Interview with Christian A. Dumais

Carson and DumaisHere is an interview I did recently for another website that didn’t work out for a variety of reasons. That said, there’s no reason why it can’t be posted here.

Here goes…

What is your book about?

Empty Rooms Lonely Countries is a collection of 27 short stories. The stories move from Tampa, Florida to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to London, England to Paris, France and eventually end up in Wroclaw, Poland, with plenty of places in between.

Find out how I ended up wandering the streets of Krakow with the United States Secret Service. Discover how I officiated a wedding with an army of lesbians. Be astonished at how I accidentally drove to a wrong state. Gasp at the monster which lives in the basement on Geneva Street. Individually, the stories explore love, loss and redemption, and collectively, they combine to tell a larger story.

Garrison Keillor said that “love has brought a great many people to safety”, and if that’s true, this is my journey to safety. 

Why did you write the book?

My intention wasn’t to make a book out of this material, but somewhere along the way, I realized that the stories collected as they are create a larger narrative that I felt was worth exploring. Plus, I feel like I’m drifting away from this kind of writing and this was a wonderful opportunity to put this part of my life into a book and move on.

Where did you get your inspiration from?

I get it from everywhere. Lately, I’ve been inspired by misheard song lyrics. And because I read as much as I can, I absorb tricks from writers who are a million times better than I am. This week, I’ve been absorbing the writings of Marisha Pessl and Zadie Smith.

And most importantly, I’m an American living in Poland. When you subscribe to the life of being the “outsider”, you’ll find muses at every corner.  

How does your book differ from others that are similar?

I know some people are initially turned off by the autobiographical aspects of the book, but those who’ve read it have told me how surprised they were with some of the stories more metafictional aspects. It’s autobiographical fiction, but that doesn’t mean it can’t jump genres. “Geneva Street” is a horror story. “Paris” is a love story. “Pancakes, Wishes and Other Tales” is a fairy tale.

And it’s all true.  

Why did you choose POD?

My MA work had to do with liberature, and while I won’t get into details, one of its major proponents is the necessity of the writer’s involvement in every aspect of the book, from the writing to the book’s packaging. It’s like a musician composing some music and handing it off to someone else without letting them know what instruments to use. We work so hard on our writing, so why are we so flippant when it comes to others – usually people who haven’t even read the material – creating the vehicle for our stories? On top of that, the book itself can be an extension of the story by simply establishing mood or elaborately blurring the reader’s ability to distinguish the reality from the fiction. The book can be anything we want it to be.

While I didn’t get as experimental as I could’ve with Empty Rooms Lonely Countries, I was able to participate in the books packaging, from the layout of the pages to the look of the cover. The amazing Mateusz Molasy was kind enough to provide me with the cover image, and from there I was able to design the rest.

I’m extremely proud of how the book looks on the shelf.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of this method?

The advantages are numerous, but most importantly, it gives you complete control of your book, especially in the ways I just mentioned.

However, being independent with the book’s production means you’re completely on your own with the book’s marketing. Once the book is available for order, the hard work really begins. You really need to be as creative with your marketing as you were when you were writing.

How do you market your book?

I’m at a severe geographical disadvantage living in Poland, which is why most of my marketing is done virtually. I have my official website to promote Empty Rooms Lonely Countries and I’m always updating it with new content, such as new stories and commentaries of the stories from the book.

Right now, I’m hosting a contest to sell 1,000 copies of my book before the end of the year. If I accomplish this, I will give away $1000 to one of my readers. You can find all of the information about the contest and more at the website.

As of this week, I’ve sold 100 copies.

What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome?

I’m still in the middle of my biggest challenge and that is the book’s marketing. Luckily it’s been as much fun as it’s been challenging, and it certainly keeps me on my toes.

What would you say to others considering POD?

I know a lot of people cringe at the thought of POD. Many writers view it as giving up, but if being published through traditional means is important to you, you can still use POD as a way of getting there. It can help you build an audience or create a nice package to be passed on to an agent or publisher. It can be the first step in your career as a published writer, whether that means always being a POD writer or not.

And let me tell you, nothing motivates you to write more than seeing one of your own books on a bookshelf.