A long time friend of mine, Pascal Marco, is about to do what he has dreamed of for years: have his first novel published. Identity:Lost will be available everywhere beginning in early June. If you have ever thought of writing a book, Pascal has some insights you will find useful. Even if you aren't a writer, I thought you might find his story inspiring. I posed a series of questions to him. Here are his answers.
Q. Have you been a writer all your life?
I’ve always loved putting words on paper to express my thoughts, and have always loved to expand my vocabulary. My Dad was very big on a strong vocabulary. His idea of “the good book” was the dictionary. He was a newspaper intellectual and loved to read about current events and challenge all of his children to analyze the events of the day and discuss them.
I actually started writing in grammar school. A friend and I would write episodes of our favorite TV show. That taught me a lot about the power of imagination. In high school, I wrote for the school’s newspaper as a sports editor. This is when I learned a lot about the job of being a journalist and what you could and couldn’t do in terms of reporting vs. editorializing. In college I became the op-ed writer for a fledgling college monthly.
Q. When did you know you wanted to write a novel?
When I started writing for fun again in my 50's, I didn't realize I wanted to write a novel until I joined the Scottsdale Writers Group (SWG). We met every other week to discuss and share our work. When I started listening to the fiction writers share their work I was intrigued by the format and the genre. At that point I decided to write my story as a novel. Little did I know how tough the task would be and what a long road I had ahead of me.
Q. How much time has been invested in bringing Identity:Lost to reality?
The story first came to me in July 1979. I read about the brutal attack and eventual murder of an 88-year-old man riding his bike in Chicago where I lived at the time. That story stayed buried for almost 27 years. When I joined the SWG in 2006 I decided to take that murder and use it as the framework for the murder in my book.
Three years ago I finally had a completed manuscript after writing and rewriting part-time at night and on weekends. Then, it took another two years to find a publisher for the manuscript. Finally, in March 2010 I was told it would take another year, but the novel would be published.
Q. How do you balance a full time job and writing a novel?
Balance is the operative word here. More like survive. I have a sole proprietorship company, Pascal Creative Group, which after selling my previous business became my sole income source. That was tough. I worked in sales all day and wrote at night. But, I think the biggest test was with my marriage. Without the undying and completely unselfish support of my wife of nearly thirty-eight years, I could have never accomplished this feat. She sacrificed many, many hours of not having me around as I’d escape to various retreats and venues to write. I owe an awful lot to her, more than she’ll ever know.
Q. What were the most difficult parts of getting your book ready to publish?
By far the most difficult part for me was maintaining the belief I could get the book traditionally published versus settling for self-publishing. Maintaining a positive attitude throughout the process has also been a huge challenge. I developed a very thick skin to deal with the ups and downs on the road to getting a book published.
Q. What is it like to work with an editor? How do you overcome the urge to be defensive about what you have written?
When I hired an editor a lot of good came from the process because the editor was able to look at my story objectively. That helped immensely with developing characters and clearing up plot problems. But when I saw the editor start trying to change my "voice" with the way she manipulated a paragraph or even a sentence and it just didn't sound like me, I had to put a stop to it.
I think you'll know right out of the gate whether an editor is good or bad for you. A very good editor will take your stuff and make it better without you even noticing.
Q. Once you have a deal to publish your book, is the work over?
I have worked harder since getting the deal than before. Before the deal I didn’t know the rules and all the nuances of what to do. My attitude was: what was the worst that could happen? Once I had received the publishing OK I felt the pressure was now on to make sure I took advantage of this potentially once in a lifetime chance. So few are rewarded with this opportunity. For the last year I’ve been driven to make sure I give it my very best to promote my book.
Q. What one piece of advice would you give to aspiring authors?
It’s never too late to live your dream. If you’re a baby boomer like me, go for it. If you’ve got a story to tell, get it down on paper. Don’t worry about style or grammar or format or any of that. Just put your butt in the chair and start typing.
I will be at Pascal's book-signing at The Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, AZ on June 11th. I wouldn't miss it for the world. I am proud of him and happy for him.
Your take-away: you can accomplish your dream whatever it is. Time, effort, belief in yourself, and a willingness to fail and look stupid on occasion is part of the process of building a satisfying retirement. The payoff can be a real kick. Just ask Pascal. Give it a go.