This week I am interviewing Yamina Collins. She is a fellow blogger and author. She has just published her first book.
First up, what’s this book about?
It’s a short story collection called The Blueberry Miller Files. I had a blast writing these stories, and these multi-ethnic characters, in all their humor, tragedy in awkwardness. I think I’m fascinated by humanities fallen condition. I’m fascinated by our sin, and how it affects us and those around us.
Nonetheless, some of them are fun stories; I deal with a wealthy, negligent father who learns the hard way that family doesn’t always stick together; a southern belle with a modern sensibility that may not be as modern as she thinks, and a relationship guru who finds that first loves are often hard to forget.
OK, but why write short stories? Do short stories collections even sell?
First of all, let me say this: the indie writer no longer has to worry about sales. Don’t get me wrong. I know authors want to make a living just as much as the next person; and if you’re an indie author who is being published by a small press other than the one you yourself created, well, ok, that could prove to be a an issue.
But, for the indie and self-pubbed author who is truly their own boss, you’re no longer in danger of being “dropped” just because your groovy little story collection only sold 50 copies.
Secondly, I believe that this decade will see a rebirth of the short story genre. There is no doubt in my mind that there’s an audience for shorter works. Remember when F. Scott Fitzgerald was making the majority of his income off stories he sold to the Saturday Evening Post in the 1920s? Why can’t that happen again?
Yes, it’s true that we live in post-MTV, twitter generation. And, yes, people have short attention spans. But I say a good, short read should be just up their alley!
You published “The Blueberry Miller Files” via your own publishing company, DeeBooks Publishing. What was that experience like?
It has cost me a lot of money, but it’s been wonderful, too. Actually, publishing this book via my own company gave me the freedom to be the following: a black writer who writes about white characters (sometimes), a Christian author who refuses to use cursing in any of my stories, even though it might not “sound realistic” to some people, and a “southern” observer who does something I never saw done in Gone with the Wind: let the slave holders speak with as much of a jacked-up dialect as the slaves themselves spoke with. It’s been a fun ride.
Yes, speaking of cursing, you have all of these fallen characters in these ugly situations, yet none of them curse! Why not?
I don’t curse in my books, or in real life. As a Christian, I don’t think you stop being a Christian just while you’re writing your book. Honestly, I don’t think God gives us commands without a way for us to follow them. So I have to find ways for people to say nasty things without crossing that line of actually saying it. It has to be implied. Or if there’s a sex scene, somehow I have to let the audience know it’s happening with describing it or titillating people. It’s kind of an exercise in creativity. It can be a tough call to make, but I think it’s doable. And it’s challenging, too! But, hey, life was meant for challenges! God stretches us when we’re challenged.
Any Favorite Characters in the Collection?
I love this character named Madam Adams. She is a loony little doll; an African-American Anglophile with a Shakespeare complex. Her parents raised her in Harlem, but she tells people she was raised in England by a group of thespians. She is a loveable nutcase with a fondness for bad writing, wine, and crumpets.
Who are some of your all-time favorite short story authors?
Edgar Allan Poe, Jessie Redmon Fauset, Henry James and Washington Irving. Not that all these people wrote only short stories. And, in fact, Henry James was known for the nouvelle rather than the typical short story, but…you get the point. These guys were masters. And I love the classics. That’s what I grew up on.
You now run a book blog that gets some 130,000 hits and 12,000 visitors per month. What’s been the primary focus of your blog so far?
You know, the initial reason I started Yaminatoday.com was to chronicle my own personal journey as a soon-to-be published indie writer back in 2010, before my book came out. I figured a blog would be a great way to provide publicity for my future books. However, something funny happened along the way of my journey. I quickly grew bored hearing my own voice. I wanted to know what other writers were doing in the self-publishing and indie publishing world.
Also, I became suspicious that indie writers who focus solely on their own work lose out on a potentially larger audience when they don’t involve and support other writers. So really, my blog is about providing value information to other writers by inviting other writers to partake in the journey.
It’s quickly evolved from a “Me, me, me” blog to a “You, you, you,” blog, and soon I am hoping to do literary shows soon where I get to interview other writers.
Any advice to would-be writers out there?
Yes. If you’re an indie author, treat your book with some respect. Give it the same treatment you would want a publishing house to give it. Hire an editor, get your book cover done professionally. Write and re-write and then re-write some more. You want to compete with the big boys, don’t you? Well act like it! Don’t think sloppy editing and generic book covers will cut it when there are literally hundreds of thousands of books out there vying for the public’s attention.
Secondly, know that your e-book in particular has a very long shelf-life, so the money you invest in now has the potential to reap rewards years and years down the line.
Thanks for joining us, Yamina.
It’s been my pleasure!
Author A. Yamina Collins runs the popular literary blog Yaminatoday.com. She has been featured on About.com for women in business. The Blueberry Miller Files, a collection of tales about the humor, awkwardness, and tragedy of the human condition, is her first published book. You can read parts of her book on Scribd, or buy it on Amazon.