Please welcome the wonderful and humorous author Iris Chacon! So pleased you are here for our author’s spotlight. You’re not invisible here so let’s get crackin’!
Q. What made you want to be a writer?
A. I don’t remember deciding to be a writer; I’d wager few of us make a conscious decision to do so. Instead, we write because the ideas our brains generate are clambering to get out, and we can’t rest until we get it down on paper – or screen, as the case may be. It’s like lying awake at night with your brain running 120 miles per hour, repeating your to-do list for tomorrow, until you just get up and write the list down. Writers just happen to have a million to-do lists, some of them a hundred thousand words long!
Q. Tell us your book’s genre?
A. FINDING MIRANDA is definitely romantic and comedic, but there’s also a mystery at its center, and a little bit of action and suspense. “Clean romantic comedy” is the best description — although I’m not sure serious literary types consider that a genre. I hate to label it simply “Romance,” because many readers (perhaps unconsciously) expect naked bodies and heaving bosoms. Until the “Romance” genre is more clearly defined, I hesitate to use that term without modifiers.
Q. Tell us about your book and how it’s available. (Kindle, Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, paperback etc.)
A. This is the story of a shy librarian who is invisible to virtually everyone — except, strangely, a blind radio host and a pair of hired killers. One of the trailers [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8N_2gqjyqr4] reveals that the favorite character of most readers is Dave the Dog. I’ll say no more about that, to avoid spoilers.
FINDING MIRANDA is a fast, happy read, often finished in one sitting. You can get it in paperback (from Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble [BN.com]) or in any of the popular ebook formats (from Amazon.com, BN.com, Smashwords.com, Kobo.com, and about a dozen other ebook sellers).
Q. How important is it to read books when you want to be an author?
A. It is essential to read – and not only books. Read everything that comes your way, including the articles in the old magazines in the dentist’s waiting room. You will always learn something that adds to your skill and likability as a writer.
I doubt if many of us would buy a car that was designed and built by someone who had never ridden in a car. Before that inventor designs and builds my car, I want to know he or she has personal experience with a lot of cars.
Q. How did you decide to write a book about a mousy librarian?
A. I love librarians. I know many of them personally and was one myself for a couple of years. Librarians just don’t get enough heroic roles in modern fiction, don’t you agree? Why wasn’t Clark Kent a librarian, for example? If he’s so “mild-mannered” when disguised, wouldn’t a librarian make more sense than a reporter? How many “mild-mannered” reporters do you know? They’re piranhas! And, believe me, to a reporter, that’s a compliment. No, a librarian would have been perfect in that role, but they just don’t have the PR machine that other potential heroes and heroines have. I figured the librarian’s time had come!
Q. Do you relate in any way to the librarian Miranda?
A. I remember people joking about being “invisible” when they reached a certain age, but I didn’t relate to the syndrome until my own epiphany. I well remember that moment when the realization struck: people stopped seeing me. Teenage boys stopped seeing me when I passed age 30. Single men stopped evaluating me when I got married. When I exceeded a certain body mass, nobody looked at me any more except personal trainers hoping to make a sale. I couldn’t make eye contact with strangers any more because they looked past me, over me, or through me instead of at me. I’m still waiting for Congress to approve billions of tax dollars to study the invisibility phenomenon. But, since Congresspersons tend to be wealthy and famous, they may never experience invisibility.
Q. Is there a message you’d like to send through your book?
A. I want readers to experience simple joy, a range of cathartic emotions, and the conscious or unconscious realization that people are not what they appear to be.
We judge everyone the moment we encounter them, based on what we see or hear on the most superficial level. We dislike someone because they have a nose just like Bernie Gumfeld, who bullied us in middle school. We assume someone is ignorant because of their “hillbilly” accent, when they’re actually a Ph.D. in particle physics who happened to grow up in the mountains of Tennessee.
Librarians are sometimes heroic. Blind people are absolutely capable. Rich people are not always generous, and poor people often are. #BreakStereotypes is a popular tag among Wattpad writers, and so is #BreakCliches. I hope to advance that philosophy.
Q. Which part of the publishing process do you detest most?
A. Proofreading the 20th draft. No matter how beloved the story initially was, the honeymoon is over after a while.
Q. Tell us how the atmosphere needs to be for you to be able to write. Example, music on or quiet etc.
A. I once read that if one is a true writer, one can sit down in the middle of a busy street and write. I try to remember that when I’m trying to use noise or commotion as an excuse not to write. In a perfect world, I love a quiet spot and a view of nature. I’ve written in every imaginable atmosphere, however, including on a bus or train commuting to and from work in the city. Right now, for example, my teenager – three feet away from me – is watching Spongebob Squarepants at top volume while burping loudly and playing electronic games on her tablet. When a writer is focused on the work, few things can really hinder them. (Hint to writers: Stop making excuses. Just do it.)
Q. What is one goody you must have at your desk when you’re writing?
A. I need something to sip on when I stop to ruminate or think through a problem. It can be tepid coffee, watery formerly-iced tea, water, even diet soda when I can sneak it past my health-conscious husband. I think the cup or glass just gives me something to do with my hands when I stop typing to cogitate.
Q. What is the worst thing you’ve had to overcome before publishing your novel? IF it’s too personal just make a generalized statement if you can.
A. I have read, or heard, that most people experience the “imposter syndrome” at some point in life. That’s the time when you just know, deep in your secret heart, that you’re not who you hope you are, and that you’ll be discovered, exposed, and publicly humiliated as an imposter at any moment. Everyone who has ever written anything – whether a poem, a song, a love note, a story, a movie, or a novel – has at some point thought, “Who am I kidding? I can’t write! And if they read what I’ve just written, everyone will know it!” I have to fall back on the statement a fledgling writer posted on a writers’ bulletin board years ago. Paraphrased, she said, “Whether or not people buy my work, read my work, or like my work, I write. I’m a writer because I write.”
Q. When you need some extra encouragement to whom do you turn?
I get encouragement from my family members and one or two very close friends. I am encouraged by much of what I read, as well. (There’s yet another good reason for writers to read.)
Q. How do you market your book?
I’m no expert on marketing, but I try to be diligent in applying every technique I learn (so long as it doesn’t swamp the budget boat). I read everything I see on how others are marketing, and I attempt as many of their methods as I can. Mark Coker at Smashwords gives many good lessons to indie authors, and I read whatever he writes. I have met some authors on Twitter who gave me pointers to improve my presence on social media. Based on advice I have read or received, I have done many things, including:
published multiple titles and in multiple formats;
book giveaways on Goodreads, and free books on Smashwords;
Countdown sales on Amazon;
presence on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and several online author discussion groups, such as ChristianWriters.org, Goodreads, even Paperback Attack (know that one?).
I’ve given away discount coupons for my books (Smashwords has an easy system for that);
consulted professional cover artists and employed their services in creating marketable covers (I’m even having one cover redesigned at this very moment, following advice from several reviewers);
joined authors’ groups such as Florida Writers Association and Writers4Kids (Lady Lake, FL), which has led to participation in book signing event at a local Barnes & Noble store;
joined the Wattpad writers/readers website (one of Mark Coker’s suggestions), where I have met wonderful writers and readers and been able to give and receive valuable and encouraging feedback.
printed up colorful bookmarks and notecards illustrated by my book covers and containing contact and purchasing information.
Q. Have readers ever contacted you? If so, tell us what they said.
A. One advantage of Wattpad membership has been that writers and readers are constantly exchanging comments and questions about the writers’ stories. I have also received thank-you notes in connection with book giveaways. Mostly, readers tell me they laughed at something in the book, and that makes me very happy. Several have told me the reading experience was so joyful that they will reread the book in the future when they need to brighten a dark time in their lives.
Q. Whom do you trust to read your finished books before publication?
A. I definitely wouldn’t trust anyone who tends toward brutal honesty! I’m hard enough on myself! I need kindness and encouragement, not criticism. Too many people believe they haven’t given a thorough review of the book if they haven’t found something (no matter how small) to condemn. Nihilism and negativity are the hallmarks of what many people consider to be “serious literature” or “culture.” This is why light comedies don’t win Academy Awards, romance novels don’t win Pulitzers or Nobel Prizes. I don’t write for literary critics, and I don’t listen to them.
Q. Tell us all about your very first book signing. Take us there with your description of people, place, food, décor etc.
A. It was hilarious. The bookstore didn’t really have enough space; some of the writers had to bring in their own folding tables from their cars, and even then there were three or four authors at each table, politely jockeying for space to display their books. Also, it was a three-day holiday weekend, and apparently everyone who might have been shopping had gone to the beach instead. There were a dozen writers for every one potential reader who attended! And, while I remembered my notecards and books, I forgot to bring table decor or food. A good friend scattered hard candies across my table, thank goodness. Also, I didn’t have one of those fantastic easels with the three-foot-high portrait poster advertising the author’s presence. But that wasn’t the worst part. I’m a Christian author, specializing in “clean fun,” and I was wedged into the center of a table of three authors. The one on my left wrote horror novels, and each of the book covers spread across that section of table was more lurid and gruesome than the last. The one on my right had only one book displayed, and only one name for himself — which he said was his “soul’s name.” He specialized in seminars and private sessions wherein he taught people how to “go to the other side” without experiencing actual physical death. He was dressed fit to kill, if you’ll pardon the expression, in a sleek, gray suit without lapels (very Euro-chic), and had brought his own photographer to chronicle the event.
I’m truly looking forward to future book signings, because I’ve been through the crucible now and feel certain any future experiences will shine in comparison.
Q. What do you enjoy when you’re not writing?
A. Music, photography, movies, and hiking.
Q. Tell your readers what your favorite food and color is. I know this may seem silly but allow your readers to know more about you.
A. Readers, if you’ve kept reading this far, you deserve every bit of information you can get. Pizza. Sky blue.
Q. Tell us your favorite novel?
A. I hate to answer this because it changes so frequently. I can say that the novel I have loved the longest and re-read the greatest number of times is Jane Eyre. I have to admit it’s not long on comedy, though.
Now a fun game: I’ll ask what your preference. Let your readers know what you enjoy.
Q. Library or the movies?
A. I’d like to see more movies about librarians.
Q. Valentine’s day or Easter?
A. Easter for the music, Valentine’s for the chocolate.
Q. Walk on the beach or a walk in the park?
A. Have lived in Florida all my life, but the beach is still nice. Parks are nice, too, except they’re often in cities, and I’m not huge on concrete jungles. The best place to walk is on the slick rock in places like Arches National Park.
Q. Mexican food or Italian food?
A. If I’m cooking, Italian. If I’m eating out, Mexican.
Q. Classical music or Jazz music?
A. Classical if it’s Baroque; jazz if it’s Dixieland.
Q. The smell of leather book bindings or the smell of a new car?
A. True confession: I have virtually no sense of smell. I have to remind myself to incorporate aromas into my sensory descriptions when writing.
Q. Coffee or Espresso?
A. Coffee (with lots of milk, preferable chocolate). No espresso. I’m already a Type A and definitely do not need any additional caffeine!
Q. Chips or crackers?
A. Chips, if there’s dip; crackers, if there’s peanut butter.
Q. Are there any mistakes you made with your first book?
A. Pretty sure I made them all. If anybody knows of a mistake I might not have made, please let me know. But every mistake you find and fix is a good learning experience.
Q. What kind of advice can you give to other either aspiring authors?
A. It doesn’t sound profound, but it is: Do not quit. Even when you’re not writing with your hands, you can be writing in your head. And if you’re going to quit, your head will quit first. Then your heart. And finally, your hands. Don’t let it go past step one. Keep writing even when you don’t feel inspired. Ten percent inspiration, ninety percent perspiration, remember?
Q. When in doubt, whom do you trust to help you out?
A. Christian writers and friends, who’ll remind me that I’m not the one in control of my ultimate success. “I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for calamity; to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11
Q. When is the release of your next novel? Name genre or if it’s part of a series. If your book is part of a series tell the readers about the others that are out for sale.
A. I hope to finish a new book this year, but long trips have cut into my writing time. I expect it may be February or March of 2017 before my sixth novel is released. It is humorous, of course, with a sally into the paranormal realm. The working title is Raising the Surburban Werewolf. I am also considering a sequel to FINDING MIRANDA, and readers have asked for sequels of other titles as well.
Q. Where can we find your author page of your work to follow you and purchase your awesome book?
A. The paperbacks of FINDING MIRANDA and my other four novels are available on my Amazon page: http://www.amazon.com/Iris-Chacon/e/B00U4AYUZ2.
My author website is: http://www.authoririschacon.wordpress.com
I’m so glad to have had you stop by Iris. And I don’t know about you guys but my reading list is growing with books such as this!
This has been author’s spotlight. Please follow for next week’s fun interview! Feel free to post questions for Iris. She has lots of wisdom and advice to pass on.