Not only is Laura an immensely talented YA author, she’s also a mother, avid reader, member of SCBWI critique groups, and social justice activist. She has an awe-inspiring network of friends and supporters, as evidenced by her “standing room only” book launch for Drawn from Memory at Whitelam Books in Reading, MA.
As a longtime member of an MG/YA critique group with Laura, I’ve benefitted greatly from her astute critiquing skills and had the pleasure of helping to bring Drawn from Memory into the world. I’m honored to count myself as a staunch friend and supporter and to welcome Laura Hatosy to Writers’ Rumpus! You probably noticed that Laura and I share the same first name: in our interview, I’ll be LC and Laura Hatosy will be Laura H!
LC#1: What’s Drawn from Memory about? And what was your inspiration for this historical novel with a magical twist?
Laura H: I’m fascinated by times in history when people make brave choices despite possible dangerous consequences. I learned about the Danish experience during World War II while I was teaching 8th grade and couldn’t believe it when I heard the Danish people rescued 99% of their Jewish population despite Nazi occupation for the entire war. It’s still incredible to me! How did they do it? Why? More importantly, why didn’t the rest of Europe do the same? The whole story captured my imagination and after a BA in history with a concentration on the 20th century, I couldn’t believe I’d never heard of it. It inspired me! I wrote my Masters thesis on the subject and later when I started writing fiction, I knew I had to turn it into fiction. Here’s a summary:
Sixteen-year-old Rachel Abramson lives in Nazi-occupied Denmark and has a secret ability to erase memories. She is torn from the city and people she loves and deported to the Terezin ghetto with her sister, Annalise and her best friend Gideon.
While there, she must determine whether to use her ability to spare her new friends their grief or preserve the testimony of their experience. Only when she learns to bear the burden of their pain does she gain the very knowledge she needs to survive.
LC#2: Rachel is a truly bold and remarkable character, and your portrayal of life in the Terezin ghetto is incredibly realistic. How long did you work on crafting the novel? How many drafts did you write, and how many beta readers did you have?
Laura H: Drawn from Memory started out as a NaNoWriMo project, and I managed to write 175 pages of it in less than a month. It took a lot longer than that to finish though! Two years maybe? I’ve been very fortunate with beta readers and critique partners, both in their numbers and in their talent to communicate issues with my manuscript. I’ve probably had around 20 people read the entire thing, not to mention the three professional editors who also read it. Here’s a picture of members of my talented critique group from my book launch. Unfortunately, the other two members, you and Lisa Pais, had already left!
LC#3: We all shared your joy, as evidenced by those beautiful, smiling faces! I’m so sorry that Lisa and I ducked out before the picture was taken. What led to your decision to self publish? For example, how many submissions to editors and agents did you send out?
Laura H: I queried Drawn from Memory to tons of agents and got the same response. I had a lot of interest in my writing, but not with my YA Holocaust novel. I was told the genre is just not marketable to big publishers. This was really surprising to me, because so many readers I know are as interested in the subject as I am, so I decided to publish it myself and see how it does. So far, so good!
Plus, for me, querying has been a soul-sucking way to spend my time.
LC#4: Please tell us how the self-publishing process works. Where did the name Scrap Paper Press come from?
Laura H: This is where you stop being a writer and become a publisher. I formatted the interior and hired a cover designer to create a finished, publication-ready document (EPUB for ebooks and PDFs for print versions.) I chose to name my publishing company Scrap Paper Press (I write stories on scrap paper first) instead of using the default Amazon or IngramSparks names. While those are the most popular print-on-demand choices, Barnes and Noble offers another reputable option.
LC #5: Your book launch was a phenomenal success with an incredible number of attendees. How did you get the word out and how do you continue to market your book?
Laura H: Yes!! I was thrilled. I had over 70 people attend. I treated it like a party and invited all my friends, people I worked with in the community, my kids’ teachers (EVERYONE!), plus Whitelam Books did a great job promoting the event with a window full of my books and on social media. I used social media to promote the event, which doubled as reminders for out-of towners to buy the book when it came out.
LC#6: Can you share details about creation of your audio book, including choosing and interviewing your narrator?
Laura H: I hired a production company, Curated Audio, to produce it. They did it all but I had a lot of say in who they auditioned. Because my book is written in first person, I needed someone who could sound 16, and it was very important to me to hire someone Jewish. After that, I did get to choose between the final two candidates for the narrator. Drawn from Memory is now available on Audible, Google, and many other distributors. It’s a surreal and wonderful thing to hear your book being performed. I’ve read the book many times while editing, and the audiobook still made me cry! I’m thrilled with how it came out!
LC#7: What advice can you share with authors considering self-publishing?
Laura H: I’ve started giving talks around the Boston area about self-publishing. I’m happy to share 5 steps to consider when developing a self-publishing plan.
- Research self publishing in your genre. What do covers look like in your genre? Is it important to sell an audiobook in your genre? What are some marketing methods used in your genre? The key words here are “in your genre!” Look at successful comparables and see what they’ve done. Then replicate as much as possible!
- Set your publishing goals. How many copies do you expect to sell? Do you want to sell to libraries and bookstores or only online? What versions do you want to sell: hardcovers, paperbacks, E-books, and/or audiobooks?
- Determine your budget. How much money can you spend? How much time can you devote to the process? Self-publishing can get expensive and be very time-consuming. Setting your budget (both financial and time) will help make your plan more realistic.
- What special skills do you have to make your book a success? Apart from being a kick butt writer, that is! Are you a social media influencer with an established and dedicated following? Do you possess amazing technological skills? Are you a natural salesperson or an engaging public speaker? It’s no longer enough to be a talented writer, whether you publish traditionally or self publish. The chances of your novel becoming a success will increase if you possess the skills and willingness to promote and market it.
- Identify each step in the process and set deadlines for each one. Here are the main steps I took when embarking on my self-publishing journey with Drawn From Memory:
-Book will be drafted by…
-Schedule whole novel review with my critique group and Beta readers
-Book will be given to an editor by…
-Cover Art will be completed by…
-Formatting will be completed by…
-Preorders will be up by…
-Release date will be…etc.
LC#8: Now for the all-important final question: how can readers connect with you?
LC#9: Thank you for helping our Writers’ Rumpus readers! I hope you don’t mind if I copy this clever Bingo card from your website. I have no doubt that once people read Drawn from Memory, they’ll want to play!
Laura H: Other authors can feel free to borrow the Bingo card idea! Laura C., thanks for having me!