JODI DAYNARD: IT TOOK A LONG TIME TO BE A BESTSELLING AUTHOR
Posted by Ognian Georgiev
Jodi Daynard is another example of a successful self-publishing writer who became bestselling author. Her novel The Midwife’s Revolt was recently re-published by Amazon’s company Lake Union after the initial success. The readers loved the plot and valuated it with average 4.5 out of 5 stars from 210 plus reviews. The novel entered in the Top 40 of the most downloaded kindle books in the recent week.
It’s time to introduce you Lady Jodi Daynard, our next Land of Books guest!
– What is your book The Midwife’s Revolt about?
– The Midwife’s Revolt is about a young midwife who becomes a close friend of Abigail Adams during the American Revolution. Eventually, she helps to solve two cases of murder whose culprit threatens to destroy the rebellion. More broadly, it’s about women’s resilience in trying times.
– How did you decide to write the story?
– I was reading A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812, by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, which is a scholarly explication of a New England midwife’s diary from the early 19th century. While reading about this midwife, I thought, “Boy, midwife’s really get into a family’s business. What if a midwife was called to wash a body and discovered that this person did not die of disease but rather was murdered?” It took a few more weeks before I decided to set the tale during the revolution and make my heroine a friend of Abigail Adams.
– What was the biggest challenge during the writing process?
– For me, the biggest challenge is not the writing per se but the revision. I do many revisions before I’m satisfied. For TMR, I probably did close to twenty. Also, I’m a stickler for accuracy, so it took me hundreds of hours to hunt down accurate facts about that time period, even down to what the weather was actually like on any given day.
– Tell us something more about your main characters Lizzie and Abigail? Are they close to someone from your real life?
– Well, Abigail, obviously, was a real person, so I tried to infuse in her all the qualities I picked up from reading her letters and from various biographies about her. But some people think she’s a lot like my own husband! I don’t know about that…
– How much time did you need to finish the story and to publish it?
– That’s a long story. But to make it short, it took me about three months to write, three years to edit, another year to self-publish, and then two more years before it became an Indie bestseller and Amazon/Lake Union picked it up. So that’s…six years total. Hopefully, my next one won’t take that long.
– What are the benefits of the re-release of the novel by Amazon publisher Lake Union?
– The benefits are massive. Whether one has issues with their model or not, it’s hard to dispute that they’re the God of publishers right now. They can—and do—make things happen. The fact that they sell directly to consumers is a win-win for publisher and author. They are able to take risk on books that other publishers can’t afford to take on. Also, they are able to do highly targeted marketing. My step-daughter woke up with TMR as her Kindle screensaver the other day. This is very powerful stuff.
– Would you tell us more about your other books An Evening with Claire and The Place Within?
– An Evening with Claire is actually a translation from the Russian. That was my first book and a true labor of love. It was the first and last time I worked on a book-length translation, because I soon figured out that I could write my own novel in the same amount of time. But Gazdanov’s first novel is gorgeous, a classic, and I’m glad that Overlook recently reissued it. I originally published it with the great Carl Proffer of Ardis Press.
The Place Within was another labor of love. This one is a collection of essays that I commissioned by some our most prominent American authors—Alan Lightman, Harry Crews, Philip Lopate, Gerald Early, and even a NASA astronaut on America from space!–on the importance of certain places to them. One of my own essays, Suburbia, USA, is included because, at the last minute, my editor decided we needed a piece on suburbia and I just happened to have one. I still love that anthology, but I’ll never do that kind of book again, because, again, I could write my own in the same amount of time.
– Who are you?
Mother, wife, writer, dancer, though the order changes every day.
– What are your writing habits?
– I can dither around for months, as the British say, doing research. I might do research here and there all day long when I have time. Once I begin the actual writing, though, I’m quite methodical and disciplined: I write early every morning, and I have to write at least three pages. I write all my first drafts by hand.
– Are you satisfied by the sales of your books?
– It’s been a week today since the novel was published, and sales are currently through the roof. It’s a bestseller in several categories. I’m very happy with that.
– What are you doing to promote your book by the best possible way?
– Amazon has their marketing geniuses. As the author, I’ve done my best to get the word out among book reviewers, TV and radio stations, and booksellers. When TMR was originally published I did more than twenty readings. But, fun as they are, readings don’t sell a lot of books. They are gratifying on a different level. It’s always great to meet one’s readers face to face.
– When we will see your next novel and would you unveil something more about it?
– The next one is finished and, with any luck, will be out next spring with Amazon/Lake Union. We have to see how this one does first. All signs point in that direction. The next is the second in the Midwife trilogy. It also takes place in the 1770s, and it’s from Eliza Boylston’s point of view. She is a character in TMR, but her family is on the other side of the war—the Tory side. So readers will get to see what it the Revolution was like for a family who not only didn’t support the Revolution but in many ways was a victim of it.
– You are a well known and established reviewer. What are the most common mistakes by new authors that you notice while reading their books?
– Well, I did review books for many years but don’t do so now. I can think of three big faults—but this holds true of both young and experienced authors—is 1) a lack of authenticity, especially with regard to the characters’ emotions; 2) failure to provide enough detailed description, both physical and psychological; and 3) bad, breezy dialogue.
The first, inauthenticity, is the worst. The author has sacrificed creating real, nuanced people for some idea of a plot. But even thrillers won’t work if the characters don’t have emotions commensurate with the experiences they are having and the personalities that they possess. When I see a detective joke around while standing over a dead body, for example, I throw the book in the garbage. Either the detective himself is a sociopath or the author has forgotten that seeing dead bodies are sad and horrifying. Either way, I’m done with that book.
Two, it’s much easier to go on and on with dialogue than to describe the place, the scene, the people, or their psychology. A lot that gets published these days basically is ALL dialogue. I find those novels annoying. If I wanted dialogue, I’d read a play. I understand why writers do it—dialogue is dramatic. But here again, if I can’t situate these humans in a time and place, dialogue quickly loses its grounding and becomes cheeky verbiage. Overall, the balance between narration, description, and dialogue, will differ for each unique work. But the commonality that great books have is that they ARE delicately balanced.
Finally, three, writing good dialogue is an art and craft of the highest order. Young authors should read a lot of great fiction to see how different authors handle it.. Characters should sound different just like humans sound different. But fictional dialogue is NOT the same as real dialogue. Fictional dialogue is real dialogue without most of the meaningless garbage inherent to our conversations with people (if you don’t believe me, try secretly taping a conversation. I have—and it’s pretty appalling!). Fictional dialogue is distilled down to its essential component. It’s never random or meaningless, but it gives the illusion of spontaneity. That’s an art, to accomplish that.
– If you may ask yourself one question in the interview what it will be?
– How does it feel to be a bestselling author? It feels great! But it took a long time. I’ve honed my craft over a lifetime. I never gave up but just kept writing and revising. A writer friend of mine was once asked, “How do you know if you’re a writer?” She replied, “Writers write.” I’d simply add that writers keep writing whether they’re accepted or not. Writers write because they have to. At least, that’s true for me.
Take a look at Jodi’s books: