Thursday, 26 July 2012

Sneak Peeks & Author Interview: Darcie Chan - The Mill River Recluse

One of the things I have loved since I set up my blog is hearing about new books coming out as well as being introduced to new authors who I'd probably never have heard of otherwise.  One such author is Darcie Chan who self-published her debut novel, The Mill River Recluse, which has become one of the US best-selling eBooks, which in turn has led to her getting a publishing deal with Hachette Digital here in the UK.   
Disfigured by the blow of an abusive husband, the widow Mary McAllister has spent almost sixty years secluded in a white marble mansion overlooking the town of Mill River, Vermont. Her links to the outside world are few: the mail, an elderly priest, and a bedroom window with a view of the town below.

Most longtime residents of Mill River consider the marble house and its occupant peculiar, and few of them have ever seen Mary. But three newcomers - a police officer and his daughter and a new schoolteacher - are curious about the reclusive old woman. Only the town priest truly knows the Mill River recluse, and the secret she keeps . . . a secret that, once revealed, will change the town, and the lives of its residents, forever.

I'm pleased to be able to welcome Darcie to the blog to talk about her book and her publishing journey...

Can you tell us a little bit about The Mill River Recluse?
The Mill River Recluse is the story of Mary McAllister, a shy woman who suffers several tragic events in her youth and, over the course of her lifetime, develops severe social anxiety disorder and agoraphobia.  As an elderly woman, Mary's condition is so severe that she finds it impossible to interact with most people.  However, she longs to be part of her community, and with the help of Michael O'Brien, the town's priest and her only confidante, she manages to find a way to do just that.  

Where did the inspiration come from to write The Mill River Recluse? 
I went to high school in a small town in southern Indiana called Paoli.  In the 1940s, a Jewish man named Sol Strauss fled Nazi Germany and settled there with his mother.  He opened a dry goods store and lived there, in his "adopted home town" for the rest of his life.  Although people in Paoli were polite to him, he wasn't fully embraced... this was the 1940s, he was Jewish, and southern Indiana was (and still is) a very conservative Christian area.  After Mr. Strauss died, the residents of Paoli were shocked to learn that he'd left an enormous amount of money to the town, which he directed to be used for charitable purposes for the benefit of town residents.  I found what Mr. Strauss did very inspiring, and I decided to write a novel about someone who, like Mr. Strauss, was on the fringe of her community, misunderstood and not accepted, but who still loved her neighbors enough to do something extraordinary. 

You originally self-published The Mill River Recluse, why did you decide to go down that route? 
I wrote The Mill River Recluse years ago, before e-books became popular and made it easy for individual authors to self-publish and achieve widespread distribution of their work.  Like many first novels, it did not sell to a traditional publisher.  I set the manuscript aside with the intention of eventually writing a second novel and having another go at getting something published.  When e-books suddenly exploded onto the scene, though, I thought I would have nothing to lose by releasing my first novel electronically.  I hoped to gradually (over the course of months or years) sell a few thousand copies and, more importantly, get some feedback from readers for use in improving my writing.  I had no idea that my quiet little novel would resonate with readers to the extent that it has.

Would you recommend to other authors to try self-publishing for their novels? 
There is a huge, ongoing debate about whether traditional publishing or self-publishing is preferable, but I really believe the decision of which route to take should be made by individual authors based on careful evaluation of the advantages and disadvantages of each option.

Self-publishing, particularly by releasing a book in electronic form, is easy, inexpensive, and quick, can result in greater income for an author through higher standard royalty rates.  It affords an author complete control over every aspect of the writing and publication process, and many authors enjoy having that control.  The downsides are that an author must do everything herself, or hire freelance professionals to handle certain aspects of preparing and promoting a manuscript, and it is almost impossible to get a print version of a book into retail stores without the distribution network of a traditional publisher.

Traditional publishing takes longer and pays less to authors in royalties, but at the present time, it is the only way to get a print book into the retail stores where print books are typically sold.  This distribution, and any accompanying marketing done by a publisher, can more than offset income lost through a lower royalty rate.  A traditional publisher also provides an author an advance and in-house team of experts who improve the overall packaging and presentation of a story.  The results of these things are a bit of a financial security, a highly professional finished product, and more time that an author can devote to writing.

At this point in time, I've accepted traditional publication deals for The Mill River Recluse in the UK and in several other foreign countries.  I've also signed a contract with a division of Random House for world rights for the publication of my next two novels.  For me, I believe the advantages of traditional publishing outweigh those of self-publishing my next few books, and I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to give that route a try.

How long did it take from finishing the novel to publication?  
It took me about 2.5 years to write and edit The Mill River Recluse to the point at which I felt comfortable approaching literary agents to seek representation for it.  I believe my agent shopped it around for much of 2006 and 2007 without success.  After the manuscript had languished on my hard drive for a few years, I uploaded it to Amazon's Kindle Store in 2011.  The UK print version of The Mill River Recluse will be released December 6, 2012.  My journey to publication has definitely been a long one - it's taken many years!    

How did the publication deal finally come about?  
When sales of the e-book version of The Mill River Recluse numbered in the hundreds of thousands in the United States, my agent resubmitted it to several publishers.  In the fall and winter of 2011, my publication journey received some major media coverage through a feature in the Wall Street Journal and mentions in USA Today and the New York Times.  Foreign publishers began to hear about my novel, and it was presented by agency at the 2011 Frankfurt Book Fair.  I believe the UK and other rights sales were eventual results of the surprising number of sales of the novel in e-book form, as well as the media coverage and the LBF presentation.
Do you have a set daily writing routine?
I've recently left my legal job to write full time, so I'm now able to devote a lot more time to writing.  I usually start working around 9:30... I use the first hour or so each day to take care of emails, social media, etc., so that once I begin to write, I can really settle in.  I usually take a break for lunch in the afternoon and a "play break" to spend some time with my son at some point.  I stop writing for the day around dinnertime, although I sometimes sneak back to my computer after my son and husband are asleep to get in a few more paragraphs.  I really liked working as an attorney, but I truly love what I'm doing now!

Are you able to give us a hint as to what your next novel is about?  And when is it likely to be published?
Currently, I'm working on my second novel, which (along with my third novel) will be set in the fictional world of Mill River, Vermont.  It involves a new story and some new main characters, but many of the characters from my first novel will become involved in the story.  I don't have a release date for the second book yet, but I'll be turning in the manuscript before the end of the year, and I'm hopeful it will be published sometime in 2013.

I love the sound of this book and will be definitely looking to read this one as soon as I've worked my way through my backlog of books.  The MiIl River Recluse is published by Hachette Digital and is available now so why not head over to Amazon to pick up your copy today.

1 comment:

  1. This was one of the first books I bought when I got my Kindle. I really enjoyed it and look forward to more from this Author.