Friday, August 21, 2015

Straight from the Mouth of Paulita Kincer, author of The Summer Of France

Thanks for letting us interrogate you!  Can you give us a go-for-the-gut answer as to why you wanted to be an author?

 I don’t remember not wanting to be an author. Since I was in the second grade or so, I’ve been writing stories and looking for adventures to write about. During summer vacation, I’d get up, pack a peanut butter sandwich and roam the neighborhood with my notebooks so I could write the down. I remember in fifth grade when we had to tell the class what we wanted to be. I was so embarrassed to say an author. Why did I know at age 10 that it seemed presumptuous to write books and have people read my words? I worked as a journalist, a job that paid the rent and allowed me to write every day, but I felt novels percolating that needed to get out. So I let them, and hopefully, readers find nuggets of wisdom or emotions that they can connect to in my writing.

Tell us (we won’t tell promise!) is it all it’s cracked up to be?  I mean what are the perks and what are the demands?

Perks? On Wednesday afternoons I get to put aside all my other work and head to the local coffee shop to write along with other writers. I get to go places in my imagination that I might never visit in real life. And the places that I love on vacation, I get to live in them even when I’m not there by sending my characters there.

Sometimes I hear from fans, actual fans of my book, and that is gratifying. And the other day, I received an email from an author whose book has sold millions and he congratulated me on my novels, so I suppose that’s a small level of fame.

As for the demands, if I don’t sit down and write that novel, it won’t happen. Writing alone can be a little tedious. Also, the editing and the marketing, the social media and the press releases are all on my shoulders since I self-published.  

Which route did you take – traditional or self-published – and can you give us the nitty gritty low down on what’s that like?

I self-published and my books are available on Amazon in both ebook and paperback. You’ll also find paperbacks at Barnes & Noble along with other booksellers.

When self-publishing, the most important thing is to make sure the book is ready. Readers will judge the author based on the book. If the story isn’t entrancing, if some punctuation is incorrect, if the cover is cockeyed, readers may put the book away. All the writing, editing and marketing falls on the author.

And, of course, self-publishing doesn’t come with the perks of traditional publishing. Our local newspaper, which I’ve written for, won’t review my novels because I self-published. I imagine that wall will come down someday.

What’s the snarkiest thing you can say about the publishing industry (e.g. rejections, the long wait, etc.)

I once got a teeny tiny rejection from an agent. The whole paper fit in the palm of my hand, but I can appreciate saving resources.

The reason I decided to self-publish came after a response from an agent and her assistant. They were in New York, and I figured they were around 22 years old. They loved the plot, my writing, the characters, but… they didn’t think people would be able to relate to the problems the main characters had. In the midst of dealing with teenagers growing up, going off to college, dropping out of college, making bad decisions, the women weren’t sure what to do with their own lives. The agent and her assistant’s responded that they thought that was kind of sad. And I blew up. Yeah, it’s sad, but it’s also reality for so many women who’ve devoted themselves to raising kids and suddenly find their nests’ empty. That’s when I decided maybe New York agents didn’t understand the average, aging woman, and I self-published.

Tell us for real what your family feels about you spending so much time getting your book written, polished, edited, formatted, published, what have you?

My kids are older now, and my husband is a saint about helping around the house, so they don’t complain. My dad reads my novels, and each time he’s convinced that I’m writing about myself and he feels too much pain for the characters.

What was the craziest or insane thing that happened to you in the book publishing process?

Because I self-publish, I need to have strong editors and proofreaders to make sure my books meet high standards. In my most recent novel, I preset the publication date on Amazon and added a document with mistakes to be a place holder. I planned to replace that file with my perfect manuscript after my final edits. I had hired a proofreader who told me she would be finished by a certain day. I set the publication date for a week later. She updated me and said it would definitely be ready a few days late. You’ve probably guessed by now that she never completed the proofreading. When I ran to Amazon to change the publication date, the deadline had passed and I couldn’t even replace the mistake-ridden file.

In tears, I realized that people who had pre-ordered my novel would get that draft. I watched the clock, waiting for the novel to be published so I could replace it with a cleaner version. That taught me about hiring reliable editors, and not to promise my novel before it’s ready.

How about the social networks?  Which ones do you believe help and which ones do you wish you could avoid?

Blogging and connecting to book bloggers seems the most helpful. I made those connections before I published my first book and a few complimentary words from a book blogger can help boost my book sales. I also have an author Facebook page and run ads with links to my book, which helps. On Goodreads, I’m able to connect to readers more easily, which is always fun.

Book sales.  Don’t you just love them (or lack of?)?  How are you making the sales happen for you?

 Yes, book sales are exciting – for both the money and the proof that people are actually reading my words. Most of my sales come from Amazon, so when I set up my novel to sell there, I carefully researched the subcategories. When my book pulls up into the top 10 or top 25 in a subcategory, more readers will notice it and that will increase my sales.

My book is listed with Amazon Prime as well, which means that members can get it on their Ereader free through Amazon Prime. In the past, I got notified how many times people downloaded my book. Just this month, Amazon Prime started keeping track of how many pages people read. Seeing people read thousands of pages in a day feels so exhilarating. I keep checking my numbers. 

What is one thing you’d like to jump on the rooftop and scream about?

I’d love to jump on the roof and scream with excitement that I have moved to the South of France, and someday, maybe soon, I will. I’m obsessed with France and anything French – books, movies, food, blogs, the language. My husband and I plan to move to France, and maybe we’ll even run a bed & breakfast like the characters in my novel The Summer of France, but that will be the only similarity.

About The Book

TitleThe Summer of France
Author: Paulita Kincer
Publisher: Oblique Presse
Publication Date: July 1, 2013
Format: Paperback / eBook / PDF
Pages: 255
ISBN: 978-1300257332
Genre: Women's Fiction / Travel / Adventure

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Book Description:

When Fia Jennings loses her job at the local newspaper, she thinks she'll have the chance to bond with her teenage twins. As she realizes she may be too late to create the perfect family, she's saved by a phone call from her great Uncle Martin who operates a bed and breakfast in Provence. Uncle Martin wants Fia to venture to France to run the B&B so he and his wife Lucie can travel. He doesn't tell Fia about the secret he hid in the house when he married Lucie after fighting in World War II, and he doesn't mention the people who are tapping his phone and following him, hoping to find the secret.

Book Excerpt:


The quiet of the house mocked me as I rummaged through the Sunday paper looking for the travel pages. I ignored the meticulously folded “Help Wanted” section of the newspaper and the yellow highlighter that my husband had placed on the counter to remind me that I’d been unemployed for two months and needed to find a job – soon. The ring of the kitchen phone saved me from isolation and from a job search as the thick accent of my aunt came across the crackly line inviting me to move to France.
After a few sentences in the language that Aunt Lucie considered English, she handed the phone to my great uncle Martin, and I heard his booming voice.
“Fia?” he called as if using a bullhorn rather than a telephone.  Uncle Martin, the baby of my grandfather’s family, ventured overseas as a teenager to fight in World War II, found a French wife, and stayed.
I’d never traveled to France to visit him, but Uncle Martin always came home for the family reunion at the beginning of summer.
Hearing his voice on the phone, I glanced at the wall calendar, assuring myself it was late June and Uncle Martin’s visit had ended nearly two weeks before.
“Uncle Martin! What a surprise. How’s life in France?” I asked in a quiet voice meant to encourage him to lower his volume.
Uncle Martin continued to bellow. “Look, Fia, let me get right to the point.” He hadn’t lost his American directness.  “Lucie and I are tired.
We need a break, maybe a permanent break.”
“What?” I gasped my voice growing louder to match his. “You and Aunt Lucie are…but you can’t be…you can’t break up?”
“No,” I heard his old man grunt across the phone lines. It sounded as if he said something like “Zut!”
“Listen. Don’t jump to conclusions,” he chastised me. “We’re tired of working so hard. We’re old and it doesn’t look like any of Lucie’s relatives are gonna step forward and take over. That’s why I’m calling. Will you and Grayson come over and run this place?”
“This place” is what Uncle Martin always called the eight-room bed and breakfast that he and Aunt Lucie ran in a small village in Provence. Lucie’s family had owned the home for generations, wringing olive oil from the trees and wine from the grape vines. But as big cities and ample education called, the younger branches of the family moved away. When Uncle Martin and Aunt Lucie found themselves the only ones living in the big, old house during the 1970s, they decided to capitalize on a tourism boom and turned the house into a bed and breakfast. They encouraged American and English tourists to stay, and, after A Year in Provence came out in 1990, their business exploded with people who wanted to see the land that Peter Mayle described.
“We thought you could take over,” Uncle Martin blared, “obviously, since you’re not working.”
Thanks, Uncle Martin, for reminding me again of my current jobless status.  When a huge conglomerate bought our local newspaper and combined resources with the paper in the next town, I became superfluous. So, after years of writing about home design, I sat staring at my own shoddy decorating. I tried to look on the bright side. Now I actually had time to try some of those design tips. To add depth to the alcove next to the fireplace, I painted it a darker color. Next I added crown molding around the opening from the living room to the dining room.
So far, mostly, I spent my time trying to stay positive so an amazing job would find me, and I watched cable TV shows about happy families. Who knew The Waltons was on five times a day? Mix that with the Duggars, that family with 19 kids on TLC, and my days just flew past. I slowly realized that driving my kids to sporting events and extracurricular lessons did not count as quality time. Inspired by those TV families, I amplified my efforts to pull my 14-year-old twins closer. When they ambled home from school, I’d suggest some family activities. “Let’s draw a hopscotch on the driveway!” I’d say. Their eyes rolled wildly in their heads like horses about to bolt. “How about making homemade bread together? We can all take turns kneading? Or maybe an old fashioned whiffle ball game in the backyard?”
They suggested we go out for pizza or visit a sporting goods store for new soccer cleats or swim goggles. I declined, picturing the credit card bills I juggled now that I didn’t have an income.
Bills. Ooh! I couldn’t see Uncle Martin’s invitation to France winning approval from my husband, Grayson, who had just been complaining about money.
As a two-income family, we had paid bills on time and planned our next extravagant purchase. Of course, my pragmatic husband, the almost accountant, never used credit cards. But with my own income, I wasn’t that concerned about using credit cards. When I started to run a balance, I made the minimum payment every month. No need to inform Grayson who would’ve disapproved of my indulgences. Not that I bought things for myself. Nothing but the best for our kids with their private swim clubs, technologically engineered swimsuits, travel soccer teams, and state-of-the-art skateboards. I hadn’t bothered to save for an emergency but spent and charged as I went along until the bottom dropped out of journalism.
“Uncle Martin, you know we’ve always dreamed of visiting you and Aunt Lucie, but without a job now, I just… I can’t see it working financially.”
“I’m not talking about a visit,” his voice grew agitated. “I’m talking about you moving in here and running the bed and breakfast. I’d send the plane fare to get you here. You, Grayson and the twins.”
I sat stunned for a moment, so Uncle Martin repeated himself.
“I’ll send you the tickets. I’ll just buy them online for you, Grayson and the twins. Both of them.”
My kids were always “the twins,” as if sharing a womb 14 years earlier made them one entity for the rest of their lives.
“Whoa. That is heavy stuff,” I slid onto the swiveling bar stool. “We can’t just move. Leave our house, school, Grayson’s job.”
Even as I said it, I felt hope rising in my chest. Yes! I waited for a job to come to me and it did. A spectacular opportunity. I pictured myself in a flowing skirt and low-heeled, leather sandals walking along a dusty road away from the market that would line the village streets. I’d carry a canvas bag with French bread jutting from the top as I headed home, the pungent fragrance of a cheese wafting from the bottom of the bag. Although I’d never been to France, I watched any sunny movie set in Europe. The women always wore skirts and had leisure time to linger along the roadside, smelling the lavender.
I heard the front door slam and my husband’s heavy footfall in his casual Sunday topsiders as he came in from the office. Even on a Sunday, the work at Grayson’s accounting firm was plentiful.
I turned my back on my approaching husband and said into the phone, “When are you thinking, Uncle Martin?”
“I’m thinking… NOW. Last week,” Uncle Martin’s voice rose again. I cupped my hand over the phone to try to smother the sound of his bellowing. “I’m tired of dealing with these snippy tourists. I want to roam around the world and give other innkeepers a hard time.”
“You make the job sound so enticing,” I tried to laugh lightly so Grayson, who was drawing nearer, wouldn’t realize the importance of this conversation. The idea began to form in the back of my mind: We could make this happen -- with a little cooperation. I shot a hopeful glance toward Grayson as he walked in the room. I quickly raised my eyebrows twice, which I thought should give him an indication that good news was on the phone. He looked grim and tired – the horizontal line between his own eyebrows resembled a recently plowed furrow.
“Look, I’ll have to call you back later,” I hissed into the phone and punched the button to hang up as Grayson threw his aluminum briefcase on the island. His look turned from grim to suspicious.
“Uncle Martin,” I said with a blasé wave toward the phone. “He has a business proposal…”
I tried to sound nonchalant, but I guess my eagerness showed because Grayson dropped his head on top of his briefcase for just a minute before he stepped toward the cabinet over the refrigerator. He opened the door and pulled down a bottle of Scotch.
This conversation might prove more difficult than I’d anticipated.

About The Author

Paulita Kincer is the author of three novels, The Summer of FranceI See London I See Franceand Trail Mix. She has an M.A. in journalism from American University and has written for The Baltimore Sun, The St. Petersburg Times, The Tampa Tribune, and The Columbus Dispatch. She currently teaches college English and lives in Columbus, Ohio, with her husband and three children.

Connect with Paulita:
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