by Pamme Boutselis
SNHU talks with Carole Brody Fleet, the award-winning author of “Widows Wear Stilettos” and “Happily Even After: A Guide to Getting Through (and Beyond) the Grief of Widowhood.” Fleet is also the founder and CEO of Widows Wear Stilettos, Inc., where the widowed of all ages find support and encouragement, along with helpful tips, education and resources. She is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post and appears on television and radio shows nationwide speaking as in expert in grief and loss recovery.
Have you always written or did your first book come about as you worked through your grief?
Five years after becoming widowed, I decided to write the first book. I intentionally chose to write in the self-help genre, rather than autobiographically (except where I use my own experiences anecdotally) and I knew that before I could knowledgeably and wisely provide advice and direction, I first had to have made all of the practical and emotional transitions myself. You cannot adequately lead where you have not yet been and for that reason I did not begin writing until well after I had recovered from my own tragic loss.
When did you know you had a story to share?
Quite simply I could not find the specific help and support that I needed when I needed it. I had found (and own) plenty of books that talked about grief – and ONLY grief. That is fine for awhile, but I had many other issues as well. For example, how do I get benefits from the government? How do I help my grieving child when I cannot even help myself? How do I handle the silly (at best) or downright insensitive (at worst) things that people are saying to me? What about my wedding rings? Dating again? Intimacy? Who is that person staring at me in the mirror, because I definitely do not recognize her. I knew that if I had once had these questions, there were millions of other widowed who had these issues (and many more) as well – and as I’m so fond of saying, “If you can’t find it – CREATE it.”
What was the most challenging part in writing your book?
When it comes to the actual writing of the books, the most challenging part is knowing when to stop. Many authors panic when they are told how many thousands of words are expected from them. I am the exact opposite – I panic when I have a word limit imposed! Knowing when to stop writing on one book and conserve material for subsequent books will always be my biggest challenge.
Did you have a book deal prior to writing the book or did you pursue one during the writing of the book or its completion?
I had no book deal, nor did I even have an agent prior to writing the book. I secured an agent during the writing process and he secured a book deal thereafter.
How important has self-marketing been for you?
Self-marketing (and more importantly, the willingness to self-market) is absolutely paramount to any author’s success. Agents absolutely love someone with the willingness to market their book and publishers love it even more. You cannot reasonably assume that the agent or the publicity department in a publishing house is going to do all of the marketing on your behalf. You must be involved in your own process.
I knew that to get the attention that my first book needed, I would need a strong platform. This was something that I was willing to work hard toward from the very beginning and that I am willing to work hard on to this day. It is this willingness that has directly contributed to my success both as an author and as a speaker. Because of the willingness to participate in my own marketing process, I can look at anyone who asks about my platform and say, “Yes I have one, here it is and by the way, it was initially built without a published book in my hand.”
Many authors are unwilling to go the extra mile. They instead honestly believe that marketing is the job of the literary agent or the publisher’s publicity department, which is completely unrealistic. You must have an attitude of willingness – to build your platform, go to bookstores to introduce yourself and schedule signings and discussions and in general, to be integrally involved with the marketing of your book. When an agent and a publishing house see that you are not only willing to market your book, but that you take proactive steps to do so, you then become the dream client that all authors should strive to be.
How has your life been enriched by your books?
At the time, I had no idea that what was originally intended to be only one book was actually going to become the first in a series of books, a CD and a non-profit global support organization. On a business level, I am enriched by all those who have gone before me who were told, “It can’t be done” and did “it” anyway. The people who have had doors slammed in their faces and choose instead to break down the door rather than give up and walk away will always be my source of enrichment and motivation. On a personal level, I am constantly enriched by the hundreds of thousands of widowed that come into my life. Their stories and their collective determination to recover from their respective loss situations is a continuing source of enrichment for me.