Expat Focus talks to Lindsay de Feliz about her new book, "What About Your Saucepans?", the extraordinary true story of her move from the UK to the Dominican Republic.
Lindsay, please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am British, and left the UK in 2001 to become a scuba diving instructor and travel the world. Prior to that I was a University lecturer and Marketing Director for financial companies in the City of London. I travelled to the Maldives, Singapore, Borneo, Thailand and Menorca before ending up in the Dominican Republic in November 2001. And there I got stuck. I am still living in the DR, together with my Dominican husband, 4 dogs and 7 cats. We started off in a tourist resort, on the Caribbean Ocean, where I was working as a diving instructor, then moved to a small town in the centre of the country, and now we live high up in the mountains, where we have a little finca (farm).You recently published ‘What about your saucepans?’ – briefly, what is the book about?
The book is about the last 11 years of my life. What made me leave the UK and the comfortable lifestyle I had there, and why I stayed in the Dominican Republic. It covers my relationship with my Dominican husband and the challenges of merging two cultures; becoming a step mother to his three children; how I was shot during a burglary and my husband’s attempt to enter politics. It is a story of the real Dominican Republic, one the tourists don’t see, covering the good and the bad.
How did you come up with the title?
I didn’t…my mother did! I was very nervous about telling her and my dad that I was leaving my husband, my country and my job and off to travel the world diving. I had no idea what she would say. What she said was, “What about your saucepans?” as she and dad had bought me an expensive set of saucepans for my birthday and Christmas just before I left. As you can imagine that was not the response I expected!
What type of audience do you feel 'What about your saucepans?' will appeal to?
I think it appeals to a wide audience. Firstly those people who are married to Dominican men, who will love reading about the challenges in our relationship as they will be able to identify with them. Secondly those people who live in, visit or love the DR, as they also will be able to identify with my experiences. Women love it as it is a love story. Men love the adventure, and the danger that we experienced. Expats from all over the world enjoy reading about other expat experiences and can identify with the different stages of culture shock. And Dominicans who speak and read English love it, as they like to hear what foreigners think about their country.
What was the hardest part of writing your first book?
The hardest part was actually learning how to write in the right way.
Once I had written everything down it was more ‘this happened, then this happened’. I had to totally change it to ‘show not tell’. That is I could not say ‘I was angry’, I had to show that I was angry – “I threw the coffee cup across the room in rage”. I had to do that throughout the book. In addition I had to put much more dialogue in, rather than just describing what happened, and at first I found that difficult too.
The other challenge was to work out how people would speak, as they were speaking in Spanish, so somehow I had to show that without actually writing in Spanish. And finally I had to describe things much more so that the reader could picture the person or the place.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I would make it longer. People seem to read it in one or two sittings. It is lovely that they say they could not put it down, or that they stayed up all night reading it, but I think I should have written more so that it would last longer for them! It focuses very much on me and my story, without including many stories about the people around me, and I think I could have included more about other people.
Did you self-publish or follow a more traditional publishing route?
I eventually found a fabulous publisher who specialises in books written by and for expats – Jo Parfitt of Summertime Publishing. She arranged everything, including an editor who was also invaluable, Jane Dean, and between them they transformed my ramblings into a real live book. Jo also arranged a proof reader and designer and lay out artist, and did everything to make the book available on and off line all over the world. I really have no idea how people manage to self publish as it seems to be so complicated to me, but all credit to those who manage to do it.
How did you market your book?
Firstly, I had no idea it would be so much work. It is not just a one off effort, it is constant and every day I am doing something to market the book. Firstly I announced that it was available online to all of my Facebook friends. I also set up a FB fan page, and joined Dominican Republic based FB groups. One of the best for sales was one for women and men married to Dominicans. I also tweeted, wrote about the book on a forum for the Dominican Republic and on other expat forums. I talked about the book on my blog, and emailed all of those people who had written to me about the blog to let them know the book was available.
The second stage was to go through all of the online book clubs and forums and register as an author on those, such as Shelfari and Goodreads and to become a member of Amazon author central. I also joined a book preview site – www.bookpreview.info – so that people can read a little of the book before they decide to buy.
I am also writing articles to try and promote the book, and networking with other Summertime authors so that I review their books and they review mine. For the book to go viral, and sell loads, I think it is about constant effort, networking and spreading the word wherever and whenever you can.
What book are you reading now?
I have just read ‘Perking the Pansies’ by Jack Scott which is about two gay men in Turkey, which I really enjoyed and I am about to start reading ‘A Career in your Suitcase’ by Jo Parfitt and Colleen Reichrath-Smith.
What do you do when you are not writing?
I work as the marketing manager for a British claims management company, and I also write the Dominican news in English two days a week for an online forum. I am a columnist for Expat Focus where I have a monthly column, and of course I write my blog every few days. Apart from that I have the usual daily tasks of cleaning, washing and shopping and I am in charge of the vegetable garden on the farm which I love.
What are your plans for the future?
I have now found the place I will spend the rest of my life, up in the mountains so that is my future. I will continue to write, as those who have read the book are already clamouring for another one. I still hope that one day someone will turn ‘What about your saucepans?’ into a film, as I really fancy going to the Oscars!
Where can people buy your book?