Blog Archive

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Writing what you Love: Author Interview with Sylvia Bambola

My interview today is with Sylvia Bambola, who is an award winning author of eight novels. Her novel, Rebekah’s Treasure, won the 2014 Readers Favorite Bronze Award for Christian Historical Fiction and the 2015 Book of the Year Award, Christian Small Press Association, for Historical Fiction. The Salt Covenants was the 2015 Readers Favorite Bronze Award winner for Christian Historical Fiction.

What drew you to the idea of writing your first mystery/suspense novel?
I like suspense. That’s why I gravitate to it and have employed suspense to some extent in all my novels. My personal belief is that all books should contain at least some suspense elements. In a romance novel it is: Will the boy get girl? In contemporary novels: Does the leading character grow and develop as a person? Overcome the obstacles? In a mystery: Do the police solve the case? In a true suspense novel: Does the good guy win? Suspense is a crucial element in good story telling.

How long did it take for you to write the first book? Was it harder or easier to write your second book?
It took years to write my first novel. I’d change it, tweak it, add characters, subtract them. What I didn’t understand was all the while I was learning my craft. Each rewrite taught me something new. I can’t overemphasize this for any new writer: Don’t rush your first novel. Use it to learn and grow as a writer. Many writers never sell their first book because their training is more like “homework.” If a writer takes his/her time with their first novel, then the second, third, forth, etc. will come much faster and be far more likely to find a publisher.

Are you active in any writing critique groups?
No. And even when I was first started I wasn’t involved with one because there just weren’t any around. But I would strongly advise getting connected. It makes the process so much easier. And that means not only joining a critique group, but also going to writer’s conferences. That’s where you’ll learn from pros, meet other writers as well as agents and editors. I would not skip this step.

What type of research do you do for your books? Tell me about the process.
Research is critical for any good novel. It creates verisimilitude, makes your story believable and gives you, the writer, credibility. My historical novels required much more research that my contemporaries, but all were well researched before taking pen to paper or rather applying fingers to keyboard. I used the same process for all my books. First, I asked myself a series of “what if" questions. That gave me the general idea of what I would need to research. Then I purchased all the necessary reference books.

When researching I like to do it with actual books that I can underline and notate. After reading all my reference books, I then go through them one by one making notes on 3 x 5 index cards. When researching for The Salt Covenants, which takes place in 1492 Spain, some of the card headers were “food” (what did people eat and cook during that period) “clothes, government, music, manners, morals,” etc. Because The Salt Covenants involved the Spanish Inquisition, as well as a voyage with Christopher Columbus, I had to research these things as well. After doing all that, then and only then will I begin writing because now I know exactly where my characters can go, what they can do, how they can behave, in order to create a realistic story.

Did you go through the normal process of pitching your book to agents and traditional publishers?
When my second novel, Refiner’s Fire, became a Christy Finalist an agent actually contacted me and asked if I wanted representation. You can guess my answer. She was able to place two of my subsequent novels before she left the agency to work for a publishing house. By then I had four traditionally published novels under my belt and it was easier to get noticed by another agent, which I happily was. 

Before Refiner’s Fire was published by Multnomah (now under the Random House umbrella), I self-published another book knowing how difficult it was for an unknown to get an agent or a publishing house to look at his/her work, I used this novel to develop a portfolio. In it, I collected all my reviews, the letters from two movie agents who wanted to pitch it as a movie (nothing came of it) and any awards (Small Press Editor’s Choice Award) and sent it off to Multnomah. And it worked. They published my second novel. Self-publishing can be an option or way of developing a name and following, and for helping you get an edge with an agent and publisher, but it’s not for everyone.

What type of publicity do you do to promote your book? What has worked best for you in
generating sales?
By far, the best publicity is word of mouth, and book reviewers will help you with this. That’s why it’s a good idea to send your book to as many legitimate reviewers as possible. But do your homework. Send only to those who review your genre. It’s pointless to send it to someone who reviews sci-fi if you write sweet romances.

What do you know now about writing/publishing that you wished you had known sooner?I wished I had known that writing and marketing are different sides of the same publishing coin, and you can’t do one without the other. This runs against the grain for most writers who love the creative process but hate the marketing and self-promotion aspects. But I had to get over that. Because a writer who doesn’t market won’t get very far.

What is the best advice you’ve been given about writing or that you’ve learned that you’d like to pass along?
First, never give up. I personally know of no “overnight wonders,” those who banged out a novel in six months them became a bestseller. There may be some, but believe me they are few and far between. Most of the time it takes years for a writer to learn his/her craft then garner an agent and publisher. So, if writing is really what you want to do, understand it may take years, but keep working at it. 

Secondly, write what you love. I know the prevailing wisdom is to write what you know, but things can be learned, and knowledge gained by research and study. But if you write what you love, what you are truly interested in, chances are you’ll get your readers interested, too. And don’t follow trends. By the time you chase a trend it’s usually over.

Any other points you’d like to cover?
I’d just like to say, “thank you” for hosting me on your blog.

That's it for today's interview. Here's a glimpse of her newest release: The Babel Conspiracy

Two women engineers struggle to develop the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft amid ever intensifying global terrorism and muddled personal lives. Trisha Callahan has an abiding faith in God, and “those roots of middy blouses and pleated skirts, prayer books and incense-filled churches went deep.” This faith is tested when she finds herself in love with a married man. Audra Shields sees herself as a modern Lady Chatterley, “liberated but not forsaking breeding, intellect, or femininity.” When she becomes involved with a dangerous stranger, she begins to question her lifestyle.

Both women try sorting out their personal problems while racing the clock to finish a project fraught with sabotage and murder. And who’s behind it all? When the Department of Homeland Security and the Mossad finally figure it out, the answer surprises everyone.

Here's the way to find out more about this book and her other novels.

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