Tuesday, September 30, 2008

FEATURED AUTHOR: Savannah Frierson

EDITOR NOTE: I had the pleasure of meeting Savannah online when she introduced me to her self published book - Being Plumville. I was impressed with her enthusiasm for the business. We met face to face at the Slam Jam this year and she won me over with her humble personality. She's so excited about writing, you want to touch her and get a little bit for yourself. I look forward to seeing her writing career grow.

Savannah J. Frierson is a 2005 graduate of Harvard College with concentrations in African and African-American Studies, and English. Originally from Blythewood, SC, she currently lives in Somerville, MA where she works as a proofreader and freelance editor. She has been writing since she was twelve years old, and she released her debut novel Being Plumville in March 2007 with iUniverse, Inc; her second effort, the novella AJ’s Serendipity in December 2007 with Lulu Press; and her third, the short story The Coach’s Counselor in July 2008 with Red Rose Publishing, LLC.

The Beauty Within

Full-figured barber Tyler Carver and Former fashion model-turned-gym owner Gunnar Daniels did not start off on the best of terms; but an apology and haircut later, they begin to see there is more to the other than meets the eye. Can Tyler and Gunnar help each other that beauty is more than skin deep . . . that the beauty within is what truly decides the beauty without?

What would you like your readers to take away from your book?

What I’d like for readers to take away from The Beauty Within is sort of a cliché, but it’s so true—there’s more to people than what you see on the surface and sometimes it takes patience and effort to truly appreciate the blessings you’ve been given—especially when you don’t realize it. Both Gunnar and Tyler did not like each other upon first sight, but sometimes first impressions really do require a follow-up. Also, love is what truly makes something beautiful in the truest sense of the word, and I hope I’ve conveyed that.

What did you learn while writing this book?

Oh, dear! I learned a lot about myself when I wrote The Beauty Within. A lot of me goes into about every heroine I write; and it’s funny because depending on the “mood” I’m in when the character comes to me, it affects the heroine’s characterization more or less. Self-esteem and confidence are fragile things; and they’re also multi-layered. A person in one environment can be the most confident person on the planet; yet in another, this same person can be the least confident person. In this book, the characters showed so many facets to their personalities, and I appreciated it so much. They even surprised me as I was writing!

What is the hardest part about the writing business?

Because I’m an impatient sort, I’d say the waiting! And not just waiting for that book deal—waiting for an answer one way or the other. If you get an answer, you can move on. The limbo thing is very, very hard for me, especially since I have readers who have been with me before I even had a book to my name thanks go various writing boards and discussion groups. Also, the dilemma of writing for the market versus writing the story that comes to you. I think most writers have to struggle with that, especially if they are up and coming like I am. Promotion is hard, too, especially when you don’t have a large publisher behind you.

What one thing about writing do you wish other non-writers would understand?

Writing is hard, hard, hard, hard work! For people who do this seriously, it is not a hobby. Many times, it takes writers years to get their big break, and it’s not even a matter if the writer is “good”. To have that mix of the right agent/editor/story/market at the right time requires a whole lot of prayer and a shot of luck as well. It also requires travel and speaking about you as an author and connecting with readers and potential agents/editors. In short, it’s another full-time job almost, except the paychecks don’t necessarily come every other week or with multiple zeros before the decimal point!

Why did you choose self-publishing?

I chose self-publishing because I was an untried writer whose first book seemed to make agents and editors nervous. I was writing about race relations of a time past, but not very far from the present; and I was using language that is uncomfortable, and I had a romantic interracial relationship on top of it. So, I thought if I did fairly well with this book, Being Plumville, then I would look more appealing to editors and agents. I will say, this book has exceeded my expectations and continues to do so! It was nominated for an Emma Award this year for Best Debut Author; it won three awards from the 2007 SORMAG Reader’s Choice Awards; and I was named a New Face and Rising Star at Romance in Color. People I never expected to read the book are reading it and enjoying it, and I’ve gained so many mentors and friends along this journey. I do not regret my decision at all. So, even though I’m still submitting to agents and editors, I have another avenue to get my work out there, and I gladly utilize both.

What is the best lesson you have learnt from another self-published author?

I’m learning the business in a way that I probably wouldn’t have if I’d gotten a book deal right out the gate. I’m in the trenches—everything begins and ends with me. All mistakes are mine; all successes are mine. Responsibility, and being proud of a product you put out there for others, is what I’m learning the most through self-publishing. I have to be my biggest cheerleader.

What is the toughest test you've faced as a writer?

Promoting my work is my toughest test! I am shy, and for a long time, writing was something I did by myself for myself. Before, it was a hobby, because I was in school, so the obvious immediate goal was graduation. Now, I’m writing books, and the theme I’m writing about—women’s fiction and interracial relationships—and so I have to talk about myself, why I’m interested in those genres, how I’m writing about those genres, to people whose knowledge of me isn’t writing. It’s showing that new side of myself to people who know me, and how they’ll receive me. And then because I’m self-published, I have to overcome the stigma that is associated with that or find different ways to get my name out there because opportunities are closed to me because I don’t have a publisher behind me or it is too expensive.

What was the most embarrassing thing you've ever done or stupidest mistake you've ever made with writing?

I honestly don’t have one. Even the setbacks that I’ve encountered have taught me something. Either that, or it was too embarrassing/stupid that I blocked it out!

How do you feel about critique groups?

I think critique groups are beneficial, and if you can find those readers/writers who will tell you what you need to hear (not want to hear!) in a way the writer knows is encouraging and from a place of support, they are invaluable. Writers need focus groups, because they give the writer feedback that it outside of her head. Writers can be very cut off when they get deep into their story, so a pair of fresh eyes is pertinent.

Our theme this month is Online Marketing. What online marketing have you found that particularly works well for you?

When you send e-mail, have a signature at the bottom with your books and where receiver can reach you. Finding blogs/discussion groups/online newsletters is also a great way to go. Internet radio, and these virtual tours are really catching my eye. Also, doing interviews with fellow writers is a great way to expand your reach. Online magazines are also a great way to get names out there. Finally, an author must have an online presence—be it a Web site, a blog, a newsletter group, or all three. Many people are online now, even if they don’t buy e-books; they want to learn just as much about the writer as they do about the book.

What are three things you wish you'd known before you reached where you are now?

The first thing I wish I’d known the most was what kind of writer I am! I’m learning I’m not the traditional romance writer, even though romance is a very strong element in my novels. I’m also learning my books can take a more serious turn than many of the romance novels I’d grown up reading. One agent said I’m probably more women’s fiction and should start marketing myself that way, but ultimately, I write love stories. I knew that when I started writing that I wanted to tell love stories, “love” isn’t only man/woman love. It is mother/daughter love; it is sibling/sibling love; it is father/daughter love; it is best-friend love. It is self-love. Romance is just a piece of it for me—a huge piece—but a piece nonetheless.

The second thing I wish I’d known was how much of me I’d have to give to my readers. Public speaking? I had no idea I’d have to do that. I thought I could just write, send my manuscripts out to agents and editors, be published, and never have to leave my room! I was unprepared for the amount of talking and appearances I’d have to do, but I’d like to think I’m far better now than when I’d started. I’m still shy, but I’m learning I have something to say; but more importantly, people want to hear what I have to say. I’m not used to it yet, but I’m getting there!

The third thing I wish I’d known is people really, ultimately, just want to read a good book. No matter race, gender, age—people will read and appreciate a good book. Earlier this month I went back to my high school because Being Plumville was on their summer reading list, and I went back to head up a discussion group about the book. The majority of the kids in my group were male! Freshmen to seniors were in the group, and everyone said they really enjoyed the novel. Even one kid who hadn’t read the book said he was going to get a copy! Shocked me so much, but then I felt so humbled. It’s easy to get caught up in markets and genres and readership statistics, but it’s moments like these that strengthen me. If a writer writes the story they’re supposed to write, everything else will follow.

Was there ever a time in your writing career you thought of quitting?

Every other month! Just kidding! I won’t lie—there are times that I just feel so low that the question “why do I even bother” tramples through my mind. And then I realize I can’t not write. I have to write, even if it’s just for me and no one ever reads it. Some rejections are harder to shake off than others, or other things in your life take your attention away from the very thing you want to do. Or the realization you’d be more financially secure if you did something else, especially when situations gets tight. But I can’t quit; I make take breaks, but quitting can probably never happen.

Do you have any advice for the aspiring writer?

Write the story you’re supposed to tell. That’s actually harder than you think it is. Also, find mentors—they don’t even have to be writers per se, just someone who know who won’t ever guide you wrong. Finally, you have to believe in your book—you are your best salesperson. Never put your name on something you cannot stand behind.

Are you part of a writer’s organization and if you are, tell us about the benefits?

I am part of Romance Writers of America and its New England Chapter. It’s a great place for writing resources, and since I’m still an aspiring author, a great place to talk to people who are where I’d like to be.

Five questions about books:

One book you’ve read more than once.

There are many on this list! The most recent re-read I’ve done, though, is Harrier’s Healer by Aliyah Burke. It’s about a Navy SEAL and a Navy Harvard-educated doctor and the second book in her Megalodon Team Series. Something about cocky, stubborn, uniform men and the women who make them jump through hoops to get them appeals to me!

One book you couldn’t put down until you finished.

Before the Dawn by Beverly Jenkins had me up all night reading! Leah and Ryder’s relationship had me flipping pages wondering when they would succumb and when Ryder would open his eyes to the woman before him. Such a great book.

One book that made you laugh.

One of the funniest books I’ve read is Something Real by J.J. Murray. I had to read that book in private it made me laugh so much!

One book that made you cry.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini was such a hard book to read for me. Wonderfully written, but so bittersweet.

One book you wish you'd written.

At the moment, I just finished a book called Tumbling by Dianne McKinney-Whetstone. That was her first novel, and if I could write a book like that, I’d be happy. The characterizations, the struggles, the growth the characters have to go through—I appreciated everything about it. There so many others that I wish I could write, but right now, that is my pick.

How can readers get in contact with you? (mail, email, website)

Savannah J. Frierson



Snail Mail:

Savannah J. Frierson
519 Somerville Avenue, #167
Somerville, MA 02143


Pam Perry, PR Coach said...

great interview. Really enjoyed. Good questions. Great job. Keep up the good work! Blessings to you. Post stuff up on ChocolatePagesNetwork.com too. Post the same stuff in that blog. (Good idea?) You can pay me later. :)

Jessica said...

"A person in one environment can be the most confident person on the planet; yet in another, this same person can be the least confident person."
What a great quote! Congrats on the awards and being on a high school summer reading list. That's awesome!
Thanks for sharing. I enjoyed your interview.

Bana said...

Thank you very much Ms. Perry and Jessica! I'm glad you enjoyed the interview!

And I'll check out the Web site, Ms. Perry!



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