A Conversation with Patricia Fry

Patricia Fry

Of Ms. Fry’s varied achievements (40 books to her credit, published by traditional and small presses, in the business for 40 years and the Executive Director of SPAWN [Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network] www.spawn.org), she is entering new territory as a fiction writer with her “Klepto Cat mystery series”.

For me, Ms. Fry’s greatest achievements lie in the things she won’t see, and the things that can’t be counted; the power of self-confidence gained from minor successes, and from knowledge; the warmth of someone reaching out and honestly wanting someone else to succeed; and the natural Pay-it-Forward sequence that occurs when someone finds their wings and wants to help others fly.  She is open to receiving email: PLFry620@yahoo.com.

Interview by Joanna Celeste


Q: With your latest story, Catnapped, a Klepto Cat Mystery, you are entering new fictional territory. How is your writing process for fiction different than nonfiction?

A: As you said, I’m a beginner when it comes to fiction and I’m still finding my way in this genre. As I pondered this question, it occurred to me that my process and approach isn’t a whole lot different between writing fiction and nonfiction. Both must be written with the audience in mind, both require a sense of organization (of material—of plot/story), both require a beginning, middle and end. The author must be consistent when writing both fiction and nonfiction. And both require attention to detail—grammatical, punctuation and factual. I guess where my process differs is in the building of the story for fiction, as opposed to the gathering and compiling of facts for my nonfiction articles and books. With both fiction and nonfiction, I find that I can start with a basic premise (story or theme) and I can sit down and let it develop as I write. Only occasionally do I need to refer to a storyboard or an outline. I do keep a character log, however, so I don’t forget what color hair someone has or if they’re rotund or stick thin, for example.

Q: Smart tip! How did the idea for the Klepto Cat series come to you?

A: I’ve wanted to try writing fiction for a long time. I enjoy reading cozy mysteries and especially those with a cat in them. I’ve lived with cats for years. I currently have a sweet cat who carries things around in her mouth—her toys, teddy bears from my collection and so forth. My mother has a large grey-and-white cat with a huge personality. So when my daughter told me about seeing some guy walk up on her porch and take off with her cat, I decided that cats being catnapped would make a good plot for my first novel and I expanded on our kitty’s habits and my mother’s cat’s confidence and demeanor and created Rags, a kleptomaniac cat. I figured it would be a fun exercise coming up with ways that a cat with this habit could help to solve the various crimes in the series. In the second book—Cat-Eye Witness—coming in October 2013, Rags actually participates in a police line-up, of sorts.

None of the cats, dogs or horses in my stories talk. They’re as ordinary as most animals, some with more interesting quirks than others. The people in the stories are the focus, with the animals charmingly making appearances and, of course, revealing important clues.

Q: I like how you give the cat such a sense of character within the normal traits of kitties. How do you have a second novel ready for publication in October, when Catnapped has just come out?

A: I wrote three starting in June of 2012 all one right after another. I am doing my final self-edit for book two now and will turn it over to my proofreader next week. Also I have engaged a few test readers. Then I’ll start the final work on book 3. I have book 4 sketched out and am eager to start actively working on it. Of course, my progress with writing new books will slow down now that I have books to promote.

Q: In a previous how-to, Talk Up Your Book (http://www.spawn.org/blog/?p=2326), you give many options for promoting one’s work, even if someone is shy (who would likely imagine they could never become self-promoters). What do you find is the greatest misconception of marketing?

A: Probably that someone else is going to do it for you. The truth is that no matter which publishing option you choose (landing a traditional royalty publisher, paying a “self-publishing” company or establishing your own publishing company), the author is required to promote his or her own book.

Q: Good point. When and why did you join SPAWN?

A: Mary Embree started SPAWN in 1996, before the Internet was so active. She had in mind bringing authors, artists, illustrators, cover designers, printers, publishers, agents, editors, etc. together to meet face-to-face for the purpose of networking and possible collaboration. I joined Mary early on in her vision as President for many years and I am now the Executive Director of SPAWN. We are online only now. Our mode of networking is via an online discussion group and we still keep our finger on the pulse of the publishing industry and continue to provide information and resources through the website and two e-newsletters.

Q: Over the last two decades you have helped authors, artists and publishers find their way, through your engagement and care (as an editor, Executive Director of SPAWN, with your books, etc.) When did you know this was your life’s passion?

A: My passion is and has always been writing. I began writing articles for magazines early on as a way to justify spending time writing. If I’m being paid for my writing, then I can justify continuing to write. And for decades, all I was interested in was writing. Over the years, I had people asking me to help them with their writing projects. I declined—I was completely absorbed in my own work. Finally, I decided to teach a workshop for local writers. It was such a success and I felt such satisfaction for having helped other writers, that I wrote my first book for freelance writers. It was about then that I began accepting manuscripts for critique and editing. Along with this, I began speaking to authors and writing articles and books for authors. I discovered that I loved this work—again, it felt wonderful to be able to help authors to succeed in the highly competitive field of publishing. So yes, I still have that passion for writing, and I am passionate about helping other authors. Now, I am also passionate about developing stories from my own head and heart as I attempt to move into the realm of fiction-writing.

Q: Awesome! Is there a particular thing you find coming up as a challenge among the people you guide and mentor through your various works?

A: Many new authors today are writing for themselves. There has always been this faction—I mean before technology and the various service companies that have cropped up within the publishing industry, people wrote for themselves. Now, everyone wants to publish and not every book is suitable. Authors need to think about their audience before ever launching a book. They must keep that audience in mind through the entire process of writing, whether it is fiction or nonfiction. They need to understand the publishing industry and how to navigate it. Most new authors do not understand that, while writing is a craft, publishing is a business—an extremely competitive business.

Q: In all your years as a self-published author, is there a moment you could pinpoint where you felt like “a real writer”?

A: This is an interesting question—I do recall hesitating to consider myself a writer back in 1973, even after I was writing regularly for a few magazines and I was a columnist for a newspaper. I guess it was when my first book came out in 1978 that I felt comfortable introducing myself as a writer. Today, it seems that people apply the term author or writer to themselves as soon as they finish typing out their first draft of their first manuscript. Really, does it matter?

Q: It’s something that I’ve run into as well; I feel I always have to qualify myself with “I’ve been published a lot but my only paying gig was as a Teen Reporter” or “But I’m not like published with my own book yet”, so I wanted to see your thoughts on it. I wonder if all writers run into the need to qualify what kind of writer they are. Like how you would define “a real writer” by today’s standards, when it is so easy to get published and the lines between traditional and self-publishing are becoming blurred so that both carry their own weight?

A: I must say that sometimes when I introduce myself as a writer, I find myself qualifying this statement by saying, “I’ve been writing for publication for four decades,” or “I have 40 books to my credit.” I do this in order to separate myself from those who claim they’re writers just because they have an idea for a book and are spending a few hours each week working on it. Again, it doesn’t really matter how we represent ourselves to others, does it? The proof in the pudding is what we produce, right?

Q: Yes, definitely. Though to me, it wasn’t the way I represented myself to others, it was how I saw myself. You’ve seen a lot of changes in the publishing industry; from your experience, what has been the most important?

A: One of the most important changes is probably the one that has made it so easy for people to become authors. And this isn’t necessarily a good thing. Successful authorship is not easy. And it does not have to cost a lot of money, either. Another important change is the way we’re reading books—via Kindle, Nook and other e-readers. And the way books are being sold. Some authors, who have not studied books such as my Publish Your Book, still hope to sell beaucoup books through major bookstores. And this is just not happening for anyone I know. People are selling books online and through personal appearances. Some books sell well at specialty stores related to the theme or topic of the fiction or nonfiction book. It’s through the author’s efforts that books sell. For a greater understanding of book marketing, read my book, Promote Your Book, Over 250 Proven, Low-Cost Tips and Technique for the Enterprising Author.

Q: I’ll check that out. What, if anything, do you feel the industry has lost in its myriad evolutions?

A: Integrity (too many “self-publishing” companies making outrageous offers and promises) and quality books (too many companies and authors in a huge hurry to get their books out and not taking time to work with a good editor). There’s also the issue of individuals having come out of the woodwork to jump on the lucrative publishing services bandwagon in hopes of getting a slice of the pie. It’s almost impossible for authors to weed through all of their options and make the right choices on behalf of their books.

Q: Where do you see the industry going from here?

A: I believe that things will level out at some point—left standing will be savvy authors and credible companies.

Q: It will be interesting to watch that unfold. Which of your books would you recommend to anyone starting out?

A: Publish Your Book, Proven Strategies and Resources for the Enterprising Author. Available at Amazon.com in print, Kindle and audio—also at most other online and downtown bookstores.

Q: Thank you. How do you manage your time and resources so you don’t burn out, and yet are so productive and successful?

A: I’m afraid I’m a bit of a workaholic. I put in 8 to 12 hours per day at least 6 days a week. And yes, I do suffer burnout sometimes. But I find that a brief respite in the yard or at the beach helps. I walk every day and I enjoy getting out and doing a little photography. I find that I sometimes need a creative outlet from my main creative outlet—writing. Go figure.

 Q: I know what you mean; for me, it’s baking or cooking. As a last note, you say that an author is their own brand. How would you define yours?

A: I’m an author and an editor dedicated to teaching and guiding other authors through the treacherous publishing waters. I’m reliable, professional and I have a passion in my heart for writing and the written word.