I met Sujeiry Gonzalez at Latism in Houston in October. She was on a panel about writers and their path toward publication.

What’s so interesting about her is that she is a force of nature. She self-published her book, Love Trips: A Collection of Relationship Stumbles, and she uses it as her mission statement — she wants to help women with their relationship woes.

Love Trips is a collection of essays she’s written over the years about relationships, the ups and down and all the crazy and wonderful things in between.

I had a chance to read her book, which was equal parts hilarious and insightful.   She’s on the blog today talking about the it, her future plans, and her path toward publication and being a one woman band.

1.) How did you get the idea for the book?

My book is a collection of personal essays that I began writing in 2005 after a major break up. While in graduate school for writing, I lost who I thought to be the love of my life. I said to myself, “What better way to heal than to write my story, express my feelings, and admit to my mistakes?” I began a blog. The blog became “Love Trips” when it was picked up by MiGente as a relationship column. And now it’s a book! It’s amazing what heartbreak can do if we allow it to teach us something.
2.) Which essay what the hardest to write and why?
“Backtracking” had to be the hardest. I can write about my exes and joke about how many mistakes I’ve made but my father is a touchy subject. Abandonment is a painful subject. That story literally took me back and takes readers back to a time when I was just a child – a little girl who wanted her father to love her and to be consistent, present.

3.) The essays seem to have a very conversational tone, why did you decide to write it this way?
I never made a conscious decision to write in a conversational tone; it’s just who I am. If I’d write more formal or with less humor or use big SAT words, it read as inauthentic. And one thing I am is authentic.

4.) How did you approach putting this collection of essays together?
It took years! 6 to be exact. I sifted through my stories – the heartbreaks, bad sex, great sex, and flings – and decided to tell a story about a woman who is seeking love in all the wrong places yet is resilient and hopeful that she will be loved. I wanted the message to scream: You are lovable! You are worthy of a King because you are a Queen! I chose stories that told that story and followed chronological order.

5.) You’re a self-published author. Tell us a bit about your journey and why you decided to go this route.
I decided to go this route because authors who are not self-published still have to put in a lot of work. Most publishing houses do not give advances anymore. Authors, self-published or otherwise, have to promote themselves and build their audience. I’ve been doing that for 6 years. So, I thought to myself: do I scout for an agent and wait months or years to do this, or do I just go for it and do it myself? I’m a go-getter by nature so I went for it.
It hasn’t been easy. Self-publishing is work and it is expensive. You have to give away books to be reviewed and to receive press, which means you’re paying for books and shipping costs hoping that someone with clout will give your book attention. Getting the media on your side is very important. Peaking their interest is what gets you and your book on the map, and that’s when you really sell. Selling isn’t a skill that everyone has. I do my best.
It’s not easy process but I would do it again in a heartbeat. I am really proud of Love Trips and all the blood, sweat, and tears that I’ve put into writing and publishing this book. It’s my baby and nothing can take that away from me.

6.) If you had to chose an essay in your collection that was so “very you”, which one would it be and why?
I’d have to say “Easy Prude.” It has a lot of humor, and I am hilarious. It uses the Spanish and English language, as I do in everyday life. The title in itself is an oxymoron. That’s because I sometimes feel like a bit of an oxymoron, though I interpret it as being balanced. “Easy Prude” discusses what it is to be a sexual Latina partnered with being una buena Catolica. How to balance the liberal and independent Americana that I am with the traditional, family oriented and sometimes submissive Dominicana that I also am. This story speaks volumes. This story is me.

Love Trips is available on Amazon.
Click the picture to purchase.

7.) What is the universal theme you want your readers to walk away with?

The universal theme is one of love – love for self, love for others, and love of learning and awareness. I didn’t love myself enough to know that I deserved a love that is respectful, supportive, and accepting. I settled for whatever was giving to me at the time. I didn’t think I was lovable enough to ask for more.
Many women go through these growing pains; I am not alone in this. So, Love Trips really speaks to all women, and even men, who need a reminder that healthy love exists. It says, “Don’t give up. Don’t give in.” Bounce back. Be resilient. But first we have to know ourselves, love ourselves, and as I often say, become “self-first.

8.) Writing nonfiction comes with a pitfall, one tends to write about the people they know. Have you’ve gotten any backlash from  people in the book?
I haven’t received any backlash, actually. You’d be amazed how many people want to be written about. I have also changed all names but my own. So, their identities are safe.

9.) What are you working on now?
I am working on an ebook about love and relationships. The working title is Love in 2013: How to Get It and Keep It. I am going to use my anecdotes as I did with Love Trips but this time I am going to ask readers to answer questions. That way they can evaluate where they are and what they need to do to be in a healthy relationship. It will be more tip oriented and very direct. It’s not a book for those who like things sugarcoated!
I am also continuing my work as a relationship writer for various sites, like MSN Latino, and as a relationship coach. I give relationship advice to singles and couples alike on LoveSujeiry.com. To Ask Sujeiry, they can email me at asksujeiry@lovesujeiry.com. I answer questions on Mondays and Wednesdays.

10.) What was your biggest lesson on your writing and/or publishing journey that you can share with us?
The biggest lesson has to be this: support comes in various forms.
As a relationship writer and expert with a good sized following, I assumed that those who love my work and who’ve followed my career would buy Love Trips. I actually expected it. That’s not always the case. When you’ve given of yourself freely and for free for years, people don’t necessarily want to pay for it all of a sudden. I’d been writing online for 6 years before publishing Love Trips. For 6 years, readers could read my content without spending a penny. So, it was upsetting at first when my sales didn’t reflect my unique monthly visitors. Then I realized that it is still support. My followers and fans still read my content and share it. That keeps me employed as a freelance writer and a relationship columnist for various sites.
As for those who purchased and will purchase Love Trips, I thank you wholeheartedly. It is such a rush to read reader reviews on Amazon. I love receiving emails and tweets from readers who say that they’ve passed on Love Trips to friends and have read it cover to cover, over and over again. That is also support. And support is priceless.