Marta Hiatt – Author Interview

What is your most recent book? Tell us a bit about it.

My most recent book is “Memories of Times Past,” a nostalgic collection of stories and photographs recalling the way life used to be in the early party of the 20th Century. These historic reminiscences were written by the people who lived them, and are illustrated with 250 vintage black & white photographs that vividly bring the stories to life. Every major feature of life in the “good old days,” from one-room classrooms to party-lines to manual typewriters is covered in this entertaining book.

One night my sister and I were loading the dishwasher when we started discussing how life was when we were kids. We recalled doing the dishes with bar soap that wouldn’t make suds in hard-water. Before the invention of detergent we had to take a bar of hard brown soap, place it in a little wire grate, and swish it around in hot water for about 10 minutes before we had enough suds to do the dishes. If we had more then one load, we did that repeatedly. We also recalled laundry day and the hand-turned wringers you had to put every piece of washing through several times to squeeze out the excess water before you hung out the clothes on the line to dry. Of course there were no automatic dryers. And every Saturday night mom would heat pans of water on the wood-burning stove to fill a large metal tin that we all bathed in. You sure didn’t want to be the last one to get a bath if you came from a large family! The water was not only dirty, but cold, by the time you got your turn!

After an evening of reminiscing I thought it would be fun to put together a collection of stories and photos describing life in the early 20th century. I started by asking family and friends what they remembered about their childhood, and would talk to people everywhere, including my neighbors. People always seemed eager to share their stories about the differences between then and now. I also subscribed to “Reminisce Magazine,” which is written entirely by the readers. When I’d read a particularly interesting story, I’d write the author and ask permission to feature it in my book. They would usually send me an old black and white photo illustrating their story.

Art Linkletter said: “Memories of Times Past” will appeal to both a younger audience who will sometimes be amazed at the way things were, and older people whose own memories will be stimulated by reading these interesting stories, and viewing the photographs about the past.”

Why did you decide to self-publish?

My first book, “MInd Magic, Techniques for Transforming Your Life,” was published by a traditional publisher, but this time I decided to start my own publishing company: Northern Star Press, so that I could have more control over my book. My advice to other writers who might want to go this route is that you have to be prepared to put in an enormous amount of time marketing a book on your own. These days, however, traditional publishers do almost nothing to promote an author’s book (unless you’re a celebrity) other than get it listed on online sites, such as Amazon, so you have to do the work yourself in either case.

Having your own publishing company is different from “Print-on-Demand” where another company actually owns your book and the ISBN, and you have to buy each book from them. I don’t recommend it, and many bookstores won’t accept POD books. If you have your own company you can make all the decisions but you usually have to get a distributor, and they take a percentage of the profits. Physical bookstores and online stores don’t want to bill every little publisher, but prefer to go through a distributor to have their invoicing centralized. The distributor will usually help market your book, but in a limited way. You can research distributors online.

What are you doing to promote your latest book?

Some of the things I’ve done to promote my book is send out about 300 free review copies, contact radio stations for interviews, write articles for the many online article sites, design a web site (which is mandatory!) and donate books to libraries.

How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?

I’ve wanted to be a writer as long as I can remember. When I was 10 I had a portable typewriter and I put together a 4-page weekly newsletter of the things my family did that week, and even stories about the neighbors’ kids. At 18 I was writing syrupy love-stories which my mom said weren’t “mature” enough to get published — get some life experience first. I subsequently went to college, got a Ph.D in Psychology and had a private practice in psychotherapy for 25 years in San Jose, California. Now that I’m retired I finally have time to devote myself to my first love, writing.

What are you reading now?

I’m basically a non-fiction writer, and prefer reading non-fiction, although my next book is going to be a fiction story about an unwed mother who gives up her son for adoption during the puritanical ’50s, and is reunited with him 30 years later. I’m about half way through this story now.

What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?

My advice to writers is simply to write. Life for most people these days is very hectic, but it’s imperative that you set aside a minimum of 2 hours every day to practice your writing. Reading books by good writers is also important. One of my favorites is David Roth.

Where can readers learn more about you and your book?

You can read excerpts from my books on my web site: www.northernstarpress.com