My debut novel is called Afta-U. The story details everything that happens after the death of a little girl named Hope, at age 11. Hope’s best friend Jean, who is now almost 40, narrates the story. The Afta-U is both a literal and figurative boat that quietly immortalizes Hope, since Jean is haunted by her past and hasn’t come to terms with it. Jean fights for her very sanity as she confronts the dark web of relationships and intrigue that appear to have been set in motion by a split-second decision she made in the aftermath of the tragedy.
Tell us something about yourself.
I grew up in a small New England town named Hanson, MA. I received my undergraduate degree from a college in New Hampshire and loved the state. So, in 2013, I finally moved to Concord, NH where I currently reside. My mother still lives in my childhood home in Hanson, MA. In 2006, I started writing Afta-U. In the story the childhood homes of Jean and Hope, were inspired from my childhood home and upbringing in Hanson. I put the story down for months and years at a time. It seemed as if I was never going to actually finish writing the first draft. Most of the first draft was written from 2012-2014. I spent most of 2015, working on editing and publishing the book.
Outside of writing, I have been a certified project manager for over eleven years now. Currently, I work as a project manager for a company that provides cloud software products for call centers at small, medium, and enterprise companies. In addition to working full time, I also started my own business in 2014, Ansel Resume Resolution Services LLC, writing resumes and cover letter packages, and offering tutoring and professional writing services. In my spare time, I enjoy instructing Spinning classes (indoor cycling classes).
What inspired you to write this book?
When I was home working on my personal computer and preparing to take the Project Management Professional examination, something inside of me made me bring up a blank word document on the computer screen. I typed the name of my grandfather’s boat as the title Afta-U, and then proceeded to fill up half of a page with an introduction to a story. That paragraph is still in the novel, but is after the new opening paragraph. I had no idea where the story would go and who the characters were.
I’ll confess, I do not write from an outline unless I’m forced to do so, even when writing research papers, etc. I do the outline last and then edit and move parts of a paper or story around. I do have more of an idea where my second story will go, but I will most likely, write this second one all out of order again and then bring it all together later in the process. The idea and name for the second novel surfaced before I was even halfway done with writing this first novel. This first book was much more of a personal novel, even though it is completely fiction.
How did you choose the title?
The title was a personal one for me. It was the name of my maternal grandfather’s Flying Scot sailboat, Afta-U.
What obstacles did you encounter in getting this book published? How did you overcome them?
It was a learning experience. I had countless rejections in my search for a literary agent. Finally, I submitted my manuscript to Tate Publishing and it was accepted by Tate. Tate Publishing works directly with the author and not a literary agent. After my novel was picked up by Tate, I worked with Tate and their team. Just before the book’s publishing release date, I chose to halt the process and engaged an outside editor, Mike Ball, to further polish and edit the book before moving forward with the release and publication with Tate.
I’m extremely happy with the final result and have established what I foresee to be a life-long author and editor relationship. At this moment in time, I also plan to work with Tate Publishing for my second book. I’ve learned so much along this exciting path to publication, and I look forward to writing and publishing many more novels.
How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?
I think I was born wanting to be a writer. I have always written poetry and short stories. My dream since I was a child was to become a published author and to write a novel.
Do you have any writing rituals?
I plan to try to write at least an hour a day in the morning to finish writing this second novel as soon as possible. I have learned to do some pre-paving exercises, where I write down how I envision the writing for that day to go. It helps me to connect with my higher self and opens up the floodgate of creativity.
I also have started to play quietly in the background, some music with subliminal messages about success. This is new process though, I just discovered these CD’s. I also play these in the background while I’m working as long as I’m not on a project call.
How do you come up with the names for your characters?
This first novel was personal for me. I named many of my characters after family and friends. However, even though I was extremely close with my father, I had a difficult time putting my father in the story, so I snuck him in with the ice skating rink name: RRK (my father’s initials). I also used Biblical names and played around with last names to have deeper meanings.
The animals in the story were all animals from my childhood. The Great Gatsby was also a reference to name choices such as Eckleberg (although I spelled it with an e ipo u) and Nick.
Even though the question you asked is about characters names, I will share with you that there is a poem in the book named Ansel. This poem which was derived from examining Ansel Adam’s framed photographs of oak trees that I have in my house. I decided to look up the name in the dictionary and the meaning for Ansel is: “God’s helmet.” I loved it so much that it became the town cemetery name and a poem in my book. When it came time to name my business, the name’s meaning and Ansel Adam’s photography also came into play.
Did you learn anything from writing and publishing this book? What?
Was there a moment I didn’t learn something? Kidding aside, yes, I learned lots of valuable knowledge to help me write my second novel and I have a great team in place to help it all go smoothly the second time around.
If you were doing it all over again, what would you do differently?
Well, we can’t go back and change the past. We can only focus on the now. I learned so many valuable lessons along the way and they helped me to reach the point I am at today. Moreover, these lessons have helped to shape me into the writer and person I am right now.
I also have learned that there is no such thing as perfection. Like many authors, I think I pushed too hard for perfection. A book and story always will have room for growth. It is important to reach a point where it is time to release it to the world. I try to learn from missteps and gain experiences as I follow this exciting path as a published author and, as a result, I have faith that my second novel will go smoothly through writing, editing, and publishing.
What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?
I love to read the classics such as The Great Gatsby. I love mystery and suspense novels by a variety of authors. I also love self-help books, etc.
Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?
Yes, I am working on a poetry compilation called Breadcrumbs and also on my second novel entitled Fresnel Lens. Some of the characters from my first novel carry over into this second novel. However, it is almost a standalone story, a lot less personal, set in the fictitious towns I’ve created named Nain Valley and Graytown. It is more of a mystery where Jean is unaware of the underlying mystery and helps to unravel and solve this mystery. This time around, it isn’t personal for Jean.
What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?
Don’t give up on your dream and keep on writing. Most importantly, enjoy the process and enjoy the journey. There are many first’s that won’t happen again like having your novel picked up for publication, seeing it in print, and walking by and observing someone engrossed in reading your book.
Who is the perfect reader for your book?
Adult readers 17+. Mystery and Suspense readers. Christian Readers.
Where can readers learn more about you and your book?
The book is available at Amazon.com.