Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Author Interview with Christee Gabour Atwood


Today, we have an author interview with Christee Gabour Atwood that I would like to share with our WITS community. I think you will find this very entertaining as well as informative.

YVONNE: Welcome to Writers in the Sky Blog, Christee. It is a pleasure to have you share with us today. Let’s begin with the questions most writers like to know about one another. How did you get started writing? By that, I mean what inspired you to author a book?
CHRISTEE: We all have our vision of what being an author would be like. I wanted to hear someone call me “author”… as opposed to ‘Waitress!’ I wanted to sit and drink martinis and have people beat a path to my door. (Do bill collectors count as people?) I wanted to sleep late in my beach house and wait for checks to show up at my door. (I get up at 2:30 every morning and really enjoy those days that the number of checks coming in match up with the number of bills.)

And the funny thing is, even though the reality doesn’t match the dream, I wouldn’t trade being a writer for anything in the world. I’ve decided that security, a retirement fund, health insurance, and the four food groups are highly overrated. I am doing what I love and I’d do it for nothing. The fact that this is often the case is just an inconvenience.

I had a number of inspirations. My parents owned a little weekly newspaper and I slept in the bottom drawer of their file cabinet, so the sound of a typewriter has always had a good effect on me.

My mom is a writer who has been published in major magazines and newspapers. She taught me the power that the written word can have as she wrote to battle injustice, inequality, and bad politics in Louisiana. (But it’s not true that Louisiana politicians can be bought. Only rented.)

I used to watch the Dick Van Dyke Show and wanted to be a comedy writer because I loved Buddy and Sally and wanted to work with them. (My connection with reality has always been a tad thin.)

And I’ve found writing to be therapeutic. I can write and get things out of my system, and it’s much more widely accepted than wearing tinfoil in my hat and shouting at passing cars. Don’t know why I always thought that was the alternative, but I guess I’ll cover that in therapy when I can afford to go to a real psychiatrist.

YVONNE: What is the title of your book? Give us the basic story line so we’ll know what it’s about.
CHRISTEE: Three Feet Under: Journal of a Midlife Crisis

It’s a look at the episodes of midlife. That’s the time of life from when you’re first called ma’am or sir right on through to the point where you realize you’re being nice to people just to be sure there’s a crowd at your funeral. It’s when you realize that you use your exercise bike as a coat rack and you list your hair color as “Number 186”. It’s based on my theme for life, which is “If I laugh at myself first, then the rest of the world is laughing with me, not at me.”

YVONNE: Is this the first book you have written?
CHRISTEE: No. I wrote the self-published version, Journal of a Midlife Crisis, first. Then it was picked up, expanded, revised, and sanitized for the new version with my publisher.

I’ve also got three business and training books, Succession Planning Basics, Presentation Skills Basics, and Manager Training Basics. Those are fun because I get a chance to write things to remind people to treat each other decently, even at work. I also get to laugh a little with business people who often take themselves much too seriously. That’s why I believe every corporation needs to have a rubber chicken in their boardroom.

And if we get into the books I’ve written that haven’t been published yet – well, that’s another kettle of monkeys. I’ve written enough books to wallpaper a medium-sized condo or a large-sized prison cell. Not that I’ve ever been in either of those. Really…

YVONNE: How long did it take to write this book?
CHRISTEE: Forty-five years. Mainly because this book built on the humor column I’ve been writing for many years. When it came time to actually put it all together and make it a book – that just took the six weeks of recovery time from getting spayed. A hysterectomy and all that medication made my writing seem incredibly brilliant. Although I had to discard a lot of those chapters because of a recurring use of the word “gnaarglesplact”.

YVONNE: How did you publish your book?
CHRISTEE: I did everything wrong. It was a lot of fun.

I got a lot of really good bites from publishers, but they didn’t seem to understand the concept of the book. They wanted me to rewrite it as fiction. I just couldn’t do it, so finally I self-published. It was wonderful to have total artistic control. I even designed the cover and it looked darn good to me … and my cat. Not sure how anybody else felt about it.

But, then I was able to prove that I really could market a book, so I got picked up by a publisher. They paid me seven strings of beads and tah-dah! I was a published writer!

YVONNE: Did you work with an agent? If so, how did you find the agent?
CHRISTEE: No. I want an agent!! Does anybody have any connections?? I’ve tried and tried, but they seem even harder to find than publishers for me. I think I scare them. In fact, I think I scare most people. You should see the college boys who live next door. I scare them frequently when I go into the yard to sunbathe. I think one of them changed to an alternative lifestyle because of me.

Oops, I digressed again, didn’t I? Did I mention that I have the attention span of a gnat? Back to the agent question…

I’m trying to find an agent for the sequel because I’m terrible at negotiating. I paid full price for a house. I bought a car to get the pound of free sausage that they gave out with it. Needless to say, I would prefer to have someone else go through that process for me. Wonder what J.K.’s agent is doing these days?

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?
CHRISTEE: It’s available at online outlets and bookstores nationwide. Please go to your area bookstore and ask them to order it. Then email me and I’ll send you an autograph plate to put in it. It will make it priceless! Or at least worth 25 cents more…

I have a website – http://www.christee.biz/ -- but I admit that I haven’t used internet marketing enough. That’s what I’m trying to correct with this virtual book tour. I’ve realized that this is a wonderful opportunity to connect with more readers.

I’m working on my blog now and I’m creating podcasts and pod training, as well as related merchandise that will be available online. And I’ve learned to use terms like “sexy coeds” in the subject lines of my emails to get them noticed.

YVONNE: As far as marketing, do you do more online publicity or print/radio/TV promotion?
CHRISTEE: My marketing has mainly been through promotions on radio, television, print, and in personal appearances. I’ve gotten some great coverage through really silly methods. Yes, I wore a chicken suit and wrote a book in the window of a bookstore, but it got me on CBS news site http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/12/08/print/main2241177.shtml
I was also interviewed on syndicated radio programs and various television shows and I’ve gotten lots of print coverage from that one too.

Speaking engagements are a major part of my promotion efforts. I love captive audiences so I present sessions such as “Overnight Success … The 48-Year Method” that talks about all the things I did wrong on the road to publication. I teach sessions called “Fear of Frying: Presentation Skills for Writers” and of course, the always popular “101 Uses for a Rubber Chicken” which focuses on effective uses of humor.

I am currently working on a mall tour. I want to see how many food courts I can eat at before I add a full size to my wardrobe. I’m thinking of calling it ‘The Elastic Waistbands Tour. I really like to create events as opposed to just doing booksignings or readings’.

YVONNE: Have you hired a publicist to help promote this book? Have you worked with a publicist on any of your books?
CHRISTEE: This tour is the first time I’ve worked with a publicist. It’s nice to have someone working with you on a project, instead of going it all alone!

YVONNE: Any other comments or things you would like for us to know?
CHRISTEE: I believe every person in America should buy a copy of this book. It is safer than bungee jumping. It is lighter than a pair of concrete shoes. And it has not been shown to cause cancer … yet. What more can I say?

I’d also like to invite writers to join us for National Novel Writing Month this month. Go to NaNoWriMo.org to find out more. And you can join me (User Name: TheRubberChicken) and thousands of other crazy folks who are trying to write really bad novels of 50,000 words in one month.

And did I mention that you should buy a copy of Three Feet Under: Journal of a Midlife Crisis?

Well, back to the keyboard and my adventures of “will write for food.” Thanks for this visit!

YVONNE: Thank you, Christee, for giving us the opportunity to get to know you and learn about your book. I wish you well.

1 comment:

Christee.biz said...

Yvonne -

Thanks again for the opportunity to visit with you.

You've got an incredible and really useful blog!! I'll be hanging out around here a lot. Thank goodness there's not a "No loitering" sign!!

Christee & her pet rubber chicken, Elvis