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Author Interview, Deborah Baldwin, Bumbling Bea

January 5, 2017

With over 40 years of teaching and 250 plays and musicals under her belt, Deborah Baldwin was more than qualified to write a children’s book about putting on a middle school play. Not that putting pen to paper is an easy process. But as Deborah says, writing is a fluid process. If you stick with it, things happen, and pieces develop as they need to. “Characters have a way of showing up just when you need them,” she said, “or they come forward on their own expecting to be heard.”

1. How many books have you published and when (month/year)?

I published Bumbling Bea in October 2014.

2. When did you start writing your first book? Where did the idea come from?

I began writing Bumbling Bea in 2012, however the springboard for the story came from a trip to Japan when I was sixteen years old.  Forty years later, I finally wrote the story in its entirety.  Many of the original ideas for the plot originated in the first chapter I penned nearly thirty-two years ago when I took my first writing class.  I’d say about ninety percent of the story was developed while I was writing the book.  I developed an outline, writing a chapter at a time.  Characters have a way of showing up just when you need them or they come forward on their own expecting to be heard.  Bumbling Bea is much better story now than all those years ago.  I’m glad I waited to write it.

3. What was the hardest part about writing your first book? What hurdles did you have to overcome?

My fear was the greatest challenge.  I have a mindset that thinks I must be very well versed in something before I can act upon it.  Consequently, I needed a few classes in writing for children to ease my worries.  Once I took them, my fears slowly vanished.

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4. Once your manuscript was finished, what did you do?

I knew that if I took eighteen months to write the story (and how many hours?) I needed to continue the process all the way through to publishing.

5. What did you expect from the editing process? How was the experience?

I am very familiar with the process of creating and it didn’t bother me to edit.  The toughest part was making sure everything was clear to a reader.  Even now I find certain parts of my story that need a tweak here and there.  But since I’m an indie author, it is very easy (though a bit costly) to edit and republish.

6. Describe what re-writing involves and how it makes you feel. How is it different than the initial writing?

Re-writing is a lot like directing a play, so when I shared I am comfortable with the process of creating it is because of directing.  I don’t take it too personally if something needs to be changed or edited.  I know that it takes many eyes to see everything in a story just as it does in theatre.  But as I am the gatekeeper of a play and I make the final decision, so too am I the gatekeeper on my book.

7. Did you have non-editors read your book for feedback (Alpha Readers)? What did you get out of that?

Yes, a few friends and family read Bumbling Bea.  Each had their own strengths and perspective on it.  My youngest daughter, a writer too though not actively pursuing writing, is a terrific editor.  Her suggestions really helped me and continue to do so.

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8. Who designed your cover? How much input did you have? How important is the cover design?

A graphic artist, H. Russ Brown was my illustrator.  He illustrated the cover and each chapter’s first page art.  You can tell we are in 2016, because we communicated nearly all of our ideas through instant messaging. Currently, he is working on a new cover for our second printing.

9. How did you go forward with publishing? Why? How was that experience?

I chose Createspace because of its high approval rates. The book has won high marks for the quality of writing and publishing, so it paid off to use Createspace.

10. How have you marketed your first book?

Yes and I continue to market.

11. How was the initial feedback from readers?

I received terrific feedback and it was quite surprising. Bumbling Bea isn’t for everyone.  People who are acquainted with performing in a play or making friends with someone from another country will relate to the book the most.  However, children as young as seven and octogenarians have read Bumbling Bea have enjoyed its message, too.

12. How have sales been on your first book? Did they go as expected? What helps you the most to sell books?

I didn’t set my sites on huge sales because I have never authored a book before, but I am well known for my teaching of drama and directing in youth and community theatre.  Those are the circles that have supported me the best.  It’s still all a crap shoot, frankly.  Out of nowhere someone will review the book on Amazon and Goodreads.  Such a gift!  I am a member of several Facebook groups and use my blog and a new Twitter presence to get the word out. I am not a member of any creative writing groups because a very trusted friend of mine thought I would be happier on my own.  I think he’s right! It takes every kind of marketing and publicizing I have money and time to use.

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13. Talk about print vs ebook. Do you get more sales with one than the other?

I’ve had more sales with my print version unless we count free downloads days and then lots of people download it.  Many don’t write reviews, however.

14. Did you set the prices of your print and ebooks? How do you decide how to price them?

My prices aren’t set in stone.  I offer discounts on both and free ebook downloads occasionally.  I research other books of the same length and genre and priced mine according to theirs.

15. What made you decide to write more books? How were those experiences (writing/editing) compared with your first book? Did you do anything differently?

I am readying to begin a new book in January.  I plan to do pre-launch publicizing for it once it’s finished.

16. Anything different in the publishing process for your other books?

I may try a different company than Createspace and an editor if I can afford one.

17. When did you consider yourself a “writer”?

Oh am I?  I think once I penned 50 blog posts about drama education, youth theatre and directing I finally felt like an author. Then I see the reviews about Bumbling Bea and I’m overwhelmed with a sense of pride in what I have given people through the written word.  I guess that makes me a writer, yes?

18. When do you write? What motivates you to write?

I like to write in the morning and late afternoon with a break in the middle of the day.  Generally, I write something for someone each day—whether it’s a blog post, an article for another website or a host of other writing sources.  I am motivated by the goal to help someone else.  If I can help someone else, then I am fulfilled.

19. What do aspiring authors ask you?

How long did it take to write your book?  Answer:  18 months and four months of revisions.  How did I know how to write the way kids speak? Answer: I have taught students of all ages for nearly forty years.  You teach any length of time and you can quote them by heart! Where did the plot come from? Answer:  Parts of the plot come from my personal experiences as a director and teacher glitzed-and-glamoured with my imagination and off beat style of humor.

20. What advice can you offer for aspiring authors about writing, editing, publishing, and marketing?

My advice is pretty simple—ignore the negative comments people may say and don’t give your own fears much credence.  You are on a long, interesting journey and treat it as such. Believe in yourself and figure out the reason you like to write and keep it in your mind at all times.  Learn to distance yourself from your work and accept criticism of people who you trust.  Remember, it’s YOUR thoughts and feelings and you have the right to share them.

Contact me at dhcbaldwin or check out my website at DeborahBaldwin.net

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