This is an guest interview by Jade Craven.
It is my honour to share the story of Torre De Roche, and her journey from blogger to author with an impressive publishing deal.
I first mentioned her on Problogger as one of the bloggers to watch in 2012. I was impressed with her self-published memoir and her creative approach to blogging. In 2011, she sold the rights to three publishers and sold the movie options.
Torre is a natural writer. Her memoir, Love With a Chance of Drowing, is one of the best books I’ve ever read. In this interview, I talk with her about her creative process and the books journey to publication. I recommend you check out the blog posts I’ve linked to; her story is really compelling.
You’ve previously said that you put a lot of effort into developing your personal brand. Can you walk us through the process?
Before I sold the book to publishers, I learned through my research that agents and publishers look for authors with platforms, like popular blogs. So I began brainstorming blog ideas that would:
(a) Fit with the theme of the book,
(b) Inspire, or offer the reader take-home value, and,
(c) Align with my voice and my self-deprecating sense of humour.
One day, while touring New Zealand by van, an idea struck out of the blue: the Fearful Adventurer! This theme would allow me to be open about my fears, while gently inspiring other fearful people to take leaps. Once I had that idea in place, I began designing a look and feel to align with that theme.
You write less frequently then most bloggers, but your posts are of a very high standard. How much effort do you put into the average blog post?
I don’t use a timer because that would be like weighting myself after a large, delicious meal, but yes, I always put a lot of effort into my posts. Some of my posts contain illustrations and when there is paint involved, a post can easily take me 16 hours or more.
I don’t plan them out—I let them evolve on the page. Sometimes that happens quickly over four hours, sometimes they’re created slowly over a week.
I don’t call it ‘work,’ though. It’s creative play.
Tell us more about the concept of creative play. How can non-artistic bloggers be more creative with their blog?
You’ve written about the difficulties trying to blog and travel at the same time. How do you manage to write such captivating blog posts while living a nomad lifestyle?
It’s tough to surrender into a ruminative creative headspace if you’re moving around a lot or worrying about where you’re going to sleep at night!
Travel gives me a lot of inspiration for what I create, but generally I have to wait until I’m fixed in one spot before I can process those ideas into any kind of art. I wrote Love with a Chance of Drowning a year after the voyage was over. By that time, I’d had a chance to process the experience retrospectively and make meaning out of the whole experience.
There’s a lot of value in fully experiencing the moment while you’re in it, and then turning it into art later on when you have the time and the headspace to spare.
You’ve talked about how you suffered from creative blocks, something that many bloggers would sympathize with. How did you overcome this?
Art is uncertain. Sometimes, in order to feel the delicious comfort of certainty, you might try to make art while grasping onto some idea or technique that seems safe. If you do that, your writing will come out stiff and contrived because you’re not creating, you’re imitating.
Loosen your grip. Let go of control. Embrace the freefalling sensation of having no idea where you’re going with something.
Good art comes from risk, experimentation, and play. A good way to discover this again is to take up a new form of art, one that you can’t control: sculpture, life drawing, ceramics… Squeeze some clay between your fingers, laugh like a child, and remember what it feels like to play without all that seriousness. Now, create from that space.
You were gaining traction for the self-published version of your book during 2011. What motivated you to accept a traditional book deal?
Before the book went to auction, I did some numbers to work out what the book was worth to me. I’d already invested a considerable amount into the self-publishing process, so it wasn’t good business sense to take a token advance just so that I could call myself a ‘published author.’ I also tallied up what I could reasonably expect to earn as a self-published author, factoring in all the limitations with distribution, etc. That’s how I got my magic number.
When the first offer came in, it was right on my number. I couldn’t believe it! We negotiated up from there. So I took the deal because the advance was considerably high, and because it was well above what I felt I could earn as a self-published author.
One of the things I loved about your book was that it was extremely polished. I’ve found that this is a rare quality in many of the self-published books and ebooks I read. How important is the design and editing? Was it daunting investing so much without knowing how people would react?
I spent several years writing my book and, while I doubted myself daily, I wouldn’t have written it if I didn’t believe in it. Investing at the end stages was a small price to pay on top of the time and energy I’d already spent writing the book.
Design and editing are extremely important! We live in an era of information overload, and people are now extra precious with how they spend their time. The cover has to immediately communicate one firm promise: This will be worth your time. Your purpose for getting the book professionally edited is so that you can come good on that promise.
You should strive to make your book worthy of the reader’s time from the moment they first lay eyes on your cover, to the moment they turn the final page. Otherwise you’re just creating noise.
What role did your blog play in getting the book deal?
I wouldn’t have sold the book without my blog. It helped in several ways:
More about her book:
- My Journey: Self-Published To Big Publishing Deal
- The Highs and Lows of Launching a Book
- Sex and the Magic Secrets to Getting Published
What bloggers are you watching?
I follow a lot of blogs, but there are only a few that I visit regularly:
Hyperbole and a Half – I discovered Allie Brosh a few years ago, and no other blogger has since made me spray tea out of my nose like her. It is, without a doubt, the most hilarious blog in the world.
Almost Fearless – I’ve been following Christine Gilbert’s blog for several years now. Her life story is interesting to follow and she’s also damn good at the business of blogging.
World Tour Stories – This is a blog about a really, really good looking couple who are sailing the world. They are exceptional at telling a story through stunning photography.
A city girl with a morbid fear of deep water, Torre DeRoche, confronts her deepest fears after falling for an Argentinean man with a leaky sailboat and a big dream.
Set against a backdrop of the world’s most beautiful and remote destinations, Love with a Chance of Drowning is a sometimes hilarious, often moving and always breathtakingly brave memoir that proves there are some risks worth taking.