Name: Joan Schweighardt
Title: River Aria
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Five Directions Press
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Thank you for your time in answering our questions about getting published, Joan! Let’s begin by having you explain to us why you decided to become an author and pen this book.
Author: I decided to become an author a long time ago now, so it’s hard to remember all the relevant factors. But I can say this: I was really shy as a kid, and I had no confidence in myself at all. If an adult asked me a question, I froze and could not answer. But I realized early on that I was skilled at writing, and when I saw that writing enabled me to have a voice without actually having to open my mouth, I latched onto it and I stayed there.
Is this your first book?
Author: No, this is my ninth if you don’t count a couple of children’s books and some books I’ve ghostwritten for clients.
With this particular book, how did you publish – traditional, small press, indie, etc. – and why did you choose this method?
Author: Five Directions Press is a “by invitation only” publishing co-op. I feel very fortunate to be with them. As you might guess, the idea of a co-op is that everyone pitches in to ensure that each author’s book is as good as it can be. Decisions about what books to publish are based not on what the founders feel is likely to be a big commercial success but on their collective idea of what makes a great read. All the authors at Five Directions are talented storytellers. I’m pleased to be in their company.
Can you tell us a little about your publishing journey? The pros and cons?
Author: Over the years I’ve had books published by a array of small to mid-size presses. I was with my first publisher for three contemporary novels, but they didn’t publish historical fiction, so when I wrote my first historical I had to find another publisher. My second publisher was great, but they didn’t publish memoir, so I found a third publisher. That’s pretty much the way it has gone throughout my writing career. I’m happy to have had multiple publishing experiences.
What lessons do you feel you learned about your particular publishing journey and about the publishing industry as a whole?
Author: Back when my first few novels were published, in the late nineties, there were only two publishing options. Either you were published by a traditional press or by a vanity press. This was before the digital age and before the technologies that support books on demand. If you couldn’t find a publishing team that thought your book was really worthy and you didn’t have the money (and back then you would have needed a lot of it) to pay a vanity company, you just didn’t get published. I was very fortunate to have a traditional publisher. Now the industry has changed and there are many small publisher options that sit in the gray area between traditional and vanity. And because it’s possible to market your book yourself online, there is even the option of self publishing. Anyone who wants to get published can, but of course driving traffic to your book is about 400 times more challenging that it was back in the old days.
Would you recommend this method of publishing to other authors?
Author: I would tell emerging authors to explore their options. Ask questions. Will the publisher you’re talking to provide sufficient editing and proofreading? Will they do marketing? If so, what exactly and for how long? What percentage of retail sales will you receive? Will they pay to enter your books in appropriate contests, or will you have to do that yourself? And don’t be afraid to make deals. If you have six thousand friends on social media, maybe you can suggest they up your profit percentage. If that’s contrary to their business plan, maybe they can think of another way to compensate you, such as overseeing contest entries.
What’s the best advice you can give to aspiring authors?
Author: This is probably a very common answer, but it’s the best advice I can offer: polish your work. Read it over and over again for content; if you find there is a particular chapter that you don’t feel like rereading, ask yourself why. Get others to read your work too, people who are writers, or at least good readers who will give you honest opinions. If you don’t like their suggestions for changes immediately, wait some. Some suggestions may be wrong for your book, but others may be spot-on—once you’ve taken the time to think about them for a while. I almost always chafe when someone tells me something I’ve written isn’t working. But then I sleep on it—for weeks sometimes—and I often begin to see that they are right. And proofread, and when you are done, have others proofread. Or, if you can afford it, pay a professional proofreader to give it a sweep.
ABOUT 'RIVER ARIA'
River Aria is narrated by Estela Hopper, who, as a ten-year-old girl living in the impoverished fishing village of Manaus, Brazil in the early 20th century, is offered a twist-of-fate opportunity to study opera with an esteemed voice instructor. During her years of instruction, Estela, who is talented, passionate and dramatic by nature, dreams of leaving Brazil to perform in New York. But as her beloved instructor is not able to convince the managers of the great Metropolitan Opera that they should bring on a mixed-race immigrant who grew up on the banks of the Amazon River to become an elite performer, Estela accepts what they do offer, a position in the sewing room, and leaves Brazil on a ship with her cousin JoJo in the year 1928.
The challenges that befall Estela and JoJo in New York are plentiful. Estela’s father, an Irish American who came to her village nearly twenty years earlier (at which time she was conceived), has a plan for what her life should look like once she is settled. Her relationship with JoJo changes drastically when he learns he was lied to about his own parentage, and again when he takes a dangerous job working for the owner of a speakeasy. And of course her personal challenges of finding some modicum of success in a place like New York are not only enormous but crushing to her once robust sense of self.
Check out the complete series at www.joanschweighardt.com