Today I am pleased to welcome Kathleen Basi, author of Joy to the World (see my review) to This That and the Other Thing. She kindly agreed to answer some questions I had about her life, Joy to the World, and writing in general.
Can you give my readers a short bio of yourself?
I’m a cradle Catholic and a farm girl, two things that really shaped my world view. From the age of ten until I finished grad school, the flute was the focus of my life, and writing was just a hobby. But these days writing is my passion—both music and prose. All the things that have shaped me—faith, liturgy, family, nature, music, fiction, raising a child with special needs—these things now shape my writing.
What is your educational background?
I have two degrees in flute performance, and I never studied writing at all until I started taking online courses about five years ago. But I’m a voracious reader, and I think I learned the most about writing by reading.
What made you decide to write Joy to the World?
As a full-time liturgy director, I used to get so angry at the commercialization of December. I never enjoyed Advent or Christmas because of it, and I loathed Santa Claus. The year my oldest was three, my husband said, “Kate, you’ve got to make peace with Santa Claus.” I started looking for a way to reconcile the sacred season of Advent with the secular Christmas celebration, and Joy to the World was the result.
As a book blogger I have started to become familiar with the whole world of book marketing, which I barely realized existed a few years ago. What have you learned about book marketing since Joy to the World was published?
Writing gurus say that you won’t believe how much time you spend on marketing. And they’re right—except that I was prepared for it. In some ways, JttW is easier to promote and market, because I’m certain that it’s actually something that will help people, so I don’t feel that I am simply promoting my own interests. I haven’t felt inhibited about approaching people to set up book signings at parishes, radio interviews, and so on. It does require a different mindset, though. As a stay-at-home mom, I’m accustomed to arranging writing time around the kids, and with publicity that’s not always possible. When someone responds, I have to get responses written, phone calls made, and books to the post office in a timely fashion.
I have a feeling that promoting a novel is going to be a largely different animal, because a novel is, in essence, entertainment, even though it can teach, inspire, or enrich life. But I’ve been thrilled to find the community of book bloggers—both as a reader and as a writer. What a great resource to help people cull through the offerings!
As an author, what do you want from a blogger to whom you send a review copy?
Good question. I appreciate it when reviewers take the time to synthesize what was in the book and what did (or didn’t!) work. I think it provides better service to the readers, and thus, to the authors, as opposed to one-paragraph generalizations. Savvy consumers are looking for details.
How have sales been so far?
So far, we’re ahead of the publisher’s expectations.
Honestly, how much of what is in Joy to the World does your family do yearly?
We use the morning and evening rituals (Advent calendar activities, Jesse Tree, Advent wreath) and the manger. It sounds like a lot, I know, but it truly has shifted the tenor of the season for us. I used to feel cheated every Christmas, because I never “felt” Christmas. Using the calendar and the evening ritual the last two years has made all the difference.
I noticed on Facebook that you were working on a Lenten book. Can you tell us about that?
The Lent book will, in some ways, be a companion to JttW, in that we’ll use something tactile, like the calendar, to mark the passage of time. But it will be much less intensive than the Advent rituals, because Lent is so much longer. There will be reflections and activities for each week, centered around a Lenten theme.
Your website contains a long list of published articles. Is writing a paying hobby or is it something from which you derive an income commensurate with the work involved?
Frankly, I don’t think you ever really earn an income “commensurate with the work involved.” Like Emily Starr, I write because I have to.
How many hours a week do you spend writing things you hope to publish, and for which you hope to be paid?
It’s highly variable. I keep a list of what projects I’m working on in a given week. I’ve been blessed to develop a good professional and personal relationship with Christina Capecchi-Ries, who is an editor for two Catholic magazines, and I write a lot on assignment for her. How much querying I do depends on what other projects I have on the docket. And of course, I blog five days a week, which doesn’t net any immediate financial return, but helps me to develop a readership.
How would you advise someone who wants to write professionally to get started?
I’d say that most of us dream of writing novels, but a novel is heavy on time with zero guarantee of any return, so it’s a good idea to diversify. The nonfiction market is much bigger. I started out with Long Ridge Writers group’s online course, called “Breaking Into Print,” and it was a very good introduction to the publishing world.