Debra Borys stays busy with a number of writing projects: from freelancing to writing novels. Having experience working with a start-up press, she gives insight about the amount of promotional work all authors must do, and some of the methods she’s already adopted.
1. Tell me briefly about your books – what are they about and what motivated you to write them?
The short stories I had self-published are Red Light, Green Light, Peeling the Onion, and Weeping Widows, a collection of mini-mystery stories. The mini-mysteries are written for fun – I call them my cynical stories because of the narrative “author” Evelyn A. Archer. Three of the stories in the collection were previously sold to print magazines. Also previously published in magazines were Red Light and Onion. Both are about street kids, one story set in Chicago, one in Seattle, both cities where I volunteered with the homeless.
Painted Black is a suspense novel about a missing street kid named Lexie Green, who at fifteen years old is selling her body to survive. When reporter Jo Sullivan realizes no one seems to care about what might have happened to her, she teams up with Lexie’s friend Chris to learn the truth. When Jo and Chris investigate Sloan and Whiteside’s funeral home, they put themselves in danger of becoming part of a bizarre collection of freeze dried corpses.
The original idea for the suspense plot for Painted Black came from a news article I read years ago in the Chicago Tribune. It was about a new method of preservation being used by taxidermists who freeze dry people’s pets to produce lifelike replicas that would last indefinitely. One person they interviewed stated that freeze drying could be used on people as well, and compared the process to cooking pizzas in an oven. He sounded so bizarre and unconcerned that it immediately sparked an idea for a character based on him and became the premise for my story. In my research, I actually found an article in a mortuary magazine about a firm that did preserve a man in this manner.
The idea to use homeless kids as important characters came about from my experience volunteering with The Night Ministry in Chicago. I was struck by how many times homeless people are treated as sub-human, like they don’t matter. Some people seem to have only contempt for someone who is homeless even when they know nothing about the circumstances. Most people just want to pretend that the homeless don’t exist, walking by them with averted eyes. I would like to make these invisible people visible so we can find solutions to the problem, not ignore it.
I want my readers to understand that the important thing to recognize about homeless people is that they are people. The homeless part is incidental. I’m hoping that while my readers are all wrapped up in the suspenseful story in Painted Black, they will somehow subtly have their eyes opened up a little to see that the street people I’m writing about – the same people they walk past on the street without looking at – aren’t really all that different from themselves.
If even only a few people get that, then I’ll feel happy. I’d be even happier if it inspires someone to make a move to do something about it – volunteer at a local soup kitchen, advocate for improvements in social services, or even just say hi to that homeless person they pass on the corner every day on their way to work. I am donating 10% of any author profits from Painted Black to The Night Ministry and to Teen Feed In Seattle, in appreciation for the work they do. I encourage anyone who reads my books to also support any program working to eliminate homelessness.