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D.S. Getson: how tragic family history inspired my historical fiction
D.S. Getson is the subject of our latest case study. The author of Earl, Honey, she has been chatting to us about how she explored her family's challenging past to tell the story of those she got to know so well.
What inspired you to write the book?
Many years back, I occupied a room with my grandmother at the Palmer House Hotel in Chicago, equipped with a microcassette recorder. During our stay, she shared extensive narratives, recounting her childhood with a matter-of-fact tone. Despite her calm delivery, the content of her words unveiled a violent and disturbing family history.
As I combined her recollections with information gathered online and reflections from other relatives over time, a complex tapestry of multi-generational sorrow emerged. Alongside these narratives were extraordinary instances of resilience and bravery, creating a compelling story that I felt was crucial to be shared.
You did a lot of your writing during COVID - how did that come about?
In March 2020, the onset of the COVID pandemic compelled me to undergo "shelter in place." The duration of social distancing remained uncertain. Utilizing this period, a friend suggested embarking on a book project centred on my grandmother's brother, Earl. While writing, my sympathy deepened for this reserved and troubled young boy. The lines between his social seclusion and my own began to blend into my thoughts.
Both the authentic Earl and the fictionalized version encounter the bleakest aspects of human nature. Yet, both transform the kindness of strangers. I realized that a sorrowful beginning does not necessarily dictate a sorrowful conclusion.
Why did you pursue independent publishing?
Opting for Troubador as my publisher empowered me to shape the book based on my deep connection with the subject matter.
The book cover serves as an illustration of this approach. While browsing bookstore shelves, I often notice an abundance of covers that look the same as each other. While this may not align with conventional publishing practices, I wanted a distinctive cover that would set it apart from the rest, visually capturing Earl's social isolation. Working closely with the design team at Troubador, the outcome surpassed my expectations.
Throughout the entire publishing process, Troubador provided the flexibility for me to narrate Earl's story in the manner I envisioned. They proved to be the ideal collaborators in bringing my vision to fruition.
Your book has received over a thousand positive reviews on Amazon. How did you market the book?
I took advantage of Troubador’s NetGalley promotion service. While a few readers struggled with the challenging subject matter, others persevered and discovered the light at the end of the tunnel. My gratitude persists for every reader who invested time in Earl's journey and learned to cherish both him and his sister, Lucy.
Based on my experience with NetGalley, I participated in a book giveaway on Goodreads. Each winner received a copy of the book, accompanied by a personal note and a blue bandana akin to the one Earl carries throughout the story. This initiative not only boosted the book's visibility but also garnered additional reader reviews.
Following this, I initiated a limited ad campaign on Amazon, strategically selecting keywords and categories like family saga, Southern fiction, and coming of age to attract the right audience. Over time, positive word of mouth for the book gained traction.
Finally, I became a member of the International Book Publishers Association (IBPA) and invested in email campaigns targeting independent booksellers and librarians. The IBPA proved to be an invaluable resource in connecting my book with individuals who have a passion for compelling stories.
How have the Amazon reviews impacted your book sales?
The influential force of positive reviews significantly impacted book sales for Earl, Honey. Despite the challenging themes the book addresses, early reviewers actively encouraged prospective readers to stay engaged until the final chapter, characterizing the narrative as sincere and uplifting.
On a broader scale, when confronted with the disheartening headlines of the day, a sense of despair often arises in me. However, at a more personal level, I firmly believe in the transformative potential of human kindness and connection. Earl's journey remains a continued source of inspiration, imparting the valuable lesson that while life may present difficulties, it doesn't have to harden our hearts.
Insightful reviewers, both on Amazon and other platforms, have shared their reflections on this theme, delving into how the seeds of adversity can blossom into something beautiful and transcendent.