This month, BookHive is thrilled to present author of the month Ava Carmel, who tested her book Severe Silence with BookHive and is now publishing it via CreateSpace on Amazon. We could not be more thrilled for her!
Below is an interview that BookHive Queen Bee Jennifer Bowen conducted with Ava.
Ava Carmel – Author: Severe Silence: A Narrative in Poetry and Collage
JB: How did you come about writing Severe Silence? Can you tell us about it?
AC: I didn’t sit down and write Severe Silence; it’s a book that just sort of happened. Over twenty years ago, as my dysfunctional marriage was breaking down, I documented the process in dozens of collages. After finally leaving my husband I began showing these collages to friends, who recommended that I gather them into a book. I did that, but the collages alone weren’t enough to tell the story. I have always journaled, so I went through my stacks of notebooks, looking for text to complement the artwork. It was like trying to assemble a giant puzzle. No matter how I arranged the pieces, no clear picture emerged. Then I read Crazy Love, by Leslie Morgan Steiner, where she describes the domestic abuse she endured in her marriage. Reading her book gave me a framework for understanding my own experience and it became easier for me to fill in the blanks. Still, I must have revised the book at least twenty times.
JB: Tell us about your writing process. How often and when do you write? Are you in a writers’ group? Have you worked with an editor?
AC: I believe in daily writing practice, though I’ll admit that I don’t write every day. Life is hectic and there are so many other priorities, so I try to get away whenever possible. I go for long walks, to let my mind roam free. Sitting in the sand by the sea inspires me to write for hours. When I’m in a cafe drinking strong cappuccino, words flow effortlessly. And I always keep a notebook in my purse, to jot down thoughts and ideas. I then use this free writing as the basis. Natalie Goldberg’s book, Writing Down the Bones, was very influential for me, when I read it many years ago.
I have never been in an official writers’ group or worked with an editor, until now, but I have a number of friends who are writers. For years we have been reviewing, editing, and proofreading each other’s work. Also, I have been a technical writer for the last twenty years, and the discipline of technical writing has been very helpful. After working on a 1000 page reference manual, putting together a 100+ page book isn’t so daunting.
JB: Talk to me about the collages, your background in art, how the poetry and artwork come together for you.
AC: I have no official background in art or writing, but I have always been curious, creative, and eclectic. I also have dyslexia and evidently ADD, so I need to cut away the fluff and get to the point right away, or my attention meanders. Poetry and collage both satisfy this need for stark immediacy.
Newspaper headlines are meant to grab your attention and they are composed of words with spunk and presence. I cut out headlines, chop them into single words and phrases and put them in a box. Then I take some out and move them around until I see unusual combinations, and because I often misread words, I see things that others miss, like the word “together”, which contains “to get her”; or the word “abundance”, which has the word “dance” in it. In high school I had an English teacher who loved the word “linoleum” so much that he said if he ever had a daughter, that’s what he would name her. I can relate to that.
JB: What’s your plan on getting further feedback and trying to get it published?
AC: I have enough feedback now to feel confident about publishing Severe Silence and I’m about to self-publish on Amazon.
JB: How was the process of working with BookHive and our beta readers?
AC: Working with BookHive was invigorating. Because Jennifer came so highly recommended, I knew I was in good hands.
Lots of friends had reviewed the book, but they were hesitant to be overly critical. Hearing candid comments from women who don’t know me helped me make improvements. Three of the women summed the book up so beautifully and succinctly that I’m quoting them on the cover. To all the beta readers, thanks so much for being a part of Severe Silence. And to the one woman who didn’t like the book, I appreciate your honesty.
JB: Any last advice to authors out there?
AC: Write as if your life depends on it. It does.
Social media are great for encouragement. The very fact that I have followers on Instagram gives me the impetus to keep creating. It’s amazing what a few Likes can do.
Give yourself a deadline and tell your friends you’re going to publish by that date. That creates pressure and prevents stalling.
Make sure your cover is designed by a professional. It’s the best investment you can make, because these days all books are judged by their covers.
Work with a company like Author Connections. Beth Kallman Werner believed in the potential of Severe Silence and she is the one who has been guiding me through the editing, publishing, and marketing. It was Beth who recommended BookHive to me.
Write your truth, from your heart. If you are honest with yourself, your book will resonate with others. And remember what Seth Godin said in his book Tribes: “Paint a picture of the future. Go there. People will follow.”
We thank Ava so much for her time, and for using BookHive to test Severe Silence with Beta Readers. Pick up your copy on Amazon here! https://www.createspace.com/6723881.
BookHive does beta reader editorial research for authors with Fiction (all kinds), YA/Middle Grade & Memoir manuscripts.
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Tallie Gabriel is an actor, writer, and BookHive social media maven. She’s a member of InViolet Theatre and works with BEDLAM Theatre in NYC.
She currently lives in Astoria and at the Strand Bookstore.