Updated: Jan 31
Carolyn V. Hamilton lives the U.S. ex-pat life up in southern Ecuador’s Andes mountains in the Spanish colonial town of Cuenca, one of five UNESCO World Heritage Site in Ecuador.
When she’s not struggling with “Spanglish”, she likes to write books, create art journals, cook, and paint photo-realistic watercolors from her personal photo collection. She also likes chocolate, Border Collies, comedy, alpaca shawls, adult coloring, and lunch with girlfriends.
Raised as a nice Lutheran girl from Seattle, in the rainy Pacific NW area of the United States, she has no problem with lockdowns because as a child she learned to play quietly in her room. Gray, rainy days feel normal, and she regards sunshine with suspicion.
In addition to writing memoirs, fiction, and non-fiction, she loves to lead writing workshops and coach aspiring memoir writers.
Having published two memoirs (and a third “in the drawer”), she’s learned a lot along the way about the process.
Professionally trained as an illustrator and graphic designer, she spent over three decades working as a marketing executive and copywriter in the real world of Mad Men. Her BA, in Liberal Arts, is from Antioch University Seattle (where she discovered she could get legitimate credits for “life experience.”)
Carolyn’s other adventures have included two years’ service as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer in Suriname (chronicled in part in her memoir, HELP! I Married an Alien A Comedian), and a stint—in her “younger days”—as a Playboy Bunny.
And it’s true that she now shares her fifth-floor, penthouse-like condominium with that ex-husband, the stand-up comedian from Las Vegas.
What genre/s do you write in?
Mostly Mystery, but one romance, 2 memoirs, 3 adult coloring books & other Non-Fiction
How long have you been writing?
Seriously, since 2001. Before that, just advertising copy for print, radio, television & news releases.
Do you have any published books or articles?
Books by Carolyn V. Hamilton
ADULT COLORING BOOKS
Tell me a bit about these and what publishing route you took.
When I finished writing my first historical novel in 2004, Elizabeth Samson, Forbidden Bride, I wanted to publish traditionally. I sent out query letters to agents and gathered lots of rejections.
I was accepted by one agent who dropped me six months later. I Learned that his MO apparently was to contract new books, shotgun submits them to publishing houses, and drop them if nothing happened within six months.
I studied everything I could to learn about the publishing business. I became a book, tape, and seminar junkie. When I learned that the average length of time between being accepted by an agent and seeing your book in bookstores was two years, I became more interested in self-publishing. From another author, I met a small publisher who published my book for $800. We subsequently had some differences, and he never paid me one royalty. The money I made from that book came solely from what I sold through public speaking and book signings.
When KDP and Createspace launched around 2007, I studied as much as I could to learn to take advantage of it. I started my own publishing company, Swift House press, and have published through KDP ever since.
Did you use an editor? If so who?
Even though I work and offer services as an editor myself, for my own books I always hire another editor. That second pair of eyes is invaluable! I’ve used different editors for different books, depending on the genre.
Did you use a book formatter and cover designer?
I have a degree in commercial art (what they called it before “graphic design”), so I like to format books myself and design my own covers. Having said that, when I feel blocked about designing a cover for my own book, I hire outside services. I’ve tried 100covers.com, but wasn’t impressed with their results. I really like 99designs.com where you can run a contest and all their designers submit ideas. You only pay for the one you select.
Did you self-publish or get traditionally published? How did this go for you?
See my previous answer.
How do you market your work and promote your brand?(Include links)
I have a background in marketing and public relations, and I still had to study a lot to learn about marketing books. I continue to learn. Book marketing “gurus” I follow include Derek Doepker, David Gaughan, Nick Stephenson, and Joanna Penn.
I focus mainly on Amazon advertising and networking in Facebook groups. I started a FB group for memoir writers called Aspiring Memoir Writers, which now has 2,000 members. I am continuing to build an email list of memoir writers. I haven’t built a list specifically for my fiction and non-fiction books, but I have a large personal list of friends and family I e-mail occasionally. I have two websites, carolynvhamilton.com and SwiftHousePress.com
What social media and writing platforms would you recommend?
Every serious writer needs to be involved in social media. I focus on Facebook and Facebook groups. Writers’ Digest also has a website I think every writer should follow. I don’t do Instagram, and while I have accounts there, I don’t do much on Twitter or Pinterest. I think you need to focus on two or three things and do them well. I get a lot of solicitations from websites that offer to market books for authors, and I’ve tried a few but did not get any return for the investment. For next year, I plan to add Facebook advertising to my Amazon Advertising.
Do you use an agent?
No, because I’m not interested in traditional publishing.
Do you use paid advertising? If so what?
Amazon and Facebook only.
Do you have a blog or website?
When I write a blog post, I publish it first on carolynvhamilton.com, then recycle it for medium.com and Linkedin and I post it on my Amazon and Goodreads pages. I try to do this at least once a month.
I do send an email twice a week to my Aspiring Memoir Writers list.
What inspires you most to write?
Everything around me. Places I’ve visited, people I’ve met, interesting situations I see. All the situations and characters in my fiction books are based, though sometimes loosely, on people I’ve met. I’m always asking myself the question, “What if...?” I have a “drawer full” of notes and ideas.
What do you do to help with writers block?
I have never experienced writer's block, so I can’t answer this one.
How do you plan your writing and start?
I’m a “plotter”, not a “pantser.” I like to know where I’m going. I’m inspired by James Patterson, whose outlines are sometimes as much as 80 pages in length. I believe that any job, writing or otherwise, worth doing is worth planning in detail in advance.
Is writing your full time job? If not what else do you do?
I’ve had the luxury of being retired during my entire writing period. I now think of writing and publishing as my “encore career.” I also paint in watercolor and plan to explore an online gallery next year.
What are you working on at the moment?
I have what I call “the creative curse” so I find it difficult to focus on one thing at a time to completion. I getting ready to launch my next non-fiction book, “99 Writing Prompts For Memoir & Journal Writers Who Are Stuck” and a new adult coloring book, “Color Caro's Fabulous Fashion Hats.” I’m also working on a free 3-video mini-course to offer as a lead magnet in order to build my mailing list of memoir writers.
What is your target audience?
This depends on which product I’m marketing.
How long does it take you to write a book?
I’ve never timed myself, but if I really focus, I’m sure I could research and write a novel in 6 months.
When did you first discover you enjoyed writing?
In high school, I discovered a class called “Laboratory Writing.”
Who uses the word laboratory in the title of a class on creative writing? Some school administrators completely lacking in creativity?
We studied haiku, fables, how to write book reviews, journal entries, and magazine summaries. Homework included assignments to write each of these.
We studied serials, short stories, and novelettes. We studied the literary works of Erwin Shaw, William March, and, of course, Ernest Hemingway. We studied literary prototypes, rules for conflict and action, and how to write scenes and dialogue.
We studied types of poetry, and I fell in love with new multisyllabic words like predilection and onomatopoeia. Just saying them made me feel grown-up, worldly, and literary.
In my junior year, I wrote five short stories, garnering A grades for each of them. I also wrote my first personal essay, “The Phoenix Trip”, about a bus trip from Seattle to Phoenix, Arizona with my Job’s Daughters’ drill team, where we had won a grand championship. Though it had a much lengthier word count than the actual essay assignment, the teacher read it aloud to the class, and in response to my humor, I garnered my first laughs.
I loved that class so much that in my senior year; I repeated it. My notebooks from those two years contain all of my written assignments.
What is your writing schedule look like?
I try to write in the mornings. I’m lucky to be an early riser, so I have a couple of hours before I’m obligated to make breakfast. I try never to schedule meetings or outside tasks before noon.
What does your family think about you writing?
They seem to be impressed by my output, but I doubt any of them have read everything. I know one of my husband’s daughters has never read his autobiography, which I co-wrote.
What do you do when you are not writing?
I paint in watercolors, I read, and I like to cook and dine out with friends.
Where do you get information and ideas for your writing?
Life and the internet.
What do you think makes a good story?
Great stories are character-driven. Add to that strong motivation and conflict, especially emotionally.