Interview with Renny deGroot

Renny deGroot is a first generation Canadian of Dutch parents. She is a published poet and song lyricist, with Family Business being her first novel. She studied English Literature at Trent University. Her strong Dutch roots continue to influence her while the love of her Canadian homeland with its beauty and freedom, flavours all that she does.Family Business

Tell us a little about your first novel, Family Business.

It’s a story about a young man who struggles to learn the meaning of freedom amidst family conflict during the depression years and World War II German occupation in the Netherlands. The notion of freedom on a macro level (i.e. for a nation, race, community) and a micro level (our own individual right to choose and determine our path) is timeless and a topic that I’m passionate about. Although the story takes place before and during World War II, it isn’t a war story – it’s a family drama, and as we all know, families are a great source for stories.

You published Family Business last winter.  Why did you decide to self-publish?

I spent more than a year sending the manuscript to traditional publishers, appropriate to the historical-fiction genre, and while I received polite letters back from all of them, it became clear to me that there just isn’t enough in it for most publishers for them to take a risk on a new author. I felt that I was the best champion for my work, so after doing a ton of research into my options I decided that self-publishing would be a good route for me.

What are the advantages of self-publishing versus traditional publishing?

In my opinion, authors are doing most of the work to promote their own work, whether they have gone the traditional or self-publishing route. It’s standard now that authors need to maintain blogs and websites, drum up events to do book signings and readings, and create other promotional opportunities. I’m quite prepared to do all of that, but then I’d prefer to keep a bigger piece of the pie. That’s what the author gets with self-publishing. Traditional publishing does offer expertise and exposure, along with the credibility that comes from having professional agents, editors and designers all having a hand in creating the final product. Traditional publishing comes with an established distribution system to ‘push’ the book out to the various outlets across a wide geography. The mitigation for this with self-publishing is that amazon is a global distribution vehicle, so if an author is listed with them, you do get exposure world-wide as well.

Now that you have been through the self-publishing process, do you see any disadvantages? Is there anything you would do differently next time?

I’ve been quite satisfied with the self-publishing process. One drawback is the lack of access to recognized awards such as the Giller, etc. If an author is looking for that sort of recognition, they’d be best off to stick with traditional publishing. I’m just interested in having people read and enjoy my work, so for me it’s been good. Next time I will probably find a freelance designer to work on the cover art, although I have no complaints about the final product that the publisher’s design team created. I will also hire a proof-reader as well as a freelance editor. I only had an editor, who did a fantastic job of the editing; both for content and punctuation, etc. – but there were still some typos that I had to fix on the second print run that probably could have been avoided with a proof reader.

What project are you currently working on?

I participated in NaNoWriMo challenge and produced a 50,530 novella during the month of November. It was a great experience, and I’ll put that manuscript aside and now apply the learnings to my ‘real’ work-in-progress which is another historical fiction novel called After Paris. This opens in Paris during WW1. It follows a nurse as she learns to live in a post-war world where the role of women has changed forever. She needs to understand and overcome her own weaknesses as she is challenged both intellectually and emotionally.

What advice do you have for writers who trying to finish that first novel or who are interested in self-publishing?

I’m a great believer in having some sort of ‘road-map’ for your book. It can be as simple as a one page outline, but you need to understand both the general points of character and plot, and more importantly, your theme. It will serve to bring you back and keep moving forward when you get stuck. As for self-publishing, do the research to understand what the different providers are offering. Also understand that, if you go that route, it will be difficult to go back and find an agent or traditional publisher as they generally aren’t keen to take a work that has previously been self-published. Once you’ve decided it is what you want, then be prepared to do the work that it calls for. Like anything, you’ll be sure to get out of it what you put into it. You’ll have fun and will be able to feel proud of a great accomplishment.

Visit Renny deGroot’s website at www.rennydegroot.com.

Originally posted December 6, 2014.