Julie Ann Knudsen and her coming-of-age debut novel about healing a broken heart

First, tell us a bit about your book: what it’s about, what genre it’s in, what inspired you to write it.

My Young Adult novel is titled IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE.

And here’s the synopsis:

“A TEENAGE GIRL.  A BROKEN HEART.  AND A BOY WHO TRIES TO MEND IT.

Butterflies.  Little fluttering butterflies.  That’s what fifteen-year-old Willow Flynn feels in the pit of her stomach every time the mysterious boy is near.  But Willow has other things to contend with as she deals with the tragic loss of her father, as well as her emotionally preoccupied mother, while being uprooted to a new house, a new school, a new life, far away, on an island, in the middle of nowhere.

At the beginning of the school year, the sickly but cute Michael sends Willow the first of many cryptic notes during homeroom.  He stares at Willow and gives her the creeps.  Michael never returns to school after that, but Willow ends up connecting with the poetic boy on-line where they strike up an unusual friendship.

As Willow attempts to fit in and find her niche in the ever-cliquey high school world, she is further confused by Michael who strives to win her over and mend her broken heart.  But will he be able to, especially when his own existence remains so uncertain?”

Julie Ann Knudsen

I was inspired to write the book when my daughter’s friend moved to an island off the coast of Maine and had to rely on a ferryboat to get her to and from school everyday.  This fascinated me and I thought it would make a great setting for a young girl who would start to feel as isolated and remote as the island she now lived on.

Did this book come to you easily, or did you have to wrestle it to the ground once or twice? Did you ever give up on it?

This book came to me relatively easily.   I wanted to write a coming-of-age tale because there are so many kids out there who can relate to the angst we all feel at one time or another as we maneuver through the hallways and heartbreaks of our teenage years.

Do you have a writing process that you can share with readers?

I don’t have a specific writing process.  I start out with general notes and an idea of how the story is going to progress, but find that once I begin to write, the story takes on a life of its own. I can’t explain how it happens, but, even though I am writing the story, it’s as though the characters, themselves, dictate what happens next.  Sounds kinda crazy, huh?

I do need complete quiet, as I’m sure most writers do.  Sometimes, though, when I need inspiration, I will listen to music that I feel would be fitting as a soundtrack for that particular point in the story.

The wild ride to publication is always fraught with drama. Tell us about your journey to self-publishing. Had you tried to go to the traditional route first, or was this always the way you wanted to go?

I had tried the traditional route at first, but got discouraged after receiving over 60 rejection letters.  I struggled with the idea of stopping writing altogether in order to get a “real” job.  Then, one day, I stumbled upon a blog called “A NEWBIE’S GUIDE TO PUBLISHING” by J. A. Konrath.  Joe’s blog inspired me to self-publish.  I decided that no one was more in control of my fate than I, so I chose the self-publishing route instead.

What service did you use? And what help did they provide—editing, design, distribution, marketing? Did you agree with their approach?

Joe Konrath listed names of services that he highly recommended.  I used Diana Cox from Novel Proofreading to proofread my manuscript.  I hired a terrific husband and wife team, Amy and Rob Siders from 52novels.com, to convert my manuscript from a Microsoft Word document into an e-book, which I then uploaded, myself, to Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords.

I designed my own book cover by purchasing the photo from a website called Dreamstime.com.  I then had to install Photoshop on my computer in order to alter the photo, as well as add my name and title to it.

I have the best website designer Maddee James, from Xuni.com.  She is in the process of finishing my website, julieannknudsen.com, and getting ready to launch it.  When I was debating whether or not to have a website at all, I realized that I don’t have a physical space where people can come to buy my books.  My website is my shop, a virtual storefront for me.

What have been the best and the toughest parts for you?

The best part has been having an idea take seed in my head and blossom into a purchasable book on line.

The toughest part has been trying to figure out how to market my book and get the word about it.

Where is your book available?

My e-book is currently available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords.

Would you go this way again, or are you wishing to break into the more traditional kind of publishing?

I have started writing my second book, a women’s fiction novel, and will most likely pursue self-publishing again.  It will definitely be easier the second time around since I learned so much the first time.  I do believe that self-publishing and e-books are the future.  I’m sure traditional publishing will still exist throughout my lifetime, but, at the end of the day, who is going to promote my book better than me, a story for which I am so passionate?  Also, with self-publishing, I own all the rights to my book.  I believe you lose those rights when you sign with a publisher.

Do some genres lend themselves more to self-publishing than others?

That’s a tough question, because even though Young Adult is a very popular genre, I feel that genres appealing to adults, such as women’s fiction or mystery, probably lend themselves more to self-publishing, simply because a person needs the money to buy an e-reader.  Many teens have to depend on parents to buy their books or they must go to a library to borrow them.

How are you getting the word out about your book?

I have a link on Facebook and just paid for a Kirkus review of my book, which I will use when I advertise on certain websites, such as Goodreads.  I have also given away free copies of my book to teens around the world in exchange for an honest review on Goodreads.  The wonderful thing about e-books versus traditional paper books is that they are timeless.  As long as Amazon or Barnes & Noble don’t remove my e-book(s) from their Internet bookshelf, they can remain on sale forever, whereas most traditional books are limited by their “shelf life” in brick and mortar bookstores.

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Telling a life story, house by house: Susan Woodall of Madison pens a memoir

My Address Book

Susan Woodall loves houses–and you’ll see why when you read her new memoir, My Address Book: A Way of Remembering. Susan was a Realtor for years, as well as the daughter of an interior designer. When she describes a house, she includes things most of us might not think of.

More poignant, though, is what each house has meant in her life, how each has shaped who she is today.

Visit her website at www.susanwoodall.com, or buy her book at amazon.com.

It’ll get you thinking about your own houses, we promise!

Susan Woodall

Tell us about your book.

This book is a memoir of sorts, and a tribute to the homes I’ve lived in over my lifetime.

How did you first know that you wanted to write this story? What were the factors that engaged you from the beginning?

I got the idea for the book in 1992, when it became apparent that I would be moving from the East Coast, where I had spent my entire life, to the Midwest.  I wanted to record the places I’d lived in, as I thought I would never see them again. But life has its own twists and turns, and I am now back in the land of my birth.

Additionally, I have always loved houses and real estate.  My mother was an interior decorator and I spent almost 17 years as a real estate broker. So, I’ve been attuned to houses, décor, and real estate values. I’ve tried to incorporate these values, and a bit of history, into the book.

What was it in particular about this story that made you know it needed to be in a book that you would write?

This is a story (not the story) of my life framed by where I lived and my recollections of those places and what I was doing at the time. I knew that organizing the story by addresses would be a unique and specific way to relate my life.

Were you ever frustrated by having to stick to the facts of the story?

My only frustration was in trying to be as accurate as possible about the facts. I relied on photographs, letters, journal entries, the internet, and other sources to keep the facts as accurate as I could.

 Did this book come to you easily, or did you have to wrestle it to the ground once or twice? Did you ever give up on it?

 The writing of the book came very easily to me. I have always wanted to write and publish, but I’d been inhibited by some haunting words to the effect of, “Who do you think you are and what do you think you have to say that hasn’t already been said?!”  It’s taken me a long time to overcome that emotional and personal obstacle.

Do you have a writing process you could share with readers, a way you like to proceed when you’re writing a book?

For this book, once I had the framework scoped out, I just wrote chapter by chapter. Each chapter is like a little story and each one is linked to the next one.

When did you first know you were a writer?

As a child, I’d always loved writing letters, even thank-you letters! And then when I was a junior in high school, I entered a Scholastic Writing contest, and won third place nationally. I then knew I could write convincingly.

Do you procrastinate? What’s your favorite mode of procrastination when you’re supposed to be writing?

 Do I procrastinate??? Only for about 40 years have I procrastinated.  Once I have the urge to write, I just go and do it. But, in the process of doing a long piece, which I’m now in the middle of, my procrastination takes one of two forms.  The first and most obvious is surfing the internet. I’m already at the computer, and it’s so easy to drift.

But the more insidious form of procrastination is that little voice inside my head that keeps questioning the validity of what I’m writing.  I guess you’d call it mind-fxxxxxg.  That’s the hardest to overcome.

What about being a writer has made you truly happy?

I think better in writing than I do in conversing. My thoughts come out more clearly and I can see issues and solutions much more rationally, so that gives me great pleasure.  But the biggest pleasure comes often when someone has read my work and tells me how they’ve related to it, or enjoyed reading it or best yet, learned something from it.

I once wrote an editorial in a small-town newspaper. It was about a civil rights issue locally that was going to be voted on by the town council the day the column appeared in the paper. I went to the meeting that night, hoping that my point of view would prevail.  Much to my surprise, there were a number of people gathered there, with my column in their hands, declaring that they were there that night because of my column.  My writing had influenced people enough to come out and act on something. I was so gratified that the town council voted as I had hoped.  I then saw first-hand the power of the pen.

What do you tell people who want to be writers, too?

Just do it.