Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Dannye Williamsen

Making a break for quality writing

Dannye Williamsen, author and founder of the Breakthrough Bookstore, tells Mark Cantrell why she has chosen to redesign and re-launch the site with a focus on quality Indie authors


WRITERS frequently have day jobs – the more unusual the better when it comes to compiling an intriguing biography for the book jackets – but Dannye Williamsen certainly didn't go for the quick and easy options.

Unless, that is, you consider being a project manager for the first rebuild of cable television in the United States the easy option; how about her time as a technical analyst for financial instruments in commodities? If that's not enough, she's also gone from managing a strip mine to owning nightclubs, and these are but a few highlights of a varied career, so the 62-year-old is clearly no stranger to facing up to demanding jobs. And that is perhaps just as well, given her latest career exploits in the literary world.

In 2005, her husband retired and the couple moved to the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, in the United States, where they both settled down to focus on their writing endeavours.

Dannye is the author of Second Chances – her debut novel – and its sequel The Threads That Bind (more on these below). Two of her non-fiction works are her favourites, she says: the first of these is a five-CD audio book that was a Bronze Award winner in Foreword Magazine's 2004 Book of the Year Awards (called It's Your Move! Transform your dreams from wishful thinking to reality). The second is a collection of essays with journal pages for the reader entitled Metaphysical Minute – Philosophy on the Run.

Earlier this year – February 1 to be precise – Dannye launched her latest venture – the Breakthrough Bookstore – an online source for buying literature. In March, she added the Self-Published Authors (SPA) Marketplace to the site, acknowledging the vibrant and growing Indie author scene that has emerged with Kindles, Nooks and similar e-reading devices.

Now, after six months, she has redesigned the site and on July 1, Breakthrough Bookstore will experience an exciting re-launch, so what's that all about then? Well, that's why we're here, to find out from Dannye herself, so let's begin:

MC: For those who may not be familiar with the Breakthrough Bookstore, perhaps you can begin by explaining a little bit more about it?

Dannye: The Breakthrough Bookstore is primarily a place where readers can locate self-published books regardless of what means the authors used to self-publish. In the SPA Reviews we publish reviews for some of the books in the bookstore.

MC: Were there any particular reasons why you established the Breakthrough Bookstore?

Dannye: My mother used to always tell me that I needed to own a bookstore because I liked to read so much. At first that was the reason for Breakthrough Bookstore, and my focus was on spiritual psychology, which is the topic of my non-fiction books. Then, being a self-published author myself, I realized how difficult it was to locate self-published books without going to various venues, such as Lulu and Smashwords. So, I decided to make providing a central source for these books my primary purpose.

MC: You're about to re-launch the site, why is that and how does the new version differ from the old?

Dannye: Business always involves tweaking and testing. After nearly five months of connecting with authors and getting more involved in the self-publishing industry, I realized that I was going to have to do more than be a depository for self-published authors’ books. I found myself being bothered by the “rush to publish” by so many authors because it often resulted in less than adequate products. Reading the arguments on these topics in groups showed that while many were willing to go the extra mile and strive for excellence, there were too many whose argument was “let the reader decide”. 

I knew that the self-publishing industry needed to do more than survive; it needed to excel if the reading public was going to accept us without question as it does the traditional publishers. So I decided to combine the ebooks and paperback, fiction and nonfiction, into a single bookstore that lists ebooks first because of reader demand and paperbacks only if the author does not have an ebook. The rest of the site is dedicated to helping the reader choose books by authors who have reached for excellence in their writing and books by authors who have been working hard in the marketing arena and whose sales at least indicate reader acceptance of their work.

We are keeping the SPA Reviews, but we have added an Editor’s Choice page along with a Q&A page. On the latter, each author is asked one unique question to give the reader some insight into the book, the writing of it, or the writer’s relationship with it. We will feature 5-6 authors each time. In addition, we are displaying “new releases.” The new releases are just an opportunity for newbies to get noticed, but it is not an endorsement. We will be checking samples of the books that we feature on Q&A, and all Editor’s Choice books are read and reviewed before being chosen.

MC: And what are you hoping the bookstore will do for both writers and readers?

Dannye: For readers, I am hoping that it will serve to give them easy access and point them toward quality books. For writers, I hope it will encourage all of them to “raise the bar” as I describe on our new site so that we survive the chemicalization – the upheaval sometimes caused by change – and come out on the other side as a durable and competitive element within the publishing industry.

MC: What do you think of the Indie scene and does it offer anything that mainstream publishing doesn't – what is that?

Dannye: Well, Mark, as I said, I think the Indie scene is making progress, even though the chemicalization it is experiencing right now often feels like chaos.

A few years back I was looking through an agent listing book and was amazed by the number of agents who indicated that you shouldn’t waste your time sending them a query if you didn’t already have a successful book. I agree with others that there are too many gatekeepers in traditional publishing whose agendas have nothing to do with the quality of a manuscript. I believe that self-publishing offers a lot of talented writers the opportunity to be published and read, which they would never accomplish under the old system, but it also underscores the need to strive for excellence.

MC: You are an Indie author yourself; tell me about your books.

Dannye: Both my books are paranormal suspense. The first is Second Chances. In the first, Freddie Marsh, a successful commodity analyst, is being haunted by an apparition who threatens her life and the lives of her friends. Searching for answers, she finds herself facing her worst nightmare. To survive the evil she senses in her stalker, she is forced to trust others and most of all she must risk trusting herself by using the paranormal ability she fears. The rage at the perversity of his world long ago unleashed the power of her stalker, Darian Beel, and now the intensity of his negativity hurtles them both toward the edge of extinction.

The Threads That Bind picks up 39 years later when the threads binding the generations reconnect for the final battle. Once this happens, all the others – those connected to the past through Freddie and her nemesis – flow swiftly toward each other. The patterns of their lives become tangled and knotted, and the decision has to be made about who will survive.

As I write in my Book of Metanoia, which is a part of both novels: “Sometimes the threads of one’s life fit neatly together, and a pattern begins to emerge that has great promise. Other times, the threads become tangled and knotted, and the pattern gets lost. When this happens, it is best to snip the threads and begin again, for the pattern always awaits you.”

MC: Why did you write them, and what did you get out of writing them?

Dannye: They just evolved, Mark, from my interest in psychology and writing. I learned a lot in the process because I wrote the first novel thirteen years ago, but it took me a long time to go back to it and rewrite it. When doing that, I learned that fiction writing has to be pure expression. You cannot do it for financial reasons or ego. Once I embraced it, it was a different process, and the sequel essentially flowed on its own. 

MC: Where are they available?

Dannye: Both the paperbacks and the Kindle versions will be available under Paranormal Suspense on the new Breakthrough Bookstore: www.BreakthroughBookstore.com 

Of course, they are also available at Amazon.com: www.amazon.com/Second-Chances-Dannye-Williamsen/dp/097260586X 


MC: What are your hopes and ambitions as an author?

Dannye: Naturally, I would love to see my books being chosen by readers – my fiction and nonfiction. I haven’t had much time for promoting either this year, but I plan to focus more on this in the coming months.

MC: How are you going to mark the occasion of the re-launch of Breakthrough Bookstore?

Dannye: I am encouraging self-published authors to promote the launch by having a drawing for promoters. There will be six winners and each will receive three free ebooks. Five authors have generously agreed to give their books away. I am posting a description of each author and their books on my blog this week. http://mindslaponline.blogspot.com

MC: Beyond that, how do you intend for the site to develop and what would you like to see it become?

Dannye: My dream is to see Breakthrough Bookstore become “the readers’ best choice for easy access to self-published books.” My intentions for its development will grow out of the demand.

Thank you, Dannye.

To check out Breakthrough Bookstore, click: www.BreakthroughBookstore.com 


Category: INTERVIEWS, Writing Life

4 comments:

Great interview, Mark and Dannye. I can't wait to see the new store layout and I look forward to finding out what great books are out there to read written by Indie Authors.

The new site is now up and running, Jacqueline. Check it out. We'll be spreading the word tomorrow and Saturday.

I have the honour of having had Dannye drop by my show a few times and I'm a great supporter of her bookstore. In addition, I've read "Second Chances" and loved it.

Excellent interview, Mark and Dannye, and I hope to see you both on my show!

Regards,
Sylvia Massara
Novelist and host of The Lit Chick Show

The all-new Breakthrough Bookstore launched today. Please check out the site via the links mentioned in the interview -- and check out Dannye's follow up piece on her blog at the following url:

http://mindslaponline.blogspot.com/2011/06/attention-all-you-book-lovers-out-there.html

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