PaperBackSwap Blog

Interview with Author & PBS Member Hillary DePiano

We would like to introduce you to a longtime member of PBS & talented author Hillary DePiano.

Hillary DePiano

Author Hillary DePiano

Hillary is a fiction and non-fiction author and blogger best known for her play, The Love of Three Oranges which has been performed in theatres around the world and her novella, The Author. She is an avid vintage toy collector and has authored a guide to both My Little Pony toys and She-Ra: Princess of Power action figures and for Priced Nostalgia Press’s Collector’s Inventory series of price guides. Hillary is also an eBay PowerSeller and Trading Assistant and has extensive experience in the world of buying and selling online. She shares her experiences in publishing, marketing, blogging, buying and selling on sites like eBay, Amazon, Lulu and more through her books, eBooks and her e-commerce blog, The Whine Seller. Hillary writes about writing and her daily life in Unpublishable Pennings, her personal blog. For the most up to the minute information about Hillary DePiano, be sure to follow her on Twitter at @HillaryDePiano.

The Author
The Love of Three Oranges: A Play for the Theatre That Takes the Commedia Dell’arte of Carlo Gozzi and Updates It for the New Millennium

Hillary’s fiction work has been honored on several occasions and she has received the following prizes and honors over her career:

  • 2002 C. Willard Smith Award for Creativity in Theatre for writing and directing The Love of Three Oranges
  • Won the 2001 Julia Fonville Smithson Memorial Prize for The Author
  • Won the 2001 West Branch Literary Prize for Fiction for The Author

Non-Fiction Works
The Trading Assistant’s Assistant: How to start a part-time job or full-time consignment drop-off business on eBay
The Seller Ledger: An Auction Organizer for Selling on EBay
The She-Ra Collector’s Inventory: An Unofficial Illustrated Guide to All Princess of Power Toys and Accessories (Includes Price Guide)
The My Little Pony Collector’s Inventory: A Complete Checklist of All US Ponies, Playsets and Accessories from 1981 to 1992

The Author by Hillary DePiano

The Author

How did you find PaperBackSwap?
Oddly enough, it was through Rosie O’Donnell’s blog. A reader asked suggested it as an option for fans of hers that wanted to read her latest book but not pay for it. I was in love the moment I first saw the site. My grandparents are always giving me the books they no longer want and none of them interest me. PBS gave me the opportunity to trade these unwanted books away for stuff I actually wanted to read. I also did a few things to upgrade my library such as trading all my paperback Harry Potter books for the hardcovers. I am in love and I have no idea how I managed before PBS entered my life.

What/who inspired you to start writing?
I am a voracious reader (as I am sure most of us are on Paperbackswap) and I think reading and writing really go hand in hand. The more you read the written word, the more you exercise your imagination and your creativity and writing is a natural outlet for that.

How did you choose the play “The Love of Three Oranges” to modernize?
The story of The Love of Three Oranges is inexorably tied with my newest release, The Author. I wrote The Author while in college and won two awards for it: the  Julia Fonville Smithson Memorial Prize and the West Branch Literary Prize for Fiction. In the meantime, one of my majors was theatre and I had been selected to direct a mainstage production. The Love of Three Oranges was one idea kicked around in play selection committee meetings but I kept rejecting it because we couldn’t find a good version. Every version was very stilted and the jokes were no longer funny. In the end, the committee selected Neil Simon’s Rumors and we all went home for the summer. Then I get a frantic call from the college after I was home telling me that I couldn’t do Rumors and I only had a week to pick a new play.
I read an insane number of plays that week and just got more and more annoyed because I couldn’t find anything I wanted to do on such short notice. Finally, beyond frustrated, I said I would do The Love of Three Oranges on the condition that I be allowed to write my own version. The theatre department agreed to this because, as they said, “You won those awards for that story so you must be able to write.” I appreciated their blind vote of confidence but to this day I am pretty sure none of them have actually read The Author and only let me write Three Oranges based on the fact they’d heard about the awards for The Author but, heck, they were willing to accept that as creative collateral and I took it.

I basically started from scratch when working on my version, trying to keep the spirit of the original piece intact but to make the language and humor more accessible. Long story short (too late, right?) the play was a huge success and I snagged the C. Willard Smith Award for Creativity in Theatre for writing and directing it. What was funny, though, was I never saw it as the start of any writing career. At the time, it was just a means to an end. I couldn’t find the play I wanted to direct so I wrote it myself. Now it has been produced all over the world hundreds of times by students and professional actors alike.

The best part about The Love of Three Oranges has been the number of students around the world who have performed in it and written to me later to tell me how much they loved it. That is worth more than anything else.

The Love of Three Oranges

The Love of Three Oranges

Any plans to re-write/modernize any other plays?
I have often thought of doing Carlo Gozzi’s The Green Bird which reads like a sequel to The Love of Three Oranges but that idea is still on the drawing board. I am currently in the middle of two new novels which are on original ideas but I definitely keep the idea of another rewrite on the back burner for the future.

You have written both fiction (The Love of Three Oranges, The Author) and non-fiction (The She-Ra Collector’s Inventory, The Trading Assistant’s Assistant). Which do you find easier?
Non-fiction is often more appealing because I know where I am going from the start. I like explaining things which is where a book like The Trading Assistant’s Assistant comes from. I have worked as an eBay Trading Assistant for many years with success so in that book I am explaining that business that I am very familiar with from my own experience. The more familiar I am with the subject, the easier it is to write about it. I also keep a daily blog called The Whine Seller (www.thewhineseller.com) that is entirely non-fiction and how-to style posts so I keep in practice with non-fiction writing there.
But in some ways, fiction is more rewarding though it’s often harder work. I may not be able to sit down and tear through hundreds of words at a clip like I can with non-fiction but the reward of knowing that I created an entire fictional word from scratch is its own reward.

Tell us a little about your background?  Where are you from originally, etc.
I am from New Jersey which means that I tawk about shopping the mawll and walk my dawg awll the time. Actually, my Jersey accent is much more in check since college. I went to Bucknell University in Pennsylvania where my accent was mocked out of me. It was actually something of a shock when I got to college to discover that I even had an accent since everyone I knew talked just like me. Now I only have an accent when I get agitated so you better not get my Jersey up!
I currently live with my husband Denville, NJ.

What advice would you give new & upcoming authors?
The best advice I can give is to just sit down and write. So many people get hung up on statistics about how hard it is to get published or be successful and they stop before they have even begun. They never even put pen to paper because they are thinking to themselves, “What’s the use, it won’t get published anyway?” You need to banish those thoughts. While I cannot guarantee that your story will be published, I can guarantee that it won’t be published if you never write it down at all, so get writing!
Another important thing is to know when to take off your author hat. It happens during editing and especially during marketing after a book is published, where an author is so enamored with their work that they cannot make the changes they need to or effectively promote their work. There comes a time when you need to take your author hat off and look at your work with cold objectivity. The means not taking every bad review personally and realizing that the part that you absolutely loved writing may need to be cut from the story to make it read better. You need to be two people: the writer and the writer’s advisor. It can be a real challenge to keep those parts of your separate but it is essential for success.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to give copies of your story away. It kills me when I see authors who make their own parents BUY a copy of their book. The people who you are closest to you are the ones that are going to give you your best reviews and word of mouth. You buy yourself a little more of their goodwill by not making them purchase a copy. Comp your friends and family and it will pay off in word of mouth and free publicity. Also, list a copy of your book on Paperbackswap. As it gets passed around between readers, you win yourself more reviews and word of mouth from every new reader and that can be some very powerful marketing.

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2 Responses to “Interview with Author & PBS Member Hillary DePiano”

  1. Thanks very much for having me on the site and Happy Birthday PaperBackSwap! 🙂
    BTW I love your blog!

  2. Marisela says:

    Great Interview! Hillary made a great point: I am a voracious reader and I think reading and writing really go hand in hand. The more you read the written word, the more you exercise your imagination and your creativity and writing is a natural outlet for that.

    I checked out Hillary’s blog and what a great blog it is.

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