A beautiful braided story of historical literary fiction of family, war, love, and cultural significance that connections all across generations.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Set in a rich and complicated culture reflected in its cuisine, hospitality, and breathtaking landscapes, Desiderium weaves the stories of three generations of Albanian women reaching for their deepest desires amid heartbreak, the quest for revenge, and war.
Mira Zeka is a fighter seeking vengeance and national independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1911. A decision she makes for her family will change her heart more than she could have imagined.
Valentina Muskaj, nicknamed Val, trades her schoolteacher duties to become a partisan guerrilla during World War II. To return to the life she had, in a homeland rid of the Axis Powers, she will endure anything, including injury and unspeakable loss.
Dita Arbani, a history museum curator, is falling in love with the tales of Albania’s past while the modern world rushes ahead. Her grandmother’s vague hint about secret gold sends Dita on a mission, even while other parts of her life unravel.
Desiderium’s prose is as lyrical as Albania’s rivers and seas. The characters are as fierce as the mountains surrounding them. Through their eyes, we see that the struggles, passions, and triumphs of the past may not be as deeply buried as we think.
Storyteller’s Gambit Author Spotlight
Presents Debut Author
Julie Furxhi: An author’s journey in her own words.
In January 2021, I read Circe by Madeline Miller for the second time. I remember thinking, “if I ever write, I want to write like this.” In 2023, I read Circe again and finally, I was able to put my finger on one thing that I loved: the emotion evoked was made stronger by the subtle tone and voice. The seed had been planted.
Six months later, a short story bubbled to my mind’s surface. From there, that story became Desiderium, my debut novel. It is a braided historical fiction.
In early fall 2021, I found the Ninja Writers and became a regular in Juneta Key’s Fiction call on Tuesdays over Zoom. Each writer read a piece of their story and verbal feedback was offered, comments were left in the doc, and community was happening.
I wrote and wrote almost frantically because I like to have things done and checked off my to-do list. I listened to free workshops by Authors Publish and a few other workshops in Ninja Writers. To get in character, I listened to a lot of sad music. While I wrote I listened to a lot of piano music. I read scenes again and again to the writers’ group led by Juneta. I printed it out entirely twice and scribbled all over it, aghast at finding such tiny mistakes and big problems both.
For me, the most intimidating part was having so many options. This or that or the other could happen to the character. These limitless paths a character can take is a big, big ask from someone like me who likes to follow directions down to the letter.
Thankfully, deep into my editing and redoing and rewriting last year, I learned to trust that some scenes would come to me, some lines would come while doing the dishes or driving around town. They would get straightened out in my head if I let them simmer a bit. This, of course, is counter to the to-do list obsession.
Learning the craft of writing has been a maddening joy. Learning is a joy because I want to do it well. The maddening part is knowing there is still more I don’t know. It’s not like I can take a test and show how much I know and get the keys to an office. I have to keep getting better.
It’s also maddening when the story completely falls apart. The only piece that remained unchanged was that I saw the story set in Albania. But not giving up on it is a joy, too. And we don’t give up because we are madly in love with our characters, right?
To distract myself from the weighty task of writing true, I read about the difficult road that is traditional publishing. I couldn’t imagine spending years sending query letters. I entertained the idea of hybrid presses.
While developing character and plugging plot holes and reading nonfiction, I also stumbled upon Reedsy. Reedsy is a great resource, in my opinion, as a one-stop shop. They have lots of free, by-email workshops, recorded, industry interviews and a “marketplace” to find all the professionals you need to self-publish. I hired two editors, the cover designer, and the interior designer.
It was there I found out about IngramSpark. Was I the last emerging writer to hear about it?
Using IngramSpark put Desiderium in the Ingram catalog that 40,000-some booksellers and librarians around the world use to order their books.
The cover and interior designers were experts in getting everything lined up and sorted for printing and the ebook edition. For these retailers and libraries to even consider ordering Desi, I set the wholesale discount at 55%. Yes. 55%. The bare minimum is 40% and will likely be met with a lot of rejection on that alone. I also made it Returnable. My understanding is that if indie booksellers don’t have a way to return the copies that don’t sell, they won’t order.
I bought a 10-pack of ISBNs. That was so straight-forward I was terrified I had done it wrong.
For marketing, I created a sale sheet and started emailing it to libraries and bookstores around the US. Our library system and local bookstore happily ordered a few copies. Our local Barnes and Noble ordered a dozen as soon as I introduced myself, post-release day.
Many independent bookstores use a consignment agreement with local authors. Four copies are on consignment at a legendary bookstore in Denver. Since Desiderium is on Ingram, they may have ordered straight through the catalog. Then again, maybe not.
I asked friends and family to do the same: order it through a local store and then they may buy a few copies for their shelves; put it on their goodreads list; order from bookshop to support independent stores; suggest-a-title to their library.
I decided on Instagram as my main social platform because I knew that’s the only social media I would be able to be consistent with. All of it makes me want to hide under a rock but I’m trying.
I became a Goodreads Author, set up my own bookshop.org page, set up my Amazon Author page and my own site with squarespace. That was straightforward, too.
Last month, Ingram announced a new feature: a “purchasable link.” It is a button I apply to my website. The link goes straight to Ingram and they send the order directly to the customer. If you’re looking to get the largest piece of the sale price, this direct link and selling from your personal order are the ways to do that.
I got my state and city Sales and Use Tax License so that I can sell out of the back of my car. Kidding not kidding. I applied my tax exemption status to my own order of 150 copies. I was able to place this order, from my account, before my release date. I bought these particularly for my Launch Party.
Around 35 friends were able to come to the party and several of them bought multiple copies. The night though, was a way for me to say thank you to them. They’ve encouraged me, asked how they can help, and some of them answered strangely specific questions from architecture to wound care.
Thank you to everyone who helped me on this crazy, amazing journey. I have few regrets and have learned so much. Thank you, Juneta Key, for all you continue to teach me and for having me in the Spotlight.
Julie Furxhi finds oatmeal chocolate chip cookies irresistible. She is learning to sew clothing. She lives in Colorado with her family. Desiderium is her debut novel. All of her social media and purchase links are on her website, www.juliefurxhi.com