Right now I’ll be hosting my first interview on this blog. Our guest is Yamina Collins. She is a self-published author and a blogger. There is a lot we can learn from her experiences. Without further ado, we will begin the interview.
Thanks for joining us today, Yamina. Your new book, The Blueberry Miller Files, is out now and it’s a short story collection. Why write short stories? Do they sell well?
You know, I am so grateful that the indie writer no longer has to worry about sales. Don’t get me wrong. I know authors want to make a living just as much as the next person; and if you’re an indie author who is being published by a small press other than the company you yourself created, well, ok, that could prove to be a concern.
But, for the indie and self-published author who is truly their own boss, like I am, you’re no longer in danger of being “dropped” just because your groovy little story collection only sold 50 copies.
Besides, there is no doubt in my mind that there’s an audience for shorter works. Yes, it’s true that we live in a post-MTV twitter generation. And, yes, people have short attention spans. But I say, a good, short read should be just up their alley!
So what are the stories in your book about?
Oh, there is no one theme that runs through the book, except to say that it’s a look at the human condition in all of its humor, awkwardness and tragedy. I think maybe I’m fascinated by sin, and how it affects us and those around us.
I had a blast writing it, though, because I got to play with different styles, ideas and subject matters, all in the same book, without fear of what some publisher might think.
So publishing via your own company gave you a lot of room for creative expression?
Oh, yes. Publishing my book through my own company gave me the freedom to be a black writer who writes about white characters (sometimes), a Christian author who refuses to use cursing in any of my stories, even though it might not “sound realistic” to some people (ah, well…), a humor writer who gets to explore the mind of a black Anglophile that adores Shakespeare a little too much, and a “southern” observer who does something I never saw done in Gone with the Wind: let the slave holders speak with as much of a jacked-up dialect as the slaves themselves spoke with. Ha ha.
Does running your own book blog help you with your marketing platform?
Oh, absolutely! My book was released three weeks ago, while my blog, Yaminatoday.com, has been around for about a year and a half. I already have a built-in-audience of 12,000 readers to my site per month and around 130,000 hits per month.
And yet, I haven’t sold that many books. Marketing takes time. My goal is to now hire a PR firm to help me get my name out there. But the blog definitely helps.
So back to the book – any favorite characters in the collection?
I love this character named Madam Adams. She’s a loony doll; an African-American Anglophile with a Shakespeare complex. Her parents raised her in Harlem, but she tells people she was raised in England by a group of thespians. She is a loveable nutcase with a fondness for bad writing, wine, and crumpets. I think she would make a great movie character, but I can’t think of any famous actresses who would play her. She’s rather unique, in my opinion. Then again, that’s what actresses do, don’t they? They inhabit people who are nothing like them!
Who are some of your favorite short story authors?
Edgar Allan Poe, Jessie Redmon Fauset, Henry James and Washington Irving, though not all of these people wrote only short stories. And, in fact, Henry James was known for the nouvelle rather than the typical short story, but ultimately, these guys were masters. Of course, few people have ever heard of Jessie Redmon Fauset.
Who was she?
Mrs. Fauset has been credited with being the midwife of the Harlem Renaissance, giving “birth” to such formidable writers as Langston Hughes and Countee Cullen. Most everyone has heard of great black female writers like Toni Morrison, Alice Walker and Zora Neale Hurston, of course, but few people are familiar with Jessie.
Any advice to would-be writers out there?
Yes. If you’re an indie author, treat your book with some respect. Give it the same treatment you would want a publishing house to give it. Hire an editor; get your book cover done professionally. Write and re-write, and then re-write some more. You want to compete with the big boys, don’t you? Of course you do! So don’t think sloppy editing and generic book covers will cut it when there are literally hundreds of thousands of books out there vying for the public’s attention.
With that in mind, remember that your book or e-book now has the potential to live a very long “shelf” life. The days are ending (and for the e-book have already ended), when you have a limited time to see your book displayed on a shelf in a book store somewhere. Your book now lives forever on the internet.
So the money you invest in it now has the potential to reap rewards years and years down the line. That being said, make it the best book you can.
Thanks for joining us, Yamina.
It’s been my pleasure!