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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A CONVERSATIONS EXCLUSIVE: Our interview with author Monica P. Carter

Monica, it’s been about 3 years since you and I first connected, and the book that you were promoting at that time, SACRIFICE THE ONE, is still resonating with readers today. What do you think the appeal of the book is?
Sacrifice the One has a simple appeal in that it’s about one family’s struggle and well, we all come from families, so we can all relate. Some of us are estranged from our families, some of us have to pray for patience concerning our families, some of us just shake our heads at our families. Sacrifice the One is about a man embittered by the loss of his wife – and so he can’t see through the anger and resentment. And it’s a story of a daughter who chases her father’s love and when that isn’t forthcoming, she looks for affection anywhere she can find it. That, sadly, is a story that plays out across America every day, as young girls fall into bad situations because they are missing something at home. But this story isn’t just about a hard reality; it is about the hope of the heart. Can love truly overcome?

Are you at all surprised that a story like yours has managed to easily cross over ethnic or economic groups when it comes to how your readers can relate to it?
No, I’m not surprised because family struggles transcend the things that divide us. No matter your race, no matter where you are on this planet, no matter how much money you have – or don’t have – you can face the heartbreak of broken promises.

Take us back to your life before SACRIFICE. Where were you mentally and emotionally, and what helped to give the story life?
Sacrifice the One helped me grow a lot as a person. While the story isn’t about my life, the issues Seta, the main character, had with her father certainly made me think of my own relationship with my father. Like Seta, I went through a period where I threw him away – he seemed to reject me, so I rejected him. Now, I’m a more mature person and so I’ve “reclaimed” him. I just meet him where he is, as I know all of us have a choice of what baggage we will hold onto and what we will release. Sacrifice the One relates very well to a lot of our lives, in some way.

You are not only a successful author but a journalist as well. Have you always been creative, and how have those close around you reacted to your gifts over the years?
I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by people who do not hold God’s grace against me. They have embraced what he has done – and is doing – for me and they celebrate me. And I in turn celebrate others. I know that someone else’s success does not hurt me, nor does my success hurt someone else. Too often we spend time downplaying another’s success because we think their success diminishes us. That’s the exact opposite of truth. When someone around me succeeds, I am happy. And when I succeed, those around me are happy. And for those who aren’t happy for me, well, I don’t let their issues distract me because clearly their negativity is about them, not me.

A lot of times we find that art closely imitates life. When it came to your debut novel, how much of yourself did you include in AS IF NOTHING HAPPENED and your second novel? Where can we find you within the pages?
Well, I am in all of my characters, because I shape them based on some element of how I see the world. Of course I show up in varying degrees – some of my characters are far from who I am, or at least I couldn’t admit just how closely we resemble each other. 

For those that don’t know you self-published your first book and initially your second one through your company Root Sky Publishing. Why did you make that decision, and can you walk us through your journey to bring your words to life.
Oh, definitely. I chose to self publish because I like to be in control of my own life. I was not willing to wait to find an agent and then wait while that agent found a publisher who would “accept” my work. To me, that meant time lost. So I chose to publish my books when I was ready and then subsequently, solicit publishers. That worked well for me because it allowed me to get my books out when I wanted, develop a readership, and then also gain the publishing deal. Self publishing for me meant pursuing my dream now rather than later.

We have many aspiring writers that join our discussions and read our interviews, Monica. What would you tell them to do when it comes to promoting themselves and following through on their goal of being a published author?
I would tell them to be like the Nike commercial and “Just do it.” The number one thing I hear from aspiring writers when I have book signings and other events is: “I want to write a book.” But then so many have not sat down to write the book or have not pursued the publication. Nobody is going to write the book for you (well, unless you have a ghostwriter). Stop wishing and wanting and start doing. Get it on paper. And figure out your option. Are you going to solicit agents and publishers right off or are you going to self publish? Whichever way you go, you’ve got to know that you will be the main one promoting book. Many people think if they get a book deal, then their responsibility of promoting somehow ends because the publisher will do that. That is not true. You must still promote your own book. So get the words on paper and then get in front of readers.

If you choose to self publish, remember it’s a business like any other. So you must approach your book projects and publishing company with that in mind. In my case, my publishing company, RootSky Publishing, started as a place to produce my books and as a freelance copywriting business where I provided writing and editing services for clients. Then, after I got my publishing deal and did not need to spend those resources publishing books, I focused more energy of the company on the client projects. In fact, I’ve added a partner in my husband and we’ve changed the name to RootSky Creative, LLC, becoming a full-service writing and design firm. We may publish other books in the future, but the way business is growing, our hands are full with client communication projects. And so what started out as a book dream has evolved into both a literary career and a full-time, real business. So your “little” book dream could end up doing something really big on the business side even. It’s possible.

We talked about at the outset that your book is still picking up steam after three years on the market. One thing that has contributed to that has been it being picked up by Urban Christian (a subsidiary of Bestselling author Carl Weber’s Urban Books) and repackaged. Can you tell us about how your path crossed with Urban and what contributed to your decision?
Yes. Urban Books launched a new inspirational line called Urban Christian. I was fortunate enough to be one of the first authors published under this imprint.

The story of Rosetta (Seta) is unfortunately not so uncommon today. All too often young women and even young men find themselves looking for love in all the wrong places, especially when they feel as though they can’t get it where they feel as though they should. What have been some of the stories you have heard from people who have read your book and found themselves in it?
Well, the stories may be different – and I’ve heard many – but the themes are pretty constant. Many of those who have shared with me their impressions of the book tell their own tales of rejection and how they overcame – or struggled with – that. I have been touched to find that the book has helped heal many hearts or to help people see things in a different way. When I hear something like that, it feels like a bonus. Imagine, being able to use fiction to heal real-live people.

As a busy entrepreneur, Monica, one of the things that strikes me about you is your willingness to give back, especially through your blog and newsletter. Why is that so important to you? In the literary industry, how have you looked to as guiding lights?
Well, it’s a cliché, but it’s true: giving back is important. None of us is on this planet alone. And we must all share at some point. The sooner we realize that, the happier we will be. When you share, you find the world opens up to you – your heart is full because of what you gain in return. I do this on a social level by maintaining my blog, http://monicacarter.com. It’s where I address current events and social and political concerns. My newsletter is where I share a bit about my work, true, but also share what I hope are inspirations for others. Other projects of sharing include being a mentor/instructor at a summer camp for students interested in journalism and being an organizing board member of The Divine Literary Tour, which raises money for scholarships for disadvantaged – but deserving – students.

What can we expect next from you?
Well, I’m working on my next Urban Christian/Kensington project. It’s tentatively titled Scandalous Truth and it’s the story of a woman who is living the “perfect” life when her past comes back to haunt her. Suddenly the “perfect” life she has built comes tumbling down around her and she is faced with one question: who am I, really? I know a lot of readers face this same question at varying points in life. Can we truly change who we are – or do we just pretend to be someone else until something scratches the surface and the paint starts to peel?

Thank you so much for your time. How can readers get in touch with you and keep up with new projects?
Thanks so much for allowing me this opportunity to speak to your book club members and others. I appreciate it. And I do hope readers drop in on me sometime at my blog, http://monicacarter.com or visit my company’s Web site . Say hi, while you’re there. 

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