After four successful novels that were released by mainstream publishers, and a lengthy hiatus in writing, I decided to independently publish my fifth novel as an e-book. My previous novels did well in hardcover and had great paperback sales. They had good reviews, sold foreign rights, and were chosen by book clubs; one was a Novel of the Month in Good Housekeeping magazine, and another was selected as a Featured Alternate by the Book of the Month Club.
You must wonder, if I was a published author, why would I choose to do this on my own?
In a word, I was impatient. After working on The Expatriate for more than a decade, I was suddenly in a hurry for it to be out there in the hands of readers. I didn’t want to go through the tedious process of submissions, and finally finding a publisher, only to wait a year or more for the book to appear on the shelves of the rapidly diminishing number of brick and mortar bookstores. E-books are the wave of the future, so it is said, and while I don’t believe printed books can ever be replaced by an electronic reader, I didn’t want to wake up two years from now and wish I had jumped on the bandwagon.
An author friend sent me an interview with Barry Eisler, a successful novelist, who discussed his decision to forego a lucrative contract with a “legacy” publisher, in favor of independently publishing his new books. I was inspired by this and in a surprisingly short time, had found a company to format my manuscript and distribute the e-book for the Kindle, Nook, iPad, and a bunch of other e-readers I had never heard of.
In the past, whenever I had a new novel, I would go on book tours, giving dozens of talks and signing books until I had writer’s cramp. But how do you promote a novel, if there’s no book to sign? Through the social networks, of course.
There are hundreds of books and blogs explaining how to do this, but I found the idea daunting. You might say that I was electronically challenged. I didn’t Tweet, I didn’t blog, and although I had joined Facebook, I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I told myself that if I’ve written five novels, how hard can it be to master the cyber world? It’s a little like jumping off a cliff and hoping you’ll land in deep water.
Since The Expatriate is an international story, I thought it was important for it to be represented at the Frankfurt Book Fair. My previous books were printed in foreign editions and this novel is a natural for German, French, Italian, Russian, and many other foreign readers. I prepared a presentation of the excerpted manuscript for display at this important publishing industry event.
manuscript of The Expatriate on display at Frankfurt Book Fair
(3rd row from bottom, right)
The Expatriate is a story about World War II. The central character is an American woman who studies art history at Oxford during the 1930s. While doing research for her thesis in Salzburg, she falls in love with an anti-Nazi Austrian doctor, who is the scion of a heraldic family. Against all odds, they marry—only to be torn apart by the advent of war. Theirs is a tale of international intrigue and danger, espionage and heroism…and undying love. Set in war-torn Europe, its main characters are involved in the OSS and the Austrian Resistance.
I have always been fascinated by World War II. I love to read history books and novels written about “The War,” as people of my generation usually refer to it. The films and music of the time captivate me. My father was a doctor in civilian life, but during the war he became a Colonel in the Army Medical Corps. We followed him when he was stationed in North Carolina and Alabama, where I became familiar with army camps and army life.
Perhaps because I was growing up during the 1930s and ’40s, the era has an emotional pull for me that subsequent periods and historical events lack. Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt were larger than life figures to me. The OSS, the Maquis…those names conjure up visions of intrigue and valor. I remember a family friend who was dropped behind enemy lines…those words, “dropped behind enemy lines” still give me a chill. I once met a woman whose father was a diplomat. As a teenager, she had traveled back and forth across the Atlantic in convoys several times during the early years of the war, living in London and Geneva, until Switzerland was cut off to Americans.
And so, for The Expatriate, I created Alexa Summerfield, an American student at Oxford, who is swept up in the onslaught of the Nazi war. Because I’ve spent a fair amount of time in Austria, I used that beautiful country as my main setting.
The Expatriate has been a work in progress for many years. For the research, I traveled to Austria, England, France, Italy, Switzerland and the eastern republics of the former Soviet Union. It is the tale of an extraordinary woman who finds herself in the most unexpected and dire circumstances. Sweeping from the hallowed halls of Oxford, to the gilded drawing rooms of Austrian aristocracy, to the snow-covered peaks of the Swiss Alps, this compelling story explores complicated emotions when love and loyalty are in conflict. I hope you’ll get a chance to read it.
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