Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Author Interview with Marta Hiatt Remembrances of Times Past

Writers in the Sky Blog welcomes author Marta Hiatt. It is a pleasure to have her share her book REMEMBRANCES OF TIMES PAST, a Nostalgic Collection of Stories and Photographs Recalling the Way Life Was in the Early Part of the 20th Century.

YVONNE: Marta, please give us a basic overview of your book.
MARTA: This book is a sentimental journey back to a time of stay-at-home moms, vinyl long-playing records, telegrams, radio days, strict rules of etiquette and manual typewriters. These are the personal memories of the enormous changes that occurred in the last century, vividly brought to life by 250 vintage photos.

YVONNE: What inspired you to write this book?
MARTA: My sister and I were doing the dishes and we started talking about when we were kids in the early '40s and there wasn't any detergent. We had to take the bar of brown soap and put it into a wire frame the size of the bar that held it together while we spent about 10 minute swishing it in the water to make enough suds for the dishpan. We also talked about how we helped mom do the laundry every Saturday morning. Of course there were no electric dryers so we had to help pull the laundry through the wringers on the machine which you turned by hand in order to get the water out. What a tedious, time-consuming job that was!

After our talk I thought people might be interested in how we lived in the early 20th century. So I wrote this book which is a sentimental journey down memory lane for the older generation and, perhaps, some surprising insights into the way life was, for those who are younger.

YVONNE: How long did it take to write it?
MARTA: I actually spent 7 years putting it together because I accumulated so many stories from a variety of people and places, and I had to assemble and scan all the photos that went with them, so it was quite an extensive project.

YVONNE: What were some of the more interesting ways you researched your book?
MARTA: I started with my own family, and then asked everyone I knew about their experiences when growing up, and sometimes I even questioned strangers when it was the right circumstance. I got some of the stories just from talking to people I met in the grocery store. Once I was sitting beside an elderly woman on a plane flight to Toronto and she told me about her teacher riding a horse to school when she was a child and lived on a farm in California’s central valley. I also got a lot of stories from the magazine “Reminisce” which is entirely written by the subscribers. I wrote the contributors and asked if I could use their stories and photos in my book and they were all happy to do so. People seem to like to reminisce about the past.

YVONNE: What do you think was the most significant invention of the 20th century?
MARTA: The most significant inventions were probably in transportation: cars that opened up the country and then planes which opened up the world. And then in the latter half of the century we had computers and the Internet, which enabled instantaneous communication with the entire world. TV would be in there too, bringing us news of the world every morning and evening, instead of going to the local movie theater on Saturdays to see what happened a week before, as I did when I was a child. Of course the invention of computers depended on what was invented before them: transistors and microprocessors, which vastly shrunk electronic equipment.

And of course there was enormous progress in the health field, such as penicillin, the discovery of DNA and vaccines which wiped out polio, the scourge of the ‘40s and ‘50s.

YVONNE: What was the worst invention?
MARTA: It’s hard to choose just one but I think a lot of people would agree that phone trees were one of the worst, where you can’t talk to a person anymore and go through the hassle of “Press 1 for this, and 2 for that,” and so on, caught like a rat in a maze, and sometimes end up disconnected and have to start all over again. Telemarketers are also a big annoyance, which also came with the invention of the telephone. I’d also classify fast food outlets one of the worst inventions, which has led to an obesity epidemic.

YVONNE: What are some of the problems we have today that we didn’t have in the early 20th century?
MARTA: Traffic is one of the biggest problems: long commutes and people sitting in their cars for 2 to 3 hours every day breathing carbon monoxide, and then finding there’s no place to park when they arrive. We also suffer from two types of pollution: the decrease in our air quality and the constant noise we’re exposed to. Sirens and jet planes booming overhead all increase our stress level.

YVONNE: Do you think life is life better now or then?
MARTA: It’s hard to evaluate that because life is difficult now in a different way. Each age has its own problems. We don’t have the hard labor that people in the early part of the century faced, and the famines and lack of physical comforts, such as outdoor plumbing, which was a real annoyance in the winter. But even though we have lots of conveniences now, I think our world is becoming increasing more stressful and putting tremendous pressure on people. People worry about job loss, and the cost of living, and paying for their children’s college – stressors that weren’t there in early 20th century.

YVONNE: Let’s talk about how you published your book with Northern Star Press. Is this your own company, a POD or did you query until you got a conventional publisher to accept your manuscript? Did you work with an agent? If so, how did you find the agent?
MARTA: Northern Star Press is a small, independent press which was formed by people I knew primarily to promote my books. It’s a joint venture. I’ve written three books so far; this one and “Mind Magic, Techniques for Transforming Your Life” and a book of inspirational quotations

YVONNE: As far as marketing, do you do more online publicity or print/radio/TV promotion?
MARTA: We do both. The publisher and I have been doing all the marketing and publicity, and so far I’ve been invited to speak on 4 radio stations and have had many good reviews both online and in the newspaper.

YVONNE: Have you hired a publicist to help promote this book? Have you worked with a publicist on any of your books?
MARTA: My Mind Magic book was published by Llewellyn Inc., and they’ve been doing all the publicity, which has worked very well because I’ve sold over 12,000 copies of it and it’s been translated into 5 different languages. The promotion for Remembrances has been primarily up to me.

YVONNE: Where is your book(s) available? Do you have a Web site or blog where we can learn more about you or your book?
MARTA: You can read excerpts from “Remembrances of Times Past,” on the website: http://wwwnorthernstarpress.com, and you can purchase my book there. It’s also available in bookstores, Amazon, and other online booksellers.

YVONNE: Thank you for giving us the opportunity to get to know you and learn about your book. I wish you well in all your writing, publishing and book marketing ventures.
MARTA: Thanks so much Yvonne, it was a pleasure. And by the way, I’m enjoying your book about life after death: “More Than Meets The Eye.”

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