This month on Taste Life Twice we are featuring authors taking risks to get their creative projects out into the world. As those of you on the Subscriber List know, I am in the process of curating an online “Creative Labors of Love” gallery here on TLT. Contact me if you’d like to be included.
In this interview, we hear from author Sandra Gore, who has published SEVEN books, both fiction and non-fiction, in addition to a life heaping full of other career interests and fascinating experiences.
MP: Your books in the Red Mirror Series shred traditional genre boundaries to pieces, containing elements of historical fiction, thriller, erotica, mystery, time travel, and romance. Was there a particular type of story you set out to tell, or how did this combination otherwise come about?
SLG: I never planned to cross genres. When I started the first book* of The Red Mirror series, I had specific intentions: to take the reader on an adventure to Ancient Egypt and tell the story of a woman who has fulfilling but unique relationships with three men of different cultures. I also wanted to challenge the concept of one ‘Mr. Right.’
As I began to write the tale of Isis, the story revealed itself to me. I had a loose trajectory in my mind that she would be kidnapped by a Persian and eventually escape from Egypt on a ship. From Day One, I knew the names of my evolving woman: Isis the Egyptian,* Athena the Greek* and Elektra the Roman (coming soon!).
Friends who followed me through the process said that I was channeling. Many times, I closed my eyes and typed, the words flowing through my fingers. Those were the days that I effortlessly wrote 3-4,000 words a day. Five thousand words, I think, was the most.
I never thought of the book as time travel, although it’s an apt label. Parallel stories propel characters back and forth between lifetimes. In the following book, a more empowered modern Isis continues her present story and experiences yet another past life.
The Red Mirror series isn’t typical romance with a man and a woman estranged until joined happily ever after in the end, but the tone is intensely romantic. Yes, the sex scenes are erotic but intended always to be sensual. Sensuousness is what makes sex human not animal—and romantic, not pornographic.
MP: You make references to Ancient Egyptian and Persian politics and intrigue. How much research did you do to bring these scenes to life? And how necessary is it to make fiction (or historical fiction) resemble real-life events?
SLG: I did a vast amount of research, including:
- Spending a month in Egypt traveling from Alexandria to Nubia
- Getting myself invited to a UCLA graduate seminar
- Traveling to Mt. Olympus to take Middle Egyptian (hieroglyphs)
My books are factual but not tied specifically to one famous person. I want more freedom than that. I write “faction.” Everything that happens could have happened—once the reader crosses through the Red Mirror, of course. Real history sets the scene where characters act out their own drama.
I want to entertain and educate. In the back of each of the three books of the trilogy is an extensive glossary of relevant Egyptian, Greek and Roman terms for those who want more depth.
My hope is that when readers finish The Emerald Tablet, they will know the ‘Greek mind.’ They will be familiar with the forces that made Alexandria the intellectual center of the ancient world and also sympathize with the Egyptians who became second-class citizens in their own country from the time of the Persian invasion until the 20th century.
MP: You’ve written a series, and I’ve heard that’s a better strategy for finding an audience than writing a stand-alone novel. What would be your top publishing and marketing tips for self-publishing writers?
SLG: I didn’t write a series because it was recommended for marketing. The concept of three books, each based on a different lifetime with a continuing story of an evolving woman influenced by—and influencing—her past, was there from the start.
Before I started the first novel, I read a cross-section of thirty “women’s” books in one month, and not one of them captured what I was envisioning. I made the decision to write what flowed through me rather than what was commercially popular, even though I’d never tell anyone to do that.
You have to choose your own path.
Marketing, for me, is far harder than writing. I find it very difficult to sell myself. But, you have to, so here are my tips:
- Choosing your audience is incredibly important in marketing. You have to be confident your product will fit. My books cross so many genres that targeted promotion is almost impossible. If you write in one genre with a defined and guaranteed audience, you may have an easier path.
- Social media is too vast to cover here, but absolutely necessary for an author today. You must have an internet presence—not a problem for anyone born after 1980 (Interviewer’s note: *ahem!* ;-).
- ‘Presence’ includes a website (which can be a blog), a Facebook page and a Twitter account, the more followers the better. Few, if any, of them will ever read your book, but the numbers make it look like you’re “somebody.” And you’ll make surprising connections that lead to opportunities. Have patience.
- Get on blog radio to talk about your book. It’s fun if you’ve got the gift of gab. (Note: Sandra also just completed a Blog Tour promoting Isis Erotica*, the really steamy version of the Isis story.)
- You must have a brand. For example, get a URL for your website/blog with your name. Your Twitter handle should also use some form of your name.
- I recommend following Anne R. Allen’s Blog for practical tips on self-publishing.
- My best and final advice? You are going to feel like giving up. Don’t. And remember what Horace said a couple thousand years ago:
“If you want to be a writer, write.”
MP: There are plenty of steamy sex scenes in the Red Mirror Trilogy, and your earlier book Sex and the Zen of Shopping also focuses on sex, at least in the title. Is this part of what makes the stories exciting, or a symbol of something larger in life?
SLG: My three Red Mirror women of the past have very different relationships with sex, but they all enjoy it as a natural expression of life. I wanted my readers to understand that pre-Christian cultures didn’t have our same taboos. Ancient Egypt wasn’t concerned with the sexual activity of women unless they were married with property and inheritance rights were involved.
I titled Sex and the Zen of Shopping because the premise of the book is “Shopping is to women what sex is to men; they can never get enough.” Of course we can be momentarily satiated, but when a husband asks a woman why she needs red patent heels when she just bought a new pair of shoes last week, her response should be, “Didn’t you have sex on Saturday? Why again tonight?”
A full and satisfying sex life is the jewel in the crown of human existence.
Sex is the most intimate of all human contact. When we are honest with ourselves, it is emotional sensual intimacy that we all desire.
MP: You use the tagline, “One Life Is Not Enough.” In what ways is this related to your own life experiences? Is there something in particular that made you want to write these stories, bring these characters to life?
SLG: The tagline didn’t come until The Emerald Tablet. It’s a phrase that popped magically into my head to explain why anyone would travel through a Red Mirror into an unknown world full of danger. Once modern Isis tasted the adventure, it was addictive. Her life in the present day was simply not enough.
“One Life is Not Enough” is what I believe drives most writers of fiction. And readers. We want to escape to other worlds and live different realities. Through writing and reading, we experience danger and thrill vicariously, with no real threat.
Many times I would get fed up with something happening in my life and declare, “I’m going back to Egypt!” And I did. On my laptop.
MP: Hands down, my favorite answer! Ok, last one: what’s your quirkiest writing routine or habit?
SLG: I don’t know if it’s quirky, but I write standing up. The reason is really simple: my lower back and hips were killing me. A normal day at the laptop—writing, doing research, social media, designing book covers and marketing materials—is 8-10 hours. I put a couple of printer boxes on my desk and topped them with a white shelf. Voila! A high desk. When you work standing, you are constantly shifting your weight. I alternate clogs and going barefoot.
Another “different” thing is writing directly into Adobe InDesign,* which is a professional desktop publishing program that allows you to convert your file to Kindle format with a click.
As the words flow onto the page, what I see on the screen is exactly what the print book will look like. I’m a visual writer not only in writing style, but also in the way I put the books together. More white space? I break up paragraphs. Chapter too long or not long enough? Widows? I see exactly what the reader will see.
For those who find InDesign intimidating, you can do book format with Microsoft Word. I wrote The Red Mirror in Word. It was when I discovered the Adobe function of easy conversion to Kindle that I made the switch to InDesign.
A third technical aspect of my writing is to work on two screens. My laptop is hooked up to a large flatscreen, normally with the book. The laptop screen has Excel worksheets with notes from research or quick visits to Google to verify facts or pull up an image I want to describe. I’m dying for three screens. I’m told I need a gaming laptop with a special video card. Sigh! Sell, books, sell, so I can buy one!
Thanks so much to Sandra for her revealing and fascinating responses. Do you have more questions for this 7-time author? Leave yours below in the comments!
Images courtesy of Sandra Gore
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