Welcome to the three hundred and thirty-sixth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with historical non-fiction author Delin Colón. 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, Delin. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Delin: My name is Delin Colón. I grew up in a small artists’ colony an hour outside of New York City, and I currently reside on the coast of the Pacific Northwest U.S., in Washington, although I’ve lived in the north and south of both U.S. coasts, as well as in Montreal, Canada. I began writing poems and short stories at the age of 8 and contributed to literary journals through secondary school and university. My undergraduate work was in French; my graduate work was in Clinical Psychology. In addition to working in psychiatric settings, I’ve been a technical writer for Sociological Abstracts, a researcher, owned a construction company, and had an agency matching writers with clients who needed them.
Morgen: My goodness, you were immersed weren’t you and psychology would be great for character building. 🙂 What genre do you generally write?
Delin: I seem to be drawn to historical non-fiction which, I assume, is due to my love of research. An added bonus of non-fiction is that the characters, details and plot already exist. Verisimilitude and believability become nearly moot points.
Morgen: I admire anyone who says they love research, it’s one of my least favourite aspects although much easier now we have the internet. What have you had published to-date?
Delin: My book, “Rasputin and The Jews: A Reversal of History” is my most recent accomplishment. It’s the result of 15 years of research, beginning with the memoirs of my great-great uncle who was Rasputin’s secretary. The book details how the anti-Semitic Russian aristocracy, clergy and bureaucracy defamed Rasputin for advocating equal rights for the oppressed Russian Jews, as well as for taking an anti-war stance.
Morgen: 15 years, wow. Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Delin: Certainly I’ve had rejections. I don’t take them personally, nor do I consider them a commentary on my work. Editors must be discerning and prioritize submissions, based on the greatest number of readers to whom they can market the product. Sometimes other works are more timely or fit into a theme or marketing program. It’s strictly business. The only way to handle rejection is to move forward – on to the next.
Morgen: Absolutely. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Delin: I do not have an agent. Whether agents are vital to an author’s success depends greatly on the author (and the publisher’s requirements). An agent will do the legwork, negotiating and can be a sounding board. If the author doesn’t have the energy, time or motivation to pitch, market and promote, an agent will make all the difference in the world.
Morgen: And leave us more time to actually write. 🙂 Are your books available as eBooks? Were you involved in that process at all? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Delin: Yes, my book is available both on Kindle and Nook. I did do the formatting myself. Personally, I do not read ebooks, nor do I own an ebook reader. I love the smell and feel of holding the actual book in my hand and physically turning the pages myself. In addition, many of the books I read are out of print anyway. I’m a dinosaur. For me, machinery distances me from the work. I’m the same way about writing. I write with pen and a pad of paper. I feel closer to the work that way: there is only the pen between me and it. Even before computers, I didn’t compose on a typewriter (an archaic reference, I know, but I think recognizable even to those who haven’t seen one).
Morgen: “I’m a dinosaur.” I love that. I type too much really as I’ve noticed (especially during our Monday night workshops) how much slower my writing is these days. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Delin: All of it. It’s an ongoing, daily task to keep finding ways of getting reviews, marketing and promoting one’s book. The process has given me an appreciation for agents and publishers who typically do it, although even with those resources, no one is going to take the time and expend the effort to sell a book the way the author is motivated to.
Morgen: Or know your ‘product’ as well as you. If your book were made into a film, whom would you have as the leading actor/s?
Delin: The focus of my book is Rasputin and his humanitarian acts. There are two actors who immediately come to mind, though each actually represents a different aspect of Rasputin’s personality. I’d choose either Liam Neeson, for his strong presence and sensitivity, or Robert Downey Jr. for his intensity.
Morgen: Both great actors (I’m especially a fan of RDJ and am SO looking forward to the new Avengers). Did you have any say in the title / covers of your book(s)? How important do you think they are?
Delin: As a self-published author (using print on demand) I was able to choose my own cover. I do think covers are very important and should reflect the tone of the book. Personally, I prefer simple, uncluttered covers.
Morgen: Me too. I did all mine and April’s Fool is as busy as they get (quite busy on that one) but the others (like Feeding the Father) are quite simple. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Delin: I am currently researching memoirs, biographies and autobiographies for my next book on true stories from the Pale of Settlement, the ghetto between the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea that most Jews were confined to by the Russian government. A single account may tell what one person experienced, but I hope to draw common themes between individual accounts to show a collective experience.
Morgen: That does sound like extensive research, just as well you love it. 🙂 Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Delin: I don’t write every day, but I do read, since intensive research precedes any writing that I do. I have never suffered from writer’s block, but have had to take time to consider and re-think the approach and structure of my work, to best engage the reader and so the book flows in a logical progression. I think writer’s block is a moot point in non-fiction, since the actual content already exists within the research.
Morgen: You’re probably write, although as you say there does need to be a structure which takes some doing. Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Delin: Yes, I do a lot of editing. I may go through ten or twelve drafts. Having previously written abstracts of academic articles, I’m partial to minimalism, so I always attempt to use the fewest possible words to convey my message. I was pleased when one book reviewer, Kate Brauning, picked up on this and noted that, paraphrasing her, every word and every paragraph counts.
Morgen: It’s great when it feels as if a reviewer has actually read it properly. 🙂 You mentioned earlier how much research you have to do…
Delin: For me, it’s all about research. I spend much more time researching than writing, but that goes with the historical non-fiction territory.
Morgen: You’ve said that you love research, is that your favourite aspect of your writing life, and what’s your least favourite? Has anything surprised you?
Delin: My favourite part is the research, yes, plus organizing the material, and writing. My least favourite part, as so many others will echo, is the marketing and promotion – not the actual act, but the time and energy it takes away from working on a book.
Morgen: I think everyone will agree with you on that. Any distraction from the writing is bound to be a bugbear. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Delin: Far be it from me to give anyone advice. Each writer has his or her own path, method, or process. That would be like telling someone how to think or how to dream. So much is intuitive in the writing process, and you have to go with your gut. The only thing I would say is not to worry about the publishing and marketing until the writing is finished and edited. If one isn’t fully focussed on the process of writing, and is distracted by the business of writing, the work could suffer. Once the work is complete, there is plenty of time to concentrate on business.
Morgen: That’s very true (she says, scuttling off to start the novel editing :)). If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Delin: At another time, I might choose different people, but today, I would choose Rasputin, Czar Nicholas II and Simon Wiesenthal, the famous Nazi hunter, so we could impress upon the Czar exactly how brutal his anti-Semitic laws and practices were. I would cook fish and boiled potatoes, Rasputin’s favourite foods.
Morgen: I think it would certainly be an interesting conversation. Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Delin: I recently ran across a quote that reflects the work I do: “There is nothing new in the world except the history you do not know.” – Harry S. Truman
Morgen: 🙂 Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Delin: I’m currently editing my husband’s science fiction novel. In addition, I occasionally write reviews of other authors’ work.
Morgen: I’m often asked to do book reviews, maybe I should point them in your direction. 🙂 What do you do when you’re not writing?
Delin: When I’m not writing, I’m generally reading and researching. I’m afraid I have a single-track mind and become obsessed with those pastimes, to the exclusion of most else.
Morgen: Oh, no apology needed for me. I’m as single-track as anyone about writing, can you tell? 🙂 Are there any writing-related websites and / or books that you find useful?
Morgen: Some new ones to me, thank you for those. Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Morgen: LinkedIn is great – I found many of my interviewees by putting a shout-out on there. What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Delin: I believe it’s no different from the past. People who can blend words in a pleasing way, to create a scenario or convey an idea effectively, will always be needed. Since there will always be ideas to learn and experiences to share, it is and will be the wordsmith’s job to touch hearts or minds, and inspire dialogue.
Morgen: And have fun in the process. 🙂 Where can we find out about you and your work?
In addition, I have a website about the book at: http://therealrasputin.wordpress.com which includes a summary, excerpts, reviews, some history and more.
Morgen: Thank you so much, Delin.
I then invited Delin to include an extract of her writing and this is the Introduction to “Rasputin and The Jews: A Reversal of History”…
This small tome is intended to vindicate Grigory Efimovitch Rasputin (born approximately 1870; died 1916), spiritual advisor to the last Tsar and Tsarina of Russia. It means to debunk all of the outrageous rumors perpetrated by a bigoted, small-minded, self-absorbed society. If you are looking for a list his debauchery, sins, or crimes, you won’t find them here, for there exists no evidence of those, other than rumors. If you’re seeking the gory description of his brutal murder, you won’t find it here. And if you want to establish a link between Rasputin and the fall of the Romanov Empire, you won’t find any, because there is none.
What you will find is testimony from many who knew him, including his enemies, regarding his humanitarian activities. You will find accounts of his aid to the poor and the ill and his endless efforts to avoid war and its needless cost of lives. You will find substantial evidence of his aid to Russian Jewry and his attempts to obtain equal rights for this group, which was Russia’s most severely oppressed and restricted population.
But, most of all, you will find that what has passed as history for a century was not the truth, which exemplifies how history is written by the powerful not by the oppressed.
UPDATE OCTOBER 2012: Rasputin and The Jews is free on Kindle for one day only on 21st October: http://www.amazon.com/Rasputin-The-Jews-Reversal-ebook/dp/B004XTITFW and http://www.amazon.co.uk/Rasputin-The-Jews-Reversal-ebook/dp/B004XTITFW
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