Anne-Rae Vasquez authored Gathering Dust – a collection of poems, published by AR Publishing Inc. and Teach Yourself Great Web Design in a Week, published by Sams.net (a division of Macmillan Publishing). She wrote the novel and screenplay and directed Almost a Turkish Soap Opera, an award winning feature film and series produced by Joseph Khalil, Sababa Emporium Film Productions (http://www.sababaemporium.com) produced the feature film and series.
Details of the film production is at http://www.almostaturkishsoapopera.com.
1. How did you come up with the title of your book?
I wrote Almost a Turkish Soap Opera to focus on the challenges that people face when trying to immigrate into a country—all in the style of a Turkish soap opera thus the title. Why Turkish soap operas? Well, in the last few years, I have become addicted to watching Turkish soap operas dubbed in Arabic.
A few years ago, I was interested in learning the Arabic language and had guests from the Middle East stay at my home as guests for two months. I thought that immersing myself in the language would jump start my fluency. During this time, they both got me hooked on watching Turkish soap operas which, I found out, are very popular in the Middle East, Europe and even Asia. The shows are dubbed or subtitled in many languages. It is a fantastic way to learn Arabic and also the Middle Eastern culture of which I knew very little of.
From watching the shows, it was fascinating to see generations of a family living in one household for both the rich and the poor. I enjoyed the cultural humour and drama and was amazed that similar issues we face here in Canada are also encountered in their society, such as affairs, betrayals, divorce, political and religious differences, etc. I learned about arranged marriages with cousins, a practice that is still common in Arab speaking countries and in Turkey. The stories, I was told by the husband, of course, are exaggerated with mafia encounters, action, guns, murder and provocative kissing scenes. Each episode is full of colour, drama, tears and excitement, all against the beautiful backdrop of either Istanbul’s seaside or a smaller quaint Turkish city.
2. What is your writing environment like?
I work from my small cozy home office with a small desk, laptop, 42 inch led monitor (for my film editing work) and desktop tower. I am close to my kids who are just outside the door with enough privacy to focus on my work.
3. What is your favorite quote? Why?
“You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching,
Love like you’ll never be hurt,
Sing like there’s nobody listening,
Work like you don’t need the money,
And live like it’s heaven on earth” by William W. Purkey
My favourite quote by William Purkey “You gotta dance like there’s nobody watching…” sums it up for me. Life is too short to waste. From my experiences and travels, I have seen so many people in the world who have so very little and yet they appreciate the little they have. This sense of appreciation seems to be missing in the lives of people I encounter here in middle class North America. I hope that my writing can help inspire those to take the time to enjoy the moment while reaching for the stars.
4. How has your upbringing influenced your writing?
Like the characters in the story, I reflected on the journey my parents experienced immigrating to Canada in the early 1970s. Learning the language, trying to find employment in the industries that they graduated in, and making Canada their home were challenges they faced. We lived just below the poverty line and I remember trying my best to pretend that I was just like the other middle class kids in school. When my father lost his business in the 1980s during the recession, the bank took our home and we were left in the street. It was a humiliating experience, and one I will never forget. However, one learns from their experiences and as I grew older, I realized that many people face even greater hardships. I tend to write stories about people from different cultures and backgrounds as my interest is in multicultural and sociocultural issues.
5. What inspires you to write?
Writing about the every day lives of people from different backgrounds interests me the most. What really inspires me to write is when I am learning about a new culture or language. I enjoy immersing myself in the culture and learning about the local dialect, idioms, cooking techniques, beliefs and traditions, cultural and political issues.
6. What do you consider the most challenging part about writing a novel, or about writing in general?
The most challenging part about writing a novel, is finding the time to do it. With having a busy life, full time job, kids to raise, and other projects, it is almost impossible to write. However, with simple planning and time management, a writer can overcome these challenges.
When Sams.net/Macmillan Publishing commissioned me to write “Teach Yourself Great Web Design” in the late 1990s, they required me to follow very strict deadlines within a very structured framework and timeline. They asked me to write a draft table of contents, chapter titles and a short synopsis for each. I learned from this process that as a writer you simply have to organize your content and establish how the story will flow before you write your first sentence. Once this is established, you can determine how many chapters you will complete over a certain period of time and then stick to your timeline. I have used the same project planning and management principles in all my projects—writing, filmmaking, and web design.
7. Did you learn anything while writing this book? If so, what was it?
While writing my book, I learned that I had to look at each of my projects as products. Before I even started writing, I needed to make a business plan on how I intended to produce, market, and sell my products which in this case was a novel, feature film, and web series. Unless you can hire a marketer, you need to be your own publicist from day one. What I also learned is to know when to use professionals to help with marketing because there are things I can’t do all on my own.
8. What have you done to promote this book?
Almost a Turkish Soap Opera was adapted into an independent feature film and web series, produced by Joseph Khalil, Sababa Emporium Film Productions. The film and series won awards and screened in US and Canadian film festivals.
The producers wanted me to publish the novel after the festival run of the feature film in order to market the feature film first, using the web series to gather interest in the story. The series has since been syndicated on iTunes, blip TV, YouTube, Daily Motion, Web Series Channel, OpenFilm and other sites. The book is to be launched on October 24th and will hopefully attract interest from the existing fan base. In November, Pump Up Your Book has arranged a Virtual Book Tour with bloggers and book reviewers. In addition to this, I have book give-aways on GoodReads.com and LibraryThing.com and an author chat scheduled to interact with winners of the book give-away.
9. What are some of the best tools available today for writers?
The best tools available for writers today are all the social media platforms available, blogs, self-publishing services, online book marketing services and online communities and groups dedicated to books. Writers need to do their research on the different ways they can network with other authors and readers. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, GoodReads, Smashwords, Amazon, LibraryThing are sites I highly recommend. WordPress or Joomla are good content management systems to use when building an author’s website as they are easy to install and have tons of free apps.
10. Is there anything else you would like to share?
When I’m not busy writing, cooking, filming, you’ll find me writing on my blogs, tweeting the universe, and or uploading videos to my YouTube channel. You can find my blog at www.anne-raevasquez.com, follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/write2film, watch my web series on YouTube (www.youtube.com/3arnb9/), or follow me on GoodReads at http://www.goodreads.com/annerae .
Note from the author:
“The popularity of Turkish soap operas or TV series’ in the Arab speaking world, Europe and Asia is not well known here in the West. The Turkish TV series’ storylines are packed with jealousies and misunderstandings in family life and marriages, mafia encounters, economic problems and societal pressures, which all make for great drama. What I find fascinating in watching Turkish soap operas is how the Middle Eastern culture is woven into the modern way that Turkish people live which has influences from the Western and Eastern societies. I thank our producers Sababa Emporium Film Productions for allowing me to retell the story with so many different lenses – as a feature film, a short and as a series.” – writer/director/associate producer, Anne-Rae Vasquez
Aside from her artistic work, Anne-Rae Vasquez also manages a web design, production and learner support team, specialized in distance and blended learning at the University of British Columbia in Canada. Her expertise in HTML authoring, Web and multimedia design, and project and database management and being a graduate of the Internet Publishing Certificate Program at the University of British Columbia, has provided her with the opportunity to work with many talented people in the industry. She has over 14 years of experience in distance learning and her expertise is in producing and delivering top notch online courses at university level standards.