Many Ways to Skin a Cat | Shevi Arnold

Blog Series: Researching “The Many Ways to Skin a Cat” in Publishing

Over the next few weeks I am going to be looking at all the ways “to skin a cat” in publishing. I am going to interview and feature guest posts with different authors from different publishing options. So if, like me, you are at that painful and exciting point of trying to make the most informed choice…stick around and watch this space. Perhaps one of the options will stand out for you and perhaps one of these authors that I interview or who guest-post will inspire you down the same path.

I am coming at this with a completely open mind and non-judgmental attitude. I am doing this series as much to get more information for myself and educate myself as I am any reader whom finds this interesting or useful.

Open Call*

Also if you want to be one of the authors to be interviewed or guest post on this topic in this series, please shout out.

*My Guarantee: No Cats will be harmed or skinned in the writing of this series!*

😼   😼   😼   😼   😼

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing a woman of many talents. Not only does she have a way with words but she has a way with pictures and illustrations as well. She is definitely a “cat” with many lives. She has been an editorial cartoonist, a newspaper illustrator, a journalist, a comics magazine editor and now she is a published author. She has a unique view on the world of publishing since she has been in the industry of words and images for over 20 years. I have been itching to get her views on “the many ways to skin a cat” in the publishing industry and what better time and place than right here and right now on Dragonfly Scrolls. So relax, sit back, put your feet up while the talented Shevi Arnold and I chat.

1. Can you tell us what “being Indie” means to you?

Shevi >> I came to indie publishing after trying to break into traditional publishing for nine years. I found some success—one of my novels, Ride of Your Life, won third place in a big national contest and received numerous requests from literary agents for full manuscripts—but I found a lot of frustration too. I was okay with rejection letters, but when so many agencies switched to a “no response” policy, I just couldn’t take it. I couldn’t handle not knowing, never knowing, not even if my query letters had been received. It felt like I was sending my stories into a black hole. It got so bad that I literally got palpitations every time I hit the send button on a query letter. I have this thing that I do when I hit a wall. I stop, reevaluate the situation, and ask myself why I got into it in the first place and whether it’s still worthwhile to continue along the same path. Over those nine years, indie publishing had evolved. After taking a long hard look at it, I realized that traditional publishing couldn’t offer me anything I didn’t already have. I had years of writing experience. I had years of illustrating and designing experience. I even had years of editing experience. True, all of this was in newspapers and magazines, but it was still experience. And I could use that experience to adventure out on my own. For me, being an indie author means taking the fate of your work into your own hands. It means that you’ve chosen to believe in your own work, instead of waiting for someone else to believe in it for you.

2. Nowadays there are so many options for authors but the sheer amount of publishing options can create confusion.

Why did you decide to go the pure Indie route of self-publishing?

Shevi >> I’m not sure I would say that I have decided to go the “pure indie route.” I have for now, but things might change in the future. I’d like to keep my options open. Indie publishing does take a lot of time, however, which is why I’m focused only on that. And I am enjoying my freedom. Independent publishing lets you take chances a traditional publisher might be hesitant to take. I like that the reader gets to see my vision for the story, because no one made me change something to make it more marketable or for some other reason. For example, I like to illustrate my own stories. Even my YA novels, like Toren the Teller’s Tale and Ride of Your Life, have illustrated chapter headers. I feel this gives the readers extra value when they buy my books, and the readers seem to like it. When I was working for the Jerusalem Post, I used to draw illustrations for my own consumer column, but a traditional book publisher might not want me to do that. I like that as an indie author that’s a choice I can make.

3. You hear of authors switching methods of publication from seeking traditional representation from agents & the Big6 to small press to self-publishing.

Did you try any other route in publishing before settling on self-publishing and can you tell us what these routes were?

Shevi >> (See my reply to question 1.)

4. On the converse side of the debate, are you a dyed-in-the-wool Indie author or would you ever consider the lure of a Big6 publishing contract?

Shevi >> It depends. I like to keep my options open.

5. What would you say is the most important piece of advice you were given in your dream to become a published author?

Shevi >> When I was in college, I majored in English Literature and Theater Studies. I took a playwriting course, and the professor told me I should be a writer. I guess that was the most important piece of advice I was ever given on the topic. Before that, I wanted to be a film director, but then I thought, “Writing… Hmm, that’s not a bad idea. It’s just another form of storytelling, after all.” But I guess what you’re looking for is something your readers can take away. I’m not going to tell you, “You should be a writer.” I haven’t just heard you read the play you wrote, so I don’t know. What I can tell you is that you can learn a lot about writing by studying Improv. You can learn, for example, that it doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be done. Perfection, after all, is unattainable. You’ll drive yourself crazy if you try to get it perfect, and you’ll never write a thing. But something really amazing can happen and you take a piece of crap and edit the crap out of it. Of course, before you can do anything, you’re going to need that piece of crap written down. Otherwise, you’ll have nothing to edit. You’ll be like a sculptor without a block of clay. Of course, it might be fun to watch a sculptor trying to create something out of thin air, but in the end the sculptor will have nothing to show for it. The only difference is that as a writer you need to create your own block of clay.

6. Being Indie means that you have to be your own Marketing guru and Public Relations expert, what have you learnt about marketing your own books as an Indie Author?

Shevi >> The main thing I’ve learned about marketing is that I’m really bad at it. I’m first and foremost a writer, and I have qualms about some of the marketing tactics I’ve seen some in other indie authors use. For example, I wouldn’t feel right about rewarding people for reviewing my book, and yet I’ve seen other indie authors do just that. And I can’t stand seeing posts on Facebook from authors shouting things like “Like my fan page! Download my book! Vote for my book in this contest!” How about instead you write a great book, create a great fan page with great content, and then let me be the judge? I’d rather let my books stand on their own merit. I don’t want you to buy my book (or like my Facebook page) because I told you to. I want you to do it because it sounds like something you’d want to read. There’s a magician in one of the stories that Toren tells in my novel Toren the Teller’s Tale who refuses to be paid until the customer is fully satisfied. I feel the same way. I want you to be happy that you bought one of my novels because you enjoyed the story, and not because I told you to.

7. Everyone keeps on about the importance of developing “your own brand” as an author.

Do you agree and how have you built “your own brand”?

Shevi >> I think this was actually one of the main reasons why I came so close to landing an agent but wasn’t able to, if you’ll excuse the cliché, seal the deal—I don’t fit a single brand. I wouldn’t even want to. My tastes are eclectic. I wouldn’t want to read just one kind of book. Why would I want to write just one kind of book? Brands are so limiting. I think that no writer is as well branded as JK Rowling. But look at how she got locked into writing Harry Potter books for years. I couldn’t stand that! Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adore my characters. I look forward to writing the next book in the Toren the Teller series, and I have another series I’ll be starting soon– the Gilbert the Fixer series– with characters I love to death, literally! But I think I would go insane if I could only write one series over several years. I actually wrote a blog post about this. I concluded that if brands were colors, my brand would be rainbow. I can’t help it. It’s just who I am. The only thing I can say is that humor is a part of almost everything I write. Even my most recent novel, Ride of Your Life, which is possibly the most romantic, bittersweet thing I’ve ever read–a story that made me cry buckets while I was editing it–has funny, surprising scenes in it. I don’t know. Maybe “quirky” is my brand. I certainly am a different kind of writer. Steve Martin is one of my heroes. He doesn’t limit himself to one thing, not even one medium. That’s what I want, to be able to tell any kind of story any way I want.

8. Nowadays the world is a smaller place through social media and the internet.

How important a tool do you believe social media is to an author today and what tips would you give an author in how to use it effectively?

Shevi >> I believe that social media is the single most important kind of marketing that writers have today. It’s also the cheapest, and writers have the best tool to take advantage of it– the ability to communicate in writing. The truth is there’s so much to learn, way too much to be summed up in a brief paragraph. I would highly recommend that you read several books on social media marketing. I’ve read about a dozen of them. We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media by Kristen Lamb is a great place to start.

9. What would you say has been the biggest learning curve for you in Indie Publishing, and would you say the greatest challenge was the publishing aspect or the marketing aspect?

Shevi >> The greatest challenge for me was and still is the marketing aspect of indie publishing. There’s just so much to learn; and if you’re shy, putting it into practice can be quite daunting.

10. Considering the question of editing, how important do you think it is that all books (Indie or Big6) be edited professionally?

Shevi >> Generally speaking, I would say that, yes, all books should be professionally edited. However, I have edited my own books. I used to edit a magazine, and I moderated a critique group for many years. I’ve also been offered editing jobs, so I guess you could say my books were professionally edited, even if I did do it myself.

11. If you have a Big 6 contract and/or an agent – you have project deadlines to keep you motivated to finish that draft and keep you from procrastinating. How do you, as an Indie author, keep yourself motivated to keep finishing those drafts?

Shevi >> I used to be a journalist. Journalists have to meet deadlines. I had a 1,000-word midweek column, and a 2,000-word weekend column. Sometimes I had additional freelance work. Writers who finish the work and meet deadlines get paid. Writers who don’t finish the work and don’t meet deadlines don’t get paid. It’s a great motivator. I try to view my work now the same way, even if the rewards are a bit different. I’ve learned so much from being a journalist. It’s not just discipline. It’s also humility. It’s hard to think highly of your writing when you know that tomorrow it’s just going to be lining a birdcage.

12. If an unpublished writer came to you to get advice on whether they should go the Indie route or a more Traditional route in publishing, what 3 tips would you give that writer?

Shevi >> I wouldn’t give tips. Maybe it’s the journalist in me, but the first thing I would do is ask questions and listen to the answers. Why did the writer decide to write a book? How well did the writer research the market for this book? How much does the writer know about publishing? Has the writer studied other books in this genre? Has the writer studied writing? Has the writer studied literature? Who did the writer write this book for? How long has the writer been writing? Is this the writer’s first book? Is the writer in a critique group? The advice I would give would depend on the answers to these questions. Generally speaking, I think it’s best for writers to develop their skills over time. Unfortunately, indie publishing today makes it so easy to go from wanting to write a book to having one published in almost no time at all. Don’t rush it. Great books aren’t written overnight. That being said, there are exceptions. Douglas Adams wrote the radio play that was later adapted into my favorite novel, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, when he was just 19 years old. It would have been silly for me to tell Douglas Adams at that time to wait, especially considering that he eventually died quite young. So a tip that I might give one person would be completely irrelevant to someone else. The indie route is right for some people, but it isn’t right for everyone. Study your options, and choose the one that’s right for you. Leave your options open, because you might change your mind later on. Whatever you choose, I hope you have fun. I think writing is the most fun you can have, and if you have fun writing it, there’s a good chance others will have fun reading it. 

Thank you Shevi for your insight into the many publishing options nowadays. It is wonderful to meet such a diverse writer with such a varied experience in the publishing world. What stood out the most for me out of chatting to you is: “You can learn, for example, that it doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be done. Perfection, after all, is unattainable. You’ll drive yourself crazy if you try to get it perfect, and you’ll never write a thing. But something really amazing can happen and you take a piece of crap and edit the crap out of it. Of course, before you can do anything, you’re going to need that piece of crap written down. Otherwise, you’ll have nothing to edit. You’ll be like a sculptor without a block of clay. Of course, it might be fun to watch a sculptor trying to create something out of thin air, but in the end the sculptor will have nothing to show for it. The only difference is that as a writer you need to create your own block of clay.” Before we even think of publishing options, we need to be continuously writing, creating and “moulding” our own block of clay. We need the product before we can sell it or market it after all. Words of advice every writer can take to heart. Great words on motivation and how to stay focused as well. Thank you for taking the time to share your writing journey with  us. ~ Kim

 

Author Notes

BIO: When I was little, I wanted to be God. Then I discovered that job was already taken. So I decided to become a film director instead, because that seemed like the next best way to create worlds. Then I discovered that directors have to work with a lot of people who don’t necessarily share their visions for those worlds. So I decided to become a writer. After graduating with degrees in English Literature and Theater Studies, earning a teacher’s certificate, and studying art and design, I began working in newspapers and magazines. Over 12 years I’ve worked as an editorial cartoonist, a newspaper illustrator, a comics magazine editor, an arts-and-entertainment writer specializing in comedy and children’s entertainment, and a consumer columnist. In 2001, I left my job to move to New Jersey in search of a better education for my autistic son. After that, I decided to start writing what I wanted to write, the stories that had been playing like movies in my brain since I was a little girl. I’ve since written seven novels and I’ve published three–Toren the Teller’s Tale, Dan Quixote: Boy of Nuevo Jersey, and Ride of Your Life. Why My Love Life Sucks, book one in the Gilbert the Fixer series will be out later this year. After that, who knows?

Shevi can be found writing on her blog: http://shevi.blogspot.com/

Shevi’s author page can be found on Amazon, where you can also find her books:

The Many Ways to Skin a Cat | Jonathan D. Allen

Upcoming Blog Series: Researching “The Many Ways to Skin a Cat” in Publishing

Over the next few weeks I am going to be looking at all the ways “to skin a cat” in publishing. I am going to interview and feature guest posts with different authors from different publishing options. So if, like me, you are at that painful and exciting point of trying to make the most informed choice…stick around and watch this space. Perhaps one of the options will stand out for you and perhaps one of these authors that I interview or who guest-post will inspire you down the same path.

I am coming at this with a completely open mind and non-judgmental attitude. I am doing this series as much to get more information for myself and educate myself as I am any reader whom finds this interesting or useful.

Open Call

Also if you want to be one of the authors to be interviewed or guest post on this topic in this series, please shout out.

*My Guarantee: No Cats will be harmed or skinned in the writing of this series!*

😼   😼   😼   😼   😼

Are you a writer who writes in a hard-to-market genre? Do you cross or blend genres in your stories? Have agents and editors told you they love your work but don’t know how to market it because it is so “different”? Don’t fear…here’s one author’s take on how he made his writing style work for him and how he took the publishing reins into his own hands…

In interview #2 on The Many Ways to Skin a Cat I have the pleasure of Jonathan D. Allen’s company. He kindly agreed to sit down with me and chat about Publishing, the route he chose and  the tips he has learnt along the way. Jonathan found that his talent for blending the genres of dark fantasy and horror didn’t necessarily translate well to the Big6 but this did not stop him. He took matters into his own hand and decided to go the Indie route.

1. Can you tell us what “being Indie” means to you?

Jonathan >> It means being the master of my own destiny. That can be a good and a bad thing – if things go well, not only am I able to take the kudos, but most of the profit comes back to me, and can be re-invested into things like covers and editing. Of course, if things go badly, I also take the burden of those losses and mistakes. It’s enormously freeing but also scary and depressing at times.

2. Nowadays there are so many options for authors but the sheer amount of publishing options can create confusion. Why did you decide to go the pure Indie route of self-publishing?

Jonathan >> After a round of rejections from literary agents (most of them friendly and personal – some even praising the writing but saying they didn’t quite know how to sell it), I realized a few things. One was that, in the old model, the traditional route might well have worked for me. It also answered a burning question that’s plagued me throughout my career: when would I be ready? Those responses told me that I was now ready. At the same time, I realized that the kind of fiction I write has limited mass appeal, and I have no interest in changing what I write. If I really wanted to blend genres in the manner that I’m currently pursuing, it made a lot more sense to go it alone, at least for a while.

3. You hear of authors switching methods of publication from seeking traditional representation from agents & the Big6 to small press to self-publishing. Did you try any other route in publishing before settling on self-publishing and can you tell us what these routes were?

Jonathan >>As I said above, I did try the agent thing. That had been my dream for years – close to 23 now: get the agent, get the publishing contract, and then see my books in stores. I was 13 years old when I figured out that whole equation, and it was just “what you did” if you wanted to be a novelist. I still toy with the idea of going back to the old way of doing things, but sooner or later something occurs that reminds me that things have changed forever. I won’t lie, part of me misses that old system, but I’m also excited about the future of this industry.

4. On the converse side of the debate, are you a dyed-in-the-wool Indie author or would you ever consider the lure of a Big6 publishing contract?

Jonathan >>Right now, I’m flexible. I would prefer to stay indie or possibly move over to a small press that gets what I’m trying to do, but I also won’t lie: I’d love to be able to do this full-time, and if a large six-figure advance dropped in my lap, I’d have to snap it up. I don’t necessarily see that as “selling out”, as I would never accept a contract, no matter the size, that changed what I’m doing. Of course, my current path makes that dream contract a lot less likely, anyway.

5. What would you say is the most important piece of advice you were given in your dream to become a published author?

Jonathan >>”You know, you can do this.” I can still hear that in my head all these years later. Those came from my 10th grade English teacher, who encouraged my creativity at a critical time. She allowed me latitude in the papers that I wrote for that class, and showed me ways that I could use my imagination in not just creating stories, but in my everyday life. I learned from her that I had…well, an exceptional imagination, but I had always believed that either others were better at it, or I was wasting my time with it. She showed me quite the opposite.

6. Being Indie means that you have to be your own Marketing guru and Public Relations expert, what have you learnt about marketing your own books as an Indie Author?

Jonathan >>That I’m not a very good marketer. Actually, I’m not so sure how I’ve done, as I’ve followed a lot of the “conventional wisdom”, consumed marketing books for self-publishing, done book blog tours, etc. and seen very little bang for my buck. I’m slowly realizing that the only real conventional wisdom that works is the oldest one: the best marketing for your books is writing and releasing another book (or short story these days).

7. Everyone keeps on about the importance of developing “your own brand” as an author. Do you agree and how have you built “your own brand”?

Jonathan >>To some extent, I do agree. I couldn’t tell you exactly how my “own brand” would be packaged, but I do know that my stories have certain themes in common, and I can see how they’re evolving as I write them. I think sometimes writers fear that establishing a brand means they won’t be able to write what they want, but I tend to disagree. Look at Stephen King. He’s written sci-fi, horror, straightforward literary fiction, and fantasy, yet each of those stories have an undeniable “Stephen King quality”. It’s all about establishing a signature quality. I’ve focused on that and keeping my book covers consistent as a way of building a brand. The other stuff seems like wasted time.

8. Nowadays the world is a smaller place through social media and the internet. How important a tool do you believe social media is to an author today and what tips would you give an author in how to use it effectively?

Jonathan >>I think it’s incredibly important, but not in the ways that a lot of social media marketers would tell you. Sure, it’s a way to advertise your work and maybe get more people aware of your existence as an author, but I think it’s far more important as a tool to connect with other authors, publishers, and readers on a personal level. I’m a total Twitter junkie, and I always shake my head when I see people who spam a link to their book, with no other information, over and over. I think it’s fair to expect a little of that when you follow an author, but the whole point of something like Twitter is carrying on a conversation or giving micro-blog updates to friends/readers. The same applies to Facebook.

9. What would you say has been the biggest learning curve for you in Indie Publishing,  and would you say the greatest challenge was the publishing aspect or the marketing aspect?

Jonathan >>Marketing. Hands-down. I’m in a difficult-to-market genre, which makes getting across the unique aspects of my story even harder. Many times I wonder if the issue is really my approach or just that I’m writing material that is difficult to package.

10. Considering the question of editing, how important do you think it is that all books (Indie or Big6) be edited professionally?

Jonathan >>Extremely. I will not allow a novel to be released under my imprint without it having been edited professionally. The same goes for the beta reading process – nothing leaves without at least one level of beta reading (usually two). Would you want to buy a product that hadn’t been quality tested at some level? I think it’s the same thing here.

11. If you have a Big 6 contract and/or an agent – you have project deadlines to keep you motivated to finish that draft and keep you from procrastinating. How do you, as an Indie author, keep yourself motivated to keep finishing those drafts?

Jonathan >>I’ve found that deadlines are counterproductive to my own creativity. That’s not to say that I “wait for inspiration”, I’ve set a goal of writing at least 1,000 words a day, but just that when I have a set deadline, I feel pressure and begin to worry too much over mechanical aspects of the work. That’s fine in my day job as a technical writer – in fact, it’s desirable, but fiction is a whole different beast. I keep myself motivated simply by knowing that I’m mentally healthier when I’m writing on a regular basis. That and the 1,000 word goal are enough to keep me going.

12.  If an unpublished writer came to you to get advice on whether they should go the Indie route or a more Traditional route in publishing, what 3 tips would you give that writer?

Jonathan >>

  1. Think about what you want – what you really want – out of your career. Be brutally honest with yourself. Are awards and associations important? Would you rather make more money at the risk of appearing less “legitimate”, or would you like to have someone help you chart the waters? There are lots of pros and cons to both traditional and indie publishing.
  2. Ask lots of questions. Talk to people who’ve been both places, whether it’s one person who has done both or several who only have experience in one or the other. Get a feel for what their experiences have been like. Ask them about their pros and cons, and weigh those against what you want from your career.
  3. Remain flexible. Over the course of my first year, I’ve already gone back and forth between which I would prefer, and while I’m fairly settled at this point, I still have some doubts from time to time. What you want may change as your career evolves – try to be open to those changes.

Thank you for taking the time to chat with me and my readers today Jonathan. What really resonated for me was: “in the old model, the traditional route might well have worked for me. It also answered a burning question that’s plagued me throughout my career: when would I be ready? Those responses told me that I was now ready. At the same time, I realized that the kind of fiction I write has limited mass appeal, and I have no interest in changing what I write. If I really wanted to blend genres in the manner that I’m currently pursuing, it made a lot more sense to go it alone, at least for a while…” So often we as authors want to stretch our wings and pursue a genre that is perhaps a little more off-the-wall than others. Understandably traditional publishing is generally speaking less willing to take a risk on a hard-to-market genre or a blended genre story. This is when Indie is sometimes the best option. At the end of the day, readers will read stories that keep them turning the pages, not caring whether it is an Amazon imprint or a BIG6 imprint. Good stories trump marketing and genre-marketing any day. As you have said Jonathan: “I’m slowly realizing that the only real conventional wisdom that works is the oldest one: the best marketing for your books is writing and releasing another book…”. No matter what route a writer chooses to publish, Keep Writing. ~ Kim

Author Notes

Born and raised in the rural Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, Jonathan wrote his first fantasy/sci-fi novel at the age of 13. After studying writing and communication at James Madison University, Jonathan turned his passion for writing into a full-time technical writing career in the DC Metro area, working for companies like Sprint/Nextel, Time Warner Cable, and Sirius XM Radio, where he had an opportunity to combine his love of music with his love of writing.

 He may have drifted away from fiction at times, but it was always his first love – and he always returned to it. Now living in Bethesda with his wife, two cats, and two quirky guinea pigs for whom his publishing company is named, he crafts the kinds of stories that he had always hoped to read but just couldn’t quite find.

You can find him at:

The Many Ways to Skin a Cat | Introducing Patti Larsen

Upcoming Blog Series: Researching the many ways “to skin a cat” in publishing

Over the next few weeks I am going to be looking at all the ways “to skin a cat” in publishing. I am going to interview and feature guest posts with different authors from different publishing options. So if, like me, you are at that painful and exciting point of trying to make the most informed choice…stick around and watch this space. Perhaps one of the options will stand out for you and perhaps one of these authors that I interview or who guest-post will inspire you down the same path.

I am coming at this with a completely open mind and non-judgmental attitude. I am doing this series as much to get more information for myself and educate myself as I am any reader whom finds this interesting or useful.

Open Call

Also if you want to be one of the authors to be interviewed or guest post on this topic in this series, please shout out.

*My Guarantee: No Cats will be harmed or skinned in the writing of this series!*

😼   😼   😼   😼   😼

Today I have the great pleasure to kick off this series of “The Many ways to skin a cat” Talking Publishing options with a prolific YA Author and one of my closest friends and writing mentors: Patti Larsen

Patti Larsen is a YA author with 15 books published. Her readers love her and other authors respect her. She is an author first and foremost and writing is her business.

So pull up a chair and make yourself comfortable as Patti talks about her business, the business of writing and publishing, with me on Dragonfly Scrolls.

 

1. Patti, you have made yourself a well-known and well-regarded name amongst Indie authors & YA authors. Can you tell us what “being Indie” means to you?

Patti >> Being an independent author/publisher means I’m able to be my own boss, just how I like it. There was a time when having a publisher (and I’ve signed with two in the past) was the best thing in the world, the core of the dream I’d been longing for my whole life. But times are changing and my inner entrepreneur (I’ve owned three businesses) just couldn’t tolerate not having the reins in my hands. I’m the type of person who has to try every single job in a profession in order to understand that profession, and working with a publisher simply didn’t give me that flexibility. I like to get my hands dirty as well as know exactly what’s happening day in, day out, with my business–from sales to pricing, marketing to production, cover design, editing, you name it. I often found myself in the dark and waiting on one publisher (I’ve now parted ways with the company) for even the most basic answers. The realization I had lost control, that signing away my rights meant I no longer had the ability to see how the process advanced, I put on the submission brakes and dove back into what I love–being a writer AND a businesswoman. It was the best decision I’ve ever made.

2. Nowadays there are so many options for authors but the sheer amount of publishing options can create confusion. Why did you decide to go the pure Indie route of self-publishing?

Patti >> Think of it this way: you can have a boss (traditional publishing) who assigns you work and gives you a paycheck based on what they think you’re worth at the end of every quarter(if that frequently), with no transparency on accuracy of profit reporting and no input into how your work (cover design, final edits) is produced. All while expecting you to do the majority of the marketing, relying on you for the success of the work while keeping the majority of the profit. Or you can open your own small business (indie publishing) and take the project on yourself, hire a team of professionals to come together as a partnership, ensuring the final product is exactly what you wanted. Track day by day the amount of money you’re making and keep the profit for yourself, minus expenses. I’m not bashing traditional publishing. For some people, the first scenario is what they are looking for. And that’s okay. But to me it’s a no brainer.

3. You hear of authors switching methods of publication from seeking traditional representation from agents & the Big6 to small press to self-publishing. Did you try any other route in publishing before settling on self-publishing and can you tell us what these routes were?

Patti >> Settling seems like a harsh word. I feel now like had I signed a large contract, that would have been settling. None of us are immune to the call of the dream, however: write a best seller, find the perfect agent who signs you with the big publisher for the seven figure advance and everyone lives happily ever after in a nirvana of creativity and public accolades. It’s been thrown in our faces over and over again as the only way to be successful. Thank goodness the lie of the dream is finally being challenged. I spent years querying and submitting to agents and publishers, signing with two separate presses. I’m so glad it happened that way first–had I signed with the Big 6, after all I’ve learned, it would have been like selling my soul.

4. On the converse side of the debate, are you a dyed-in-the-wool Indie author or would you ever consider the lure of a Big6 publishing contract?

Patti >> They would have to change their model drastically for me to consider it. Drastically. For instance, I’d need full transparency on all financial matters. They would have to prove to me the value of publishing with them beyond putting my books in brick and mortar stores. That’s my new rule of thumb–what can you do for me I can’t do for myself? 99% of the time, the answer is nothing. As things stand now, I would turn them down. I’m a highly prolific author with a structured release schedule. Having to veer from that because of their demands or being forced to go from publishing two books a month to one a year would simply not work for me. And since most publishing contracts (especially coming out of New York) now require a non-compete clause (meaning I’d be unable to publish on my own while under contract), that would put a serious damper on my schedule. There are a number of other reasons, but mostly because I’m a businesswoman and see the pure benefits of being in charge. Besides, signing a contract and receiving an advance doesn’t mean anything until you earn out that advance. I recently read of an indie author who is being forced to pay back his sizeable advance to his publisher because of low sales. No thank you!

5. What would you say is the most important piece of advice you were given in your dream to become a published author?

Patti >> I hate to beat a dead horse… my dear friend and incredibly talented writer, Joseph Paul Haines, (www.josephpaulhaines.com) was the one who broke the last thread of control the dream had over me. We butted heads over the issue at first, me the champion of traditional publishing and he the level-headed voice of reason. He finally asked me what the hell I, a capable and seasoned businesswoman, was thinking (it still makes me laugh). I will be forever grateful to him. 

6. Being Indie means that you have to be your own Marketing guru and Public Relations expert, what have you learnt about marketing your own books as an Indie Author?

Patti >> This is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. A career. Like any business, it takes time to grow. We’re actually in an enviable position as writers/entrepreneurs. With the connectiveness of the world through the internet, building our business is much easier than ever. Bear in mind, most small business don’t see a profit for up to five years. Meanwhile, I’ve been selling independently for eight months and I’ve made back my investments already. Am I typical? No, I know I’m not. But the other side of the equation is production. Dean Wesley Smith, (www.deanwesleysmith.com) an advocate of indie publishing, himself the author of over 100 novels and a veteran of the publishing industry, puts it like this: think of your business like a bakery. If you make awesome cookies, fantastic. People will rush out to buy those cookies. But if you only have one kind to offer, eventually folks will get sick of them and you’ll lose business. But, if you have a fully stocked store with new merchandise available all the time, your customers will keep coming back over and over again. He’s so right. When I do a special promotion of one of my novels, I see a wonderful upswing in sales of that book–but I also see an equal rise in sequel sales. Meaning I’m not just benefiting from one book, but many. Readers then peruse my store for more goodies, driving up sales of my other series. The more you have to sell, the more money you make. It’s simple math. So many writers put all of their time and effort into marketing one book. And while it works for some, the majority come out disappointed. Marketing is important–but if you don’t have much for sale, you’ve pretty much thrown your efforts out the window.

7. Everyone keeps on about the importance of developing “your own brand” as an author. Do you agree and how have you built “your own brand”?

Patti >> Yes, I agree with branding, though I know for some it’s a dirty word. As authors, we’re notorious for being introverts who hate coming out into the sunlight except for book signings and grocery shopping (and both begrudged!). I’m fortunate in that I’ve had a lifetime of performance experience, so I’m very comfortable and even welcome media attention and the connections that come from networking with readers and other authors. I make sure to use the same bio image for all of my sites, promos and posts, as well as on the backs of my books. My flagship series, The Hayle Coven Novels, has a very distinctive look, allowing me to use the imagery as an easily recognizable symbol representing me and my writing. I guest post as frequently as possible and am always available to other writers as a helping hand as well as doing frequent giveaways to readers. And I’m everywhere I need to be as often as I can be, at least virtually, from Facebook to Twitter, Goodreads and my Amazon author page as well as many other sites like LinkedIn and Pinterest. I if you’re just getting started branding, I highly suggest you not overwhelm yourself with a million different sites. Pick one, get really comfortable with it, then add another. First and foremost is a webpage/blog. Second is Facebook. Third Twitter. And so on. Don’t frustrate yourself by taking on too much at one time. Remember what I said? This isn’t a sprint. You’ve loads of time to build yourself and your books into a visible presence.

8. Nowadays the world is a smaller place through social media and the internet. How important a tool do you believe social media is to an author today and what tips would you give an author in how to use it effectively?

Patti >> My biggest tip? Don’t use social media as a sales avenue. I know this sounds counter intuitive, but think about the name: social media. It’s a place to connect with people, not sell them things. A place to make friends from around the world, not annoy the ones you already have with BUY MY BOOK. The only times I post my books on social media are A) when I have a new one released. I alert everyone once, on all networks. And B) when I’m doing a freebee or giveaway. The rest of my status updates are either links to other people’s free books, witty (I try anyway) stuff I think might make people laugh (I’m sure I’m way less amusing than I think I am), one-time shares of blogs I’m guest posting on and occasional updates on how my writing is going. I do have a Facebook fan page: this is where I update folks on book progress, cover reveals and all things Patti Larsen Books. But again, I don’t overload them with marketing. I offer a page where they can find links to all of my books. And on my webpage, instead of pushing sales, I offer an Amazon trailing widget (www.pattilarsen.com) that scrolls my books past you on the top of the page with clickable links to each novel. The best way to market your books is to be accessible, friendly, open and willing to help others. Making connections with people, friends even, comes first and foremost. Because when you do, they automatically jump on your bandwagon when the time comes to sell more books. Please don’t get me wrong–I don’t see my online friends as tools, not in the least. Our relationships come first. But I’m happy to know they think enough of me to pimp me out.

9. What would you say has been the biggest learning curve for you in Indie Publishing, and would you say the greatest challenge was the publishing aspect or the marketing aspect?

Patti >> This is such a huge question. The learning curve has been enormous and I’m still at it (and always will be). In fact, it’s had such a huge impact on me, I’ve created a course on the subject, which I’m teaching more and more frequently. That said, I love a challenge, so this evolution has been the most fun I’ve ever had. If I had to choose one thing that was the hardest, marketing would be it. Not because it’s hard, but because there is so much conflicting advice on the subject and every book requires a different approach. Trial and error, experimentation rather than sticking to one method has served me well, though I feel like I’ve finally found a good promotion strategy for myself. But even that is ebbing and changing all the time! Best advice? Have fun with it, seriously. Don’t look at it like a job (this goes for social media and building your brand, too!) or a drudgery. This is an awesome part of the process that should leave you happy.

10. Considering the question of editing, how important do you think it is that all books (Indie or Big6) be edited professionally?

Patti >> I can’t stress enough how important a good editor is. If you find one (I guard mine jealously and hope she never, ever leaves me) do the dance of joy. You’ve just found a partner who will help you take your work above and beyond, into a place of greatness. Always, always, always (did I say it enough times?) put out your very best work and only your very best work. And an excellent editor is a vital component to that end. How do you find one? Start auditioning them. I know having a few edit your first chapter won’t help you know if they are good at content edits or not, but you’ll at least see how fast they are, their take on grammar (so important!!) and how comfortable you are with them. Ask around as well, to other Indie authors. Many great editors are leaving publishers to freelance. But be cautious: there are more bad editors out there (with good intentions, don’t get me wrong!) who don’t really understand what you need than there are good ones. Choose wisely!

11. If you have a Big 6 contract and/or an agent – you have project deadlines to keep you motivated to finish that draft and keep you from procrastinating. How do you, as an Indie author, keep yourself motivated to keep finishing those drafts?

Patti >> I’m a very structured and organized person. I track my progress daily, weekly, monthly and even yearly. I know what my plan is well in advance, balancing cover design delivery with editing on the last book while I write the next one, etc. Without a plan, if you don’t treat writing as a career, it’s easy to fall into the procrastination pit and not get anything done. Trust me, I have my days. But I also have very firm goals and readers to please, so I have to focus. It helps I love what I do so much I can hardly stand it. This is what I’ve always wanted, ever since I was twelve years old. And while life can get in the way of my passion, there’s no silencing the voices.

12. If an unpublished writer came to you to get advice on whether they should go the Indie route or a more Traditional route in publishing, what 3 tips would you give that writer?

Patti >>

  1. One: Do your research. Check out The Passive Voice (www.thepassivevoice.com), a legal eagle blog that dissects contracts into human terms, as well as Dean Wesley Smith and his wife, Kristine Katherine Rusch (www.kriswrites.com). Both have been in the industry for years and years, been publishers themselves, have had Bix 6 deals and have independently published. They know their stuff.
  2. Two: Ask yourself–what can a publisher do for me I can’t do for myself? Right now, the only things are a) free editing (but bear in mind you then have no control over that editing–they get what they want, not the other way around), b) free cover design (see previous) and c) placement in brick and mortar stores. Is that worth 90% (in the case of the Big 6) of your royalties? Not to mention the 15% your agent will take from that measly 10% you receive once or twice a year with no idea if your publisher is tracking and reporting your sales correctly (I’m not blowing smoke, here. There’s an inquiry happening right now on just this issue, involving ebook reporting).
  3. Three: Decision time. Are you the type of person willing to put in the work necessary to make this happen? I’m in the enviable position that this is my full-time job. And yes, I work hard at it–but that’s why I’m doing so well. Effort out, success in, like with anything. But many people are succeeding while working full-time. So, are you excited about doing it yourself but a little scared/daunted? Then go for it. If, however, you’d rather just write and have everything done for you, traditional publishing is your way to go.

Patti, thank you for your time and your advice. I especially love “This is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. A career. Like any business, it takes time to grow. We’re actually in an enviable position as writers/entrepreneurs. With the connectiveness of the world through the internet, building our business is much easier than ever. ” I could not agree more. This is a marathon and us writers are in it for the long term. This is also our business. It’s serious. You gave some really great tips and gave us all a great peek into the world of publishing Indie-style. Definite food for thought there. ~ Kim

 

Author Notes

Patti Larsen is a middle grade, young adult and adult author with a passion for the paranormal. Her YA thriller series, The Hunted, started it all, released in August, 2011. The first four books of The Hayle Coven Novels, Family Magic, Witch Hunt, Demon Child and The Wild are also out now, with book five, The Long Lost, due for release this May. Her YA steampunk series, Blood and Gold, can be found on Amazon along with The Diamond City Trilogy. Her YA paranormal novel, Best Friends Forever, is also due in May along with more of the Hayle Coven Novels. Two of her books, Family Magic (Hayle Coven #1) and Run (The Hunted #1) were recently shortlisted for the PEI Book Awards. Patti is a full-time writer and a part-time teacher of her Get Your Book Done program. She lives on the East Coast of Canada with her very patient husband and four massive cats.

 

You can find her:

XOXOXO thank you 🙂

Friday Feature | YAlicious Time Travel with Melissa Pearl

...Showcasing White Hot talent in Indie Fiction
It is my pleasure to welcome my first FRIDAY FEATURE Indie Author:
Melissa Pearl…The new voice in Time Travel in YA Fiction.
The new voice in Time Travel - Melissa Pearl (The Author)
Thank you for agreeing to be my first Indie author of 2012 on Dragonfly Scrolls.
Congratulations on the release of the complete trilogy now with the release of Pure Blood, the last book in the         Time Spirit Trilogy.
1) Tell us a little bit about Melissa Pearl, the woman behind The Time Spirit Trilogy.
I’m super excited about Pure Blood’s release. Having the trilogy complete is such a fantastic feeling. I really wanted to get them out close together so readers didn’t have to wait to find out what was going to happen.
Thanks for letting me be first interview for 2012 too. How cool.
i)  Who are you?
I am the mother of two young boys, the wife of a gorgeous school teacher and a passionate writer. I have grown up with stories dancing around in my brain, but I didn’t write my first one until I was 23. Ten years of learning and studying has flown by and I finally feel as though my work is good enough to be published. I am also a fully trained elementary teacher and particularly like teaching middle grade students. They are such a cool age. I think that’s one of the reasons I like writing YA.
ii)  What/Who inspires you?
My best friend was the one who inspired me to write my first book, but the actual stories come from all over the place. Songs, movies, concepts, poetry, nature. It only takes the smallest spark to ignite the imagination.
iii)  What is your “guilty pleasure” when not writing?
Watching movies. I love getting lost in a great story.
iv)  What is one thing about you that your readers/fans would be surprised to find out?
Hmmm – that’s a tough one. I’m quite an open and honest person, so I don’t tend to surprise people much.
How about this? I used to take kick boxing classes. Loved them. I suck at sport, but I love beating up a punching bag 🙂
2) You decided to go the Indie route and self-published your debut YA trilogy.
     Can you tell us why you went this route?
Had you tried the Big 6 route before deciding to go Indie?
It was a difficult decision and I took my time making it. I had been trying the Big 6 for a while, with no luck, but I really felt like my stuff was good enough to put out there. I also knew that traditional companies were sometimes hesitant to go for a trilogy. My brother suggested I check out self-publishing as he’s an avid reader and had enjoyed numerous indie authors. I decided to look into and realized that it was a very plausible option for me. I knew it would be really hard work and I wouldn’t have the backing of a publishing company or agent, but I liked the idea of being my own boss and I felt like I was up to the challenge. I figured my trilogy could spend the next 5 years sitting in my hard drive while I tried to win over a publishing company, or I could jump into the Indie river and see how far I got swept down stream.
3) What has been the biggest teeth-cutting lesson for you in going the Indie route?
I have learned sooooo many things on this journey and I am still learning all the time. I’m not a great marketer (so I’ve discovered) so I have found that aspect really challenging. Knowing who to target and how to target on a $0 budget has been really hard. If I could afford to hirer a marketing guru to work with me, I’m sure my sales would jump through the roof, but I can’t and so I will continue to take one step at a time. I am still gaining momentum, day-by-day, but it is a slow-moving vehicle 🙂
There is so much support out there in the writing world though and that has been a salvation. I think if I was doing this all over again, I’d take more time to research marketing strategy and build up my social media presence before putting my book on-line.
4) Now having released your debut trilogy yourself what tips would you give other pre-published writers?
Take your time. Edit until your eyes bleed. Get feedback from your critique partners, your beta readers and then keep working on the story until it’s brilliant. Once you’ve done that, you’ll want to get your work properly line edited. No mistakes is always your ultimate goal.
You also want to take time to get your cover right. A professional looking cover speaks volumes. I was lucky enough to have a friend who was a graphic designer who generously offered to do the work for me. I’ll pay her back when I make my millions ;o)
Also read up on as much as you can. Make connections in the writing world. Get your book reviewed before it’s even released. Make yourself known throughout social media. You’ll get a following who are dying to support you. The writing world is a very warm and encouraging place to hang out.
5) What aspect of the business end of releasing your books was the highlight for you?
Seeing your book on-line, watching it sell and then having people write to you and tell you they LOVED it, is the biggest buzz in the world.
ii) What aspect of the business end was the most difficult to learn?
I still have much to learn, but it’s been hard wrapping my head around the best way to target and reach my audience. Getting exposure can be really challenging.
6) Can you give us a short summary of the process of self-publishing that you undertook?
I started by letting people know my intentions and getting some advice. I was led to Smashwords and Kindle Direct Publishing. These are both awesome places to publish your books. I decided to start with just e-book copies of my books, but have since realized that putting paperbacks out is also a really good idea. Hence the reason this trilogy will be re-released in paperback with new covers in March, April & May.
I read every thing I possibly could on both sites until I felt comfortable that I knew what I was doing. Smashwords has fantastic information, outlining everything really clearly. It made formatting the book a breeze and I didn’t have any issues uploading my book as I had followed everything to the letter.
Once Golden Blood was up, I then started looking at marketing (as I said earlier, this is possibly the wrong way around, but it has still worked for me). I e-mailed numerous sites to review my book and heard back from about 50% of them. I also got linked into sites that would support me and promote my books. YA Lit Chat has been awesome, as well as all the great groups on Facebook. Goodreads is another excellent site. It’s all about getting exposure for your book.
I participated in a blog tour in December, which brought a ton of traffic through my blog and gained me a steady flow of new followers on Twitter. I also have a big blog tour coming up at the end of March. I have my fingers crossed for good things.
7) What has been your best marketing strategy or promotional strategy in both building your brand as a YA author and selling your books?
Getting in with people who have some influence and sway is a really good move. I am hoping for really good results from this blog tour in March. I guess I have to wait and see how that goes, but bringing traffic through your sites and getting exposure is a great way to go. I also think giveaways and sales are a really good move. I made Golden Blood available for free for two weeks leading up to the release of Black Blood. I had a whole bunch of people grab it, so that was worth doing.
8)  In terms of marketing and promotional strategies:
Do you think there is a different strategy in releasing a trilogy compared to a stand-alone title and what is the difference, if any?
I was advised, that if I could, I should release the trilogy close together. The more books you have out there, the more potential for sales. I took that advice on board and released them quickly… maybe too quickly? It’s been really hard to build up much momentum for Black Blood (Bk 2) as Golden Blood is still getting off the ground. At this stage, I’m still spending quite a bit of time promoting the first book. I really hope it has a good flow on effect. If people love Golden Blood then they will hopefully be after Black Blood and it will be immediately available for them. However, I am going to spend some time shifting my focus to Black Blood and Pure Blood leading up to the paperback releases.
I guess if you only have one title to promote, it would be a lot easier in that regard, because you’d only be pushing one book.
9) What was the best advice; if any, you received from other Indie authors or even traditionally published authors?
I read a blog post by Patti Larsen about the Dos and Don’ts of Indie writing. It was SUCH a good post and I found it so encouraging. The thing that really stuck out for me was – don’t worry about constantly checking your stats and fussing, just write another book 🙂 She had lots of great advice, but her main point was to write another book.
10) What is your best advice to up and coming authors whether choosing to be self-published, small press published or Big 6 published?
Write because you love it. Write a story that will capture people’s hearts and minds. As awesome as this industry is, being a writer is really hard work. If you find yourself slogging along and hating it, then you should probably stop. Whichever path you choose to take in the publishing world it’s going to be really challenging and there will be days you feel like a totally crap writer or that no one will ever accept your manuscript or buy your book.
I have been riding a roller coaster ever since taking the plunge. I can go from a low to a high to a low, all in one day, but not once have I wanted to quit. You have to take all the hard stuff on the chin and just keep writing.
11) Tell us why you decided to go YA fiction. Have you always be drawn to YA fiction and why?
I have always loved high school movies and books. There’s something about teenagers that I just adore. They are so passionate about life. They think they are invincible yet can be totally insecure as well. I love the way they fall in love with everything they have. They are complex, awesome, fascinating beings. That’s why I like to write about them 🙂
12) Do you have a favourite YA author and why?
I really like Simone Elkeles – she writes excellent stories with lots of emotion and tension. I find her books really hard to put down. I quite like Ally Carter as well. She has a fantastic sense of humour. I also have a long list of indie YA authors on my “to read” list so keep an eye out for my reviews. I’m bound to discover more brilliance as I work my way through these books.
13) If you could throw a dinner party with two of your favourite characters from your own books and four from other authors’ books:
Tell us who would be on the guest list and tell us what food would be served?
What a great question 🙂 I love it.
Okay…
My two favourite characters from the Time Spirit Trilogy are Harrison and Gabe.
Along with them, I’d invite Kat and Gabrielle from the Heist Society Series (Ally Carter), because they are just fantastic, funny & very entertaining.
I’d also love to be joined by Mark & his best friend, Brian from Screwing Up Time (C. M. Keller)
So that would give us two gorgeous, sassy girls, three very likeable teenage guys and one relaxed father figure.
Food wise, we’d have to go for pizza 🙂
14) What do you want readers to get out of reading your books?
I want to provide them with an entertaining story that they struggle to put down. I want them to be thinking about the characters when they’re not reading. I want them to step out of reality for a little while and get lost in someone else’s emotional and physical adventures.
ii)  Do you have an overall premise/message/theme that guides your stories?
The overall message for the Time Spirit Trilogy is about breaking free. As Gemma walks this journey throughout the books she is learning to fight for what she wants and ultimately gain her freedom.
Each book has a main theme that drove me through the stories…
Golden Blood – hope
Black Blood – betrayal
Pure Blood – sacrifice
5) Your trilogy has elements of time travel in it.
i) Have you always been fascinated with time travel.
Yes – I love history. The idea of being able to travel back and see it with my own eyes is tantalizing.
ii) What other time travel stories, if any,  have inspired your own trilogy?
To be honest, I haven’t read many time travel stories. I quite like that I haven’t, because it means all my ideas were fresh to me. In saying that, I have seen a few time travel movies I enjoyed like, Timeline and of course the Back To the Future series (how old am I?)
16) Do you have a favourite out of the three books of your trilogy and why?
Black Blood is my favourite. I’m not even sure why. I just really love Gemma’s journey through that book. I feel like she really starts to come into her own and discover the strength she has buried deep down inside her.
ii) Do you have a favourite character from the trilogy? Who is it and why?
I love Gabe. I don’t want to say too much, because of spoilers, but Gabe is the coolest guy. He’s calm, relaxed… a brilliant contrast to all of Gemma’s turmoil.
7) A trilogy can be tricky to write and release. Some readers love them, others don’t.
For readers: Does your trilogy need to be read in the order it was written to be best appreciated?
Yes – very much so. I actually wrote all three books in one go. There is a big story arc that spans the three books and then three smaller arcs inside that (one for each book). To understand all the links and subplots, you really need to read them in order.
18) You have come to the end of this trilogy now. It must have a bittersweet feel to it.
Are you working on anything new? Can you give us a sneak peek/blurb?
I have a few things in the pipeline.
The next book to be released (hopefully July this year) is co-authored with a friend of mine, Brenda Howson. It is the first book in the Mica & Lexy series. These books will stand on their own and not need to be read in any particular order. We are hoping to release one a year. They follow the adventures of two kiwi girls who have been best friends forever. As they reach their senior years in high school, their friendship is put under different pressures as the girls acquire boyfriends and have to deal with the new dynamics. On top of this, they have the uncanny ability to get themselves in the worst situations, so each book will be filled with plenty of tension and nail biting. I’m really excited about this series. I love these two girls so much and we have so many cool adventures planned for them.
I am also in the early planning stages of a stand alone paranormal romance called Betwixt… about a girl who is hit by a car. She is lying in the forest, lost and dying, stuck between two worlds. In her ghost like form, the only person who can hear her is a boy who just happens to hate her guts. With the clock ticking, she must convince him to help her and then do whatever she can to find out where she is so that he can save her life.
19) Where can readers find your books?
ii) Where can readers find you online?
I have two blogs:
http://yalicious.blogspot.co.nz/ (co-authored with Brenda Howson)
Facebook:
Twitter:
I love connecting with people, so please leave a comment anywhere and I will always do my best to respond.
20) Lastly what do you want to say to your fans and readers, if anything?
I have had some fantastic feedback on these books and it warms my heart everytime. My goal was to write stories that entertained and were really hard to put down. To read the reviews and realize I am doing just that, totally makes my day. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to review or rate my books or leave a comment on any of my pages. It means so much to me.
For those of you who haven’t read my stuff yet, I really hope you enjoy it 🙂
To celebrate the release of the final book in The Time Spirit Trilogy, Melissa Pearl has decided to give away 2 complete ebook sets of this trilogy to commentors of this post. If you would like to be a lucky recipient of this awesome YA trilogy from a fresh voice in the YA fiction world…then just tweet the following tweet:
 
I am traveling in time with the YAlicious Time Spirit Trilogy by @MelissaPearlG Check out this exciting new YA author and her trilogy!
  • The first 2 tweets will be the lucky winners but make sure you comment on this post with the URL of your tweet.
 
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions Melissa. I look forward to your next release and wish you many sales with the Time Spirit Trilogy. 

The Time Spirit Trilogy

by Melissa Pearl

They were an enigma. Throughout the ages there had only ever been rumors of these mysterious people who appeared out of nowhere and disappeared just as quickly, whispers of swirling gold dust, unexplained piles of abandoned clothing left in dark alleys. Only a select few had glimpsed the reality and they chose not to speak of it. They knew the truth needed guarding. These people were special… chosen. Created for the sole purpose of changing history.

Book 1 ~ GOLDEN BLOOD

Purchase here on Amazon

Purchase here on Smashwords

St. Augustine, Florida – 2011 AD

Book 2 ~ BLACK BLOOD

Purchase here on Amazon

Purchase here on Smashwords

Daytona Beach, Florida – 2011AD

Book 3 ~ PURE BLOOD

Purchase here on Amazon
Purchase here on Smashwords
Rome, Italy – 2006AD
   

Dragons, Romance, Vampires & a Demon Cat | Diane Nelson

 Today I have the honour of inviting the Hilarious and Mischievous Diane Nelson. Creative Director of an Indie Publisher, Fantasy & Romance Author, Equestrian, Fantasist are all apt descriptions for this talented author and publisher. I had thought to serve coffee and be all respectable but this soon changed to margaritas served with a side of much laughter. I would have to say that this has been one of the most entertaining interviews I have held on this blog. So you can add humourist to those descriptions of Diane. So pull up a chair, take a martini glass and enjoy the chilled margaritas while Diane talks about her love of all things fantastical and gives us her nuggets of wisdom on Indie publishing and first submissions. Oh I almost forgot, her muse Rowan and her Demon Cat will be sitting in on the interview as well. From Diane’s own accounts both are never too far from her side.

Welcome Diane…


girl with a quill: Ernest Hemingway famously wrote a six-word story. Tell us a bit about yourself in 6 words. Who is Diane Nelson?
Diane: She loves to tilt at windmills.

girl with a quill: When did you decide that you wanted to be a Writer?
Diane: As with most writers, I’ve never ‘not written’. There was a time—long long ago, in a land far far away—when journals, diaries, and letters were the essence of communication and self-expression. Telephones were multi-line devices with nosy neighbors listening in and per minute charges that strained a family’s budget. Television was a modern miracle doled out in small doses, not the time hog it is today. I grew up on the tail end of that period and on the cusp of the electronic revolution. The advent of ‘email’ was a revelation, an opportunity, a gift for someone like me who communicates best through the written word. Friends and family are far-flung so keeping them abreast of my latest adventures evolved into stories. To my surprise I found out that people were saving my writings. Eventually those same people said: when you retire, you will write full-time.

girl with a quill:How long have you been writing for?
Diane: My professional career as an x-ray diffractionist (think physics with a strong creative bent) involved a substantial amount of technical writing, something that instilled discipline and an appreciation for economy and clarity that translated well when I turned to fiction as an outlet for my creative energies. It did not, however, shake me free of a propensity for run-on sentences. One must have obstacles to overcome … always. (And to answer the question: 35 years.)

girl with a quill: Besides writing, what are your other passions / hobbies?
Diane: My passions and hobbies are life style choices. I live in the country, reveling in the rhythms and demands of equestrian pursuits. I have competed in dressage, eventing, hunter-jumper and endurance/competitive trail. I ran a boarding stable, trained riders and horses, gave clinics for 4H and Pony Club, managed horse shows—a total immersion in all things equine. My grandmother, a Russian emigrant, taught me needlework. I lived on a sailboat on the Chesapeake Bay and to this day the experience remains a source of inspiration for my stories. I love the cinema and theater (and television). I read, a lot. I have evil chickens and a Demon Cat and a parakeet with, um, certain propensities that are blush-worthy.

girl with a quill: You are also creative director of Pfoxmoor Publishing, an independent press. How did this role come about?
Diane: As is my habit, I did a lot of research on the publishing industry, the hoops writers are forced to jump through to get noticed, if at all, and the incredible lag times between securing that first contract and eventually having one’s work reach the light of day. Since I came late to the fiction publishing side of the equation—and because by nature I am Type A, take charge of my career—I did not wish to waste precious time. I also analyzed my own reading preferences and how the major publishing houses were overlooking new authors offering fresh voices in favor of a tired formulaic approach. I felt compelled to seek out and champion those authors being overlooked because they do not fit into a convenient mold. Along the way I discovered a community of amazingly talented individuals who embrace a similar philosophy.

girl with a quill: As an indie publisher: Where do you see the future of publishing going? 

Diane: Ah yes, crystal ball time. Well, I do believe the future of publishing is digital. And no, I don’t think print will ever go out of fashion. We are in a state of flux. While the eReaders are truly revolutionary devices, there will be wonders and marvels and apps galore in the upcoming months and years. Reading will become interactive, embracing audio, video and who knows what else. The author who simply commits words to paper (how quaint) or a Word/Pages document will be left behind. It is no longer enough to simply express oneself through a novel, short story or poem. The reading public expects, demands, a level of interaction that transcends everything that has gone before. The publisher will continue as one conduit amongst many options to bring new content to the public. But the paradigm is changing and publishers must be nimble enough to change, sometimes rather drastically in a short amount of time. Smaller, stream-lined niche publishers who are in a position to analyze and understand their market, and are willing to respond, will be the most successful. 


girl with a quill: In the unique role of being on both sides of the industry, writer and publisher, what are 3 pieces of advice you would give to a new writer about to submit a manuscript?
Diane: 1) I learned this the hard way: find a professional editor to fine-tooth your masterpiece, someone willing to give you the tough feedback you need. This goes way beyond snagging typos and misspellings. A good editor will nail your inconsistencies, will help you understand your characters and their motivations, will give you reasons for and against particular choices. And yes, it is expensive. You get what you pay for. But if you are committed to your work, then you simply must be committed to making it the best it can be. Trust me, you can’t do this alone.

2) Whoever you submit to—read their submission policies carefully. Does your work fit into what they specialize in? Who else do they represent? Make your first three chapters absolutely, positively error free. Write a proper query letter. That means researching, taking classes, attending writer conferences to learn how to do it. I have seen one, exactly one, properly constructed query letter. Learn how to do a synopsis. An agent or a publisher wants to know everything, right down to the spoilers. Clever cliffhangers will not engage an editor. If they say they want a 3-4 page synopsis, then this is what you give them. Once you’ve learned to do that, then learn how to condense that into a single page, three paragraphs, one paragraph and finally a single sentence. 

3) Understand that even with independent, ‘nimble’ publishers, the sheer volume of content crossing that desk is daunting. Everything takes three times longer than you might expect. Understand that a ‘no’ doesn’t necessarily mean you are a bad writer. It may simply mean that the content did not appeal for a host of reasons. This is a totally subjective business. And always, always write a thank you note (even if the rejection hurt and was perhaps not as kindly worded as it could have been). This is the professional thing to do and will leave the editor/publisher/agent with a positive attitude toward you as a person, even if they had a more negative reaction to your work.

girl with a quill: Who or what is the greatest influence on you as a writer? and Why?
Diane: I am an unrepentant geek and a purveyor of all things popular culture. Joss Whedon walks on water, Marti Noxon rips my heart out of my chest and hands it to me on a platter still beating, James Cameron had me within the first three minutes. I follow screen writers/directors/special effects guys like the worst fanboy/girl. I love scenes with cinematic appeal and I adore writers who write to that. It is not easy. And it is easily overdone. Basically every person I’ve ever met is a story waiting to be told. People, and the odd quirks of fate that make us who we are, are my inspiration. That I choose to occasionally travel down a dark path is a testament to my own checkered history, one that requires cathartic venting to keep me on an even keel. And to help me appreciate the incredible gifts that surround me today.

girl with a quill: If your life story were a novel, what genre would it be and what would be the story-arc up to this point?

Diane: Something between a Stephanie Plum and a Midnight Breed novel. Though noirish seems more suitable at times. I’m rarely one plot line or story arc. I am the Phoenix rising from the ashes.

girl with a quill: Tell us about the place that you write? What do you fill that space with?
Diane: Generally the living room sitting in a ratty old recliner with a small round table to hold my Cherry coke and a tilt table holding my laptop. Throw in an iPod and Bose headphones and Demon Cat on my lap.

girl with a quill: Tell us about your writing process from that magical moment when the story’s idea / character voice interrupts your thoughts…what happens next?
Diane: A song title, musical phrasing, a snippet of conversation, virtually everything is fodder for a story. Frequently I will dream an entire novel—on those occasions I can’t get to the laptop fast enough in the morning. A little gal from a middle school choral group once asked me how I come up with ideas. I told her that I have all these people who rent apartments in my head. And sometimes they sublet and don’t tell me. Then, when I go knocking on that door, expecting to talk with the tenant, this stranger will answer, invite me in for tea (it’s a tweener, so I kept it ‘clean’) and a story. She loved it because it made sense in a skewed way. What she didn’t know is that every word was true (except for the tea).

girl with a quill: Are you a plotter, a pantster or a little of both?
Diane: Pantser. Dyed in the wool. It is a blessing and a curse. It makes me a better short story/flash fiction writer than a novelist (I think).

girl with a quill: What genre do you write in and why?
Diane: Fantasy, but that encompasses a wide range of themes. I love paranormal because of the freedoms it grants to explore different worlds, different states of being, different choices and consequences.

girl with a quill: We all have little habits and quirks that make us individual.
(a) What are your bad habits in writing?
(b) What are your strengths in writing?
Diane: a) Oy vey, that‘s easy: really dense, economical phrasing and complex sentence structures that can challenge even a graduate level reader

b) really dense, economical phrasing … it’s how I write. And I know it’s not for everyone. I’ve been called a very ‘sensuous writer’ with an extremely strong voice. Whether or not it’s because of that ‘really dense’ propensity, I haven’t a clue.

girl with a quill: If you could try your pen at another genre, which genre would you choose?
Diane: Literary fiction. First I need to figure out exactly what that is. But it sounds tres cool and much of what passes for that genre involves … really dense, economical phrasing…

girl with a quill: Can you tell us a bit about the book/s you have written?
Diane: I am perhaps proudest of my YA fantasy Dragon Academy, published by ireadiwrite Publishing under my real name, Diane Nelson. I wanted to write about normal kids in a world where dragons exist as a matter of course, where they make mistakes and learn to deal with issues without being pummeled by dysfunctions and all the ugliness that has invaded YA literature today. My other pride and joy is Sculpting David, published by Red Sage under my pen name Nya Rawlyns—a sophisticated contemporary romance set in the shark filled waters of NYC’s art world. In November I have a new novel coming out from Red Sage titled Hunter’s Crossing, another contemporary romance which draws on my equestrian background. I also have a 4-book series in progress titled Portals under my other pen name T.S. Bond. Book One, Spar with the Devil, is out and will be followed shortly by The Devil and the Falcon. This is a dark urban fantasy, action-adventure tale of two families/cultures at war, a saga of love denied and betrayal.

girl with a quill: What is your best sentence you have written?
Diane: Honestly? I haven’t written it yet.

girl with a quill: Are you working on any WIP now? Can you tell us a bit about it?
Diane: Someone said, at RWA, that ‘vamps are dead’ with apparently no pun intended. We were discussing the glut of vamp stories on the market and wondering if readers have gotten tapped out yet. My gut feeling was ‘no’. So I decided to write a vamp story that will be a three-story arc titled Hunger Hurts. The first book is Acid Jazz Singer which features a vamp transvestite who was turned mid-sex change transformation. The vamp is not the actual main character but rather the catalyst around which the action happens. The story is, um, evolving given my pantser nature. In truth it’s going to strange and wondrous places and I can’t wait to discover how it turns out.

girl with a quill: First drafts are for the writers themselves. Who reads your work after you?
Diane: I have beta readers for my dark urban fantasy. Sometimes I will post a chapter on FB or on my website to gauge reactions. I also belong to GLVWG which has quite a number of critique groups depending upon genre. They are an invaluable resource. 

girl with a quill: Why do you write?
Diane: Why do I eat? Why do I breathe? I simply must do so.

girl with a quill: Do you have a common theme or Omni-Premise that threads its way through all your writing? If so, what is it?
Diane: That each of us carries demons within us, whether by nature or by circumstance, and that the process of exorcising those demons or wrapping them in close embrace, is what makes us who we are.

girl with a quill: Do you believe in Muses? If you do, who/what is your Muse?
Diane: Oh, do I ever. In fact my muse has his own fan club. His name is Rowan and his exploits are legendary. My son used to explain to folks about his mother having an ‘imaginary friend’. Now he isn’t so sure about that.

girl with a quill: If you found a golden lamp with a genie and he told you he could either make one of your stories come true or that you could become a character for a short time in another author’s book, which option would you choose and why?

Diane: Well, since in my own mind my stories are true, then being a character in someone else’s novel would be a treat. The opportunity to wreak havoc, sow dissent and otherwise make a nice character having a bad day even worse off? Oh yeah.

girl with a quill: What is more important to you: Story or Character? Why?

Diane: Most of my work is character driven. Without characters you care about, the story, the message, the lesson, will not matter. But then, without a story you are left with store-front mannequins. It’s a chicken-egg question, after all.

girl with a quill: Who is your favourite character that you have created and why?
Diane: Rowan, based on my muse’s tortured past. This is in the third book of the Portals series: The Devil and the Shaman. I wrote this one from first person point of view—this allowed me such deep penetration into the character’s psyche that it was at once liberating and terrifying. This was one of those times when I truly opened a vein.

girl with a quill: Who is your favourite character in the literary world and why?
Diane: Would you laugh hysterically if I said ‘Ranger’ from the Stephanie Plum series? He’s Cuban, he’s hot and he says ‘Babe’. I mean, really, um, ‘scuse me while I go stand in front of the open freezer for a couple minutes…

girl with a quill: If you could throw a dinner party and invite 5 famous creative people, who would they be and why?
Diane: Joss Whedon (see above), Rockne S. O’Bannon because he was the mastermind behind the best SciFi show ever: Farscape, James Cameron (come on, you need to ask?), Michael Bay (because he blows shit up better than anybody) and Charlaine Harris because her ‘Verse has captivated and enthralled me for years.

girl with a quill: If you could throw a dinner party and invite 5 of your favourite fictional characters, who would they be and why?
Diane: Oh my, tough one, this. Atticus Kodiak from the series by Greg Rucka. A unique character who grew and made some tough, uncompromising choices that took me to uncomfortable places. Along the same lines I’d have to include Elvis Cole and Joe Long from the series by Robert Crais—again, these characters grow, evolve and must deal with a world in which their choices are often morally compromised. From Charlaine Harris’ ‘True Blood’ Verse, Eric (do I have blood in my hair?) and Pam (is it because I wear too much pink?). Humph, that’s five and I’m just getting started. Must call Wegmans to order a larger shrimp platter.

girl with a quill: If you could give yourself one piece of advice at the beginning of your writing career, what would it be?
Diane: Write every single day.

girl with a quill: What is the one piece of writing advice you could give your future self, 10 years from now?
Diane: Edit every single day.

girl with a quill: What do you want your lasting legacy, as a writer, to be?
Diane: I don’t write so that everyone will love me. I write for that one person for whom my story resonates, made a difference. If I am someone’s favorite author, then really what more can one ask?

girl with a quill: Where can we find your book/s for sale?
Diane: The usual suspects: Amazon, Kindle, B&N, Smashwords, OmniLit, Red Sage

girl with a quill: Finally where can we find you on the web?
Diane: As a publisher: http://www.pfoxmoorpublishing.com, http://www.pfoxchase.com.

Website: http://www.romancingwords.com and http://www.idancewithwords.com

Talking E-Books,Indie Publishing and Writing

There is a lot of talk in the world of writing and publishing about the shape of Traditional Publishing vs Indie Publishing and Print Publishing vs E-Book Publishing. Many writers are adamant on which side of these particular fences they sit. But there are still some who are caught between a rock and a hard place. This could be because they do not know enough about the newer industries of Indie Publishing (Independant or Small Press Publishers) or E-books. Perhaps you have already made up your mind about which side of the fence you are on but if you do have questions and want to know more then this is the interview you want to sit in on.

Today I am talking E-books, Indie Publishing, Editing and Writing with Susan Landis-Steward: Writer, Editor, Publisher.

So take a seat and get comfortable. Time to be informed by a lady who knows the different sides of the publishing debate. She also has the unique position of being both a writer and publisher.

Welcome Susan. Thank you for joining us here today.

 

girl with a quill: Tell us a bit about yourself. Who is Susan Landis-Steward?

Susan:  I’m an almost 60-year-old woman with way too much education and way too many ideas. I fully expect to die at my desk with my slippers half on (just as they are right now) doing something involved with editing, publishing, or writing. But not for another 20 years or so. I am a lesbian mom in a very long-term relationship. We have three stupendous daughters and are relieved that the youngest just got her own apartment. We do not suffer from empty nest syndrome, but maybe that’s because we both have such interesting lives of our own. We also have four amazing grandkids, ranging in age from 13 years to three weeks. I’ve spent my working years doing things like computer systems analyst, journalist, editor, child welfare worker, teacher, professor, and even did a brief stint as a call center minion. Probably the most interesting thing to other people is that I am brain injured. I died during minor surgery, caught a jump-start from a passing surgeon, and was shouted back to life by a small elderly nurse who spent the better part of a day yelling at me to breathe. I ended up with some minor brain damage and fibromyalgia. Blessing and curse. The blessing being that I can no longer work for someone else as I need frequent naps. The curse is obvious, I think.


girl with a quill: When did you decide that you wanted to be a Writer?

Susan: I started writing at the age of four and never looked back. I always enjoyed writing, but it wasn’t until I was in my 20s that I realized I’d like to actually write something for people to read. I didn’t get the courage until I was in my 30s and went to work as a reporter.  Having thousands of people reading my work was terrifying. I tried to resist my first byline, preferring anonymity. But I got over it. After a couple of decades of journalism, I wanted to try my hand at fiction. Here’s another blessing of the brain injury. There is a women’s writers group that meets at the local community college on Wednesday afternoons. With no job, I was free to join. I started my first novel, Blind Leading the Blind, and it was just published in March 2011. I’m currently working on the sequel, Blind Spot. They are lesbian mysteries featuring a former detective and a blind therapist. Love, sex, action, horses, motorcycles, belly dancers, crime: what more could a girl want?

 

girl with a quill: How long have you been writing?

Susan:  Well, that involves math, but I’m 59 now and I was four then so 55 years? Is that right? But professionally, I’ve been writing for 27 years as a journalist, freelance writer, academic, professional writer for the State of Oregon, and many other tasks. I’ve made my living as a freelancer exclusively by the pen for the past five or six years.

girl with a quill: You founded Puddletown Publishing. How did you get into this?


Susan: Wow. I bought a Nook Color last fall because my eyes can no longer be sufficiently corrected to allow me to read most trade paperbacks without removing my glasses, covering one eye to keep the astigmatism at bay, holding the book two inches from my face, and squinting. With my Nook, I can bump up the size, change the font, and make the background a comfortable color.  Great adaptive technology for the baby boom. So, on January 2nd, we went to a party. It was the fifth party that week and I actually tried to get out of it. But my partner insisted, so I took my Nook. That’s what introverts do; we make sure we always have a book along in case we need a breather from the clamoring crowd. So, when I got tired of socializing, I went and sat in a quiet room with a friend,  CONTACT _Con-3B5146219 Renee LaChance, and we started talking about e-books.  Renee was the founder and publisher of Just Out newsmagazine, Oregon’s gay rag, and was itching to get back into publishing. I was a bit at loose ends myself, one regular editing gig having ended, and pretty soon the conversation went from “Why isn’t anyone doing this?” to “Why aren’t we doing this?” Within a week we were on our way. We published our first flush of books in March and our second group of nine books is coming out soon. We are having the time of our lives.


girl with a quill: Do you take control of the editing process like traditional publishers or do writers self-publish through your company?

Susan: We are not a vanity press. We call ourselves an indie press because we’re small, but we function like a traditional publisher in terms of acquisitions, editing, art, and all that rigmarole. Even my own book was submitted to the entire process. Our readers read it without knowing it was mine.  One of my books got a no, so it’s due for some serious rewriting if I ever have the time. 

girl with a quill: For those of us in the dark about e-book publishing, explain to us the process of submitting and publishing a book through your company?

Susan:  When we are accepting submissions, ask that books be sent as Word documents with a short bio and a synopsis. Right now we’re looking for books by lesbians and women of color—it’s a small group, but we don’t want to be swamped with submissions. Others will get their chance. We publish all genres. We do expect submissions to be well-written, tell a good story, and be carefully edited. I’m a bit of a grammar and spelling Nazi and won’t waste my time on something with lots of errors. I’ve quit reading many traditionally published bestsellers because they are so poorly written and edited. The books are then sent to readers who tell us if they think we should proceed with the project. Usually we go with their recommendations, although we do take another look if they say no and we think the project still has merit. Once contracts are signed, we (meaning I) do the first editing pass, looking for obvious structural problems and glaring writing problems. I take notes, send the book back to the writer, and work with the author to make it the best it can be.  Meanwhile, Renee starts working with illustrators and other sub-contractors. Once the book is up to my standards, Renee, who is a masterful copy-editor, goes through it with a fine-tooth comb and catches all the picky stuff I might have missed. Renee and I are a good match. I’m a good editor, while she’s got a business brain like no other. So she handles the contracts, the sub-contractors, the money, the traditional marketing, and all the parts I hate to do. I do work with the authors around social marketing because I enjoy that part. Renee also does the formatting for POD. Finally, we format the book, load it at all the usual suspects, and celebrate. The e-book goes up as soon as the book is ready. POD follows a few weeks later. Oh, and we pay better than average royalties and have the luxury of working with great new writers. It’s so fun!

girl with a quill: This is an e-book Publisher. What do you believe is the future for e-books and more publishers like yourself taking advantage of the wave?

Susan: I hear people all the time who say, “I’ll never get an e-reader. I love ‘real’ books too much.” Most of them are younger folks.  I said the same thing until I realized I hadn’t read anything for fun for a few years. I used to read between 200 and 300 books a year. Suddenly, I was barely getting through three.  My eyes just couldn’t handle it. I did a few rounds with my eye doctor and finally gave up. Then, bang! e-readers.  I’m reading like a maniac again. So older folks are snatching them up because you can read anything on an e-reader. Kids love them. My grandkids grew up on computers so the e-book is an easy transition for them.  And studies show that kids are reading more with e-books. Even my 30-year-old daughter bought one because she wants to be able to carry several books in one compact space, and the new apps for the Nook Color make the thing a small computer that fits in a purse. Lots of servicemen and women are buying e-readers because they fit in a uniform pocket and can hold hundreds of books. The traditional publishers have been slow to change and are going the way of the dinosaur. With books by indies costing only a few dollars, more and more people can afford to buy a book. And I love being able to check books out of the library without leaving my house. I don’t think books are going away any time soon, but the Big 6 and the brick and mortar stores need to enter the 21st century if they want to compete.  I also see a lot of writers who still want a “traditional” deal, even though it’s not in their best interest. Why spend years scrabbling for an agent, waiting for the agent to shop the book, then wait another year for the book to come out? All for 7.5 percent royalties. And, if your book doesn’t sell well, it’s on the shelves for 3 months before being remaindered, and you still haven’t earned your advance back. No wonder writers don’t make any money. An e-book is for sale forever. Writers are finding that they can either self-publish or go with the smaller e-presses like Puddletown and have their books on sale in weeks instead of years. The royalties are better, the quality is often better, and you can still have print copies for POD. There are still some problems to be worked out, like the inconsistent quality of self-published books, but I think the market will take care of that over the next few years.  Overall, I see e-books continuing to take a larger and larger share of the market. They’re cheap in a poor economy, they’re green in a society that should be worried about that, and they’re technology that Americans have shown they adore. Barring major solar flares knocking out the grid or the end of the world, I think even dyed-in-the-wool book lovers will be reading e-books with some regularity.  

girl with a quill: Why have you chosen to do predominantly only e-book publishing? Is it a personal preference? Why?

Susan:  It’s a fairly wide open market, it’s environmentally friendly, and it’s better for the writer in the long run.  We also are committed to a “green” workplace and you don’t get much greener than this.

girl with a quill: Many people in 9-5 jobs have a water-cooler space where they go to talk with their colleagues about work issues. Do you have a “water-cooler” group for your writing life?

Susan:   I’m an introvert so I like being alone. With Dropbox, I can see my business partner and our subcontractors working away at their homes. (Dropbox alerts you when other folks access the files.) I have my dog and some cats, so I’m happy. I also belong to several Facebook groups that I visit throughout the day. Renee and I also talk on the phone almost daily, and we meet once a week to go over the endless list.

girl with a quill: Who or what is the greatest influence on you as a writer? and Why?

Susan:  Without a doubt, Madeleine L’Engle. She’s been my favorite since I was a child and got A Wrinkle in Time for Christmas the year it came out. Her writing and her liberal perspective on faith have both influenced me greatly over the years.  I was fortunate to study with her for a short time.

girl with a quill: If your life story were a novel, what genre would it be and what would be the story-arc up to this point?

Susan:  Is there a genre called crazy-as-hell? My life has been a roller coaster with all the usual events: marriage, family, work, taxes. But there’s been a huge element of surprise as well: house burned down, floods, and we’ve got two more horsemen yet to come. I’ve died and lived to tell about it, started several new businesses and driven them to success. If I told you everything, you probably wouldn’t believe me. Sometimes, I think I’m trying to work out several lifetimes of karma in one.

girl with a quill: Tell us about the place that you write? What do you fill that space with?

Susan:  I have a room of my own in our home, lined floor to ceiling with books, and a desk that is cluttered beyond belief. I need a big monitor so I have a 32” flat screen TV I can blow everything up to 200 percent on. I have several computers, usually a couple of cats lounging around, and a lot of outsider art and photos of family and friends. There are also a lot of art supplies as I like to dink around with other creative forms. I’m primarily a fiber artist in my spare time.  Like Gandhi, I believe we could have world peace if everyone would just spin their own yarn.

girl with a quill: Tell us about your writing process from that magical moment when the story’s idea / character voice interrupts your thoughts…what happens next?

Susan:  I mull. I gestate. I listen to voices in my head. Finally, when I can stand it no longer, I sit down and start writing.  It’s almost like mental illness.

girl with a quill: Are you a plotter, a pantster or a little of both?

Susan:  A pantster, for sure.  I tried plotting but could never get the whole thing done. Finally, I sat down and started writing.  Sometimes I have no idea what’s coming next, so I get surprised.

girl with a quill: What genre do you write in now?

Susan: I love mysteries so I write mysteries. I’m also working on a couple of theology projects (I trained as a theologian), and one book that combines theology with mystery.

girl with a quill: If you could try your pen at another genre, which genre would you choose?

Susan: Probably fantasy or science fiction. With lesbian protagonists. I like women’s voices and there’s not enough good lesbian literature out there.

girl with a quill: Are you working on any WIP now? Can you tell us a bit about it?

Susan: I’m writing two sequels to my first book.  The first is Blind Spot and the second is Blind Faith. The first three are all in the POV of the detective who is neurotic as hell but can see. The fourth book will be Blind Leading the Blind and will be in the POV of the blind therapist. That will be a challenge.

girl with a quill: Why do you write?

Susan:  Because it’s what I do. If I’m not writing books, I’m writing articles, or sermons, or blog posts, or…

girl with a quill: Do you have a common theme or Omni-Premise that threads its way through all your writing? If so, what is it?

Susan:  Hmm.  I guess the combination of lesbian and liberal theologian makes me most interested in the ideas of inclusion and diversity over all other themes. I want to write things that normalize all the differences for my readers. Like the idea that lesbians can just be normal folks or that a blind person can lead a rich, rewarding, and creative life. Or that one can be spiritual, even religious, without leaving your brain behind.

girl with a quill: If you found a golden lamp with a genie and he told you he could either make one of your stories come true or that you could become a character for a short time in another author’s book, which option would you choose and why?

Susan:  Oh! I’d be Meg Murray in Madeleine L’Engle’s books. Or I’d be Anna Pigeon in Nevada Barr’s books. I like Meg because she’s an awkward kid and so was I. I like Anna because she gets to work in the National Parks. 

girl with a quill: What is more important to you: Story or Character? Why?

Susan:  I like character driven books best. If you have a good character, one that I can get to know and care about, I’ll probably forgive minor issues with the story. I’m not as forgiving about great stories with flat or stereotypical characters.

girl with a quill: Who is your favourite character that you have created and why?

Susan:  I’d have to say Erik Walton (short for Erika) in my Blind series. She’s smart, tough, smart-assed, and neurotic as hell. Her weaknesses and tenderness shine through all her bluster. Her inner dialogue is pretty true to my own life.

girl with a quill: Who is your favourite character in the literary world and why?

Susan:   Marvin in Dr. Seuss’s Marvin K. Mooney. He cracks me up.

girl with a quill: If you could throw a dinner party and invite 5 famous creative people, who would they be and why?

Susan:  Madeleine L’Engle. Well, duh. Nevada Barr, because she writes gripping books with great female characters.  Rita Nakashima Brock, one of my favorite feminist theologians. Mozart, because I’d want him to play for us after dinner, and he was a crazy child prodigy.  Willa Cather, because she’s one of the few writers who can take my breath away, and I can’t figure out if it’s the story or the writing that did it. An amazing thing when that happens.


girl with a quill: If you could throw a dinner party and invite 5 of your favourite fictional characters, who would they be and why?

Susan:  Anna Pigeon, because I love her adventures in the wilderness.  God as portrayed in Gospel by Wilhelm Barnhardt, because he’s laugh-out-loud funny as hell, doesn’t take him/herself seriously, and is much like God as I imagine him/her.  Alex Delaware, from the mysteries by Jonathon Kellerman, because I could use a good guitar-playing shrink.  Stephanie Plum, Janet Evanovich’s bounty hunter, because she makes me laugh and she’s the kind of person I like to hang out with. Rina Lazarus from the books by Faye Kellerman, because I want to know everything about her faith.

girl with a quill: If you could give yourself one piece of advice at the beginning of your writing career, what would it be?

Susan:  Just write. Don’t wait for it to be perfect. Just write.

girl with a quill: What is the one piece of writing advice you could give your future self, 10 years from now?

Susan: Just write. Don’t wait for it to be perfect. Just write. And publish it.

girl with a quill: What do you want your lasting legacy, as a writer, to be?

Susan: Mostly I think about my kids and grandkids. I want them to be proud of my body of work. Even though I don’t want the grandkids reading some of it until they’re older. I think explicit sex, even if fairly tame, has no place in the hands of kids under 15 or 16 or so.

girl with a quill: Finally where can we find on the web?

Answer: HYPERLINK “mailto:susanls@puddletowngroup.com”susanls@puddletowngroup.com

HYPERLINK “http://www.puddletowngroup.com/”http://www.puddletowngroup.com/

Facebook: HYPERLINK “http://www.facebook.com/PuddletownGroup”http://www.facebook.com/PuddletownGroup

HYPERLINK “http://www.facebook.com/pages/Blind-Leading-the-Blind/196477380374053″http://www.facebook.com/pages/Blind-Leading-the-Blind/196477380374053

HYPERLINK “http://www.facebook.com/slandissteward?ref=ts”http://www.facebook.com/slandissteward?ref=ts

Blogs: HYPERLINK “http://puddletown.wordpress.com/”http://puddletown.wordpress.com

HYPERLINK “http://susanlandissteward.wordpress.com/”http://susanlandissteward.wordpress.com/

Twitter: HYPERLINK “http://www.twitter.com/susanls”http://www.twitter.com/susanls

HYPERLINK “http://twitter.com/puddletowngroup”http://twitter.com/puddletowngroup

 

 

____________________________________________________________