My guest today knows a lot about something near and dear to the hearts of many… chocolate! Doreen Pendgracs is the author of Chocolatour: A Quest For the World’s Best Chocolate. Here is a portion of the book blurb:
Chocolatour is all about chocolate travel in which the author takes the chocolate lover on a sumptuous journey around the world in search of the best chocolate, most passionate and innovative chocolatiers and chocolate makers, and most exciting chocolate events and attractions. Chocolatour makes a great gift book and contains 61 color photographs, most of which were taken by Pendgracs. The book also contains chapters on the health benefits of chocolate, the personalities of chocolate, where and how cacao (cocoa) is grown, chocolate pairings and recipes, and an A-Z Guide for Chocolate Lovers.
IDI – Good morning, Doreen. I believe that in all of the interviews I’ve done, and there have been many, the subject of your book probably interests the greatest number of people. And to be able to travel the world sampling chocolate… I would think that would be as close as one could get to a dream job.
You didn’t take the direct route to writing (books). When did you have your Eureka moment? When did you know you were born to be a writer?
DP – That’s such a funny question for me to answer! Back in 1987, I had my palms read by a fortune-teller. She looked very clearly at my hands and said, “Ah, I see you’re a writer!” I explained that I was an insurance underwriter (which I was at the time,) but she insisted that she very clearly saw me writing books in the future. In 1990, my employer closed our division, and I was able to get retraining in the field of communications. I excelled at magazine (feature) writing, and eventually evolved into writing non-fiction books.
IDI – We all draw from within and I believe there is an element of ‘us’ in everything we write. How much of you will a reader find in any given book?
DP – As I only write non-fiction, readers get to know me very well through my writing. In a previous guidebook that I wrote, I mentioned how climbing a lighthouse was difficult for me because of all the stairs (I have bad knees.) And in my book on volunteerism, I talk about all the various experiences I had volunteering for different non-profit groups. I don’t make anything up. It’s all real.
IDI – I’m sure that gives your audience a more personal feel.
What are you working on now? Can we get a peek, an excerpt maybe to tickle our taste buds?
DP – I can definitely ‘tickle your tastebuds’ with the taste of chocolate! I’m currently researching volume II of my Chocolatour series. Volume II will be called Chocolatour: A Quest for the World’s Best Chocolate Adventures and will focus on the experiential side of my chocolate travels with a look at chocolate spas and chocolate events around the world.
IDI – Give us a rundown of your ‘writing process’ from beginning to finished product.
DP – My writing process is strictly experiential. I almost never write about anything that I haven’t experienced firsthand. So for me, it has to be experience, ponder, and then tell the story. I am by nature, a storyteller, and by writing, I am able to share my stories with readers as though we are sitting around the same table sharing some chocolate and a glass of wine.
IDI – What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about writing? How has this helped you as a writer?
DP – For me, it’s very important to be authentic. I always write from the heart, and with a very true sense of realism. I’ve also learned that I can’t force the writing to come when I’m not ‘in the mood.’ When I am, the writing flows smoothly. When I’m not in the mood to write, I might as well do anything else, as the words and passion just won’t flow unless they want to.
IDI – Who’s your target audience? What aspect of your writing do you feel targets that audience?
DP – My target audience is people who love chocolate and are interested in travel. If you love chocolate, but aren’t able to travel, you can still get the feeling that you’re right there with me—whether it’s in the cocoa fields in Peru, or in a chocolate spa in St. Lucia. And if you do love to travel, my goal is to share stories with you that will inspire you to embark on some chocolate adventures of your own.
IDI – How much time/effort do you give to social media as a means of self-promotion?
DP – Far too much! I find that social media has been an invaluable tool for me, as I live in the boonies of rural Canada and don’t have a built-in readership within reach. So … I must connect with readers around the world via social media and hope they will find my writing intriguing enough to seek out my books or join me on real-life chocolate tours that I coordinate with travel agents.
IDI – Travel agents and chocolate tours… I’m jealous!
In your opinion, what are the biggest misconceptions new authors have about the publishing industry?
DP – That a publisher will take care of everything for you. That may have been the case several years ago, but in today’s world, a publisher expects the author to have a strong social media presence, and to help organize events that will promote their books. I’m a hybrid author having previously been traditionally published, and having self-published my latest book, and so I’ve worked under both scenarios and have learned the differences and the many similarities.
IDI – What advice would you give to new/unpublished authors?
DP – Network! I’m a strong believer in the power of networking, and have learned much from my colleagues in the Professional Writers Association of Canada, the Writers Union of Canada, and the North American Travel Journalists Association. I’m also a Toastmaster, and believe that every writer should join Toastmasters so that they can learn how to talk about their work and promote themselves in public.
IDI – What is the hardest or most frustrating aspect of writing?
DP – For me, it’s definitely having to market everything myself. I love writing and researching. And I love connecting with readers and chocolate lovers. But I think we writers all hope that our audiences will immediately find us when we publish a book, and that rarely happens. Especially when you live in a remote area as I do! So we have to spend a lot of time just finding readers by telling the world that we’re out here!
IDI – Last question. What do you do when you’re not writing?
DP – I love to travel! Travel fuels my passion for life, and for meeting fascinating people. I’m sure that’s why my writing evolved into travel writing, and why I’m happiest when I’m visiting new places and experiencing new things.
IDI – Thanks so much for joining me and maybe one day I’ll get to join you on one of your chocolate adventures!
For anyone who wants to connect with Doreen, you’ll find all of her social media connections on her website at http://chocolatour.net. On that new (soon-to-be-relaunched) site, she’s combined her three previous WordPress blogs into one mega site, where you’ll find posts about the writing life, about travel, and about the world of chocolate. She’d be honored to have you as a subscriber!