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Interview with Civil Rights Biographer Anita Hackley-Lambert

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Civil rights biographer Anita Hackley-Lambert is the author of F.H.M. Murray: First Biography of a Forgotten Pioneer for Civil Justice, now available from Booksurge and online retailers. To promote her book, Anita will be touring the blogosphere this month with Pump Up Your Book Promotion Virtual Book Tours.

Welcome to Blogcritics, Anita. It’s nice to have you here. Why don’t you start by telling us a bit about your book, and what inspired you to write such a story?

Thank you for having me. It is a pleasure to be able to share my book with everyone. Let me begin by saying that many people now agree that the history of the United States is incomplete and in some cases inaccurate when it comes to recording the activities of African Americans who have accomplished much and impacted many.

My book, F.H.M. Murray: First Biography of a Forgotten Pioneer for Civil Justice is about a champion civil rights activist who, for whatever reasons, was overlooked by society. The best way to describe the importance of this story is to use a portion of the review statement given by Niagara Gazette columnist Bill Bradberry who said, “Lambert’s book, though a superb biography of her great grandfather … is the most detailed account of the events that led up to and that immediately followed the formation of one of the most important human rights movements in the world, the Niagara Movement. Lambert helps us understand the story that shaped the nation and shook the world."

My inspiration for writing this book actually comes from a combined phases of my life. I have wanted to write since I was twelve, when I wrote my first unpublished book, No Where To Run, a partial autobiography that examines my life as a sexually abused child – beginning at age of five. However, as I struggled to get control of a tormented life, I returned to writing by preparing numerous technical manuals and how-to documents for the federal government. I did not become serious about my writing until I promised my blind mother I would honor her promise to her mother who had promised her father (F.H.M. Murray) she would not allow his legacy to be forgotten. At that time, I was unaware of the huge challenge that lay ahead — research and validation. I had no way of knowing it would take more than ten years researching to compile his story into a historical format with endnotes and an index. My final inspiration to complete the manuscript came from a request from the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park to bring copies of my book and to present a scholarly paper at their Centennial Celebration of the Niagara Movement in 2006. Completing this monumental task actually helped me reconnect with myself. I regained my life while fulfilling my own dream to write.

How would you describe your creative process while writing this novel? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline? How long did it take you to write it?

This is not easy for me to answer because of the magnitude of work involved. I am sure there were spurts of stream-of-consciousness writing but most writing stemmed from a chronological outline. The easiest part was doing the first rough draft, then dividing that into manageable chapters, which would change a number of times. Using the initial data (family history and family documents) I complete the first draft in two years. One huge challenge was to know when to stop the research, especially when I kept rediscovering or uncovering treasures of valuable information to add. Following that decision, I had the wonderful task of sorting through seven file cabinets, tons of boxes of papers, newspapers, and other documents to gather and separate the verifiable data to use.
I guess bringing it all together into a manageable compilation and writing the second draft, was quite an accomplishment. The only problem was going back over everything to get the validation, endnotes, and indexing completed. With that was done, for some reason, I remained in tailspin for some time. I simply could not move forward with my final rewrite. It remained that way until I got the Harpers Ferry invitation that gave me the final incentive I needed. With adrenalin rushing through my brain, a seemingly impossible task took on a supernatural outcome. Everything fell into place, the marketing and promotion, finding a professional editor, a printer, rewriting the manuscript in about 45 days and having it hot off the press in 65 days was as a miracle.

During the course of my research and discovery, I realized that there were few resources or writing groups available, in my area, to provide support that could have helped me with this project. This is why I founded Women Writers United plus other business enterprises to help women who write get their dreams of publishing realized.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? What seems to work for unleashing your creativity?

Yes and no. It seems that I can always write about something and I do. But there came the time that I mentioned earlier, I got stuck after with the second draft and could not move forward with the rewrite. I mean, I could write but not about my book. My mind kept drifting from one topic to another — totally unrelated to my biography. Instead of stressing over it, I just wrote about whatever would come out at that time. By the time I got the final inspiration to complete my book, I must tell you, I was shocked at how much I had written. I ended up with enough material for my next 14 manuscripts. Its as if something came over me, swept me off my feet, carried me to a quite place so I could write to my hearts content. It was as if I was given back the years I had lost before reconnecting to myself.

I guess most writers encounter some form of writer’s block. Overcoming that, for me, is to just go with the flow of what’s trying to get out rather than to make myself write about a specific topic. That way, I am surprised.

How was your experience in looking for a publisher? What words of advice would you offer those novice authors who are in search of one?

My best advice to novice authors is, do your own research — not all publishers are upfront and honest. I had identified a super Christian book publisher, Pleasantword.com. Unfortunately, after all the research and communication, I could not use them because they could not meet my rushed deadline without compromising the quality of my book. They needed an extra 30 days, which I did not have. I appreciate their honesty. But, that left me scrambling to find a publisher that could.

I ended up with BookSurge, an Amazon.com company. In fact, they were the only publisher to guarantee my deadline of July 24, 2006. It was a very complex and demanding collaborative effort. Although the publisher and I worked closely, I was the aggressor. Staying on top, at every level, was the difference in getting published on time and losing out altogether. Even with a few hiccups, I met the requirement.

The downside is the cost. I paid 3-4 times more than with other publishers, and I did not get the quality promised. This stressful experience taught me a valuable lesson — I could do better by publishing my own books. This inspired me to start my own company, HLE Publishing.

What type of book promotion seems to work the best for you?

Good question. First it is important for me to let everyone know that I paid thousands of dollars for a quality promotion and got ripped off. The good news is that I learned to self-promote and pleased to have done quite well.

Now, to answer your question, there is no single promotion that works better over another. I use numerous methods to promote my book. For example, beginning at least two months prior to publication, I send out several press releases announcing my book and follow those with monthly releases of upcoming author events like book signings and speaking engagements. The Internet super highway is my best marketing partner, my friend. I distribute flyers, announcements, invitations, etc., electronically and via snail mail. I use email marketing, web sites, and blog sites. As long as my book is in print, this marketing strategy never stops.

I continue to search for innovative promotional campaigns. My current promotions include Virtual Book Tours and book trailers.

What is your favorite book of all time? Why?

Without a doubt, the Holy Bible. You ask why and I reply why not? It has a unique style of prose, poetry, inspiration, songs, stories, healing, and instructions for living a full and happy life. In reading and re-reading, I can learn something beautiful and new each time. The Bible is my companion for whatever I need. It is complete. I am a testimony to its power and positive workings. I have been healed of tumors, cancer, and spinal fusions where the doctors either told me I would die or be incapacitated for life. Today I am totally healed. My doctors are either dead or in disbelief. I am living verifiable proof that the Bible is the word of God and full of power and healing miracles.

As for me and my generations, the Bible will forever be our favorite book of all time.

Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?

Official Author site.
My Blog.
My Radio Talk Show: From the Heart (coming in January 2008)
My Group: The Writer Within.
My Bio.

Do you have another novel on the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects.

Yes. My current work is, Barry A. Murray: Biography in a New Dimension, which is coming out in 2008. This is a historical text about the great grandson of F.H.M. Murray. Barry, who was born the year after his great grandfather died, was compelled to walk in the shadow of his footsteps even though he never knew about him. This is a remarkable story about a gentle giant — one of this nation’s great newspaper publishers. This is a must read!

Thanks for stopping by! It was a pleasure to have you here!

Again, thank you for having me. I have enjoyed sharing my story.

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About Mayra Calvani

Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults and has authored over a dozen books, some of which have won awards. Her stories, reviews, interviews and articles have appeared on numerous publications such as The Writer, Writer’s Journal, Multicultural Review, and Bloomsbury Review, among many others. Represented by Serendipity Literary.
  • http://www.AnitaHackleyLambert.com Anita Hackley-Lambert

    Hi,

    Just wanted to check in to let everyone know I am here to adress their comments or concerns about research, writing, and self-publishing.

    If there is a book inside of you, then I hope you take time to write it. It is a tremendously accomplishment and perhaps a story that needs to be told.

    Blessings,
    Anita Hackley-Lambert