It is my pleasure today to interview Joanne Tailele, whose debut novel, Accident, is a gripping story about a woman who makes a tragic mistake that irrevocably changes her life—and the lives of the people around her. Here she talks about “moral fiction,” why she can only write fiction on the sofa, and what writing advice she’d like to see on a bumper sticker.
Q. When and why did you first become a writer?
A. I wrote my first short story at about 10 years old in blue-colored pencil: “The Mystery of the Missing Marble.” I still have it in a metal box I have saved with the tons of prose and poetry I have written over the years. I did not think about writing commercially until about four years ago, when I saw an advertisement for NANOWRIMO and thought, “Why not give it a try?” That is where my novel, Accident, was born.
Q. What other work have you done, and how has it impacted your writing career?
A. This is my first novel and attempt at commercial work. In the past, my writing was for my own enjoyment and therapy.
Q. Do you have any special time or place you like to write?
A. I have a small notebook computer, and if I am writing my book or doing something pertaining to writing, I like to sit with it on a lap desk on the sofa next to my husband at night or early in the morning. When I need to change hats to be a realtor, I pick up my notebook and move to my desk in the office. Funny, but I rarely do writing on my desk and real estate from the sofa.
Q. Who are some of the authors whose work you admire the most, and why?
A. My all-time favorite author is Jodi Picoult. The other day I read an interview with her where she called her novels “moral fiction,” and I thought, “That is it!” Like Jodi, I do not expect to change people’s minds about subjects. I just want them to think about tough current events that most people would rather pretend do not exist.
Q. What was your first published book? How did you first create this story line?
A. Accident is my first. Currently it is only available as an e-book, but I am working with an Indie publisher to get trade editions printed. Although the story line was completely fictional, the loving Swedish grandparents are a combination of my parents and my grandparents.
Q. Do you have another manuscript in progress? If so, can you tell us a little about it?
A. Yes, I am working on a novel called Town Without Mercy. This book has several underlying themes, but the biggest one is how a town can turn on a couple and blame them when their child does something unthinkable. It just so happens that they are a lesbian couple and their child opens fire on her fellow students. I hope to entice conversations about gay marriage, gun control and better mental health services.
Q. What inspires you to keep writing when you’re feeling down or less confident than usual?
A. I follow a lot of blogs and listen to how other authors struggle and conquer the same fears. That helps to remind me that I am not alone. I also have great support through our local writers’ group.
Q. What marketing techniques have you found to be the most useful?
A. I have not really done any marketing yet since my book is only available as an e-book. I did pull it from Smashwords and put it on KDP Select with the hope that will increase sales.
Q. Do you have any special writing techniques you rely on to keep going?
A. I have to work with an outline, even if it strays way off the path during the process sometimes. It helps me keep the plot moving forward and tie up endings to subplots. I also do pretty extensive character profiles to get into the heads of my characters. Oh, and I simply could not live without my excel spread sheet, which keeps dates straight and the ages of my characters consistent relative to time flashes.
Q. If you’re self published, would you do it again? If you’re traditionally published, would you ever consider self publishing? Why or why not?
A. I loved getting my book out there right away on Kindle and Smashwords and getting the royalties (as small as they are) direct to me is a plus. But I feel like I gave up too soon in trying to find an agent. Next time around, I want to go the traditional route if I can have the patience. That is my biggest fault – no patience. To publish traditionally, that is a huge shortcoming.
Q. If you had to create a bumper sticker with one sentence of writing advice, what would it say?
A. Write till you drop.