Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Author Interview: Diane Schochet - "COG STONE DREAMS"

Diane Schochet

Genre: Doctor Claudia Alexander, my publisher at Red Phoenix Books, is a scientist.  She says my genre is Environmental Fiction. I’m not a scientist.  I say my book is Jewish Magical Fiction.  (Think Isaac Bashevis Singer.  Well I’m hoping.)

COG STONE DREAMS is a mystical, magical, humorous love story with a murder, 9000 years of history, cog stone induced dreams (the magical mystical part) and wetlands thrown in. 

What is the Jewish related theme in your book? The main character (like the author) is Jewish. So is her family.  So is a character I call Cabel Sturmms who is based on Abel Stearns, who came to California 1829 and became one of its wealthiest citizens.  In Cog Stone Dreams Cabel’s story starts when he’s twelve, the oldest of eight children from a happy Jewish family. Then Papa Sturnns drowns in his soup and Mama dies soon after.  Cabel gives his younger siblings to non-Jewish neighbors.  Though the siblings will be raised as Christians, he promises himself he will stay true to his religion.  Until he goes to Mexico and an old lady tells him nobody will sell property to a Jew, he has no trouble keeping his promise.

Is writing a full-time job for you? If not what else do you do? Pretty full time.

How many books have you self-published or have been published in the traditional manner? This is my first book.  I’ve had lots of my magazine articles published.  I was paid to write two children’s plays.

Why do you write? I like to write.

When you are writing something new do you ask someone's opinion about it? Yep.  I’m in two critique groups. And I take lots of classes.

When you write do you need absolute concentration and quiet?  Most of the time but not always

Do you believe or have you experienced "writer's block"? If so, when and why? I’m not sure but I am a procrastinator and do everything I can to put off writing.  Then when I get into it, I go, fast like an airplane or slow like a snail, but I go.
  • Do you incorporate incidents from your own personal life into your works?  Yes.  In Cog Stone Dreams I put in lots of incidents.  Here I’ll name some of the Jewish ones.
  • When I was young I told people I was Jewish even if they didn’t ask.
  • Dessa, the main character in Cog Stone Dreams, does the same.
  • I stayed with my Bubbie at a Jewish boarding house at the beach.
  • So does Dessa.
  • On Simchas Torah I saw a red haired girl’s hair catch fire.
  • In Cog Stone Dreams, Dessa’s hair catches fire on Simchas Torah.
  • In 1960 when Kennedy ran against Nixon, I thought it difficult to vote.  At the time everybody I knew thought Nixon was a closet anti-Semite (I was surprised when I went to Israel for the first time and heard how well he was thought of there.) I was also told if you voted for Kennedy there was a good chance the Pope would take over our country because Kennedy would tell him all our secrets.
  • Dessa is privy to the same facts.
  • My parents moved into a Jewish neighborhood so I would be raised Jewish.
  • The same thing happens to Dessa.
Do you write what you think the public wants to read or what you feel to be your inner-expression and forget about the public?  I just write.

If you did Self-Publish why did you do it?  Here’s what happened.  A couple of years ago, I took an on line advanced novel writing class from UCLA.  A class mate, Doctor Claudia Alexander, liked my writing.  I liked hers.  We met and became friends.  Then in 2011 she informed me that she was becoming a publisher.  Her deceased aunt, Carol Fenner, had left Claudia her literary collection.  Carol, who had won Newberry awards, a Coretta Scott King award and two other awards, had one book that hadn’t been published and Claudia decided to publish that book and my COG STONE DREAMS book and some books that Claudia had written. I was delighted. 

If you did or do have an agent, without naming them, tell us your experience on getting the agent and if you are satisfied.  In the past I’ve had three agents. All three were very nice.  All three were complimentary.  None of them sold my books or movie scripts.

When you market your book what path did you chose? Why? And what has not worked out for you and what has worked for you? I’m just starting and plan to concentrate on two paths. First, I will find people, like you, who are interested in Jewish themes and secondly,  find people who are interested in the environment, especially wetlands.

How much time do you spend on marketing your own work?  I plan to spend more time.  My publisher signed me up for the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books as a feature writer on April 21 and 22 . 

If you self-published tell us in order the route you went, e.g. Kindle to Print to Smashwords or whatever you did. Cog Stone Dreams started  with e-books on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords, simulaneously, then POD (print on demand) with Amazon's CreateSpace followed by Lightning Source.

How much time and effort did you put into the cover of your book? My publisher made some recommendations, and asked my advice. I wanted Cog Stones to be prominent on the cover and to have the words Wish, Dream, Magic incorporated in three of the stones. So I drew a sample design. Then the publisher and the artist she used came up with a magnificent cover that I love and is so much better than the cover I conceived.

If you are a Kindle publisher, did you join KDP Select and if so what were experiences there and how would you judge it?  My publisher has discussed with me whether to do Kindle Select and provide free downloads for a period of time to boost visibility. We’re studying the pros and cons of this approach by looking at on line blogs on the subject.

Exactly what formats is your book in? (Nook, Paper, Kindle, Sony, Ipad..etc and etc.) I think all of the above.  It is also in paperback.

How did you decide on the price of your book?  I don’t know how prices were decided and haven’t asked because I’m so excited about my book being published.

What advice would you give other authors or other people starting out?  Keep writing.

Do you consider yourself a success in writing, a wannabe, a failure or just misunderstood? And of course why.  Sometimes I think I’m pretty good. Sometimes excellent.  Sometimes rotten.

Excluding free giveaways (such as KDP) - have you ever made it into the top 100 of a list and stayed there for over 2 weeks? Yes.  Amazon.Com puts books about wetlands under the category of Lakes and Ponds in their Nature and Ecology section.  Today under Lakes and Ponds the Kindle Edition of Cog Stone Dreams is the number 18 best selling and the number 2 best rated.  It has been in the same place for about two months now.

Name one thing you absolutely hate about the publishing and writing world. I haven’t been in it long enough to know.
Name one thing you love about the publishing and writing world. Everything. I love being published.
What is your ultimate dream in writing and having your books published? To keep writing and keep selling.

Books by Ted William Gross

If you wish to purchase the books at Smashwords click here.

1 comment:

dschochet said...

Thanks Teddy!
What a lovely way to wake up!
Diane Schochet