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A Conversation with Travel Author Troy Corley

Today, Norm Goldman, Publisher & Editor of & is pleased to have as our guest travel writer and author Troy Corley.

Troy is the author and publisher of Let's Go Buggy: The Ultimate Family Guide to Insect Zoos and Butterfly Houses. She has also authored and published Free L.A. (Los Angeles), and is editor of Free O.C. (Orange County) by Robert Stock and the upcoming Free San Francisco and Free N.Y.C (New York City).


Good day Troy and thanks for participating in our interview.


Troy, please tell us something about your personal and professional background.


Thanks for inviting me. I've been a professional writer and editor for 30 years now. I started freelancing at age 18 and began working as a newspaper reporter before I was 19. I had an incredible mentor, my editor John Lovell, and he helped me form a solid foundation as a journalist. After working at newspapers for five years I became a freelancer again.

I developed a niche in travel, particularly in regards to educational and frugal fun things to do, and covered science centers, museums, zoos and the like. Other niches include genealogy and technology for families. My work has appeared in Travel + Leisure Family, FamilyFun, Parents, Parade, FamilyPC, L.A. Times, L.A. Parent and AOL's CityGuide Los Angeles.

On the personal side, I'm a mother of two teens, one in college, the other home schooled. My life partner, Ron O'Brien, is also a writer and we're developing some projects together.        


What do you consider your first "break" as a travel writer?


Getting into FamilyFun Magazine, a Disney publication. It's a major consumer slick. I had to write 100 words about a fun family outing on a new railway attraction. It's called writing short and I had to work hard and grow as a writer to do that. I've developed that technique into an art.


What motivated you to write Let's Go Buggy: The Ultimate Family Guide to Insect Zoos and Butterfly Houses? What kind of research did you do to write this book? Could you briefly tell our readers something about the book?

Let's Go Buggy! is a guide to places in the U.S. with live bug and butterfly exhibits or experiences. And I say bugs, because critters such as spiders and snails are not insects. I had an intense curiosity about bugs when I was a kid, putting grasshoppers in coffee cans and my daughter did, too. I pitched an article to FamilyFun, my first large piece for them, about 10 places to see live bugs and butterflies. During the research, I knew I could turn the article into a book.

For the book, I did a tremendous amount of Internet research, called every place listed in the book and visited many of the venues. I have boxes of materials that I collected in the process.

By the way, the book was self-published and started my career as the owner of a publishing company. I had an agent and a book publicist who shopped the book around for 18 months with no bites. The agent and publicist asked to publish it with me but I had always wanted to become a publisher, so this was the impetus I needed.  


Could you briefly tell us something about your Free books and what are their objectives?


The Free Fun Guides are unique hip pocket guides to free fun things to do in major metro areas. Who doesn't want to have fun for free? As a single Mom I was always looking for fun yet inexpensive adventures with my kids. I had worked on creating a thematic approach to writing about things to do for the L.A. Times, L.A. Parent and AOL's CityGuide Los Angeles and had a detailed index file. So naturally the first guide became Free L.A.

I authored about 2/3 of that book, with contributions from freelancers. I consider myself the editor of that guide - in line with guides such as Zagat's -  and it's companion guide,  Free Orange County.


How do you come up with the ideas for what you write?


From living. You always should write about what your know or learn about what you don't know so well that it becomes part of what you know.


Can you tell us how you found representation for your books? Did you pitch them to an agent, or query publishers who would most likely publish these types of book? Did you receive any rejections?


As I mentioned, with Let's Go Buggy! I did get an agent to represent the proposal because the parent of a child in my daughter's first grade class was a book publicist. I received several -it doesn't quite fit what we're looking for rejections.  I mulled over becoming my own best friend by becoming the publisher. Then 9/11 hit. I thought, if not now, when? I already had 25 years of media experience at that time, so I put my nose to the grindstone and produced the book in 6 months.


As there does not seem to be any authoritative standards that exist for guidebook authors or publishers, how do you know that a guidebook is up to par? How do you check out the authorial competence?


I look for details. I work hard to give my books detailed information that's fun to read. We lean to being a little irreverent but keep a family-friendly attitude.  At the same time we list hidden costs such as parking, tell people about available discounts during a museum's non-free admission days and give all contact information so they can check it out for themselves. Information is key.  


What advice would you give to someone who is considering going into travel writing?


Develop a niche, either in style such a travel humor, or for what type of travel you cover. I have a friend, Roberta Sandler, who has a tremendous career covering historic travel, particularly in Florida and travel for seniors. She landed a second book contract based on her freelance work.


Many writers want to be published, but not everyone is cut out for a writer's life. What are some signs that perhaps someone is not cut out to be a writer and should try to do something else for a living?


Writer's block. I've never understood this. Maybe it's because I was trained early as a journalist who had to meet deadlines. I'm always writing in my head if not on the computer. Another is being able to handle rejection. I admit, I am not good with it, I'll cry, curse and scream but I love the craft too much to ever let it stand in my way. That's one of the reasons I became the publisher!


What is next for Troy Corley?


CorleyGuide continues to expand the Free Fun Guides. We have Free San Francisco coming out in spring, an update for Free L.A. and hopefully Free NYC in fall with Free San Diego and Free Seattle to follow. Meanwhile, I'm also developing other travel lines and resource guides.


Is there anything else you wish to add that we have not covered?


If anyone is interested in our books, they can visit or
We're interested in hearing from freelancers, too.  And thank you for the opportunity to be interviewed for your well-respected Web sites.

Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors.

The above interview was conducted by: NORM GOLDMAN:  Retired Title Attorney: Editor & Publisher of Bookpleasures. Here are  Norm Goldman's Reviews       



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