ROBERTA GOODMAN IS BOTH A WRITER and an extraordinary woman. There’s something about Roberta that makes you look twice. Her intelligence and honesty, coupled with her unique way of ‘telling it like it is’ in her work, has garnered a huge following on the social networking sites and a large amount of respect from her peers. Her belief in herself, wavering at times, as a writer of quality has been endorsed by both the publishing industry and fellow writers, but her journey has not been without its trials. Roberta writes about life: its high spots and its tragedies: never veering from the realism that grounds us and staying true to herself. She is also an avid supporter of other writers, taking time and effort to promote and help her fellow authors on their respective roads towards success. Her latest novel, Snow Escape, is a thriller set in Brooklyn, but there is much more to Roberta than any fictional mystery would reveal. I am delighted she has agreed to share her thoughts on this blog.
1. Who do you think you are, Roberta Goodman?
Before I reveal my thoughts, I want to thank Sara for letting me express myself on her forum. I’m a complex individual and an extremely deep thinker who will always be a work in progress. I pride myself on being a mother who puts her children first, but I realized when both my kids were small I couldn’t define myself as solely a mother. It wouldn’t have satisfied my creative, imaginative side. I searched for my passion in life for a long time, so when I embarked on writing I discovered it was the best way to express myself. I have a strong need to entertain people. I want to be loved and respected for my work. I think it stems from the insecurity and low self-esteem I suffered while growing up. I never viewed myself in a positive light. I never thought I was smart enough, pretty enough, or important enough to be taken seriously. I’m a perfectionist by nature, but I’ve lived long enough to know I don’t need to be perfect in every aspect of my life. I always choose to interject my emotional, vulnerable side into everything I write because it’s who I am. I admit I’m not a person who’s easy to get close to. If I am close to someone, it’s usually for life. That being said, I’m also someone who isn’t afraid to walk away if I’ve been hurt or if I feel the person’s existence in my life isn’t helping me grow spiritually. My belief is you get out of relationships what you put into them. I don’t wear rose-colored glasses just because I happen to love someone. I have lots of flaws; those I love have lots of flaws, but I acknowledge the flaws and accept them as long as those flaws aren’t detrimental to anyone’s well-being.
2. Romantic tragedy, mystery thriller and memoir, you are obviously an author who doesn’t adhere to a particular fiction genre. Why is this?
I want my work to appeal to a wide range of readers. I don’t believe I’m capable of writing one particular genre of work, because I’m someone who only writes when inspired. I get inspired by everything, so I can’t limit myself to mysteries, horror, romance, etc. It’s also impossible for me to sit down in front of my computer and force myself to invent characters or situations that don’t interest me.
3. You say that ‘not everyone leads a satisfying life.’ How important is a happy ending to you?
Creating happy endings isn’t the predominant factor when I’m writing stories, although I do realize lots of readers enjoy them. Happy endings make them feel good. If they’re reading a love story and the main characters end up living happily ever after, it reinforces their belief in love conquering all. If they suffer from unhappy love lives, reading about others’ success in love can give them hope they will find love too. Writing happy endings can also backfire by making someone feel worse about his or her situation. I think it depends on the type of story. Some readers appreciate realism in the form of an unhappy, even tragic ending, because they can relate to it. I believe it depends on the reader’s mindset.
4. Your work has been described as ‘hard-hitting’ and ‘honest.’ In what way do these qualities reflect in your characterisation?
Many of my characters are extremely flawed, and I don’t hesitate to describe them in unflattering terms. In Snow Escape, Allegra really isn’t what she appears to be in the first few chapters. The reader learns things about her past that will make him or her question if she’s just an innocent victim or getting a dose of her own medicine. I played a bit on the karma theme to keep readers interested in digging deeper to the core of who this woman really is as an individual. In A Sojourn in Hell, Serafina is victimized as a child and carries that mentality into her adulthood. She’s someone who chooses to use alcohol to get her through the day. She’d rather feel numb than deal with the pain of losing the love of her life or the helplessness she feels being married to an abusive spouse. Unfortunately, there are lots of people who use crutches to get through life rather than deal with and conquer their issues. Her son, Dante, grows into a man who vows never to be a bully like his father, but he strays when he feels his marriage has become complacent. Instead of him leaving his wife to be with another woman, I wrote about the internal struggle he feels when a tragedy involving his wife makes the guilt of cheating on her overwhelming. I write stories to help readers escape reality. I want them to think deeply about the situations, so they can form an opinion.
5. Tell us a bit about your publishing journey
I apologize in advance for this lengthy response, Sara. My journey to become a published author wasn’t an easy one. In January 2009, I began writing my first manuscript. My tragic romance/family saga took ten months to complete. After many months of querying to literary agents I failed to secure representation, so I decided to set it aside. At that time I wasn’t interested in self-publishing, because I falsely believed the stigma some people attach to it, and I was intimidated by the whole process. I was also convinced the only way I’d succeed in the writing world would be through traditional means.
I was inspired to write my murder mystery/thriller, Snow Escape, in February 2010. It took me a total of five and a half months to complete it. Again, I started the process of querying to literary agents. I had high hopes someone would feel as passionate about this work as I did. I sent out over a hundred queries and waited patiently for the responses. Rejections started to pour in from about half of those queried. After several months I ended up shelving Snow Escape, because I still wasn’t ready to try self-publishing. I started doing some freelance work, because I couldn’t bring myself to write a third manuscript.
The beginning of 2011 brought major changes to my world. My husband was diagnosed with Testicular Cancer. It was an incredibly devastating time in my life. I knew I had to stay strong and find a way to deal with the stress of his having to go through surgery and chemotherapy, so I began to write a manuscript about our struggle. After I completed it I started the process of querying to literary agents, but I didn’t get very far. I was told several times our story is too personal, therefore it isn’t marketable. I made the difficult decision to set it aside.
In July 2011, something compelled me to revise Snow Escape. Within a week, through fate, I had the number of a small independent publisher. I called her up and told her about my project. I ended up sending her a query, a synopsis, and the first three chapters of my manuscript. A little over a week later I received an email stating my work was going to be published. Unfortunately, after it was published I realized how much control I gave up going with an indie publisher. It had also been my sole responsibility to promote Snow Escape, so I decided if I was going to put a tremendous amount of effort into writing, editing, and promoting my work, than I wanted to reap most of the benefits.
I spent a great deal of time during 2012 and into 2013 revising my first manuscript. I did query to a whole slew of literary agents once again but, when I realized I was just in for more rejection, I stopped and made a huge decision. I forced myself to overcome the intimidation and stigma I initially felt about the process of self-publishing, and it’s not something I regret. I published my tragic romance/family saga, A Sojourn in Hell, in June 2013. After I revised my memoir about my husband’s Testicular Cancer battle, I published it on November 1. In retrospect, I’m happy I didn’t self-publish any of my three manuscripts earlier, because all three needed to be revised. I needed to go back to each of them to make them better stories.
6. In the past, you have obviously made a serious effort to get your work ‘endorsed’ by a publisher. Do you feel that going down the traditional route of publishing (as opposed to self-publishing) somehow sanctions an author?
If you had asked me this question several years ago, I would have answered yes. I was of the belief that anyone can write a book and publish it, so it doesn’t necessarily make a book a worthwhile read. I’ve revised my belief, to a certain extent, because over the last year I’ve read some wonderful self-published stories. They were written by people just like me who were sick of being rejected by the publishing world, so they took control of their work. I’ve also read some not so wonderful stories that were in desperate need of editing. Those stories could have reinforced my belief not everyone should self-publish, but it didn’t in every case. I had grammatical issues with my first published book, which was published by someone else, so I know writers only get better by continuing to write. I’m empathetic to those who are in the same boat as I happen to be. I can’t afford to hire an editor to look over my work. Consequently, it’s forced me to become my own editor. It’s a good thing, because I don’t have the luxury of becoming lazy with my writing.
I believe my trials in life have improved my writing. Nothing inspires creativity in me more than mental anguish. The situations I’ve struggled with have forced me to dig down deep within myself to write stories readers will relate to on a personal level. I’m thoroughly involved and emotionally invested in every character I write about, and I always hope that’s evident to readers. In the case of my memoir, I initially documented the situation because I needed a way to cope. When I realized what we were going through might help others cope with a cancer diagnosis, I decided to share our story. I hope those who do choose to read Persevering through the Unforeseen: One Couple’s Experience Conquering Testicular Cancer will be comforted and inspired to fight by learning my husband is free of cancer. We survived an emotional roller coaster and they can too.
8. You are obviously a very pro-active author with a large following on the social network sites. How does effective social networking equate to success as a writer?
My Twitter account is my most effective social networking device, so I’ll use it as an example. I opened an account in October 2011 in the hope I could get readers interested in my first published novel, Snow Escape. I posted occasionally, and met some very interesting people, but I wasn’t having much success at all. I’d been on Twitter for over a year before I realized it wasn’t just about me becoming successful. The indie writing community needed as much support as humanly possible, so I made a conscious decision to promote other authors. I wanted to become a source of information where readers could find the best indie work available, so I created Tweetathons in March 2013. My Tweetathons have since grown to include musicians, small business owners, and other artists in need of support. I create tweets and retweet others, so I’ve built up reciprocal relationships. I have hundreds of followers who are more than happy to promote my work, and I can say I truly enjoy spreading the word about the creative people I meet on an everyday basis.
I approach the review process with an open mind. I admit it’s always frightening putting my work out into the world to be critiqued. I genuinely care about readers’ feedback, because I’m interested to know their thoughts. If one of my stories has flaws, knowing about them will help me become a better writer. No author wants to read a negative review, but I believe they’re inevitable. You can’t please everyone. The most important thing to me is learning someone was totally engrossed in my story, so if I accomplish that it means more to me than if I get a million five-star reviews.
10. What’s next for author Roberta Goodman?
At the moment I’m actively promoting my memoir, Persevering through the Unforeseen: One Couple’s Experience Conquering Testicular Cancer. I hope to reach as many readers as possible. I’ve recently gone back to working on a chick lit themed manuscript I started about a year ago. It’s about a woman who starts having increasingly erotic dreams and her quest to find out why it’s happening. Inspiration left me once before, so I can’t promise it won’t again. I have a tendency to start projects, only to abandon them.
Facebook Author Page- http://on.fb.me/Wm9RBE
Buying info for Persevering through the Unforeseen: One Couple’s Experience Conquering Testicular Cancer:
Amazon UK- http://amzn.to/19Z4BqY
Barnes & Noble- http://bit.ly/182d8WW
Buying info for A Sojourn in Hell:
Amazon UK- amzn.to/15MdlCe
Barnes & Noble- bit.ly/168oIAJ
Buying info for Snow Escape:
Amazon UK- amzn.to/1h1FjfF
Write Words Inc- http://www.writewordsinc.com/snowescape.html
Barnes & Noble- bit.ly/11x6dBK