An interview with writer Ron Vitale
Welcome to a brand new series of interviews that I’ll be conducting with other bloggers, writers and book lovers. I’ll be asking about literary passions, reading habits, favourite books and more.
Ron is the author of a series of young adult novels called Cinderella’s Secret Diaries, which challenge the form of traditional fairy tales. As well as being an expert in communications and marketing, he’s an avid runner, sci-fi fan and family man. You can visit his website or follow him on Twitter @ronvitale.
You’ve self-published several books now, including a series of YA novels that challenge conventional fairy tales. What was your biggest challenge when you decided to take this route to becoming a published author?
The biggest challenge I had was time. How could I raise two kids, spend time with my wife, work full time and write a book and promote it? Many writers struggle with the same challenges. Work and life balance is difficult as it is, but add on top of that a second job of being a fiction writer and the whole model is turned upside down. What helped me might not be exciting, but it worked: Scheduling. I sacrificed sleep and watching TV. On Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturdays, I get up early and write. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, I run. Typically, this all happens between 5:30 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. For a long time, I used to be frustrated about not having the time to write, but I made it work. If I believed in my work, then I needed to write the books within me and that’s what I did (and keep doing).
What advice would you offer to a writer hoping to self-publish their work?
Don’t lose hope. Not all of us can be Amanda Hocking and become best sellers. It might never happen or it might take 20 years. If you want to self-publish, it’s fairly simple: Write well, make sure you have a great cover and promote your book. Rinse, repeat and keep doing that. The truth is that self-publishing is a lot of work. For anyone who really wants to see the nuts and bolts to being a self-published writer as well as how much it costs and how much I earned, I recently wrote an article to help clear away the mystery.
At university you wrote your thesis on the work of Margaret Atwood and Alice Walker. Which of their books do you find most inspiring and why?
Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood is my favourite of hers. There is a tormented character in that book that spoke to me about pain, suffering and the human condition. Growing up isn’t easy and Atwood’s book speaks to the darker side of childhood and on how to overcome trauma and enter adulthood. For Walker, The Color Purple is my favourite. What amazes me about Walker’s work is that she speaks frankly of rape and on how woman are beaten and put down, but shows how resilient the human spirit is. It is the hope that these two authors bring to their writing that attracts and amazed me.
Your books also focus on strong female characters. What made you want to write these stories and is there a particular message you’d like to convey to your readers?
I’ll let your readers in on a secret. During my university and graduate studies, I spent a lot of time learning about Carl Jung and his beliefs. In fact my thesis work is essentially taking Atwood’s and Walker’s books and interpreting them through the lens of Jungian psychology. Jung believed that in each of us there are different aspects that we need to integrate and embrace in order for us to achieve self-actualization—which is simply a fancy way of saying that we grow up and get our shit together! One aspect of our internal archetypes is that of the shadow and another is the anima/animus. The Shadow is easy: It’s our dark side. The anima/animus is our gender opposite. For men, there’s a feminine side to their personality and for woman there is a masculine. My books, when viewed through Jungian psychology, are essentially aspects of my own personality. In a way, I can identify with Cinderella in my series and in my books I’ve explored that aspect of my personality. Yet at the same time, there’s a much simpler reason why I write the type of books that I do. My mother lived through an abusive marriage with my father. As a little boy, I remember growing up and thinking that I wanted to learn how to treat women with respect and to cherish and honor the power of women. Now that I have children, one of whom is a girl, I’ve dedicated my first Cinderella’s Secret Diaries book to her. My message is simple to my daughter and to all women: Don’t look for Prince Charming to save you. You have the power to be anyone you want. Love yourself and, in time, you’ll meet the right person for you.
I know my answer is rather complicated and long, but I spend a lot of time getting up early and writing. It’s my hope that one day my children will read my books and understand my message and then choose to live good and happy lives. In the end, it’s about how we love ourselves (and I don’t mean this in a selfish, ego centric way) and then share that with others.
Is there a book that has particularly influenced your career as a writer?
What a tough question. I could go on and on about the hundreds of books that have inspired me at various parts of my life. Books to me are little treasures that I have found when I have needed them the most in my life. As a young adult, Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings made a major impression on me because I could identify with one small person making a difference in the world. I liked that. I like that a lot. More recently, Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist has made a lasting impression on me. In fact, I’m currently re-reading it again. I identify myself as Coelho’s “warrior of light” and believe that it’s my Personal Legend to share my experiences with others throughout the world. And my books and website are the best ways that I can do that. Might sound corny but I believe in helping others. That’s important to me.
Which books are you planning to read next? Do you have any that you secretly suspect you’ll never get round to?
I can’t wait to read Malcolm Gladwell’s next book David and Goliath. I discovered Gladwell’s work a few years back and Outliers really made an impression on me. His premise is that it takes approximately 10,000 hours for you to become really good at something, giving examples from The Beatles, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates among others. As for books that I’ll never get around to, my friend gave me a copy of Gone with the Wind and it’s been sitting on my shelf for years and just haven’t made time for it. It’s not that I wouldn’t like it, but making time has been a challenge.
I’m terrible for buying books and having piles of them lying around the house waiting to be read. How do you prefer to read: are you a Kindle addict, library regular or a paperback collector?
I love reading. I love books. When someone comes into our home, they see the hundreds of books we have in our front room. I’ve been collecting books for almost 30 years now and I’ve a confession to make: I don’t have any more room for them! I don’t like to sell books or borrow them. I like to own them. I truly believe that books are little treasures and I don’t like giving treasures away. I’ll lend you a book and don’t mind if you bend the pages or write in it, but I would want the book back—even if it takes you a year to read it. But with that all said, it’s a lot easier to read George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series on a Kindle. Though it’s not my favourite way of reading, I have read parts of Martin’s books on my iPhone on the train headed to work. With a Kindle or the Kindle app, if I forget my book at home, I simply pull it up on my device. With work, kids, writing and running, half the time I don’t know if I’m coming or going. Not having to worry about what book I want to read makes life easier for me. At this point in my life, I now purchase solely on Kindle. Once in a blue moon, I’ll buy a paperback to read. Though I hate to say this, I expect that I’ll probably not ever buy a hardback book again. Not only is the price too expensive, but I have nowhere to put it. This is an important topic to me as a lover of books. There is a power in books. If I hand you a book and suggest that you read it, it’s as though I’m giving you a little piece of me—an insight into my personality. With the Kindle, I can’t lend friends books longer than two weeks. I’m not a fan of that and hope that Amazon changes their policy on that. It’s simply not possible to read A Dance of Dragons in two weeks!
I’m a bit obsessive about my books and keeping them as undamaged as possible. Do you have any pet hates about the way other people read or treat their books?
I believe that what people allow to be done with their books speaks volumes (pun intended) about that person’s personality. I had a friend who would lend you books but you couldn’t write in it or fold a page. A long-time friend of 20 years doesn’t like to lend out her books. I love my books. I truly do. I will lend them out and simply ask that they be given back in good shape. I don’t want someone to spill coffee on it. I don’t mind if the corner of pages are bent where you stopped to read it. I don’t mind notes write in the book because to me it’s a secret language of two like minds sharing ideas. I have taken index cards and left notes in books I have borrowed from friends. It’s my small way of sharing what I was thinking about during a particular part in the book without marking a book up. As for how others treat their books, that’s an individual choice and I try not to judge what others do though I personally believe that books are to be shared. That’s another reason why Amazon’s two week policy frustrates me.
And finally, do you have any random/funny/bizarre stories about books to share with us?
I’ll end with a little something random and unusual. Back in university, I remember taking my British Literature class and learning about the scop. Essentially, he was the person in charge of being the oral storyteller of a village a long, long time ago. The villagers would gather around the fire and he’d tell stories like Beowulf and the like. He’s use repetition and sing song like phrases to help him remember and pass on the village’s oral tradition. I really took to that idea because I believe in the power of words. I believe words are more powerful than any weapon. Yes, guns can kill you, but words have the power to last thousands of years. My dream, since I was a little kid, has always been to write stories and share them with people. I simply wanted to let people see into some of the hardship I have lived, overcome and chosen to become a good person. None of us are perfect, we all fall and make horrible mistakes—we are human and that is that amazes me so much. I have written books that readers from around the globe have contacted me and said: I can identify with Cinderella in your stories. The Cinderella series I’ve written is about what really happens after the “and they lived happily ever after.” There’s no such thing. I’m a romantic and believe in love and goodness, but there is also hardship, sacrifice and pain. When I started writing as a kid, I wanted to find a way to put on the page the feelings I had, share them with others and to give a positive message: You are not alone. Others in the world have been rejected, hurt and beaten down. Believe in yourself, work hard and never give up. I have put those beliefs to work all of my life and even when I have done stupid and hurtful things to others, I’ll stop, dust myself off, make amends and get up to move on. For me, I am a scop who is speaking to the global village. My voice might be drowned out by the billions around me, but I keep trying because I believe my message is that important: Love and do good in this world.
Check back next week for an interview with author Helen Cadbury.
If you’re a blogger, writer or book lover and you’d like to take part in Space on the Bookshelves, get in touch! You can email me at amy(Replace this parenthesis with the @ sign)tenpennydreams.com