Today, we are meeting another author who is helping to expand on the contents of Be An Author by sharing their experiences. I’d like to welcome Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Rochelle is a Kansas City, Missouri USA native who was initially trained as a graphic artist. Her short story anthology THIS, THAT AND SOMETIMES THE OTHER, debuted in November of 2011. As the facilitator of weekly blog challenge, Friday Fictioneers, she has written about 40 one hundred word stories. Her novel which is historical fiction, with working title, PLEASE SAY KADDISH FOR ME is under contract with Jeanie Loiacono of Sullivan Maxx Literary Agency.
Welcome to the hot seat Rochelle. Let’s get right into the interview by asking Where did you first get the idea to write a book?
Over the years I’ve written poetry to express my feelings, most of which are enshrined in a cardboard box in a cabinet and saved on 5” floppies. Remember those?
Then, about 8 years ago my friend Kent Bonham and I collaborated on a play script we titled The First Nights of Hanukkah about a young Jewish-American couple who go to Nazi Germany to rescue her family.
From there sprang the idea of writing a novel as a prequel to the play. As I wrote and came to know my characters it became something else. As I went to conferences and critique groups I learned and grew as a writer. Eight years later, my novel Please Say Kaddish for Me went from 114,000 words to about 83,000.
The other book, This, That and Sometimes the Other, wasn’t exactly my idea. After publishing a couple of short stories in her High Hill Press anthologies, Voices IV and Voices V, Louella Turner invited me to write a collection of my own. So for a year I set aside the novel and concentrated on writing twelve more stories.
Working with an editor was a new experience for me. You mean my writing’s not perfect the way it is? Delois McGrew proved to be the perfect editor for me. She loved my stories but wouldn’t let me get away with so-so writing. Fortunately she was more of a gentle guide than a demanding taskmaster.
I’m sorry. What was the question?
What goal did you originally have for your books and / or writing?
My original goal for PSK was to educate people, to show that Hitler wasn’t the author of anti-Semitism or atrocities. Few people are aware of the cruelty of Czarist Russia beyond Fiddler on the Roof.
In the beginning of my writing I didn’t see myself writing beyond this one novel or writing any other genre. I had a mission and that was that. I didn’t think I had time for anything else.
I guess I’m still discovering my inner author. THIS, THAT AND SOMETIMES THE OTHER is a real conglomeration, ranging from historical fiction to paranormal.
Since joining and subsequently becoming the facilitator for Friday Fictioneers, I’ve fallen in love with the process.
How did you decide whether to self-publish or find a mainstream publisher?
I haven’t seen self-publishing as an option…at least not at this stage. For one thing, it’s costly. I really can’t afford to have my book printed. While there are good self-published books out there, mostly non-fiction, I’ve read some awful ones. Of course the way things are now a mainstream publisher doesn’t guarantee marketing success. A lot of responsibility is on the author to get out and hawk his or her wares.
Just the same, as a new author trying to establish myself I prefer the mainstream publisher. Now if one will just fall in love with my novel and snap it up. (insert wistful sigh)
How do you feel about the rise of ePublishing in the last few years?
I have mixed emotions. It’s a great way to reach a broader audience but I love the scent and feel of a bound book. Not to mention, it’s difficult to do book signings on a Kindle.
How did you find enough commitment to complete your first book?
I’m obsessive. My children think I’m insane because I rise at 3:00 am so I can have writing time before leaving for my full time job at 6:00. I sometimes print pages to carry with me so when I have a spare moment I can go back, read and edit.
What did publishing your book mean to you in terms of self-fulfillment or growth?
When I first started writing my novel I it was a distant dream. I had no idea where to start as far as being published. It seems, though, that I managed to be in the right places at the right time as far as mentors and guides. I’ve learned a lot of practical things along the way, ie, learning to curtail the passive voice, limiting the word “that” etc.
Seeing my book in print was akin to holding my newborn sons for the first time. Not only that it meant someone else believed in me and my work enough to publish it.
Now the distant dream of having my novel published feels like it’s within reach.
How did you and/or your publisher get your book(s) known? How much is your responsibility?
This is currently an ongoing, uphill climb. As I mentioned before, a lot of the responsibility is mine to promote the book. My publisher has the book on the High Hill Press website and has put it on Amazon US.
I’ve also been able to place the book in three shops in the area. I’m looking at scheduling book signings.
As someone who’s never been much of a salesperson, self-promotion is the toughest part.
What is the oddest, most amusing or exciting thing that has happened as a result of becoming an author?
Four times a year Ozarks Writers League (OWL) hosts a free conference in Branson MO. From time to time they bring in agents. Members can make appointments to pitch to them. A pivotal moment for me was when I met Holly McClure of Sullivan Maxx Literary Agency at a conference in 2008.
I’d not made an appointment with her but, with a friend’s urging took a packet with my first three chapters and other required info for a pitch…just in case.
The first night OWL had its first open mic session. At a large round table, across from Holly, I read those chapters. After I read she asked questions, ie, what’s the genre? What’s the word count? Others asked questions about the history behind the story. With each answer I gave, my confidence grew.
The next morning Holly spoke with me for over an hour before her first session. Much better than a 15 minute pitch, wouldn’t you say?
This meeting eventually led to my signing a contract with Jeanie Loiacono, one of Holly’s associates.
Also when it comes to something exciting and unexpected in my becoming an author, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Friday Fictioneers, the hundred word flash fiction challenge.
I had no idea the first story I posted in April would lead to serious addiction and a new “job description.” I don’t know which part of FF is the most fun, the writing or making friends around the world without leaving my desk.
What advice can you to pass on to others who would like to write?
If you’re really serious be willing to devote a lot of time. Grow a thick skin and be willing to take constructive criticism. I can’t tell you how many “darlings” I’ve slaughtered to strengthen a story. Be realistic…it’s hard work.
Thank you for joining us Rochelle, and for all those valuable insights.
“Warning – Wisoff-Fields’ fourteen little stories can cause literary addiction. You’ll laugh while you cry as she wraps pain in layers of humor and style. Her delicious characters will move into your head and refuse to leave.”
–Annie Withers, Book Review Editor
The Report – newsletter of Oklahoma Writers’ Federation, Inc.
“Fourteen well-told stories with a unique voice and well developed characters. Her descriptions are vivid and her stories are intriguing. Well worth the read.”
— from Amazon