozy) mysteries and I love cats, so decided to do what others before me have done and combine the two. Within six months or so, I had written two novels in my Klepto Cat Mystery series, “Catnapped” and “Cat-Eye Witness.” I had heard good things about Kindle Direct Publishing and decided to get my feet wet as a potential novelist through this program. Both of these novels are at Amazon for Kindle as we speak. (Links below.) There are no talking cats—just real cats with purrsonality. One cat, in particular, has a most unusual habit that usually results in helping to solve the mysteries.

What have you learned through writing novels as opposed to your nonfiction books and articles?

I have learned how much fun it is to manufacture characters and scenarios and what it feels like to be responsible for creating characters and stories that are entertaining as well as meaningful in some way. I notice that I incorporate some of my nonfiction tendencies to teach and educate into the stories I tell. And I’ve come to realize that there must be truth in fiction in order for it to be credible. I’ve been editing fiction for several years and I think this (as well as my tendency to read fiction with a rather critical eye) has helped me to write with my audience in mind. And this is as important in fiction as it is in nonfiction. I’ve also learned that the message I’ve been sharing for years—that the concept of and the process of promoting fiction is not all that different from promoting nonfiction. It has been a real challenge to convince most novelists of this fact.

How did you get started writing?

I was a young mother when I realized that I enjoyed the process of writing—letters, grocery lists, little stories for my children, etc. At some point, I decided that when my three daughters were older, I wanted to write articles for magazines. I was fascinated by the structure of an article and the wide array of possibilities in the way you could address a single topic. I started subscribing to writing magazines and I read a lot of magazine articles. In 1973, when the girls were in their teens, I borrowed a manual typewriter and wrote my first article. The first magazine I submitted it to published it. The first book I wrote was also published—by a New York publisher.

I earned my living through magazine article-writing for many years. My articles appeared in Cat Fancy, Your Health, Woman’s World, Ladies Circle, Catholic Digest, Pages, Entrepreneur, Western Horse, Writer’s Digest and many others over the years.

I now have 40 books to my credit, including several designed for authors.

I am one of those fortunate people who has figured out how to create a lifestyle and earn a living through writing.

What is your writing process like? Do you write on a computer? In a spiral notebook? Do you write at the same time every day?

I get up every morning around 4:30 or 5:00 and write (edit, do SPAWN work, respond to interview requests, etc.) until around 9 or 10. I straighten up the house, clean kitty litter boxes and take a walk and then go back into my home office and spend another several hours at the computer. I may take another break and run errands (ship books, pick up supplies, etc.) before finishing up the day of writing work by 3:30 p.m. or so. Often, I can be found conducting research or scheduling tasks for the following day while relaxing in front of the evening news.

As I said, writing for me is a lifestyle. It is my life—my hobby, my creative outlet and my livelihood. I do all of my writing at the computer now—although it was hard to switch from the spiral notebook when I purchased my first word processor some 25 years ago. I had to learn to think into the computer.

Because I often work (if you can call writing “work”) seven days a week, I occasionally suffer burnout. That’s when I will take a longer walk among nature, perhaps. I might do a little gardening or engage in another creative activity—photography, for example.

How do you get ideas for your fiction?
As you know, I’m new to writing fiction. So far, I’ve written three novels in the Klepto Cat Mystery series. Two are published for Kindle and one is waiting in the wings for extensive editing/proofing, etc. I will also turn it over to some readers before publishing. These three stories have materialized before my eyes as I write. I start with a premise, come up with a beginning scene (which may end up in the middle of the book somewhere) and just start writing. The ideas seem to emerge through the characters. Although, if an idea strikes me, I will write it down to possibly use in one of the stories.

What is your biggest advice for other writers?
My advice to those who are writing books is, keep your audience in mind throughout the entire writing process. For nonfiction, make sure the book is needed/wanted and that you have organized it in the most logical manner. Write instructions so they are easy to follow. For fiction, write in a genre that is popular. Write scenes that flow. Don’t leave the reader behind. If you are writing for publication, you must think about promotion from the very beginning of the project. I advise authors to build promotion into their books as they write them and one way is to consider your audience throughout the process.

What are some of your favorite books?
Because many of your readers are or plan to be authors, I’d like to talk about books for authors. If you are considering using one of the pay-to-publish (or self-publishing) companies, please read Mark Levine’s book The Fine Print of Self-PublishingHe has just done a major revision. But any edition of his book is worth the price. He rates and ranks these companies and explains their contracts (good and bad). Also read my books: Publish Your Book (a great guide to understanding and learning to navigate the publishing industry) and Promote Your Book (which is filled with over 250 book promotion ideas and how to use them). Both of these are available at Amazon.com in print, for Kindle and in audio. Or purchase the print version here: http://www.matilijapress.com.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

An educated author is a more successful author. Always, always think of yourself as the CEO of your book from the very beginning. Writing may be a creative endeavor, but publishing is a business and should be respected as such.

I’d also like to introduce SPAWN. Mary Embree is the founder of Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network. She formed this organization in 1996 in order to provide the opportunity for authors, illustrators, printers, publishers, agents, etc. to network face-to-face and possibly collaborate on projects together. We also brought in experts and professionals to speak on pertinent topics. We started with three chapters in the Southern CA area. I have been involved in SPAWN since the beginning. I am now the executive director. We no longer meet in person. We are online only and still provide opportunities to network through an online discussion group. I write the SPAWN Market Update, a meaty e-newsletter each month for members only that is brimming with opportunities and resources for authors, artists and other creatives. We have two booths at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books each year, where members can sell their books to some of the 140,000 visitors. Sign up for our free monthly e-newsletter, SPAWNews http://www.spawn.org.  Contact me at Patricia@spawn.org.

Are there any links you'd like me to share?
  •  http://www.matilijapress.com Here, you’ll find my books showcased, my speaking schedule, a large list of resources for authors, tons of articles of interest to authors and more.
  • http://www.patriciafry.com Learn more about my editing services. Also download my free e-booklet, 50 Ways to Establish Your Platform. Sign up for my new e-newsletter, Publishing/Marketing News and Views.
  • Join SPAWN (Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network) http://www.spawn.org. Sign up for our FREE e-newsletter, SPAWNews. Receive a FREE copy of Promote Yourself! 25 Ways to Promote Your Work Whether You’re an Artist, Author of Small Publisher.
  • Order Patricia Fry’s two novels for your Kindle: Catnapped http://amzn.to/14OCk0W and Cat-Eye Witness http://amzn.to/1bJiq0x
  • Contact Patricia here: PLFry620@yahoo.com