Author Interview

Interview with Deborah Munro: On writing, science, and merging worlds

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Deborah Munro, author and biomedical engineer. Deborah’s debut novel Apex is currently in production and will likely be released in 2019. Let’s dive right in shall we?

Welcome Deborah! First, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your upcoming book, APEX?

I grew up in rural California in the historic gold mining town of Placerville. I spent much of my childhood outdoors, playing, camping, hiking, and fishing, and my parents were land surveyors, a family business I helped out with from a young age. I developed a strong appreciation for nature, and the animals in it. I moved to Portland, Oregon in 2008 to teach biomedical engineering at a local university, and the beauty of this state quickly won my heart. When I decided to write my novel, APEX, I chose rural Oregon, because the setting was similar to my hometown, but remote enough to support the theme of the book—genetic engineering gone horribly wrong.

Your book APEX deals with genetic engineering. Can you tell me about how the plot has been inspired by your real-life work as a biomedical engineer?

I am an avid reader, and I love science, so when I came across an article about walking stick insects and their extraordinary evolutionary history, I was intrigued. Scientists have discovered that walking sticks have had and lost wings at different points in time. As far as I know, this is the first example of a higher life form re-evolving a significant characteristic after losing it. My mind immediately starting thinking, “What if an animal could re-evolve a characteristic?” and APEX was born.

Science, technology, and innovation are all prominent themes in your book. What is the process like for you when you come up against a subject that isn’t in your wheelhouse?

My mind is like a sponge when it comes to learning about science and technology. I am an inventor myself, and I have almost a dozen patents. Whenever I learn about something new, I’m curious to learn more, and I’ll dive into the research with glee. I’ve read countless journal articles and books about the science in my book, and it was fun for me to do.

One of my goals with my writing is to educate people about science in an entertaining and exciting way. Our future on this planet has many challenges, most of them related to finding a balance between the needs of humans and those of other life forms. APEX explores one of those topics, which is right to life. Do all animals have an equal right to life, even if they were genetically created?

Your book is currently in production and expected to hit shelves in late 2018 or 2019. What have you learned during the editing process?

Everything takes longer than anticipated. My book has gone through an extensive rewrite and only partially resembles the manuscript I originally wrote. I just submitted my third draft to my editor, and I have no idea how much more work will be required to make it my best story possible. I think the key is to be patient and trust the process. My book has a birthdate, but I don’t know what that is yet.

What does your writing routine look like, and do you think there will be more novels in your future?

I’m not a fulltime writer, and my day job also requires a lot of critical thinking and writing, so I find I write in spurts. A week may go by where I’m unable to write on my manuscript at all, but I keep my writing brain active by participating in social media writing prompts, creating blogs, and posting newsletters. I find I make the best progress, however, when I work piecemeal. I set a goal of 1000 words per day, and I often break that up into two or more sessions of just fifteen to twenty minutes. That ends up being an impressive 7000 words a week, and it keeps the story fresh in my mind, so I don’t have to back track and reread before beginning again.

I fully intend to keep writing. I’ve set APEX up to have a sequel if I want, but it’s a standalone novel. I also have another partially completed manuscript that is waggling its eyebrows at me, and I’ve done the research for a third novel that will likely be a romance, but with lots of environmental issues thrown in.

I have a technical book coming out in June on DIY microfabrication. It’s a guidebook on how to collaborate with open-use national laboratories to design and build your own microsensors for use in medical devices, etc. I will be hosting a seminar in Chicago in mid-June, so I’m self-publishing my book to be ready in time for that.

What advice would you share with authors out there working on their first book?

The most shocking thing I’ve learned about becoming an author is that it’s not about your book. Yes, you have to write the book, but the key to success is marketing yourself (not your book) on social media and via email blogs. There are thousands of people out there who would love to read your book, but they don’t know you exist unless you advertise yourself. It is so important to invest your time in building a following several months to a year before you start promoting your book. People need time to get to know you as a person, and you want to become a trusted source of content. So post, post, post about topics in which you have a personal interest. If you’re funny, use it! I’m not, but I have a strong science background and a love of nature, and with that, I have gathered more than 5300 Twitter followers and 8000 newsletter subscribers in just six months.

When I finally get word that my book has been passed on to the copy editor, that’s when I’ll start pushing for pre-orders, but not yet. For now, it’s all about audience building, as I know some percentage of my followers, however large that number ends up being, are going to want to buy my book. The larger the number of pre-orders, the larger the pool of potential reviewers to boost my book’s ranking, and I’ve heard as a general rule of thumb that your book will sell double the number of pre-orders once released.


If you would like to learn more about Deborah, you can follow her through her website – Her novel, Apex, can be pre-ordered here.

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Author Interview

Interview with Cari Dubiel: On Writing, Libraries, and Podcasts

Cari Dubiel has been a librarian for twelve years, and currently has her first book, How to Remember (a novel billed as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind meets What Alice Forgot) in production for a 2019 release. Cari was kind enough to answer a few questions for us!

First, I want to say congratulations on receiving a publishing contract for your book, How to Remember. Is How to Remember your debut book?

Yes! I’m so excited to have achieved my crowdfunding goal with Inkshares. I met the goal for the Quill imprint before it was sun-downed.

Can you tell us a little bit about the story and where you drew your inspiration?

The story follows Miranda Underwood, a neuroscientist, and Ben Baker, a computer programmer. Both of them set out to solve their personal mysteries one year apart. Miranda searches for the cause of her amnesia in 2017, while Ben fills in the blanks in 2016. He’s investigating his mother’s suspicious death.

Most of my stories spring from my frequent crazy dreams. I woke up with this idea, and I started to wonder what would happen to someone who found herself with this affliction, especially if she was an introvert who didn’t have many friends. Cut off from her job – with a company that’s complicit in the situation – she has to reach within herself to find inner strength.

What does your daily writing routine look like? Do you always write at the same time each day?

I have two little kids and the schedule of a public librarian (a lot of evenings and weekends). Every day is different! I write at least one chapter a week, about 2500 words. I squeeze the time in when I can get it, either in the mornings before my kids get up or when they’re in bed. Then there’s the rare glorious time when my parents take them for the weekend!

In addition to being an author, you are also a librarian. As someone who is surrounded by her pick of books, who are your favorite authors? Any underappreciated gems that you have stumbled upon?

That is a tough one. I read widely – picking favorite authors would be like picking a favorite child! I’ll highlight a few of my recent favorites, though. I just discovered Tom Sweterlitsch (The Gone World, Tomorrow and Tomorrow) – he writes about bleak, dystopian futures, time travel, alternate universes. He explores the dark heart of humanity, which sounds depressing, but both books illuminate the human spirit as well. I also recently finished a preview copy of Ruth Ware’s The Death of Mrs. Westaway, a character-driven mystery in the style of Agatha Christie. I couldn’t stop rooting for the protagonist, Hal – yes, a likeable narrator in a thriller – they still exist!

Being a librarian, have you always known that you also wanted to write? When did you begin?

I’ve been writing since third grade. The two things I love the most in life are reading and writing, so I’ve always known I wanted to be a librarian and a writer. Of course, as a child I did not know that a librarian’s job is not, in fact, reading books all day. But we do get to talk about books, which is exciting!

What should new authors know about getting their books into the various library systems? Is the process different for self-published authors?

The first rule is to treat librarians with courtesy and establish a dialogue – a genuine, authentic conversation. Focus on why readers will like your book – make the librarian want to read it!

If you are traditionally published, the librarian might just buy the book for her collection. But for small press, indie, and self-published authors, you may have another hurdle to jump. It always helps if you are able to donate a copy, but if that’s not possible, make sure she knows where she can purchase it. You can also offer to present a program, but again, come prepared with the “hook” for potential attendees.

Always ask your librarian what you can do for her! Tailor your approach to each library as needed. I suggest starting with local libraries or those you have a personal connection with. Get the book into enough readers’ hands, and if it is a quality product, it might go viral.

Are there ways for authors to help each other out in regards to achieving a library presence?

As more authors make connections with libraries, they can share information about how individual systems operate. Libraries are so different – they have different resources, funding, populations. They offer services and programs based on the needs of their communities. Some writers’ organizations also have library outreach. I was the Library Liaison for Sisters in Crime for five years, and we did a lot of work helping authors connect with their local libraries and vice versa. I know the Horror Writers of America has a similar program.

Is there any additional advice you would give to new authors who wish to have their books in libraries?

Look into electronic distribution! Electronic media in libraries is growing more every year. In my library, the most popular services are OverDrive and hoopla (with the small “h”). Every library has different subscriptions, though, so check to see what your local library offers.

Tell us about the podcast that you are involved in – ABC Book Reviews Podcast.

Our podcast started in 2007, when my coworker, Beth, and I decided we needed an outlet to talk about books we loved. Back then, podcasts were not as sophisticated, though they were popular. The Wall Street Journal described us as “two girls talking on a bus.” We’ve retained that format, although we have revised our website, gone on many tangents, and had four kids between the two of us. We also took a break last year, since Beth got a library director job and I became a department head, but we’re back with new episodes now.

Podcasts are booming. What needs do you think creative podcasts are serving in the literary world?

I have to admit I’m not much of a podcast listener – not surprisingly, I prefer audiobooks! But I love the idea of podcasts as a way for creative people to produce and distribute their own media, amplifying diverse voices that may not otherwise find an audience. I’d like to seek out some writing-related podcasts to help me stay motivated, so I can hear those voices!

Thank you for your time, Cari. Any other parting advice that you would like to pass on as someone who is immersed in literature in both her day job and her personal life?

To stay sharp, I like to play outside with my kids – I hope better weather will come to Northeast Ohio soon! I also play the bassoon, and I love nerdy stuff, especially board games. The literary life is fantastic, but as with any job, breaks are essential.


Read more about Cari’s upcoming book How to Remember.

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