Patricia: Honestly, I don’t remember a time I wasn’t writing. I was the little kid sitting at the kitchen table scribbling stories on sheets of lined paper that I’d staple together into “books.” I wrote letters to distant relatives and plays for my Girl Scout troop, won an essay contest on the Statue of Liberty in sixth, at 11 and 12 submitted script ideas to TV producers, wrote for my high school and college newspapers. So, pretty much forever.
PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?
Patricia: I’m easy to please. First time I saw my byline, I felt like I’d hit the big time.
PJ: Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?
Patricia: I had a fantasy of being a foreign correspondent, hop scotching the globe and writing about war and exotic places. That never happened, but as a nonfiction writer I learned that interesting stories exist everywhere and that the most ordinary people often face extraordinary challenges. When I turned to fiction, I realized that the raw material for complex and interesting stories lies within, drawn from experience and imagination.
PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?
Patricia: Some authors, like some athletes, are extremely wealthy. Then there are the rest of us who play for the love of the game.
PJ: Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?
Patricia: My focus hasn’t changed at all, other than a temporary hiatus to help promote my debut novel. My main objective is still to get published — again.
PJ: How long did it take you to get published the first time?
Patricia: From the time I submitted the manuscript to the University of Wisconsin Press, about 18 months. But before that, I spent a couple of years querying agents who had nice things to say but never quite enough of them. And before that, I worked on and off for several years writing and revising drafts of the book.
PJ: Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?
Patricia: I would have started writing fiction earlier and not taken rejection as much to heart. Rejection is not the same as criticism; honest critiques are invaluable and can make one a better writer. Rejection bleeds the soul and sows doubt.
PJ: Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?
Patricia: I set goals, prioritize and make lists. Submitting and promoting can consume enormous chunks of time, so I make sure to carve out space for writing — preferably every day but during periods when that’s not possible, I set aside specific days and times to write or revise.
PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?
Patricia: Shortly after the University of Wisconsin Press catalog previewing my book, the events coordinator from a library called the publicity department asking for my contact information because she wanted to schedule an event. It was so reassuring to realize people were interested in my work.
PJ: What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?
Patricia: At one point, I worked with an agent who promised an auction for an early novella and came up with zilch. I was crushed.
PJ: What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?
Patricia: I “opened” for Scott Turow at the recent World Book Night event at The Book Cellar in Chicago.
PJ: Wow, I bet that was exciting! With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?
Patricia: My work focuses on ordinary people faced with unusual circumstances; as such, I believe my fiction is a reflection of real life and presents the kinds of stories to which readers can relate.
PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?
Patricia: Don’t give up, but at the same time never stop working to improve your craft. If you kneel at the altar of your own words, you will never get better. Learn to edit and revise, and then to do it again.
And, remember, that while you work as an individual, you are still part of a larger community. It’s important to network and reach out to other writers. You will learn from others and benefit from their support.
PJ: What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?
Patricia: The personal touch is always good but it’s hard if not impossible to do all the promotional work yourself; build a team: hire a publicist if you can, work closely with the publisher’s PR department, use all the contacts you can muster.
PJ: What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?
Patricia: Cold calling by phone to introduce myself and the book.
PJ: Do you have a local independent bookseller you’d like to mention?
Patricia: Living in Chicago, it’s impossible to name just one! My list would include Women and Children First, Centuries & Sleuths, The Book Cellar and The Book Stall, but even that isn’t complete.
Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:
Death Stalks Door County is my debut novel, introducing The Dave Cubiak Door County Mysteries.
Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title:
Death Stalks Door County pits a clever killer against a former Chicago cop in a story of greed, revenge and lost love set in America’s heartland.
Where can we buy it?
Death Stalks Door County has national distribution; you can find it on the shelf of or order from a local bookseller or the University of Wisconsin Press as well as Barnes and Noble and Amazon.
PJ: What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?
Patricia: I drove the tractor during hay baling season on my grandmother’s farm — something most people would never guess about someone growing up in the city.
I originally intended Death Stalks Door County as a stand alone mystery but became so attached to my protagonist, I felt compelled to continue telling his story.
A lifelong Chicagoan, Patricia Skalka is a former Reader’s Digest Staff Writer and award-winning freelancer, as well as one-time magazine editor, ghost writer and writing instructor. Her nonfiction book credits include Nurses On Our Own, the true-story of two pioneering, local nurse practitioners.
Website URL: www.PatriciaSkalka.com
Blog URL: www.booksinbrief.net
Facebook URL: https://www.facebook.com/patricia.skalka.1