Novel’s niche

........................................................................................................................................................................................

What would you do to make your dreams come true? What would you sacrifice, what morals would you compromise?

What would you do to make your dreams come true? What would you sacrifice, what morals would you compromise?

Julia M. Dendinger-News-Bulletin photo: Local author Loretta Tollefson finishes up the last few items for her website, www.lorettatollefson.com. Tollefson has been writing for four decades and has published her first e-book, “Crown of Laurel,” the story of a Seattle family struggling to survive the economic crisis of the 1980s.

That is the premise for Tomé author Loretta Tollefson’s newest book, “Crown of Laurel.” It follows the course of two young people, Deborah and Lawrence, as they strike out on their own in the city of Seattle.

But soon, economic crisis strikes and they each find themselves on the brink of disaster, watching their dreams slip away.

One compromises and finds a life of comfort. The other stays the course and devolves into homelessness and a life on the streets.

Many may peg this as current fiction, based loosely on the last five years. But Tollefson is showing us the very real picture of Seattle in the Reagan era, in the early 1980s.

“They were cutting social services, people were out on the streets, cutting arts programs, people out of work,” Tollefson said. “This was before Microsoft, what I call the ‘real’ Seattle.”

Tollefson wrote “Laurel” 30 years ago after she moved to Seattle in her early 20s and saw first hand the impact of that recession.

For the last three decades, Tollefson has been trying to publish the novel, to no avail.

“Every couple of years, I would send it out, but no one was really interested. If I had the money to co-publish it, sure,” she said.

But in keeping with the old adage that “the more things change, the more they stay the same,” the economy turned away from its upswing, once again putting the nation into a recession on the cusp of depression.

“I think that’s why it got published now, because of the way things are currently,” she said. “It’s about the ways a family survives, the choices they are faced with in order to survive and whether they are willing to make them.”

This is Tollefson’s first full-length novel, but hardly the first time she has been published.

Tollefson has been publishing fiction and poetry since 1975. Now living in Valencia County, she has earned two master’s degrees from the University of New Mexico, one in communications and the other in English literature.

Her writing also branched out with her study of Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel “Ruth,” which was published in The Gaskell Journal in 2011.

Her most recent poetic accomplishment was winning first place for “Herodias, Salome’s Mother” in the 2012 national contest sponsored by the Utah State Poetry Society.

She received her bachelor’s in Biblical Education from Multnomah University, and her studies there had an influence on the poetry in “Journey of the Shunammite.”

Tollefson has been writing for 40 years and had hoped to make a living as a writer, but life and children happened.

Nearly two years ago, she dusted off “Laurel,” figuratively since it was entirely digital at this point, and started submitting inquiries to various publishers.

She eventually found the all-digital, aptly named publishing company Untreed Reads. The company puts out books in all the available e-reader formats for Kindle, Nook and iPad, as well as digital versions in PDF and HTML for Mac and PC.

“I wanted to make sure there were formats available in digital for people who don’t have e-readers but do have computers,” Tollefson said. “The e-readers have become more prevalent, but not everyone can afford a device dedicated to nothing but reading books.”

The e-book has changed the old rules of publishing, Tollefson said.

“It used to be you couldn’t become a published author until you were a published author,” she said with a laugh.

Add to that, finding a publisher, editor and an agent, it’s not surprising many budding authors threw in the pen and moved on.

Tollefson said while there was some waiting on the road to publication, it was ultimately fairly painless. When Untreed Reads expressed interest in her book, she emailed the manuscript. No hunting up a sturdy envelope or box, and postage.

“A lot of mainstream publishing houses that still do mostly hard copy books are now accepting submissions electronically,” she said.

The company said it wanted to publish the novel about six months after submission and 10 months later, it was a done deal. The contract Tollefson signed was the most complicated part of the whole process, she said, but once a lawyer reviewed it, she was on her way.

Tollefson and the publishing company split the book sales 50/50, she said. A copy for a Kindle or Nook is $4.99. A package of all the digital formats is available for the same price directly from the publisher at www.untreedreads.com.

Tollefson said a standard publishing contract gives the writer 20 percent of each sale.

The advent of digital technology in general has sped up the writing process, Tollefson said. She originally wrote “Laurel” in long hand, then typed the pages out.

“You can think faster than you can write, and I’d have all these ideas coming, but eventually my hand would get tired and I’d just starting jotting down notes,” she said. “Now I write on the computer and can get everything detailed from the beginning, so that has really made editing faster.”

She has started blogging about her writing process on her website, www.lorettatollefson.com. The site also includes links to purchase her novel and book of poetry.

Tollefson says her poetry and fiction reflect her fascination with the way people justify the decisions they make.

She is currently working on a novel about a family with a winning lottery ticket and the resulting changes to their lives — it’s not as simple as it might seem.

The working title of her next book is “The Ticket,” which she also hopes to publish electronically.

“These books are both about relationships and, interestingly, they are both about financial issues. I’ve always had a strong interest in social economics,” she said.

“What they do to us as individuals and our relationships and the choices we make,” Tollefson said. “I’ve always been interested in the decisions people make and why.”


-- Email the author at jdendinger@news-bulletin.com.