Today I have author Mandy Trouten on my blog!
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
–My favorite TV shows are Law & Order: SVU, NCIS, Burn Notice, Unforgettable and Criminal Minds. I love country music, contemporary Christian, some metal, some rock and most 80s music. I love dogs and cats. I love reading, especially historical fiction, historical romance and suspense thrillers. On occasion, I enjoy making jewelry. I’m not a big jewelry person, but most of the jewelry I wear, whether for a special occasion or just because, is hand-made. Whenever possible, I enjoy helping victims/survivors to stop the abuse against them and heal from it. Peer sexual abuse is my life. It’s my passion. I didn’t always plan on being an anti-abuse advocate. I didn’t plan on becoming an author, but then I didn’t plan on being abused either. Things change. I would still love to be a graphic designer, outside of the designing/marketing of my own books, but I would be easily as happy if I can make a successful career out of being an author, anti-abuse advocate and peer counselor. I’m a Christian. I’m not the presumptious, screeching individual you often see on corners and in courtyards, nor do I make a habit of railing on my websites about sinners, but neither am I ashamed of my faith. As a Christian and an anti-abuse advocate, I would love to bridge the social gap between the two groups. It galls me that there are so few Christians and Christian groups speaking out against abuse, when the Bible is very clearly against it, just like it galls me to hear liberals and athiests claiming that the Bible condones abuse. I’m proud to say that I’m slowly hearing more Christians/groups talking about abuse. Likewise, I’m slowly hearing more people talking about sexual and nonsexual abuse in schools. Both are the start of what I hope will be a revolution.
What do you do when you are not writing?
–I’m almost always writing or doing something having to do with abuse, even while watching TV. When I’m not, I’ll read or, if there’s an occasion that demands something I don’t already have, I’ll make jewelry. I also enjoy playing computer games. My current favorites are Spider Solitaire, Canasta and BattlePhlinx.
Do you have a day job as well?
–Regretfully, no. I do what graphic design jobs come my way, but most of my time is spent building my career as an author and praying for success.
When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?
–If you don’t count school assignments, I first started writing in 2004. It was intended solely for therapeutic purposes; but, in time, I also posted them on my first website about peer sexual abuse, then on a literary review site. Most of those poems will be featured in my next book, Shadows of Night, intended for release in Fall 2013. I began writing Shadows of Night in 2006, but did not finish it until this past Spring. Counting Maybe Today as my first book, since it was the first to be completed and published, I finished the initial copy around November or December 2010.
How did you choose the genre you write in?
–For all except Shadows of Night, I write novels because it allows me to write about a specific subject in a realistic manner, while still keeping all the suspense and enjoyment of a fictional story. Shadows of Night is nonfiction, which I wrote purely because I could find no books in the local library, nor comprehensive info online, about peer sexual abuse and therefore assumed that there were none to find.
Where do you get your ideas?
–Everywhere. My own life, Law & Order: SVU, any book I’m reading at the time, creative thinking (better known as daydreaming), conversations with people on/offline and even dreams/nightmares. Naturally, I would never breach someone’s confidence, nor could the average person guess who inspired my book characters and events, but I’ll take inspiration from anything.
Do you ever experience writer’s block?
–Routinely. When I do, I write down ideas as they come and work on something else until I’m able to continue.
Do you work with an outline, or just write?
–Usually, I work with an outline. It’s one of the first things I’ll do after I have a general plot idea. But, once I have that outline, it’s a lot of just writing. On the other hand, all 3 of my current books started with me just writing. After losing my sense of direction a couple times, I started putting them in outline form. Then, I would rearrange it accordingly and go from there. An outline is very useful because it allows you, not just to line up the events themselves, but to decide how best to control the inherent emotions, suspense, etc.
Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
–Aside from the Bible, probably not. I think it’s safe to say that every book I’ve ever read influenced me in one way or another.
Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
–I’m fortunate in that the first company I contacted accepted my manuscript and we were in the process of signing a rent to own agreement on our house, so the government grant that came with it covered the breathtakingly high author’s fee. In terms of challenges, I almost called it quits before even contacting Tate Publishing because their terms, as stated on their website, state that there is to be no cursing, no vulgarity, no graphic love scenes, etc. I thought “how on earch can I publish a book about sexual abuse without breaking those rules?” Instead of quitting, I emailed the website contact person, who happened to be the director of acquisitions, and gave her a basic synopsis of my book. Then, I asked if it’s something they would publish or if it’s still considered a violation of their rules. I fully expected to get a professional no-can-do. Instead, I got an email back asking me to send my manuscript to them and saying that she would read it and let me know. The next challenge was the above-mentioned author’s fee. I thought “that’s it. I’m through, because there is no one in my entire life who can loan me anywhere near that much money, if any at all.” I prayed again for an answer, as I had become used to praying for my book. The very nature of the government grant was that we were supposed to split it almost in half with the landlord, as part of the downpayment for the house. The answer given was to ask the landlord, who I figured didn’t even like me, so he wasn’t likely to say yes. So, I called my mom, who was/is on great terms with him. The three of us talked about it and he said yes. Naturally, given the subject of peer sexual abuse, there have been many challenges along the way too, but I’m not quite so concerned about them. I’m going to succeed. It’s only a question of by how much and when.
If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?
–No. I would love to have started with more money, a higher level of self-confidence and better/higher connections, but I’m glad for what I have in that regard. I’m glad also to have met the people I met as a direct result of having to baby step my way instead of strolling through it.
How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
–I use Facebook, Twitter, and occasionally Myspace. I’m planning on branching out into Youtube, Blogspot and/or WordPress. I comment in random forums when applicable. As a visual communications graduate, I also design(ed) my bookmarks, business cards, pushcards and posters. So far, word of mouth is working the best for me. My first book signing was a near flop, saved only by three friends of mine, a friend of a friend and a complete stranger. I remind myself though that my marketing rep. said that the first book signing is usually a flop because people rarely attend book signings for unheard of authors, but that the second signing is more likely to succeed because the unheard of factor has been eliminated.
Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published?
Can you tell us about your upcoming book?
–Shadows of Night is purely nonfiction. Beginning with my own experience and supported by numerous news stories, legal cases, leading surveys and a few individual accounts, it is a detailed accounting of:
*what sexual abuse is
*where it happens
*the most common offenders
*why it’s done
*what causes sexual abuse
*why it’s allowed to happen
*social misconceptions, norms, jokes
*the effect on society
*what we are/aren’t doing to address sexual abuse
*and what we should be doing.There will undoubtedly be many people who will disagree with me on any or all of the above points, which is why I was very careful to make sure everything is backed up by up-to-date research and logical conclusions drawn from research and/or society in general. That won’t keep people from disagreeing with me, but I’ll be far better equipped to discuss it if said-people are inclined. Likewise, the sources pages will give people everything they need to fact-check except the applicable page numbers. I’m hopeful that Shadows of Night will become the best, or one of the best, resources for addressing peer sexual abuse in schools and, by extension, sexual abuse anywhere/everywhere else.
Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
–Maybe Today is based on three true stories–my own and two lawsuits I came across while researching for a college English paper and Shadows of Night. The storyline itself is fictional, but many of the scenes themselves are directly influenced by (or direct representations of) real events and/or fears I had in high school. Most of the characters are based on classmates and adults from high school.
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
–Honestly, I’m not sure. I enjoyed almost every aspect of writing Maybe Today, whether the scene was happy or far from it, but I think that award might go to the ending. Regretfully, I can’t tell you why because that would ruin the story, but I had fun. The happy scenes are the sort that most anyone would smile at and, if you’re into sarcasm/dark humor, even the unhappy scenes will make you laugh.
How did you come up with the title?
–The title was inspired by the poem I wrote by that name, printed at the end of the book, and meant to be representative of the hope that every abuse victim has that, maybe today, things will change. Maybe today will be different. Maybe today, someone will open their eyes and ears. Someone will finally see what’s happening to me and make it stop. Even after someone stops expecting anyone to step in and stops acknowledging that hope, even to him/herself, it’s there.
What project are you working on now?
–Right now, I’m promoting Maybe Today and working on the outline for the sequel and the third book in the series.
Will you have a new book coming out soon?
–Maybe Today is my new book. 🙂 I intend to release Shadows of Night in Fall 2013. I don’t even know yet when I’m going to publish Silent Night, my next fiction, or the sequels to Maybe Today.
Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?
–Kyle, Lauren, her family and Bryan are recurring characters in the series. I’m not sure yet about other characters, though I do know that some will have “walk-on” roles and at least one will be a regular character in the sequels. Over all, the series is a representation of the ups and downs of an abuse victim’s life and the journey she undergoes in learning to heal from the abuse, as experienced in my life. Of course, her life will not go in quite the same direction mine has, which is to say that the economy doesn’t come as close to collapse in the fictional world and I’m not planning on her becoming an author. 🙂
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
–If I had to name something, I would say it was being told that Lauren’s character is unrealistic, that she should be less hostile and/or that people don’t actually think in as detailed a manner as she does. Since everything about Lauren was based on me, give or take the exact events/choices in her life, I opted for as detailed and professional response as I could manage on the nature of abuse and, therefore, abuse victims.
Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
–If you want to write a book, write it. I highly recommend an outline/timeline. Writing a book seems really daunting until you have that outline, and of course creating the outline is a joy; but, once the outline is done, it’s like following a recipe, except you get to change anything you want to. Basically, creating the outline is a “simple” matter of arranging the major points of the plot line in terms of what happens when, then filling in the spaces in between with story.
Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
—Thank you. Also, I’d love to meet you and, if you’re interested in taking a stand against peer sexual abuse, I would be overjoyed to know that my books served a purpose beyond the general benefits of fiction.