Interview with Terri Giuliano Long – Author of the bestselling novel In Leah’s Wake . Balancing being a Mom, an Author & having a fulltime job!
**WARNING!! This is a GREAT interview, don’t miss it!!!**
If you haven’t heard of Terri Giuliano Long (left) and her book, In Leah’s Wake in the last year or so, you might have been living in a cave, in the Sahara or on a desert island (in which case you need to call me and we need to be friends. A desert island sounds wonderful right about now….!).
*Dreaming of island with book and drink in hand…
Snaps back to reality.*
Terri self-published her YA In Leah’s Wake in April, 2011 and by August, it ranked sixth on the Barnes & Noble Nook Top 100 list and to-date has sold nearly 100,000 copies. Without a big publisher backing her, that’s a pretty big deal!
Terri is all the proof you need that a well written, well edited and well-positioned self-published book can survive AND thrive under the new rules of publishing, persistence and a lot of hard work. In Leah’s Wake isn’t a fluke success story – Terri has consistently and tirelessly marketed the book in interesting and wonderful ways, and it has been fascinating watching her pop up everywhere I turn! Oh that, and it’s a wonderful book on all accounts 😉
Find out more about how she did it, as well as how she balances being a Mom, author and working a fulltime job in this wonderful interview.
1. Childhood dream?
When I was four or five, I dreamed of being an actress. I spent hours alone in my room, making up stories and plays. More often than not, my stories took place in a castle in some magical, faraway land; always I could fly. I flew to all sorts of exotic places! My dream, as I now see it, was to have a voice, a means of expressing myself and connecting with others. Today, those same reasons drive me to write—to be a part of the community, sharing thoughts, feelings, beliefs, connecting through open dialogue with others. I still fly, only now I travel in planes. In very real ways, my childhood dreams have become my reality.
2. Your biggest weakness?
I’m persistent. Persistence, combined with a healthy dose of perfectionism, drives me to go over and over my work—to tinker. I expect a lot from myself. I work hard and always put forth my best effort. That I care is good, I think, but at some point you have to let go. My father always says, what makes you good makes you bad. Our best qualities, the qualities that drive us to succeed, can also get us in trouble. You have to know where to focus your energy and when it’s time to move on; otherwise, it’s hard to accomplish your goals. This is something I continue to work on. Maybe one day I’ll get it right.
3. The social issue you feel most passionate about?
My husband and I currently live in northern Vermont. One of our daughters lives in Augusta, Maine. To get to her place, you have to drive north through the mountains—God’s Country, as they say. The land is gorgeous, but there’s tremendous poverty in rural America and it hits you on this drive—the total isolation, the barely habitable houses with boarded windows and caving roofs. I often think of the children living in these impoverished circumstances, all the hope and promise of their young lives stifled in childhood. Most of our social programs focus on the inner cities – certainly, we must help the urban poor – but the rural poor, out of sight, are too often forgotten. We need to find a way to reach them, to help them achieve their dreams. Nowhere to Run, my novel-in-progress, addresses some of these issues.
4. Tomboy or girly girl?
Tough question! While I love the look and feel of a great manicure or pedicure, I don’t really care for the process and I don’t like shopping – favorite activities of my youngest, a girly-girl if ever there was one. For someone whose only exercise is walking, I’m relatively strong and I have decent rhythm; otherwise, I have zero athletic ability, so I wouldn’t call myself a Tomboy either. You might say I’m a Tom-girl, I suppose.
5. Favorite food?
I’m Italian, so food is my favorite food (laughing). I don’t care for fennel and I’m allergic to shellfish and cherries; otherwise, there are very few dishes I won’t at least try. I love ethnic foods—there’s a fabulous Afghani restaurant, Helmond, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I love the exotic flavors and textures of their dishes. Every cuisine has its comfort foods, though – meatloaf, lasagna, macaroni and cheese, coq au vin, curries and potato-based dishes. Those earthy foods, the dishes that bring you back to center – those are the foods I enjoy most.
6. Dream destination?
My husband and I have had the great fortune of visiting many exotic places, including China, Thailand, Costa Rica. Two summers ago, we spent a magical week in the Scottish Highlands followed by a week in the gorgeous Lake District in Great Britain. But, as Dorothy says, there really is no place like home. Dave and I have four daughters, currently living different states—Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland and California; they’re living their own adventures, fulfilling their own journeys. These days, my dream destination is anyplace where the entire family is together. Over the holidays, everyone came to Vermont. We had an amazing, low-key week—playing games, hanging out! In April, we all head to Maryland. I can’t wait!
7. Currently reading?
I just finished Mark of the Loon by my lovely friend Molly Greene. Molly is a wonderful new writer – I was honored to be one of her beta readers! I’m currently reading Out of Breath, a brilliant and poignant novel by Susan Salluce. Next on my list: The Tree of Everlasting Knowledge by the talented Christine Nolfi, Dead Case in Deadwood by gifted writer Ann Charles, Bad Doctor, the latest novel by mega-star John Locke, Sister Issues by the terrific writer Cynthia Harrison, and Blue Straggler, a debut by Kathy Lynn Harris.
3 Expert Tips: Finding Balance as a Female Author
Little did I know, when I published my debut novel, In Leah’s Wake, I took on a fulltime job. As an indie writer, it’s my job not only to write, but also publish—i.e., design a cover, format, edit—and, most time-consuming of all, market my book. I’m also a writing teacher at a university; although I teach only one course a semester (that’s all I can manage), my classes draw upwards of twenty students, which means twenty-plus essays to read and critique every few weeks. And I’m a mom. My four daughters are all adults; still, they need me sometimes; when they do, I drop everything to respond.
Like most female writers, I constantly struggle to find balance. Years ago, I attended a writing seminar that featured one of my favorite authors, Alice Hoffman, as the keynote speaker. Here, I thought, was a woman who did it all—and did it well. I was shocked when Ms. Hoffman talked about the difficulty of striking a balance. “My kids,” she said, “think I don’t work.”
While men clearly work hard, it’s different for women. Most men, it seems, find a way to compartmentalize. When it’s time to work, they work. We, on the other hand, tend to be more people-centric. Yes, we value success, but our relationships come first. Our loved ones truly are our reason for living.
People-people, we also want others to like us—at least I do—and we strive to please them. Because I hate to let anyone down, I often find myself going overboard—overthinking an interview, spending an hour commenting on a single student essay, writing and rewriting an article or a blog post. When I do, I naturally fall behind. I keep promising myself to ease up, but it’s hard.
I hope to launch a new novel, Nowhere to Run, this fall. Part One is written and I’ve mapped out the balance. The plot revolves around a presidential election, so this fall is a perfect time for the launch. To allow time to edit and take care of all the other logistics, I have to finish soon. I know all this, yet I’m continually juggling priorities, struggling to fit in the time to write.
Thinking of all that I ought to be doing makes me crazy. Everything calls and nothing feels fully attended. I worry about whether I’ll finish the book in time for a fall launch, that I’ll miss a deadline or forget an important date. I worry that my writing won’t be good enough, my students won’t respond or, worst of all, I’ll disappoint the people I care about. Then I feel guilty.
Here’s what I’ve learned: very few people, and few women writers, actually live a balanced life. For most of us, balance is elusive, a figment of our imagination, reinforced by our achievement-obsessed culture. It’s admirable to strive for balance, to try to give equal attention to all aspects of our life. Unfortunately—or fortunately—the best-laid plans don’t always pan out.
The only way to lead a busy life—and live happily—is to let go. We don’t have to do everything perfectly, live up to artificial expectations, or finish every project today. Better to accept our limits than constantly fight them. Life is big and wonderful and, yes, messy. That’s what makes it such fun!
About In Leah’s Wake
***Newly edited by Sarah-Jayne Slack, Inspired Quill Press, 2012***
A Story of Love, Loss, Connection, Grace
The Tylers have a perfect life—beautiful home, established careers, two sweet and talented daughters. Their eldest, Leah, an exceptional soccer player, is on track for a prestigious scholarship. Their youngest, Justine—more responsible than seems possible for her 12 years—just wants her sister’s approval. With Leah nearing the end of high school and Justine a seemingly “together” kid, the parents are set to enjoy a peaceful life…until Leah meets Todd, a high school dropout and former roadie for a rock band.
Can this family survive in Leah’s wake?
Terri Giuliano Long has written news and feature articles for numerous publications, including Indie Reader, the Boston Globe and Huffington Post. She lives with her family on the East Coast and teaches at Boston College. In Leah’s Wake is her debut novel. For more information, please visit her website: www.tglong.com
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