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Illumination – How One Woman Made Light of the Darkness, by Sophia van Buren

Interview with Sophia van Buren, Author of Illumination – How One Woman Made Light of the Darkness, available as an ebook on Amazon – http://amzn.to/hUV77F

1. How did you come to self-publish? Did you try to get published
traditionally?

I was querying agents and I did get a few sniffs, but I decided to self-publish for one major reason—it allowed me to use a pen name (yes, Sophia is not my real name). The reason this is so important to me is because of my children. They should not know what their father did, and my book is a memoir. By using a pen name, I can protect them from the truth.

2. What self-publishing service did you use? Happy with the service?

I self-published using the Kindle digital text platform service via Amazon.  It was very easy, and I am indeed happy with the service.

3. What avenues have you taken to market the book? Have you gotten
reviews, interviews, TV, print media coverage?

I don’t have an agent or publisher, so my promotional efforts have really just been through social media. My facebook page for the book is www.facebook.com/illuminationthebook and Twitter is www.twitter.com/sophiavanburen.  I also have a blog called A Non Custodial Mother at www.anoncustodialmother.blogspot.com.  At some point, I’ll probably create an ad for Facebook.  Juggling work, kids, and my kids “other parents” unfortunately does not leave as much time as I would like to market Illumination.  I don’t have any reviews or coverage yet, but the ebook has only been available for less than two months.

4. What drove you to write this particular book?

In Illumination, I wanted to share, with brutal honesty, one family’s collapse from a safe, predicatable, cul-de-sac lifestyle by exposing the unthinkable deeds perpetrated by the dark heart of a Promise Keeper husband. In the second act, I peel back the layers of Sophia’s emotional recovery and spiritual rehabilitation before the third act, in which Sophia finds love in the unlikeliest of places.  It is a true story, but written like fiction. Although, in essence, it is about clarity and love, it starts out as a wild ride. A few readers have compared the first of the three acts to the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark in which the faces of onlookers are completely melted off by the evil forces unleashed from the ancient chest. From page one, the reader is thrown right into a scene from Sophia’s life in a chapter called “Intruder Alert.”  The early foreshadowing leads to a dark revelation shortly thereafter. Without giving too much away, I’d just like to point out the fact that we are bombarded every day in the mainstream media with “news” about infidelity and hypocrisy in regards to celebrities, athletes, politicians, and religious leaders. But how many people living what I would call “normal lives” can actually identify with the rich and famous? The average suburban family that suffers from similar issues or circumstances typically don’t have the kind of money necessary to pay for the lawyers, nannies, and extra apartment after the fallout.

5. Is the book in any one particular genre? Is it a genre that’s familiar
to you?

It’s a memoir, but again, it really flows like fiction.  I’m only familiar with memoirs as a reader.

6. Who are your greatest writing influences?

The writing of David Sedaris is definitely an influence. He’s real, he’s funny, and he’s painfully honest all at once. Whenever I’ve read his work or listened to his voice, all I could think about is how much I relate to him. Being a heterosexual mother of three, it’s no small feat for a gay, neurotic man (said with love!) to win me over quite as much as he has. Sedaris turns mediocrity and pain into funny, meaningful stories that reach into you and remind you about being human. He taught me the value of being brutally honest as a writer. I also admire Jennifer Wiener. She’s talented, witty, and a prolific writer. She has the gift of weaving stories and words together in such an intricate way that it draws the reader into another world, but she still comes across as a down to earth and extremely funny woman.

7. What’s your writing regimen? Any tips for keeping focused?

I work full time at a 9 to 5 job. I need the job to pay the bills and for health insurance for my children and me. In order to carve out the time to write, I had to schedule weekends away at first. I felt like it was impossible to write at home because all I could think about were the mundane chores, like laundry and dishes that were left undone. Having my children every other weekend made it difficult to write on the weekends as well, so I finally created a schedule to write once or twice a week in the early mornings. I pretended it was my part time job, like working at a coffee shop for a couple of hours every morning before my regular job. To get in the writing mood, my ritual was to light a candle, brew some coffee, and wrap myself in a blanket on the couch with my laptop, then start hammering away on whatever story I had rattling around in my head.  As for keeping focused, all I can recommend is to get away from any place that you feel the tug of any activity other than writing.  For me, that place is the beach.

8. Would you self-publish again?

Oh, definitely!  I think the traditional publishing model is very broken.  I’m quite excited to see the revolution that has begun really get traction, in terms of reshaping how people find books that they can really appreciate.  I think you see a lot of bottom shelf trash on the bookshelves in the stores, based on what the big money behind the old guard is trying to shove down our throats.  Aspiring writers who have never been given a fair shake finally have a way to get their work out there where the reading public can weigh in on what they like with their dollars.

9. Any final words of advice for those looking to self-publish?

Be a perfectionist. Edit your work like crazy, and find someone you really trust to help. I’m lucky that my husband is a great editor. I never could have done the work he did, as quickly as did, with my stories. And when you think you are ready to publish it, get one more set of fresh eyes, preferably from a professional, to go over the whole thing. When your book is on the e-shelf and someone picks it up to peruse it, the odds of them putting it back down if errors or poor writing jump off the page at them are pretty high. In other words, it’s a short window to capture a reader’s attention. Do yourself a favor and make sure you publish the best possible book that you can!