Interview with Expat author - Jill Dobbe
Hi, I am Jill Dobbe and I am an overseas educator of 20 years and a recently published author of a travel memoir, HERE WE ARE & THERE WE GO: Teaching and Traveling With Kids in Tow. The expat life is not new to me as I have lived in seven different countries by now. I am also a mother of two adult children who grew up overseas and continue to have the travel bug. My daughter is currently teaching in Honduras and my son is in medical school in Grenada. I am also an avid reader and a shopping addict. I continue to love to travel and I especially love to shop in out-of- the-way foreign markets, even though by this time my condo in Wisconsin has no more room for more arts and crafts (and my husband also says he is sick and tired of carrying them across the world). Actually, according to my husband, the only reason I like to travel is because “I see the world as just one big shopping mall!”
1. Why did you move abroad?
I come from a small town in Wisconsin and have always been interested in traveling. I had my first taste of overseas travel when I was in college and took a trip through the music department to Russia and London. After earning my degree in elementary education I started researching teaching overseas. I married my husband who was also an educator and we attended an overseas hiring fair where we were hired to teach on Guam. Despite having two small children we packed up and moved across the world to the island. From there we got sucked into the overseas life and the rest is history.
2. How do you make a living? Are you a fulltime writer?
I am a fulltime elementary principal at an American school in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and a part time writer. I write in the evenings and on the weekends mostly, but I always carry around a journal where I jot down things that come to my mind. When I don’t have my journal on me I write on scraps of paper, which I have accumulated all over the place.
3. How did you start the process of writing a book and get it published? Did you go to a publisher? Self-publish?
I began my book when we first moved to Honduras. After most of it was completed I started checking around for publishers and found one from Wisconsin where I am from and where my children were in college. During that whole year I communicated with my publisher through email and Skype. When school was over last June and I flew back to Wisconsin, I met my publisher in person for the first time and she handed me my completed galley. It was a great “welcome home to Wisconsin” gift!
4. How long did it to take from conception to publication?
It took about one and a half years from when the thought first crossed my mind to when it was all completed and the galley was in my hands.
5. What was the hardest part of taking your writing to a book format?
I think that I did it backwards. I never blogged until I published my book and learned that a lot of authors have blogs. I wrote my book first and then learned about expat, travel, and memoir writers’ websites. Now I can’t get enough of them and read them continuously!
It’s true what they say, that writing the book is the easiest part. It was actually fun for me to relive our experiences abroad during those 10 years. I think the hardest part was the editing and it felt like it was never ending. Now the difficult part is marketing it, asking for reviews, and basically getting it out there.
6. What is your perception of the expat book market? Has it changed throughout the process?
After writing my book I did the research (See…backwards!) I am finding more and more books about expats and books about women who travel. I remember though, walking into a Barnes & Noble and seeing very few if any travel memoirs, that’s when I thought, oh, good, it’s not a flooded market. Most travel memoirs that I do see are about single women backpacking alone or teachers going abroad to teach English in China, etc. I haven’t found any books thus far, that talk about what we do, which is work in overseas schools around the world. My memoir also has the recurring theme that “you can travel with kids,” which gives it another unusual spin.
7. What is your favorite part of the book?
There are many crazy, humorous, and sometimes scary adventures in my travel memoir, but I guess the part that still always makes me laugh the hardest is when my husband was sure that he had contracted leprosy while we were living in Ghana. He truly believed that he had the symptoms and was seriously concerned. The whole thing still cracks me up when I think about it today.
8. What was the most difficult part to write?
It was difficult at times to remember certain events. I would email my son and daughter and ask them if they remembered certain things that happened or that we experienced or help in remembering the name of a place, etc. Since they were only one and two years old when we went to Guam they didn’t remember anything, but between the journals I kept and reminiscing with my husband I was able to piece together quite a bit about our life on Guam and our other travels.
9. What advice would you give to other expats that want to write a book?
Absolutely do it! I think there is an audience out there and no matter what your different experiences are there will always be interest. Many people travel abroad today and real life stories of those adventures are good reads.
10. What are you working on now? Do you have plans to publish another book?
Yes, I hope to publish another book, but not for a few years. It will be about living and working in India, Egypt, Honduras, and wherever we go to next. In my next book I want to write more on the schools and their differences. We have been to some unique overseas schools, especially in Egypt, where the school we were at was supposed to be an international school, but was 99% Egyptian Muslim and the students went to Mosque every day and studied the Koran.
HERE WE ARE & THERE WE GO: Teaching and Traveling With Kids in Tow is a heartwarming travel memoir filled with temper tantrums, disorienting jetlag, and zany, once-in-a-lifetime family adventures. Who says you can’t travel with kids? Dan and I find out we can do just that as we set off with our two very young kids, first to live and work on an island far out in the Pacific, then on to the continent of Africa with a few stops in between.