In February, Nancy Carr published her first book, a memoir entitled Last Call. Although she is not a full-time writer, her writing debut has attracted a cluster of glowing review on Amazon. The Naples-based author took time out of her busy writing and work schedule to discuss the process of writing and publishing.
This is a portion of my journey in life and trying to “fix” myself through drugs, alcohol, men, sex, geographics, friendships, etc, until one day I found myself sitting in a jail cell at age 37 and said, WTH? How did I get here? I then had to examine my life and start the process of getting sober.
At what point did you decide you were going to write a memoir?
I started keeping a journal before I got sober and it really took off in my early recovery – I think I was a little over a year sober when I realized I may have a book in me.
What was your process like? That is, did you have journals to refer to or were you consulting with other people in your life or were you individually reconstructing your past?
I had my journal and step work (from AA and I also had letters I had written to family through the years and vice versa. I had a pretty fresh memory (as I was in early sobriety) and I was able to reconstruct most of my past verbatim. I didn’t really consult with others in my life as I wasn’t making it public that I was writing a memoir (at the time).
How long did it take you to write?
It took me about a year to write it, but then another 6 mos working with an Editor. So, about 18 months.
Did you always intend to self-publish or were you considering traditional publishing at one point?
No, I never even knew about self publishing until a couple years ago and I was just too busy with “life” at the time to give it a second thought.
During the writing of my memoir, I took a couple writing courses at the local community college near me (Encinitas, CA) and that is where I met Peggy Lang. Peggy became my Editor and helped me with my book, and also helped me try and land an Agent. I also went to a writers’ weekend workshop where you could meet with agents and publishers. Additionally, I sent out numerous query letters to agents/publishers. No one had an interest. The book sat on my book shelf (literally) for over 8 years until February 2015. In January of this year a friend of mine from high school self-published a short story on AmazonKindle and his editor (another friend from high school) knew about my book and she pushed me towards self-publishing via Amazon. I tweaked a few things, changed the names of all and hit send.
I feel like writing – and releasing – a memoir is a really gutsy thing to do. What sort of feedback have you gotten since releasing this?
It sure is! Good question! Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect. I am not using my “real” name and I am using a pen name for my surname. Largely in part due to the anonymity factor and that I am married now and I have a career that doesn’t need to coincide with my writing world. I’d love to be a writer fulltime, it’s just a hard field to plunge into and it’s been challenging juggling both. However, a number of people and friends from my past realized it was me when I started marketing the book on my blog and Facebook page. The response has been overwhelming – most everyone has been very supportive and encouraging and very happy for me. The fact that I’ve received so many emails about how this book has changed their lives in that they are re-examining how they live their life with alcohol, as well as their perspectives on alcoholism — has been amazing.
My family seems lukewarm about it all and hasn’t really said much, and my husband wasn’t overly thrilled at first, but he has come around as he knows I have a strong message to tell and the plight is to help others, specifically young woman. I’m wanting my story to put a light on how you can be “a party girl” and look really good on the outside and seem to have it all together, but on the inside you are just dying.
What impact has this had on your sobriety? Has this been a cathartic process or has putting yourself out there for possible criticism been more of a challenge than a help?
It’s had a huge impact on my sobriety – I feel more connected to being sober than I was a few months ago. We recently moved (Naples, FL) and it’s hard to get acclimated in a new town; trying to make new friends, learning the lay of the land, etc., and the book and this process has been my refuge. So I feel if anything its strengthened my sobriety as I realize how much I owe to god and the universe for guiding me.
When I was writing the book the cathartic process was quite impactful and I would spend hours just banging away on my computer getting it all out. Then right before I launched the book I had to go back and edit some things and change all the names. This was another process for me as I was a bit overwhelmed with how honest the book really was. Since I hadn’t read the book in a few years, it was very insightful for me to remember “what it was like” and where my head was when I was writing the book. It’s pretty raw and I don’t know if I had sat down and written the book today if I would have been so open.
I’ve been pretty lucky so far in that no one has been critical of the book – the majority of the feedback has been positive and encouraging. One person did mention that I may be violating an AA Tradition; but I don’t see it as me pushing or promoting AA. AA is how I got sober and that’s just part of my story. I’m not endorsing it nor am I saying it’s the only way to get sober, it’s just the way that worked for me.
How long have you been sober, by the way?
My sobriety date is May 11, 2004 – I will have 11 years next week!
Congratulations. So tell me about the cover of you book – it’s a really great cover design; how’d you find the artist for that?
Thank you – I love the cover! A good friend of mine’s husband is a graphic artist and years ago when they knew I wrote the book, he mentioned that if I ever needed a cover for it, he’d be happy to do that for me. He came up with a couple different ideas and this was the one that really spoke to me. We worked on it for a few weeks – I am very happy with the cover.
I see that you have an illustrator listed for you book – how much is there in the way of art?
I wanted to give Jamie Steen credit for putting forth the cover, and I’m pretty sure he used whatever means he is comfortable with – Shutterstock photos and his own graphic artist techniques – to make it into the book cover – that’s just how we wanted it out there.
Are you a full-time writer or do you do something else for a living?
I blog and write essays and don’t get to write as much as I’d like to. I do have a career job where I get to work from home. I’m very lucky in that aspect and my career job has nothing to do with the literary industry, so I get to be creative in my writing world. My industry career is within the Human Resources/Recruiting industry and I’ve been doing that for over 18 years.
Do you have any other books in the works?
As far as writing another book, I’m thinking about a compilation of my essays. I’m a big fan of Augusten Burroughs and Anne Lamott, and love how both of them give us a snippet of their lives and experiences with their Essay books. I’d like to incorporate something like that as well. I’m not sure I have another memoir in me, at least not right now, maybe in a few years. For now, I’m just going to keep writing my essays and blogs and see what that takes me.