Pamela Richards, author of Singing From Silence, talks about her approach to writing and her plans for the future.
Why do you write? Is it something you’ve always done, or always wanted to do? Or is it something that you started fairly recently?
I started writing about four and a half years ago, in response to several incidents that changed the way I view my life. I never dreamed I’d write about myself. I didn’t see the story in myself, only the chaos. Until March of 2008, my life was a puzzle I couldn’t solve. As I wrote Singing from Silence, I was revealing to myself the order from the chaos.
Tell me a little about your books.
I write according to the rather dusty concept of muse. Not the Greek demi-goddesses–not quite that dusty. I had a friend who I consider a creative genius, songwriter Rich Mullins. He has passed away, but I have vivid memories of him connected, for the most part, with his songs. One of the traits that characterized Rich Mullins was shared by many artists and poets: a dual nature. Perhaps it was because of his sharply distinct public and private lives that he often appeared absent while present, yet because of his engagement in songwriting and performance, he could as easily be present while absent. Perhaps because his songwriting was a spiritual excercise, the confluence of the two sides of his nature was most clearly experienced and his presence most strongly felt in his creative process. I recall his presence most powerfully now when I am engaged in the creative process myself–which is why I think of him as my muse.
Are there any authors who inspire you?
Oliver Sachs is one of my favorite authors. He’s a neurologist who writes about the mind from his own experiences with his patients. Such a magnificent human being! After ten years of avoiding it, I began listening to Richard’s music again after reading Sachs’ book Musicophilia. I can personally attest that music is indeed a doorway, a threshold to memory.
How do you write?
The question is more like, “Where do you write?” The ideas I write about come mostly from changes in perspective. So I jump start the process by moving around a lot. Best of all is taking a walk and having a talk with a friend. If a friend is not available, The sky, the weather, clouds, Sun, Moon, and stars all stimulate a change in perspective. If I’m dry of ideas, I take a walk or do an errand. Just driving from one place to another will do it. I always have a spiralbound notebook and a Pilot pen with me. If I don’t, I promise you I’m on the way to the store to get supplies. My family won’t let me write and drive, though I do sometimes jot notes at red lights.. I have a few favorite diners or little restaurants where I get coffee and the waitresses are kind enough to let me sit and write. Periodically, I transfer the writing from my notebooks into emails. I have hundreds of email drafts. I re-write them exhaustively. I send them to myself and organize them by topic or writing project. Then I paste them into a document and mess around with it until it does what I want it to do. Re-writing happens constantly, at every step.
Do you make yourself write a certain number of words per day?
No, not at all. I think the “fishing” theory of creativity can be valid: keep throwing your line in until something bites. According to this theory, I’d set a goal and write, say, fifteen pages a day. Maybe a paragraph would be worth working with. But my best style of writing is persuasive, so I work better when feeI have something urgent to say. I let the message grab me, then I go with it. I do have ways of intensifying my opportunities and opening myself to situations that may make me more likely to write. If you want to catch a fish, you’d best be near a body of water.
Did you try to get a conventional publisher or agent interested before you opted for self-publishing?
Not very hard. I am so fascinated by the opportunity to come up with something raw and heartfelt from my experiences that I’m perfectly willing to forgo the assistance of experts in the field. They want to shape a work of writing to make money, which is fine for them, but ultimately I would prefer to have an effect on people. Not simply the effect of getting them to open their wallets, but the effect of opening their minds to ideas.
What goals have you set yourself?
Good thing you asked. Now that you mention it, I’ve just decided what they are. I want to write two more books; the first, Singing from Silence, is about feelings. The one I never expected, the second one, is coming out of my experiences with having had a stroke: Walk Through the Valley will be about healing. The third, Let the Mountains Sing, is going to be about unleashing the creative power of the word. Then I’ll see if I have anything to say after that, or not.
Is there some way you measure success, on your own terms?
If my writing makes someone cry, I think I’m onto something. Not because I want readers to suffer, but because tears are an outward sign that something important is going on inside. If they can be attributed to anything other than an allergy, tears may represent a positive change; or at the very least, a memory being seeded.
How have you marketed your books?
I started with a website, which grows like a colony of cats. Every few months I turn around and my website has had a new litter of kittens. Blogging is my favorite social media tool. My main blog is here. I haven’t tried paid advertising.
Have you signed up for KDP Select?
My second title will probably be available on KDP Select. I like the idea of letting readers sample the writing style–and it’s a low-cost form of publishing. At that price, why not do giveaways? I’m an optimist about writing. I’m also either very thrifty or a skinflint, depending on who you talk to. If it’s done well, and if it meets a need, a good book will get into a few peoples’ hands. From there, being a hopeless idealist, I would prefer to rely on word of mouth–and Goodreads–to keep the public’s interest. Goodreads offers authors a great platform and lots of tools to promote their books at no cost to the author! As an avowed skinflint, I’m very happy with their program.