Interview with Faith A. Colburn - Author of the Memoir Threshold.
Faith A. Colburn received UNK's award for best thesis in the Fine Arts and Humanities College in 2012 and the Outstanding Work in Fiction Award during its 2009 student conference. She earned several awards from the Nebraska Federation of Press Women. Her fiction has appeared in Kinesis and The Plate Valley Review, and her poetry has been published in The Reynolds Review. While at the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, she wrote numerous articles for NEBRASKAland magazine, including a centennial history of game and fish management in Nebraska entitled Sportsman's Scrapbook.
Interview with Faith A. Colburn
|Author Faith A. Colburn|
Faith A. Colburn: I earned a master's degree in creative writing from the University of Nebraska at Kearney as well as a bachelor's degree in journalism and political science and a master's degree in journalism from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I earned the 2012 Best Thesis Award in the UNK Fine Arts and Humanities College for my creative thesis and I received UNK's Outstanding Work in Fiction Award during its 2009 student conference. I earned several awards from the Nebraska Federation of Press Women, as well. My short fiction has appeared in Kinesis and The Platte Valley Review, and my poetry has been published in The Reynolds Review. While at the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, I wrote numerous articles for NEBRASKAland magazine, including a centennial history of game and fish management in Nebraska entitled Sportsman's Scrapbook.
I spent several years gathering oral family histories and biographies, including a 100-year memoir of the Lincoln newspaper publishing family, with an emphasis on their use of production technology, and of a farm family in western Nebraska that amassed 10,000 acres of land over several generations in drought-prone high plains region. As a communications specialist for a Lutheran social ministry organization, I spent five years telling the stories of people with developmental disabilities.
Who are your favorite writers, your favorite books, and who or what are your writing influences?
Oh my gosh, I don’t know where to start. I don’t suppose it would be possible to grow up on the divide between the Little Blue and Republican rivers in Nebraska without being very aware of Willa Cather’s strong women. Terry Tempest Williams is a favorite, as is Ellen Gilcrish. There’s Margaret Atwood and Toni Morrison and Alice Walker. I like men, too, but when I look at my library, there are a lot of female writers in there. Jim Harrison’s a favorite and William Kittredge.
When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer?
I already had that figured out when I was in junior high school. A young man I knew died in an equipment accident and I found myself writing about all the stuff he missed. Made my mother crazy. I wasn’t supposed to know about some of those things. I really didn’t, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have an imagination. Isn’t that what creative writings’ about?
Tell us about your writing process. Do you have a writing routine?
It varies a lot with the seasons, but I try to get up early and work out, have breakfast and then write a scene in my current novel. This morning I slept in and then got up and did my taxes. Now that’s done and I can get back to work.
“Man, I don’t know if I can do this [...]”
What do you find easiest about writing? What the hardest?
Easiest? I don’t know. If it’s easy I guess I don’t think about it. I don’t get writers’ block.
Hardest? Getting started. I always think, “Man, I don’t know if I can do this,” whatever it is I’m trying accomplish in the current project. Right now I’m working on a novel about a couple who got together at the end of World War II. Both have the equivalent of PTSD for very different reasons and I’m trying to help them heal and live happily ever after without modern mental health care, just things they can stumble on themselves, with some help from friends and family.
Faith, please tell us a little about your Book 'Threshold'.
Threshold is a series of eighteen stories selected from my own family’s two-hundred-fifty year history on this continent. I’m super interested in families and how they succeed—and how they fail. And I think the communities we live in have a huge influence on how we thrive, or not, so I focused a lot on communities. And for me, communities include the land and the land forms we live within. So, after introducing my grandmother, who was a kind of medium for me, I write about a little boy, one of my uncles generations back, who was kidnapped and who lived with the Shawnee for almost a decade. And I write about an aunt I stumbled upon who died in an indigent home of puerperal eclampsia, you know from complications of pregnancy. And I think that’s the first secret I wrote about in this book, although I found out there were several of them. My chapter titles include, “The Girls in the Madhouse” and “The Turtle in the Bathtub.”
|Click to Read an Excerpt|
What inspired you to write the book?
I started out without a whole lot of ambition for it. Grandma Hazel had told me stories from the time I could understand English, so I wanted to save all those family stories for my kids. But as I got into it, I began to see the whole American experience in this one family. I haven’t found the Tory yet or a horse thief or a witch, but there’s nearly everything else. It turned out to be just fascinating what I could find out about people who died decades, even a century, ago.
Who do you see as your target audience and where can we buy the book?
Well, history buffs, of course, and people who enjoy memoirs. But, you know, the world is going through a huge transition right now from the old smokestack industries to knowledge industries and it’s creating all kind of dislocations. So I’m hoping people can get some patterns from these old ways of dealing with families and communities that they can adapt and tweak to make the future work for them. I hope people will find patterns to help them make these new information technologies serve their values, because I think there’s a danger of the people being made to serve the technologies.
How would you describe the success of your book so far? (Sales, Awards, Reviews)
The ebook has been available on Kindle for a while, but I’m just beginning my marketing campaign. Let me start out by admitting that this book was the “best thesis” I mentioned in my first answer. I hope no one will be turned off by the fact that it was a thesis. It’s true that there is a cited version, with an introduction consisting of lots of pages about problems and process, but the edition I’ve published doesn’t have those interruptions. I’ve only included an ending bibliography my readers can refer to if they wish. I’d like to offer here to send a free cited edition to anyone who emails me to request it.
Other than the best thesis, I have not submitted the book to any awards competitions and I didn’t make the submission there, either. A member of my thesis committee made the submission and I didn’t find out about it until he sent me the nomination letter.
How long did it take it to write the book?
Forever! I started with taped interviews with my grandmother, who’s dead now. We made an appointment every Wednesday afternoon to talk, on tape, for an hour and a half. There are thirty hours of that. Then, out of curiousity, I started looking back some more generations. It just took a long time to get all the ducks going the same direction.
Please, tell us where you self-published the book.
I published the print edition of Threshold: A Memoir with CreateSpace. I formatted the Kindle edition for Amazon myself and the other ebook edition is in the review process with Smashwords right now. It should be out sometime next week, I hope.
How smooth went the self-publishing process? Any issues? What are things to look for when self-publishing a book?
Photos, if you’re using them. All the photos came out misplaced on the first proof and I didn’t notice one had been dropped in the final book, darn it. So I have one caption that’s a little strange. It’s not enough to start over, though. I’ll just be more careful next time.
Did you hire an editor and/or Cover Designer for your book?
I did hire an editor in the early days of the book. Then I worked on my own for a long time. That’s when I went back to school. I needed some interaction I wasn’t getting. So, I had a thesis advisor and peers in the classroom helping me with that. We formed a little critique group that met a few times and that was really helpful. And finally, my thesis committee served as beta readers, in that they were the only ones who read the whole thing from start to finish so they could find all the places where I repeated something or left something out. One of those committee members was a history professor from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln who specializes in genealogy, so I could feel more confident that I got the history right.
I designed my own cover with some good suggestions from other members of the Nebraska Writer’s Guild. I found that group recently and they’re marvelous.
"Hire an editor and a proofreader."
Can you give some tips for other Indie Authors regarding the writing and self-publishing process?
Hire an editor and a proofreader. I’m often disappointed with the typos and misspellings in indie books. They make the author look bad, but they also make readers think that independently published books just aren’t as good. And I’ve gotta tell you, I can’t edit my own work and it’s especially impossible to proof it. I just see what I thought I wrote.
Are you working on another book project? Can you tell us a little about it?
Yes, I’m working on a novel I call Gravy that’s based upon my mother’s (and dad’s) story. It’s a novel because there’s just so much I don’t know. The one-sentence description goes something like this: Maggie’s singing career pits her against a mobster, a serial killer, a rapist, and near starvation, but a Nebraska doctor’s ugly experiment nearly does her in.
"[...] I like the control I have as an Indie author."
Are you planning to move forward as an Indie author or are you looking forward to have one of your next books to be traditionally published?
Well, I never say never, but I like the control I have as an Indie author. I enjoyed designing the cover and layout for this book. I probably wouldn’t get to do that if I were traditionally published. But there’s an offer out there, I suppose, that I couldn’t refuse. I’m really not that crazy about the marketing, so a publicist might be nice. My first book signing is today and I love that part of it.
Where do you see the book market in 5 or 10 years? Will there be only eBooks and will book stores disappear like record stores disappeared?
Like my friend Wayne often says, “I don’t know, but I suspect . . .” that the book stores won’t go away. It took me a long time to get an ebook reader. Got one from my oldest son a year ago at Christmas and now I wouldn’t be without it. But I really like looking at a well-laid-out book. Books are works of art. I don’t know. Maybe all the book stores will be used bookstores.
Do you write full-time or do you have a day job?
I got laid off about three years ago during about the second wave of lay-offs during our current recession. It just seemed to be a great time to do what I’d wanted to do for a very long time. When I graduated from high school, instead of seeking a degree in English, I went into journalism because it seemed more apparent I could make a living as a journalist. But I’ve always wanted to write more creatively. So now I have a chance to do that.
How can readers connect with you?
I’m on Twitter at http://twitter.com/colburnfa and Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/colburnfa. You can find my blog at http://faithanncolburn.wordpress.com and my Website is http://faithanncolburn.com. I’m working on a profile at Linkedin and another on Google+, but I don’t recommend those places yet, I’ve got a long way to go and those two avenues probably won’t be my primary focus.
Thank you very much for the Interview, Faith.
About the Book Threshold
This memoir encompasses eight generations, collapsing time and space into one coherent whole. One of the stories deals with race relations between Whites and Indians. One of the stories skirts around a lawsuit and a gag order. Another of the stories involves sexual abuse by a trusted professional. Yes all the stories are held together by the narration and the context of one family.
- “I was transported. The author takes the reader on a vivid journey - you will laugh, then cry. You can see, feel and hear all that is described. The book is memerizing and lyrical. I totally enjoyed every page. Looking forward to this author's next book. ” - Reader Review
Links to the Book
Link to the Paperback Threshold - A Memoir on Amazon with Excerpt
Link to the eBook Threshold - A Memoir on Amazon with Excerpt