I’ve known Maggie Secara, author of Molly September and the Compendium of Common Knowledge, since our early days at the California Renaissance Festivals. Maggie is one of those detail specific writers who can’t allow gross errors in history to sneak past her. When she writes “history,” you know you’ll get good history! And you get great drama. One of the things she represents and talks about here is her experience becoming a “self published” author – something aspiring writers today have to consider as one of their options. Her books are both in Kindle format and paperback. Frankly, she has been a driving force for many of us and an inspiration.
Assuming you’ve always been a writer, at heart, at what point did you decide “now is the time to put it into publication?” What made you take the leap?
Maggie: It was ready! It’s been ready for ages. It had been the rounds of submission so often, and re-written so often, I had let it sit in a drawer for some years. But when I got it out, I discovered it was still pretty good. In the end, I finally decided that I’d been promising this book to my fans—and to myself!—for so long that I just had to make it happen on my own. And I’ve always been a writer, not just at heart, but in fact.
What sort of blocks did you run into that nearly stopped you from making your book happen?
Maggie: Over the last few years I’ve been teased several times with the possibility of publication. Once, it was a British company who was informed at the last minute that they couldn’t deal with international contracts while they were still new and small. Another was something that turned out to be a vanity publisher. And last year, a small “indy” publisher offered me what looked like a great deal, but after a good beginning, all sorts of things started going wrong, including the editor/publisher being ill and not communicating, on top of discovering that her business practices were less than reliable and had been for some time. So I withdrew the book from their publication. I tried submitting several other places, both to agents and editors, and got nowhere.
What parts of your book, events or characters come from deep inside you – and do you really want to tell us why?
Maggie: This book was a very long time in coming. The very first draft was started when I was a freshman in college almost 40 years ago! In a lot of ways, it all comes from deep inside me—from the part of me that loved pirate movies as a girl, has fallen in love, or made foolish decisions. It’s true I’ve never been a pirate or coursed the Spanish Main, but I’ve created living history with Scots-Irish and German mercenaries as well as the nobles of Queen Elizabeth I’s court. All that experience has gone into making Molly September a book it simply couldn’t have been if I’d gotten my wish and found a publisher when I first thought it was ready.
What is your take on the eBook vs. printed text book discussion? Do you think traditional publishers are becoming obsolete? Basically, how do you see the future of published writing?
Maggie: That’s several quite different questions. I think paper books will be around after the batteries have all died, but I adore my Kindle. I don’t believe it’s an either/or situation. You’ll notice Molly September is available in both formats. The only reason the Compendium*** isn’t is because the format is just too complex. The Kindle would just flatten everything out. Happily, since it’s also a website, I’m not too worried about it losing readers.
Traditional publishers are changing and have a good deal more change still in front of them. But they’re still the gatekeepers to being a “real” author. If you want to be reviewed in major outlets, like Kirkus. If you want to have your book carried in brick & mortar bookstores even if the owner isn’t a friend of your mother’s. If you want membership in professional organizations like SFWA, you have to have sold your book to a “real” publisher with at least some pretense to editorial review. Self-publishing even under your own imprint, such as Popinjay Press, isn’t the same thing at all. Which is why I’m so seriously trying to get an agent interested in my new fantasy novel.
***A Compendium of Common Knowledge 1558-1603: Elizabethan Commonplaces for Writers, Actors, and Re-Enactors, Popinjay Press, 2008.
For all the people who want to read this amazing historical novel of yours, what is the best way to get your book? And can you tease us with a brief synopsis?
Maggie: Here’s the teaser.
What really happened to Rafe September? Everyone in Port Royal claims he was a thief and a pirate, but his daughter Molly knows that isn’t so. Newly returned from school abroad, Molly just wants to fall in love, but her family has her future and her marriage already planned. Taking her life and honor in her hands, she runs from an arranged marriage into dangerous waters in the company of Dick Prentiss, one of the men who knew her father best. Together they sail the seas of the Spanish Main in search of the truth and freedom, pursued by Molly’s jilted bridegroom, a man with the power to have them both arrested and hanged. The real peril? Prentiss already knows the true story of Rafe’s death, and he’ll do anything to protect the girl he loves from finding out. Romantic, dramatic, and even funny, Molly September evokes the great pirate movies of the past: The Sea Hawk, Captain Blood, and so many others.