About Vicki Salloum:
VICKI SALLOUM is the author of two previous novels, Candyland and Faulkner & Friends, and one novella, A Prayer to Saint Jude. Her short fiction has been included in the anthologies When I Am An Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple; Pass/Fail: 32 Stories About Teaching; Voices From the Couch; and Umpteen Ways of Looking at a Possum: Critical and Creative Responses to Everette Maddox. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. She lives in New Orleans.
What inspires you to write?
I draw inspiration from everything. I have a great need to understand and make sense of the world I live in. I’ve created stories about a musician dying of brain cancer, the ghost of a murdered black boy who reigns over a ghetto park, a woman with a troubled past who opens a book store in the Irish Channel, a teenager who tries to save the life of a boy who owes money to her drug-dealing brothers. What do all these stories have in common? In all of them, I’ve tried to create flesh-and-blood characters who will live on in a reader’s memory and illuminate some aspect of the human condition. I don’t want us to pass through this life without examining the complexities of the human psyche and spirit and without knowing how profoundly affected we are by our relationships with others.
Tell us about your writing process.
I start out jotting down whatever comes to me on lined notebook paper. It can be working out a story from a scene in my head or an image or something I’ve read in a newspaper. My first draft will always be on notebook paper, and the more I write the more I get into a dream-like state where the story begins to unfold and the plot begins to move to moments of understanding. When I have a rough draft finished, in which I have dramatized in the simplest form a beginning, middle and end using sensory imagery, I type it on the computer, print it out, and take it to a coffee house to revise. The revision process can go on for years. It is in the process of repeated revisions that I get an understanding of what the work is really, deeply about, what the moral choice is in the story. I have quite a few coffee houses I go in developing the story and revising. When the revision process is complete—when I cease being in that dreamlike state and cease working from the unconscious mind, then I start using my intellect to work on technique and craft. Based on what I’ve learned in the classroom and from books, I have prepared questions I ask myself in an effort to make sure the theme has been fully emphasized—to make sure the “moral soul,” as I call it, is there. After that, I have a blank book in which I’ve collected vocabulary words over the years. I go through my book looking for words I can substitute for the ones I’ve used in my drafts—words that may be lyrical or give deeper meaning to the story. Months later, I read the manuscript again and, if the words on the page don’t move, I’ll know I can do no more with it and it is finished.
What advice would you give other writers?
This is what I’d say to writers who have to write because writing is like an addiction to them: Have faith in yourself and in the process. That need to write was put in you for a reason. It may be God telling you this is your true mission in life and not to get discouraged. I would say to such writers that if you’re not very good now, keep writing and you will get better. And then one day a miracle may come about in
which you not only have something worth writing about that someone needs to read for his own salvation but you’ll know how to write it with skill and maybe even brilliance. So don’t give up. Have faith.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
I’ve never considered self-publishing for my own work. But I would never second guess or disrespect someone else who goes this route because he or she may have different needs than I do. And if that person believes it’s in his or her best interest to self-publish, that’s what should be done.
In looking for a publisher, I do research to make sure the publisher is reputable. And then my goal is to find a publication that will make a good home for my work. For instance, Underground Voices in Los Angeles was looking for literary material that was dark and gritty. That fit my novel, Faulkner & Friends, perfectly. And the editor happened to be honorable and kind. The publisher of my last two novels turned out to be very honorable and accommodating as well.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
Sometimes I worry about the future of great literary fiction. I have friends and relatives who are voracious readers of literary fiction. But not many. The people I surround myself with are not academics or writers but, rather, ordinary people with ordinary jobs and interests. Many of them don’t read fiction. They read non-fiction. And some don’t read at all. Sometimes I’ll walk into somebody’s home, a friend or relative who is college educated and a professional, and I won’t see any books around. Not even magazines. Reading is not important to them. Simply put, I worry that understanding life and the human heart through the special lens of literary fiction isn’t as important to people today as it was to me growing up. Sometimes I’ll scan the book section in the newspapers in my home town to see who is giving a reading at a bookstore and I’ll see that the books these people wrote are not fiction. They are cook books and self-help books and travel books. And I’ll wonder, “What happened? Where is the fiction?” So I don’t know what the future holds for great novels. If fewer people read them, there won’t be a demand to publish them.
What do you use?: Professional Editor, Professional Cover Designer
What genres do you write?: Literary fiction, Crime fiction
What formats are your books in?: Both eBook and Print
All information in this post is presented “as is” supplied by the author. We don’t edit to allow you the reader to hear the author in their own voice.