I’m honored and delighted to introduce my lovely friend Rachel Thompson, Indie Book Collective co-founder and author of the books A Walk in the Snark and The Mancode: Exposed. In addition to being a wonderful writer, Rachel is one of the funniest, most generous people I know. Today she talks about her new book The Mancode: Exposed. Enjoy!
Interview with Rachel Thompson
Could you please tell us something about yourself? Tell us a secret.
I didn’t speak until the age of three. I had an older sister and she interpreted for me, apparently. Finally, my mother purchased a record ‘How to train your parrot.’ You can imagine how it went from there.
How, when and why did you begin writing? What inspires you?
I started writing as a kid, about age ten. I just always enjoyed taking what was in my head and putting it on paper. I took writing classes as an adult but didn’t seriously write as a career until 2008 when I began blogging. As a non-fiction, humor writer, daily life is my inspiration; particularly since I write about male/female relationships.
What are you passionate about? What keeps you awake at night?
Writing, of course. I’ve always got ideas for new stories. As for real-world stuff, I’m a supporter of women and children’s issues, particularly domestic violence.
If a magic carpet would take you anyplace in the world, where would you go? Why?
I’ve always wanted to visit Greece.
Do you have a favorite quote? What does this quote mean to you?
I’m not a very quotey type person, as people who follow me on Twitter will attest; however, I did put one quote in A Walk In The Snark that I’ve carried with me through the years from Goethe: ‘The right man is the one who seizes the moment.’ It applies to anyone, male or female and has some very personal meaning for me.
If you could change one thing in your life, what would it be?
More hours in the day would be great. And a clean-up fairy while we’re asking.
Please tell us Mancode – something we won’t pick up by reading the description or blurbs?
I planted some pop-culture ‘easter eggs’ throughout the book. I’m a kind of a movie, pop-culture, book junkie so it will be fun to see if people pick up on the riffs I tossed in there.
What was your inspiration? What do you hope readers take away from this book?
When I wrote my first book, A Walk In The Snark, some people (men) gave me a hard time for stereotyping men, which wasn’t my intent at all. I hope this book gives a better look at how men and women take situations and deal with them from both sides of the door.
Can you give us some insider info – a scene behind the scenes?
Well, I do work with a critique group so every essay is vetted before it ever sees the light of day. I don’t just sit in my cave and make myself maniacally laugh. Well, I DO, but then I run it by my group haha. I also work with an editor, a proofreader, and a formatter. If what I think is terrifically funny doesn’t make the cut, it doesn’t make the cut. Which isn’t to say I won’t fight for it. I AM a redhead after all.
What were the hardest and most enjoyable aspects of writing MANCODE? Why?
I set a goal of a minimum of ten pages per week, which is about five essays. That doesn’t seem like much, but when you get involved in your other real-life stuff (wife, mom, house, Indie Book Collective, and I also do social media consulting, as well as all my own social media and book marketing – whew, I’m tired already), sometimes it can be hard to fit that writing in. So it can become exhausting. And I don’t always achieve that goal. But it’s so important to have a goal.
Fortunately, I love writing. I love the social media interactions and marketing. To me, it’s fun.
ABOUT WRITING AND PUBLISHING
Would you please share some tips on revision? How do you go about revising? How long does this process take? Do you enjoy it?
Revision to me is a wonderfully organic process. I’m one of those freaks who enjoys and embraces it. I have a strong internal editor but I shut her off as I write. Then I revise again after my crit group gives me their ‘bloody edits.’ Then, once I’m done with all the essays, I give it to my editor and that’s when it gets really ugly!
For example, with Mancode: Exposed, we broke it into four main sections and looked at the content of each essay to determine where each essay fit. Sometimes the process works backward, which is what I mean by organic. My editor, Jessica Swift, discovered that I had mentioned chocolate in so many essays that ‘Chocolate Confessions’ became a section unto itself.
As for the process itself, for me it takes about one month. Jessica takes her first look at it as a whole to see how we will separate things out into sections. Then she looks at each essay individually for what needs work. She’s amazing. I think the editor/author relationship is such a critical one. She doesn’t just correct my grammar – she knows when someone does/doesn’t work and what’s needed.
From there, I pick which essay goes into which section, rewrite, revise, edit, etc. and then off it goes to my proofreader/formatter, Toni Rakestraw who’s also fabulous.
Why did you decide to go indie? Are you glad you did? Why or why not?
There was never any question I’d go indie. I’d met several amazing writers who had been through both the traditional and indie process and we’d formed the Indie Book Collective together (Carolyn McCray and Amber Scott). They guided me through the eBook process and I’ve never looked back.
Snark hit #1 for the first time on the Kindle Motherhood list in September, 2011 and has since hit fifteen more times! The blog tours, Bestseller For A Day, and all the other promotion we do with the Indie Book Collective have given the book amazing exposure.
What did you do to prepare for your launch?
I created a Facebook page just for Mancode; I’ve been tweeting about it for months; I’ve been blogging essay snippets throughout the year – Mancode: Exposed is different from Snark in that it’s all original material, not based on my blog. But it’s still a good way to build momentum, by letting people see what you’re writing by sharing it on your blog. And of course, I had a TON of beta readers who are your best word of mouth.
What are doing now to market your book?
Everything! What am I NOT doing is more the question, really. I’ve lowered the price of both Snark AND Mancode to just 99cents for the IBC’s #IndieBookBlowout 12 Days of Christmas, which began on December 12 and runs through Christmas. I’m also doing a month-long book tour through the Virtual Book Tour Cafe that runs 12/13 through 1/15. Lots of interviews, reviews and other fun stuff.
What’s worked best for you, marketing-wise? Why? Have you tried anything that hasn’t worked? What would you change?
Certainly interacting on social media is a huge benefit to authors. And by that I don’t mean the metaphor of shouting out my links on the street corner. I mean TALKING with people. Getting to know them. Also participate in virtual blog tours – a fabulous way to garner reviews, get to know the all-important reviewers, give away books or prizes, etc. And understanding Amazon and the whole ‘science’ as I refer to it of their marketing algorithm is hugely important. Tagging, categories, rankings, lists – for people who don’t research or make the effort to understand it, all I can say is YOU ARE LOSING SALES.
If you were to give one tip to aspiring writers, what would it be?
Trust your own voice. It’s great to take classes, join discussion groups, read how-to books, get degrees. But eventually, it’s just you and the keyboard.
THIS OR THAT?
Lefty or righty? Right, though when I was a gymnast I did everything on the left. Weird.
Introvert or extrovert? Introvert, actually in the technical sense. I draw my energy from quiet: writing, reading, solitary time. Though I’m adaptable to social situations.
Plane, train or automobile? Trains are pretty bitchin, though I don’t mind air travel if I’ve taken enough Xanax.
Beer, wine or hard alcohol? Please, girl. Vodka.
Party pooper or party girl? Definitely the party girl, but only for so long. And it depends on the party, the mix, and the music.
Winter or summer? I’m more a fall kinda girl. Cold but not too cold.
Music or TV? MUSIC. Don’t have a TV in the bedroom. As if.
Walking or running? Walking, unless I’m running away from a bear. Not that it’s ever happened. You never know. He could’ve read Mancode and be one pissed off dude.
Beach or fireplace? Beach. I live a quarter mile from the beach here in the OC. Lots of people still don’t know where that is, which kind of amazes me. Home of Disneyland, people. Fireplaces do totally rock the house, though.
Book or audiotape? eBook, baby.
Draft or revise? You know, I’ve revised this answer three times. So I guess there’s your answer.
RACHEL’S QUICK FAVES
Drink. Coffee. No, martini. No, coffee. #ack
Snack. Pft. Nutella.
Story. Wow, so many. Anything behind the scenes of writing a book or making a film.
Book. The World According to Garp by John Irving.
Writer. John Irving.
Film. Blade Runner
TV. Weeds or Nurse Jackie. Love the subversive stuff.
Song. Amazed, by Poe
Writer as in songwriter? Jonatha Brooke, Fisher, Poe, Imogen Heap (mostly females)
Musician. Lang Lang
Actor. Sigh-Brad Pitt
Activity. Reading, writing, hangin w/ the family, rare sleep
** Spellcheck doesn’t recognize mantrum, but it recognizes bitchy. Guys are used to women being bitchy. Therefore, Spellcheck must be a man. Who had a mantrum. **
I upset my husband recently because I didn’t realize he does something work-related that apparently he’s been doing for, like, ten years. (In case you’re wondering, it’s a computer thingie blah blah yada yada. He says he’s explained it before. I have a college degree. I still can’t cook. Maybe there’s a relation between it all?)
Now in my defense, when he goes into his office, he usually shuts his door or shushes us all away. He goes into what I call ‘Gorilla-Grunt Mode’ where god help the person who tries to approach him. The kids and I clear the area for the most part when he’s in work mode.
In this case, ignorance is kinda bliss.
He’s a successful guy and despite some lows with the economy, we’ve done okay. When he’s putting together his sale development programs, I help him with editing, grammar and spelling (writer, hello) and that’s about it. He’s an independent sales trainer for large corporations and while I used to sell stuff like pharmaceuticals, I don’t anymore (well, except for books). I haven’t since ’04. I consider myself recovered, thanks.
So yea, he’s kinda pissed. I think it’s a Mancode thing. An ego thing. Perhaps a husband thing.
But here’s the thing…
I don’t expect my husband to know everything I write. Or what three-act structure is. Or where my stories or poems have been published. Or to even read my poems (he’s not big into poetry). I can hardly get him to sit still for a 500-word blog piece, let alone my book.
Why should I expect him to involve himself intimately in my writing career when the guy hates to read in the first place?
I don’t. I don’t take it personally that he has no interest whatsoever in reviews of my work. That he only wants to know how many sales I’ve had this week, if he even remembers to ask, that is.
I get it. He’s just not that interested. Writing and reading to him are about as interesting as watching a chick flick. At midnight. With Chinese sub-titles.
So I’m not quite sure why his ego got so hurt that I didn’t know that he did this one thing.
Except for the fact that he’s a guy, and guys expect their mates to know everything they do (despite not telling us and thinking they have, which is a trait I refer to as Manesia). I won’t be upset back at him ’cause I don’t play tit for tat. It’s stupid and a waste of time.
I respect his wounded ego. He works really hard for us. Basically it comes down to lack of communication, a common issue for many couples. So I’ll tell him I’m sorry, he’ll pout for a while, I’ll gaze lovingly at him with my big green eyes, we’ll have a martini, and all will be fine.
And if it’s not, I’ll tell him to grow a pair and stop acting like such a man.
Would you be willing to tell us a secret about Mancode itself or writing the book – something no one else knows?
I pre-write a lot in my head. I’m inspired by everything around me. I listen to what men and women say very closely in daily conversation. I rarely watch TV – stereotypes are uninteresting to me (though people accuse of me of that daily). I observe real life and deconstruct that.
I LOVE your voice! You have a tremendously sharp eye! You’re hilarious and yet also loving and generous in your depiction of male-female relationships. How did you develop your sensibilities? What inspires you?
My own family is a great source of inspiration – my guy, of course, but also my sisters and their husbands, my parents, and raising my own boy and girl. Also, having cofounded the Indie Book Collective and being on Twitter in both a personal and professional capacity, I see daily how men and women act and react. I can’t help but store all that away like a squirrel for my writing winter.
So often while reading MANCODE I find myself laughing out loud. Humor writing seems easy, but it’s actually very hard. The timing and balance have to be perfect, as yours are. Can you share any secrets about writing humor? Any advice?
Well, I do think there’s an innate sensibility to having a humor voice. As Carolyn McCray says (my IBC cofounder), ‘You can’t TEACH funny.’ However, there are a few steadfast rules:
1) The Rule of Three. If giving an example, use three. Place your punchline in the last one. If you peruse almost every essay of MANCODE or SNARK, that rule is always in place.
2) Exaggerate. My stories are all based on real-life people and experiences. But I make it funnier by embellishing (ie, naming the school nurse ‘Nurse Ratched’ – even though she is).
3) Certain words and topics are simply funny. Dare to go there. I’m a lady. I really didn’t want to write about farts. But I live w/ two testosterone-fueled guys. I really had no choice. As I wrote it, I realized that fart rhymes with Bart, and it came to me-this is why The Simpsons are still on TV after all these many years!
How does/do your husband, son and/or other men in your life feel about your depictions of males? Does your husband laugh or roll his eyes at the jokes?
Yes. Fortunately, my husband has a terrific sense of humor and actually gives me ideas for essays (both on purpose and unintentionally). He’s not much of a reader, so there’s also that benefit. The boy is only in Kindergarten. He’s more interested in Legos.
As you point out, some of the humor is a little, eh-hem, fresh. You warn readers about this at the beginning of the book. (It’s so non-PC and refreshing! I love it!) Have you had any pushback? If so, from whom and how do you respond?
A bit. One guy told me it’s unladylike. I don’t think you want to print my response. :-)
Listen, this is my voice, my writing. I’m perfectly okay with people not wanting to read it, which is why I let people know up front what to expect but you just never know. I thought I made it fairly clear with the title of A WALK IN THE SNARK, and yet I received a 1-star review from someone who thought it was ‘too sarcastic.’ Ahem. It’s not called A WALK IN THE COOKIE.
As I read, I kept picturing all the famous female comedians. Honestly, you are SO funny – and so tremendously insightful! Have you ever considered acting or stand up?
Thank you, Terri! I’ve thought about stand-up. I’m asked about that frequently. Live comedy is tough. Plus I love writing. But I never say never.
You are one of the loveliest, most generous writers I know – truly! Those qualities come across very clearly in your writing. Yet your writing is also edgy. When you write, how do you square those sides of your personality?
Thanks again, T. There is a side to me that’s sometimes a bit almost-apologetic, I guess. I tend to want to present both sides (ie, not ALL men are like this, etc.). But then the essays lose their flavor. It’s a given that not everyone is like what I write – people with any sense of humor or brains should be able to realize that I’m writing a humorous spin on an experience or incident. If what I write upsets them, that’s a good thing – I’ve elicited an emotional response – gold to a writer, as you know.
Finding that place inside ourselves, as authors, where we can let go of our insecurities about -what will people think,- or -will this upset someone,- is when we really start to mature, in my opinion.
What are you working on now?
The next book in the series, Chickspeak: Uncovered; where I explain for the guys what ‘I’m fine,’ truly means and why chocolate is a food group.
I’m also working on a short fiction piece for the next IBC anthology (we have two out so far which I’ve contributed to, The Evil Within which is horror, and Our Indie Experience which discusses multiple authors’ experiences going the self-pub route) for Valentine’s Day
Could you please tell your fans how to connect with you?
Look up RachelintheOC, I’m there: Twitter @RachelintheOC, blog: RachelintheOC.com, email: RachelintheOC@gmail.com, Facebook: RachelintheOC Thompson, Goodreads at RachelintheOC, and of course, my two books on Amazon, A Walk in the Snark and The Mancode: Exposed.
I also love the quote by author Lorrie Moore: ‘Write something you’d never show your mother or father.‘ It’s so incredibly freeing.
Rachel Thompson (aka RachelintheOC) is the author of the consistently 5/5 star reviewed humorous and at times, poignant, collection of essays, A Walk In The Snark (released 1/2011), which hit #1 on the Amazon Motherhood Kindle list (beating out the likes of Jenny McCarthy and Tori Spelling) for the first time in September, 2011 and seven more times within two months! Her book has consistently stayed on the Amazon Top Humor Lists.
In May, 2011 A Walk In The Snark hit #1 on Smashwords Entertainment Bestseller list and again in November, 2011.
Her non-fiction endeavor, Dollars & Sense: The Definitive Guide to Self-publishing Success (co-authored with Carolyn McCray and Amber Scott) debuted at #1 on Amazon’s ‘Authorship’ bestselling list in June, 2011.
Rachel also contributed a short story to the horror anthology The Evil Within (an Indie Book Collective publication) as well as an essay to the non-fiction anthology Our Indie Experience (an Indie Book Collective publication) where self-published writers shared their individual experiences.
Rachel is also one of the cofounders of the Indie Book Collective, an organization with over 8,000 members dedicated to helping authors utilize social media to the fullest to sell their books. The Collective offers free workshops, a live advice radio show, innovative programs such as Blog Tour de Force & Bestseller for a Day, and so much more to its members. Rachel teaches the Collective’s most popular webinar, the free social media workshop, the first Tuesday of each month.
You can find Rachel most days on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, giving daily tips on the IndieBookIBC Twitter stream, contributing posts to the IBC blog or her own popular blog, giving free social media workshops for writers, promoting her current book or working on her next book.
She lives in the OC, aka Orange County, CA (home of Disneyland). Somewhere in there, this redhead in a sea of blondes fits in being a full-time wife and mom to her two young children and just one husband. She loves coffee, dirty martinis, and sleep.
Rachel and the IBC were recently profiled (April, 2011) in the Huffington Post Books section, regarding social media and ePublishing.