Monday, July 25, 2011

Author Interview

Mormons: Tall Tales & Truths
By Jenni Rose Maiava

About the Author:
I was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest and my husband and I are raising our family there now. I graduated from Brigham Young University-Hawaii with a bachelor's degree in information systems and computer science. I met my husband while in our junior year--he's from American Samoa. We have lived in Hawaii, Washington twice and Arizona. We have five (amazing, lovely, talented) children. 
A few years ago, I went back to school to get my master's degree in public administration. During my last year in school, as I was turning 39 and feeling angst about 40, I decided to submit one of my manuscripts to a publishing company. American Book Publishing company contacted me 4 weeks later with an offer to publish my book! I currently work for the Providence Medical Group as their EMR Manager; I just had my 15 year anniversary with Providence. I was raised LDS and we are raising our family in the church.

Book summary:
Mormons: Tall Tales & Truths is a book about myths and misunderstandings abound about Latter-day Saints and our faith. My book shares stories and experiences I have had over the years with people curious about the Mormon religion and attempts to clearly define what we do believe. 

Do Mormons have horns?!? 
...tails, or religious tattoos?
These are a few of the more bizarre assertions I’ve heard over the years. I included them because as odd as they are, I’ve heard them each several times.
We have friends that throw a Halloween party every year. Most of the guests dress up. One year, my brother and his wife showed up as a devil and an angel. My brother’s costume was pretty simple; he had on a red shirt and little stick-on horns. One of the other guests wasn’t sure what he was and asked about his costume. Before he could answer, I said, “He’s a Mormon!” The funny thing was that just about everyone laughed and admitted to hearing that a time or two themselves.
There isn’t much difference between Mormons and everybody else. Just like there are lots of really wonderful Methodists, Baptists, Catholics, Lutherans, etc. out there, there are lots of good Mormons too.  Mormons are just regular humans. Promise.  No tails or horns included.

Why did you write this book?
My friends were always asking me questions about Mormonism. They started joking with me about writing a book called “Mormonism for Dummies.¨ For years they would say, here’s another chapter for your book! Eventually I started writing down the questions people would ask me. I kept this “journal¨ for ten years before deciding to put it into a manuscript and sending it off to a publishing company.

Tell us about your experience writing. Challenges? Good times?
Writing is fun! I just tell stories. I like to talk a lot, and so writing is, for me, a conversation. As I’m writing I imagine I’m chatting with my husband or friends and the stories flow out of me.

What was the publishing experience like?
Publishing is nothing like you think it’s going to be. It’s complicated and time consuming and exciting. Getting published definitely felt/feels like a great accomplishment.

How many editors did you work with (before, during, etc) and how did that go?
I had the chance to edit a book before having my manuscript picked up for publishing. I like to think that gave me a unique perspective. I had one editor, Sarah, who was just wonderful. She guided me through the process and helped me refine my book and my writing. Sarah was the first “objective¨ person I’d shown my book to. Her feedback and edits were critical to the final product. Most importantly, remembering my experience editing an author¡¦s book, helped me to not take the edits and changes “personal.¨

For other first-time authors, give your tips on marketing.
As an author you will be given lots of advice on how to best market your book. It can be overwhelming! My advice is to find what works for you and your personality. I’m not a born sales-person. But, I love to talk with people. For me, emailing and calling people and chatting about my book is the best way I’ve found to generate interest and garner sales and reviews. My brother, Josh, gave me great advice once when I was frustrated. He said, “view book marketing as a marathon, not a sprint.¨ Rather than trying to do 10 marketing strategies at once, employ one or two at a time and as those gain momentum, add new tools and methods. Realizing that marketing your book is something you will be doing for many years rather than all at once can make it feel less daunting.

Do you have plans for other books in the future?
I have two other non-fiction books in process and I have 10 completed children’s books that I am currently submitting to publishing companies. I would love to have more time to write, but right now it’s mostly in the middle of the night!

What do you like to do for fun?
I really enjoy being with my family. We play sports, go for bike rides, hikes, and just plain hang out together. I also love to read lots of books and blogs. Every year my family puts on a community lu’au. Planning and prepping for it is a lot of work but sitting down to watch the show is one of my favorite moments of every year.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Don't Date Yourself (in your book!)

I have three children, all 5 and under. Let me tell you, it gets a little crazy sometimes.

Two of my little monsters angels are boys, and I'm just going to say it right now--boys are different. They come with their own set of challenges. I grew up with three brothers, so I thought having boys would be "easy." Most of the time they are wonderful, but there are still things I do not understand.

"Why do you have to roll around in the dirt?"
"Why do you need 12 toy cars?"
"Why did you pee in the yard?"

Someone recommended I read So You Want to Raise a Boy? and while ordering it off I realized it was very, very old. Only used copies were available. Mine even has a ripped jacket (see?) and a lovely inscription from a grandma to her son and wife, who I assume also have a rambunctious boy or two of their own.

I cracked open the book recently and have already read up to age 4. It contains some good insight into the different stages a boy goes through as he ages, but one thing really stuck out to me. This book really dates itself.

What I mean is, the book uses specific words and explanations that are so different from the modern norm. Comments sprinkled here and there that seem to shout, "This was written in the 1950s!" In its defense, some things can't be helped, like explaining that the father waits anxiously in the waiting room while the baby is delivered, for that was a social norm of the time. And words like "orgy" and "fondle" didn't used to have negative connotations like they do today. But I still find myself giggling. Then I gasped at the explanation of spanking, which of course is less-than-politically-correct these days.

What can we learn from this? If you want to make your book timeless, watch what you write. Consider leaving out popular modern words or phrases that are just a fad, and if you can, keep out references like fleeting technology gadgets and the like. Because readers should be focusing on the story or the information in the text, not the time period in which it was written.