If you’re not familiar with Piper Punches’ work yet, you should be. She’s a St. Louis-area author with several books under her belt, including The Waiting Room, about family secrets taken to the grave and the wounds they open up when they come to light, and Missing Girl, the tale of a 17-year-old California girl who is forced to “leave everything behind and walk arm in arm with the devil into a world of prostitution and human imprisonment.” You know, light reading.
This week I interviewed Piper, and asked her about her inspiration, how she avoided giving up even when she felt like it, and her advice for new writers. Take a look!
T: What gave you the inspiration to write “Missing Girl”?
P: Missing Girl is a companion piece to my soon-to-be-released, full-length novel, 60 Days. I wrote it because I wanted to tell the story of one missing girl; a teenager from San Diego who disappears from the laundromat one night, never to be heard from again by her family. Society has become hardened to those faces that stare back at us on bulletin boards in the post office, the grocery store, or at the bus stop. We see those missing persons’ posters and usually assign blame, stories, and judgments right away without really understanding what may have happened to these children, women, and men. Sophia’s story attempts to bring awareness not only to the plight of the missing, but also to the epidemic of human trafficking.
T: Was there ever a time when you felt like giving up—and how did you start feeling hopeful again?
P: It took me a long time to publish my first novel, The Waiting Room, because of so many false starts and self-doubt. After I wrote The Waiting Room, and quickly followed that novel with the short story Missing Girl, I thought I had conquered those feeling of inadequacy and hopelessness. But, writing 60 Days has been a struggle. I’ve felt like giving up so many times and just scratching the story. What has kept me going? The many readers who have read Missing Girl and are aching to learn more about human trafficking and the two supporting characters in the book that are the main characters in 60 Days. As scared as I am about writing a story that doesn’t live up to my expectations, I am even more fearful of letting my readers down.
T: What advice do you have for writers who are just starting out?
P: I would say to tell a story that comes from the heart. It doesn’t matter what genre you write, if you write a story that is vulnerable and comes from the deepest parts of you, flavored with your own experiences, fears, joys, and failures, your readers will be captivated.
But no matter how great your story is, you have to make sure that it is professional. Self-published writers don’t always have the biggest budgets. So, where should you spend your money? You need precise editing and a superior cover. Take the time to find a cover artist and editor that will be an asset to your career. Poor editing can interrupt the flow of the story and it will earn you less than stellar reviews. Always present your best work possible and the rest will fall into place.
T: What’s your number one marketing tip? What’s helped you get your name out there?
P: Networking. Whether you connect with other writers, editors, readers, bloggers, etc., online or in person, you have to network. Also, new writers are coming of age in the digital era of publishing. It’s easy to forget that you need to make personal connections. Schedule book signings, reach out to your readers on social media, and introduce yourself to booksellers everywhere you go. You’ll build a strong foundation of loyal fans that will support your writing platform and help you reach new readers.
T: What’s next for you?
P: In the next couple of months, 60 Days will release, which will free me up to begin my next project. I am also a featured writer in the upcoming anthology entitled Legacy, published by Velvet Morning Press. My short story is entitled “Gracie’s Gift,” and I can’t wait for everyone to read it. The anthology will be published sometime in April and all the proceeds benefit Paws for Reading. You can read all about it here.