iUniverse author Louisa Oakley Green’s Sightseeing in the Undiscovered Country has recently been named to the Huffington Post’s Best Self-Published Books of 2016! Here’s Louisa to tell us more about her book and her journey as an author.
It isn’t often something occurs that turns your sense of reality on its side. But that’s just what happened to me more than 20 years ago when I met my psychic husband, Stephen.
I worked as a journalist and science writer. And back in those days I was also a strong skeptic about anything paranormal. I mean—really—why should anybody believe in that stuff? But the universe has a sense of humor and I ended up falling in love with a quirky guy who, other than thinking he was psychic, seemed reasonably normal. Oh, and he also came from a family of psychics. They didn’t do readings for a living. They all had normal jobs. But they had this ability….
After a while I found myself surrounded by remarkable clairvoyants and mediums, so I began referring to myself as a psychic bystander. (Did I mention I have no detectable psychic ability myself?) Over the years, I experienced events through my husband’s family and friends that couldn’t be explained. It piqued my curiosity and I eventually found myself writing my first book in the Psychic Bystander™ series, Loitering at the Gate to Eternity: Memoirs of a Psychic Bystander. It retells more than 100 true stories from everyday people about their psychic experiences—including contact with the dead, out-of-body adventures, premonitions and more. The fact-based side of me added the history of many of these phenomena in various cultures through the millennia.
When I attended book signings, people handed me their contact information and asked if they could be included in my second book. It surprised me that people assumed there would be a sequel. But eventually, there was. Sightseeing in the Undiscovered Country: Tales Retold by a Psychic Bystander is a second anthology. This one includes more than 100 tales about dead relatives who insist on having the last annoying word, ghosts behaving badly, inspiring near-death experiences and dreams foretelling the future. In this sequel, the science writer in me added highlights from recent university and military studies into consciousness, near-death experiences, reincarnation and more.
People in these anthologies have worked in fields such as healthcare, education, finance, engineering, marketing, entertainment, pastoral services and law enforcement. In essence, they are the bedrock of our society. When you finish reading their personal accounts, perhaps like me, you may never view “reality” the same way again.
In the science area, the book that had the biggest influence on me was The ESP Enigma: The Scientific Case for Psychic Phenomena by Diane Hennacy Powell, MD. She is a neuropsychiatrist who taught at Harvard Medical School and her interest in the paranormal, like most people’s, came from a personal experience. Another important book was Journey of Souls by Michael Newton, PhD. He interviewed numerous people through hypnosis not about their past lives, but what they did in between lives. Both books provided a philosophical foundation upon which to understand the many people I interviewed for my two books.
What inspired you to write your book, and how long did it take you to finish it?
This book wasn’t planned—it just happened. One day I woke up and decided to start writing down stories about my husband Stephen’s forty years of psychic experiences. Then, like a pebble tossed into a pond, chapters began rippling out over several months. When I finished writing down Stephen’s tales, my interviews expanded to include his family. The next concentric circle consisted of our friends, who then suggested other friends. The first book took nine months to write and polish. The second book took longer because some of the people I interviewed were from as far away as New Zealand.
What is the one message you would like to convey to your readers?
Well, you know that old cliché about writing what you know? That’s exactly what I did.
Are you working on a sequel to your book?
I’ve written two books on the subject and decided to take a break to get a master’s degree so I can teach in community college. Once I get my degree, I will resume writing.
Are there any events, marketing ideas or promotions planned for your book?
The first promotional step I took with my books was to create a professional website. My site is www.psychicbystander.com and it’s hosted on WordPress, which is free. It includes the Paranormal Ramblings blog, which I drive traffic to from my social media sites.
I maintain a social media presence with a business Facebook page (business so you can advertise) as well as regular Twitter and LinkedIn sites. Having a social media presence takes time, but very little money.
I’ve been on more than 75 radio shows from Alaska to England. You can too. Just use your favorite search engine to research the shows and podcasts that specialize in your subject matter and then find an intriguing angle you can talk about on their show. Send a teaser document by email and wait for them to reply. I’ve also done book signings and lectures up and down the east coast, but I find that while they are fun, you sell more books with radio and Facebook ads than personal appearances.
At the suggestion of my iUniverse editorial consultant, I entered my second book into several contests. My book was a finalist in the National Indie Excellence Awards and a Winner in the Indie Reader Discovery Awards. Recently, Sightseeing in the Undiscovered Country was named as one of the best independent books of the year by both the Huffington Post and IndieReader websites.
My book was well reviewed on Kirkus and I ran some ads there, but have no idea if that sold any books. It’s fairly expensive. I wrote press releases about it to try to get some mileage out of it. But honestly, for the money, I’ve probably sold more books through radio and Facebook ads.
What was your favorite part of your publishing experience, overall and with iUniverse?
My first iUniverse editorial consultant was an absolute treasure. He brought decades of publishing-industry experience to the table and taught me the format of how books are written, which was priceless. Among the things I didn’t know: Your table of contents has to sell your book, so make sure it’s enticing.
Finally, what advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Well, I think success in this industry, in terms of sales volume, comes down to a few things: 1) Good writing skills and the humility to listen to editorial consultants and editors when they suggest you revise something. 2) Money. Yep, hate to sound cynical, but I think my book could be much more successful in terms of sales volume if I had the money to promote it more extensively. Such is life. So I promote it inexpensively through radio, press releases and social media. 3) Luck. Even if you are short on funds, sometimes the right person sees your book and it just takes off. You never know.