Armed with an English degree from NC State University, my winding journey included fund development for higher education, the medical community, and nonprofits. Eventually, I earned a master’s in education and taught special ed for fourteen years in Virginia’s public school system. Still, I never could shake the need to write the book, so I finally took a sabbatical from teaching to do it.
Once it was finished, I struggled to get an agent or publisher interested. Knowing I didn’t possess the skill set to do it on my own (or the interest to learn how), I hired a press to be the “self” in my self-publishing initiative. This route used to be called the dreaded vanity press, but the industry has evolved to better support the author, and there are many more options from which to choose. My publisher, Lifestyle Entrepreneurs Press, is a hybrid model, falling somewhere between traditional and self. I’ve had a great experience with them. My book comes out on December 4th and is available for pre-order now on Amazon.
As always, it’s buyer beware when shopping for a company like this. I did a lot of research and interviewed a number of individuals and companies before making my decision.
What were you like at school?
Thinking back, I was probably considered an oddball in school. I was a Girl Scout for eleven years, going all the way to First Class; I was a candy striper at the hospital where my mama worked as a nurse; I twirled the flag in the marching band. Needless to say, none of those hobbies generated much traction in high school. I got good at tuning out the noise and found a way to rock my own thing. If anyone ever teased or bullied me, I was completely oblivious to it.
What was your favourite subject in school?
Growing up, I liked anything that wasn’t math. As I got into high school, I gravitated toward English. In college, I majored in Language Arts, Writing and Editing.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
I’d like to have some devoted readers who are excited to know when my next book is coming out. Oh, and I guess it would be good to earn an income. I took a sabbatical from teaching special ed to write the first book. I loved the experience so much, I resigned to start the second book. My husband has been paying the mortgage without any contributions from me, and he would probably like to see a little money coming in at some point.
Which writers inspire you?
Barbara Kingsolver tells a great story. I love the way she sets a scene. Tova Mirvis (The Ladies Auxiliary), Alan Brennert (Moloka’i), and Sarah-Kate Lynch (Blessed are the Cheesemakers)—those authors submerged me in a culture. Mary Shelley (Frankenstein), crafted her monster so carefully. Maeve Binchy’s stories have always been my comfort food of books.
What book/s are you reading at present?
Right now I’m in the middle of Sarah’s Key by Tatiana De Rosnay. Next on my nightstand is My Austrailian Adventure by Dr. Rob Bauer. Amazon just delivered Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook by Helen Sedwick, which I’m dying to start.
What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?
(Buckle up. Long answer in progress.)
In a previous life, I worked for a divorce attorney, writing a column about…you guessed it…divorce. He was a brilliant marketer and did unusual things to create a buzz. For example, once the firm hosted a candlelit reception with champagne and strawberries on February 14th to celebrate love and marriage. Get it? A divorce attorney celebrating love and marriage! Funny, right? They invited people from the local newspaper to cover the story. Bottom line, his goal was to be mentioned in the paper at least once a week, and he counted bad publicity, because good or bad, it was still publicity.
I haven’t had many reviews up ’til now, but so far they’ve all been fairly positive. I hope I remember this lesson from the divorce attorney when I get an unfavorable one. It’s still publicity.
What made you decide to sit down and actually start something?
I earned a degree in writing, so it’ something I’ve wanted to do since I was in my twenties. As often happens, life got in the way. I managed to land jobs that had writing components, which gave me an outlet (marketing, fundraising, teaching). I didn’t sit down to write this book until it became apparent that I was no longer in love with teaching. I needed a change. My husband was very supportive and encouraged me to write. I believe if I had started sooner, I wouldn’t have compiled all the material I needed for my characters to be so well defined. I think Lily Barlow would be a very different person if I had written her a decade ago, so I’m glad I waited. I like who she is.
Do you write on a typewriter, computer, dictate or longhand?
I make notes on a little spiral notebook I carry around with me, but I do my writing exclusively on a Mac Book Pro. It all comes down to the keyboard for me, and the keys on the Mac are perfect. I had a brand new computer before I bought this one, but the keys weren’t right, and every time I sat down, it was like having in a argument with the keyboard. Needless to say, I didn’t write much on that computer. My take-away here—get the tool you need for the job you’re doing.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
It takes me a very l-o-n-g time to write. I’m painfully slow, and I do the thing that everyone advises against—I edit as I go. It’s my method for keeping things clean and tight. I constantly re-read and re-work dialogue and sub plots. That’s how I make sure an idea comes full circle and doesn’t leave my readers scratching their heads.
The first book in the Lily Barlow series (Lily Barlow, They Mystery of Jane Dough) took eight months to write, and that was working with my critique partner several days a week for five or more hours at a stretch. There were days I was lucky to get two hundred words on page because of the rewriting.
Do you ever get writer’s Block?
I do. In Book II of the Lily Barlow series, I was in a stand-off with chapter five. I couldn’t make anything work. I was blocked for like a month. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t beat the inertia that was bogging down the scene. A month is a long time to sit and spin. It gets in your head and makes you question if you can really write a second book after all.
To banish the block, I worked on some other projects like blog posts and magazine articles. I also spent time promoting the first book, growing my online community, stuff like that. I gained perspective through the distance and eventually was able to move the story forward.
What is your favourite positive saying?
“That play is over.”
I heard Peyton Manning tell this to one of his teammates once, when the guy didn’t make the catch. The teammate was totally bummed about the missed opportunity, and Peyton wanted him to understand that the next great play was upon them if he could let go of that last failure.
We all make mistakes and take wrong turns. When we realize it, it’s good to remind ourselves that play is over. Time to move on.
Links to social media: https://www.facebook.com/carla.vergot.1
Links to published books (no more then 3) https://goo.gl/kWZS1z