Recently I heard the best interview on JournalJabber (my favorite internet radio talk show btw). The featured author was Terri Giuliano Long and her book is titled In Leah’s Wake. I was instantly charmed by both her and her storyline and was thrilled when she agreed to an interview here on Dandilyon Fluff.
Her novel has won multiple awards and been well received making it to the top 100 on Barnes & Noble. Without further ado I am pleased to welcome Ms. Long!
I haven’t had a chance to read In Leah’s Wake yet. Can you please tell me a little about the story without revealing any spoilers?
In Leah’s Wake tells the story of a family in collapse. Sixteen-year-old
Leah, a straight-A student and star soccer player, has led a perfect life. When
she meets and dates a sexy older guy, attracted to his independence, she begins
to spread her wings. Drinking, ignoring curfew, dabbling in drugs—all this
feels like freedom to her. Her terrified parents, afraid they’re losing their
daughter, pull the reins tighter. Unfortunately, her parents get it all wrong,
pushing when they ought to be pulling, and communication breaks down. Soon
there’s no turning back. Twelve-year-old Justine, caught between the parents
she loves and the big sister she adores, soon finds herself in the fight of her
life, trying desperately to pull her family together. The novel is about connection –
to family, to community, to the world around us.
What were some of the inspirations that helped you bring your story to life?
When I wrote the early drafts of the novel, our four daughters were adolescents, so
I was immersed in the world of teens. I love teenagers—they’re tremendously
optimistic and creative—but let’s face it: the teen years are turbulent. When
our older daughters were in high school, there was a serious heroin problem in our
town. I knew of kids, good kids, who used and lost everything. Tragically,
several died in car accidents; a few overdosed. Their stories touched and
I was taught to write organically, as opposed to plotting or outlining. When I
began, I had a general sense of the story, but no idea where it was headed. It
started with a popular high school girl getting involved with a horrible
boyfriend—every mom’s nightmare—and the voice of someone in town, criticizing
the family. I knew the family was troubled and there would be a loss of
connection in the community—an issue that became one of the novel’s central
themes. The push-pull between Leah and her parents, their failed efforts to
communicate, as well as ostracism by the community, drive Leah to go to the
lengths she does. The true stories I’d heard inspired many of those scenes.
Did you write yourself into this tale? Which ones are you the most and least like?
I purposely made the characters different from me. This
isn’t my story and I didn’t want it to be. Because I’m a mom, this was hardest
with Leah’s mother, Zoe. It would have been easy to simply put myself in her
shoes and write myself into the story. While I certainly share some of her
philosophies and beliefs, I tried not to do that. Oddly enough, I’m more like
Like most artists, I’m a rebel. I don’t like being put in a
box, told what to do or how to do it – I’d rather make my own mistakes (laughs)
– so in this way I’m like the title character, Leah. In high school, I was a
dork – class officer, straight-A student – and I was an even bigger dork in
middle school, so in that way, and also in that I’m non-confrontational, I’m a
bit like Justine.
Although in ways I don’t even realize I probably share
certain characteristics with every character in the story, I’m least like
Leah’s drug-dealing boyfriend, Todd (laughing).
When I heard your interview on JournalJabber I was impressed that you actually mentioned your marketing plan, let alone attributed some of your success to it. Can you please share some of your strategies?
When I published In Leah’s Wake, in October 2010, I had no clue as to what I was doing. Too embarrassed to self-promote, I posted the book on Amazon. That was it. I did
absolutely nothing else. I didn’t even tell my parents I’d published a book. I
sold a handful of books. After the holidays, as people bought books for their new Kindles, I sold a few copies a day. By March, with sales lagging, I realized that, if I didn’t do something about promoting my book, my book would die.
In early March of this year, I began blogging, activated my Twitter account, and signed up for my first blog tour. Once I got used to the idea that marketing didn’t have to mean shameless self-promotion 24/7, I began to enjoy it.
In addition to blog tours, I’ve done several promotions with Author Buzz (promotions reach readers, book clubs, and librarians), and several blog hops with the Indie Book Collective. I’ve also done fun reader-centric things, such as creating an interactive In-Leah’s Wake character quiz and crossroads stories for my blog.
Since I began marketing, the single most important thing
I’ve done, or tried to do, is to connect with people. I’m active on Twitter.
I’ve also been reviewed or interviewed on at least 100 blogs and done a dozen
blog talk radio shows (which, I’ve discovered, I love!). Bloggers are amazing
people – kind, generous, caring. They’re evangelists, and they help authors for
no reason other than their passion for books!
Now, a year later, we’ve sold more than 110K books. The secret, it seems to me, is being creative. Try to stay ahead of the curve. When everyone else is turning left, it’s time
to turn right. To rise above the noise, you have to show readers why your book
is unique. You can do this through your creativity and, again, by reaching out,
and connecting with people.
Because I’ve done and continue to do many different things,
it can be hard to pinpoint what’s working and what isn’t. Sales increased when
I placed certain ads – Frugal eReader, Digital Book Today, and Kindle Nation.
During the Orangeberry tour, sales increased significantly on Amazon UK. This
doesn’t mean other promotions were not worthwhile. In many cases, you promote
to introduce your book, connect with readers, or build your platform. Word of
mouth is the number one way of selling books, so these are all very important
What hasn’t worked – again, depends upon how we define
“worked.” The majority of promotions do not result in direct sales, but, as
I’ve said, I don’t consider that not working. People debate the effectiveness
of book trailers. I’ve had about 1500 hits on mine and I think, because they’re
visual, good trailers can be persuasive. If I had to cut one thing next time
around, though, it would probably be the trailer.
I’ve never done this, because I find it distasteful, but
constant self-promotion – e.g., buy my book, check out my book, etc. – in
tweets, posts or direct messages is a real turn off for most people. A lot of
authors do it, but I doubt they’re selling books because of this. Social media,
which indie authors rely on for spreading news, is about building
relationships. It’s not about direct sales or about self-promotion.
In Leah’s Wake has been very successful for you. Do you plan to continue this story arc?
Readers often ask if I’ll write a sequel to In Leah’s Wake. I love this question, because it tells me they engaged with the characters. A sequel is not on my short-term radar
screen, but I do have an idea for one – in that story, the characters have aged
by 10 or 15 years – so it’s a project I may consider pursuing down the road.
I’m currently working on a psychological thriller called Nowhere to Run. Like In Leah’s Wake, Nowhere to Run is a family story. Although it would be categorized
as a psychological thriller, at heart the story is about two families—one has
lost a child; the other hopes to send a son to the White House.
The protagonist, Abby Minot, has a teenage son, Jesse. Like Justine, Jesse is lost,
caught in the dynamics resulting from the horrific murder of his younger
sister. His sister’s death drove a wedge into his parents’ marriage and they’re
Reeling from her husband’s infidelity, Abby accepts a writing assignment in northern
New Hampshire, a human-interest story on the powerful Chase family.
Matthias Chase, a self-proclaimed “new Republican”—fiscally conservative, socially
just”—has built his reputation on an unsubstantiated claim that his ancestors were
part of the Underground Railroad. During a renovation project, workers find a
hidden chamber under a barn—just in time for his run for the presidency.
When Abby sees inconsistencies in the story and begins to ask questions, both the
Chase family and the people in the town of New Madbury turn against her.
While the stories are very different, the books share quite a few underlying themes. I
hope to release the new novel in December 2012 or early 2013.
Thank you for taking time away from your writing to share with us here. I’m sure everyone wants to know if you have any advice for new and aspiring authors?
Read In terms of practical advice: read voraciously. Reading, hands down, is the most important tool we have at our disposal. Studies show that reading is the most effective way to learn grammar. We learn through osmosis, internalizing the various aspects of style and voice. We learn to use language and, as writers, we discover new ideas for integrating
craft techniques into our work. To solve problems in my own writing, I always
turn to a book. If I’m not sure how to tie a past and present story together, for
instance, I’ll read or reread a passage or a book, analyze the technique the
writer uses, and incorporate it or, more often, adjust it to suit my own
Study As you read, ask questions; notice the way the author uses
language or solves problems such as shifts forward or backward in time. Pay
attention to structure. Ask yourself why the author put the story together in
that particular way. What were the effects? How might the book have been
different if the structure were different? For instance, the novel Stones For Ibarra, about an American couple in Mexico, begins with the husband’s death. By starting that way, the author, Harriet Doerr, shifts the focus from the husband’s illness – we know he’ll die
so that’s no longer a driving narrative question – to their journey together in
this new country.
I’ve also found books on craft to be helpful. My favorites include: On Writing, Stephen King, What If? Ann Bernays and Pamela Painter, Writing Fiction, Janet Burroway, and The Art and Craft of Novel Writing, Oakley Hall. There’s also a wonderful inspirational book, called If You Want to Write, by Brenda Ueland.
Work with Professionals As for publishing, this is an exciting time, with more options than ever before: we can choose to self-publish or go the traditional route. Either way, we must produce quality books. Critique partners and professional editors can spot errors and inconsistencies and bring our writing to the next level. I’m working with an editor on my novel-in-progress, Nowhere to Run. I’ve taught writing at a university for 16 years; still, I’m blown away by the errors I miss. We get too close to the work; another set of eyes can really help.
Believe in Yourself and Cherish Your Friendships Finally, cherish your friendships. A community of supportive writer friends can encourage and sustain you when you’re lonely or your confidence flags. Above all, believe in yourself. Don’t ever give up. It takes work, but you can make your dreams come true!
Thank you so much for the inspiring words! Where can we find you?
Thank you so much for hosting me, Angela. It’s an honor to be here today! Readers, thank you for taking the time to read this interview! Time is precious, and you have millions of rich, entertaining, beautiful books to choose from. I appreciate your interest in
mine. For me, connecting with readers is the most important reason for writing.
I’d love to hear from you!
Here are a few places where we can connect: