Friday, November 21, 2008

Chocolate Fan, Guest Book Author Angel Fox ~ Interviewed

Angela Folds Fox is a wife, mother, writer and lover of all things creative. With a Bachelors degree in Political Science (Mercer University) and a Masters degree in Counseling (Reformed Theological Seminary), she tried to choose a more “normal” career path, but her creative spirit shrieked at the notion of a desk and four walls and her heart always led her back to the written word.

Her articles have appeared in Christian Retailing, Giftware News, Inspirational Giftware, and various CBA publications. She founded – a resource for artists to find creative inspiration - and she writes a weekly column in the Franklin Review Appeal newspaper. She is also writing and rewriting her first novel.

Five years ago Angela sat down in her friend Bethany’s kitchen for the inaugural chocolate taste testing as Bethany sought to select the perfect ingredients for her artisan chocolates. “It was a tough job, but somebody had to do it,” she recalls. Not only did the two taste tons of chocolate, they also spent hours researching the origins and history of the delectable confection. The research was so fascinating they decided then and there that the story needed to be told.

The book idea ruminated over time as Bethany founded her first chocolate café, Angela continued her career in marketing and freelance writing and both pursued making babies. Eventually, however, the book idea could be suppressed no longer. So, Chocolate Covered Friendship was written by friends who love chocolate for friends who love chocolate! Yummy.

Angela, her husband Jerry and darling son Brayden reside in Franklin, Tennessee.

Tell us a little about your journey.

As a child I was constantly writing – writing letters, stories and poems. Yet, when the “What do you want to be when you grow up?” question was asked of me, my response was always “an attorney.” Where in the world did that come from? Nevertheless, that was the educational path I pursued.

With a pre-law Bachelor’s degree under my belt, I worked as a paralegal to save money for law school. And then the “what-was-I-thinking?” moment hit me. But, this time I decided I wanted to be a mental health counselor.

With my Master’s in Counseling degree under my belt, the “what-was-I-thinking?” moment hit me again (this time with the help of a required course on Career Counseling).

As a graduate student I’d started writing articles for Christian trade publications. Before long, I’d ditched all pursuits of licensure in mental health counseling and began the journey, in earnest, that had been calling me all along – writing.

There was still a problem: I’m way to extroverted to be the quintessential writer. So, in 2000, I ventured into PR and marketing for Thomas Nelson Publisher’s gift book division.

Today, I’m a full-time mom and part-time writer. I’m working on my first novel, I write a weekly column for our local paper, I blog on my website, and I’ve co-authored a gift book entitled Chocolate Covered Friendship that was released in October, ironically by Thomas Nelson Publisher’s gift book division.

Share a bit about your book.

Chocolate Covered Friendship is a collaborative effort by my good friend and artisan chocolatier, Bethany Thouin. (Every woman should have an artisan chocolatier as a good friend!) We met around the time I moved to Nashville to work for Thomas Nelson.

She’d come to Nashville to become the next Amy Grant. I’d come to Nashville so that I could get this response when I told people I was a writer, “Oh, is there a song of yours on the radio that I’d recognize?” (I changed my short answer to “I’m a journalist,” even though that isn’t 100% accurate.)

Several years later, when Bethany’s idea for a chocolate business was planted, I was an eager participant in her market research. (Meaning: I gladly tasted lots of chocolate and said, “It is good”.)

The more we researched the origins and history of chocolate the more we began to see the depth of chocolate’s story. But, the timing was not right to tell that story. Over the next few years Bethany focused on creating artisan truffles and chocolates and I continued freelance writing.

Bethany is an artist through and through. She is very intentional about everything she creates – including truffles. The ingredients for each truffle are inspired by character traits of specific friends or people who’ve inspired her along life’s journey. And she names each truffle after the person it was created for.

It was a natural fit to write a book on chocolate and friendship and feature a truffle/friend/chocolate in each of the thirteen chapters. Each truffle is unique. Each friend is unique. And each aspect of chocolate that we discuss is unique. Combining all of these traits makes for a sweet combination.

Why a gift book?

Chocolate Covered Friendship is as visual as it is narrative, so a gift book was always the goal. Chocolate and friendship are meant to be shared. We wanted a product that would be the perfect gift to give a friend. Yet, we also wanted the book to have depth and meaning. We honestly believe we’ve accomplished both.

What are some of the more unique situations you've faced with your publication of a gift book?

One very fun and positive situation we experienced was the creative freedom the publisher gave us in creating this book. They certainly had the option of taking our manuscript and designing the book to their own desires and specifications, but instead, they allowed us to be very hands-on in the design process.

The result is a very authentic and organic visual journey. Almost all of the images in the book were taken at a charming cottage in our hometown of Historic Franklin, Tennessee. Every truffle photographed is the actual truffle featured in the chapter. We were even able to solicit our friends to be our “models”, which gives the book a very real and natural feel.

A challenge we continually faced was making the book marketable to a wide audience. We are Christians. Our message is inherently Christian. But we are not preachy. We believe our message of chocolate and friendship is universal. We’d hoped the book could be “mainstream” yet still reflect our message of faith.

Yet, we kept getting push-back during the process that it was not “Christian enough”. And that presented quite a challenge considering our desire for broad-appeal. For example: One of the truffles contains Irish Crème. Now, alcohol is not present in the truffle, but nonetheless the publisher has been asked to change the verbiage to Irish Crème Flavoring in reprints in order to appease a few sales channels.

What areas of writing most challenge you?

My heart’s desire is to publish a novel – preferably the one I’ve been writing for the past seven years. I cringe when I read stories of writers who scrap half a dozen manuscripts before publishing their “pearl”. Really? All that work down the drain? The possibility frightens me.

For me, writing Chocolate Covered Friendship was easier (relatively speaking, of course) than writing my novel. Non-fiction is finite. We had thirteen chapters with beginnings, middles and ends. This “novel thing” completely eludes me at times. Will there ever be an end?

That’s why I’m on this website every day reading about the experiences of other novelists. I desperately need the inspiration.

Any marketing ideas or experience you think might help our readers?

Ahh … marketing. Isn’t it a joy? (Said sarcastically, even from a writer with a background in marketing.) My advice: When you meet people whose publishers posted billboards and hired Bassett Hounds to market their book for them, just shoot them on the spot. (Yes, I’m talking about you Michael Snyder.)

The more accurate scenario is a whole lot of self-marketing. Of course, it helps when your co-author provides chocolate samples at book events!

But seriously … one very effective marketing tool is viral marketing. Whenever I’d read about a writer who loved chocolate (several of whom had posted on this site) I’d make a note of it in a Word document file. Then, when our book was completed, I asked these writers if they’d be willing to review our book on and/or their personal blogs, etc. in exchange for a copy of the book. Writers are so eager and willing to help their fellow woman! And getting these reviews helps to spread the word about our book.

Closing remarks, the perfect answer to the question I didn't ask?

When in doubt – add chocolate!


Kelly Klepfer said...

Well, Angela, I don't know if I've ever read a more mouth-watering interview. Thanks for sharing your journey.

Nicole said...

Angela, don't ever give up on that first novel. Never. Keep writing it. When it's done, let it sit for a few months. Then go back and see where you want to re-create, modify, enhance, or eliminate. You'll get it done and with your rep, someone will take a chance on it.

michael snyder said...

What a cool surprise to see Angela on my daily drive-by here at NJ. In case anyone's wondering Angela and her family are just the coolest...and that's the highest of compliments!

And yeah, finish that novel! (When you do, we'll get the families together and celebrate with chicken and lots and lots of sauces!)

Lastly, everyone go buy her's about chocolate for goodness sake!


Ane Mulligan said...

I love your closing remark! ;)

And I chuckled at your educational quandry. My brother was the same. They guy ended up with 5 masters degrees and, fortuntely, only 1 PhD. LOL My poor folks!

Literally! :D

Thanks for the great interview, ladies.

Angela Folds Fox said...

Thank you so much to the NJ team for this opportunity and to Kelly for the great questions. I appreciate everyone's encouragement. This site is such an inspiration.

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