It’s another Author Interview Thursday and I have to admit today’s interview has been in the works for quite a few weeks. I met today’s author on the GoodReads website and then we connected on Twitter. Her life story reads like a multi-million dollar Hollywood movie but trust me, there’s nothing fictional about her. I have been impressed and inspired by her passion for life and the hard work she’s put into promoting her best-selling book and connecting with her fans and fellow authors. Please join me in welcoming Savannah.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you’re currently up to at the moment?
My name is Savannah Grace, I was born and raised in both North and West Vancouver, Canada. I am the youngest member of a world traveling family and have visited 99 countries. When I was 14 my mom decided, after my dad walked out, that she would sell everything and we would go backpacking around the world starting in Hong Kong, China (brother 25, sister 17, and mom 45). Though it was initially meant to be a one year trip, I was on the road from the age of 14-18 before going home and shortly thereafter moving to Holland. I’m currently busy with the second volume of my memoir series.
Would you consider taking your 14-year old daughter on a backpacking adventure?
I would love to be able to have a similar experience with my own family one day, though it is a lot of hard work and stress to go through what we did. One side of me knows how strong it made me and how much it influenced who I am today, but I don’t know if I would want to put my daughter through some of the things I went through. There is no doubt at all in my mind that I will expose my kids to travel from the start. I think the big difference of my daughter and myself at 14 will be that I did not want to go. My daughter would likely be thrilled by the idea of such a backpacking trip. I would want travel to be so much a part of their lives as it is for me now. I would raise them to be as open minded as possible and to expose them to all walks of life. I think that is so important. I’m not sure if I would be able to go on an odyssey of quite the same extent. Though my life is always full of surprises so we will just have to wait and see!
Can you tell us about your lowest point on your backpacking adventure and how you got through that period?
The hardest times were just the everyday hardships and struggle of living on the road. Sometimes it just got to you. We were there in Egypt for 5 months which was one of the hardest countries to deal with 24/7. It was difficult to live as a local in the Egyptian community because they treated us so poorly being white, western females. Extremely disrespectful and that was difficult to live with, always being outnumbered, standing out and being preyed on. I’m sure that for the Egyptian women it is also hard, so I do feel for them in their situation. The all-time lowest was traveling through Western Africa on local transport. I was going through an extremely difficult time emotionally and physically from the everyday haul of it. Being plagued with all the drama that haunts a 17 year old female also didn’t help. I was really at the end of my rope, practically digging my feet in the ground refusing to go any further when we met my now boyfriend. He was traveling through in a big yellow truck and he let us hop in and join him. Being able to travel in a truck like that was a million times easier than carrying our heavy backpacks every day, squeezing in the hot, dusty local transport, completely at their mercy… It’s a long story but, my goodness, was there ever a lot of drama! The best way to get through it I guess is to stick together and support each other.
What can a reader expect when they pick up a Savannah Grace book?
My readers can expect to find a lot of description, emotion and dialogue. My author hero is Diana Gabaldon from the “Outlander” series, so if you’ve read those, that is the style I’m aiming for. I want to bring my readers into the story, and let them experience the adventures first hand. I try to bring the world to my readers, in every sense that I can. From what others say, you will also find a lot of unintentional humour within the pages of a Savannah Grace book.
Your book (Sihpromatum – I Grew my Boobs in China) chronicles all the places you’ve been to. Can you tell us about a life and death experience you had while traveling?
My series, “Sihpromatum”, is a family backpacking journey built around a startling backdrop of eighty countries, covered mainly by land. “I Grew my Boobs in China” tells the story of leaving everything behind and relates our adventures in China and Mongolia. Amazingly, there weren’t too many life threatening experiences on our trip. In the first book we get stranded in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia with hardly any food or water. We resulted to catching a wild camel and tried having it pull our van to safety to no success. Our driver ventured out into the desert to find help while we stayed back and kept the camel tied to a bush…If need be we had other plans for the camel. We were eventually rescued and stayed with a nomadic family for the night. Another time my sister ate rotten ketchup. My mom gave her antibiotics to prevent botulism but she reacted to the pills so we rushed her to the nearest hospital in a small town in Macedonia. We were lucky to be in a town because she swelled up like a balloon and couldn’t breathe anymore. Without the nearby access to an adrenaline shot she surely would have died.
Do you believe in writer’s block and what do you do to overcome it?
Of course there is writers block and I admit I JUST overcame the retched “disease” this month. There is a fine line between being lazy and having writers block, at least for me anyway. It’s so important to recognize the difference so that the correct solution can be applied. If it’s simply a case of slacking and stalling because of pressure, fear, doubt etc, I really have to force myself to just START and once I do it’s easy. On the other hand, if its writers block, like many other authors have said, there is really nothing to do but sit and wait. I generally always have ideas flowing and I talk a LOT, which helps me stay creative, and eventually the day comes when I start feeling ”it” again and pages of writing start pouring out of me. I think the important thing to remember is NOT to doubt yourself as a writer when you get writers block. Though many people underestimate and can’t understand how much work it is to be a writer saying, “oh yeah, sitting in your pyjamas in bed drinking tea… how hard can it be?!” but it takes a lot of emotional energy and that’s draining. Sometimes, we need a rest to recharge. There are times where I go months without writing and suddenly the urge comes back and the first thing I want to do when I open my eyes in the morning is rush to my computer and continue the story.
Without a doubt going to markets and fairs to sell the book has been my most effective marketing method. I’ve been lucky that my whole family is involved and while I have been writing the sequel in Holland they’ve been busy attending every single market they can from Christmas shows to women’s craft fairs. I’m not sure if every book would be suitable for this but I have had great success. Being in person, hands on and in people’s faces is a LOT more effective than anything else. I could be more productive by doing library speeches, book signings etc. Other ways I’ve marketed are by getting involved in the author/traveller/blogger communities online. Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, keeping a blog, all of these sites are great marketing platforms. Participating in Twitter chats, writing guest posts and doing interviews. It’s important to stay active and for people to keep seeing you in your community. It is so easy to slip away and be forgotten when there’s so much going on in this world, with thousands of other books to compete against. Though I don’t believe in competition, I consider all authors one big family and I think there’s room enough for everyone’s book to get the readership they deserve!
What mistake(s) have you made while publishing your books that you would advise other authors against?
Ooh, this is a tricky one. Though I’ve made a few mistakes I don’t regret anything I’ve done because it’s been a big learning curve for me. You can’t go into this kind of thing, especially as a self-publisher, knowing exactly what’s right and what’s wrong. It’s important to get a feel for the industry and make mistakes. One thing I will do differently when I publish my second book in the series will be to do more pre-release marketing. That hadn’t occurred to me before, as I had no experience at all in marketing or publishing. Now that I have a small fan base, I will be sure to send out ARCs and get reviews lined up before the release.
What is the best backpacker movie you’ve seen and what did you love about it?
To be honest I’m not quite sure what a “backpacker movie” is. I am not a big movie or TV person. Okay, I just googled backpacker movies and from the top ten list, I have seen a few and the only one that I actually did think was really good was “Slumdog Millionaire”. That was well put together and really did capture the true India. I don’t like travel related films that Hollywoodifies travel.
There is so much to love about The Netherlands. In great contrast to Vancouver, Canada everything here is small and precise. Alkmaar is a colorful contrast to my modern world of cold cement, steel and glass giants. Houses which date back as far as the 1600’s with big years labeled on them blow me away even now when I consider that most of them are older than my country. There are a ton of tiny towns and villages to discover. Every inch of land is cultivated, man-made and manicured to perfection. I love how you can be in the city shopping one moment and the next you’re amid farmlands speckled with graceful swans and black Frisian beauties. I get the best of all worlds with the comforts of modern luxuries and a historic outer shell balanced with the beauty of nature. Lush green grass sways gently in the ever present winds that turn the windmills and spread pollen to thousands of colorful tulips. By bicycle, arched wooden bridges jumping from canal to canal urge you to explore deeper and discover every last inch. I feel like the red brick roads through the city are a passage into a Disney-like fairytale. What’s not to love?
What should a first time visitor to The Netherlands experience before they leave the country?
They need to experience riding a bicycle through both a city and the countryside. This is the main way that the Dutch people get around and stay in shape. If you haven’t done this, you haven’t experienced the true Dutch spirit. If you have time and come in the spring you must, must visit Keukenhof and see all of the gorgeous flowers!
2013 is going by so fast I feel there’s hardly any time left. I plan to go home to Vancouver at the end of October, for book signings and to participate in the fairs and markets. I’m aiming to have my second book in to the editor by the beginning of 2014.
Where can fans and readers of your books discover more about you and connect with you?
I absolutely love when fans and readers connect with me. It’s the best part of being an author! My website is www.sihpromatum.com . Here, you can read the book while following along with photos. Just find them in photos- Asia – China and Mongolia albums. All of the interviews and media where I am featured are posted there as well as photos from the 99 countries I have visited. There are stories from over 100 countries on our family blog which we started in 2005: including my latest trips to Guinea, West Africa and Mauritius, Africa. www.watkinstravel.blogspot.com My author career has turned me into a complete tweetaholic so you can find me there any day of the week and I’m always happy to interact. Feel free to follow me @Sihpromatum : https://twitter.com/Sihpromatum You can connect with me, Savannah Grace, on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/#!/savannah.grace.549 I really appreciate if you LIKE my FB page : http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Sihpromatum You can also find me on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6520230.Savannah_Grace I would love readers to take the time to review my book on Amazon.com once they’ve finished reading it:http://www.amazon.com/Sihpromatum-Grew-Boobs-China-Volume/dp/1479236659
I love what Scott Worden said for this in your last interview! Writing a book has to be made with love or you’ll be disappointed. If you want it to go far you also have to go into it with the mind-set that this is the start of a business. It takes hard work and you will be in debt for the first few years, but that’s alright! If you’ve put your heart and soul into a product and you want to be an author, don’t let traditional publishers stop you from achieving your goals. I tried and was rejected over 100 times by agents when I was trying to find a publisher, but because of my inexperience in the traditional sense and my young age, they didn’t want to take the risk on my work. I’m coming up to my year anniversary now and am still in debt, but I have put a lot of money into it to publish it myself, make it as professional as possible paying for editing, design, interior design and formatting and printing. All that stuff is mandatory to your success as a professional. Marketing costs and other things add up but the harder I work, the quicker it goes. It is so important to reach out, take risks and follow your dreams. Whether that’s wanting to be an artist, to travel the globe or save lives as a doctor, make sure that YOU choose your dream. How else will you be complete? Don’t let others choose your path because in this day and age we have all the possibilities and enough to go around. POSITIVE THINKING!!! Keep in mind, Sihpromatum – A blessing that initially appears to be a curse, and apply it to your own lives. That is how I keep positive through hard times.
Wow! What a powerful and inspiring way to wrap up the interview Savannah. I think my blog readers will agree that your generous personality and passion for life has oozed through every line of this interview. I really want to encourage everyone to support Savannah by grabbing a copy of her book – Sihpromatum and also connect with her on the social networks and her website. Enjoy this slide show of the photos for Sihpromatum ” I Grew My Boobs in China” by Savannah Grace. Join the journey through China and Monglia. With Savannah, Breanna, Maggie and Ammon