What is the Gist of Your Story? #11

A sound premise and compelling themes are undoubtedly the hallmarks of great writing. In another addition to the SERIES on literary themes and premise, I’d like you to join me in welcoming Carol Bodensteiner. Ways to connect with her are: Website / Twitter / LinkedIn  / Facebook.

Author’s bio

Carol Bodensteiner is a writer who finds inspiration in the places, people, culture and history of the Midwest. After a successful career in public relations consulting, she turned to creative writing. She writes regularly for The Iowan magazine and blogs about writing, her prairie, gardening, and whatever in life interests her at the moment. She published her memoir Growing Up Country: Memories of an Iowa Farm Girl in 2008. Her book is available online in ebook and paperback formats at: Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Carol is currently working on her first novel, historical fiction set during World War I. For now, her work-in-progress is titled All She Ever Wanted.

Carol on her writing in general

My writing is strongly based in the culture and values of the Midwest United States. My memoir—Growing Up Country: Memories of an Iowa Farm Girl—tells the stories of growing up in the middle of the United States in the middle of the 20th Century. A time when a family could make a good living on a 160 acres. A way of live that is rapidly disappearing from the American landscape.

Although it’s hard to think about the time of my childhood 50 years ago as “history,” I’ve come to admit that it is. The 1950s and 1960s were a time when women faced unique challenges in trying to balance their personal goals and societal expectations. Stepping back another 50 years—to the time of my novel—women faced similar challenges, compounded by the fact that most of them didn’t have the right to vote. In both eras, movements were in play raising awareness of new opportunities, and women were pushing to break the bonds that held them back.

Carol on her work-in-progress novel

I’m working on historical fiction set in the years leading up to and during WWI, tentatively titled All She Ever Wanted. Readers will follow the journey of Liddie, a young Iowa farm girl trying to break free of family and societal expectations of who a woman is and what she can be in 1914. Inspired by her aunt, an unmarried educator, Liddie aspires to leave the farm, to have a career as a single woman, to choose her own path in life. She finds encouragement in other women but faces the stigma of being a single, working woman.

The idea for this story began with my grandparents. I’ve always been fascinated that my grandfather died of the Spanish flu in 1918, giving me this wispy yet powerful connection to a major world event. Though this novel is entirely fiction, I wrote the story to give life to the grandfather I never knew and to my grandmother, a woman I knew only as a taciturn, old woman.

The premise of Carol’s work-in-progress novel

All She Ever Wanted chronicles the story of Liddie, a young Iowa farm girl who desires to leave her farm home in 1914. As Liddie pursues first one job and then another, she resists the restrictions women faced in the early 1900s while facing some of the same challenges as many women today.  Can she pursue a career she’s passionate about when love leads her into marriage and family? Can she find a balance between these two desires or must she sacrifice one for the other?

The themes that drive Carol’s story

The primary themes that drive my novel are independence, family & societal expectations of women, love, connection, family, living a full life, tradeoffs, and compromise. These themes are showcased through the main character, Liddie, as well as the other women in the novel.

Remember, effective book publicity relies on strong promotional messages, which are extracted from the themes contained in your writing that, collectively, make up the premise of the story. 

Promotional opportunities for Carol’s book

The audience for my memoir – people who grew up in rural areas and readers interested in history – are likely also to be the audience for my novel.  As a result, I’ll be able to revisit many of the venues that worked for my memoir when I market my novel. Because All She Ever Wanted is set during WWI and my novel will launch during the 100th anniversary of WWI, my intent is to maximize the media interest that will already exist in this milestone anniversary. Some of those include:

  • Launch parties - I’ll have several: in my childhood hometown and county; in the city where I currently live, etc. I’ll look for venues with a tie to the historical nature of my novel, e.g. state and county historical societies
  • Direct mail postcard to libraries in Iowa and surrounding Midwest states, offering both the book and author availability
  • Speeches – I’ll contact each of the groups (Women’s Federation clubs, Farm Bureau, bank clubs, book clubs, etc.) I spoke with about my memoir. In addition, I’ll look for groups interested in history.
  • News releases targeted to locations and times of book signings and events
  • TV and radio interviews, specifically noon TV segments highlighting local personalities & events, and Iowa Public Radio, which offers in depth interviews of authors and topics of local interest.
  • Blog tours targeted to readers and writers of historical fiction. I’ve increasingly focused my own blog on historical fiction topics, reviewing authors and books in the historical fiction genre.
  • Social media –E-book promotions, including free days and giveaways on venues like Goodreads, were successful in gaining increased name awareness for my memoir and boosting follow up sales. The social media world is changing so rapidly, I’ll continue to assess what appears to be working at the time of my launch and adapt.

Please note that this blog series will draw to a close at the end of May. A new 6-part series on goal-setting will start soon after.