Tell us about yourself?
My name is Lina Rivera and I’m an author originally from Orlando, Florida. I graduated from the University of Southern California with a major in Creative Writing. In elementary school, I had a teacher who had us make our own books in class. I loved the idea so much that as soon as I got home, I made my own book with the materials I had. I drew all my own pictures and wrote the story all in marker on loose leaf notebook paper, then bound it together with colorful yarn. I never stopped writing after that day.
(Vizcaya Museum Miami, Fl)
Where did you get the inspiration for Vizcaya?
I’m a huge fan of the architecture and homes of the Gilded Age, so when I heard about Vizcaya, I knew that I had to visit it on my next trip down to Miami. When I got there it was everything I had imagined it and more. Not only do you have the gorgeous home and the timeless art inside of it, but you had these gardens that almost seemed right out of a fantasy. Like your own secret garden. But the part that I loved the most was that it was right on Biscayne Bay, so it had this great view of the water. No matter which window of the house you looked out of, you’d have something amazing to look at: the beautiful trees, the inspiring gardens, the gorgeous bay. I started wondering what it would be like to live there in that kind of environment. Since I’d never know, I thought it would be fun instead to set a story there. It was my way of living there without physically taking up residence.
Who was your inspiration for your main characters, Diego, Nelli, and Nikki?
I’m always inspired by everyone I meet. Even a person I’ve met briefly can make a lasting impression with me that I will use for a story I’m writing. I love noticing the different ways people speak, or the different ways they get their point across, or what moves them or disturbs them. Because I’ve met so many people over the years, I can’t always trace back whose voice or personality I’m using when I come up with a story. In the case of these three, I was inspired mostly by people I went to school with at various times of my life. Nelli was slightly inspired by my cousin, Minelli, who unfortunately died in a car accident a long time ago. Growing up I always remembered she was full of life, loved to dance, and wasn’t afraid to take chances. She wasn’t conniving like Nelli, but all of Nelli’s good parts were definitely inspired by my late cousin.
Who’s your favorite character in Vizcaya?
It’s always hard to pick a favorite when you’ve created so many unique personalities! I love them all in their own ways. They were all fun to write, but if I had to choose a favorite... I don’t know! They’re all my favorite. Actually, I quite like the bromance between Nelli’s dad and Trace, so I’ll choose them. I think you can’t help but to put a little bit of yourself into all the characters you create. They’re like your children, so somewhere in their DNA is a bit of me. In school I was a lot like Nikki. Especially when it came to how she thinks about and approaches her education. But I’ve always been a creative daydreamer like Diego. I relate to Nelli’s perseverance and insecurities about pleasing her mother. I think most of all, I relate to Elvis. I’m quite familiar with the dependable best friend role.
What feedback have you gotten from your book?
I’ve been lucky to receive really great feedback on Vizcaya. In my critique groups, people really responded to it and felt invested in the characters. I have a group of friends that are really honest and critical of all my work. Many times I’ve given them something I’ve written just to see them shake their heads and say it’s not working. When I gave them Vizcaya they really loved the story and thought I had stumbled upon something special. Now that other people are reading it, the feedback has been amazing. So far everyone likes it!
What challenges and triumphs did you experience while writing and subsequently self-publishing Vizcaya?
Well anytime I actually complete a book, that’s a huge triumph! I have so many stories that I start, but never quite know how to end, so they just sit there waiting for that inspired conclusion. The challenges definitely came with self-publishing. It requires a lot of self-promotion and constant work to get the message out. That was tough. As a writer, you want to just get lost in your world and put out a story hoping people will read it and love it. However, people can’t read something they don’t know about, so you have to burst out of that introverted shell and start telling people that you’re a writer and that you have this great book they should read. The whole self-congratulatory aspect of it is also a challenge, but at the end of the day you have to believe in what you did. Luckily I believe whole-heartedly in Vizcaya, so each time I have to get out of my comfort zone to market it, I remind myself that at least I’m marketing a really good story that people should read.
Why did you decide to self-publish and what challenges came with being an independent author?
I’ve worked in the publishing industry for a long time and have followed the market and trends closely. I tried to get published the recommended way by sending out query letters to agents and crossing my fingers that one of them would be hooked enough to request a partial or a full manuscript. The rejections started pouring in, and while I wasn’t discouraged, I was definitely perplexed. I love reading author bios and stories about how authors have made it to where they have. One thing I kept noticing was that a lot of new authors were hitting the big time because of a connection they made that got them to their agent. Even though you will read a hundred blogs telling you that the query letter is your way in, a lot of agencies won’t even take unsolicited queries. You have to know someone that will recommend you to an agent who will then take a look and may or may not be interested. In the end, it just seems that it all comes down to a little bit of luck and being prepared by having good work to show when that lucky moment happens. So I decided to do an experiment while I waited for that lucky moment. I had two completed novels that I was querying. One was Vizcaya, the other was my young adult (YA) supernatural mystery, Winter Lakes. I finally decided that I was going to try and self-publish one, while continuing to send out queries for the other. This way, I’d still be doing things the recommended way, while also taking a chance on this new way that seemed to be getting a lot of attention.
I funded Vizcaya using Kickstarter.com after a friend sent me the link. It’s a nice site because you can sell people on your idea, and you know that people who are giving you money believe in what you’re doing as much as you do. The tough part however was promoting your Kickstarter project, but it’s a great way to practice that whole aspect of marketing while fundraising.
Once the book is published, it requires a lot of self-promotion and constant work to get the message out. That was tough. As a writer, you want to just get lost in your world and put out a story hoping people will read it and love it. However, people can’t read something they don’t know about, so you have to burst out of that introverted shell and start telling people that you’re a writer and that you have this great book they should read. The whole self-congratulatory aspect of it is also a challenge, but at the end of the day you have to believe in what you did. Luckily I believe whole-heartedly in Vizcaya, so each time I have to get out of my comfort zone to market it, I remind myself that at least I’m marketing a really good story that people should read.
What are your goals for Vizcaya?
I think that the YA market right now is flooded with a lot of speculative fiction, and I think there might be a slight oversaturation of that out there. I feel that Vizcaya is a slight reprieve from those stories. I remember one time when I was in Las Vegas, I was inside of a casino where I was bombarded with lights, sounds, all kinds of sensory overload, and I stepped outside and was smacked with this desolate view of the neutral desert surrounding me. It was this slight moment of peace that just let my brain sigh and relax. That’s what I want Vizcaya to be for people. It’s a simple story. It’s realistic, but it’s a breath of fresh air. It’s human emotions during your teenage years when things are simple, but you think they’re so incredibly complicated. My goal for Vizcaya is that people take a moment to read and enjoy something they can probably relate to before jumping into another fun speculative book.
Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring authors who are afraid of self-publishing?
I think you ultimately always have to do what you feel is right for you and your project. But I think you also need to keep in mind that you have to be willing to take risks in your career. If you’re afraid of self-publishing and maybe just want to get your feet wet to try it out, you could always self-publish a collection of short stories instead of your big novel. It’s harder to get major publishers to publish short story collections in the first place, so I think, if you’re willing to take the risk and play around with it, that would be a fun way to try out self-publishing and experiment with it. I understand that you pour everything you have into your big novel, and you don’t want to sell it short before it’s time by jumping the gun and self-publishing it when it just hasn’t landed in the hands of the right agent yet, but I think that’s when it’s important to be aware of the industry. The more you know about what’s going on in the publishing industry, the better decisions you’ll be able to make about your own career.
What projects do you have in the works?
I’m currently working on the second book of my Winter Lakes trilogy. It’s a ghost story with a lot of mystery, suspense, and twists, so it’s a bit more involved and requires a lot more planning and question-asking on my part when I’m writing it. It’s a lot of fun to write, and it’s a world I love getting lost in. I’m also working on another screenplay. It’s an alien story, but oddly, it’s a simple one. It’s actually more in the vein of Vizcaya than Winter Lakes.
All my links!
Official site: http://linarivera.com/
Official Vizcaya site: http://vizcaya.weebly.com/
Vizcaya on Amazon: http://amzn.com/1469920360
Vizcaya on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13449223-vizcaya
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