Silvia Villalobos, a native of Romania who lives immersed in the laid-back vibe of Southern California, is a writer of mystery novels and short fiction. Her stories have appeared in The Riding Light Review, Pure Slush, and Red Fez, among other publications. Her debut novel, STRANGER OR FRIEND, will be released by Solstice Publishing and is now available for pre-order on Amazon.
The Inspiration Behind the Novel
STRANGER OR FRIEND is the culmination of two lives at a confluence of cultures: an Eastern European immigrant—yours truly—married to a California native of Hispanic descent. The result is a fictionalized story, an observation, of intersecting cultures, newcomers, rejection, and acceptance. With the legal field as my background, it came to pass that Zoe, the main character, should be a lawyer, and after much deliberation, would travel from Los Angeles to Wyoming. This is the story of a woman going back home, only to find that home is no longer the place she remembers, or maybe a place she never really knew.
The Road to Publication
The road to publication is full of bends, climbs, and descents, a sinuous path of joy and heartbreak. Mine was no different. As I await release of my mystery novel, STRANGER OR FRIEND, available on amazon, I would like to offer a glimpse at this winding path.
How it All Began
Writing has always been a part of my life. As a child, I idolized Romanian poet Mihai Eminescu, and folk-tale writer Ion Creanga. They set my imagination loose and made it imperative that I put my thoughts on paper.
In high school, an essay I wrote on Eminescu’s Evening Star, prompted a teacher to offer dreams-propelling praise, and that was when serious writing—mostly blurred thoughts and unfinished stories—began for me.
When family and work demanded my time, I took a break, but the writing bug kept biting. After a long pause, I joined The InternetWriting Workshop—an online critique group, staffed with volunteers and free of charge—the best decision of my writing life. It didn’t take long for the first critique to arrive, one of praise but also criticism and suggestions for improvement. Line by line I worked through my story, analyzing comments, editing, re-writing, learning.
The following year, when I began querying agents, there were requests for a partial manuscript, but never an offer. So, back to my critique group I went, with another novel, submitting chapters over the course of a year, writing short stories at the same time, submitting, editing, and reading. Always reading. Every rejection became another lesson, and to keep it from burning a hole through my heart, another submission went out the day the rejection came in.
It is no secret that agents prefer authors with a built-in following—not always, but most times—so, I decided to turn to independent publications for my short stories, and many were accepted.
After this small but important victory, I began shopping my novel to independent houses, and following months of querying I received an offer from Solstice Publishing. If ever excitement were uncontainable for the writer who began with a high school essay, that acceptance sure was.
Why Not Self Publish
It’s reassuring to know self-publishing is always an option. However, I wanted to step into the publishing business with a team by my side, people who know much more about the business side of things than I ever would, no matter the amounts of material I read on the subject. There are no guarantees for success, but if I were to take this step, I wanted it to be under the auspices of a publishing house. Personal preference.
What I Learned in the Process
The road to publication is rarely short. Learning from rejections is part of the process. Working on one’s art and craft every day is not only rewarding but crucial. Reading, in and out of a preferred genre, and joining a critique group are essential, because writing is one thing and writing, well, is something else entirely. And please, arm yourself with patience. No editor likes impatient writers who just react to rejections.
This part will make your head spin, but with organization, it can be done. Sure, there are publicists who do this, and the big houses hire them, but not independent publishers. They help with marketing, but there is no publicist. My understanding is that big houses also expect writers to work on marketing, publicist or not, so it would serve a writer well to learn and thoroughly practice this part of the business.
Build your name brand (Twitter, Facebook, etc.). Put together a Media Kit or Press Kit. This includes your bio, bibliography, cover art, photo(s) and links, all in one document. More on this below.
Do you have a blog? If you’re reading this, the answer is probably yes. A writer without a blog cuts herself way short. Post interesting articles, stay active within the blogging community. This will come in handy for blog tours. Look into organizing signing events in your area. What about the local radio and newspapers? Many outlets love to support local authors. I have a radio interview scheduled with my local station. This is when you will need a Press Kit. Editorial sites and radio stations expect a Press Kit. Get creative. Marketing is not only a way of doing, but a way of thinking in our service-driven society, as marketing books will tell you.
Many thanks to Deb for hosting me, and the readers of this blog for reading my story. I’d be happy to answer any questions and elaborate on any points left unaddressed either here, at my blog, SilviaWrites, or website strangerorfriend.