ROANOKE – We have all seen the movies and know how the story goes if you want to become a writer. First you get a big grant so that you may quit your job and either travel the world or move to the country where you can immerse yourself in the writing of your novel. Ok, so maybe you aren’t able to get that big grant. You write your novel while still toiling away at your day job and, once it is complete, you send out copies of it along with a cover letter to several publishers. One of these will write you back and next thing you know you’re all set up on a cross-country book tour with lines out the door of fans waiting for you to sign a copy for them. Elena DeRosa, who just recently self-published her book, can tell you that this most certainly is not how it works.
DeRosa lives in Roanoke with her husband Frank and their children Frank, 20, and Marie, 18. They own the automotive repair shop Acceleration Station in Salem where they both work. Originally from Brooklyn, NY the family moved here in 1995, leaving behind the majority of their family, including her father. The novel, Fractured Façade, about “a father’s death, a daughter’s life, and a sociopath’s vendetta,” is a novel written as a memoir. “It’s what I like to call autobiographical fiction” explained DeRosa. “I would say most of it is true but I’ll leave that up to the reader to determine” she continued with a laugh.
She began writing the book in Spring of 2008 after her father’s passing the previous September. “I didn’t want to write this book, I had to write this book. Then my father passed, and it wasn’t just his passing but everything that came afterwards” said DeRosa of her inspiration for the book. “I began documenting it on my blog because it was so unbelievable and more and more people, as they were reading it, said ‘you know you should really write a book about this.’ At that point I was so embroiled with everything that was going on and I had it up there that this was a story that really needed to be told.”
The book is not only about the death and what happened afterwards but also contains flashbacks of DeRosa’s childhood and life-shaping events that occur along the way, as well as the lessons that were learned along the way.
“Of course, a lot of traditional publishing houses don’t want a book about lessons learned, or a memoir from someone who’s not famous” said DeRosa, “but there is a market, I believe anyway, for people for something that is, not only a good read, but also something that you’re going to walk away and learn something from. Something that will give them a flag they wouldn’t have noticed before to make them aware of something that deserves a second look.”
Contrary to popular belief about how to get a book published, the process starts with a query letter to an agent in an attempt to simply “whet their appetite” about the book, to request for them to read just five pages. “There are books written on how to write the query letter” said DeRosa. After sending out three query letters to agents to see if they were interested in her book, DeRosa had an epiphany. “I spent over three years working on the book, perfecting it to my standards. I realized that it could take me a year to attract an agent, and it could take them a year to attract a publishing house, and I realized my book doesn’t fit into a nice, neat little package. Then, they can turn around and want you to re-write something. I’d still have to be doing all my own work, they wouldn’t be paying me for tours.”
So DeRosa turned to her familiar punk roots and decided to self-publish it via e-readers. She notes the similarity to the musicians who couldn’t make it in the door with record companies and new authors who aren’t going to be able to get their chance as a debut author. “There aren’t that many brick and mortar stores anymore” said DeRosa.
Self-publishing it allowed her to maintain control over her words, her voice. She enlisted the help of her daughter Marie who edited the book, designed the cover, and did the book trailer. “I needed someone who was brutally honest and knew my style” she said proudly of her daughter.
Publishing it as an e-reader allows it to be available to readers for only $4.99 instead of the comparable paperback cost of $20.99, a cost DeRosa deems to high for books in general. The book is available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, as well as all other e-retailers. DeRosa is happy with how the book is being received noting with a laugh “I’ve sold more than my fingers and toes combined, so that’s a start.”
On Thursday the 15 Roanoke Main Library held a celebration book event for Fractured Façade. Called “NYC.. LIVE IN ROANOKE!” the event was a far cry from traditional book signing events. For one, there wasn’t a physical book to be signed. There were also local, independent musicians performing their takes on classic New York themed songs, as well as a Toy for Tots drive and food gathered for the Rescue Mission. “River Laker did a fantastic job” said DeRosa of the event. “It is a bridging of New York and Roanoke, both places the book takes place in.”
For more information on DeRosa, the book, or her upcoming works please visit her website at www.elenaderosa.com.
Story by Carrie E. Cox