is an author, entrepreneur, workshop presenter, motivational speaker, Certified Life Coach and former journalist. The award-winning writer’s debut novel, Illusions of Paradise, earned Five Stars from Readers’ Favorite and nearly three dozen Five Star reviews from readers on Amazon. Pat’s diversified communications company, Pat McKanic & Associates, LLC, celebrating its 20th Anniversary in 2020, specializes in public relations, marketing, media training, social media marketing strategies and executive and business coaching. An acclaimed public speaker, Pat is known for motivational and inspirational presentations to business, professional and civic organizations that move people to action and encourage them to believe in and start living their dreams. She is also widely recognized for sharing her strategies for successful media and marketing campaigns, and the popular Creating A Mystery presentation to writers’ groups. The former print and broadcast journalist reported for news organizations including newspapers in the Caribbean, The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times Co. She enjoys reading, traveling and creating art, and is working on a follow-up to Illusions of Paradise.
How can readers get in contact with you?
FB: https://www.facebook.com/patmckanicauthor/ IG: https://www.instagram.com/patmckanicauthor/
LinkedIn: http://linkedin.com/in/pat-mckanic-4b969715 Website: illusionsofparadise.net
Tell us about your manuscript to published author journey.
It has been an amazing journey! From the first moment I sat down to start writing Illusions of Paradise to the moment I hit the button to make it available to the public took 10 years, and more revisions than I can or want to count. I started with a basic idea for the story and at some point it took on a life of its own. The characters became real and started to speak for themselves. After some time together I learned to get out of their way when they started speaking and just type. The marketing has been amazing, too. Challenging, but fun. This journey, from manuscript to published author has been the most creative period of my life. It’s like the book opened a floodgate and the creativity just came pouring out. I’ve met and sold books to people from across the globe. The way things have played out reinforces my belief that I am exactly where I am supposed to be, doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing at this time in my life.
What inspired your book?
I knew from an early age that I was destined to write a book, it was one of the gifts I was given. I think I’ve been inspired by every good book I’ve ever read from some of the first novels I read, The Learning Tree and Daddy was a Number Runner, to my all-time favorite, Lonesome Dove. The story for Illusions of Paradise was inspired by a crime I covered while living and working as a newspaper reporter on an island in the Caribbean. It’s a fictionalized account of the murder of a woman who landed on the island one day asking around about a man who lived on the island. He picked her up in a red car and the next day she was found murdered on one beach, and the car was found burned up on another beach. I added a lot of twists and turns to keep the reader guessing, suspense, several jump out-of-the bushes and grab you moments, and a sweet and sometimes spicy romance.
What did you learn while writing this book?
I learned the importance of knowing your target audience—knowing specifically who you’re writing for. I learned that I am fearless! And I learned how strong my faith really is! As important as what I learned are the things I already knew that were reinforced. One of them is that if you have a goal and you do something toward it every day, do it consistently, and put your heart into it, at some point you will accomplish that goal!
What did you hope to accomplish with this book?
My goal was to tell a good story, one that would entertain readers, as well as make them laugh and cry, give them a few thrills and chills and allow them to escape into the world I created. I think good fiction takes you away, to some place you’ve never been but that you look forward to going to and you can’t wait to get back to. And I really hope I created something memorable that will live on long after I’m gone.
What would you like readers to take away from your book?
A smile. A strong sense of satisfaction. I always say that there is an implied contract between the author and the reader. The author promises to give the reader a good, unique story, vividly drawn and relatable characters, edge-of-your seat moments and a satisfying ending. In exchange, the reader agrees to immerse herself/himself in the story and see it through to the end. I hope that readers walk away from Illusions of Paradise thinking that the time they invested in my book was time well spent. I hope they walk away feeling like I fulfilled my part of the bargain.
What do you believe makes your book stand out?
I think several things have to come together to make any book, especially a mystery, stand out. A strong storyline is key. I think Illusions of Paradise has a strong storyline, one that readers can get behind and enjoy, and that keeps them captivated and eager to keep reading. I think the descriptive elements of my book, its lush island settings, scrumptious foods and the book’s sweet and spicy romance all transport readers into the world I created. I think readers can see and feel, and almost taste and touch things in this fictional world. I think another standout element is strong characterization. The book’s characters are drawn in a way that makes you feel like you know them, you begin to care about them and what happens to them. I can’t count how many times readers have told me they cried when one of the characters died. I think, too, that the book’s unpredictability makes it a standout. The story keeps you guessing. The whole premise of the book is that nothing is what it seems, and people aren’t who they appear to be—hence the title, Illusions of Paradise. It’s a murder mystery that will truly keep you guessing, but I can guarantee you you’ll be wrong.
What are three things you wish you’d known before you reached where you are now?
I wish I had known what to look for in vetting editors. I contracted with a few editors who weren’t qualified or were probably better with other genres. But there are some things you can only learn by doing, and sometimes you learn what to do by doing what you shouldn’t do. I wish I’d known and understood more about the economics of being an independent author. I wish I had known just how amazing this journey was going to be, but then again, knowing that beforehand would have taken some of the excitement out of it.
How do you find balance with your writing and life? Balance?
There really is no such thing and if we’re not careful we can drive ourselves crazy striving for the unattainable. The closest we get to being in balance is being present where we are and giving one hundred percent to what we’re doing in that moment. There’s contentment in being able to tell yourself that you gave it your best shot, and then moving on to whatever is next. I think more in terms of priorities than balance—the people closest to me never have to wonder where I am or where they stand in my life.
How do you stay consistent with your book promotion?
Planning and creativity. What I think most indie authors might not recognize is that not only are we competing with the author sitting next to us at the local writers’ group meetings, we’re also competing with the big names and every other indie author and book out there. To make some headway, to get noticed, to get readers to take a chance on you as an unknown author and keep readers and followers engaged you have to stay out there consistently. I’m in this for the long haul, which means I have to stay on top of the marketing. Promotion is just one aspect of marketing. A promotion is akin to an event. Promotions typically have a limited run during which sales spike but then the promotion ends and sales flatline. A good marketing campaign needs to be multi-pronged and consistent. Out of sight, out of mind. I utilize a combination of events, signings, speaking engagements, traditional and social media and other tools to stay visible. I also create marketing opportunities for myself and partner with others to do events and expand awareness. I’ve gotten pretty good at creating attention-getting messages and graphics for social media. I’ve also done a lot of events with book clubs centered around Illusions of Paradise’s signature drink, Pineapple Mimosas. I’ve done them locally and Skyped in for some with book clubs in other states. I try to make them different and fun. Book club members have already read the book, so the question becomes what can I do different, what new spin can I bring to the party and not be another author just reading a passage from the book? The Mimosas don’t hurt! I’m also in constant communication with readers. I respond to them on social media, I try to answer emails promptly. I send out a newsletter. I occasionally do what I call Thankful Thursday, a day reserved to give a special shout-out to people who support and encourage me. I do special holiday promotions. For Christmas I personally asked people who’d read the book to purchase copies for friends that I’d sign and ship. Response was very good. I’m always thinking of ways to share my book’s cover image, which I love, and which is very distinctive. I think readers want to know the person beyond the author so sometimes I’ll post my thoughts on something totally unrelated to the book, although I try to stay away from politics or anything too controversial. I always try to share a word of encouragement or something else that I hope will inspire people to keep moving forward and chasing their dreams.
What advice would you offer to someone whose first book is about to be released?
Don’t derail your career before it’s had a chance to take off by putting a bad product on the market. If you visit a restaurant and have a bad experience, you’re not likely to visit that restaurant again, and whenever someone mentions possibly going there you’ll likely tell them about the horrible experience you had. Now imagine your first book is that restaurant. If you release a book that’s poorly edited and riddled with errors and misspelled words not only will you leave readers who’ve taken a chance on you with a bad taste, they’ll spread the word. Your next book may be a masterpiece, but the stage has been set. You may never get a second chance with that reader. Three things I’d advise first-time authors to do are: 1) Have at least 10 people (beta readers) read a draft of the manuscript before you release it. That should include people who know you personally and people who don’t know you personally but who are all avid readers of books in the same genre. Don’t use your brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and cousins as beta readers, ask people from whom you’ll receive real, honest feedback; 2) Hire a professional editor to go through your book with a fine-tooth comb. Make sure it’s someone who is familiar with the Chicago Style Manual—the industry standard. The local librarian may spend her days with books but that doesn’t make her a book editor, ditto for your cousin’s sister’s brother’s daughter who holds an advanced degree in English. Don’t let someone else’s self-interest or short-sightedness push you to do something that could harm your career as an author. At the end of the day, that’s your name on the cover. Invest in a professional book editor; 3) Read your book out loud at least 10 times. An editor suggested that to me. I balked but eventually decided to take the advice of the professional I was paying to give me professional advice. It makes a world of difference. Things sound different in your head than they do when you read them out loud. You realize things like you need to add commas or break one sentence into two. You did the work to complete your manuscript, more than a notion, as I like to say, now stay the course a little longer to polish that jewel before you introduce it to the world!
What’s are your favorite social media platforms and how are you using them for promotion?
I use Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram. I’m probably best on FB, although I’m getting stronger on LinkedIn. I’m doing a marketing workshop for indie authors in March and reps from Microsoft, which owns LinkedIn, have agreed to come in and do a Lunch & Learn on maximizing LinkedIn to build your author brand. I’m excited about that because I’m just beginning to fully realize the vast potential of LinkedIn. I’ve done okay connecting with other professionals, I have about 2,200 connections, but the question now is how do I maximize those connections? I think Facebook works best for me because that’s where my strongest readership base for illusions of Paradise, women 55-64, hang out on social media. Key to successful marketing, whether it’s books or cookies, is identifying your target audience and reaching them where they are, whether that’s in the real or virtual world, with messages that resonate with them. Facebook allows me to be more relaxed, social and freewheeling than LinkedIn, which speaks more to working professionals. Instagram (IG) is geared more to millenials, heavy on good graphics, pictures and art, with shorter snappier messages. I use IG more as an awareness tool, although there is a strong community of authors and serious book lovers on IG. I have success stories about connecting with people on IG that I asked to read the excerpt of Illusions of Paradise who went on to purchase it almost immediately. I’m also more likely to share things totally unrelated to the book, like pictures of amazing Florida sunsets, on IG just because I love sharing them. In the course of checking out the sunsets and my page people discover I’m an author so it’s a nice roundabout way of expanding awareness about the book and me as an author.
What’s the most interesting change in your life as a result of being a published author?
The people that have come into my life since the book was published. I’ve always been in professions that are naturally geared to meeting a lot of people but the scope of people I’ve met on this journey has been amazing. I could write a book about the journey this book has taken me on. One other thing that has been very interesting is walking into rooms outside my community a few times, once in another state, and having someone come up to me and say “you’re the author, aren’t you?” That’s a great feeling because it says that I’m made headway with my marketing efforts.
What about writing do you wish non writers would understand?
Strictly from a writer’s perspective, rather than a published author’s perspective, I wish they could understand and feel the feeling of euphoria a writer gets when they are in the zone. Like when you’re writing, and the characters take over and you become just the typist trying to capture their thoughts, deeds, interactions and conversations. Or when you sit down to write, and the words just pour out of you. It’s a gift and a blessing. That feeling is almost indescribable, although I like to think that anyone who is passionate about what they do probably experiences something comparable to it.
Can you give us one do and one don't for those writing the book in the heart?
DO write what’s in your heart, and not to try to please someone because you think it’s going to get you an agent or to the bestseller list, or because it fits a formula or what’s supposed to be hot in the publishing industry at the moment. Write what’s in your head and heart—your gift will make room for you! DON’T wait until you’re successful to prepare for success. Act as if! You want to be a bestselling author? Look and act the part. Dress up for book signings and when you’ll be places where you’ll be interacting with your readers. Control your image now so that years from now you’re not trying to explain or backtrack on something inappropriate you said or did or explain some picture that could sink your career. Be smart about what you post on social media and don’t just let anybody videotape your presentations. A clip out of context or something you said jokingly because you forgot you were being videotaped could come back to bite you. We’ve seen too many instances of that recently, words, images or actions coming back to wreak havoc on someone’s career. Anticipate what your life will look like when you get to that place you dream of going. The time to prepare for the main stage isn’t when you get to the main stage.
When you're not writing, what do you like to do in your spare time?
Spare time is like spare change, is there really such a thing? How many of us have money we just don’t need? Between what I need to do to keep the lights on, financing my marketing efforts and finishing the first draft of the follow-up to Illusions of Paradise I could easily stay busy 24/7. I make myself take think (quiet) time, and separately down time in which I try to get out of my head by listening to music and reading or watching movies. I love movies! My favorite thing to do is spend time with my granddaughter—no matter what’s going on I make time to hang out with her. That’s priority!
Oprah always asks, what do you know for sure?
I know for sure, I’m a living testament, that if you work hard, stay the course and BELIEVE in your dreams, your dreams will come true! It’s just the way the Universe works! The Universe conspires for our good, wants us to win, succeed and be happy! If we’re unhappy and not living our dream it’s not because the Universe is asleep at the switch. We have to make sure that we do our part. I know for sure that the key to success, no matter what you’re striving for, is to BELIEVE, truly BELIEVE that you can and will achieve it. Just keep moving forward! I often inscribe my books DREAM! BELIEVE! ACHIEVE! We have the POWER within us to achieve everything we dream! If we BELIEVE, move toward our dreams, act as if they have already come to fruition, help someone along the way and be grateful for blessings large and small, we can’t help but win!
Any last words for our readers?
I’d like to encourage people reading this to please support indie and local authors, emerging voices and those people living right in your community who have accomplished the monumental task of writing and publishing a book. It is a monumental job! And if they appreciate a keep you on the edge-of-your seat thriller, I’d like to invite them to go to http://a.co/2c5umiD and enjoy the first 40 pages of Illusions of Paradise.
The island of San Saypaz’ is everything sexy, street-smart reporter Toni Jackson dreamed paradise would be—palm trees, white sand beaches, turquoise waters, and breathtaking sunsets. Finding love with Detective Jameyson Tolliver is icing on the cake. But when a young woman is brutally murdered, Toni discovers paradise has a dark side. Jameyson’s boss, the police chief, may have had a hand in the killing. Evidence disappears, and the vicious crime lord charged with the murder walks. There’s a cover-up going on. Nothing is what it seems, people aren’t who they appear to be. Toni’s determination to uncover the truth comes at a steep price—her sources start turning up dead. Fearing for her life, she flees the island. But someone has plans for her, and paradise may well become a purgatory from which there is no escape!
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