I am probably the last person in the world who would end up writing a fictional book. Granted, my father wrote several textbooks and articles about ceramics. So, if there was ever a plan for writing in my life, it should have been all about Electrical Engineering. Every electrical engineer knows the Schottky diode and the Zener diode. Now there is the superconducting Conrad diode! Well, life does not always follow the expected path.
English was never easy, and my early scholastic days were tough. However, a fantastic invention saved me. Computers! Our first computer was a Wang PC-S3-3, which supported their proprietary but excellent word processor. We also had the Wang “Diablo” 620 printer with a massive daisy wheel. People could hear it printing from every corner of our house. The upside was that the text looked immaculate compared to dot-matrix printers.
My father purchased the DOS 8088-emulation card for our Wang a few years later. This allowed us to use MS-DOS programs such as Office Writer. (Similar to WordPerfect.) Later, he upgraded the printer to an HP LaserJet II. So much quieter. These early word processors were a miracle for my English. Finally, I could write without a pencil or typewriter and White Out.
With this new ability, my struggle with English became manageable. I credit some improvement to my ninth-grade teacher, Mr. Olpin. A truly inspirational individual.
After High School, I attended college at WPI in Worcester, Massachusetts, with a degree in Electrical Engineering and a minor in English. As you know, Electrical Engineering is the best kind of engineering. It took five years to get a four-year degree. I had some issues… If you ever meet a WPI graduate, ask them what a snowflake is. I got two snowflakes back-to-back. Sucked! But I still graduated. Three of my roommates and three of my friends did not. Included in the college curriculum was a creative writing class. I enjoyed the course, but writing for fun was not be in my future.
After college, I had several jobs. Why so many? There were a few unpleasant work situations, but mainly the companies left me when their project/contracts ended. I enjoy being an Electrical Engineering. To me, electronics make sense on every level. An excellent design has a certain beauty, and I enjoy seeing the result.
I have always created stories to amuse myself while going to sleep. The majority were about me having some sort of adventure. Later, they became more elaborate and evolved into massive stories where I was not a character. However, I saw no reason to write them down.
Six years ago, I was hiking during unemployment and thinking about life. On that day, I decided to write a book. I had been thinking about three stories for years and began with one about a 500-year-old woman because I thought this story had a solid foundation. I called my book A Graceful Interview so I could name the main character Grace. Catch the cool pun?
My mother and I reviewed the book several times to polish it, and I located a professional editor in an internet search. They both liked the premise, and I thought the story was great. Getting my completed book published appeared to be a simple matter. Find a publisher’s website and upload the book. They would read my story, love it, and I would collect a check. Simple, right?
It turns out that publishers do not accept “un-represented manuscripts.” (Books are called manuscripts? I know that now.) Instead, publishers only work through “book representatives” (a book agent). So, I began looking for a book representative to present my manuscript to a publisher. However, that is when I ran into a wall. Book representatives require 20% or more of the profit. Some even wanted $2,000 just to look at the book. The entire experience was a big letdown, and I did not know what to do.
My dream of publishing almost died. However, when I asked my professional editor for help, she knew a fantastic book representative. Yay! I contacted Bethany, and it turns out that she was not a “book representative.” Instead, she was a “self-publisher helper.” I was about to say, “Thanks, but no thanks.” However, Bethany told me what she offered and made a compelling argument to self-publish. Chiefly, self-publishing was a more straightforward path with a better chance of success.
We began working toward self-publishing A Graceful Interview on Amazon. The process started with a pre-edit. Bethany read my book (she was fine with calling my work a book and not a manuscript) and had a bunch of suggestions. A big problem was that my story had a narrow perspective. This means that I did not write for the reader. After thinking about the issue, I understood the problem and made many changes. Then, the book went through an intense edit. This uncovered many serious issues, resulting in a “tighter” story. However, the plot was 98% the same. The editor felt I needed more backstory on the mountain lion Heathcliff.
The next step was choosing the title, and I thought I had a solid one, “A Graceful Interview.” Bethany thought differently. I am not a publishing expert and I respected her opinion. Here are some alternate titles:
Stepping Towards Immortality
Grace the Immortal
Interviewing an Immortal
Guts and Grace
Recording the Harvest
Selected for Harvest
You Will Do
A Step Towards Immortality (song with this title)
A Grave Misfortune
The Author and the Immortal
The Forever Interview
The Immortal Grace
Forever Grace [book on amazon of this title]
Biography of an Immortal [book& article with this title]
Learning to be Immortal
A Step Toward Immortality
How to Interview an Immortal (I liked the movie How to Train Your Dragon)
I settled on Interviewing Immortality. It took some time to get used to the new title. Incidentally, I recently located a book called “Interviewing for Immortality.” Funny coincidence. After settling on the title, we worked on the cover. Initially, I had wanted to use this image:
While the image looked really cool, it was copyrighted. If you do not recognize the image, it is a pastel/water painting by acclaimed Japanese animator Yoshitaka Amano for the movie Angel’s Egg.
When I first saw the finished cover, I felt like an author for the first time. Then came two unexpected issues. First, create a good book description (blurb) and get reviews. A book blurb sounds easy. A quick summary. Done! No, it is a careful dance around select plot points combined with a sales pitch. The effort took over two weeks, and I learned a lot from Bethany.
Getting reviews proved nearly impossible. I do not have many friends, fame, or an online presence. So, how would I ever convince somebody to buy my book? There were four options:
1) Pay for reviews. The least expensive one was $99 for a 200-word review. Most websites wanted $2,000+. These sites stated you could still get an awful review after paying them. Plus, they would still publish the negative review!
2) Beg/pay “book bloggers” to review your work. I found this option to be an endless black hole that only wasted my time.
3) I located four sites that accepted books for review. Yay! I sent my book to all four, and one said they might look at it. Fail!
4) Have your friends/family/yourself write a review. All the authors strongly did not recommend this practice for many reasons. The main one is that if you get caught, readers will despise you.
I chose the $99 option. An excerpt from this is now on the back cover of Interviewing Immortality. However, I disliked the review because it read cold and disjointed.
The last steps were a final self-edit, format for publishing, developing a website, and uploading to Amazon.
As for the rest? I still live in San Diego and am happily married with a wonderful daughter.
Want to contact Bethany?