Why I Write

One of my fondest memories from my graduate school years is of a crisp autumn afternoon, spent with a friend in the hunt for a plastic gorilla. The gorilla was a necessary prop for a gag—a restaging of King Kong in our laboratory chemical safety hood. But where to find such a thing?

Our search led us to a tiny five-and-dime store in our campus town, run by two elderly ladies in hairnets. We wandered in, the sunlight drifting through the glass front door receding as we entered the catacombs of store shelves.

“Can I help you?” one of the ladies called from behind the counter.

“Um, would you happen to have something like…a plastic gorilla?” my friend asked. I could tell by the tone of his voice that he didn’t hold out a chance in hell of finding such a thing, let alone in this store.

The lady frowned. “Solid or Inflatable?” she asked.

“Solid,” he replied.

She turned to call out to her co-proprietress. “Ethel, what do we have in the way of plastic gorillas?”

Ethel soon emerged from the back, toting a cardboard box filled to the brim. “Black or russet?” she asked. “Small or large?  You want it standing, or hunched down on all fours?”

Combing through the box, we came up with a mid-sized black specimen, standing menacingly with its arms upstretched. It was perfect.

Why do I remember this? It’s because two twenty-somethings spent a lazy Saturday afternoon together, on a quest for the whimsical. We were supposed to be finishing our research, writing our theses, and getting the hell out of Dodge. But for one afternoon, we forgot about all of that. We were able to just be, to enjoy two ladies who saw fit to stock an entire box of novelty gorillas and use the word “russet.”

And this is why I love it when a reader reads something I’ve written and tells me they were swept away: when an agent says she asked her own kids to stop bothering her, because in my story there were two desperate children searching for a motor bike and she needed to see how it turned out; when a friend tells me she turned down a movie date with her husband so she could finish my book; when a reviewer says that she read my book until four in the morning because she just had to finish it.

Reading takes time. And I’m overwhelmed when people see fit to spend that precious commodity with something I’ve written. It makes the time I spend writing, all the more worth it.

2 thoughts on “Why I Write

  1. Hi Carole,

    I’ve really enjoyed The Mother Code.
    As a new science fiction author myself, I’m curious about what you did to get your book discovered? Personally, I discovered you through an interview in Writer’s Digest. Had I not read that article, I would have never found your terrific novel!

    All the best,

    Patrick Skelton

    1. Hi Patrick,

      Thanks for writing, and congratulations on being the first person to post on my website who isn’t a bot! I’m also glad you told me where you found my book – it’s hard to know the value of these various exposures.

      As an author with Berkley, I’ve got a great PR team, including two publicists and two marketing people who farmed my book all over the place (including to Writers Digest). But the key to getting noticed, I’m finding, is the response of those to whom you reach out, and the range of those “key fans.” I got lots of love from Writers Digest, who featured me in a Breaking In interview in May and an Author Spotlight in August, and also had me give a debut author lecture on-line back in June. I also got lots of love from Publishers Weekly and from the folks at Goodreads, whom I didn’t realize are curators as well as librarians. Goodreads, alongside my publicists, reached out to book bloggers who have lots of fans. I’ve done three podcasts and lots of on-line interviews, and my publicists got me reviews – the usuals by Booklist, Publishers Weekly, and Kirkus, and also in various magazines. Lately, I’ve appeared in virtual panels (Liquake in SF and the Bookfest out of LA), and I’m always looking to do on-line book clubs. Also, I’m finding that my writers’ groups are great at offering ideas for selling the book, and support with “guerilla marketing” – that kind of word of mouth that’s indispensable!

      But I think that my team (and I) had really counted on in-person encounters with me and my book (bookstores, airports, cons, etc.) when they were formulating the marketing plan. When COVID happened, my book launch was delayed from May 5 to August 25. And then the election happened, and of course the COVID surge. Everyone has a lot on their plates, and it’s hard to break through all the noise.

      At the outset, this virtual world was a tough one to navigate. But now, I’ve learned that the virtual world can be a great one – helping you reach out to distant readers in a whole new way. Hopefully, when we can all be together again, I’ll be able to pull out all the stops and have all the marketing tools at my disposal.

      I really hope that you can find (or have found) an agent and a publisher? Though not impossible, it’s really difficult at any time to get noticed as a self-published author…though I’ve heard that in that case, social media can be your best friend. Podcasts are another great outlet, if you can convince them to interview you. And for syfy, going to conferences and making key contacts there (though right now that’s pretty difficult), getting short pieces published in syfy mags, etc.

      Good luck, and keep me posted on your success!

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