An Interview With Author Pamela Cuming

Pamela Cuming, Author
Pamela Cuming

Tell us something about your book. The basics: what’s it about?

Set in New York City and Los Angeles between August 1999 and November 2001, The Stranger Box is the story of a mother and a daughter caught like two white dwarf stars in separate orbits, destined to collide. Though she does everything in her considerable power to ensure the child never finds out who she is, the vain and self-obsessed Katherine Blair is unable to change the course of her destiny or evade Eden, the resourceful daughter whose pursuit is fueled by the desire for revenge and the determination to steal the family that has been denied her.

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

 I had published two business books and a memoir though traditional channels before completing The Stranger Box. Comfortable with that model, I queried dozens of agents. None wanted to represent my debut novel.  I was surprised but not discouraged since early readers, both male and female, young and old, were consistently enthusiastic about the book.  A friend who is also an author encouraged me to self-publish.

What self-publishing service did you use? Happy with the service?What avenues have you taken to market the book? Have you gotten reviews, interviews, TV, print media coverage?

Although I was once the marketing director for a major financial services firm, I found the learning curve regarding marketing via social media to be very steep.  I paid for reviews from Readers’ Favorite, SPR, and BlueInk, and when I received four and five star ratings, I posted the good news on Facebook and Goodreads, and ran ads on both sites.  I also created a page on Facebook.  I send out email blasts periodically to friends and acquaintances so that I can reach people who are not regular visitors to social media sites.  I built a website, and took out a Facebook ad to drive people to that site. I had business cards made featuring the book cover and a five star award sticker.  I pass them out at every opportunity.  I ran a pre-Christmas countdown sale, reducing the ebook price from $5.49 to $.99 the first day, $1.99 the second day and $2.99 the third day. The impact on sales was immediate. I am slowly expanding my network, and sales are beginning to respond to my outreach efforts. I intend to continue to boost announcements on my Facebook page, and will probably hire a marketing services firm to help me reach bookclubs, librarians, and other media outlets.

What drove you to write this particular book?

When I was working in New York, I would distract myself from my morning and evening subway commute by writing stories.  A favorite was “The Flower Girl” about a young girl who was devoted to her baby brother. One wintry afternoon, her mother placed the baby on his play mat in the livingroom of their apartment, and asked the girl to watch him.  Afraid that the room was too cold, she took a branch of a plant that stood in the corner and added it to the dying fire.  She was unaware that plant was poisonous, and its fumes highly toxic.  She fainted, but survived. The baby died. The death lead to the dissolution of the family.  That girl morphed into my character, Eden.  The story changed, taking its own course.  I did not work from an outline.  I let Eden’s journey evolve.

Is the book in any one particular genre? Is it a genre that’s familiar to you?   Screen Shot 2014-12-20 at 03.08.03

Yes, it’s a psychological thriller.  I have always been fascinated by the power of the mind, and particularly the twisted mind.

Who are your greatest writing influences?

Patricia Highsmith was one.  I have always wanted to develop a character like her Ripley who is at once evil and yet heroic in stature. I have long admired Ian McEwan’t ability to describe emotion. I was impressed by Stieg Larsson’s ability to create a courageous, bold and independent female protagonist.  I tried to mirror the strengths of all three when I developed Eden, the protagonist of The Stranger Box.

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

I write every day.  Well, that is not true.  I wrote everyday until the book was published.  Now, I have to work on marketing everyday.  When I am writing, I work for three to four hours, then take a break and workout, and then return to my desk for a few more hours.  I let my natural energies dictate whether I am drafting, or doing research or editing an earlier draft.

Would you self-publish again?  

Absolutely.  Self-publishing is the wave of the future.

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

Courage, conviction, and an open mind are critical to success!