Sunday, 22 May 2011

Interview with Jeremy Soldevilla

Hello, everyone. Glad to see we all survived the supposed end of the world. In celebration, let's indulge ourselves in another fun interview. This time I'm talking with Jeremy Soldevilla.

Welcome, Jeremy. Tell us a bit about yourself.

After a long career as a publishing exec in Boston I moved to Montana because I wanted a lifestyle change and to start writing. My wife and I bought a bed and breakfast, and between fixing egg casseroles and making beds, I started my first novel. After two years we sold the inn and I was in a job I was not happy with, so my wife generously offered to be the sole bread winner while I focused on my writing. I finished my novel and went through the machinations that all new authors go through trying to find an agent and a publisher. People in my critique group and others whose opinion I respect praised my book, but I couldn't get an agent or a publisher to give it a chance. I kept writing, however, and had three works in progress when I wrote Thief Creek, basing it on my experience as a Montana innkeeper. Once again I started the discouraging process of shopping my manuscript. At that point I realized how many excellent writers (like myself : )) were out there but whose work would never get a chance to see the light of day because of the way publishers and agents often work. I also knew how little writers understand about the publishing process and that I could help good unpublished writers get their work into book form without having to go the self-publishing route. In January of this year I formed Christopher Matthews Publishing Services, Inc. (named after my two sons). and began publishing books that I vetted and had faith in. I was joined by a former colleague and good friend, Armen Kojoyian, an accomplished artist and designer that has created covers for many of the leading NY and European publishing houses. His office is in NY and he and I work together via Skype. We also provide services and advice for authors who want to self-publish their books with other companies but may need help in formatting or getting professional cover designs. I have less time for my writing now, but am going back and polishing up some of my unfinished projects.

How long have you been writing?

All my life. I've loved writing since I was very young. My first job was as an advertising copywriter for a publishing company where my first ad copy was for a book called Maintenance and Repair of Band Instruments. I learned it doesn't matter what you're writing as long as you're writing. It wasn't until 2005 when I first started writing seriously for myself, however. I took a couple of adult ed courses in fiction writing and formed a critique group, The Bozeman Inkslingers. The group has been most instructive and inspirational for me.

Tell us about THIEF CREEK. What's the story about and how did the idea come to you?

Four escaped convicts, the Toomey brothers, making their getaway, hold up a convenience store and the youngest brother gets shot in the back. They get in an accident and end up going to the Thief Creek Bed and Breakfast -- the only place in the remote Northwest part of Montana where they are at, to try to steal a car and save their brother. The only two guests at the inn are a honeymooning couple from Ohio. He is a new doctor and she teaches women's self-defense. There is no car available at the inn and when the young doctor is unable to save the younger brother's life, all hell breaks out. The heroes of the story turn out to be surprises.

I love the beauty of Montana and like to use it as my backdrop for my books. I came up with the initial idea for the book in my sleep, where most of my ideas hit me, and then I get up and start putting things down on my computer. I wanted to come up with an unlikely place in Montana for desperate escaped cons to terrorize and thought that a remote B&B would be a perfect unlikely spot. Drawing on my memories of the inn I used to own, I built the story from there.

Wow, that sounds exciting. What’s the hardest part of writing for you?

For some writers, it's the dedication of writing everyday, but for me it's an adventure and I make a point of devoting the first several hours of every morning to my story. The hardest part for me is the editing. I have to really think carefully about what's working and what isn't; cutting out the unhelpful stuff and fine tuning the rest. My critique group is a tremendous help in this process.

Any tips you’ve learned about writing you’d like to share?

  1. When I started seriously writing, I took courses, read books on writing, and attended workshops. I knew I had talent, but I learned quickly that there was much more to crafting a book than just writing skills. I also learned to not get too hung up on rules. I decided to someday write a book on writing where each chapter would refute the previous one. A lot of the "rules' we learned in English class go out the window if you want to write a compelling novel. Also, I would find one "hard and fast rule" by one expert would be the complete opposite of another expert's hard and fast rule. The tip is to just write what feels right to you. Then go back and make it beautiful.
  2. Most important -- read, read, read. Read as much as you can as often as you can. As you begin to write you find yourself reading much more analytically. How does the author craft his/her book? What phrases strike you as really powerful? How does the author make us care or hate his characters? Learn from your favorite authors. Read as much as you can in the genre you write in, but also read books in other genres to enrich your own writing.
  3. Don't give up. The rejection notices, the distractions from writing, the self-doubts can do a number on a writer. But I have a quote from author Richard Bach posted next to my computer: "A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit."

Let’s get to know you on a deeper level. What do you absolutely have to have nearby when writing?

The internet and a cup of coffee. One of my favorite parts of writing is researching details to give my stories authenticity. I also need to find just the right words, so an online thesaurus is an enormous help. If it wasn't for the vast and easily available database of the internet I don't think I could write a book. I also like having my Golden Retriever and my Yorkie keeping me company and reminding me when it's time to stop. What I don't need is my damn cat jumping in my lap or on the keyboard!

If you could have any super power, what would it be?

Wow. It would have to be the ability to fly. When I've flown in my dreams it's an amazing experience. In my sleep it seems so real and natural and fun.

Quick writing test! Use the following words in a sentence: obligatory, tight rope, and Chinese paper lantern.

With rivulets of sweat dribbling down her face,Virginia gingerly took the obligatory first step on the tight rope with the Chinese paper lantern in one hand, the parasol in the other and the diarrhea-ridden Capuchin monkey perched on her head.

Amazing sentence! Here’s the part where you thank the people who are supporting you. Let's hear your shout outs.

First and foremost, I am eternally grateful for the generosity, patience and solid advice of my wife. Shout outs to my fellow Inkslingers and authors, Frank Seitz, Ellen Figura, Kathy Tyers, Donna Wallace, Jamie Upschulte, Marci Whitehurst, Sue Geske, Sharon Dunn and Dennis Flath -- all great writers themselves -- have been immensely helpful with their support and suggestions.

And finally, where can people find you and your book online?

They can find me and my book at or any of the usual online bookstores.

Jeremy, thank you so much for letting us get a chance to learn more about you and your book. It was fun having you here. :)


Unknown said...

I so enjoyed this post. Thanks Jeremy. It was nice knowing the struggles of others to get published.
Times have changed in the publishing industry and electronic technology plays a big role in those changes.
Thank you for your input and I will definitely check out your site and your book.
I loved your comments about "not giving up" and "writing a compelling novel" and "just write what feels right to you." All of this is excellent advice. I say, "Write from the heart," and "Enjoy the journey, for this is your journey." I'm on the road to getting published soon.

Donna K. Wallace said...

Ah, the Toomey brothers. After reading Thief Creek, these convicts will forever haunt me while driving along Bridger Canyon!

No one loves books more than Jeremy Soldevilla. He is one of the most encouraging and influential writers in my life. Loved the interview!

Donna Wallace --NY Times Bestselling writer of "The Healthy Home," with Wentz & Wentz.