Thursday, July 23, 2020

Q&A with Laura Preble Author ANNA INCOGNITO @laurapreble #annaincognito

Laura Preble is the award-winning author of the young adult series, Queen Geek Social Club (Penguin/Berkley Jam), which includes the novels Queen Geeks in Love and Prom Queen Geeks. Her novel, Out, dealt with the concept of LGBTQ rights within a young adult dystopia; Alex Sanchez, author of Rainbow Boys, says “Out explores an intriguing, mind-bending, and challenging portrait of an upside-down world that turns the tables on homophobia, acceptance, and love.” She has won a Kurt Vonnegut Fiction Prize, and has been published in North American Review, Writer’s Digest, Hysteria, and NEA Today.



Tell us about your book! What is it about and what inspired you to write it?

Anna Incognito tells the story of Anna Colin Beck, a woman with severe OCD and significant trauma. When she is invited to her therapist’s wedding several states away, she decides to take a road trip to stop the wedding, since she is sure that she and the doctor belong together. A friend of mine actually inspired me to write it…she deals with trichotillomania and dermatillomania (hair and skin picking), but she is so much more than her conditions. She is highly intelligent, funny, and has a skewed look on life that I really love. The story isn’t at all about her, but I based the character on her.  I had her read the book to be sure I got everything right. I wanted to portray a character who dealt with a mental illness, but who was not defined by the illness.

Tell us about your publishing process. What was it like? Did you go indie or the traditional way?  

I have several books published. Some of them I did the traditional way (through Penguin, a major press) and for this book, I tried something different. I found a site called Publishizer. I mounted a campaign for the book, and after obtaining more than 250 presales, they pitched my book to hundreds of indie publishers. I had 10 reach out to request the book, so I was able to choose from those 10. I chose Mascot Books.

There are pros and cons to each way. In traditional publishing, most writers get about 10 percent of the cover price when they sell a copy. The publisher gets 90 percent. The upside is you get your book reviewed more easily, you get it placed in physical bookstores, etc.  With an indie publisher, that type of national attention is harder to get, and an author will end up having to pay out of pocket for much of the marketing. But authors will tend to retain more of the percentage of sales that way.

How did you choose the title for your book? Did it come to you right away, before you started writing it, or did it come later? 

Oh, I had so many different titles. I had written the whole book before I settled on Anna Incognito as the title. I was in a writer’s critique group during the whole process of writing the book, which helped enormously, and although the original title was pretty good, it seemed generic to me. I kept thinking,  ‘what is it about Anna that is the most prominent feature’?  And I realized — she has lived a good portion of her life being someone other than who she really is, because of trauma. She has, essentially, been incognito from her own life.

Tell us about the cover design process. Did you have a basic idea of what your book cover would be like?  

My publisher was great in accepting my ideas for a cover. I made a mock-up of what I wanted it to look like (the cover now is really not close to at all to what I originally created, but it’s so much better!) The face on the cover is actually modeled after a real plaster head that I found online, a perfect bisque porcelain wig head with a serene, unscarred face. I have it on my desk. The publisher was able to make a drawn version of it, and then added the tendrils of hair, which I absolutely love.  (see photos below)

Who is your cover designer and how did you find him/her?

It was a team design from Mascot Books, so I never met the actual person who designed it.

How was your experience working with the designer?

I didn’t work directly with them, but through a marketing liaison at the publisher. They took all my suggestions and were able to translate them perfectly into the design.

What has been the readers’ response to your cover?

So far, everyone has loved it and found it really appealing. I’ve brought the actual wig head with me to events so people could see the genuine article that inspired it. I think it’s a very interesting, unique cover compared to so many books that look the same. I think it draws people in.

What tips would you give to authors who are looking for a cover designer?

It depends on if you’re working with a publisher, which type of publisher, etc.  If you are working with a big press, like Penguin, you can negotiate (or have your literary agent negotiate) that cover consultation is part of your contract. I did that with my first books, the Queen Geek Social Club series. They won’t usually let you have approval of the covers, but they will let you consult. If you’re self-publishing, I would highly recommend engaging a graphic designer. I think I’m pretty good at making graphics, but what I came up with was so less amazing than what the designer created.

Anything else you’d like to say about your book?

I wanted to create a space where the concept of family could be discussed. Family is not always the people with whom you share blood and genetics. Sometimes the deepest connections we have are with people who are not blood relatives. They are still our real family — our family of the soul.

What I also hoped to convey was that people with mental illness are complete people. Everyone in my immediate family has some type of mental quirk (depression, anxiety, autism, bipolar, OCD). But we are who we are in some part because of these conditions. We are not less than. If anything, it adds a layer of complication that makes us even more interesting. I’m not minimizing the difficulties of these conditions; I know that it makes it harder to navigate a world that demands conformity above almost everything else. Anna is kind, hilarious, terrified, brave, and trips herself up with her overthinking. In other words, she’s human.
About the Book:

Lots of narrative pull…wonderfully complicated. – Jincy Willett, author of The Writing Class, and anthologized by David Sedaris in Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules.

Anna Colin Beck knows all too well what can happen when things go wrong really wrong. So, she’s spent the last several years living an extremely regimented life at home, doing everything she can to avoid subjecting herself to the torments of a germ-infested world. Everything must be just so, and when things don’t go to plan, she punishes her own body…and that still hasn’t helped alleviate her pain.

After a chance meeting in a laundromat, she finds herself completely infatuated with another person, something that hasn’t happened to her in a long time. Dr. Edward Denture is seemingly brilliant and magnetic…and in the blink of an eye, she’s attending intense somatic therapy sessions as his newest client. The more he draws from her, the further their relationship grows, until it’s crossed countless lines and consumed Anna with a fierce toxicity. And before she knows it, she finds herself buckled into the driver’s seat of a powder-blue El Dorado for a solo cross-country road trip, determined to stop his wedding. It’s a trip that will test every limitation she’s ever set for herself, and though she’s planned extensively for all contingencies, there are some twists and turns you just can’t prepare for.
With wry observations on the intersection of luck, fate, and life, Anna Incognito is a searing, darkly witty exploration of what it means to be alive.

PRAISE FOR ANNA INCOGNITO 5/5 “Rich with witticism in the face of painful realities and evoking lyrical truisms throughout, from of a rating scale of 1 – 5 this novel is so off-the-charts good, it deserves a 10.” LINK HERE 4/4 “The writing was captivating…This book would be great for readers who are struggling with mental health or for those trying to understand it better. Are you ready to go for a drive with Anna?. Buckle up, because you are in for the ride of your life!” LINK HERE

Kirkus Reviews:  “The protagonist’s acerbic wit and mordant tone work well in the difficult material in Preble’s unconventional road novel. A razor-sharp, oddly fun  romp through the American West.” LINK HERE


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