After four successful novels that were released by mainstream publishers and a lengthy hiatus in writing, I decided to independently publish my fifth novel as an e-book. My previous novels, published by Doubleday and DIF, did well in hardcover and in paperback. They had good reviews, sold foreign rights, and were chosen by book clubs. One was a Novel of the Month in Good Housekeeping magazine, and another was selected as a Featured Alternate by the Book of the Month Club.
You must wonder, if I was a published author, why would I choose to do this on my own?
In a word, I was impatient. After working on The Expatriate for more than a decade, I was suddenly in a hurry for it to be out there in the hands of readers. I didn’t want to go through the tedious process of submissions, and finally, after finding a publisher, wait a year or more for the book to appear on the shelves of the rapidly diminishing number of brick and mortar bookstores. E-books are the wave of the future, so it is said, and while I don’t believe printed books can ever be replaced by an electronic reader, I didn’t want to wake up two years from now and wish I had jumped on the bandwagon.
An author friend sent me an interview with Barry Eisler, a successful novelist, who discussed his decision to forego a lucrative contract with a “legacy” publisher, in favor of independently publishing his new books. I was inspired by this and in a surprisingly short time, had found a company (Publish Green) to format my manuscript and distribute the e-book for the Kindle, Nook, iPad, and a bunch of other e-readers I’d never heard of.
In the past, whenever I had a new novel, I would go on book tours, giving dozens of talks and signing books until I had writer’s cramp. But how do you promote a novel, if there’s no book to sign? Through the social networks, of course.
There are hundreds of books and blogs explaining how to do this, but I found the idea daunting. You might say that I was electronically challenged. I didn’t Tweet, I didn’t blog, and although I had joined Facebook, I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I told myself that if I’ve written five novels, how hard can it be to master the cyber world? It’s a little like jumping off a cliff and hoping you’ll land in deep water. With this in mind, I started a blog.
Since The Expatriate is an international story, I thought it was important for it to be represented at the Frankfurt Book Fair. My previous books were printed in foreign editions and this novel is a natural for German, French, Italian, Swedish, Russian, and many other foreign translations. So, I prepared a presentation of an excerpted manuscript for display at this important publishing industry event. It will also be represented at the London Book Fair.
The Expatriate is a story about World War II. Set in war-torn Europe, its main characters are involved in the OSS and the Austrian Resistance. I have always been fascinated by the Second World War. I love to read history books and novels written about “The War,” as people of my generation usually refer to it. The films and music of the time captivate me. Perhaps because I was growing up during the era of the 1930s and ’40s, it has an emotional pull for me that subsequent periods and historical events lack. And so, for The Expatriate, I created Alexa Summerfield, an American student at Oxford, who is swept up in the onslaught of the Nazi war. Because I’ve spent a fair amount of time in Austria, I used that beautiful country as my main setting.
The Expatriate has been a work in progress for many years. For the research, I traveled to Austria, England, France, Italy, Switzerland and the eastern republics of the former Soviet Union. It is the tale of an extraordinary woman who finds herself in the most unexpected and dire circumstances. Sweeping from the hallowed halls of Oxford, to the gilded drawing rooms of Austrian aristocracy, to the snow-covered peaks of the Swiss Alps, this story explores complicated emotions when love and loyalty are in conflict.
Harriet Segal grew up in Wilkes-Barre, PA and was educated at Wellesley College. She has traveled extensively throughout the world and experienced the expatriate life herself. As a writer, journalist and editor, she lived in India for a time with her late husband, who was a distinguished scientist. The author of five novels, she now divides her time between the Boston suburbs and Cape Cod. Segal is a member of The Authors Guild, PEN, and Grub Street. She is at work on a novel about the world of medical research. Her website is http://www.harrietsegal.com and her blog is http://www.harrietsegal.wordpress.com.