Welcome to the six hundred and thirteenth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with non-fiction author and poet Dorothy K Fletcher. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Dorothy. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Dorothy: I have lived the bulk of my 62 years in Jacksonville, Florida. The experiences I have had and the connections that I have made as an educator have helped me immensely in furthering my writing career. My most recent books have been local histories about the 50s and 60s in Jacksonville. They were put out by The History Press, a company located in South Carolina and London.
Morgen: Topography is incredibly popular. My aunt’s written seven books about her town, actually not that far from London. With your non-fiction, how do you decide what to write about?
Dorothy: Most of the time, I will have a lingering image from my childhood or youth and then I begin researching the event that is behind the image. Usually, I head for the main library and go through the microfilms of The Florida Times Union or the now-closed Jacksonville Journal. After that, I start calling people for interviews and then, as things are revealed, I start a “retelling” which includes all of the elements I remembered and I have discovered.
Morgen: I used to do in-person or Skype interviews and really enjoyed them, although they were time-consuming. I can get to do one a day via email (and there are plenty of authors wanting to be interviewed… I’m booked up to July!) but it was great actually getting to meet / speak to people. What have you had published to-date?
Dorothy: Besides numerous poems and articles, I have published 5 books. They are:
- The Week of Dream Horses, a children’s book, with Green Tiger Press (1984)
- The Cruelest Months, a novel about my teaching experiences in an inner city school in Jacksonville, with Xlibris (2002)
- Zen Fishing and Other Southern Pleasures, a collection of essays and poems about life in the South, with Ocean Publishing, (2005)
- Remembering Jacksonville: By the Wayside, a collection of essays written for the Florida Times Union, (2010)
- Growing Up Jacksonville: A 50s and 60s River City Childhood, a memoir about my Jacksonville childhood influences, (2012)
Morgen: I spotted Xlibris so you’ve self-published, what lead to you going your own way?
Dorothy: Yes, my second book was self-published. After many rejections, I was finally being championed by a young editor at Thomas Dunne, an imprint of St. Martin’s Press. Of course, after I revised the manuscript to suit them, it took almost a year for them to recommend another revision, which I did. I waited another year to be told a different rewrite was necessary. They wanted me to abandon my basic format because I used quotations from classics to open each chapter. I think there was concern over copyrights or fees that needed to be paid to use the quotations. At that point, I said no.
I have done very well on my own. I have sold over 1100 copies, quite good for a self-pub, and the book is now being used as a college text in an introduction to teaching class at Florida State College in Jacksonville. (It is interesting that my book has to be kept behind the counter because it has a tendency to be stolen—go figure. I suppose you could say I have arrived as a writer when people feel sufficiently compelled to steal my books).
In the teaching community, I have received many supportive comments about the book and its accurate depiction of teaching. I am afraid that traditional publishers in New York haven’t a clue what goes on in classrooms all over America, so they saw very limited possibilities for my book.
Just as a side note, I did get permissions from all living writers or the heirs of dead ones to use non-public domain quotations. I even paid Toni Morrison’s organization $35.00 and two copies of my book to use a piece of her The Bluest Eye. I think concerns over such things revealed a lack of publishing knowledge on the part of Thomas Dunne’s organization.
Morgen: It must be so thrilling to have your books used in classes – I think an aspiration of any author. It’s true you have to be careful about quoting other works but if they were ‘classics’, you’d probably find they were out of copyright and in the public domain already. Are all your books available as eBooks? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Dorothy: Remembering Jacksonville is available as an ebook, and Growing Up Jacksonville will be within a few months. And as for ebook or paper, I can honestly say that I do both. I have a Kindle and love the ease with which I am able to read lying down. I also love being able to enlarge the fonts so that I do not need glasses. Still, I love reading books, flipping the pages, and cuddling up on the sofa with one. I love that I am in an age when both are possible.
Morgen: I can probably count on one hand the authors who’ve said they only read eBooks. I love the Kindle app on my iPad (and my books are only available as eBooks so I rely on those who do read them :)). Did you choose the titles / covers of your books? How important do you think they are?