The author hot seat: That was nice. What was it?

My guest today is Tricia Drammeh, another indie author struggling for recognition. I have always been struck by the thoughtful nature of Tricia’s writing with her sensitive portraits of young people on the verge of adulthood but not quite sure what they are about to plunge into. They are all flawed human beings, some of them damaged, and not all of them come through the story without suffering. All of them though are believable and touching—the hallmark of a writer with her finger on the pulse of humanity.

J: Tell us what the story/your work is about, the setting, the background, and where it takes the reader.

T: I have four published novels in three different genres. My latest release is Better than Perfect, and it’s a contemporary novel with romantic elements. It’s based in a suburban of Columbus, Ohio. Here’s the blurb:
Twenty-three-year-old Karlie is in the type of rut some people never escape from. With few friends, no boyfriend, and no plans to graduate from college any time in the immediate future, Karlie is as stuck in her ways as the elderly neighbor she spends all her time with. When her world is invaded by two surly twins bound for criminal court, a too-good-to-be-true love interest, and a cute cop who keeps showing up at the most inopportune moments, Karlie can either fight against the changes in her life, or embrace them.

kindle cover

J: Sounds as though you have the ingredients of a maybe-romance. What inspired the story in the first place?

T: The story began as my Camp NaNoWriMo project two years ago. I thought it would be a great idea to write a vampire novel. Needless to say, this didn’t quite pan out. There’s not a single vampire in sight, though I did try to create a love interest who resembles many of the romantic heroes we find in Young Adult and New Adult novels—he’s rich, attractive, and showers Karlie with attention. At first, Karlie thinks he’s the perfect guy, but as she gets to know him, she begins to redefine “perfect.” She realizes that having a “perfect” boyfriend is not nearly as satisfying as making her own way in the world or achieving her dreams.

J: Did you try to get agents/publishers interested? What reactions did you get? Have they been helpful in promoting/marketing your work?

T: When I wrote my first novel, I did the query/rejection circuit. Most of the rejections I received were based solely on my query letter and not on the work at all. With Better than Perfect, I chose to skip the query process and went straight to self-publishing.

J: A story with a romantic element that doesn’t follow the standard romance formula must be difficult to market. Has it been a handicap not being able to stick a handy label onto your books?

T: It has. Better than Perfect loosely skirts the romance/chick-lit genres, though I worry that if I market it as “romance,” readers will complain there isn’t enough sex. The book focuses on the evolution of the main character, and in many ways, the love-interest is more of an antagonist than a romantic hero. This is why I’m on the fence about labeling it a romance novel.
Out of all my books, the most difficult book to label has been The Fifth Circle. I ended up not really promoting it at all. Though it features two young adult characters, the subject matter is too edgy to market toward young adults. With young adult books, it can be very difficult to portray realistic characters and some of the situations they face without offending parents who like to pretend teenagers live in a land of cotton candy, rainbows, and unicorns. And, since there is no fantasy or romance, I can’t market it as genre fiction. Basically, the book has been hanging out on Amazon for over a year and I’ve sold less than fifty copies.

tfc

J: That is exactly the problem that faces many writers—trying to shoehorn their book into category that just doesn’t describe the work adequately. Straight romance is easy enough to market, but there is a tendency for publishers to ask for more sweet sticky romance than the story needs. I had a YA dystopian novel turned down by a very reputable publisher because the romantic element wasn’t strong enough. Romance during the Apocalypse? In a new Ice Age? With packs of mutant wolfdogs and hordes of the undead? Then there are parental expectations to contend with when the protagonists are young people. The entire planet could be torn apart by total war but you’d still get parents complaining about swear words. So, if you don’t fit into the most popular size, how do you tackle promotion?

T: With my young adult paranormal books, I was able to contact reviewers and bloggers because those books neatly fit into genres and were clearly intended for the YA audience. That’s not to say promotion was easy—it wasn’t. But at least I had some idea where to begin. With Better than Perfect, it’s very newly released, so I haven’t done much promotion. I do plan to contact some romance bloggers and we’ll see how that goes.

J: If you were to direct the public towards your novels, whose fans would you solicit?

T: Fans of Marian Keyes, Jennifer Weiner, or Emily Giffin would enjoy my new book.

Anyone who’d like to learn more about my books can find me at my website: http://www.triciadrammeh.com. You can find links to all my books there.

Thank you Tricia for letting me interview you; I know self-promotion isn’t something you jump at. There are a lot of universal truths in your books that give them a depth not often found in novels about the trials and tribulations of young people juggling school and adulthood. There is nothing flippant or dewy eyed about your characters of the portrayal of their problems. For me, they exemplify exactly what I understand by the term young adults: young people on the cusp of adulthood, still dependant on the family environment however dysfunctional that may be, but already with some of the maturity, responsibilities, and outlook of adults.