Friday, September 5, 2008

Interview with Laurie Paulsen on Community Fridays

Welcome to Community Fridays!

During Community Fridays, I interview authors, editors, publishers, and pretty much anyone else who I can get my hands on from the writing and publishing communities. Hope you enjoy, and feel free to suggest new participants. Check out current and past interviews here. Only have a minute? Click here for interviews at a glance.

Today's guest is Laurie Paulsen, author of short stories for Espresso Fiction.

What made you decide to start working towards getting your writing published?

Golly. My dream has always been to tell stories for a living, since I was a wee thing. Nothing else has given me the same satisfaction, that same feeling of connection.

You have worked at a bookstore in the past. What can you say about how bookstores choose what books they are going to sell? Can authors have any effect on this?

I've worked for a major chain bookstore for several years, and decisions about inventory are made almost exclusively at our corporate office. We have leeway over local interest titles, but unless we consciously work to subvert the system we can only witness which titles roll in, and which are taken away.

I can say that large publishers carry sway, as a rule. They have the funding for assigned co-op displays, which afford their authors significant exposure, and they also can influence buyers to bring in a higher volume of their titles. The trend the last several years has been to flatten inventory selection and stock higher numbers of fewer titles—the blockbusters. I've been disheartened watching this unfold.

The good news is that on a local level, authors can still do a lot to affect their book sales. Don’t be afraid to contact local stores, arrange for book signings, and cultivate positive relationships with booksellers (particularly those who specialize in your genre.) Hand selling happens, and I can attest to manually ordering in more copies of an author’s titles to keep them selling. Be aware that bookstores have little to no budget for publicity, so that falls in your hands as well as supplies for book signings (including copies of your books, if necessary). Bookstores can offer the opportunity to talk to potential readers, and are happy to do it.

I think many aspiring authors worry that they'll put a lot of effort into trying to get published, and then not be able to make a living out of it. What are your thoughts?

Heh. It’s definitely a concern. The writing seems to be the easiest part of a working writer’s life, from what I understand. We have to be salesmen, and many of us are uncomfortable crowing about our work, selling others on giving it a try. We fantasize about creating something wonderful and magically breaking through to the masses. I think what I’m aiming for is mid-list authorship. I have secret (well, not secret now—d’oh!) fantasies of fulfilling that bestseller dream, but realistically, I know making it as a writer will involve writing loads of novels in as many genres, and spending a large chunk of my time promoting my work. It’s a changing world, this publishing business.

If it never happens? Well, I’m living my life now, as I write this. I figure I’ll keep living it and finding my happiness as I go, and if I’m published (and published regularly), I’ll be one of the few whose lives surpass their expectations.

How have new technologies affected you as a writer?

Remember typewriters? Ha! Using a computer is like having a prehensile tail, but without those awkward moments at parties. Typos, rearranging entire chapters, rewrites—it’s all easier now. The hard part, the actual writing, never gets easier. But the tools sure have improved.

Speaking of fabulous tools, the internet is invaluable! Information which, twenty years ago, I’d have to burrow through the stacks at my college library for I can pull up with a few keystrokes, now. Amazing. Also, writer web pages are important--having an online presence, developing that accessibility, is a great help to building a fan base. I’m just learning this stuff, myself, and it’s both exciting and intimidating.

Tell us a little about your writing (published works, writing style, genre, etc.)

My writing is genre-friendly; I seem to focus more on action and plot than character, and I love reading most genres. I lean more toward science fiction and horror, but you’ll find elements from mystery and romance in there, too. I’m a buffet kind of girl, I guess. As far as style, I tend to imply more than I show, which leaves room for readers to interpret facets of the story for themselves. Some people like this, some don’t. Thematically, I love pitting strong chicks against near-impossible odds and watching them fight their way to survival. Is that a theme, or a device? Hm.

So far, I've been lucky enough to see two short stories published this year, at an online magazine called Espresso Fiction.

Lastly, because this feature is about establishing bonds within the writing and publishing industries, can you name one author, editor or publisher who's doing great things right now, and why?

In my travels around the internet, I've stumbled across a group of genre writers who have given so much to aspiring authors. They've created a website called Forward Motion for Writers (originally founded by Holly Lisle) which excels at offering free practical advice on everything writing-related. Questions about refining that character you can’t quite get a handle on? How to get an agent’s attention? What to do after you've been published? How to market your work? They’re passing on their experience and wisdom, and I've found loads of useful and encouraging information. They’re wonderfully generous.

About the Author

Laurie Paulsen is an author with several published short stories. Please visit her portfolio and her piping-fresh blog. It’s a work in progress (ignore the hammering in the background), but she'd love to hear from you. Drop by!

© Emma Larkins and Laurie Paulsen
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