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Interview with Nancy Minnis Damato, Author of Belonging

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Nancy Minnis Damato is the author of the exciting Taylor family saga. The last book in the series, Belonging, was just release last month by Wings ePress. In this interview Nancy talks about her inspiration, book romotion and her forthcoming projects, among other things.

Welcome to Blogcritics, Nancy. 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?

Seperate Worlds completes the Taylor banking family trilogy. The third generation of the famous Taylor banking family, Taylor, Lily and Amanda Pickett leave the U.S. for France with James in pursuit of his title Duke of LaFevre. In 1914, Château Rose finally becomes a paying endeavor in time for the invasion of WWI. Lily’s trapped in Brussels where her only chance of survival is to betray her family. James decries Lily’s murderous ways then becomes caught in a similar web. When Amanda becomes a victim of her mother’s obsessive ex-lover, they both pay a heavy price. Unable to communicate they each fight their private war and fault the methods used by the others to survive. 

The Pawn introduces this series. Historically based the trilogy begins with a single woman born into a strict, austere community of Elders who expect her to overcome the willfulness, ambitions and coveting that rules her. Her flight leads her to become The Pawn in a plot to destroy everything and everyone she loves. Belonging, book II, continues the Taylors’ pursuit of dreams and their need for roots.

The cover of each book is a “jewel”, i.e. blue sapphire necklace, emerald pin and ring, and ruby in a silver medallion. The gems serve a purpose in the stories with their purported emotional influences, i.e., peacefulness, envy, and rage, but in contrast to the battle each wearer believes she is staging. The series is about strong women who butt heads with rules, survive by their own determination, fool themselves along the way and pay the price of their independence. And, about family relationships and how our flaws and personal desires weighed against the pressures of outside expectations can destroy our dreams or force us to fight harder.

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?

The series begins in Illinois where I was born and is based on religious followings of my Grandparents. The story travels to St. Louis and onto Bisbee, Arizona, places near where I have lived. Each of these communities bubble with history and influenced me heavily on how we repeat what has gone before — adding very little except modern conveniences. Our basic desires and coping mechanisms remain the same. I researched for years building a timeline, a theme, until Josefina Taylor invaded my nights to the point I couldn’t sleep and interrupted my days with such blatant intrusion it became impossible to conduct a normal conversation without her butting in to “tell her story.” Once the writing process began, The Pawn and Belonging flowed for two years — as steady as my physical strength could handle. Editing and marketing ate up more time. Then Seperate Worlds, researching WWI for accuracy and communicating with friends in Europe, took over a year. To answer your question, actual sitting at the computer writing time took three and a half years, but the total time beginning to end took almost seven years.

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

Writer’s block is a new experience for me with my current work, a romance of a couple separated twenty-eight years prior who are reunited by a third person for revenge. Music provides the best stimulant, if I can find a piece that feeds on the emotion I’m attempting to unveil in the story. And, when shut down, I retreat into Donald Maas’s workbook, Writing the Breakout Novel, to see if I’m attempting to force a situation that is implausible. Always, I tell my husband, dinner out and/or a good movie wakes up the creative juices.

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?

I submitted to two high profile agents, received encouraging rejections–but rejections all the same. I was bummed and not willing to face that prospect again. A fellow author suggested Wings Press and I got a contract and am happy there. Not the route I would suggest to most writers, but all I want to do is write. I’m not interested in fame, and am too old for world tours, however, a five figure advance could certainly change that idea. Persistence, multiple submissions, perusing the markets for the proper publishing house or agent, spending as much time uncovering a distributor that will answer what you want is as important as the actual writing. Look at history, how long it took our most well-known authors to finally get published — 54, 79, 200+ submissions.

I’m not unhappy with my choice, and now I have agents who have contacted me requesting a “look see” at my next creation. We’ll see how seven years of work balances out with the next publication.

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

Networking with friends and family sells the most and covers the greatest geography. With six children, fifteen grandchildren, and my husband and my membership in over twenty groups, we are blessed with some genuine promoters at a phone call. Personally, I do local book signings and talks with local groups. Our newspapers list them and a number as an invitation to join. I call and offer to speak for free if I can sell books. No one’s turned me down. The least profitable, definitely the three to four books sold at independent “fairs” that cost way more than earned. Reviews on high profile websites are invaluable and a number of emails hit my website that originate from these reviews. And interviews, like this one for Blogcritics, invite website hits on the internet.

What is your favorite book of all time? Why?

Gone With The Wind, of course. The history in the story, the drama, and I admire the guts it took for [Margaret Mitchell] to write and publish “trash” as it was called back then.

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

My website has the first chapter of each book, a little information about me, and details of the background that brought the trilogy into existence, and of course, a place to buy.

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

Promises: A couple is secretly engaged, but circumstances separate them. Now, twenty-eight years later, they are reunited by a high profile project for the purpose of someone’s revenge. Romance, corruption, murder, intrigue…

Embraced by Strangers: an orphan during the depression lives the seedy side of life until someone claims him — only to be faced with evil.

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

Thank you for the invitation, my pleasure. I wish you and your readers well and good reading.

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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.
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