Rumpel, discusses her book, her journey as a writer, and self-publishing on Kindle.
DAVID WISEHART: What can you tell us about Rumpel?
EILEEN CRUZ COLEMAN: I first heard the story of Rumpelstiltskin when I was seven years old. I remember sitting in "circle time" while my teacher read the story. When she got to the end, I felt that there had to be more to the story. I honestly thought she had read us a shortened version and that the longer version was out there somewhere! From that day on, the story of Rumpelstiltskin fascinated me. I wanted to know why he wanted a baby. What was he going to do with it once he got it? Who were the people in his life? What was his world like? What was his childhood like? All of these questions led me to write Rumpel which is a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin. In keeping with the original Brothers Grimm Rumpelstiltskin, Rumpel is dark and at times disturbing, yet it also has a light and quirky element to it in that it is told from the point of view of many different characters all of which play an integral part of the story and how it unfolds. We also get to know Rumpelstiltskin as a child, then as a young man, and finally as a broken hearted adult.
Here is the novel's description: When a ship carrying sick and desperate people from the Kingdom of Niaps arrives on the island of Rodavlas in search of a lost gold-spinning wheel which the Niapsons believe rightfully belongs to them and on which their very existence depends, the island inhabitants—spirits, trolls, mermaids, fallen angels and humans—are thrust into a course of events during which some will become allies and others will turn against their own.
And Elizabeth Miller must accept her connection to the newcomers and use her secret skill to defend her unborn child from a vengeful troll, Rumpel, who blames her and her father Franz Miller, for the deaths of his son and wife.
DAVID WISEHART: How do you develop and differentiate your characters?
EILEEN CRUZ COLEMAN: This is a hard question for me to answer because in all honesty, I'm not sure I know the answer. I think about my characters for a long time. I think about their motivations, their likes and dislikes, their habits, their fears. I try and dig deep into what makes them who they are.
DAVID WISEHART: Who do you imagine is your ideal reader?
EILEEN CRUZ COLEMAN: I don't have an ideal reader because reading is such a personal thing. I write books which I think readers may enjoy but ultimately, a book's fate is in the reader's hands and I respect that, you know. Sure, I hope that Rumpel will resonate with readers but all I can ask of a reader is to give it a chance. After that, I step aside and mind my own business.
DAVID WISEHART: What was your journey as a writer?
EILEEN CRUZ COLEMAN: I think I always knew I wanted to be a writer but I didn't start seriously writing until I was in my early twenties. I was twenty-five when a print magazine accepted my first piece of writing. I will never forget that call. I screamed and jumped up and down on my bed. Honestly, you would have thought I won the lottery. From that day on, I was hooked. So, I sat down and wrote my heart out for the next several years. I published a few more short pieces in literary journals and also wrote my first novel. With that first novel, I queried literary agents but in the end, the truth was that I needed to hone my novel-writing skills more. And so I spent a few more years writing and publishing short stories and honing my novel-writing skills. With my second novel, a New York literary agent agreed to represent it and off it went on submission to publishers. In the end, that novel didn't sell. I went back to writing short stories and pondering what the heck I was going to do next. I had a very honest conversation with another literary agent who told me I needed to dig really deep and come up with an idea that had what he called, "a wow factor." And that same day, the idea for Rumpel hit me. I emailed him and one of my closest writer friends. Both email responses came back with "wow." I spent about a year and a half writing Rumpel. I wanted it to be a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin, of course, but I also wanted it to be different than the original story, told from various points of views and with various plot pieces. I wanted to satisfy my own curiosity about Rumpelstiltskin and so I went all the way, fully aware that what I was writing was a "little out there." I queried over 50 literary agents with Rumpel. I had almost given up on finding an agent when I received an email from the now deceased Manie Barron with the Menza-Barron Literary Agency. He wanted to talk to me about Rumpel. I was delighted but given the feedback I had received from all of the other agents, I was cautiously optimistic.
We talked the next day and after I went on and on about my reasons for writing Rumpel, he interrupted me and said, “I haven’t been able to stop thinking about Rumpel. It’s a weird book. I’m weird. I think it deserves a chance to be seen. All we need is one weird editor.”
I replied, “I’m weird too.” And that was that.
Rumpel now had the support of an agent who believed in me and my work. Unfortunately, we never found that one weird editor willing to take a chance on Rumpel. The consensus was that Rumpel was “too weird” and “out there.”
I thought long and hard about what to do with Rumpel. Let it sit on my hard drive and collect dust or self-publish it as an ebook and let readers decided its fate? I chose the latter.
On August 21, 2010, one day before my birthday, I uploaded Rumpel to Amazon Kindle. One month later, I published it on Smashwords.
DAVID WISEHART: What is your writing process?
EILEEN CRUZ COLEMAN: For the most part, I'm an organic writer and I rarely, if ever, write outlines. I think about what I'm going to write for a long time before ever sitting down to write a single word. I may spend two months thinking about an idea, developing the story and its characters in my mind, never writing a word down. When I finally sit down to write, I have a pretty good idea of how I want the story to unfold. I may not know all of the intricate details of the story yet, but the foundation for the story is there. I don't write every day. I'm a slow writer. I have writing spurts followed by thinking spurts and back and forth until I finally get to the end of a story.
DAVID WISEHART: What authors most inspire you?
EILEEN CRUZ COLEMAN: Stephen King and Isabel Allende. I think they are brave, honest and amazing writers.
DAVID WISEHART: What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you'd written yourself?
EILEEN CRUZ COLEMAN: Drown, the short story collection by Junot Diaz. I dissected every word of that book. I had never read anything like it. I still think about it. It's an incredible book.
DAVID WISEHART: How have you marketed and promoted your work?
EILEEN CRUZ COLEMAN: When I first published Rumpel on Amazon Kindle, I didn't really promote it much. To be honest, I was nervous about self-publishing it. I didn't know what to expect. But then, I wrote and distributed a press release via PRweb.com and that generated some initial buzz. I also joined Kindleboards.com and more recently, I have started to explore other promotional avenues such as a pay-per-click campaign on Goodreads.com, and banner ads on popular sites. I also tweet about it; however, there is a fine line there. I can't just tweet about Rumpel, you know. That's a sure way to annoy people. I would certainly be annoyed if someone I was following on Twitter spent all of his time promoting his book.
DAVID WISEHART: Why publish on Kindle?
EILEEN CRUZ COLEMAN: Self-publishing on Amazon Kindle has been a wonderful experience for me. Rumpel is being read and well, as a writer, what else can I ask for? The freedom is both exhilarating and daunting but if it wasn't for Amazon Kindle so many authors would not have the opportunity to see their work published.
DAVID WISEHART: What advice would you give to a first-time author thinking of self-publishing on Kindle?
EILEEN CRUZ COLEMAN: Be honest with yourself. Hone your craft. Put in the work before you self-publish. And know that not everyone is going to like your work. Oh, and have fun. Don't take yourself too seriously.
DAVID WISEHART: Thanks, and best of luck with your books.
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