Sunday, April 5, 2015

Sunday Author Interview: Patty Apostolides

Please introduce yourself.

My name is Patty Apostolides, and I’ve written three sweet romance novels, a novella, poetry book, and children’s book. I was born in Greece, and have lived in America most of my life. In my first career, I was a biologist and conducted cancer research. In my second career, I was a stay-at-home mother and homeschooled my son. I'm in my third career now, and have become an author. I might become a teacher in my fourth career, after I get my MFA degree. We shall see!

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How long have you been publishing?

Over ten years. I’ve been writing poetry since I was twelve, though, and started writing novels since 2002. My first book, Lipsi’s Daughter, was released in 2004 by a small press, and I’ve been self-published since then.

Tell us about your latest book. 

My last book The Greek Maiden and the English Lord is a historical romance that takes place during the 1830s in England. Gypsy Lily is an orphan in search of her real parents. Her journey ends up in York, England, where she enters a boarding school to become a lady. It is a sweet romance between a gypsy and a nobleman. Some readers have compared it to Jane Austen’s books.

 What kind of research goes into writing a piece like that?

There is a tremendous amount of research involved, with much reading. I read books on the time period in England and Greece in the 1830s. Luckily, travelers who visited Greece at that time, wrote about their experiences, and I was able to access those books through Google books. It took me about 2 years just to amass the research needed for my story. It was the little details and descriptions that came up that sent me searching for the answers. For example, what did people in Greece
wear during the 1830s? What was the political climate then? What were the customs and traditions? How did the terrain look after the war? What was their transportation like?

Who are your major influences?

 The Bible, Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Emily Bronte, Victor Hugo, plus many others. For my male characters, my biggest influence was my adorable husband. He was loving, gentle, kind, and understanding, and I wanted to capture his essence and characteristics in my stories. I think I've accomplished that.

You have had a lot of varied career paths. How do you transition from a cancer researcher to an author?

That's a good question. I think the love for my family made me make the switch. I was willing to stay home to  raise my son, and that gave me the ample time needed to write. If I had continued in cancer research, I would probably have not written any novels, although poetry was always there in the background.

Is writing your full time career?

Yes, it has become that. I love to write and share my writing with the world. If I don't write, I feel that something is missing in my life.

Do you see writing as a hobby or career?

When I became a stay-at-home mother, at first it was a hobby, because I was focused on raising my son, but now I see it more as a career. After my husband passed away in 2013, I enrolled in a MFA Program in Creative Writing. In a few months I will be finished with that program. My thesis is a historical romance that I hope to release this year. Once that's done, then I'll start my next novel!

What made you decide to become a self published author?

I loved the flexibility and control of publishing my own book when I wanted to and how I wanted to. It happened after I realized that the small press was not publishing my book fast enough to keep up with the demand of my readers. For my first printing of 1000 books, I sold all of them within six months, but the second printing took too long, as readers who ordered books had to wait months. After that, I decided to self-publish.

What would make it easier to be a self published author?
I think being a self-published author is wonderful, but it requires more promoting and marketing than going through traditional publishing. You have to believe in yourself to self-publish your works, and you need to have a market. Having a market makes it easier to be self-published. I also think that by going through Amazon Kindle, and having them promote your books, makes it easier to self-publish.

Do you feel that your material is different than traditionally published authors?

I focus on Greek subject matter, with characters that have strong belief systems and overcome obstacles. My heroines tend to be orphans going through a life change, whether it is coming of age, or someone passes away in the family. They have to cope with what life dishes out to them, and they always succeed somehow. I love happy endings, and my stories are all happy endings. I make it a point not to include sex or violence in my stories. Teenagers tend to be my greatest readers.

Do you deal with issues that traditional publishers don't normally touch?

I think my novels are too specifically oriented toward the Greek markets, and have ideals that may be considered outdated, like no sex or violence, and this may deter publishers.

Who edits your work?

I go through 15 or so revisions before I give it to my beta readers to read. At least three people have gone through my books before I publish them.

Who does the covers to your books?

It differs. My first book, the publisher made the cover. I do like to have a hand in the outcome of the covers.

What are you willing to spend money on, as a writer? What aren’t you?

I would spend money on supplies and some promotion, travel expenses, and copies of my books to sell at events. I do not like to spend money for a publisher to publish my works.

What is your favorite part of being self published?

My favorite part is being in control of the price, the cover, and the story.

What is your least favorite?

My least favorite part of being self-published is that it is hard work, and takes up time from my writing.

Do you do your own promotion, or hire someone?

I promote most of my works.

What has been the most productive tool for promoting your book?

Amazon Kindle. Once I got my ebooks on there, they have promoted them and I’m making steady sales through them than ever before, particularly in the U.K.

Do you have Facebook/Twitter? How effective are they as promotional tools?

I have both, but I look at them more as social tools. I do tell all my friends when my books are free on Amazon Kindle, and the same goes on Twitter. I haven’t really seen a spike in sales after that, though.

What is the most important piece of advice you can give someone just starting out in self publishing?

Have confidence in yourself. Don’t give up, and research everything that you are considering in doing. Make sure there are no hidden costs if you go with a self-publishing outfit. Make sure your work is polished and edited before it is published. Make sure your standards are high, and keep on writing! Also, think about starting off on Amazon kindle first, to test the waters. It’s free and quick to get published, and gives you lots of exposure.

If a publisher came knocking, would you make the switch? Why or why not?

It depends on who the publisher is and what they offer. I would be interested in a traditional publisher only for the sake of trying it at least once. Then I can tell if I would like it or not. I have already tried a small press, and a print-on-demand publisher, but not a traditional publisher yet.

Now that self publishing is affordable and relatively easy, what is the role of a small press publisher? Would you ever try another one?

No. I would not go with a small press publisher again. They don't have the resources to promote and market  you, so you're on your own there, and I do that anyway through self-publishing. Most of the readers don't look to see who published you. Really, they don't. As long as they have a book in their hand, and it's well written, and is available to them, then that's what counts.

What other creative outlets do you have? Music, film, etc?

Yes, I perform in orchestras, playing the violin, or viola, and I do love classical music. I also compose my own music when I have the time.

What does your family think of your writing career?

They love it and are my greatest supporters! Often, during dinner, I would read a chapter or two of my story, and this became a lot of fun, particularly when I got good feedback or lots of laughs. These family times were priceless.

How important are reviews to making sales?

I think they are important, but I think promoting is important, as well as the number of books you’ve written. The more books published, the more you are known, and your readership goes up over time. Keep in mind, what are the goals of the author? To make book sales, or to share their writing to the world? This brings up the next question – what does an author consider as being successful?

How do you deal with bad reviews?

I cry, wipe my tears, then feel sorry for them, and move on. I’m a sensitive soul, so every bad review tears through me, but what can you do? I can’t please everyone, and I don’t expect to. However, there are plenty others that have given good reviews, so that always perks me up. So far, the reviews have tipped towards the positive.

Do you also review other writers?

Yes, if they ask me to. Sometimes I’m busy, and they might have to wait a while, but I always do find the time to review.

How do you give a bad review?

I rarely give a bad review. I typically like the story before I review it. Typically, if I don’t like it, I won’t finish it, and therefore won’t write a review.

What changes would you like to see in the self publishing industry?

So many changes have occurred since I began writing over a decade ago. Self-publishing is more acceptable now and there are a lot more opportunities on the web to self-publish.

Do you participate in Amazon’s KDP Select program? Why or Why not?

Yes, I do, and I love it! I have seen more sales (particularly from Amazon U.K.) from this avenue than other bookstores. I think it’s a wonderful concept and I rave about it to my writers’ group. I think the free promotions are great, because that gains me readers. I am quite interested in growing my readership because I’m not just selling a story, I’m selling myself. Once readers get to know me and my writing, they’ll come looking for more.

What would you like average readers to know about self publishing?

If you want to self-publish, you have to do your homework. There are so many companies out there that can help you. Some are free, like CreateSpace, while others cost hundreds of dollars. Make sure that your book will be distributed widely and not just on the publisher’s website where it will languish. Self-publishing is only as good as the author wants to make it. Like anything else, the product is what counts. If the author has done a good job in writing the story, and editing it, and has included a good cover and a good price, they should do well. Promoting and marketing are the hardest part, I think, to self-publishing. It takes time to gain readership. The more you write, the more you will publish, and the more people will become your readers.

What’s the biggest frustration with being a self published writer?

The biggest frustration was that I had to do all the marketing and promoting myself. In the first year, I put a lot of effort into my first book and it was a lot of work, but I did get excellent results. However, its’ not sustainable. It’s too time consuming. I can’t put in that same amount of time and effort to promote and market every book I’ve written since then.

Do you write to music? If so, what kind?

Yes, I do. I like to write to new age, soft instrumental piano music. Sometimes I would listen to that music while I write.

Could any of your books be made into films?

Yes. Many readers have come up to me and said they could see my stories as movies. They are sweet love stories set in exotic locations (Greek islands) or in historical places. I have toyed with the idea of making them into screenplays and sending them off, but haven’t had time to do it. Maybe in the future.

What actors would play your characters?

There are so many that I could choose from, but I’ve always liked Kate Winslet and Jeremy Northam. One thing I’ve learned in my MFA screenwriting classes, is that the less description you write about a character in a screenplay, the better. The producers and directors will choose the actors anyway.

Do you go to writing conventions? Why or why not?

I did at one time, and then stopped going. I've been too busy writing!

Do you blog? Why or Why not?

I do have a blog, and enjoy adding a few bits of news in it once in a while. I don’t have the time to do it daily, though. I also have a website,, that includes my books and information about me and my writing. It connects to the blog.

Do you have any certain ideas or ideals that you try to instill in your work?

I believe that virtues are important, and ideals like love, faith, kindness, and hope. For example, if a person is orphaned, or is born into poverty or becomes poor due to certain circumstances, then they should be given the opportunity to do better in life. All my characters strive to grow, learn and become better. Ethics is a very important part of my stories, and keeping one’s beliefs intact as they struggle through life is always appealing to me. Abraham Maslow’s self-actualizing person has always been my ideal character to strive for.

Why do you write?

I love to write. There is a movie that comes into my mind and I observe the characters and their personalities, and I jot them down. I also like being creative, as well as being intellectual, and writing uses both parts of the mind that deals with these aspects of writing.

If you had to stop writing tomorrow, what would you do?

I’d play music or cook up a good meal, or paint, or knit something. I need to create. It’s an inherent part of me.

Does self publishing carry a stigma?

I think it used to, but over time, more and more self-published authors are doing well, and this is being noticed by traditional publishers.

What would you like readers to know about you from your work?

I am a romantic at heart. I always see the world with optimistic lenses, and many readers could relate to my stories. Many readers also have come up to me after reading Lipsi’s Daughter and have asked me if the story was about me. Of course, I had put bits and pieces of my life in there, and the love for my late husband (who passed away two years ago) fueled the romance in the story, but it was not a biography.

If you could talk shop with any other author, who would it be?

Even though he writes in a different genre, I would love to talk with Stephen King. I loved reading his book about writing.

What have you learned from reading other people's work?

I have learned so much. I had joined several online critique groups, like, where we’d read each other’s works and critique them. Also in my MFA coursework, we did a lot of reading. Reading other people’s works is key to becoming a great author. We learn from each other.

Do you read more ebooks or physical copies?

I read both. It depends on availability and interest.

Do you think the traditional publishing format is an endangered species?

No. It’s lasted this long. There will always be readers who like to hold books in their hands. I’m one of them.

What would the consequences be of the demise of the traditional bookstore?

God forbid that ever happens. I love to visit bookstores and read and browse and drink coffee. I also think that we rely too much on electronics. What if we didn’t have electricity or wifi? Just like pianos are still around, even though we have electric pianos, so will books continue to satisfy, even though there are ebooks.


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