Many people do not have the chance to reach their artistic stride until well into retirement. Among these are authors who use these self-paced years to finally finish that manuscript hidden in their drawer or their mind.
Joyce DeBacco is a Southwest Florida author who has pushed full speed ahead since moving to Florida. She has some great experiences to share that may inspire other aspiring retirement authors to get started. Her tips may provide some short cuts.
Joyce, you are one of many people who choose to pursue writing as a career after retirement. What started you on this path at this time?
Actually I started a long time ago. I just had no luck placing my work until recently. What prompted my writing was the death of my grandmother many years ago. I’d grown up listening to stories about her life and always told her I was going to write a book about it. Well, I did, but it sat in a drawer all these years as so many first attempts do. Now that I know more about writing, I’ve dug it out and am doing it over. The most tedious part is typing it into my computer to work on it as it’s all just words on paper now.
When you started writing your books, did you seek fame and fortune or an opportunity to record your thoughts for your friends and family with no other ambitions?
Most people read in bed until they get sleepy. I enjoyed making up stories before falling asleep. Because of that, I often got so involved with the story in my head that I couldn’t fall asleep until I got to the happy-ever-after part. Then I got a great idea: I’d put my stories on paper. Little did I know how much it would consume my life and cause me even more sleepless nights. As for fame and fortune, I’m not holding my breath. Above all ,I just want my writing to touch someone’s heart.
How did you choose your publishing method?
When I started writing there was only one avenue to getting your books published. Now, there are several. Over the years, I had two agents. The first one gave up after a few submissions to major publishers; the second one went out of business. Totally frustrated, I decided to hang it up. But as most writers know, once the itch to write gets under your skin, it’s very difficult to not scratch it. So I decided to submit to small publishers directly. I wasn’t too keen on self-publishing at the time because of the obvious stigma attached.
Why were the publisher’s different for each book?
One of the first small publishers I submitted Serendipity House to was Wild Child Publishing who handles mostly e-books. Because many people still prefer print books, I chose L & L Dreamspell for my second book, Where Dreams are Born. Then, because publishing moves at such a snail’s pace and self-publishing was gaining greater acceptance, I decided to expand a short story I’d written and publish through Amazon’s Digital Text Platform. Thus, Rubies and Other Gems – the Novel came to be.
What was the best advice you received along the way and from whom?
Oddly enough, the best advice I ever received and which has guided me through many disappointments was on a small plaque in a real estate agent’s office. It read “You haven’t failed until you stop trying.”
How do you measure the success of your retirement writing career?
Since everyone measures success by different standards, my first success would have to be in completing a novel in the first place. So many people start but never finish. Continued success would be having all my books published, read, and enjoyed.
What is the most important experience that came from writing your books?
I think getting inside various characters’ heads has given me greater insight into why people behave as they do.It also helps in reading people’s feelings by their actions and facial expressions, which is one of the first things beginning writers learn—to show their character’s feelings instead of telling them.
Has your life changed and in what ways since you started publishing your books? Have you faced any particular challenges from which you have learned valuable information?
My life hasn’t changed a bit because I’m still an unknown entity in the writing world. My greatest challenge is overcoming my natural reluctance to talk about myself, which makes promoting my books a tad difficult. Since the only titles I currently have out are both e-books, much of my promotion is done online. Between that and life in general, my day is full.
What are your plans for future publications: genre, format, print or ebook, etc.
I’d like to publish more women’s fiction in both print and digital format. In addition to the book coming out in early 2011 from L & L Dreamspell, I just signed a contract with them for another due out in early 2012. And, of course I want to rework my first attempt at my grandmother’s life story.
What can you tell us about each of your current books that will excite a potential reader?
Each of my books has a love story threaded through it as well as a little suspense and mystery.
Serendipity House was inspired by old inns I’d seen in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. Long past their prime, the inns were in dire need of resuscitation. I imagined someone giving them new life while also finding a new life for themselves.
Rubies and Other Gems– the Novel started out as a short story. But the time travel aspect to it intrigued me and I explored it further by fleshing out the story.
The new book with L & L Dreamspell, what may a reader expect?
Where Dreams are Born is about a single mom who wants to raise her son in a safe, stable environment. In taking a job as a nanny/housekeeper for a widower with three small children, she thinks she’s finally found what’s eluded her. The widower, too, wants nothing more than someone to share the responsibility of caring for his home and children. Each think they’ve found the key to a better future, unaware their pasts still hold them captive.
What is the most important advice you have for people in retirement who have a manuscript in their heart or their computer and are wondering what to do next?
My advice would be to take it out and polish it up. Make sure you understand the rules of grammar, punctuation, spelling, and the proper use of words. Read as much as you can about the business of publishing so you know how to query, prepare a synopsis, and submit your work. After you’ve gone over your manuscript a hundred times, go over it again. You may think there’s nothing left to add, delete, or change, but you’ll always find something. And don’t despair if the computer devils wipe out all your work as has happened a few times with my manuscripts. It just means you have a second chance to make it better. Hey, you can sulk or you can turn lemons into lemonade. It’s your choice.
What personal experiences are reflected in your writing? Tell us a little about yourself that will help us appreciate your work. For starters, how long have you lived in Southwest Florida?
Before my husband’s health forced us into an early retirement about 25 years ago, I managed the office for his contracting business in Pennsylvania. Juggling writing with raising children and keeping up with the company’s paperwork was a real challenge, but one I loved. Now, as the mother of four grown daughters, I have more time to devote to writing and publishing. Having a certain amount of years behind me also lends credibility to the problems my characters face, either as young people searching for that special someone or as parents of troubled children.
Thanks you for your time today; is there anything you’d like to add that will be of special and unique interest to our retirement readers in Southwest Florida?
The only thing I want to add is that it’s important to exercise your mind as well as your body. Read the newspaper every day, learn new words, compete with the contestants on Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy, and imagine a story in every situation you encounter. Oh, and be sure to visit my website, www.joycedebacco.com for the first two chapters of Serendipity House, an excerpt of Rubies and Other Gems – the Novel, and links to purchase from other vendors besides Amazon.
This is a place for other Southwest Florida authors who found their stride in retirement to find a showcase. Contact D. K. Christi at [email protected] to inquire regarding an interview.