Author Shar Lemond discusses her newly-released novel: Travel Secrets: Book One – Rio de Janeiro – part 3

Q. “How did you come up with the idea for the bet? And where does the inspiration for his character come from?”

A. “As I said before, I had the Rio scoop many years before I’d even started writing. By the way, this is a bona fide scoop, which is yet unknown to the American travel industry. When I started writing Travel Secrets I knew I was going to have a travel writer discover this scoop, and I knew she was going to illustrate a different perspective on body image, which today is called Body positive, or Bo Po for short. In the first version I gave my editor, T. Greenwood, there was no bet. My editor said the manuscript needed a “call to action,” or higher stake to bring about the tension. So the bet was born. As for the inspiration for Ryan, I can’t discuss that in detail without giving away too much of the following books.”

Q. “Was there anything this editor encouraged you to remove?”

A. “I took out a lot of small things, but I took out something huge thanks to the feedback of a New York agent who said she was interested in Travel Secrets. You see, the first four chapters were in America, and then the action continued in Rio. This agent said it felt as though the story was cut up and that a second story was beginning in Rio. It broke my heart, but I took out those four chapters and the prologue. I did it because of a question a blogger had asked: “Are you sure you started your book at the beginning?” (I’m sorry, but I can’t remember the actual blog or blogger, but I’m very grateful to whomever it was). I had to admit to myself that starting right in the action, when Ryan is about to fire Rachel, and then she bets him, is the place to start. Now I’m also an avid fan of showing things in real time and avoiding flashbacks, unless you can’t do without them, and if they serve a purpose in advancing the plot (I thank my second editor, Sione Aeschliman, for that). So almost everything happens in real time, which puts the reader right in the action.”

Q. “If you’ve made these changes, why isn’t that agent representing you now?”

A. “It turned out she was a predator out to scam new authors into paying huge sums in advance for possible future representation. There are many traps new authors can fall into, and I’m relieved I’ve avoided it. I chose to do the changed version with T. Greenwood, who edited the book before I showed it to the agent. She knew the novel and I wanted her to see my improvements, plus she gave me a discount for the second editing. But when I proudly showed the editing to the agent, her representative vaguely said we need more changes, without any specifics. The agent has an editing company (which is a conflict of interest), and she would offer to edit it for thousands of dollars in advance. New authors are often desperate for representation, which is how some people take advantage of them. Writers want to write and for someone else to take care of the publishing and promoting. But I couldn’t afford more editing. I’d told her I need to think about it, but knew it was an impossibility. After a few weeks I realized that the good reviews I had read about her were from authors she had actually represented , but there had to be more. I wanted to know more about what writers thought about her. So I changed my Google query and found a website called Glassdoor. There I found reviews by ex-employees. And my goodness! I’d definitely hit the mother load. Every single employee had complained about her, but the review that stood out the most was the longest and most detailed. What’s more, it was written by a girl with the same name as the one who used to be this agent’s personal assistant before she mysteriously disappeared. She was so sweet to me in our correspondence, I’d actually missed her when she was replaced. Then I saw this chilling review about how this agent treats her staff and about how she takes advantage of writers to make money, but it was worse than that. This ex-employee claimed the agent’s main source of income was the money she charged writers for editing, not from profits she made from promoting her clients’ books. In short, I’d dogged a bullet there, but my heart goes out to the authors she’d scammed. I don’t understand how her public image is still untarnished!”

Q. “That sounds like an awful experience. Is that why you eventually chose to self-publish?”

A. “That was one reason. Another was that, in spite of exhaustive research into many agents’ wish lists, no one seemed interested. Even though Travel Secrets ticked many of their boxes, no other agent had asked to read it. Seventy percent of them got back to me with a polite no, while the rest didn’t even bother with that. I have no doubt they’re all very busy, since the market is inundated with books, but it’s still somewhat of a mystery as to why someone asks to read women’s fiction, contemporary, body image, or self discovery, and yet was not interested in reading my book. Finally, I got tired of trying. But as I learned the craft of self-publishing (a stressful, self-taught, two-month crash course), I’d realized this is the path for me. I want to maintain full control of everything. An agent would have probably wanted further editing, changed the cover, and maybe even the title, all of which I had no intention of doing. I plan on blogging about the process of self-publishing soon, in the hopes of saving other authors some time in trying to figure it all out.”

Q. “So are you going to do it all yourself?”

A. “Only at first, because of financial constraints. After all, I’m a homeschooler married to a historian. But I plan on crowd-sourcing this summer for book promotions, to make an audio book, and to be able to hire tutors next year so that I can write books two and three full time. Without homeschooling, I know I can finish each book in under a year, since they’re all planned out. Furthermore, I’m going to try and get a company to represent Travel Secrets in Brazil. There are companies who work with Indie authors and I suspect/hope Brazilians will fall in love with it. After all, Travel Secrets unravels the essence of Brazil.”


Author Shar Lemond discusses her newly-released novel: Travel Secrets: Book One – Rio de Janeiro – part 2

Q. “Where did you get the inspiration for your heroine, Rachel?”

A. “There is so much of the young me in Rachel. I was bullied extensively for my curvy body and I was as shocked as she is to learn that not the whole world thinks that skinny is the ideal. I was also considered an oddity for my positivity and for my refusal to curse all the time. But even though I grew up as a quiet, imaginative wallflower, I changed myself into a punk by fifteen, and into a confident woman by nineteen. So when I sat down to write Rachel, I wrote her as having been transformed already, a transformation I was going to show via flashbacks. But then I realized that starting with a transformed heroine is not as powerful as illustrating how she changes and grows before the reader’s eyes. So Rachel starts out as being shy and insecure, which I’d based on similar types, but it mostly came out of my imagination.”

Q. “Does this have anything to do with writing Travel Secrets in the first person?”

A. “Absolutely! Even though first person perspective is limiting, I had to write the book that way. It was imperative to show the reader what it’s like to be inside an active, questioning mind.”

Q. “Why is it limiting?”

A. “Because I can never show anything that didn’t happen to Rachel. I can never show any conversation or event that she’s not directly involved in. For example, if I want to show Chantal and Kevin conspiring against her, I can’t, because that would have to be written in the third person, and I wanted consistency. Still, I love writing the book this way. I think that affording a glimpse into someone’s thought process is one of the best gifts an author can offer his readers.”

Q. “What other gifts, as you put it, can an author offer his readers?”

A. “To me, a huge value is to write a contemporary novel, showing what characters are doing in our time, and how do they deal with problems we as human beings in the 21st century confront. Also, I mostly write about problems of choice, meaning I steer clear of accidents, diseases, tragedies, etc., and if they’re there, they’re not something that happens to the main characters or that shapes the plot. To write about what a character chooses to do, especially in a difficult situation, is what literature is all about. To show us what a hero chooses to do is to take an abstraction like courage and make it directly perceivable to the reader. Take Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables for example. Jean Valjean encounters kindness for the first time in his life after stealing the bishop’s silverware. He is caught and brought back to the bishop’s house, but the bishop not only refuses to condemn him, he also gives him his precious candlesticks. This one act elucidates to us, the readers, and to Valjean that different kinds of people exist, some with incredible good and benevolence in them. That is the moment in which Valjean changes by understanding what good is, and when he himself changes into a good man. And just to be clear, I’m not comparing myself to one of the greatest writers in history, but rather using his great story as an example because it is widely familiar to people today.”

Q. “Can you give us an example of how this happens to Rachel?”

A. “Rachel encounters many tough situations, all brought on by her choices, all of which follow the inciting incident designed to create tension: her bet with her boss, Ryan Brooks, to find a scoop about Rio or be fired. We see her struggle, lose her nerve, shed some tears, but conquer her inhibitions and make the hard choice every, single time. She shapes herself into a different person in book one and this resolution will be tested in book two.”

— Stay tuned for part 3 of the interview with Shar Lemond

Author Shar Lemond discusses her newly-released novel: Travel Secrets: Book One – Rio de Janeiro – part 1

Q. “Where did you get the idea for your book?”

A. “I got it when I first lived in Rio, about fifteen years ago. My aunt was the one who disclosed the original scoop my heroine, Rachel Moore, ends up finding. She’s also the one who opened my eyes to the fact that Brazilians view body image differently than Americans, which is a sub-plot of the novel.”

Q. “So it took you fifteen years to write Travel Secrets?”

A. “Not exactly. I still had some growing up to do as a writer. In the interim years I wrote some short stories and two screenplays. It wasn’t until 2012 that I began writing the Travel Secrets trilogy.”

Q. “So you’ve been working on it for the past six years? That also sounds like a long time.”

A. “That’s true. I homeschool my son, so my writing time is limited. I also had to develop the entire plot for the trilogy that it is a part of, meaning that I had to know exactly what the ending of the trilogy woul be. I had begun writing book one prior to that, but I had to make a lot of changes since. The novel contained over 150,000 words before the first professional editing. It stood at 74,000 before the second professional editing, which is where it remained for the third editing, which was more thematic.”

Q. “What do you mean by thematic editing?”

A. “There are strong romantic elements in the book, but it is primarily women’s fiction. I had to make sure it came out that way, which means highlighting Rachel’s pursuit of her career as her driving force. Her dream—her purpose—which I won’t reveal in advance here—is what guides all her actions. This meant that, at least at first, she had to view her sexy tour guide, Otavio, as an obstacle to her goal of achieving a scoop.”

Q. “Tell me more about Otavio.”

A. “In an attempt to maximize her chances of finding a scoop, Rachel hires both a male and a female tour guides. Otavio is the surly, “hot” Brazilian guide who begins wooing Rachel the moment they meet. She, who’s been bullied for her curvy body and sunny disposition her entire life, including at her current job with Travel Secrets magazine, cannot comprehend why someone like him would want someone like her. When she sees Brazilians’ attitude toward curvy women, she slowly begins believing Otavio. Also, the attitude of Isabel, the benevolent, “mulatta” tour guide, and the rest of the sweet Brazilians around her, expose her to a cultural environment free of disparagement for the first time in her life. And that, too, has enormous influence on her.”

Q. “Where did you get your inspiration for Otavio?”

A. “I started thinking about types of men long ago. I looked at movie stars, especially from old movies, and made some generalizations from there. Otavio came from a poor family, so he feels he has to prove himself, but since he’s not very good with words, he made it his business to be the best at all physical aspects. When it comes to women, he’s the best at flirting, the best at dancing, and the best at love making. This is how Rachel first meets him:

He leaned back on the van and lit a cigarette. He took a long drag as he scanned me openly from head to toe with a cocky half-smile. My heart started beating faster. He was one of those guys who dripped both testosterone and a surly attitude. His muscles were chiseled and tanned, and his light brown curls had blond specks of sun in them. His amber eyes had a feral look about them, which insinuated we both knew the sole purpose for which men and women were put on this earth. I forgot everything else and just hoped I wasn’t salivating.”

Q. “Wow! If you had to pick one actor Otavio is based on, you would choose…?”

A. “Burt Lancaster.”

— Stay tuned for part 2 of the interview with Shar Lemond

Travel Secrets: Book One – Rio de Janeiro is now available!

It has been an agonizing two months. Leaning how to self-publish was not easy, especially since there is so much information out there. I’ll probably post about it soon, with the hope of saving someone else some time and sparing some nerves.

The main point is: The print version is available for purchase today! I was going to set-up pre-orders for it like I did for the eBook, but Amazon doesn’t give self-published authors that option. There’s is a very circuitous way around it, which I’ll try doing with Book Two. This time I’d already reached my “tech quota.” Yes, indeed; it’s been two months of learning technical stuff and doing no writing. The pièce de résistance was a week of a final polishing of the manuscript. I am so relieved it is all done.

Of course, now there’s promoting work, but I’m not going to do too much of that. Book Two is itching to be written this summer.

What I love about the print version is that you get to see the beautiful front and back cover like this.

I can’t stop smiling!

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