About Vicki Tapia:
A native Montanan, Vicki Tapia has lived in south central Montana for most of her life. International speaker and advocate for breastfeeding and most recently, dementia awareness, she is the author of two books and numerous articles.
Her first book, Somebody Stole My Iron: A Family Memoir of Dementia, began as a diary to help her cope with caregiving, after both parents were diagnosed with dementia. This memoir was a finalist in the 2015 High Plains Book Awards.
Vicki’s second book, Maggie: A Journey of Love, Loss and Survival, is a tribute to the intrepid life of her great-grandmother, written in remembrance and recognition of a time when women had few rights.
When not busy writing, you’re apt to find her out walking her mini-Schnauzer or off exploring some distant part of the world with her husband, often on their tandem bicycle.
Five Fast Facts
Traveled to 5 different continents
Journaled since she was 16
Played piano, beginning age 6
Worked as a Lactation Consultant for 30 years
What inspires you to write?
The short answer: Life in general and my family in particular inspires my writing.
Longer answer: I started keeping a diary, though not very consistently, in grade school, and progressed to journaling as a teen. I have continued to journal throughout my life, mostly in an attempt to make some sense of life, especially my life.
In 2004, after my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and my father with Parkinson’s-related dementia, I became the nearest family caregiver. As we traveled down what I call the “rabbit hole of dementia,” writing continued to provide an outlet and a way to cope with the emotional ups and downs of our lives. I felt very alone as I struggled to find practical and helpful information to help me as a caregiver, so as time went on, this lack of information inspired me to turn my diary into my first full-length work, "Somebody Stole My Iron: A Family Memoir of Dementia." I wrote the book I wished I could have found to help guide me along the caregiver path.
The stories of my great-grandmother’s life inspired me to write my second book. She was a spunky and determined woman thrust into marriages of abuse, not once, but three times. Writing her story took root in my psyche nearly twenty years ago when I came across affidavits of her divorce, depositions and the divorce trial transcript. This, combined with family lore and my imagination became "Maggie, A Journey of Love, Loss and Survival," released in March, 2018.
Tell us about your writing process.
Both my books were written in a linear fashion. Call me concrete/sequential…
For "Somebody Stole My Iron," I constructed the chapters from my journal notes, along with my recall of the different events. My second book, "Maggie," is a work of biographical historical fiction, so I inserted events from known documents and vital statistics onto a timeline and built the story around this “outline.” I handwrote it on a sheets of typing paper with a pencil (eraser handy). I frequently stopped along the way to do research, in order to give authenticity to a particular scene. Whenever I hit a roadblock, I’d leave the manuscript for a day or two and then come back and reread the previous few pages, often editing and nearly always finding my inspiration to continue moving forward with the narrative.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
Yes, I interact with my characters all the time. In fact, it often felt like my great-grandmother, Maggie, was looking over my shoulder, guiding me as I wrote. I felt such a kinship with my characters that I actually went into a minor depression when "Maggie" was finished. I still miss them and wonder what they are doing. I sometimes find myself daydreaming about the characters, imagining scenes and conversations they might be having.
Although maybe I didn’t always agree with them, I “listened” to what my characters told me. During the writing process, ideas from my characters came to me while out walking my dog. Ideas also awakened me in the middle of the night. Sometimes when I wasn’t sure where I was going with a scene, the characters carried me through with their conversation or thoughts, which poured from my fingers to the keyboard and onto the computer screen. The results could be surprising and nothing I anticipated. Suddenly, I’d realize why something happened previously that tied the scene together. This process never ceased to amaze me.
What advice would you give other writers?
Some things I have learned:
• There will be both highs and lows as a writer: Find fellow writer(s) with whom you can commiserate
• Write when you can, wherever you are
• Stay focused on the point ahead of you
• Talk solitary walks when you hit a writing roadblock
• Keep paper and pencil by your bedside to write down those middle-of-the-night thoughts, because you may forget by morning
• And finally, most importantly, be persistent
How did you decide how to publish your books?
With my first book, I really wanted to be traditionally published. Influenced by my ego, I wanted to prove my book “worthy” by going this route. Wanting to be traditionally published is easy to say, but hard to do (for most of us, anyway)! When it happened, I knew how lucky I was to find a publisher interested in my memoir. It came down to knowing a publisher for whom I had written several journal articles in my former career. She owns a small independent press, so promotion of my memoir fell to me. There is no real way to know if or how my efforts to promote are paying off except for the size of twice-yearly royalty checks. Other than the books I sell outright, this is the only feedback I receive. It’s a little like promoting my book in a darkened room, where the lights flash on for a few seconds twice each year.
My second book is self-published. Knowing other self-published authors and watching them manage their pricing and book promotions influenced me to go this route. I have learned so much during the process of “birthing” a book–bringing my book to publication. Yes, at times the learning curve was steep, but I am in charge. I can set up ads and check progress and sales each day, if I so choose. To date, I have found no downside to self-publishing. That said, I did have three very good editors and several beta readers. I also hired a professional to design the book cover, money well spent. The book cover is a potential reader’s first impression, so it’s worth it to hire a pro.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I think the future of publishing is in for some big changes. Why use a middleman when you can do the work yourself and not have to turn over 90% or more of the sales profit to the publishing house?
Life is about change…we either change or stagnate. I do believe the publishing landscape over the next ten years will be punctuated with changes that I can’t even begin to envision. I suspect more and more people will decide to go the self-publishing route and the publishing houses will be held together by the select few—those names that everyone recognizes—the authors who don’t have to do their own promotions!
What do you use?: Professional Cover Designer, Beta Readers
What genres do you write?: memoir, historical fiction, women's fiction, literary 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.