Friday, October 29, 2010

Author Interview: Aggie Villanueva

Today, we'll learn a little about Aggie Villanueva, author of Chase the Wind, Rightfully Mine (God's Equal Rights Amendment), and, most recently, The Rewritten Word: How to Sculpt Literary Art, No Matter the Genre. Be sure to read my review of The Rewritten Word and Aggie's guest post on writing for the web, and read all the way to the end of this post to learn how one lucky person will win a free digital version of The Rewritten Word!

Jennifer Walker: Tell us a little about Aggie the professional writer. Why are you qualified to write this book (That's not accusatory, just to direct you :)), your published works, etc.

Aggie Villanueva: Hi Jennifer. Thanks so much for having me. I love how you qualify that this question is "not accusatory." Don't worry, in my opinion it's a perfect question.

And the answer is simple. I wrote The Rewritten Word: How to Sculpt Literary Art No Matter The Genre because I'm a horrible writer who had to learn to perfect the work in the rewrite. I had to discover exactly what rewriting even means. And If I can learn it, anyone can.

I'm not an English major, and I actually know very little about sentence structure and grammar rules. An editor once told me that I have an ear for language, like those who who have an ear for music, i.e. don't know how to read music but can play anyway.

But that doesn't go far when trying to consistently do it right. You need an understanding you can apply to everything you write, and successfully recreate the outcome -- like a science experiment. That's what I share in the The Rewritten Word, as simply and briefly as possible.

Jennifer Walker: Tell us about your next writing project.

Aggie Villanueva: Most likely it will be about the craft of marketing your writing. That's what I write about for my blog Visual Arts Junction, and the two marketing blogs I write for regularly, Orange Soda Blog  and the BookBuzzr blog. This fits well with my business as an author publicist at Promotion a la Carte. Some authors would rather do their own promotional work, at least for the most part, and I love sharing with them what I've learned along the way.

Jennifer Walker: Tell us about Aggie the person. What hobbies you enjoy, your family, etc.

Aggie Villanueva: I guess even in my hobbies, it's the real Aggie who takes over. I love my photographic art and often pack up 60 lbs of camera equipment, my dogs, a few days food and bedding and head for my beloved mountains.

I am blessed this carried over into family -- in September I was so honored to be the photographer for my daughter's wedding. As a landscapist I don't even own indoor lighting equipment. Talk about one nervous wedding photographer! But hopefully I didn't botch it too much.

Jennifer Walker: Why did you decide to write a book about rewriting?

Aggie Villanueva: When first beginning writing I had to translate those how-to-write books by scholars and editors. Literally. At first read they made no sense at all to an average drop out like me. And in the process of translating what they wrote into everyday language, I taught myself how to write with clarity and brevity without even realizing it. Kind of like backwards technology.

Now I finally had some understanding of the process to apply to all my writing. It takes more than just an ear for language to produce quality work. I just wanted to share that simplicity with other writers. There's no reason for how-to books to be complicated or lengthy.

Not to imply that I don't make mistakes. I certainly do. But, you don't have to be a scholar to write well. I have a sixth grade education and have worked hard all my life learning what I need to know for my chosen careers. It's not hard, you just have to work hard at it. And simplify, simplify, simplify.

If you're having a hard time understanding the how-tos of anything, try what I did -- translate their words into understandable ones. You'll be amazed at the advanced understanding you come away with.

As I say repeatedly, if I can learn it, anyone can. I just wanted to share what I've learned, not to imply that it is the be-all and end-all of rewriting.

Jennifer Walker: Tell us about how you first got published with your very first book, and how things have changed since then.

Aggie Villanueva: I co-authored my first novel, Chase the Wind, with Deborah Lawrence when I was 28. After we compiled the first three chapters and an outline of the rest we asked an author friend to critique it. She gave us excellent advice that we eagerly took, then sent it to Thomas Nelson, who accepted it. They also accepted my next book, a solo historical/Biblical fiction, Rightfully Mine. When it went out of print, I self-published a second edition of it in the summer of 2009.

Things have changed drastically since my first book, and all for the benefit of the author. Back then there were only two choices: traditional publishing and vanity publishing (not to be confused with modern-day self-publishing).

I wouldn't consider submitting my books to a traditional publisher of any kind now. The access to self publishing (not vanity or subsidiary publishing) is nothing but good for authors on every level, and I hope to take full advantage of the benefits.

Jennifer Walker: Tell us a little about Promotion A la Carte and why you decided to start it.

Aggie Villanueva: When I self-published my novel Rightfully Mine (God's Equal Rights Amendment) in 2009, I was also still promoting my photographic art. Promotion never ends. At my blog, Visual Arts Junction, I wrote what I learned about marketing as I went.

I guess people learned from it, because 10 months after I founded Visual Arts Junction, we were voted #5 at Predators and Editors in the "Writers' Resource, Information & News Source" category for 2009.

One day, about nine months after publishing and continually promoting Rightfully Mine, a marketing friend, Denise Cassino, checked Amazon and told me it had reached top ten sales in three categories. I was so excited I took screen shots to prove it!

My work was finally bearing some fruit.I founded Promotion a la Carte to offer author promotion for those who need a little help of the basic kind I learned while marketing and promoting for myself.

Though I'm a publicist now, I never stop writing about how authors can do all this for themselves. In fact, I recommend they do. There's so much we can all do on our own. And until you've worked it yourself, you don't appreciate what an author publicist does, especially if you don't see immediate sales.

Marketing has nothing to do with sales. Promotion is an area that you can't judge by return on investment (ROI), because the return may not happen for a few years. But it's a sure bet you'll never see any ROI unless you do the continual work of publicizing.

But we all need a little help from our our friends. I'd love to invite readers to consider a few of our services when that time comes for them. We've had some great comments from our clients and some of the top professional writers and reviewers in the business.. See our Clients Testimonials page:

Jennifer Walker: What are your favorite genres to read? To write? What draws you to them?

Aggie Villanueva: I like writing just about anything. I love reading fiction of any kind, but have been drawn to the supernatural since I saw my first horror movie at four. I'm sure what draws me is the similarities to the supernatural nature of my Christian faith.

My favorite is vampire stories. But I read very few of them because few are truly excellent. I fell in love with Anne Rice's intellectually and emotionally tortured vampire Louie. I never tire of their debate whether there is salvation for the undead.

For me, fiction must take me to another world and make me THINK and RETHINK.

Jennifer Walker: Do you have any interesting writing habits or quirks? Do you have to have silence, the TV on, your cat by your side, etc?

Aggie Villanueva: I don't know how interesting they are, but probably most would say everything about me is a quirk! I always love my dogs by my side, but who would keep them inside when the mountains call to them outside!

Yes, I like silence, and not just for my writing. But that means so much more than just no TV, music etc. I lived for years in the wilderness with no electricity or water. I learned there is no such thing as silence, but unless you turn off all the noise of civilization, you'll never hear the wondrous sounds of it.

Jennifer Walker: Where is your favorite place in the world to visit...or where would you like to visit most?

Aggie Villanueva: Nothing restores my soul like running to my beloved mountains. As I said above, I live to pack up my photography equipment, dogs, food and supplies and head for the wilderness. And I do it as often as possible. That's where all my photo art originates, and spiritual inspiration and probably most of my creativity.

Jennifer Walker: What is your favorite dessert?

Aggie Villanueva: Wow, that's a hard one. Probably a chocolate root beer float. Thanks, Jennifer, for this time. It was great fun answering these questions. And I look forward to answering or just talking with your readers. Please allow me to offer one of them a free ebook of The Rewritten Word in their choice of 10 electronic formats at Smashwords. You chose the winner, I'll supply it.

And thank YOU, Aggie, for stopping by! It was so much fun getting to know you. You heard her, readers...leave a comment on this post, and you'll automatically be entered in the drawing to get a free download of The Rewritten Word! I'll give you a few days to get in on the fun...make your comment by Monday at midnight, and I'll choose a winner and announce it on Tuesday!


Jo Brielyn said...

Thanks for the great interview, Jenn and Aggie! I really enjoyed reading your words. I have multiple questions for Aggie, but if I could ask only one it would be: "What one piece of advice would you give to fairly new authors about promoting themselves and their books?"

Donna said...

Very insightful, thank you! It's so inspiring to read about someone's success who began by having to overcome a major struggle. Wonderful words of advice to inspire hope and motivation, great interview and topic!

Cathy MacKenzie said...

Great interview!

Sharkbytes (TM) said...

This was quite interesting. I appreciate hearing from someone who has been successful that self-publishing has been viable. Thanks Jenn and Aggie.

Aggie Villanueva said...

Jo, you're certainly welcome. I had a blast with the interview.

Best advice: make sure you publish in electronic format too. It's so much easier and cheaper to promote.

The most popular service I sell as an author publicist (http://www.promotionalacarte) is our Interviews/Reviews.

Get yourself out there to every blog you can find for interviews and scour the web to make yourself a list of reviewers to submit to.

Use Amazon's services that are already in place, like tagging, your author page, and most importantly your choice of browsing categories (this determines how easy it will be to make best seller in the smaller ones).

I'm posting a new white paper report on how to make the most of Amazon's tagging system and what exactly it is for. They sell at and I'll have it up within a few days.

But check out all of the white papers (more added all the time), and if you email me your top choice I'll email you the pdf file free. I'm at

I guess that was more than one, but my biggest writing sin has always been verbosity!

Be sure to check out my blog where I teach author promotion.

Aggie Villanueva said...


Thankx so much for your kind words. If you want to check out our white paper industry reports and pick on for free, go here:

and then email me your choice:

Aggie Villanueva said...

Hi Sharkbytes,

Thank you. I appreciate your comments. The same goes for you, and all of our commentors:

If you want to check out our white paper industry reports and pick on for free, go here:

and then email me your choice:

Aggie Villanueva said...

And Jennifer, I am not forgetting you. The same thing, just email me your choice of white papers and I'll send it to you free.

And good luck in the book drawing everyone. I can't wait to give one away!

Jo Brielyn said...

Aggie, I appreciate your answer(s)! I've never been accused of being short on words either. :)

Thanks for the great information and the generous offer. I'll try to check out the links later tonight when I'm done with my work.

Aggie Villanueva said...

That's a deal, Jo! Talk to you then.