FAKING IT is Elisa's first novel and after reading the first couple of chapters, I'm hooked! (book review coming soon). Check out the cool cover, too! The premise: What happens when an uptight composition professor and an escort become friends? This is what happens to 34-year-old Andi Cutrone who meets Devin, a handsome escort after breaking up with her fiance. Trouble ensues when Andi begins a long distance relationship with Sam as she grows closer to Devin.
So, to answer your question: Do you mean my career as a fiction writer? I’ve been writing for a long time, but there was a time when I didn’t believe myself to be a novelist. I don’t think I got organized in terms of a career until I moved from Massachusetts to North Carolina in 2006. I had written FAKING IT from ’04-05, but wasn’t sure what to do with the manuscript once it was done, or what the process was in terms of getting it published.
When I relocated, however, Stacey Cochran (author of *Claws* and *The Colorado Sequence*) was one of the first people I met. We shared an office at NC State, got to talking about publishing, and he mentored me through the process of querying agents and getting feedback. Then, when he started hosting the panel events for the Write2Publish Meetup group, I attended every single one on publishing, getting an agent, etc., as well as self-publishing. Then I met more and more writers, and started to really get clear on my intentions as an author.
What did you do before you launched your writing career? I was teaching first-year writing (typically known as freshman composition) full time at the university level. Still do, but the course has gotten much more rigorous and academic in nature. I’d eventually like to teach part time. I love being in the classroom, though.
Many things got in the way of making it a career earlier in life, however; namely, fears of not being able to make a living or not knowing how to get published, among other life circumstances/events. I don’t regret the path I took, however.
Going to grad school in 2000 was a major turning point. That’s when I really learned the craft of writing and learned rhetoric and composition theory. I had also fallen in love with teaching and pursued that career path. I already had the idea for FAKING IT, but had put off writing it for almost five years because I didn’t believe myself to be a fiction writer. But the desire for it to be born was just so great that I had to do it, and that’s when the floodgates broke. Ever since then, my desire to write and publish novels has been alive and intense.
But your work doesn’t stop after you’ve written your book. There’s more competition than ever, and even if you get a traditional publisher, you can’t just sit around and expect them to pay and promote you. You’ve got to put in the effort. That means booking appearances to do readings/signings, blog tours, using social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, participating in discussion forums, etc. Attend conferences if you can afford to. Know something about the market and about the agents you’re querying. Don’t just send out a form letter—querying an agent is like writing a cover letter for a job. Each has a specific audience and purpose.
Don’t make it all about you. Attend other authors’ readings. Follow other blog tours. Or, if you have your own blog, offer to host them on their tour. So many writers are extremely generous when it comes to helping other writers. I do everything I can to be a part of this generosity. When querying an agent, it’s not about what that agent can do for you; it’s about what you can do for that agent. You want to persuade an agent that you’ll make them money, and that you’re going to help make your book a success.
Finally, be persistent, and be clear about your goals. Just because one agent or publisher says your book isn’t for them, it doesn’t mean there’s not another one. It doesn’t mean there isn’t an audience. I knew without a doubt that there was an audience for FAKING IT once I finished it, and ultimately I decided not to wait for the publisher to come to me. But I will query agents for my next novel when it’s ready.
What tips can you give authors for staying motivated since in this business rejection is the name of the game?I was lucky in that I learned a lot about rejection from growing up with three brothers in the music business. They’re mega-talented, but got a lot of rejections from record companies. And these were the days before CDs and digital media, when there weren’t any other options beside sending demos to record companies and playing at colleges and bars. Thus, I have a really good attitude about it as far as the business goes.
For one thing, I learned that rejection doesn’t automatically signify a lack of talent. I’ve gotten some terrific rejection letters from agents and even an executive editor from a major publishing company who told me that my writing was very good, but the novel wasn’t for them for one reason or another. And those reasons can be very helpful. For example, early on, one agent told me that FAKING IT was very good, but not long enough and thus she would have a hard time selling it to a publisher. As a result, I revised and nearly doubled its word count, which then resulted in a much better book content- and story-wise, let alone length-wise.
Bottom line: rejections can sting, but move on and don’t take them personally. This is a subjective field. What one person doesn’t care for, another person may love. You’ve just got to find that person. It’s a lot like dating, actually (wish I had made that connection sooner—could’ve saved me a lot of heartache…). Each rejection is an opportunity to learn, to grow, and to get better at your craft.
(And by the way, my brothers went on to successful, satisfying music careers even though they never got the record deal.)
During the summer, however, I typically get into a routine of reading in the morning, writing in the afternoon, some breaks in between, then television, then writing in my journal or reading before bed. Some days the writing is happening mentally (see above).
This summer, however, has been anything but typical because I’m published for the first time. Promoting and selling a book is very time-consuming. I also have this pesky little Facebook addiction, so I spend more time there than I should. I justify this, however, because Facebook has been a huge part of my success in terms of promoting and selling FAKING IT.
I’ve not had a typical day yet since the semester ended; however, I’ve been pretty productive, for the most part. Very, very busy, but in a good way. I love it.
I typically start the day at my dining table with my laptop, but eventually I wind up taking it to the couch, the bedroom, or the aforementioned coffeeshop. I would love to have an extra room devoted solely for writing and reading, but I haven’t sold enough books yet. Operative word being *yet*.
*Met Talk Pretty One Day* by David Sedaris
*A Walk in the Woods* by Bill Bryson. But I especially love this one on audio, read by Bryson himself. He’s got the best reading voice ever, especially for his own work. I also need to mention that I’m highly influenced by Nora Ephron and Aaron Sorkin as well.
What advice can you give to other writers?That I haven’t already said? READ. Read read read read read.What’s the best and worst part of being a writer?Best part: The ocean of possibilities! There are so many what-ifs waiting to be born. There’s so much inspiration and experience to draw from. That, and the language. I just love the words, the sounds and rhythm of words and sentences, the construction of them, etc. I love the act of creating.
I also love when my writing touches someone else, be it through a character or a storyline. I especially love when my writing makes people laugh.
Worst part: Writers block is no fun. And in terms of being an independent author, it’s sometimes exhausting and overwhelming to wear so many hats. I’m my own agent, editor, publisher, publicity and marketing director, graphic artist, bookseller, you name it. And, like I said earlier, I’m not a good multi-tasker, nor am I well-organized. The Italian thing again.
Very ordinary things. I’m a creature of habit. For instance, I enjoy watching certain TV shows religiously, but nothing currently running (with the exception of *The Daily Show* and *The Colbert Report*). I’m only now getting into *Boston Legal*, so I’ve been renting the DVDs and watching the episodes in order – fabulous. Before that, it was *Gilmore Girls*. I’ve also watched everything Aaron Sorkin has been attached to, especially *The West Wing*. I watched *The West Wing* constantly when I wrote FAKING IT, and I learned so much about the rhythm of dialogue thanks to Aaron Sorkin.
I enjoy driving home to Long Island to be with family or southeastern Massachusetts to be with friends whenever I can (not as much as I like to). I also play the acoustic guitar (only for myself—never in front of others!), and I know this is so stereotypical of writers, but I really enjoy reading and hanging out in coffeeshops and bookstores!
And I really like to bake. My colleagues at school love when I join their committee not because of my expertise, but because I show up to meetings with an assortment of biscotti, muffins, and brownies. (Yummm!)