Welcome to AskALLi, the self-publishing advice broadcast from the Alliance of Independent Authors. This week it’s our monthly IndieVoices self-publishing salon with interviews conducted by ALLi Managing Editor Howard Lovy and updates from News Editor Dan Holloway, and special guest Rachel Thompson.
This Month’s IndieVoices Guest: Rachel Thompson
Rachel Thompson is an author and book marketing expert. Her series of books, Broken Pieces and Broken Places, about coming to terms with sexual abuse she suffered as a child, has inspired many other survivors to come out of hiding and seek help. In this episode, Rachel talks about the abuse, but also how writing the books and helping others brought healing after almost a lifetime of guilt and trauma. Her books and online forums, including her Twitter forum #SexAbuseChat, have been an inspiration to many other trauma survivors.
Also, Dan Holloway discusses the news. Amazon replacing libraries? And trouble on Prime Day.
On how she began writing about her childhood trauma: “Something like a death of somebody very close to you, or who used to be very close to you … can be a turning point in any person’s life, particularly for a writer, because we carry so much in our heart and in our brains that at some point we just need to get it out.”
On readers’ reaction to her first ‘Broken‘ book: “The response was overwhelming. People came to me from all over the world, emailing me DMing me, PMing me, with their own stories of being sexually abused. But they didn’t want to tell anybody else. They didn’t want to share it publicly, but I constantly was asked, ‘Can you create some kind of forum where we could get together and talk about it?”
Author reading: Rachel reads an excerpt from Broken Places called “Aftershocks.”
If you haven’t already, we invite you to join our organization and become a self-publishing ally. You can do that at http://allianceindependentauthors.org
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About the Hosts
Howard Lovy has been a journalist for more than 30 years, and has spent the last five years amplifying the voices of independent publishers and authors. He works with authors as a “book doctor” to prepare their work to be published. Howard is also a freelance business and technology writer, and is launching a new Jewish-themed podcast on Patreon. Find Howard on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Dan Holloway is a novelist, poet and spoken word artist. He is the MC of the performance arts show The New Libertines Earlier this year he competed at the National Poetry Slam final at the Royal Albert Hall. His latest collection, The Transparency of Sutures, is available on Kindle
Read the Transcripts
Howard Lovy: Trigger warnings, safe spaces who do these spoiled, privileged snowflake millennials think they are? In real life. They can’t be shielded from uncomfortable thoughts when I was their age and blah, blah. You’ve heard this before and maybe even agreed with it. The thing is, posttraumatic stress disorder is indeed a real condition and more people suffer from it then you’d think it not only impacts war veterans, but anybody who has suffered trauma in their past sights, sounds, smells, even something they read on twitter, can take them back to the trauma. Hi, I’m Howard Lovy, managing editor of the alliance of independent authors, and you’re listening to indie voices, where I to indie authors about their work. Today. We’re focusing on a serious subject, so I’d like to issue a trigger warning here. We will not go into any graphic detail, but today I am featuring an author and ally member who wrote a series of books, broken pieces and broken places about coping with the fact that she was sexually abused as a child and who now hosts chats about sex abuse on twitter. For the most part. I’m going to be quiet now and let my guest tell her own story.
Rachel Thompson: I’m Rachel Thompson and I’m an author and book marketing expert. I grew up in the Sacramento area, of fair oaks, which is a small little suburb and my folks had just moved up from the San Bernardino area, which is in the inland empire. My Dad was working for a drugstore chain that’s pretty well known out here in California, although they no longer exist. They were called Longs Drugs and he was a manager with them, well an assistant manager and he took a lateral transfer because he just wanted to get us out of the smog and northern California was growing. It’s pretty. And you know, he, he had my mom and two girls, my sister, older sister and I and he just said, you know, I don’t need the promotion. I just want to get out. And he just was, you know, they were really happy to be in an area where they felt like it was safe and it was suburbia. So where I lived, where my parents bought a home, there was just a ton of new construction and there were just very few neighbors. We’ve probably had six or seven neighbors on our street and then going down was just all new construction.
Howard Lovy: Rachel was 11 years old in the summer of 1975. It’s California. So the temperature was very hot.
Rachel Thompson: The people who lived next door to me had a pool and it was a family of about five kids and a mom and a dad. And the mom stayed home. The Dad was in the military but he was home a lot. And the mom, I mean I didn’t know this at the time. I was only 11 years old. She had some mental issues and so we just really didn’t see her very often. So my mom said, you know, why don’t you go make friends with girl next door, she’s in your grade. And it was summertime and I was going to be going into whatever, sixth grade I guess. Yeah, six I guess. And so, you know, I went over and said Hi. She said “Hi”. And we just sort of hung out a little bit and her dad seemed kind of weird, but, you know, just kind of quiet and staring and totally unlike my dad. My Dad was just like this kind of Nerdy, cool, mellow dude. Right. and then next thing you know, he’s taken the kids, all of the kids in the neighborhood on scooter rides and I’m, you know, hanging out with us at the pool and eventually, you know, it came to pass that he would take me on a scooter ride and he would spend more and more time with me and you know, do things to me that were not acceptable that a dad would not be doing. And I’m not going to go into explicit detail, but it was obviously, you know, he molested me. And he did this several times over the course of the summer. I didn’t understand what was happening. I was 11. I didn’t even have the language to discuss what was happening to me, to my sister or my parents. And I had a baby sister at that point and he threatened me, you know, he was in the military, he had a gun, he made me hold it in, is in my hand, and it was very heavy, especially for my little small hands. And he threatened both me, my, my sister, my baby sister, who I love more than anything. She was like my little life doll. And if I said anything to anybody, you know, he would kill me or my family and my room faced out to the street. But he would tell me that he would come over and look in my room at night, whether he did, I didn’t know or not, but I was terrified that he was going to do something and my, my baby sister’s room faced up to the fence on their side of the house. And he made a lot of threats like that. So I of course was just absolutely numb about the whole thing.
Howard Lovy: Why didn’t she tell an adult? Well, he threatened her family because there was a certain way he was grooming her. That made sense no to an 11 year old child.
Rachel Thompson: I knew that the only way if I was going to be able to go in a pool on a 107 degree, for example, summer day, was that I wouldn’t have to go through the machinations, the machinations of being around him so I could play with my friend Margie. I could go, you know, and I could go in their pool if, if I let him touch me in some way and if it doesn’t make any sense, and eventually of course I avoided going over there completely, but it’s like giving candy to a child. The kid will take the candy regardless of what they have to do to get it because that’s how an 11 year old’s mind works and it doesn’t work like an adult’s mind. So for us we would reason through it and say this is wrong. And of course I knew it was wrong, but I also didn’t understand how to make it right. So. And I was terrified to tell anybody because he told me that if I told anybody he would kill me or he would kill my sister. And of course I didn’t want that to happen.
Howard Lovy: Rachel wasn’t the only one. This man was molesting. He was caught. There was a trial and Rachel testified against him. His sentence? 18 months. So eventually he was back at home and Rachel was forced to see him almost every day through high school. But for a child, the aftermath was guilt.
Rachel Thompson: When we come forward with it, we think we’re in trouble. We think we did something wrong and as we grow up into adults, we carry that with us for so long and that stayed with her so many years. Even though logically as adults we say, well, why didn’t you come forward? Why didn’t you say anything? And I haven’t even written about that part yet. Howard. I think that’s probably going to go into my next book is, is that I thought I was in trouble.
Howard Lovy: It wasn’t until decades later in her forties that Rachel could go back and begin writing about her past. It started when she heard about the suicide of an old boyfriend. Then the word started flowing.
Rachel Thompson: Something like a death of somebody very close to you or who you used to be very close to you. I mean, I truly did love him even though we didn’t work out, is it can be a turning point in any person’s life, particularly for a writer because we carry so much in our heart and in our brains and at some point we just need to get it out.
Howard Lovy: The challenge from a friend convinced her to start writing and healing.
Rachel Thompson: The true impetus for me was a writer friend of mine had started a blog where he said, It’s just going to be letters to whomever you want it to be. Why don’t you write a letter to the child molester or the pedophile next door? And I said, no, I can’t do that. And he said, well, why not? And I said, well, I could do it, but I don’t think I’d want to share it because I, it would just be so angry and vitriolic. And he said, so, you know, just do it. A lot of people do that in therapy. And I had started therapy and I talk about that as well when my daughter was born and she’s almost 19 in a couple of days and I actually had gone into a deep depression after she was born, which is not uncommon for new mothers, but I was able to recognize that it was because I felt I couldn’t keep her safe, which was directly related to what had happened to me, particularly having a girl. So he and I got to talking about that and he said, well, you know, maybe that can go into your letter or maybe use it as some, as therapeutic kind of exercise and you know, maybe just don’t even send it. And I thought, Aha, right. You know, Dr. Gabe, okay, I’ll go ahead and do that. And it took me about six months to get in the right frame of mind to do that. And during that course of that six months is when d is how I referred to him. He had committed suicide, killed himself. And so it was this, this whole course of events that all of this occurred. And I wrote the letter and I, it maybe took me 10 minutes once I set my mind to do it, just came out. And then I had a friend of mine edit, edit it, and she said, you know, I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s great how it is. And so that’s really how that all came to be.
Howard Lovy: By that point Rachel was already a published author. She had written lighter satirical books, but with the breakthrough and discussing her abuse came, her book’s, Broken places and Broken pieces. Rachel is also an expert in book marketing, so she knows it’s not enough just to write a book. With her twitter talk, sex abuse chat with the help of trained psychologist. She regularly takes questions from those who want to talk.
Rachel Thompson: I started sex abuse chat in 2013 and I had released, Broken pieces, which is the first broken book in 2012. And you know, it was really interesting because I put it out there. It was really not part of my quote unquote branding my author branding, which was more about fun. And you know, I had written to humor books, as I said, they were just a satirical take on the silly things that women and men do and it was, one was called, A Walk In The Snark and the second one was called, The Man Code Exposed, and it really was just satire. It was just fun. I had written quite a bit of this on my blog and like I said, they did quite well. This was when KDP select had first started and the pool was really big and, and my books sold quite well and it was great. It was fun. And then, you know the, my ex-boyfriend killed himself and then I wrote the letter to the pedophile and just all these feelings started up and I started into recovery and obviously that sort of all changed. And then I released the book and I decided to go self-publishing because I had already self-published my first two books. And I had an editor, I had a graphic artist, I had a formatter I had my whole professional team in place and I knew that if I was going to self-publish I was going to do it professionally. I wasn’t just going to do it cheap and on the fly. I put a few thousand dollars into each book and I released the book and I thought, you know, I might lose my audience because it’s very different from what I had written, but I’m just going to go for it. And I thought we’ll see what happens. Well, the response was just overwhelming. People came to me from all over the world, emailing me, Dm-ing me, pm-ing me with their own stories of being sexually abuse, but they didn’t want to tell anybody else. They, they didn’t want to share it publicly, but they wanted some kind of like, I constantly was asked, can you create some kind of forum where we can all get together and talk about it? And I thought, well, how am I going to do this? And I was on a chat. Bruce Sallan is a wonderful man. He created Dad Chat and so I started talking to him and I said, you know what if I did some kind of sex abuse chat, and he’s like, well, you know, it’s, it’s kind of difficult because it’s such a revealing sort of subject. And I said, yeah, but you know, the point of putting my book out there was to take away the shame. I don’t feel shame about it anymore. I’ll talk about it. People can ask me about it. And he said, well, that’s how you feel about it Rachel, which is wonderful, but so many other people may not feel that way. And I said, okay, that’s fine. They can gawk but I really want to have a psychologist do it with me because even though we’re not a, you know, I’m not a psychologist and I never claimed to be one. I would definitely want to have that kind of a viewpoint from somebody who is. So eventually I connected with Bobbi Parish, who is a psychologist and she is trauma trained and she’s also an incest survivor. And then her personal and professional life just became so busy that I. We parted on great terms, we’re still good friends and collaborate on lots of different, you know, advocacy efforts. And I brought in two other gals. One has a master’s degree in social work and the other has a master’s degree in education. And so that’s C. Streetlights as the education coordinator. And then Judith Staff who’s based out of England is the social worker. And so they are my alternating co-hosts and we’re still there every Tuesday night at 6:00 Pacific time.
Howard Lovy: Rachel’s books about abuse all begin with the word broken. I asked her if she still thinks of herself as broken.
Rachel Thompson: I think to answer that question is there are moments where I still have flashbacks every day. They just come up. But they don’t break me down. It’s not like I’m lying in a, in a ball on the floor. I just stay. They come up and I just keep going. I do have occasional triggers which I write about in, Broken Places. And, sometimes they hit me and I don’t realize. You don’t know what a trigger is going to come up and how you’re going to, how it’s going to affect your, how you’re going to react to it. I do know that I’m thriving. My business is doing amazing. My kids are doing well. I have a wonderful man in my life. And so for the most part, I mean, I am cautiously optimistic that things are going well. And I, I have no issue saying that, you know, I have anxiety and depression. The meds helped me amazingly. I have chronic migraines that I get Botox injections for. We talked about that and you know, there are, there are daily reminders, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t thrive. It doesn’t stand in my way.
Howard Lovy: And now it’s time for the news with ALLi News editor, Dan Holloway. He’s a writer, a poet, a performance artist, entrepreneur, and as always I learn something new about him every time we speak now I find out he’s not just a marathon runner, but a special kind of crazy, an ultra-marathoner. Hi Dan. Good to talk to you again.
Dan Holloway: Hi. Good to talk to you.
Howard Lovy: So I’m fresh out of running metaphors, so I’ll leave those up to you. How far are you going to run and why?
Dan Holloway: Well, I, I run 50 kilometers last weekend and then next weekend I’m going to be running for 24 hours. So it’s a timed race rather than a distance race. I hope to run about a 135 to 150 kilometers in that time it feels not very far in 24 hours, but I’m sure when I’m there it will feel like a lot longer.
Howard Lovy: Twenty four hours is that, are you going around a track? I did it 24. One 24 hour run my life back in college and it was like 24 hours around a high school track and it was very boring.
Dan Holloway: It’s a 9 kilometer loop so it’s not quite as boring as running around a track. But it’s still really really tempting. And really possible just to stop at any point.
Howard Lovy: Right, right.
Dan Holloway: So that, that is the psychological battle, is not to stop when it gets really easy to stop.
Howard Lovy: Yeah. I have an 83 year old father who runs ultra-marathons and he’ll probably outlive me, but what I will say is that I find running, relaxing and great for great, for creativity. I usually get my best ideas while I’m running. The problem is when I sit down to write afterwards, the ideas are just gone. I need to somehow run with a recorder. So. Yeah. So stay hydrated. That’s my, that’s my only, only advice.
Dan Holloway: Thank you. What have you been up to recently?
Howard Lovy: Well, I’ve working for the last few years on a Jewish themed memoir and I used to write about Jewish issues a great deal about 15 years ago and I stopped for a little while because I just got into other things. I started writing about technology and business and science and then publishing, but now I’m getting ready to build hopefully an audience for the memoir. And so as part of that, I am launching a Jewish themed podcast on Patrion and I’m excited about it. I’ve done the interviews and now I’m working on production and hopefully I’ll have it done by the end of the month. I’ll read excerpts from the memoir and other authors are going to read from their books, but you know, we’re going to cover some, some issues of, of interest to the Jewish community and, and we’ll, we’ll see what happens.
Dan Holloway: So what do people pay month or per item?
Howard Lovy: they’ll pay per month for the low price of $5 a month. And A, it’ll be a sort of a proof of concept for me. I’ve been told that, it takes about six months for these things to really take off. So we’ll see if people are going to support it. If not, I’ll do it anyway because, you know, it’s something I, I’m enjoying doing. I’m thinking of it more of an audio documentary style rather than talk q and a. But we’ll see how it works out.
Dan Holloway: Excellent. I look forward to it.
Howard Lovy: So I’ll let you do your news report now, but I’m wondering if a certain writer for Forbes magazine is now in the witness protection program, hiding from angry librarians. Tell us what happened.
Dan Holloway: Well, there was a very interesting story that basically made the case that we should get rid of libraries and instead of libraries, we should have Amazon bookstores everywhere because they did exactly the same thing, but for much better value for money of course, and all that. That was basically it. And this wasn’t a very popular article, needless to say. It got a lot of publicity from librarians, but also from writers and readers from, from basically everyone wondering if the author would have been in the library. Or knew the first thing about what libraries do.
Howard Lovy: Or what librarians do.
Dan Holloway: Yeah. They take people’s computer literacy though. Yeah, they are. They’re the absolute center of any community that they’re part of in way that positively isn’t. That leads us into Amazon and Amazon have very much been at the front of the news this month. largely because it was Amazon Prime Day, on July the 16th and 17th. I think I’m right in saying. They’ve redefined a day as 36 hours this year. I think their days are 30 hours last year and this year it’s 36 hours.
Howard Lovy: I guess if you’re Amazon, you get to do that.
Dan Holloway: You do? Yes. They probably have drones that go around the world very quickly. That happened. The main news from that seems to be that within a couple of hours of starting the surface crashed and instead of getting fabulous product deals, customers logged in and all they could see was pictures of Amazon staff’s dog’s saying we’re sorry.
Howard Lovy: So another reason why Amazon will not replace your local library.
Dan Holloway: Well, yes, it was. I’m sure it was a very successful day, but it was a bit fascicle.
Howard Lovy: So. So tell me what, what, what’s the thought behind it? Everybody just get on Amazon all at once and crashed the servers and buy a bunch of stuff.
Dan Holloway: Yeah, that’s the non-conspiracy version.
Howard Lovy: Okay. Well tell me the conspiracy version.
Dan Holloway: The conspiracy version is almost certainly not true. It was just phony. This was, this was the day of the Trump, Putin summit, and as I’m sure listeners are aware, I’m certain there’s a certain animosity between the president and Jeff Bezos.
Howard Lovy: I’ve heard.
Dan Holloway: And, and the, the, the summit didn’t, it wasn’t an unfriendly affair and there’s the whole whether or not Putin might have any influence over people who are particularly good with computers and whether these three facts could be lined up to.
Howard Lovy: Oh ok, so they’re not going with our election was hacked by a, by an overweight kid in his mother’s basement anymore. Right now it’s all a, it’s all Jeff Bezos his fault.
Dan Holloway: So, but, but I think it’s much more likely that the in [inaudible] have a clue how many services they need.
Howard Lovy: I find that most conspiracy theories can be explained by incompetence rather than conspiracy.
Dan Holloway: Exactly, yes.
Howard Lovy: What else is happening in the world of Indie publishing?
Dan Holloway: Some good news is we have new, new partnerships from both Smashwords and PublishDrive. Which Smashwords is sort of the oldest and it sort of, I think as Indies we feel slightly fondly towards it even if we don’t actually use it anymore as a publishing platform. Because Mark Coker such a great advocate of indie authors, they have now partnered with a new magazine called Romance Daily News and that will be featuring Smashwords books, has recommended choices on a daily basis as well as having bestseller lists based on all the sales of Smashwords books in the very fact too, which it distributes. So that will be interesting. That’s, that’s a nice touch and they’ve always done best with the romance authors. So I think that’s probably quite, quite a good move to focus in on that.
Howard Lovy: Do you publish on Smashwords still?
Dan Holloway: Yeah. I have a couple of books there. That aren’t on KDP Select that books that have been there for the best part of a decade now. Right?
Howard Lovy: Oh, okay. But not romance. I’m assuming you’re not a romance writer or maybe you are.
Dan Holloway: I, I have, I have a romance pseudonym and I have a couple of titles, but they’re not on Smashwords.
Howard Lovy: Oh, you do? Really?
Dan Holloway: No. I do.
Howard Lovy: I did not know that. That’s another new thing I just learned about you. You’re a romantic.
Dan Holloway: Oh, certainly. Certainly. I’m certainly a romantic with a small and large “R”. PublishDrive, one of the most forward looking of the distribution platforms and they have partnered with Dangdang, who is a Chinese retailer, so that will enable all of our, they’re authors have access to the Chinese market. That’s quite an interesting move. It’ll be interesting to see if this is the start of Smashwords becoming more of a niche focusing on the romance, whereas other forms are looking to go wider and wider.
Howard Lovy: So they seem to be among the best-selling self-published titles. Aren’t they? Romance novels.
Dan Holloway: Readers, readers and writers of Romance have always been at the forefront of the indie movement. They seem to like eBooks much better than a lot of other genres because people just read so much.
Howard Lovy: Okay, well I’ll let you go now. I want you to get a lot, a lot of rest and lots of liquids. And, and I think you’re supposed carb load either , the day before or two days before. I’ve heard various things. You have to have a spaghetti dinner a couple of days before.
Dan Holloway: Yeah, typically when you’re running, you just eat all the time.
Howard Lovy: Okay, well good luck. Hopefully you’ll be back next month.
Dan Holloway: Certainly will.
Howard Lovy: And live to tell us about it so you. All right. Thank you Dan.
Dan Holloway: Thank you very much indeed.