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Chasing More Than Tales: An Interview with Gallery Owner/Author Lanae Rivers-Woods

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I met Lanae Rivers-Woods in 2005 when I responded to her call for artists who worked collaboratively with other artists in their own families. She wanted to host such shows in her Seattle art gallery. My husband and I held a cross-genre duo show at La Familia last year, his art serving as visual representation of themes and metaphors I explored in my fiction. Rivers-Woods hosts her husband's photography in the gallery and her sister's singing troupe. She is also a prime example of cross-genre explorations herself, as a writer and artist in her own right. She self-published her first novel, Chasing Tales, this summer.

Lisa Albers: You're quite the renaissance woman: You paint, you write, you run an art gallery, you work for lawyers, and you travel. How is it that you picked up so many interests and vocations?

Lanae Rivers-Woods: It’s a combination of Attention Deficit Disorder and growing up in the Alaskan Bush. Back home you don’t do just one job, you do everything you can think of to make a living. There is not 9 to 5, there is just life, and you do what it takes to keep your cabin heated and food in the pantry.

When I arrived in Seattle, it was like walking into a candy store. I spent all day doing all sorts of wildly fun things that I never dreamed I would get to do. It is wonderful to be surrounded by so much opportunity, and I don’t want to waste a minute of it.

LA: Tell me about how you published Chasing Tales. Whatever possessed you to self-publish? Is that a harder route than traditional publishing, or an easier one? What's been your experience? Would you recommend self-publishing to others?

LRW: Publishing Chasing Tales has been a careful process. I want to learn as much as I can about both traditional and alternative routes. I consider Chasing Tales my “lamb to slaughter.” I can play with all sorts of tools for production, printing, and distribution. I’m not afraid to try new things and experiment. For example, Lulu.com has been an excellent avenue for testing the marketing and formatting. It shouldn’t be a final destination, but it’s a great tool that I highly recommend as a building block.

Now that Chasing Tales is complete, I am moving it to Booksurge, where I can work more effectively with Amazon.com and distribution. We plan to release future titles annually through La Familia Publishing (because I might as well start a small press while I am at it, right?). It is a small operation, and I just love it.

The reason I have done all this is because I love to learn. Obsessively. I wrote Chasing Tales to learn what it would be like to write a book, and when it was finished, I realized I would never really feel complete unless I understood how to publish it as well. Some people make decisions based on money or time. I make decisions based on my desire to learn something new.

Is self-publishing harder then going the traditional route? I don’t have an answer to that. Harder or easier is relative. To me, sitting around waiting for others to get work done is much harder than just doing it myself. So I guess for me this is easier.

Would I recommend self-publishing to others? Most certainly; it is a wonderful opportunity to really understand the life that surrounds your book. I think it pushes you to be a better writer because you understand more about what you are doing and who you are trying to reach. Plus, if you can’t believe in yourself enough to put yourself out there, then why expect anyone else to believe in what you’re doing?

LA: There are a lot of characters in your book, and readers may recognize themselves in them. Are they based on people you know? How about Leanne? Is she you?

LRW: This is a fun game to play. A lot of people want to know the answer to this question. Truth is, they are all like me and yet none of them are me. Depending on the day or the hour, I relate to a different one more or less. I will say that Leanne isn’t the character most like me on most days.

LA: What preparation did you go through to get to a point where you felt you could publish your book? Did you seek out formal training? Work with an editor? What was your process? How long did it take, how many drafts?

LRW: There hasn’t been much in my life that has been formal, but there has been a lot of training. During my time in home school I learned how to study independently, and it has been a priceless skill. When I decide I want to learn something, I research the topic, assemble a curriculum, attend lectures, and interview people in the field until I have exhausted all forms of learning. Then I go do all the cool stuff I learned. It isn’t formal, but it is training.

I had Chasing Tales edited like crazy. I am the world’s worst speller, and I’m dyslexic as hell, so I hired an awesome team of editors known as Verve Editing. They did an amazing job, and I can’t wait to work with them again.

The way I see it, editing is one of the most important parts of publishing any book. You need great editors, and you need to be able to communicate with them. You must put your ego aside and listen to the cold, hard facts if you want your book to be the best it can be.

Asking how many drafts is like asking how many stars there are in the sky. I can’t keep track. I reworked Chasing Tales for a year and a half. I worked on it almost every day, and I’m sure I could have kept going forever. Eventually I just had to be done so I could start the next book.

LA: What's next for you, personally and professionally?

LRW: I have already started the second book in the Chasing Tales trilogy, entitled, Borrowed Dreams. La Familia Publishing will also begin accepting manuscript submissions this winter, and I have hired Lauren Barnhart to oversee the small press.

When I’m not writing I will still be working as the Director of Fine Art and Gallery development at La Familia. I love working with our artists, and I would be an awful author without them.

In short, it’s going to be a busy life, and I’m looking forward to every minute of it.

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About Lisa Albers