|At Sea Again - Photo Credit Jan Bowman - 2014|
Jan: Tell us about your newest book.
Lissa: I have just completed the sequel to Another F-Word. My working title is Family of Choice. Right now, it’s up in the air whether I self-publish as I have done with three previous books, or go the traditional route. I have had an expression of interest from a publisher and am awaiting his response. Family of Choice follows Rory Calhoun Wilson into the next phase of his life. He is now a medical doctor practicing in Baltimore, living with his partner, Nimo. Rory faces two major challenges: how and whether to resolve his miserable relationship with his father, the person who punished Rory for being gay, and whether he should legally adopt Nimo’s biological children from a former marriage. The story is set at the time when Marylanders are considering whether or not to approve Question 6, legalizing same-sex marriage.
Jan: What have you learned about the marketing aspect of publishing with your first three books?
Lissa: First, I must confess that I come at marketing from a different perspective than many writers. I was a professional marketer for much of my paid-working life. That said, marketing books is very different. I’ve discovered that certain genres are much easier to market than others. My first book, Real Country: From the Fast Track to Appalachia, is a humorous memoir of our first 18 months living in an alien culture after being city women for most of our lives. It’s still a hit with tourists to the area of the Blue Ridge Mountains in NC where I live. People considering retiring to a different place also relate. Local mountain folks find it interesting to see their environment from an outsider’s perspective. Those are the audiences to whom I have to pitch that book.
When I wrote Family Secrets: Three Generations, a YA novel, I had to seek out women in their 60s and 70s who remember the experiences of growing up in the 1940s and 1950s. Further, the protagonist is Jewish, so I sought out publications and locations that targeted Jewish people. Since I was portraying the angst of experiencing adolescence, I looked for psychologists who could review that book on Amazon.com figuring they’d give the writing greater credibility.
Another F-Word had an altogether different purpose. Of course, I wanted readers to find it entertaining, but more important; I wanted to get across the idea that bullying of LGBT kids is life-threatening. The secondary message in that book is that entire families can be destroyed by it. A third message is that it’s critical for LGBT kids to have mentors and others who have their backs. I devoted an entire year after its publication to traveling and speaking to youth groups, church congregations, school counselors and others who might benefit from heightened awareness of how vulnerable LGBT kids are to bullying. I sought and obtained reviews in LGBT publications and attended conferences where I thought the book would have special appeal.
Family of Choice will appeal to LGBT parents, so I will tailor much of my marketing to that audience. It carries forward the consequences of bullying, so I’ll return to the market I cultivated for Another F-Word.
In summary, each book will have a particular group of marketing targets. I prefer the rifle approach rather than the shotgun. Pardon the gun reference, but those are marketing terms. I do not waste time doing signings in places where my target audiences don’t congregate. Since I’d prefer to be writing instead of hawking books, I try to make my time away from writing count.
Jan: As you go out and speak to educators and readers about your book, Another F-Word, what are the most common questions?
Lissa: Parents often ask what they should do if the bully is a teacher or principal. It’s an important question, and as a former teacher I know it has a solid basis in fact. That’s sad, but it’s true.
Kids frequently pose questions that imply a lack of support from adults who choose to ignore bullying. They include school officials, parents, clergy and others who are responsible for keeping children safe. Another commonly asked question from kids deals with how much risk they should take to stand up for a victim of bullying. They prize their social status highly and know they jeopardize it when they go to bat for another child.
Since many of the groups I’ve spoken to are in the South, several questions relate to bigoted church leaders. I don’t hesitate to advise those who disagree with the religiously-inspired bigotry to confront the offender and if necessary to leave the church and find one that models more humane values.
Jan: What has heartened you in your travels about the changing landscape of being gay and out in the South?
Lissa: The fact that I’m struggling to answer this speaks volumes. First, I am able to be out in the South because I no longer need to hold a paying job. If I did have to work, it would be a different story. Naturally, the urban areas contain more foreward-thinking people on the issue of civil rights for LGBT people. But even in a rural Appalachian area like the one where I live, there are brave people who are willing to put their tolerant views out publically.
Maryland, while geographically considered part of the South, is a far different place from other southern states. The fact that it remains the only state whose voters have approved same-sex marriage speaks to its liberal nature, but even Maryland has pockets of voters who vehemently oppose equal rights for LGBT people. Note the Eastern Shore, Southern Maryland, Western Maryland and a considerable part of the population of Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties and Baltimore.
At this point, I see equality being achieved through federal actions, and the South will have to be dragged kicking and screaming into compliance.
Jan: What’s next? Do you have any new projects in the works?
Lissa: I’m giving serious thought to writing a lesbian romance. I have an idea for a story and might tackle it. I’ll have to do a lot of reading before I can write. I confess I have not read many lesbian romances. If I do try it, I doubt I’ll be bringing the manuscript to my writer’s group for critiquing. It might be a bit much for them. Anyone out there know of a critique group for that genre?
Until I decide, I’ll write occasional essays for anthologies and try to create a blog. For now, I have all I can do to keep my website, www.lissabrownwrites.com updated. My books are all available at Amazon.com under my name except the first one, Real Country. I wrote that under a pen name, Leslie Brunetsky. Since the readers of your blog tend toward the more literate, I’d especially welcome comments from them if they read any of my books. They can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org . Also, I’m happy to talk privately with anyone considering relocating to the South. They should send an email, and we can swap phone numbers.Thanks so much for your work to help other writers, Jan. I appreciate your help.
|Jan - Off Coast of Ireland|
About Jan Bowman
Winner of the 2011 Roanoke Review Fiction Award, Jan's stories have been nominated for Pushcart Prizes, Best American Short Stories, and a Pen/O’Henry award. Glimmer Train named a recent story as Honorable Mention in the November 2012 Short Story Awards for New Writers.
A recent story was a finalist for the 2013 Broad River Review RASH Award for Fiction, another story was a 2013 finalist in the Phoebe Fiction Contest; another was a 2012 finalist in the “So To Speak” Fiction Contest. Jan’s fiction has appeared in numerous publications including, Roanoke Review, Big Muddy, The Broadkill Review, Third Wednesday, Minimus, Buffalo Spree (97), Folio, The Potomac Review, Musings, Potato Eyes and others. She is working on two collections of short stories while shopping for a publisher for a completed story collection, Mermaids & Other Stories. She has nonfiction publications in Trajectory and Pen-in-Hand. She writes a weekly blog of “Reflections” on the writing life and posts regular interviews with writers and publishers. Learn more at: www.janbowmanwriter.com or visit blog: http://janbowmanwriter.blogspot.com