Interview with Kerrie Noor

kerrie

Kerrie Noor is an Australian writer who lives in Scotland  and teaches belly dancing. She’s written a series based on that and has recently branched out into science fiction. She agreed to let me quiz her about her books, her writing style, and her process.

You write in diverse genres. Do you think about genre before you start writing? Do you write for different audiences?

Comedy is always the background; for me it seems to be part of my bones. A story starts with a funny scene or dialogue usually from a real-life situation or a cheesy film.  There is a reader I have in my head who I write for, she or he is usually listening with a drink at the bar laughing in the right places. I imagine myself telling him or her the story.

What kind of writer are you? Do you insist on daily word counts? Do you write in silence or with music? In the morning or at night?

I write best in the morning. I often go to bed early, wake at five and that’s when the words flow and the problems melt away. I don’t do a daily word count except at the very beginning when I will try to write 1,000-1,500 words a day. I wake up and just write scenes and dialogue until 1,000-1,500 is done once. When I am at 30,000-40,000 words I stop and try to make sense of it all. I can write anywhere. Sometimes, I like to play meditation new age type music (from Youtube) while writing. 

What do you do when you get stuck in the writing process?

Sleep on it, do something else, usually clean, walk, write a blog, cry, drink, keep going (don’t really cry). I am used to getting stuck. But the best thing is to wake up early and write, it really is so easy to write first thing. Right now, I am at the end of a novel and I am quite stuck so I have printed it out and will read through it all. Actually, when I think about it, the ending is always the hardest for me. I think the ending I am working on just now is quite a painful piece, which is weird as it is a comedy book.

 Can you describe your path to publication? Did you query agents? How long did it take?

I had two agents when I started but nothing came of either. So I gave up and self-published my first book which sat on Smashwords and Amazon. I then spent time trying to promote by becoming a story teller/ stand-up comedian, and did a small show in the Edinburgh festival. None of which helped in any way, but was a lot of fun and I still have exaggerated stories in my head to write. It was only when I started Nick Stevenson’s course I began to understand digital marketing.

Talk a bit about your belly dancing books. How much is based on your life? Will there be more to the series?

More is based on my life than I first realised. I started to teach belly dancing at the end of a bad marriage. I was quite depressed and lonely at the time and terrified of leaving him and being even more lonely. I was also quite chubby and felt bad about my body, etc. Belly dancing changed my life. I was so passionate about it and I wanted other women to feel as I did. Sheryl’s Last Stand came from all those feelings.

The Downfall of a Belly Dancer, is more about living in a small place and how we as women relate to each other, and the loss of an ego.  I found when I first discovered belly dancing I became quite full of myself, my ego at times took some knocking and I wanted to write about that and used Nefertiti to express it, I hope with humour.

I have almost finished the third book in the series, Four Takeaways and a Funeral. Nefertiti narrates the story which is all about her pal Mavis. The story is about friendship, sibling rivalry, with a hint of curry…

I have plans for a fourth all about Sheryl again, she wants to become mum.

I have also just published the first in a Sci-Fi comedy series called Rebel Without a Clue. Lots of older women from another planet (Planet Hy Man) behaving badly.  It’s all about power, and what we will do to keep it.

And also, being the odd one out in a world you don’t understand even though you have learnt about it.

To learn more about Kerrie Noor, check out her website. The first book in the Belly dancer series is free on Amazon.

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Interview with Maria Riegger

Maria-13Maria Riegger is a lawyer and political junkie who lives in the DC area and has found a creative outlet by writing novels. She writes contemporary romance set in a political environment. Maria was nice enough to talk to me about her writing process and journey to publication.

When did you start calling yourself a writer? When did you decide you wanted to be published?

I’ve been writing since I was about twelve years old. I started calling myself a writer when I began working on my first novel. When I came up with the storyline for that novel (around 2012), I decided I wanted to publish it.

How did you determine that self-publishing was right for you? 

I knew immediately that I would self-publish. I prefer to retain 100% creative control, and I did not have the patience to shop my work around to publishers. I know several successful authors who self-published first before their work was picked up by publishers, so that is also a possibility.

thunderstruck-coloredDo your personal politics filter through when you’re writing fiction set in a political environment? How did the recent election affect your writing?

Yes, my personal politics do filter through, and that is by design (I also blog about constitutional law issues and other areas of interest to libertarians). I’ve received different advice from authors on whether or not to let readers know your political preferences. Some of the best advice I’ve received from successful authors is to write what you are passionate about, and readers will naturally be drawn to that. I will add, writing about your political or other personal preferences should always be done respectfully.

-The recent election did not really affect my writing. I’ve been disillusioned by the two-party system for years, and that has not changed.

What do you do when you get stuck in the writing process? 

I am always working on multiple books, so if I’m stuck on one, I will often work on another book. Sometimes I will ask other writer friends for advice. A good workout and taking some alone time also help spark creativity for me.

Talk a bit about your most recent book. How long did it take to write? Who is your audience? 

My most recent book, which will be published March 2018, is titled Thunderstruck. It is a standalone (not part of a series) contemporary romance novel set during a fictionalized political campaign. It took about a year to write (I work around my day job). It’s targeted to adults. Interestingly, I had several male friends who enjoyed my first two novels, Miscalculated Risks and Acceptable Misconduct, although I intended those books to be targeted more to women. I think that some of the themes, e.g. not fitting in, finding one’s purpose in life, uncertainty regarding relationships, resonated with men as well as women.

Learn more about Maria at www.lawschoolheretic.com. Her 99 cent sale starts today, January 15th.

Book Launch Report

Blood and Water CoverLast month, I wrote about my book launch strategy and promised to return to let you know how it went. I feel like I learned a lot and I’m happy to share, but it’s important to remember that it’s impossible to copy someone else’s launch strategy and get the same result. There are simply too many variables: the quality of your book cover, blurb, and Amazon page. Your book’s genre. The day of the week. How books are selling this month.

Etc.

Blood  & Water is my fourth book, so I’ve already done some of the work to establish myself. And I have two other traditionally published books that contribute to my overall sales strategy. For this book, I had a 99 cent pre-order phase followed by a 99 cent launch week. I launched November 21st, hoping to benefit from the Cyber Monday sales. I may have, but the four-day lull in sales right after Thanksgiving broke up the momentum of my rising sales rank. My highest rank was 10,000. I think you need three good sales days in a row to get into the top 100 in a category. With previous books, I’ve seen that getting into that list really drives sales.

Some of the promos I picked performed better than others. The $150 dollars I spent on inclusion in Publisher’s Weekly was a huge portion of my budget and, unless its impact is delayed, was the biggest mistake I made during this launch. I can recommend ENT, Bargain Booksy and Booksends, all of which gave a modest spike in sales and rank.  I saw no results from the Facebook boost, Bookbub ads or Genrecrave’s cover contest. I didn’t notice any sales caused by tweets or Facebook posts. Minus my sales, I spent another $127 on this week.

What’s next? I’m gong to sit back and wait for reviews to start rolling in. I bought a spot in Netgalley and I’m not planning to do more promotion until I have a substantial number of reviews. I’ll also be working on getting and keeping fans engaged on my newsletter. It really came in handy after the Pronoun debacle and I think it’s a must for indie authors. If you’d like to join mine, please click here!

 

Interview with author April Wood

I’ve “known” April Wood for several years in that internet 5photos6way where you get to feel like you know people you haven’t actually met in real life. I came across her awesome reader’s blog, A Well Read Woman, while I was promoting my first book.

Well, I noticed a change in her Facebook posts recently and was surprised to discover she had a book out! Then, two books! Needless to say, I was intrigued and wanted to add her to the interview ranks.

Ok, so I’ve always known you as a book blogger and I’m curious about the transition. Have you always written? When did you start calling yourself a writer?

Yes, I’ve been writing since I could form complete sentences on paper. I had all these “books” that I penned with crayon and sealed with contact paper — haha! But I didn’t consider myself a writer per se until I was published. I didn’t feel like I “earned” the title before this.

What has been the hardest thing about publishing? What has been the most fun?

I honestly can’t stand the publishing process but to have a bound book in my hand, that I wrote, has been unbelievably rewarding. It makes all the stress of publishing worth it.

When did you decide you wanted to be published?

As a blogger, I read all these great stories from authors, like yourself, who later became friends of mine. I wanted a piece of that — to share my stories with the world too. I’ve always written, but blogging and becoming part of the book community brought out a passion to fully immerse myself and become a published author myself.

What inspires you? What do you do if you get stuck?

Fantasy novels are fun to write because I can find inspiration from nature, painting a pretty picture with my words and developing settings that I could only dream of.

Writer’s block just plain sucks, but I find if I force myself to just sit down and start typing anyway, that something, even if it’s just a paragraph or an idea to come back to later, will mesh.

Talk a bit about your books. Who do you write for?

I write the kind of books that I would like to read. I write for people who enjoy witchcraft in fiction as much as I do. My stories are about young teen witches who have magical abilities related to their elements (earth, air, fire, water), fall under the spell of romance, and solve mysteries that hit close to home.

Check out April’s author site here.

My RE-launch

Blood and Water CoverLast month, I wrote an extensive post about my big plans for the launch of my new book, Blood & Water. Well, a month and a half into the two month pre-order phase, the online distributor I’d chosen announced it would be shutting down in January.

This left me two choices: I could yank my books now, losing the rank and all my sales I’d been building since October 1st or I could go through with the launch continuing to build my rank only to lose it in January.

I chose to cut my losses and go with the first option, but I understand why authors in a similar situation have done the opposite. It’s kind of a lose-lose proposition. I’ve spent the last week redoing most of what I’d spent over a month doing: reformatting the book for multiple platforms and contacting all the promo sites I’d set up with the new link. They’ve been really nice about it.

I’ve been grateful for the super nerdy, long to-do list I was keeping that has become the re-do list. I’m back on track for a November 21st release (tomorrow!), but you can pick it up now during the 99 cent pre-launch sale. Next month, I’ll return with some stats on whether my marketing strategy worked.

My book launch

Blood and Water CoverI’m a hybrid author with a traditionally published book, one I re-released on my own after  it was traditionally published, and a Kindle Scout winner. I’ve seen publishing from a few different angles and I’m planning to take what I’ve learned and apply it to the indie launch of my fourth novel, Blood & Water.

Planning a book launch on your own is a lot of work. The other day, I started writing it all down so it wouldn’t feel so jumbled in my head. When I was done, I looked at the list and said: “Oh, this is what a publisher is for.”

It’s daunting, but also exciting. I have complete control and I get to experiment as I like. I’ve read other how to guides, some with conflicting information, and I’m mapping my own course. Feel free to borrow.

It took about two years to write Blood & Water and I don’t believe a writer can edit themselves. That said, I also don’t believe in spending thousands of dollars on an editor. By the time Blood & Water comes out, it will have had over a dozen beta reads, mostly from other writers with varied editing specialties. I created the cover with help from Debbie at thecovercollection.com. She also did my covers for Finding Charlie and A Long Thaw, which I love.

My last book was in Kindle Unlimited, but this time I’ve decided to “go wide”, which means it’ll be available on Kobo, GooglePlay, Nook, Appleibook, and Amazon. I used pronoun.com to create an ebook and mobi from a Microsoft Word file. It’ll start out at 99 cents. I’m running a two-month pre-order phase.

These days, there are a lot of sites that support indie authors. It’s great, but can make it tricky when deciding which ones to spend time (and money) on. I signed up on booklife.com and applied for a free review and paid promotion via Publisher’s Weekly. I  made a page at booklaunch.com. I used my free bookcave.com account to send review copies and collect subscribers to my newsletter on  mailchimp.com.  I  use twitter and facebook. I have a writer friend who wrote me an amazing blurb to use on the book page and in promos. I plan to run ads with bargainbooksy.com, bookrebel.com, thebookbots and a Facebook boost.

As you can see, there’s a mix of free and paid promotions available for indie authors. I’m planning to spend just under $500 to launch this book. I’ll do Goodreads giveaway and keep my blog updated. On October 28th, I’ll be the author representing Authoberfest over at Bookies. There’s a different author every day this month.

I’ll write another post after the launch to let you know if any of this worked.

How to get the right to use lyrics in books

lyrics blogI imagine every writer has considered the use of song lyrics in their fiction. Music is so much a part of our lives. It can capture the mood, set the time period, connect the reader to a kind of collective memory.

I’ve always been told it couldn’t be done. Every author blog (like this one) and writer’s group I’ve ever known says it’s a headache best avoided. And maybe they’re right when it comes to most musicians, but I got permission from Ani Difranco. Here’s how:

  1. I found the email address of her management on her website.
  2. I ignored internet advice and skipped the legalese, writing a fan gushy request I didn’t honestly expect to hear back from.
  3. I got a reply from her management asking for more specifics.
  4. I replied with the legalese I should have included in my first email, along with more about my publishing history and the book itself.
  5. I got a yes.

So, here’s the info you should probably include up front:

Book title:
Author(s):
Publisher:
Expected release date:
Expected print quantity:
Print formats:
Territory of release:
Term of rights request:

Most of the answers are self-explanatory. For those that aren’t, I used google. I am not a lawyer and I can only tell you that I asked for “nonexclusive rights with no time limit unless or until the copyright owner revokes the permission.” For the expected print quantity, I found differing advice. Some said a low estimate was more likely to succeed while one site said to go with a number beyond your wildest dreams. I went with 10,000. If I sell more than that, I’d be thrilled to renegotiate terms. As it is, they requested a complimentary copy and I’m beside myself thinking Ani might read my book!

I’m planning to release the book, Blood & Water, in November. You can read more about that here.

Has anyone else gone through this process? Please share stories in the comments.

Interview with author Carla Burgess

Carla Burgess is a women’s fiction writer I met in a critique group I’ve participated in for several years. (I highly recommend joining a group like this, for many reasons.) It wasn’t until another member mentioned it that I discovered she’d been published and that made me curious about all the usual things. She’s indulged me and answered my questions below.

What do you find most useful about belonging to a critique group?

Being a writer can be a lonely, isolating business, so having a support network of online friends is a wonderful thing. I found the Women’s Fiction Critique Group great for support and advice, and it was invaluable for gaining feedback on my manuscript. This was especially important in the early days when I was a ‘secret author’ and too scared to let friends and family read my work. Critiquing other writers’ work was also an interesting experience, and I found you could learn a lot from the whole process, especially when you read other people’s feedback and see how people’s opinions and reactions differ from your own. I enjoyed being part of the group and hope to become more active again one day, but unfortunately, recent deadlines have meant that I haven’t had the time to join in.

What kind of writer are you? Do you insist on daily word counts? Did you study writing in school? Do you edit as you go or force out a whole first draft first? Do you write in silence or with music? In the morning or at night?

I’m lucky enough to spend my days writing while my children are at school, but often I find it easier to write at night when everybody is in bed. It’s not so much the quiet that I need as I often listen to music while I write, but it’s more the fact that there’s no laundry to sort or cleaning to do. No one is going to phone me or ring the doorbell. I try to do 1000 words a day but if that’s not possible I don’t worry too much. If I’m on deadline, I tend to average about 4000 words a day. At the moment, I’m going over a first draft and am spending most of my time reading and making notes and thinking up alternative scenes, so I’m not making my word count but that’s okay. I’ve been on quite tight deadlines recently, so I’ve just been banging out a whole first draft first and resisting the urge to go back and edit what I’d already written. It was quite hard this time because I knew the beginning wasn’t right and wanted to tinker with it, but I also knew I needed to get the ending down so I forced myself to carry on. It was a big relief when I wrote the end and finally got to change my beginning.

What do you do when you get stuck in the writing process?

A change of scenery often works wonders. Sometimes it’s just a matter of walking the dog and an idea will pop into my head, but occasionally I’ll write a note in the text to come back to that bit and write a different scene to help move the story along.

Can you describe your path to publication? Did you query agents? How long did it take?

My path to publication was a bit of a shock really. I was on Twitter and saw a tweet from HQ Digital, which is a digital imprint of Harper Collins, asking for submissions of stories that start with a proposal. I wrote a synopsis and first chapter and sent it in, and then they called me to ask me to write it and offered me a two-book deal. I had the offer in February 2016, and Marry Me Tomorrow was published in October of the same year, so it was quite fast really. My second book, Stuck With You, was published in April 2017.

Talk a bit about your most recent book. How long did it take to write? Who is your audience?

I’ve since been offered another two-book contract from HQ Digital and my third book, Meet Me Under the Mistletoe is being published in October 2017. It’s a contemporary romance set at Christmas time, and follows Rachel, one of the characters from Stuck With You. She works in her family’s florist shop and is clashing with the grumpy but handsome new tenant in the flat above. It’s taken me just under four months to write the first draft, which is about 86k words. It will then go off to my editor who will make suggestions for structural edits, and then be proofed by a copy editor. I’ve just seen my new cover so it feels like it’s really happening now and I’m getting excited.

For book updates and author info, connect with Carla on Facebook!

Interview with Cass McMain: On Crafting Twists

Cass McMain’s third book, Gringo, is a little different than her first two. There’s still the realistic dialogue and relatable characters she’s known for, but this time she pushes the boundaries and includes a mysterious, perhaps supernatural, element. She’s created something of a headscratcher for her readers, but figuring it out is so rewarding that I convinced her to help walk us through it, with as few spoilers as possible. I also think it’s interesting to consider one writer’s process and compare it to your own.

This book is a bit of a puzzle by the end. The reader has do some work to figure it out. What is the reader response you’re getting so far? Do people get it? I had figured out that Daniel is an unreliable narrator and was relying on neighbor Greg to point me in the right direction. But you have to read those sections very closely.

I sent this to a number of beta readers, asking especially for them to look at it with an eye toward understanding. I was told by all of them that it was clear as a bell. Then, of course, half of these readers immediately proved with their next words that they had not understood it at all. I think almost nobody gets this book right away. It takes some thought. But everything is there; you just have to pay attention. You have to be very aware of the world you are in, aware enough to look back at the road you’ve been on. A lot of people don’t read that way. Greg is, as you noted right away, crucial to the understanding of this novel — but he also has been very carefully presented; you are meant to be sure you have seen what you have not seen at all.

For people who don’t get it immediately, what would be a helpful hint that doesn’t give it away completely?

How to give a clue without giving away the work, that’s one for the ages. I have no idea. I think the concept is familiar enough, from previous efforts in film and print, that when you give the only clue that helps, it immediately ruins the effect. All I can say, as you have: it makes sense. “Trust me.” Haha. It’s hard to get by with that.

When you started writing this book, had you already figured out what the twist would be? Was writing this book different than your first two and, if so, how?

When I started this book, I had no idea. I, myself, had to go back through, looking for proof I was wrong. I wasn’t wrong. My God, I said. It’s true. I have fooled even myself. It was halfway through writing the book when I found out what had happened, when I saw the twist. The other twist, the more obvious one, yes, I knew that one early. It was built into the reason I wrote the thing.

What inspired the events of this book?

Lack of sleep inspired the book, in a big way. The people across the street, an unfriendly crew whom I never actually laid eyes on, had tied a dog to the tree out front. He barked every night from 11pm until 4 am. (I never did find out what was behind these strict hours he held to.) He kept me awake for weeks. I was out of my mind with lack of sleep, crazy angry. I had just finished Watch, and was looking for new things to write about, and I could not concentrate at all. Everything became barking, everything was a dog.

I hated that dog. I wanted him dead. I called the City over and over again, to no avail. Eventually, I was standing in the street, barefoot at 2 am, in my bathrobe, throwing rocks and sticks at the dog and at the windows of the house, screaming nonsense. If I’d had a gun, I’d have shot that dog. Shortly after that, a writer friend asked what I was working on, and I told him: nothing. I explained about the dog. I explained about the barking. My friend said I should write about that. And when I said no, the story would be too short, how could I write about a barking dog and make it into an actual story, he said… maybe the dog is barking for a reason. And it came to me, the dog’s reason, then. I started writing the book the next day. I never once saw the people who lived in that house, but they moved away a few weeks after I started writing. Maybe they were never there at all.

gringoWhat is the message you hope readers take away when they finish Gringo?

I’m not sure. If the message in Sunflower was that you don’t have to be anyone but yourself, and the message in Watch was a more-disturbing maybe you can’t be anyone but yourself, perhaps the message in Gringo is: maybe you can’t be who you think you are. Maybe nobody can.

As a reader, I think figuring it out is half the fun, which is why I hesitate to give it away here. For those who’ve already read through the book once, here’s a SPOILER/HINT:

You sent me an article that helped me think about it.

The article I sent you was helpful, and maybe the clue is there, though I think once you posit the term “parallel” you have given it all away. Perhaps the secret, then, is in what way these people have come to be so broken, broken enough to find other worlds under their very noses. Broken enough to leave parts of themselves, ghostlike, behind. Does that give away too much? Yes, of course it does. My goal, early on, was to make people want to read it again, just to prove me wrong. To prove they did see what they assumed they saw.

I’d love to continue this conversation in the comments section with readers of Gringo or writers who’ve struggled with similar issues in their work. How do you make your intentions clear without hitting readers over the head?

Interview with author Lincoln Cole

Since publishing with Kindle Scout, I’ve gotten to know some of the other authors in the program and they’ve all been so kind. In my experience, writers tend to be very generous with their knowledge and willing to help new writers rather than being competitive and guarded with what they’ve learned along the way. Lincoln Cole has been one of those writers willing to share his process, so I wanted to talk to him in depth.

When did you begin writing and when did you decide you wanted to be published? Can you talk about how you came to the Kindle Scout program? 

I’ve always loved to write, so making up stories and jotting down ideas was never something I really decided to do. When I settled on the idea of publishing (and gave up sending stories to agents or magazines) I read up on how to do it and put my stories together. Those first ones were terrible and I have since re-edited them and put a lot of work into making them better, but at the time my only shining star was I happened to meet a graphic designer who has become my cover designer. I convinced her to make covers, and it has worked out really well for both of us.
 
Finding Kindle Scout was sort of random, and I didn’t know what to expect. I was so excited the first time I put a book through the program, and I managed to get about three hundred page views and no contract. Since then, I’ve put two other books into the program and have a new one up now as well! When I started the Kindle Scout program there were a few blog posts about it, but very little other information for authors to use when running a campaign. I wrote a guidebook about the campaigning process to explain everything I’ve learned, and I keep adding information on my blog as I find out new things, both in and outside of the program.

You write in a variety of different genres. Do you consider genre before you start writing? Does your audience change?

I write things I enjoy and tell the stories I want to tell. I’ve never really stopped to consider my ‘audience’ because in my mind I don’t have one. I just enjoy writing and I hope that some people might read them. Writing in different genres, especially when I cross boundaries like horror and literary fiction, is more just to tell the story I want to tell. I am definitely not popular enough for any readers to actually tell me to stick to one genre, and since I only do it for the fun of it I’m not too worried about it. If I had to write to make money and support my family, things would be very different.

Interacting with social media seems to come naturally to you. Has that always been the case or was there a learning curve?
Haha, I’m terrible with social media. I post too much or not enough, and I have a hard time of balancing content and useful information with things that aren’t as useful. The thing is, I work full time, and then write as much as I can, and then social media is just sort of an afterthought for me to tell people what I’m up to. My saving grace is my blog, because I can write blog posts and then just click a button to have them share to social media, so my social accounts are getting constantly updated, but the actual content is centralized and frees me up to schedule things in advance and just do things when I feel like it.
There has definitely been, and still is, a learning curve to all of this. I like to think I’m getting better at it, but I still regularly mess up.
What do you find is the hardest thing about being published? What is your favorite thing?
The hardest thing is getting your book out there and just being patient. Sometimes I’ll do a lot of work and promote like crazy and sell nothing, and then other times I’ll do nothing at all and it will sell like crazy. There isn’t really a rhyme or reason to it, though if you spend long enough without promoting and releasing new content you are guaranteed to stop selling.
My favorite thing is when readers reach out to me to tell me they enjoyed my work. When you spend months and a lot of energy/ambition working on a project, it’s nice to see that at least some people found it enjoyable and relatable.
What are you working on now?
I have my newest Kindle Scout entry up for another couple of weeks and I’ve been doing a lot of blogging and website refreshing. I also spend a lot of time on projects like the Kindle Press anthologies (of which the third is just now releasing!). I’m also working on the sequel to The Everett Exorcism to hopefully build momentum with that series and then I’ll probably try to write the third book as well before moving to something new.
I have some major plans for this world and have at least another ten books planned out around my first Kindle Press book that began with Raven’s Peak. I love the characters and the world and it is always fun to see what happens next!
Apart from that, I want to finish my next book in the Graveyard of Empires series, I have a book about self-publishing (to complement my Kindle Scout Guide) coming out soon, and I have a few more series I want to begin in completely different worlds. I’ve had some ideas rolling around in my brain for a long while and I really want to get them out on paper.