Books And Bites: Congratulations on the publication of your novel(s)! Tell me a little about the book – what’s your pitch?
Kaitlyn Jane Mauro: Thank you! It’s all been very exciting, I still can’t believe it sometimes when I hold my book in my hands. You put so much work and energy into it and you watch it evolve and grow for such a long time and then to see it finished and looking like every other book you’ve ever loved or despised or admired, it’s crazy. I definitely get very attached to my work; it’s such a personal thing to be putting out into the world. Especially a book like One Six Billionth, because it’s essentially me, poured out onto the pages, introduced. It’s creative nonfiction so it’s all true, as true as something as subjective as truth can be anyway. It’s my thoughts and my perceptions and my experiences, it’s what’s been real for me so far. A lot of it actually came directly from my old journals and blogs and such – I’ve always written whenever the mood strikes me, so a lot of my words end up in book margins or on napkins or the backs of iced coffee receipts. I try to describe the book to people as sort of… this is how the world looks to me, this is how I’ve seen it and felt it. It’s divided into ‘chapters’ but they almost read more like short stories. It’s hard to describe when people ask because it’s almost a non-genre. It’s creative nonfiction but there are so many different things that could mean. It’s not easy to compare it to anything else, it just sort of is what it is. I just tell people to take it for what it is.
BAB: No two authors seem to take the same route to publication, but almost every author has an interesting story about their journey. Care to share yours?
KJM: Of course. Hmm… Where to begin… Well, to start with, I definitely went the ‘indie publishing’ route. Which is funny because I never really considered doing that until quite recently. I knew someone years and years ago who wrote a children’s book and she went with some vanity publisher who ended up completely ripping her off and then giving her a thousand copies of her own book which she then had to sell to get her costs back. That kind of turned me off to the whole ‘self publishing’ movement. I looked at it sort of like, an option for people who just wanted to have a book with their name on it but didn’t write well enough to get a real publisher to do it for them. Then, about a year ago, another friend of mine published her first book with a print on demand publisher and she showed me the light. Now I am so in love with the indie publishing movement, the whole idea of it, it’s like the ultimate in creative liberation and freedom of speech. There is a huge stigma attached to it and it’s partially well deserved, the truth is there are a lot (a lot) of poorly done self published books out there. The other side of the coin is that there are a lot of shitty books that have been ‘traditionally published’ and there are also a lot of really good books that are published by indie authors. Okay, I’m done with my rant about that. I decided to publish the book myself but it’s a very personal choice. I don’t think there is a right or a wrong route with publishing, it’s just a matter of what you want out of the experience. I didn’t really care about making a big profit or about the ‘prestige’ that’s attached to traditional publishing. I wanted to get my book out there, I wanted creative control over it, and I wanted it to happen sooner rather than later. I did a lot of research (a lot of research) into different print on demand companies and eventually decided to go with CreateSpace, which was entirely the right choice for me. Editing was actually the longest part of the process. I had the first draft of the book done fairly quickly but then I had to go back and just edit, edit, edit everything. I actually talk about the process a little bit in the book. Then there were all the other matters that need to be tended to when you indie publish. I designed the cover myself using a photograph taken by my friend Brittney Lewis, who is just an extraordinary photographer. I had been browsing through images, looking for something to use for my cover for a while and then I saw the one I ended up using and I just knew. Nothing else had quite fit until then. The title itself had been floating around in my mind for a while and it just worked. And so it goes, you go through process after process and you kind of figure the system out as you go – that’s how indie publishing worked for me anyway. Now I am trying to learn about the process of publishing an e-book version of One Six Billionth, I am currently working with LuLu Publishing for that one. That’s another great thing about independently publishing – you get to keep all of the rights to your book, you can make new editions or publish with other companies. You are in control of everything, which was very important to me as an artist, because I do think of my writing as my art. I didn’t want someone else changing my words or designing my cover.
BAB: How did you get the idea for your book?
KJM: I had actually read some other books in the genre, books of creative nonfiction and memoir-type books, and I was really intrigued by the authors and why they would choose to write that sort of book. I loved how raw and honest and authentic they were. Writing One Six Billionth actually gave me the chance to kind of ‘introduce myself’ to the world of writing. Like, now when I go to write my short stories and my fiction pieces, people who read One Six Billionth will know where I am coming from. It gives my other work a bit more background and color. I love learning about how other people think and see things and function on a day-to-day basis, especially writers and artists and travelers, my favorite kind of people. I was just inspired by other creative nonfiction books and memoirs, basically, and once I started the project it sort of snowballed. It’s incredible how much you realize about yourself when you try to write about your own thoughts, especially if you are trying to do it somewhat objectively. You force yourself to be honest about the things you might rather embroider and tint.
BAB: Do you have another book in the works?
KJM: I do. I always have some sort of project going on, I am a very ‘project oriented’ person. I tend to work on one thing quite obsessively until it’s done, then I move onto the next thing. Right now I am actually taking part in my own private little NaNoWriMo, that is to say – I am attempting to write 50,000 words during the month of March. It’s a real challenge to force yourself to write everyday and to stick with the same story for 30 days straight. Some days you will be so in love with your characters and your plot and other days you will be feeling like such an insecure nutcase, thinking about what a mess it is and how boring and uninteresting. Some days you are going to feel like a huge fraud, it’s just the truth of being a writer. The important part is that you keep writing everyday, if you do that then eventually you will have created something. I am a little bit behind on my writing at the moment, I only have about 25,000 words at last count, but I’m not stressing about it. I’ll catch up again soon. I am hoping to have it out at some point later this summer – that’s the goal anyway. I don’t have a title for it yet. I’ve been surprised by how different writing fiction is compared to writing creative nonfiction.
BAB: When did you know you wanted to become a writer?
KJM: Oh always. I always knew that writing was something I needed to do. Like I said earlier, it’s just kind of the natural progression from my love of books and words, it’s the next step. I am not sure what the third one is yet.
BAB: In writing your book, what was your most surprising discovery?
KJM: Hmm… The fact that people actually enjoy it, probably. I always write for myself, I write the kinds of stories I want to read. Then some days I will get emails from people who read One Six Billionth who just really enjoyed it and who needed a new angle or perspective or even just to escape from their own head for a short while and they tell me how the book effected them. I definitely haven’t gotten used to that yet but it’s the best feeling in the world. Another thing that’s surprising is how little changes when you ‘become an author’. I always sort of saw authors as these literary goddesses who walk around filled with quiet contentment and inspiration and creativity all of the time and that’s definitely not how it is. The fact is that some days you are still going to feel completely worthless and you are going to feel very insecure and you will have writer’s block. They always say ‘everyone is writing a book, everyone is going to be published’ but it’s finishing things that’s the trick, the fly in the chardonnay. The actual act of making yourself sit down to write everyday, that’s what makes you a writer.
BAB: What’s your writing routine? Do you write in the mornings, nights, daily, or when the mood strikes you?
KJM: I haven’t really developed a routine yet. I try to write daily because that’s the only way I can get things done. I tend to drink a lot while I write, coffee or tea or whatever. I am a firm believer in index cards and post it notes – I use them to organize everything. I use the to write down random ideas I get while I am out or home or anywhere. I use them to organize my characters and my plots and subplots. I record anything that inspires me, anything at all. Also, I am not really a fan of routine; I like to keep things spontaneous and unpredictable. I really hate structure, generally.
BAB: What experience did you have with your publisher? Good? Bad?
KJM: Excellent, I have never had any problems with CreateSpace. Not so far anyways. I would definitely recommend them to other people who have a book they want to indie publish. In my opinion, they are the best of the POD publishers. Also, the fact that they are owned by Amazon, the biggest bookseller in the world, is a big plus from a marketing and distribution standpoint.
BAB: If you had to pick one author as your favorite, who would it be?
KJM: Anne Lamott, always.
BAB: Finally, thank you for taking part in this interview. Before you go, what message would you like to send to your fans?
KJM: Hmm… I guess I would just like to thank them for reading this interview. I would encourage them, if they want to write or if they feel like they have something to say, that they should do it. I would tell them to not worry so much about being judged or being liked, to worry about experiencing life and about finding the things that light them on fire. I would tell them to let themselves be filled with wonder and to be inspired, to seek out the beauty in the world. I would tell them to try to live life unafraid, that’s my biggest thing. I am trying to learn to live my life unafraid. To realize how short and fragile it is and to try everything. ‘All life is an experiment’ – Emerson. I have this tattooed on my wrist because it is so important to remember.