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Author Cliff Adelman shares what inspired him to write The Russian Embassy Party.

Russian EmbassyOne of the great joys of my current job is meeting and speaking to many authors. I am always interested and amazed to hear their stories of what inspired them to write and by their willingness to help other writers in the journey to get published.

At Book Expo America in May,  I had the opportunity to meet Cliff Adelman, author of The Russian Embassy Party, which he self-published with Archway Publishing.  Here’s a summary of the story from the web site:

A ride on the edges of history, with all its unanticipated connections, from the 1963 March on Washington to the 1993 chaos of Yeltsin’s Russia. When an ex-CIA agent convinces a bumbling law student to write a term paper on international rights on the high seas, the student and his roommates in Washington wind up with the whole Soviet Embassy coming to dinner. This happened on August 10, 1963, and has never been marked in the history books. Out of this encounter spins a story of revenge, counterpoint, and rollicking foolishness, ending on a railroad platform by the Russian-Finnish border in September, 1993. The Russian Embassy Party follows its sort-of-ordinary people in a not-so-ordinary web through the edges of history (the set for ‘I Have a Dream,’ watching the fall of the Berlin Wall, revelations of the Katyn Forest Massacre, the last gasp failed Soviet coup of August 1991, stumbling attempts to shore up democracy in Yelstin’s Russia) until . . . Well, let’s say only that there is a good dose of history in the story, and a larger dose of realism in the minds, environments, and conversations of both American and Russian protagonists and supporting cast. At the same time, the echoes of the 1963 Russian Embassy Party itself (when the students behaved and talked like the late-adolescents they were) cut veins through the story, linking its participants in ways they realize, bit by bit, as adults.

According to his bio on the Archway Publishing website:

Cliff started making trouble in grade school in the Boston area, made it constructive trouble at Brown and the University of Chicago, and brought the construction to a head in a string of influential monographs that demonstrated how tractable and smart both governments and foundations can be. Not exactly a wall-flower.

As you can tell by his bio, Cliff is an interesting character in his own right so I asked him to share about his book. Here are my questions and his answers to an interview I conducted with him. I think you will find it an enjoyable read.

What inspired you to write the book?  For years, I had three stories I wanted to tell.  I chose The Russian Embassy Party for my first novel.  Why?  First, because I started writing the 1963 portion of the novel as a memoir in 1973.  It didn’t go anywhere then, and certainly wasn’t a story in and of itself.  So it slept.  Thirty years later, I meet a Finn on a train from Helsinki to St. Petersburg whose business is hauling out industrial waste sludge from Russia to extractors that could pull precious metals from the glop.  It took nearly 20 years more for me to put the two poles together and say, “You know?  There’s a good story here. Now, can I do it?”  That 2013 is the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, which plays a revelatory role in the 1963 portion of the novel, was push enough to get this thing done in 2012.

….let your characters talk, and their talk should become the engines of the story.

What do you think gain by reading your book?  They will squirm a little with the 1963 late adolescents talking and experiencing life like late adolescents; they will come to appreciate the underside of Soviet/Russian life as experienced by more-or-less ordinary people, who also tell bad Russian jokes; they will learn perhaps more than they ever knew of the way advertising works in international contexts; and will come to see how they, too, are bounced along the edges of history. And they
will have a good deal of fun along the way.

….have a marketing platform spelled out for yourself before you try to sell the finished product,

How did writing [non-fiction] for your job help you when writing this book?  I wrote monograph-length pieces in ways that,as people said, “made data sing,” and asked how the hell the U.S. government let me get away with that kind of colorful writing, let alone titles such as Women at Thirtysomething, Tourists  in Our Own Land, Answers in the Toolbox, and Moving Into Town–and Moving On.  Gradually, these got longer, so I knew I could sustain the prose.  Whether I could build and sustain characters and a plot that did not depend on underlying data was another story, and whether I could have the characters and story emerge principally through dialogue (as opposed to an auctorial voice) was a significant challenge that, as it turned out, was less difficult than I anticipated.

Archway logoWhat tips would you to  give aspiring writers?  First, never write about places you have not visited   As Orwell said, the physical memories—sounds, smells, surfaces of things—come first.  Second, let your characters talk, and their talk should become the engines of the story.  Don’t tell the reader what some character is thinking or feeling: let the character do it!  Third, if you have an international environment, use languages other than English and put the translations in brackets.  You may need help for this.  I did with the Russian (not the German, in which I am half-conversant; but you will notice that, even there, I had the bi-lingual German character translate for his American listeners in the natural rhythms of conversation).  Fourth, have a marketing platform spelled out for yourself before you try to sell the finished product, whether you wind up with an agent (highly unlikely), publisher directly (even more unlikely), or engage a self-publishing platform.

What has been the most satisfying aspect of publishing a novel? (I had published three non-fiction books with commercial publishers previously, so fiction was the issue) Easy: it opened the door to putting the next novel together.  It said: you can do this, so do it again

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The 2nd Gutenberg Effect: Examples of how it is helping Christian self-published authors

In my most recent post, I published the text of the closing address I gave at the Blue Ridge Christian Writers Conference titled, The 2nd Gutenberg Effect: How self-publishing is creating exciting new opportunities for Christian authors.

The main point I tried to make was that self-publishing is providing Christian authors the opportunity to spread their message in a way that hasn’t presented itself in such a significant manner since Mr Gutenberg invented his press.  Take Annie Downs for example.

I do not know how many people you will impact with your writing if you publish, but do I know how many you will if you don’t.

Annie Downs has used self publishing to impact young people with her self published book and obtain a contract with Zondervan.

Annie Downs has used self publishing to impact young people with her self published book and obtain a contract with Zondervan.

She is a blogger and speaker who focused on young women and their need to really understand their identity and significance. After many of her talks, she realized she had nothing to leave to with people. So she pursued self-publishing and published her book with the title, From Head to Foot. As she continued to blog and speak, her platform grew, sales increased and an agent took notice. He shopped the book and Zondervan offered a contract and republished the book with the new title, Perfectly Unique, praising God from head to foot.   I featured Annie in a blog post I almost a year ago. If you want to know more about her story, you can read the post and see a video interview by clicking here.

The second example comes from my own experience. I never set out to be an author, but years ago, I was working on a curriculum and writing some material to support lessons in that curriculum. As people started to use the material, they started asking for copies of the readings I had written for the lessons. So I would run to Kinkos and make copies. Frankly, it got to be expensive and tiring so I explored how to get published. It was really a niche book because it addresses the issue of how a person’s worldview is formed. I did not think it had wide commercial appeal so I decided to self-publish.  And this was all before I worked for Author Solutions.

The book has been available for a few years, but about three years ago, I got an email from a gentlemen in Italy. He explained he had been using the book at the Institute where he teaches. When I asked him how he got the book, he told me an associate of his was given the book at a conference he had attended the year before. He went on to explain they now had interest from an Italian publisher and wanted to get it translated and publish it in Italy. He was writing for permission, which I gladly gave. Then some months later a box arrived at my house with multiple copies of the Italian version of my book, A Clear View.

Clear view and italian version groupNow the royalties from this book will never be life changing, but the thought that someone in another country was willing to invest the time and money to translate and publish it, is very satisfying.

I suspect if you are reading this, you have a manuscript in the works or ready to go and you may be pondering your options. You may also be overwhelmed by the options you have today as an author.  But you should investigate self publishing as an option.

Because while I do not know how many books you will sell if you publish, I do know how many you will if you don’t.

Even more importantly, I do not know how many people you will impact with your writing if you publish, but do I know how many you will if you don’t.

Writing is a talent you have been given, but publishing is part of your stewardship.

So I hope you will seize the opportunity that is before you to get your work into the hands of readers and spread the story and message God has given you.

Writing is a talent you have been given, but publishing is part of your stewardship.

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The Author Learning Center may be the best resource for aspiring authors to learn from experts

You can find just about everything you need to know at the Author Learning Center.

You can find just about everything you need to know at the Author Learning Center.

It hasn’t been around as some of the other resources aspiring authors can turn to to improve their craft and learn the business, but if you haven’t looked at the Author Learning Center, recently,  you should. Quietly, the Author Learning Center has been amassing the most amazing collection of educational information for writers and authors to help navigate the new world of publishing.

Writing, Publishing and Marketing, Oh My!

On this site, you can find a wide variety of authors, agents and professional service providers sharing their insights, opinions, and expertise on writing, publishing and marketing books. Even better, most of this content is available in video, article and podcast formats. Plus, there is a regular schedule of helpful webinars available.

Some of the most popular content includes:

  • How Do You Build a Social Media Platform From Scratch?
  • How Do You Grab A Reader’s Attention?
  • 3 Steps to Make Social Media Sell Your Books
  • What an Agent Really Wants From an Unpublished Author
  • When to Begin Promoting

A Book Launch Tool to Help You Get to Your Goal

ALC Book Launch ToolIn addition to the great content, the Author Learning Center offers a Book Launch Tool and Author Circle tool to help aspiring authors create a plan and accountability on their publishing journey. It is a subscription model and it is managed by Author Solutions, who sponsors this blog, but if you subscribe for the year and eventually publish with an ASI imprint in a year, you will get your money back in a discount on your publishing package.