Kindle Author Interview with David Wisehart

What can you tell us about The Saint of Florenville: A Love Story?

The Saint of Florenville: A Love Story arrived as an unexpected gift on the morning of July 26, 2010. After five novels, I thought I had run out of stories. One half-finished novel languished on my desk, searching for direction and inspiration. On that July morning, I awoke in the pre-dawn hours with the full narrative arc of a story set inBruges,Belgium. The protagonists were in place, as was the villain. Some details remained fuzzy, but subsequent mornings arrived with additional clarity to fill the holes. By mid-August, I had begun the first draft, which went more smoothly than any of my previous novels.

The basic premise is that two friends, an American priest and a Belgian nun, meet up inBrugesto spend a day of sightseeing. Instead, they are drugged and kidnapped by a stranger who befriended them. When they regain consciousness, they are locked in cages.

Half-way through the yearlong captivity, the priest is taken away and presumably murdered. The nun is finally rescued and the perpetrator goes to prison. Following the kidnapper’s death twenty years later, the surviving nun agrees to an exclusive interview with a young female reporter. Thus begins a weeklong cycle of intimate disclosures and sharing that draws these very different women to a level of trust and friendship neither of them could have foreseen or thought possible. In the nun’s final revelation, the reporter learns that the “murdered” priest might still be alive and in hiding in plain sight.

How do you develop and differentiate your characters?

A novelist must differentiate characters to prevent the reader from becoming confused about who’s who. No reader wants to waste time flipping back through a book to get reoriented. Since two of The Saint of Florenville’s main characters are women. I made one a middle-aged nun and the other a 29-year-old reporter for an online news outlet. Another trick of differentiation is to give them dissimilar-sounding names, in this case Mother Marie-Therese (called by her nickname, Tesse, through most of the book) and Celeste (the reporter). I was careful to apply the same principle to the supporting cast of characters.

On the point of differentiation, it’s essential in dialog passages to help the reader by being clear at all times about who the speaker is. I find it frustrating when I’m reading a passage heavy with dialog and half-way through I get lost. I don’t want my reader to backtrack for orientation. A confusing book might be a page turner, but in the wrong direction.

Who do you imagine is your ideal reader?

My ideal reader is one who loves a good story. In addition, my readers are interested in the inner life of the characters. What motivates them? How do they deal with obstacles in their lives? How do they deal with their own imperfect humanity and failures? They want to identify with the characters’ feelings and choices, good or bad. That said, my ideal readers, male or female, are in touch with their own psychological makeup and their spiritual self. They read novels as a way seeing the world through different eyes and growing from the experience. There’s also a more selfish side of me that counts as an ideal reader anyone who takes the time to read what I’ve written (all the better if they’ve purchased bought the book). 

What was your journey as a writer?

My journey as a professional writer has been less than ideal. I wish I had started in my twenties and learned the craft and perfected it through those earlier years of my adulthood. In reality, I did not start writing professionally (defined as getting paid for my work) until mid-life. My first published books (Winston Press) were a set of three volumes used by Catholic adults in small faith-sharing groups. Along the way I wrote feature articles for a major local newspaper and health-related articles for a national magazine. I freelanced as a team writer on projects for an Atlanta-based distance learning college. Then, I got the wild idea that maybe I could write a novel. I did and it sold and became A Love Forbidden (available now on Kindle). This was followed by Finding Isabella, Circles of Stone (with an international adoption theme), and I’ll Paint a Sun (all three available on Amazon.com). I self-published a sequel to Circles of Stone titled, Down a Narrow Alley (both are available for Kindle). Also in the Kindle Store is my inspirational nonfiction book, The Wisdom of Les Miserables: Lessons From the Heart of Jean Valjean, as well as my latest novel, The Saint of Florenville: A Love Story.

What is your writing process?

Since I have a “day job” that pays most of the bills, my writing spends more time on the back burner than I would like. However, when I’m deeply into a book, I simply make the time I need to keep it moving. I’m not one of those who can get up at 4 A.M. and write, nor can I stay up much past midnight. It may sound corny, but passion is what drives me to stay with a project and find the time it requires. One thing I cannot afford is “writer’s block.” When I sit down to write or outline, I’ve got to be ‘on.’

What authors most inspire you?

The modern author from whom I’ve drawn the most inspiration is Ron Hansen (Exiles, Atticus, Mariette in Ecstasy). I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him and telling him how much I admire his body of work. Like me, Ron is a Roman Catholic author. I learned from him that I can combine my deepest-held convictions with a really good story.

Among classic writers, my greatest inspiration has been Victor Hugo (Les Miserables). I find him personally fascinating—better, mystifying. At times, I feel as if I am channeling Bishop Myriel and Jean Valjean. Hugo inspired me to study his novel in great detail and convert that study into The Wisdom of Les Miserables: Lessons From the Heart of Jean Valjean.

What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you’d written yourself?

The book I wish I had written is Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. I admire so much the way she was able to throw together characters from the extremes of society and let them find common ground—even friendship and love.

How have you marketed and promoted your work?

Marketing is a challenge any second-tier author (or lower) faces. For the self-published author who wants to find a broader audience, it is the greatest challenge. There are self-published authors who are content just to visit online sites and see the book listed there. I’m not like that. I do want to reach an audience that is wider than family and friends. Not having a budget to go out and hire a publicist/marketer or purchase print and/or online ad space, I’m on my own.

I am active in the Mt. Diablo Branch of the California Writers Club, which provides a network of authors and book lovers. I use Facebook and Twitter as best I can to promote my work. I have a websites and blogs for my books (https://saintofflorenville.wordpress.com/ and http://wisdomoflesmiserables.blogspot.com/ ). Over the years I have built up snail- and e-mail lists of interested readers. I also have my Kindle page http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=garrotto&x=9&y=21. I add a book-related “signature” to my e-mails. Promotion is an ongoing effort. I try to do at least one thing every day related to marketing my books.

Why publish on Kindle?

I have a Kindle. My wife has a Kindle. One of my two daughters has a Kindle. It’s the highest-rated ebook reader. Kindle is the place to be. I must confess, though, that I also have a presence on Smashwords.com, which makes my books available in all other ebook formats. Another reason to make my books available in ebook format is that I can price them to sell, without taking a big reduction in royalties, which are very generous.

What advice would you give to a first-time author thinking of self-publishing on Kindle?

Go for it. The upload process is much easier and accommodating than Smashwords’s. The exposure is terrific. You can set the market price yourself and, if successful, make some easy money in your sleep.

Author Bio

A native ofSanta Monica,CA, Alfred J. Garrotto now lives and writes in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is active in the Mount Diablo Branch of the historic California Writers Club, founded in 1909 by Jack London and his writing buddies. Al is married and has two adult daughters and a preschool grandson, who follows him around like a puppy. He also serves as a lay minister specializing in adult faith formation in a vibrant Roman Catholic parish.

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