The Bella self-publishing project is very much a family affair. One of my daughters designed www.getbella.com, and her boyfriend coded it. His brother is an artist who drew the sketches that accompany the excerpts. My older daughter is in public relations and helped write our press releases, and my wife has come up with some great marketing ideas, like our “message in a bottle.” See: http://www.getbella.com/travels-with-bella/
I’m going to disagree slightly with the premise of the question. To me, the story revolves around the relationship between Bella and Dan. I was less interested in the military backdrop than the ethical decisions that drive the action, both on the battlefield and in the bedroom. I have always been fascinated by actions people take when they think no one is watching.
You wrote this book and published it yourself as well. What made you decide to go indie, and how did the self-publishing process go?
There used to be just one way to enter the literary castle. You wrote your book, wooed the agents, and hopefully landed one who could get you a publisher. If you didn’t get the agent, you didn’t get into the castle, plain and simple. Technology’s changed the landscape, to my mind for the better. We self-published Bella and are in the process of getting it before average people without the help of any middlemen. That means real people will decide if the novel is worth reading. That said, an author takes on a big challenge when he or she moves from creative writing to creative marketing. We have taken on that challenge by crafting a web site www.getbella.com that features a video trailer, an interactive reader map, and illustrated excerpts. We are also well represented on Facebook - please friend us: http://on.fb.me/bellaFB - YouTube and Twitter. Finally, I am writing a how-to blog on self-publishing (Back Story) that tells how we’ve reached this point. The most recent post features a TV interview that was actually a lot of fun: http://www.getbella.com/can-we-talk/
When you decide to write another book, are you going to self-publish again?
I’m having a lot of fun so far, and it’s been a wonderful challenge, but I’m going to reserve judgment on that one for the time being.
Do you personally know any real-life version of Bella? If yes, did you ever – at anytime you’ve known such person – think that you would be using her for a character in a future book?
Over a long reporting career, I covered several tragic events, including the murder of Adam Walsh in Hollywood. I have always been interested in how people respond to profound grief – in the Walsh case, parents John and Reve channeled their grief into action by lobbying the state legislature in Tallahassee to pass tougher child protection laws. Others in similar situations became very withdrawn and shunned the spotlight. The Bella character is a mix of people like this that I covered during my reporting days.
How were you able to balance your writing with other aspects of your life?
It’s tricky, because inspiration strikes at the oddest moments. I like to write in the early morning, while it’s still quiet and peaceful. That’s not always possible. In the end, I think it comes down to being organized and a bit disciplined.
Scenario: A fire broke out in your house’s kitchen. What is the first thing you will save?
Assuming everyone’s out of the house, I would save the picture of my wife and myself, taken more than three decades ago when we were in our teens.
The fire now reaches your library. What are five books you will take with you on your way out?
That’s easy. We don’t have a library. If we did, however, I would snag: The Shipping News by Annie Proulx, American Pastoral by Philip Roth, Rabbit at Rest by John Updike, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, and The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.
Will we ever see your reporter Dan Patragno in another novel?
Yes - In one of his first assignments, rookie reporter Dan stumbles on a decades-old secret. It began simply enough - two boys were planning to sneak a few beers in the woods. They knew to be careful; 1959 was no year for underage black kids to get caught drinking in rural South Carolina. Before the first sip, they came to a clearing. A black man was on his knees, surrounded by white men in robes. One shed his mask – the local judge. One boy bolted. The other, Ike Washington, froze. Dan learns that Judge Mac McCauley weighed things in that moment and offered young Ike a choice; join the man about to die, or begin hustling the black support McCauley needed to advance in state politics. In trade, Ike would enjoy a life of power and comfort. Decades later, with Dan on the story, McCauley is a U.S. senator and Ike is poised to become the first black congressmen from South Carolina since Reconstruction. Instead, he winds up in the same forest where the hanging took places years earlier, a long rope in hand. The night is noisy, but all Ike hears is the name his rivals have bestowed upon him: Bootlicker. Our plan is to publish Bootlicker, the prequel to Bella, in late 2011.
Thank you so much for joining us, Steve!
For an added treat, watch the trailer for Bella by Steve Piacente:
Take a look at some amazing illustrated excerpts of the book here. For more info on Steve Piacente and his book, you can find him on:
The official website of Bella
News: Steve will be on Book Expo America (BEA) in New York in May. If you are attending that event, you can catch him in a booth on Writer's Row at Jandis Center, they will be giving away Bella bookmarks! And his book will be sold at a special expo price of USD 10.00.