May 1, 2011

Becoming a Published Author

A long time friend of mine, Pascal Marco, is about to do what he has dreamed of for years: have his first novel published. Identity:Lost will be available everywhere beginning in early June. If you have ever thought of writing a book, Pascal has some insights you will find useful. Even if you aren't a writer, I thought you might find his story inspiring.  I posed a series of questions to him. Here are his answers.

Q. Have you been a writer all your life ?

I’ve always loved putting words on paper to express my thoughts, and have always loved to expand my vocabulary. My Dad was very big on a strong vocabulary.  His idea of “the good book” was the dictionary. He was a newspaper intellectual and loved to read about current events and challenge all of his children to analyze the events of the day and discuss them.

I actually started writing in grammar school. A friend and I would write episodes of our favorite TV show. That taught me a lot about the power of  imagination. In high school, I wrote for the school’s newspaper as a sports editor. This is when I learned a lot about the job of being a journalist and what you could and couldn’t do in terms of reporting vs. editorializing. In college I became the op-ed writer for a fledgling college monthly.

Q. When did you know you wanted to write a novel?

 When I started writing for fun again in my 50's I didn't realize I wanted to write a novel until I joined the Scottsdale Writers Group (SWG). We met every other week to discuss and share our work. When I started listening to the fiction writers share their work I was intrigued by the format and the genre. At that point I decided to write my story as a novel. Little did I know how tough the task would be and what a long road I had ahead of me.

Q. How much time has been invested in bringing Identity:Lost to reality?

The story first came to me in July 1979. I read about the brutal attack and eventual murder of an 88-year-old man riding his bike in Chicago where I lived at the time. That story stayed buried for almost 27 years. When I joined the SWG in 2006 I decided to take that murder and use it as the framework for the murder in my book.

Three years ago I finally had a completed manuscript after writing and rewriting part-time at night and on weekends. Then, it took another two years to find a publisher for the manuscript. Finally, in March 2010 I was told it would take another year, but the novel would be published.

Q. How do you balance a full time job and writing a novel? 

Balance is the operative word here. More like survive. I have a sole proprietorship company, Pascal Creative Group,  which after selling my previous business became my sole income source. That was tough. I worked in sales all day and wrote at night.  But, I think the biggest test was with my marriage. Without the undying and completely unselfish support of my wife of nearly thirty-eight years, I could have never accomplished this feat. She sacrificed many, many hours of not having me around as I’d escape to various retreats and venues to write. I owe an awful lot to her, more than she’ll ever know.

Q. What were the most difficult parts of getting your book ready to publish?

By far the most difficult part for me was maintaining the belief I could get the book traditionally published versus settling for self-publishing. Maintaining a positive attitude throughout the process has also been a huge challenge.  I developed a very thick skin to deal with the ups and downs on the road to getting a book published.

Q. What is it like to work with an editor? How do you overcome the urge to be defensive about what you have written?

When I hired an editor a lot of good came from the process because the editor was able to look at my story objectively. That helped immensely with developing characters and clearing up plot problems. But when I saw the editor start trying to change my "voice" with the way she manipulated a paragraph or even a sentence and it just didn't sound like me, I had to put stop to it.

I think you'll know right out of the gate whether an editor is good or bad for you. A very good editor will take your stuff and make it better without you even noticing.

Q. Once you have a deal to publish your book, is the work over?

I have worked harder since getting the deal than before. Before the deal I didn’t know the rules and all the nuances of what to do. My attitude was: what was the worst that could happen?  Once I had received the publishing OK I felt the pressure was now on to make sure I took advantage of this potentially once in a lifetime chance. So few are rewarded with this opportunity. For the last year I’ve been driven to make sure I give it my very best to promote my book.

Q. What one piece of advice would you give to aspiring authors?

It’s never too late to live your dream. If you’re a baby boomer like me, go for it. If you’ve got a story to tell,  get it down on paper. Don’t worry about style or grammar or format or any of that. Just put your butt in the chair and start typing.

I will be at Pascal's book-signing at The Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, AZ on June 11th and Barnbes & Nobles in Scottsdale on June 12th. I wouldn't miss them for the world. I am proud of him and happy for him. Also, check out his web site for more information.

Pascal at book signing in Scottsdale, AZ
 Your take-away: you can accomplish your dream whatever it is. Time, effort, belief in yourself, and a willingness to fail and look stupid on occasion is part of the process of building a satisfying retirement. The payoff can be a real kick. Just ask Pascal. Give it a go.

note: Identity:Lost is available through bookstores and Amazon. I am helping Pascal promote his book as a friend. I am receiving no compensation.


  1. Congratulations to your friend! Getting a book published these days is no small feat. The competition is fierce.

    I used to read about these women who "just knew they could write a book" and sat down at the kitchen table and popped one out and got it published - just like that. That type of thing doesn't often happen anymore unless you know someone in the publishing industry who can help you.

    There are lots of options these days tho for publishing online too. Kindle has a feature where you can add your book to their listings so there is no printing involved.

    Just an aside for the easily discouraged - I recently read that Kathryn Stockett's book "The Help" was rejected 39 times before it was published. Once it was published, it went on to the NY Times bestseller list for months.

  2. Hi Joan,

    Pascal did invest the time and energy required to turn his dream into reality. I don't think he suffered through 39 rejection letters, but he did receive several.

    Even if you have never written a word in your life, one of the keys to success in anything is perseverance and believing in yourself. His story is a good example.

    I intend to produce a 2nd edition of the Building a Satisfying Retirement e-book and make it available though Amazon as a Kindle-available download. Exciting times!

  3. What a pleasure to read your interview with Pascal. I can relate in many ways, as a writer who has been through six years of writing, taking classes, attending conferences, and finally waiting to hear back from agents. It is a lot more work than most expect when they start off. The book proposal was excruciating to write, as far as studying all the potential markets and "unique" ways you can market your book. I love marketing, like Pascal, who is in sales, and I think if you have that aspect to your personality, you're ahead of the game. I'm very happy for Pascal, and like the advice he gives that it's never too late to start writing and to be successful. Good luck with your NEW AUTHOR CAREER.

  4. Hi Sonia,

    Thanks for adding your comments and perspective to Pascal's journey. As a writer yourself, you know first hand the struggles involved. The marketing of a book is a key step toward success, but one that many authors are probably unprepared to tackle. In Pascal's case his sales background did give him an extra leg up.

    Note: Sonia is moving toward getting her book published. I will have an interview with her sometime in the next several weeks. Look for it.

  5. Good interview, impressive subject. I have much admiration for writers, painters, and musicians who have the grit and perseverance to get their work made visible (a favorite definition of an artist is "one who lives his life out loud"). The business end of creativity is a daunting one, I'm sure.

    I wish all the best of good fortune to Pascal and his book.

  6. Hi Steve,

    Thanks for the comment. Pascal has put a lot of himself into the is project. Speaking of artists, after reading your interview on Ralph Carlson's blog, maybe Pascal should have you write a song on the banjo to accompany his book!

  7. Not me! I did some (mediocre?) writing years ago (some plays, co-wrote a musical - did the book and the lyrics). A wonderful challenge that scratched that creative itch and made it so much clearer how difficult it is to put pen to paper.

    Which also helped me to be a more empathic language arts teacher with my fifth graders (I hope). I found that some could quite easily sit down and write on any topic I gave. But most needed a structure created for them before they had the foggiest idea of where to begin (personally, I found that creating a structure liberated me to write more than just "following my muse").

    Still, it has been clear to me that my passions lay elsewhere than writing, but all this surely gave me enormous respect for quality writers of all forms and mediums. Thus, all due homage to Pascal (and quality bloggers like y'all).

  8. Thanks, Steve, but playing the banjo takes real talent, as does handling 5th graders!

  9. Bob,
    You never asked me this question but I thought you and your readers might like to know this fact, which I'm admitting to for the first time in public: I kept an Excel spreadsheet of every submission I made to agents and publisher's. It totaled more than 60 rejections. But, most importantly, there was 1 acceptance.

  10. Morning, Pascal,

    60 rejections! You had never mentioned that before. That is amazing. OK, Joan, I stand corrected.

    It was that one "Yes" that made so many "No" answers worth the pain!

  11. Two comments... My first book was published by a large New York publishing house. As I didn't care for the experience of working with the large publisher, I started my own publishing company and self-published my second and third books.

    Second, the most important fact that any new author must realize is that he (or she) is to do all of the promotion for their book. Bill

  12. Hi Bill,

    Hope the party at your home a few days ago to launch your own new book went well.

    Pascal is learning that promotion of a book is a massive undertaking. His book-signing appearances alone will have him on the road for a few weeks in June.

  13. What a great interview! I was lucky enough to be involved in the SWG when Pascal was working through his story. I believe a great deal of his success can be attributed to the fact that he is so open minded when taking critique. Rather than be defensive about his work, and insulted that someone should try to "correct" him, he took every comment with pen in hand, taking notes, and saying things like, "that's a great idea, thanks!"

    That, and his perseverance paid off. Not to mention the fact that it's just a good story :)

    It's so thrilling to see one of our own reach this point of success. And Pascal, I'm SO happy you stuck to traditional publishers, rather than self publishing. Congrats again!

  14. Hello Heidi,

    I think you are a first time commenter. If so, welcome. I completely agree with what you say about Pascal. I've known him for probably 15 years dating back to when he, his wife, and I were docents at Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright's home in Scottsdale.

    He hasn't changed. He has always been positive, enthusiastic, and open. Those are important qualities for a successful life.

    I actually attended a handful of SWG meetings with Pascal 3-4 years ago. Your name sounds quite familiar.

    Maybe we'll meet at his book signing in Tempe or Kierland.