Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Meet Delia Colvin: How a Timeless Love is Leading to Success

I've had the amazing pleasure of working with and for one of the nicest, most down-to-earth, genuine authors I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. As many of my readers know, I love surrounding myself with strong, brave, smart women whom I can both learn from and help increase my general creative energy. Creativity begets creativity; and success begets success. 

Today, I have the pleasure of introducing you to a hot new author, whom if you don't know her name yet, you do now. {Stephenie Meyer, move over!} Please let me welcome Delia J. Colvin to my blog today and introduce you to one of the hardest working, dedicated authors I know and have the pleasure of copy-editing for. 

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer a few questions for my Albertinis today, Delia. First, for my readers who don't know, the third book in Delia's Sibylline Trilogy just came out yesterday and we celebrated with a Happy Book Birthday post! Congratulations on releasing The Last Oracle.  

CMA: What I find amazing is, you have such an interesting story about why you changed careers and decided to start writing full-time. Can you tell our readers a little bit about your journey?

DJC: Two years ago I was working as an Air Traffic Controller and had a freak reaction to a minor surgery and I very nearly died. I didn’t think I would survive and, in that moment, I realized that I was a storyteller, yet nobody had ever read any of my stories. I had files and files of unfinished novels and screenplays. But I had never had the courage to allow anyone to read them and had come to doubt my ability to complete a novel. 

That night changed my life and I realized that I needed to design and live the life that I wanted! I started living with my priorities more intact. Incidentally, my room in the ICU was very unique and was the model for Val’s hospital room. My Hematologist, Dr. Emanual Moraes, was one of the kindest men I’ve ever met and became the inspiration for Mani, one of the characters in my trilogy. Like Mani, he was from the Azores.

CMA: Wow! So, you went from being an Air Traffic Controller, to being a novelist. Now that's bravery! You said you had scripts and novels started prior to your near death experience, but what first inspired the idea behind the Sibylline Trilogy? 

DJC: Exactly one year from my near-death experience, I was driving into Washington D.C. when a new story concept came to me. It was a completely different genre than I ever considered writing. I was so compelled to write—and working so many hours—that I began writing on my iPhone while I was walking or at stop lights (yes, I was the idiot you were honking at!).Within three weeks, I had completed the rough draft of my first novel, The Sibylline Oracle, that later became book one of the Sibylline Trilogy.

I have no idea where the storyline came from! It is so very different from anything I'd previously read or was interested in. Because I felt that I had been given a gift of this story, I have felt a tremendous responsibility to tell it well.

CMA: So, the genre was a little different than anything you'd ever played with before. But did you have a love of Greek mythology before beginning these books? It plays such a major role in the story lines, to say the least.

DJC: No, I had never been interested in Greek mythology. I like happy endings and there aren't many of those in mythology. Still, the research was fascinating and, although I don't believe I'll ever be a fan of Homer or the other epic poets, I believe I've found a life long interest.

CMA: The Sibylline Trilogy seems like such as massive undertaking with so much research to be so factually accurate, as it is. How did you go about your research process? Was this an easy part of the writing process for you, or a difficult part.

DJC: I'm pleased to hear that you noticed! I wrote first and then when I had an idea of what I needed, I would research a specific aspect of something. Once I established a piece, I would reinforce that throughout the novel; for instance, the evil eye. Or the description for the story that explained how to enter the underworld. I wanted the data to be historically accurate and I learned to always double-check Wikipedia and to also check their discussions. I was fortunate to stumble across C. Kerenyi, a brilliant researcher on ancient Greece. He was the one who was first to write that the stories of Apollo's sexual exploits were highly exaggerated and added much later. I purchased several of his books. I also kept massive notes on anything I might use and had it catalogued on excel spreadsheets.  

CMA: So, in other words, you slacked on the research side, correct? Seriously though, I cannot even imagine the effort all of that took. But it certainly paid off with the believability of the characters and how they are all woven together. For those who haven't read them yet, I'll just add that Delia is quite the genius in how she wrapped up the last book, The Last Oracle, with how certain characters were connected, and how several mythological stories all came together in its brilliant conclusion, and some, in very surprising ways. 
One of the other beautiful aspects of the entire trilogy is the way you describe some of the gorgeous locations the books take place in. Have you ever traveled to some of the places you mentioned? Your descriptions are so detailed and, as a reader, I felt like I could see those destinations with exact clarity.

DJC: What a great thing to hear, thank you! Most of Morgana was completely fictional, except for the ginkgo tree. I purchased a property years ago because of the amazing ginkgo tree it had on the side of the house. It was the most beautiful tree I've ever seen. I have travelled through Northern Italy and Trento, where Morgana is located. I've spent more time around Florence. Shinsu's flat was actually a home that I rented and loved!

Most of the scenes and places in the Caribbean, I've visited. Jamaica Joe's was fictional. And there is a hike that Alex and Val go on that is actually my favorite hike in Santa Barbara, CA. There is a rental on the backside of St. John that is amazing and has an outdoor shower, with the curtain made from a parachute. I've stayed at the Buccanneer on St. Croix many times and my favorite tour is Big Beards (Black Beard, in the story). I also dove at Cane Bay and Val's experience was mine—and I did fall in love with diving there!

Probably the most exciting part, that I really wanted to add, was the safari. Most of the incident with the lion actually occurred. The lion didn't actually get into the vehicle, but she certainly thought about it and charged me as we left. The woman sitting in the front seat said, "It's amazing, they are so close and yet I feel so safe." At that point, I decided that it was my imagination. Then, the guy sitting next to me said, "Not me! I thought you were going to be the main course." (In the book, I used "appetizer.") I do have GREAT pictures of the lion. I'll have to post them to Pinterest. Several of my very favorite places were incorporated into these books: Central Park, Sarabeth's in Manhattan, Gingino's at Wagner Park, and Mama Gina's in Florence (best minestrone in the world).

CMA: So, some of the locations felt natural to you while writing about them, since you've had such extensive experience traveling. What was the hardest part of the writing process for you? The easiest? The most fun?

DJC: Hmm...I really love the free flow of creating a rough draft, although I haven't done that since I officially became a novelist as my career began with ten weeks of creating the rough drafts of the entire trilogy--still uncertain if I had the skill to actually write a novel. 

Now, I really love the final editing. Because I now have the confidence to know that if something doesn't read right, I can work and rework it until it is right. I also love getting feedback from my editor and my beta readers. It is just invaluable to get honest feedback. I think the rewriting process is probably the most difficult--finding that rhythm of the novel. But I enjoy it all now. I now have the confidence to know that I can work through any challenge. That knowledge is a gift in itself! And my mantra is a quote from Nora Roberts: "You can't edit a blank page." When I'm frustrated and I feel like everything I'm writing is crap, I remember that phrase and persevere. And like magic, I can go back to that page and somehow find a single phrase or a thought and, suddenly, with very few tweaks, the page comes alive. It's great when that happens.

Trusting yourself that you can work through the tough parts and can find the magic is something that only comes with having done it a hundred-plus times.

CMA: So, on to a sillier question. Do you have any quirky writing habits, traditions, or superstitions?  

DJC:  It is probably only weird to others around me. But I will make the face of the person in the story and then try to define it. Sometimes I'll even ask my husband, "What am I doing with my face?"

CMA: That's great actually. Kind of like method acting, only "method writing." Perhaps you should patent that?

Of your three novels, which was your most favorite to write and why?

DJC:  The Symbolon, the second book, was my favorite to write. I had no idea what I was going to write, only a sense about the flow. I started writing and the whole story just took off. This story is mostly about emotions and battling through them. I probably went through a case of tissues, but it was the most fun I've ever had writing. 

But, with that, I must say that I am most proud of The Last Oracle. It was an incredibly complex novel and I felt that the story I wanted to tell was well beyond my ability as an author. I have to say that now, seeing the phenomenal reviews for this third book, it has made it one of the most gratifying experiences of my life.

CMA: Other than Alex or Valeria, who is your favorite character and why?

DJC:  Most definitely Paolo! He is so self-centered and irritating. He is really almost incapable of putting himself in other people's shoes. But he has such a beautiful heart. I think he's probably the most complex character I've ever written. Readers seem to have strong reactions to him--positive and negative.

CMA: Is there anyone who you modeled Alex after? He is such a unique blend of old-fashioned, gentlemanly, passionate, protective, romantic, gregarious, and just with this beautiful adoration and timeless love for Valeria. He's like the super, uber, perfect man! 

DJC:  Although Alex and Valeria came to me with their very own personalities, many of Alex's behaviors came from my husband, Randy. Randy is a unique blend of old-fashioned and gentlemanly. He's passionate, protective, romantic, extraordinarily gregarious--and very handsome.

My husband is my biggest cheerleader and he loves reading the stories because he sees so many pieces of our relationship in them; my love affair with coffee, particularly the coffee made by him in the morning. He loves to surprise me and I HATE surprises (except Christmas and birthday gifts).

CMA: Yep, any man who wakes up and makes you a perfect blend of coffee is pretty much a keeper! Okay, so now onto the risqué part of the interview where I normally ask male interviewees: boxers or briefs? But it's kinda hard with you being a lady--and a really sweet one at that! But, I'll still ask: bikini bottom briefs or thong?

DJC:  Too funny! Hmmm...my husband humbly requests that I pass on this one. If I want to ensure that our morning coffee ritual continues, I'll probably have to comply, lol!

CMA: I completely understand. I'd do nothing to jeopardize my morning coffee either!

So, now that such a huge undertaking as your trilogy is over, and you've established a strong fan base of loyal readers, do you have any ideas for your next novel? If so, can you give us any hints?

DJC:  I have two projects that I love that have been in the works for decades and I will probably be working on them next.

The next novel I'll be working on is about a wealthy, protected woman who suddenly loses it all, including her adoring husband and the family she develops in a tiny Midwest town. Part of the storyline is loosely based on one of the most amazing women I've ever known; a depression era woman who, in her twilight years, took in three children when their mother deserted them and she raised them as her own.

The other story is a historical trilogy that takes place during WWII.

But I have had numerous requests to continue the story of the oracles. And I've been considering that for some time.

CMA: The Sibylline Trilogy is such a unique concept right now, because of its unique mix of Greek mythology, immortality, timeless love, Da Vinci Code-like intrigue and suspense, and all with a modern angle. I've heard from a little birdie that there *may* be some interest in this trilogy for movie rights? Yes or no - any truth to these rumors?  

DJC: True! We are currently in discussion!

CMA: {Shoots a fist in the air like Caleb and says, "Awesome!"}

CMA: If this trilogy were to be made into a series of movies, who would you love to see play Alex and Valeria, the main characters, the symbolons or soul mates? 

DJC: I personally like Chris Pine or Adam Raynor. But there are so many amazing actors out there. I picture Chelsea Hobbs as Valeria.

CMA: Okay, so I had to look these actors up and see who they were, and I have to say, Chris Pine is the PERFECT Alex in my opinion. And he has those swoon-worthy oracle blue eyes already! Adam is definitely hot and maybe, just maybe, he could be considered for Paolo? And Chelsea...yes, she's an adorable mix of sweet, cute, a tad naïve, young enough to play the role, and versatile. Great choices! {Are you listening Hollywood?} And, oh, the chemistry Chris and Chelsea could have! {Sizzles!}

CMA:  Wow! So, if you're all still with us, thanks for sticking around and learning so much about this fascinating author, the journey of her writing career, and what's up next. The last thing I think I'd like to discuss is the whole Indie vs. Traditional publishing route. Initially, you had interest from traditional publishers for this trilogy, correct? Why did you ultimately choose the Indie publishing route, and what advice would you give other "new" authors who want to write that book that's inside of them?

DJC:  When I originally began to search for an agent and/or publisher, I had absolutely no interest in going the Indie route. In my mind, Indie was only for non-fiction or authors with inferior products.

Then an interesting thing happened; one of the top five publishers filed for bankruptcy. That caused me to take a second look at Indie publishing. What I found was a tremendous number of Indie authors who had become New York Times Bestselling authors!

About that time, I received an offer from a top 10 publisher. It as a nice offer, but I was busy in rewrites. In the meantime, that publisher became very interested. We had a nice conversation and they sent me what I would consider a great offer for a first time novelist. By that time, I was in the process of publishing via Amazon and Createspace. We played with the idea of giving the publisher hard-copy rights only.

In the end, I never got back to the publisher. It wasn't easy--until I stumbled upon Melissa Foster and Fostering Success. Within weeks of taking her courses, and with her generous assistance, both of my novels became Amazon bestsellers over Christmas.

It's been a lot of work and there's been a lot to learn in a rapidly changing market. In the beginning, it was probably the right decision for me. But things can change. I've never been opposed to the traditional route. I think most authors dream of that big publishing deal and the big bucks that come with that.

As far as advice, the most important is to hire professionals (like my editor Colleen Albert!). Get a great editor and proofreader, get a professional cover designer, and a professional formatter. Have a professional product!

Then, take Melissa's courses on marketing with Fostering Success. Learn from the best!

CMA:  Delia, thank you so incredibly much for your time, experience, and wisdom. I know you will be an inspiration to many writers out there who always wanted to write their book but just didn't know if they could. When they see how brave you were to switch careers and follow your dreams, maybe they'll find the courage too!

For more on Delia and her books:
Web site | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon
{CMA: I promise I did not pay her to toot my horn, but thank you, Delia!}