Listen in...Episode 2, on Tenterhooks by Elizabeth Rago
Welcome to the Indie Chicks show! I’m your host, Melissa Koberlein. I’m an author and professor of publishing. If you’re just tuning in for the first time, let me tell you about the show. Indie Chicks celebrates and supports independent women in publishing. We’re a place for writers at all stages of the publishing process. So, whether you’re on the traditional route to publication or self-publishing, you’ve come to the right place for advice. Each week, I invite a guest host to join me for a hot topic in publishing or a book review. I end each episode with a tip of the week.
This week I’m joined by Elizabeth Rago. Syndicated columnist, Elizabeth, brings to life a realistic conversation about being female in the world today with The Modern Domestic Woman. After spending time in the corporate and retail worlds, Elizabeth switched careers to freelance writing and found women's lifestyle content to be her cup of tea. Supporting women-owned businesses with meaty conversation stirring content, Elizabeth also spent two years emerged in the luxury design world (think living in a "Dream Home" Pinterest board). Now Elizabeth is ready to be unapologetically real, highlighting all the beautifully intricate details of being a woman, and welcoming the not-so-perfect elements too, with The Modern Domestic Woman.
Next, Elizabeth read her back cover copy. What a treat to have the author with me for this!
A story of hope despite the hand you’re dealt, On Tenterhooks is the story of Lucy, a job-hopping and scattered young woman, and her best friend Claire, a brilliant entrepreneur and single mother. Their lives simultaneously come to a halt when they discover the diary of a young woman hidden in the walls of Lucy’s Chicago apartment.
The story reveals all too similar parallels to their own lives and comfort knowing women (no matter what era in which they are living) all wrestle with similar struggles.
Now, here's my review:
On Tenterhooks is a beautiful story about friendship and the everyday struggles that women face. The story follows two close friends, Lucy and Claire, and takes place in present-day Chicago. But, when Lucy discovers a journal hidden in the wall of her apartment, she learns of another woman’s story from the past.
I LOVED IT.
There are some truly beautiful descriptions, and both Lucy and Claire felt real. And, granny? Adored her. It was one of those books that I looked forward to going back to like a warm cup of coffee. The trials and tribulations of the women truly resonated with me. I think this novella will appeal to women of all generations.
Questions for Elizabeth:
1. What inspired you to write the novella?
My Grandmother inspired quite a bit of On Tenterhooks. She did not have the most pleasant upbringing, her father was extremely abusive, and she was left to care for her younger siblings while her mother worked. The story features women from both the 1930s and the present day, so my grandmother played a huge role in making that story come together. The modern female characters, Lucy and Claire, have evolved over the years, both have similarities to my own personality. In college, I liked to drastically change my hair and I thought what would be fun would be to develop a character that changed her hair every time something good/bad happened to her. It started as a screenplay, and then I wrote it as a very short story. Then after 6 rewrites, I was ready to publish the final novella.
2. Are you more like Lucy or Claire?
I’m a mix of both. In my 20s I was very haphazard, making stupid mistakes and running from them to forget. Yet, later on in my 20s and 30s, I morphed into more of a Claire, responsible, full of ideas, and itching to be a successful entrepreneur. I also share a lot of Claire’s struggle with anxiety.
3. How do you come up with ideas for your books?
I love reading, but I don’t have time for long novels, so I stick to short reads and articles from various publications. Most of the time when I come up with an idea it’s because I’ve slowed down my day considerable and just taken in what’s around me. It sounds very “woo woo” spiritual and reflective, but it’s not. I simply put away all screens, get out into nature and open my eyes to what’s around me. My next novella, “The Neighbor,” came about when I was house hunting and came across a creepy house. Instead of washing it away from my memory, I stepped back while I toured the house and let the weirdness soak in. I immediately thought, “this would be a great setting for a ghost story.”
My third novella came about from participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) 2017.
4. In regards to your writing, are you a plotter or a pantser?
At first, I’m a panster, I can’t create complicated outlines and plots and stories. I let the characters talk to me. I think about them night and day, marinate in them almost. But as the story grows, I step back and organize. I plot out the story after I’ve established who these people are. I also write short stories about these characters aside from the main story I’m writing. Then, round and round I go - flying by the seat of my pants and planning, editing, rearranging… It’s an exhausting process, but I love creating that way.
5. Do you listen to music when you write? If so, is there a genre/type that you listen to?
Ooooh! I love this question, and the answer is YES, but not all the time, sometimes I need silence to write. For On Tenterhooks, I listened to Ingrid Michaelson, Sara Bareillis, Regina Spektor, Christina Perri, and Allison Krauss on a loop. Lots of Indie pop - all women singer/songwriters.
6. On Tenterhooks is self-published. What is your favorite part about self-publishing?
The freedom of it is wonderful, yet causes an abundance of self-doubt. I do love being able to market and talk about my book the way I want to.
7. Biggest headache about self-publishing?
Having to do everything yourself: the marketing, the PR, all the social media planning…Paying for everything out of pocket. It’s also frustrating when someone asks, “what publishing house picked you up?” When I reply, “I self-published,” it’s almost like some people don’t believe that ‘s “really” publishing. After being rejected over 25 times (I stopped counting after 25 rejection letters that said my story was too short and that marketing and selling a novella was impossible), I just couldn’t believe I was the only writer wanting to publish a shorter read. So, I decided to create Nibble Fiction, a publishing house for writers who want a professional platform to share and publish their work. I’m open to submissions anytime, but I’m taking Nibble Fiction forward slow and steady, using my own novellas as a learning experience. I want to fine-tune how I publish, print, and market my work so I can be the best of help to other female writers looking to have a guide through the self-publishing and marketing journey.
8. Do you have a small tip about self-publishing you’d like to share with our listeners?
Pay someone to copy edit your book and allow people to read and give you feedback on your story.
9. Tell me more about The Modern Domestic Woman.
Oh my goodness, I’m so excited about the future of The Modern Domestic Woman! I started writing about being a modern domestic woman in 2011 for various publications and platforms. Pinterest had just started to pick up momentum, and I was feeling the pang and pressure of “not doing enough” - I wasn’t making fresh baby food and crocheting scarves for gifts, refinishing furniture, creating handmade invitations for get-togethers, lathering on homemade pumpkin peels, keeping a tidy and cute home, AND all the while, being a mother and effortlessly working full-time - perfectly poised and on trend with an amazing wardrobe.
As I neared a nervous breakdown from all these impossible expectations, I realized something had to give. While I enjoyed the pretty perfectly styled pictures in my lifestyle magazines and longed to fill every moment of downtime with DIY projects (yet still pausing to take in moments and just “be,” the quiet voice in me urged, “You can do anything Elizabeth, but not everything.” That soft reflection brought about a new voice amid the hustle of being a domestic goddess - one of hope for a happy home, an appreciation for pretty things, and a sprinkling of imperfection - namely, my voice. I reasoned there had to be other women like me out there, and I wanted to find them. I now have a delightful community on Facebook that chats about anything from decor to fashion, health, and wellness, and especially - other amazing (and beautifully imperfect) women. And humor - lots and lots of humor.
Currently, I have a column with an Illinois-based publisher, where I highlight hyperlocal women and business owners in addition to my main blog on themoderndomesticwoman.com. I’m also working on expanding The Modern Domestic Woman (MDW) nationally and recruiting "Correspondents" (contributing writers) to tell the stories of other fabulous women around the country. I've had many requests from readers who are not hyperlocal to the Chicago area to have a MDW columnist in their areas (San Fran, Connecticut, Dallas, and even England!)
Tip of the week: Give beta readers a guide for what you’re looking for. Whether it's a questionnaire or a list, beta readers need direction on what kind of feedback you're looking for.
Thanks for coming on the show, Elizabeth. Where can listeners find you?
Facebook - The Modern Domestic Woman
On my next podcast, I will have the great literary agent, Kelly Peterson as my guest host. The topic? New adult books! Defining the category and current trends. I will also have another Tip of the Week.
And don’t forget where to find me! Find my podcast at indiechicks.net or follow me on Spotify or subscribe to Indie Chicks on iTunes. Please rate me! You can follow me on Twitter @Indie_Chicks or Facebook.com/TheIndieChicks or @TheIndieChicks
So, remember, we’re all part of a publishing community, be kind and review your fellow authors’ books! Thanks for listening!
Indie Chicks out.