Editing can be a heap of fun when the material is interesting enough. That’s what I found when I edited Escape from Eire, Jennylynd James’s memoir of her adventures during her seven year stay in Ireland. During that time, the Trinidad native saw more of the country than most Irish people do and got under the skin of Irish society. Her insights are honest, humorous and full of entertainment. I sat down with Jennylynd and chatted to her about her new career direction and the challenges of writing a memoir.
1. What made you decide to turn your hand to writing, given that you’ve had such a varied career to date?
The stories and adventures of my life in Ireland kept following me and haunting me. I felt I had to get these stories down on paper. My experiences were unique and very exciting.
2. In particular, what made you want to write about your adventures in Ireland?
I would spend hours telling new acquaintances about my adventures. They were intrigued. I imagined if these few people I knew were so excited by my stories, perhaps others would also be interested in hearing them. As I travelled back and forth to work in the city of Toronto, I saw that people read books to pass the time. On one journey the idea hit me that I could put my thoughts on paper andtransfer my unique story into a format that would give people the opportunity to read it.
3. How did you decide what aspects of your adventure to concentrate on?
I first wanted to write about everything. It was difficult to focus on only a few aspects of my experiences in Ireland. After rambling and typing copies pages of anecdotes, I presented them to one or two courageous well wishers. I had to reorganize my thoughts and focus on a few themes. I read an online article about creative writing using themes. I also employed the expert editing skills of Derbhile Graham to help me focus. I decided on a few main themes: my business and entrepreneurial adventures, a quest for true love, and stories about my child.
4. How easy or difficult did you find it to write the book?
This book was easy to write. It was my own story and I had so many experiences which seemed to remain in my mind. Fiction may have been more difficult for me than writing my own story.
5. How did you handle the issue of writing about real people, often a sensitive topic for memoir writers?
I decided to change most of the names of the characters in the book, in case the story would offend actual individuals. The truth offends so many who may have done something wrong would not want their life displayed to the public. Since I was completely truthful in my interpretation of people’s actions to me or to others, I knew I would not be able to please anyone with this publication. I just focused on the interesting aspects of human nature. Many people want to know about these topics but the average writer want not dare address them.
6. What made you decide on CreateSpace as a publishing platform?
A friend in Toronto had used CreateSpace to publish her motivational book and recommended this platform. It was very cost effective and provided all the tools necessary to make a high quality book. They provide many book formats for printing, free artwork, free ISBN numbers, and very reasonable printing options. One can print anywhere from one book to thousands. Authors get a reasonable discount when ordering print copies. The turn-around time to receive proofs and prints is rapid.
7. What strategy are you using to promote the book?
I started by posting information about the book on a dedicated Facebook page, Twitter, and a YouTube channel. I also put up a simple 5 page website hosted by GoDaddy.com (very reasonable hosting prices with modules for website creation). I have organized many book launches in different cities. I hope to continue with this for the next two years to get the books into as many hands as possible.
Of course free media advertising would be the best. Although I have sent out a few press releases locally, so far no one has taken the bait. I had two articles posted in newsletters edited by friends in Toronto. I managed to get onto an Irish radio program in Toronto.
Again, I will have to put more energy into courting the press to get coverage of the book. As an unknown author on a shoestring budget, one has to be creative in advertising. Celebrities don’t have any such issues in making an initial splash.
8. The format for your launch was interesting – what inspired you to come up with it?
Since I had appeared many times in the Irish media, both print and television, I decided to show some video clips at my book launches. In North America, people are addicted to television. I have copies of several Irish television programs in which I appeared: Capital D, Dun Laoghaire Festival coverage, the Irish Dragon’s Den. These videos help to break the monotony of a reading from a book. I also decided to set up the book launch as an interview session. That way the questions that people always wanted to ask would be answered. They would also lead naturally into a book reading.
9. What are your plans for a follow up?
I have started writing the ‘prequel’ to ‘Escape From Eire’. I lived and worked in California for almost 6 years before moving to Ireland. I have many stories to tell about my adventures during this time. I travelled extensively throughout Latin America for work and saw some very interesting places. I believe my interaction with Southern Californians and the Hollywood culture would make interesting reading. This book is not as easy to write as the first since I have to go back in my mind to try to remember old facts. Luckily it was a time when we printed copious photographs. I have photographic memories of many trips, parties, and events.
My plan is then to complete the memoir series with a book about moving from Ireland to Canada. The first year in Canada was particularly difficult in settling. It was interesting the way I gravitated to Irish social groups and events out of familiarity and for solace in the lonely year of settling. I met so many other new Irish immigrants who have come here to find fortune only to have their hopes dashed and return to Ireland. I think this story would also be an interesting read. So many stories to tell and so little time!
10. What advice would you give to other writers who want to write about their lives?
I would say go ahead and write. Do not listen to people who may discourage the effort. Everyone wants to tell their story, but may not have the not have the courage. Just stay focused and write your story. Everyone has a unique experience that someone would want to read. We see the level of interest in other people’s lives now in the proliferation of reality TV shows. People want to know about real lives too
To get your hands on a copy of Escape from Eire, visit www.EscapeFromEire.com