All Over the Place with Geraldine DeRuiter

Dearest Reader, I have a special treat for you today. I caught up with Seattle-based blogger Geraldine DeRuiter, aka The Everywhereist, and asked her all the things. Not only is her first book, All Over the Place, currently making its way through the holds queues, but you’ll have a chance to meet her June 13th at 6pm at the downtown library! As you count down the days to her Everett debut, you can read this interview where she tells me everything from what she’s reading now to what it takes to get published, not to mention some sweet mustache styling tips from her husband, Rand.

You have a lot of fans on staff at the library! When we chat about your blog posts, the ones that keep coming up are deeply personal. How do you tackle writing about such personal things? Which we love. Please never stop!
Honestly, writing about personal things helps me process a lot of what I’m dealing with. Sitting down and typing out those experiences – particularly negative ones – helps me exorcise those demons. The other thing to remember is that I share a lot – but it’s still only what I’m comfortable sharing. I still have some strong boundaries, despite the personal blog posts.

How do you cope with so many strangers knowing so much about your personal life? Was that just a part of blogging you accepted or did you/your family have to get used to it (or can you ever truly get used to it)?
My husband, Rand, is very open about his life online, so I think I became acclimated to the idea long before I was sharing my own stories. Still, it sometimes catches me by surprise when someone knows something personal about me that I shared on the blog. My initial reaction is, “How did you hear about that?” And then I realize: “Oh, yeah. I posted it on the internet.” As for my family, they seem to have accepted it, though they keep threatening to write their own memoirs.

Like all of your readers, we followed your health scares with worried anticipation. What’s it like knowing thousands of people are more curious about your health than their own?
The response to my posts about my brain tumor were incredibly supportive and loving – I’m still in awe at people’s reactions. And while it felt a bit overwhelming to have shared the experience with so many people, it was also a great distraction from the surgery itself. A big part of why I wanted to write about it is that I found a complete lack of material online about what it was actually like to have brain surgery. So I wrote the post that I wish I’d had beforehand – and I’ve found that those posts still get lots of traffic and comments from people facing the same thing.

Obviously, the internet is full of blogs and it takes something special to truly make a blog stand out from the crowd. Do you have any advice for someone thinking about starting a blog?
When starting out, consistency is key. It doesn’t matter if you blog once a day or once a week, just make sure you do it regularly, and that your audience can rely on it. And pick a specific topic. I meet a lot of bloggers who don’t want to tie themselves down to one subject, but doing so really helps you to focus and develop an audience. Once you’ve got regular readers, you can start to branch out into other subject areas.

I always ask authors what the publishing process is like. Did you just decide to start writing a book, were you approached to write it, or did something else start you down the road to publishing?
I knew I wanted to write a book, but I was feeling frustrated with the hunt for an agent (and you need an agent if you are going to go the traditional publishing route) so I just told myself that I’d start working on a manuscript and see what happened. I managed to secure a small publisher who was interested in my book, but they folded, and I was left with a near-completed manuscript and no idea what to do next. So I decided to take a break and get back to freelancing. I wrote an article about my husband dressing me for a week and it caught the attention of my now-agent, Zoe. And it ended up going to auction, with multiple publishers bidding on it. Which still feels sort of miraculous.

One of my favorite things is when a favorite blogger writes a book. Does your new book cover topics similar to those you’ve blogged about or are you taking readers in a totally different direction?
One of the hardest things I had to learn is that writing a book is not the same as writing a blog. And while fans of the blog will [find] the voice, tone, and personality of the book familiar, the content is all new. So I’d say it’s the same Geraldine, but a new format.

Do you have a dedicated office or writing space? Please describe it; I’m obsessed with workspaces and how people work!
I have a little lofted space at the top of the townhouse that we rent, and I have a standing desk (which helps to mitigate my headaches – even after my surgery, I still get them, and spending hours at a computer does not help). While I’m a pretty neat and tidy person about most things, I’m somewhat embarrassed to say that my office is constantly a disaster, so I usually avoid showing it to people.

Can you offer any advice for writers aspiring to become published? I bet you get that question a lot but it seems like everyone’s experience is unique.
Build an online platform and audience. I can’t stress this enough. Publishers want to know that you’ll be able to sell your book. They will want to know your Twitter follower count, your blog’s traffic, even how many Instagram followers you have. You can get published without an online following, but as my editor put it, “You’d better be a damn literary genius.” And even then, she noted, it’s still a hard sell.

Let’s talk books. What are some of your favorite authors?
I read a lot of non-fiction, and in particular a lot of non-fiction by women writers. I’ve recently cracked up over Phoebe Robinson’s You Can’t Touch My Hair, Mindy Kaling’s Why Not Me? and Negin Farsad’s How to Make White People Laugh. My friend Nora Purmort wrote a beautiful book called It’s Okay to Laugh (Crying is Cool, Too.) When it comes to fiction, I really enjoy the work of Tana French, Jeffrey Eugenides, Maria Semple, and Michael Chabon.

What are you reading right now?
I’m actually reading a lot of books by people I know, which is a very new experience for me (being a published author is weird). I just finished Losing the Light, by my friend Andrea Dunlop (I devoured it over the weekend, and I’m a notoriously slow reader, so that says a lot). And I’m about to crack into Jo Piazza’s How to Be Married. She’s hilarious, so I suspect her book will be, too.

Do you have any upcoming projects or adventures you’d like to share with our readers?
I’m talking to my agent about my next book, but that’s a long way off (and I have a lot of research I’ll need to do for it). I’ve got some promoting to do for All Over the Place so I’ve got some travel planned around that, and I’m trying to get back to blogging.

One of our staff bloggers, Jennifer, has a final, burning question: does Rand have any mustache tips for the dapper among us?
Jennifer, are you sitting down? Okay, are you sure you’re sitting down? Because … Rand shaved off the handlebar mustache. I mean, he still has a mustache, but the handlebars are a thing of the past. I know. I know. But honestly, the upkeep was crazy – he spent more time on his ‘stache than anything else. So the advice I’d give anyone who’s considering growing one out: buy some mustache wax, and leave yourself a lot of time.

Thanks, Geraldine!

Reader, if you have burning questions for Geraldine you can bring them Tuesday, June 13th at 6pm at the Everett Public Library Auditorium, 2702 Hoyt Avenue in Everett. She’ll be reading some passages from her book, All Over the Place, and answering questions about writing, travel, and blogging. Copies of her book will be on sale that night, too. Hope to see you there!

Bookstagram, Publishing, and the Castrati: We Chat with YA Author Jennifer Bardsley

Readers, I have a special treat for you today! As the library ramps up in preparation for her March 4th (2pm!) visit to the downtown library as part of the Everett Reads! community reading series, I caught up with local YA author and Everett Herald columnist Jennifer Bardsley to talk about everything bookish! For a primer on her incredibly addicting Blank Slate series, check out my review of book 1, Genesis Girl.

big-picture jennifer bardsley

 

First, tell me about you! What’s your background, and how did you get into writing?

In 2007 I was a stay-at-home mom who wrote a blog called Teachingmybabytoread.com as a way to keep my skills as a former elementary school teacher fresh. I loved blogging since it was a way to connect with people all over the world. I also enjoyed reading my local newspaper, The Edmonds Beacon, but noticed that none of the columnists represented the “mom demographic.” My limited success as a blogger gave me the idea to pitch The Edmonds Beacon with a column idea about what it was like to be a modern mom. I wrote up five sample columns and an introductory email, pitched them my concept and waited. And waited. And waited. They never emailed me back. Crushed, I filed those columns away in a drawer.

A month or two later, I saw a copy of The Weekly Herald and decided to brave it. I gathered up my courage to submit my idea to them instead. That’s how my column “I Brake for Moms” was born. After four months in The Weekly Herald, “I Brake for Moms” moved to The Everett Daily Herald where it has been for almost five years.

In the middle of all that column writing, I also wrote fiction. In 2013 my manuscript landed me my agent, Liza Fleissig of the Liza Royce Agency, and in 2014 Genesis Girl sold to Georgia McBride of Month9Books in a two-book deal.

genesis girl jennifer bardsleyHow did you get the idea for Blanca, a character who has never used the internet nor had her image ever posted online?

Prepare to be grossed out. I based the concept of Blanca and her Vestal Brethren on the castrati from opera’s shady past. In the seventeen and eighteen hundreds, some young boys in Italy were castrated in the hopes that they would become famous opera stars who could sing the highest notes. They were sent away to special schools where they lived and breathed music. Most of the castrati did not become famous. They were sent home in disgrace, scarred for life. But the castrati who succeeded were superstars. 

Yikes!  Even aside from that, the whole Blank Slate world is so eerie! I can see this becoming a distant reality.

I know, right? From computers to car phones, to cell phones, to smartphones; it’s only a matter of time before there is a technology advancement that is user-friendly in a way we can’t yet imagine. Maybe it will be like finger chips, maybe not, but it will be cool.

What books or authors would you recommend for readers like me who enjoyed reading Genesis Girl and Damaged Goods?

A classic SciFi book that I love is The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. There’s a new television show based on it coming to Hulu that I’m excited about too. A SciFi series I enjoyed that came out recently is Survival Colony 9 by Joshua David Bellin. It’s cli-fi, meaning climate change meets science fiction.

damaged goods jennifer bardsleyI’ve always wondered about something. Is it more difficult to write the first book in a series or the second?

Damaged Goods was way easier to write than Genesis Girl because I had already done the hard work developing the characters. I wrote out an outline, turned on my computer, and banged the book out in four months. Then I spent the next year revising it.

What sort of advice would you offer a writer aspiring to make the leap to becoming a published author?

If you are writing fiction and you want to be traditionally published, you need to write the entire book first before you query agents to represent you. Agents then take the book on submission to publishing houses. If a house buys your book, it takes two to three years for your manuscript to be published.

However, with nonfiction it’s entirely different. You write a thirty to fifty-page outline and marketing plan for your proposal, and send that directly to publishers.

The quick way to bypass all of those steps is to self-publish. There are lots of indie authors who earn a ton of money because agility helps them capture hungry markets. Instead of guessing what topic will be popular with readers in three years, indie authors can write and publish books that are hot at that moment.

Bookstagramming is a big part of your presence online, one that I really enjoy following. How do you get your ideas for your beautiful layouts?

I love your account too! Instagram is a great way to meet new friends.

I keep a box of random knickknacks in my library that made it easy to style photos. Winter is tricky, but once the weather warms up I cut foliage from my garden to use in photos. My friend Jenn Eagan of @jennegan26 gave me good advice. “On bookstagram, more is more. If you think there are enough objects in your photo, add a few more just in case.”

Do you have different approaches for writing your column and your novels? Or does the process tend to be about the same?

Having a newspaper column has taught me a lot about discipline because I have a due date every week. I keep a notebook in my purse to jot down ideas if I get inspired, but generally I have a topic rattling around in my mind for a few weeks before I write it out on paper. Then a few days later, I revise it.

With fiction, I spend months and even years coming up with a concept first, before I start writing a book. The traditional publishing market is so competitive, that unless you have a killer idea, it feels like you are doomed.

I’m so curious about your writing environment! Do you have a dedicated office or workspace?

I used to have a dedicated writing space in our home library, but then my poodle Merlin took over that room and now it smells like dog. Luckily it’s the only room in the house that smells poodly, but it’s no longer my preferred place to write. These days I am much more likely to type on the computer in the niche next to our kitchen.

Do you have any other upcoming projects? You know I’m eagerly anticipating more Blank Slate novels!

Damaged Goods has a conclusive end, with just enough wiggle room to write a third book if my publisher is interested. It all depends on how this second book does. Stress!

author event march 4 jennifer bardsley

 

What can our readers expect when you come to the library on March 4th?

I have a game prepared that involves dice, fake money, information about the path to publication, and some inside secrets about what it’s like to be an author. I’ll follow up with questions from the audience.

Thank you so much, Jennifer, for taking the time to chat with me! I can’t wait for your visit March 4th at the main library!

Jennifer: Thank you so much for having me!