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  • Interview with Bonnie Trachtenberg, author of ‘Wedlocked.’ An amusing look at getting locked out of...
Interview with Bonnie Trachtenberg, author of ‘Wedlocked.’ An amusing look at getting locked out of the life you want.
Contributor
Written by
elizabeth
August 2011
Contributor
Written by
elizabeth
August 2011

Author Bonnie Trachtenberg toiled as a senior writer and copy chief at Book-of-the-Month Club. Wedlocked is her first self-published book and she takes us on a bumpy and entertaining ride with the protagonist Rebecca Ross and the cast of characters that go in and out of her life. Seat belts are required.



 

Q. At what age did you become aware that writing was going to be your creative path in life?

 

A. It’s funny, on some level I think I knew in high school, as I had a clear knack for English and writing. But over the years I kept letting myself get sidetracked trying to pursue other career choices like film director (in college), lawyer (I had a panic attack and walked out of the LSAT) and FBI agent (until I came to my senses.) Although it’s interesting to note that I was writing screenplays on the side during all these pursuits. It really wasn’t until I was thirty, and lucky enough to get published in a national magazine (Ms. Fitness), that I finally accepted that writing was what I was meant to do. And once I did, all the work started rolling in!

 

Q. Wedlocked has a storyline that many women find themselves in: do what is expected, don’t make waves, and suffer in silence. Was there one thing that triggered this story in you?

 

A. Yes, I lived it! This is a story loosely based on my first brief, disastrous marriage, something I went into impulsively and out of desperation after fifteen long years of dating. I had also just moved home to New York after ten years trying to “find myself” in Los Angeles, so I was very vulnerable as I had no job, no apartment of my own, and few friends. Also, everyone around me had been married for years and they piled on the pressure. I began to feel like an old maid, something that I didn’t experience in Los Angeles as there were so many like me out there. When my ex-husband came into my life, he came in like a hurricane and I let myself get blown away. Luckily, I was independent enough and strong enough to find my footing again.

 

Q. How do you go about developing your characters?  I did not see me in your book. I am working through the pain. Are some of these characters based on people you know? Or do you take a personality flaw from this one and an attribute from that one and create someone new?

 

A. Maybe next time, Elizabeth! Many of the characters are closely based on people I know, some are completely made up, and yes, some are composites. It was a challenge to write a story that was so close to reality and my heart, yet also included a good deal of fiction. You’re inclined to want to stick to the way it really happened, but the complete truth doesn’t always make for the best novel. Likewise, characters based on real people need to be taken up a few notches. Except for Rebecca’s husband Craig, I didn’t have to stray far there!

 

Q. What was the best experience about writing Wedlocked and what almost made you shelf the idea?

 

A. The best part about writing Wedlocked was the catharsis I got from turning such a horrible time in my life into an amusing, entertaining story that I could laugh at along with my readers. I never really considered shelving the idea, but life gets in the way and so it took me eight years of writing part-time and one of writing full-time before it was ready to see the light of day. The first year after my divorce I could only write little fragments and memories of what had happened as I was still too close to it. It was all these notes, however, that helped me stay true to the feelings I had and kept the story from being blocked from my memory like many bad memories are.

 

Q. How did you like writing in the first person? And did you find writing in Rebecca Ross’ voice liberating?

 

A. When I began writing the story, it completely lent itself to first person being that it was based on my life, and so I just went with it. It was easier than pie to write in Rebecca’s voice, because she is so much like me in so many ways, as many of my friends and relatives have pointed out. So of course it felt liberating to get my voice out there on paper. However, I did take Rebecca over the top at times, letting her do and say things that I may have thought, but didn’t say and do myself. It sounds weird, but I have a lot of respect for Rebecca for sometimes having the nerve that I didn’t have!

 

Q. Since nearly every novel has a message running through it. What is the message you would like women to take from your book?

 

A. I think the underlying message of Wedlocked is that we can be worthy of love without being a perfect person, and that sometimes it’s our flawed human nature that makes us more loveable than anything else.

 

Q. A lot of women, including myself, want to write the book that makes every talk show host book us as their favorite guest. How did you work out the time to write, edit, edit again and get your book published? Please tell us that it was easy.

 

A. Hah! Remember those nine years I told you about? One of my favorite quotes, because it’s so true, is from Red Smith: “There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.” But what he didn’t tell us is that once you’ve bled out, you still have to market yourself! This is a lot harder than writing for a lot of writers whose natural habitat consists of a quiet room, a laptop, a sweat suit and some coffee. I’m psyching myself for all the “out of my comfort zone” stuff I’m now in for. The first thing I did was launch my website, http://www.bonnietrachtenberg.com. All the content isn’t up yet, but we’re getting there. Next in line is a website devoted solely to the book: http://www.Wedlockedthenovel.com. As far as getting on TV shows, fiction writers are at a great disadvantage. We often don’t have the platform to sell ourselves in that media. That’s why you mostly see nonfiction writers appearing on the shows. They have a topic and can market themselves as an expert on it. Or they are already bestsellers. I also hear that unless you have video of a recent live TV interview, none of the national morning and daytime shows will consider you. (Aren’t Catch 22s a joy?) Anyway, getting that all important platform is key, so that’s what I’m working on. I happen to be lucky. My husband is an entrepreneur and he’s taking on marketing my book as his new business. He can be pretty brilliant sometimes because although he’s never tackled publishing, he thinks outside the box.

 

Q. You decided to self-publish. (A little secret:  Bonnie and I worked at Book-of-the-Month Club and I remember hearing how self-publishing was the kiss of death. No one will take you seriously.  Funny, how things have changed.) Can you let our readers know what made you decide to try self-publishing?

 

A. Our editor at Book-of-the-Month Club, Victoria Skurnick, became an agent at Levine Greenberg and after reading my book, decided to take it on despite her caveat that “selling new fiction these days is near impossible.” She tried and I got some great feedback, but no takers. I was hoping my second novel, which has a more high concept idea, would be easier to sell. Victoria felt it could break me in and then Wedlocked could follow. However, after a year or so of badgering, my husband (my biggest fan) finally talked me into going the self publishing route. For me, it was his business savvy (and the fact that I got such rave reviews on my book from such a wide variety of people) that gave me the confidence to do it. Like you said, we were conditioned to think that only bad books got self published. That’s far from the truth now, with many well-known, talented published authors choosing to go out on their own too. The industry is in the beginning stages of being completely reinvented and although the old structure still exists, a new model is definitely taking over. In time, I’m sure the reviewers who won’t look at self published books will have to (and want to) change their tune. Publishers Weekly recently did! As a writer, it’s wonderful to have more control and not be at the mercy of the big name publishers who really don’t do as much marketing for you as people think. I’m thrilled the stigma is disappearing!

 

Q. How do you plan on promoting your book? Would you like me to call Ellen?

 

A. We’ve put together a big marketing push that includes a virtual book tour targeting my audience (isn’t the internet great?); social marketing, including blogging, interviews, and articles; and local book signings. I’ve brought on someone who specializes in driving traffic to websites and I’m also in the process of creating a platform for myself to help equip the traditional media publicist I bring on with material that can help get me on television and radio, as well as in magazines, newspapers, etc. It’s important to tap all the resources you may have at your disposal and to get out and network—something that’s also out of my comfort zone. When you ask people for favors, you always risk rejection. But sure, call Ellen!

 

Q. If you could take a month off and just put up your feet and read – what would be on your list? And would you consume junk food or order in Chinese food?

 

A. During the summer months, I like to keep my reading on the lighter, entertaining side. (Truth be told, I can’t bring myself to read those really great books about really depressing subjects any time of year.) If I want misery, I’ll turn on the news. Instead, I’ll probably order the new Jennifer Weiner that’s due out.  I also can’t wait to read Tina Fey’s Bossypants, which I just bought. The Paris Wife and Wolf Hall are on my list as well as Fire and Rain: The Lost Story of 1970 (the author did an interesting interview on Morning Joe). Additionally I am obsessed with books about life after death, which for me is year round reading. And while my feet are up, God I’d love some pizza!

Q.  I always ask what advice authors can give authors in waiting. I think it helps to hear your insights about what you went through only to come out a published author.

 

A. My advice is: if you really believe in your talent don’t let the so-called experts in the publishing industry crush your dreams of being published. They are focused mainly on making money, which is evidenced by the many unreadable books they do publish simply because the author is well known. Happily, we all have another option now. It may require you to do more work, and invest some money, but the rewards of having creative and business control of your own book are pretty amazing. There’s a huge learning curve, but I know my second novel will be easier to handle after all the experience I’m now garnering. And I know all my efforts will be worth it in the long run.  

 

Q. What is next on the horizon for you? Got more books that need to get out there?  Maybe a book on the love lives of cats? (Bon and I are HUGE cat lovers.)

 

Actually, I do have a cat related children’s book on my back burner, but right now my second novel is in second draft mode. It’s another romantic comedy (my favorite genre). I also plan to finally publish a humor gift book this fall that I wrote several years back. It’s called The Fine Art of Delusional Thinking. It’ll make a great holiday gift as I think it’s something that’s ripe for the current state of the world. And for me, there’s nothing better than making people laugh.

 

Wedlocked is now available for purchase. Wedlocked

 

 

© 2011, My views from the Edge ™

Follow elizabeth on Twitter at: EdgyCoach  or elizabethcoach

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