By Sabina Mollot
It was nine years ago when Fran Alongi, a Stuyvesant Town resident, lost her mother to a massive stroke. Though it was hardly the first time someone close to her had died, the death, along with a months-long period in which she was ill, was one of the most painful experiences Alongi could recall going through.
Prior to her mother’s stroke, Alongi had been meaning to write a book about personal loss, but it was her death, she explained, that spurred her into actually doing it.
She’d worked on the story, the genre of which is contemporary fantasy, on weekends since then – up until recently she’d also always had a corporate day job — and finally finished it last fall.
Titled Moons of Koda, the story has since been released as an e-book, which Alongi self-published, and she’s hoping it will be as helpful for others in to read as it was for her to write.
“It’s about having hope and believing during the grieving process,” said Alongi. The death of her mother, she noted, has remained a challenge. “I still have urges to call her. It’s very hard.”
Initially, she’d intended her book to be a children’s book, but friends who’ve read it advised her that the content seemed equally — if not more — appropriate for adults. The story revolves around a mysterious, somehow unearthly character called Koda, who Alongi named after the Sioux Indian word for friend.
“She comes into the world in a dark way which makes the (other characters) think she is a threat, but she’s not,” said Alongi. “She’s essentially an angelic figure.”
Moons of Koda is set in the 1950s in a small town in Wyoming. It’s there where the title character encounters a family with three young children whose father has died. Since Koda needs a place to stay, the mother allows her to sleep in their shed.
“It’s a mystery — you find out at the end of the book who Koda is and why she has come,” explained the author.
While this is Alongi’s first book, she’s no stranger to writing. For years she worked as an editor for Merrill-Lynch, putting out the company’s twice-a-month released newsletter, filled with financial news as well as human interest stories. The job was mainly “to make it readable for the average person. Most people at Merill-Lynch were not financial not financial experts.” Alongi also executive produced an in-house video about a United Way campaign that helped boost charitable giving within the company by 30 percent. When working on Moons of Koda, she was attending advanced writing workshops at New York University. She also studied film production at NYU for a year.
Once her book was done, Alongi opted to self-publish rather than shop the book around to a publishing house. A friend and fellow writer then referred Alongi to the self-publishing company BookBaby, which she ended up using.
The story is now available for download for $2 through online book retailers like bn.com and Amazon, but before it went live, Alongi noted that self-publishing, while seemingly simple, does come with its own set of challenges.
In her case, she ran into trouble when she realized she’d need to revise the book to change the font. She had incorrectly thought, when submitting her manuscript, that it would be converted from Courier to the more standard Times New Roman. She also said she wants to advise any other would-be self-publishers that is it worthwhile to pay extra to hire a proofreader. She didn’t do this for Moons of Koda (so again more changes after the fact, which meant more fees).
“See if you can hire an editor,” said Alongi. “It’s probably worth the money; just make sure they take responsibility.” On the upside, self-publishing has gotten more and more affordable throughout the years and if just releasing an e-book, writers don’t have to order more books than they know they can actually sell.
But, as is the case for many writers, the biggest challenge was simply getting the thing out onto paper. Until this past year when Alongi retired, her work, most recently at JP Morgan Chase, usually left her too exhausted to be creative.
These days, Alongi, who’s lived in Stuy Town for the past 25 years, is still busy, only now she’s working on book number two. She’s currently doing research for the book, which will be about a werewolf. Unlike Moons of Koda, this story is aimed solely at adults.
“This is for an audience I think is ignored, which is people over 40,” said Alongi. “This is definitely not a teenage werewolf book.”