Interview with Louise Cole

LouiseColeLouise Cole is a fantasy writer whose book, The Devil’s Poetry, was published by Kindle Press in 2017. The sequel will be out this year. I got her to give her thoughts about publishing and writing and to talk about her books.

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

I don’t really believe in writer’s block. I think it’s a bit of an indulgence – teachers and nurses and firefighters don’t get to say: ‘Oh I can’t work today. I’m blocked.’ They have to push through. And to some extent it is, therefore, about discipline. That said, not all writing is done at a keyboard. I usually find that when I’m not writing well, it’s because I don’t know where the story is going or what the point of the scene is. So I need to stop and do something else. Often manual labour which leaves your mind free – digging, washing up, walking the dog – is a great opportunity to let your subconscious solve problems. But I’m still writing. It is purposeful. I’m not just knocking off for the day.  Some people have to work stuff out by typing. Others – like me –  work it out by thinking, dreaming, living the scenes before we type. What you don’t get to do is say: “Shucks. I can’t do this now but it will magically come right tomorrow.” It only comes right when you put your mind to it.

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

The Devil’s Poetry had a long and twisty path to publication. I have an agent, who loved the book but, as she sent it out, the UK publishing industry decided, more or less collectively, that it needed to turn its attention to middle grade novels and not YA. Editors felt that the YA  dystopian market must be running dry but they didn’t know what the next big thing would be. As a result we got a lot of lovely rejections, saying things like: “This isn’t where we’re putting our focus this year,” or even, from one editor; “I’d love to buy this but I’d never get it through acquisitions at the moment.” We were offered one deal which I declined on commercial grounds, and I decided to put the book out through Scout. I’ve always believed in The Devil’s Poetry as a book that could excite and move people and, really, I just wanted it to have an audience.

Would you recommend Kindle Scout to other authors?

This is a difficult question. Everyone’s path to publication is different, often from project to project. My first advice would be to write a book good enough to attract an agent. You don’t need to sign or take a trad deal – I’m talking about the quality of the book. There is a marked difference in quality between most traditionally published books and most self published books. When you look at the really successful self-pubbed authors like Hugh Howey and Michael J Sullivan, they wrote astoundingly good novels. They know their craft inside out and there is no sense that these books  are rushed or derivative or ‘good enough’. They stand their ground against anyone in their field. I know some self publishers take a different view and that’s a valid choice – but for my part, I wanted to write a really good book. Whether I’ve succeeded is up to you guys but that was my aspiration. Not to make a tonne of money or give up my day job. Just to write something other people would love.

Sorry, back to your question: If it’s your first novel and you have no following, then Scout may well give you more publicity and, if picked up, a stronger launch than otherwise. That was my reckoning and I think I was right, for me. If I already had lots of books out there, I’d run a campaign with a standalone because I think that has marketing benefits for your other work as well.

However,  if you are an established writer, I might think twice about putting a first in series into Scout. Keeping the rights to the first book may pay dividends in driving traffic and sell-through to your other novels.

For myself, overall it’s been a good experience. I’ve had more confidence than I would have had I put TDP out on my own; I’ve got more reviews and had more sales. It’s not a perfect experience  but frankly nor is working with most traditional publishing houses. But working with Kindle Press gives you a  great deal of liberty when doing your own marketing and building your platform and I really enjoy that.

Who are some of your favorite writers?

Oh golly. My heart has always belonged to the epic fantasy writers, which is strange given that my own fantasy is rooted in the real world. I think Tolkien, Robin Hobb, Leigh Bardugo, Brandon Sanderson. People who combine glorious characters, and vast but detailed worlds with an unerring instinct for style.

the-devils-poetry-cover-final1123Tell us about your books.

The Devil’s Poetry is about a girl who has the chance to stop world war three by reading from an ancient manuscript. In a way it’s an exploration of the whole magical solution question: if you could go back in time to shoot Hitler, would you? If you could wave a wand to solve world hunger, what would happen? So part of the novel looks at that question, the apparent no-brainer which actually, when it’s in your hands, turns out to be far more terrifying and complex than you had imagined. My 17 year old heroine, Callie, is torn between wanting to perform this one seemingly simple act and having a growing realisation that the consequences are unknowable. The Cadaveri – chaos inducing demons – seem determined to stop her from reading, as are other more human forces – but why? TDP  takes a fantasy element and drops it into the real world, a world that is so very nearly ours – filled with terrorism, rumbling wars and desperate peace talks. And it asks how you make the right decision when you never really know the truth.

But it’s also an action-packed thriller with a dash of love story and a glorious friendship.

The sequel to The Devil’s Poetry is on Kindle Scout now – it’s called On Holy Ground. It continues Callie’s story as faithfully as I can. It’s not an easy journey for her. Her dreams of breaking free from all of the allies and enemies she made during The Devil’s Poetry are scotch mist and she finds herself hunted and alone but this time in the United States. She desperately needs help – but whose agenda can she trust? Callie has to find the book and escape – or die trying.

You can follow Louise Cole on Facebook or Twitter.

 

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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.

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.

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 Author Margaret K Johnson

margaretkjohnsonphoto

Social networking technology has made it much less isolating to be a writer. I met Margaret through an online critique group and I immediately recognized a kindred spirit of sorts. When she explained she was self-publishing a book that was originally traditionally published, I was intrigued. I knew right then I wanted to do an interview.

I read your bio and was interested to see you went to Art College and painted before you started writing. Can you compare what these two forms of artistic expression mean to you?

I don’t paint nowadays, as I haven’t time to do everything at the moment. (I also teach creative writing, and I’m writing a new novel). When I do get the chance to do something artistic, I usually make collages these days. I’ve always loved cutting up pieces of paper, even as a small child! A few years ago, I made a collage called Urban Jungle, and went out in Norwich, my home city, taking photographs – of bins, graffiti, traffic, ambulances, play parks etc, etc, specifically to cut up. I get completely involved when I’m making a piece, but it’s different to writing. Writing takes over my life – mostly in a good way. I can hear my characters speaking inside my head, often when I’m doing something else. Painting or making collages absorbs me at the time, but doesn’t dominate my life. I suppose this makes it more relaxing than writing, but writing is my passion. I do want to make time for painting and collage in the future though.

parrotsWhen did you start calling yourself a writer and when did you decide you wanted to be published? How did you find a publisher for your first book?

I started writing after I left Art College many years ago with the misguided plan of writing a best-selling novel for Mills and Boon to support my art career. I quickly got hooked though, and even though I wasn’t published by Mills and Boon, I discovered I loved writing. My first book was published by Women’s Weekly. My brother’s girlfriend at the time shared a flat with an editor at Women’s Weekly, and she agreed to read my manuscript and liked it. It was such a thrill to see it in my local newsagents!

forhannahwithlovecoverYou have several other books traditionally published. Can you explain how you got the rights back for this title? Is this your first time self-publishing? How has it been different from your previous books?

I have had a lot of books published the traditional way – original fiction readers for people learning to speak English mostly, and a historical romance – A Nightingale in Winter – published by Omnific Publishing. I have also self-published two women’s fiction books – The Goddess Workshop and The Dare Club. I enjoy the freedom of self-publishing – you can make any changes you want, and you can add details of your other books, or special offers if you want to. You can do what publicity you want to, the way you want to as well. I got the rights back to this book (which was formerly called Taming Tom Jones) when my publisher relocated abroad. We were issued with new contracts to reflect this change, but – mainly because I wanted to change the title of the book to For Hannah, With Love – I decided not to sign the new contract. I didn’t feel the original title reflected either the story or the message of the book. However, I have nobody but myself to blame for that, since I chose it!

Find out more about this author on her website or follow her on twitter @margaretkaj. Here’s and excerpt from the opening of For Hannah, With Love

I’m in the ladies toilets at my local superstore. Inside the one functioning cubicle, sitting fully clothed on the toilet seat, surrounded by overflowing carrier bags, a peed-on plastic tester stick clenched in my hand. Waiting for my fate to unfold.

Two minutes. The time it takes for Michael to go to sleep after we’ve made love if I don’t do anything to stop him. The pee on the plastic stick is asking a question, and the chemicals inside it are working out their answer. And in two minutes I’ll know whether their answer agrees with my instinct.

“I’m crazy about you, Jen,” Michael said three months after we first got together. “I want us to be together. But I’ve got to be totally honest with you, if you want kids, you’d better find someone else, because I’ve already done all that. Don’t get me wrong, I love being a father to Kyle, but it’s enough for me.”

 

Michael. We met at a fancy dress party nearly four years ago – my mate Rick’s thirtieth birthday party. The theme was Pop Icons of the Twentieth Century, and the room was stuffed full of Elton Johns, Donny Osmonds and Mick Jaggers. I was Madonna, complete with pointy bra, and Marcia, my best mate, was Diana Ross.

“You look fantastic with all that long hair,” I told her as we propped up the bar, preening ourselves and pointing out funny sights to each other.

“Thanks. I could get used to this glamour.” She ran a hand over the sea-green sparkles of her dress. Perhaps we should start a band.”

“Yeah, right.” I hadn’t forgotten our last spectacularly bad attempt at karaoke on holiday in Spain, even if she had.

Marcia never has liked to be reminded of her failings, even at school. “Your bazoomers aren’t level,” she told me stonily, jabbing an accusing finger in the direction of my breasts. “You need to go up a bit on the right.”

I yanked dutifully at my right cone, wondering if Madonna had experienced the same trouble.

“Anyway,” Marcia said, “who are you going to get off with tonight?”

“I’m not going to get off with anybody. It’s only been three months since I split up with Luke.”

“That’s what I’m saying,” she said. “Three months of freedom and so far you’ve done zilch to celebrate.”

“I don’t feel like celebrating.” I was hurt by now, but Marcia never has been a girl to let my hurt feelings stand in her way when she’s telling me something for my own good.

“Well, you should. Luke was a prize tosser. You are far, far better off without him, Jen.”

“I loved him.”

“You thought you loved him. That’s about as different as Ibiza and the Isle of Man.”

Marcia stood on diamanté sandal tip-toes, peering into the crowd, the dark river of fake hair flowing all the way down her bare back. “Him,” she said, pointing. “That’s who you’ll get off with if you get off with anybody.”

“Who?”

Marcia pointed again. “Him,” she said. “Tom Jones.”

 

“Mummy, I need to do a poo-poo!” In the supermarket toilets, a child’s urgent voice interrupts my reminiscences.

“Excuse me, will you be long?” her mother asks.

There are two blues lines showing in the clear plastic window of the tester stick.

“Only the other cubicle’s out of order, and I think this is an emergency,” the mother continues.

I’m pregnant.

“Sorry. I…I’ll be right out.” I get up in a daze, flush the toilet, and begin to fumble with carrier bags, testing stick and door.

I’m pregnant. Pregnant.

“Too late, Mummy. Too late…”

One of the carrier bag handles snaps, and as I scrabble for control, a box of tea bags and the testing stick skitter onto the floor.

“Mummy, I pooed my pants.”

The woman with the small child looks first at the stick, and then at me. “Good luck!” she says as her child begins to cry.

“Thank you.” I pick up the stick, and make my way from the toilets and out to my car. Load the bags into the boot of my car. Unlock the driver’s door. Get in. Just as if it’s any ordinary day.

But then I just sit there, gripping the wheel, staring straight ahead at nothing. My mouth’s numb and I’ve got pins and needles starting in my fingers. I want to cry because I’ve never felt so afraid and alone. And I want to laugh because I’ve never felt so excited and happy. It isn’t possible to feel all of those things at once, and yet I do.

I do.

 

Interview with Author Jennie Ensor

jenny_ensor_author_photoI first “met” Jennie Ensor years ago on a now defunct writer’s website. We both belonged to a critique group there and I was able to read an earlier draft of her recently released novel, Blind Side. I’m rereading the polished, final version and I’m enjoying it even more the second time around. I recently talked to Jennie and got her to answer a few questions about writing, editing, and about her new book.

Jennie- I just started rereading, though it’s been long enough that I can’t tell for sure what’s new. Is the prologue new? It’s fantastic…

Thanks Katie – and thanks too for inviting me here. I added the prologue fairly late on, yes – good to know it works! It’s a short passage that plunges the reader into the action straight away, taken from a chapter near the end of Blind Side. The aim is to let the reader know the kind of book this is (a thriller infused with psychological suspense, terrorism, romance and politics!) as well as to create suspense as to what will happen.

So I love reading a piece I’ve read before that’s been revised and perfected. Tell me how long it took you to write this from the time you typed your first line until your publisher took it from your hands.

I started mulling over ideas and scribbling them down late 2004 early 2005 – so long ago I’ve forgotten exactly when. My novel was accepted for publication by Unbound in October 2015 (conditional on crowdfunding, see below). So around 11 years in total, though I did write another novel during this time and finish one I’d started earlier. I must have revised it ten or more times – I’ve lost count of how many! And before Blind Side was published I had to make many more changes (more on that later). Thank goodness there’s no more to make!

We ‘met’ in a writer’s critique group. How do you feel about the value of getting feedback as you’re writing?

It gives an immediate insight into how your work in progress comes across. Also other writers can make useful suggestions as to how to fix problems and can often articulate issues better than non-writers. Often there’s plenty of quite small things that people will pick up on, which a single editor may not. Though some find it confusing, I like getting a diverse range of views – with practise I’ve found it easier to decide which points I will act on. I think peer critiquing is one of the purest forms of feedback a writer can have. No money changes hands, which could influence things, only time and effort. You get back what you put in – there’s so much to learn from the attempt to help others. Last but not least, a group can really help one to soldier on in the face of discouragement, I’ve found – and be there to cheer on the successes.

I know a little bit about your struggle toward publication but can you describe the process you went through with Unbound?

The most difficult part was raising over £3000 to cover the costs of publication. For each pledge there’s a reward offered, e.g. a video of the novel’s settings that I’m doing my best to get done now. In the UK people aren’t used to crowdfunding as much as in the US, so you have to do a lot of explaining as to how it works and the publishing model. Like many others I found the first 30% or so came in relatively quickly… then it got difficult. I tried all sorts of things in the later stages. When my allotted three months were nearly at an end I’d reached only two thirds of my target and was trying not to panic. Fortunately, two very special people came forward and lifted me across the finish line.

Once the book was funded, I believe the processes are similar to traditional publishing – this is my first published novel so I’ve got nothing to compare it with. Blind Side is also the first title in Unbound’s new digital list (comprised of e-books), mainly genre-oriented fiction. There was an intensive period of editing and cover design – I was surprised at how much consultation was involved to produce the cover. But it’s nice to be able to say that in part at least it was my idea 🙂 I was thrilled with the final cover – I’m hoping the e-book sells enough copies to allow it to come out as a paperback version and be seen in its full glory!

Regarding the editing, I was asked to make many substantial changes for the developmental edit, such as changing the whole thing into present tense. I also altered aspects of the plot to make things hang together better and brought forward some elements to speed up the read. After reading my editor’s first report I felt daunted by the extent of the changes she suggested… especially the re-plotting, which was like tearing apart a jigsaw you’ve spent ages on knowing you’ll have to rebuild a bigger better one in only a few weeks. But as I made the changes I could see that they worked and knew I was doing the right thing.

How did you decide to change the title? 

I’d had my title ‘Ghosts of Chechnya’ for years – it was the second title after ‘Nikolai’. I started thinking of an alternative after my editor suggested that the title didn’t reflect the central character’s situation. I’d had doubts about it too for a while – many people didn’t respond well to ‘Chechnya’. The publisher also wanted a title that would suggest a thriller… After much hand wringing I came up with ‘Blind Side’, which totally fits the novel. But it’s taken quite a while to get used to it – and of course some people like the old one better.

Can you tell us what the book is about and give an excerpt?

Off the top of my head, Blind Side is about two guys who want the same girl. One she’s known a long time as a platonic friend, she thinks she is close to him then realises she doesn’t really know him as well as she thought. The other she is wildly attracted to but he has been traumatised by fighting in Chechnya, and is potentially dangerous. My central character Georgie has issues with trust having been badly hurt before; in essence she has to decide whether to risk making herself vulnerable, or to carry on as she is, living half a life.

I focus a lot on relationships and the (often abnormal) psychology of my characters, as is the case with many psychological dramas/thrillers. But the setting of my novel is 2005, amid the terror attacks on London. Embedded in the story are social and political currents of the time, e.g. people’s suspicions and fears of immigrants and outsiders, which seemed to escalate after 7/7 having already been heightened by the UK general election earlier that year. Also the war in Chechnya, which plays a part too… Tongue slightly in cheek, I’ve described Blind Side as The Book of You (a sinister stalker novel by Claire Kendall) meets a condensed version of Gone With the Wind.

Below is a short chapter from fairly early on – the first time Julian appears in the novel in the first person.

She’s standing there, across the lane. Close enough for me to call out hello.
Blue jeans, padded jacket, short boots, the furry insides folded over at the tops.
Not much make-up. Hair loose, tickling her shoulders. Scarf draped chicly
about her neck. With her long legs and silky hair she could pass for a model.

Every so often she looks at her watch. She’s getting agitated, chewing her
lower lip, staring at people passing by. Men, that is. Her hair keeps getting
blown across her face and each time she pulls it off with an impatient flick
of the fingers. The wind has a nip in it today. She hugs herself and rubs her
arms. She pushes her hands down into her jacket pockets, rocking from one
foot to the other.

It’s busy in this quaint little lane. People ducking in and out of boutiques
and bakeries, yakking in French, supping their Saturday morning cappuccinos.
Old ladies creaking along in cashmere coats and sensible shoes, trendy mums
pushing designer kids. Oh, yes, and little old me loitering in a doorway,
watching.

A burly man in a khaki jacket strides into view from the direction of the
Tube station. His hair is hidden by a beanie. She checks him out too. A sharp
turn of the head and the expectant look on her face is wiped in an instant. He
disappears into the gallery.

Russell Brand, or his lookalike, emerges from a florist. Diamond earring,
pirate beard. She looks again at her watch, ignoring him. Her mouth twists in
frustration. She jams her hands in her pockets and strolls along the lane, away
from me.

I drain my coffee, ditch the plastic cup. She stops and looks into the
florist’s window. I go closer, almost close enough to reach out and touch her.
Her long earrings nestle into the curve of her cheekbones. She’s wearing
gloss on her lips. A trace of light perfume reaches me. Something new, inviting.
I feign an interest in the garish display of tulips, unnatural yellows and reds.
Funny how dark glasses and a hat can make such a difference. She doesn’t
recognise me, doesn’t even see me.

What are you working on now?

I stopped writing poetry for a while due to so many demands on my time, and I do miss it. It seems to access another part of the brain to that needed for prose writing. I’ve started writing flash fiction and want to experiment a little with the form. I’ll probably need to revise my second novel (an unsettling psychological thriller) once more before it can be published, my next goal. Also I’m keen to get stuck into something new, not sure what yet.

To find out more about Jennie, check out her website at www.jennieensor.com

Interview with Author Ferris Robinson

ferrisFerris Robinson’s new novel, Making Arrangements, was released yesterday, on July 5, 2016. She’s written cookbooks and articles for years, but this is her first work of fiction. In this interview, she answers my questions about writing and publishing and talks about the book.

When did you start calling yourself a writer? Do you consider yourself trained or self-taught?

I have always written – I made little books out of cardboard and scratch paper when I was a child, and they were pathetic. The first time it occurred to me I may actually be good at it was during an entrance exam for a private high school in Chattanooga, GPS. I failed miserably at math, science, history, general reasoning… everything EXCEPT the writing portion. I had described a section of Woods Creek in Marion County where I grew up – I just pictured the tree limb hanging over the water and imagined the sound of the water and an occasional car over the old wooden bridge. Anyway, my description gave me a shot and I graduated from there.

I took a few writing classes in college, and wish I’d majored in it. After college, the lifestyle editor of our daily paper gave me freelance assignments, and eventually a column, but I still didn’t call myself a writer. Lots of ‘less than’ feelings there I suppose. I write regularly now at my job at a monthly community newspaper, The Lookout Mountain Mirror and The Signal Mountain Mirror, and although I am confident writing articles, it’s hard to say “I’m a writer.”

I suppose I am a combo of being taught and self taught, and am still learning lots and lots.

How long were you writing before publishing your first book? Did you try the traditional publishing route — sending queries to literary agents? What are your thoughts on traditional versus self-publishing?

Four years ago I sent out about 75 queries for my book, and waited on a few bites for partials and one full, which were rejected at the end. But I ended up with an agent for Making Arrangements. She was with a respected NY agency and I got her because her brother dated my niece and she agreed to read my manuscript. She ended up leaving the agency for another career with a tech company, and wasn’t able to sell it. That was in 2013. I put it away for a few years. A friend who had read it said, “Of all the things you’ve written, I like your novel the best,” and she urged me to publish it. I pulled it out of the drawer and reworked it mightily. I added/changed/deleted/deepened all different parts of it, and decided I liked it as well.

I thought about trying to find an agent again, but it’s such a long shot and I wasn’t up for the inevitable wait. I was excited about my book and wanted to get it out there. Kindle Scout was new to me, but a few folks I know online in writing communities gave me their opinions and I went for it. The campaign was nerve-wracking, but also fun in a way. And I was beside myself to be chosen!

I think the publishing industry is definitely changing.

Who are your favorite authors?

I love Lee Smith, Lolly Winston, Claire Veye Watkins, Rick Bragg, Ann Patchett and Anne Lamott among others.

What’s your latest book about?

Cancer patient Lang Eldridge spent her supposed final year of life making sure her soon-to-be widowed husband could manage without her. Ha! After he drops dead on the tennis court, Lang, alive and well, discovers a secret that could ruin her life. If she lets it.

Making Arrangements is the story of the perfect arrangements going completely awry, and the consequences of that. The protagonist must decide whether that particular fall-out is going to change her life, or if it isn’t.It deals with themes of forgiveness and friendship, and champions women who are strong, yet don’t know it yet.

How do you plan to celebrate your book release?

I hope to go out to dinner with my husband (who thinks it’s ironic that my protagonist’s husband dropped dead of a heart attack – he had open heart surgery 23 years ago, at the age of 34, and thinks this story is Freudian on some level! He jokes that all those years of healthy cooking to keep him alive made me snap.)

To learn more about Ferris, check out her website: http://www.ferrisrobinson.com/

Interview with author Erik Therme

Author photo Erik ThermeI love hearing from different authors about their writing process and road to publication. I find it reassuring that we all have different stories; there is no singular “right” way to do it. I recently got the chance to speak with author Erik Therme. His new YA thriller was selected for publication by KindleScout. Here’s what he had to say:

Your book sounds really scary. How scary is it and what is it about?

Resthaven, at heart, is a young adult novel, so I tried not to make it too terrifying. I have two teenage daughters (one that’s obsessed with horror movies) so I wanted to write something they would enjoy. The story follows a pack of girls who venture into an abandoned retirement home for a scavenger hunt, and everything quickly goes wrong. I’ve always wanted to tell a story that unfolds in a creepy, old building, and Resthaven fit the bill nicely.

When did you start writing? Have you always written in this genre?

I began writing stories in junior high, but it wasn’t until college that I began working on novels. They were all pretty lousy, but as most writers know, you have to write a few bad books to learn how to write good books. As far as genre . . . I never consciously think about it when I start a new project, but everything I write seems to gravitate toward suspense with ‘twinges’ of horror. I clearly enjoy making readers squirm.

What are some of your literary influences- books or authors?

One of my all-time favorite books is Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger. I’ve often thought about trying my hand at literary fiction, but I’m probably not talented enough to pull it off. Stephen King has always been a huge influence, and I’m a big fan of Alden Bell, who wrote the brilliant novel, The Reapers Are the Angels. It’s a tasty bit of literary fiction, set in a post-apocalyptic world of zombies. Truth be told, I’ll pretty much read anything that catches my interest.

How did you go about getting published? What brought you to KindleScout?

Like many authors, I chased literary agents for years in the hopes of bridging the gap to a traditional publisher. After a very close call with Gillian Flynn’s agency, I decided it was time to take matters into my own hands and self-publish. Shortly after the release of my first book, I received an e-mail from Thomas & Mercer publishing, who had discovered the work and wanted to acquire it. Needless to say, I was thrilled. When I finished Resthaven, I knew the story wouldn’t be a right fit for them (they don’t handle young adult) so I submitted the book to Kindle Scout. Two months later it was selected for publication, and I was off and running.

What are you working on now?

I’m knee-deep into a third mystery about a father searching for his missing daughter. I’m also tweaking a short novel (written years ago) that I hope to release next year, and I’ve been outlining a sequel to my debut mystery, Mortom.

Erik’s new book was released April 12th. Check it out!

Interview with author and artist Bradley Wind

bw saturatedI first met Bradley Wind on a now defunct writer’s website. He got a reputation there for being the guy you went to for help with your book cover. If you check out his website, bradleywind.com, you’ll see why.

Bradley and I happened to go through the KindleScout process at about the same time so we were able to commiserate about the way it forced us out of our introverted comfort zones and the uncertainty of that long thirty days. We also got to celebrate together when each of our books was selected for publication.

I recently read A Whole Lot, a sort of coming of age tale for one of the most original main characters I’ve come across. Bradley was nice enough to let me pick his brain about the novel, the writing process and his experience with publishing.

Is this your first book or just your first published book? When did you start writing?

A Whole Lot is my second book but first published. I had an agent for my first too but he didn’t shop it as much as it deserved (or so I believe!) and I was busy working on my second so I didn’t push Bulb much after Luke stopped. I thought I’d see how AWL did before I approached Kindle Press to put out Bulb. I didn’t get started until my late twenties but stories were often the driving force of my paintings.

Abel is a very unique character. What were some of the challenges of capturing his perspective?

I started by reading whatever I could find (which wasn’t much at the time) on savant syndrome – as well as books on child prodigies, mathematicians/Descartes, con men, secret codes/Bible codes and autism. In the end I decided he would have autistic characteristics – be on the spectrum – but not exhibit an incapacitating form of autism. That would’ve limited the solo travel and other plans I had in mind. I was very pleased to discover Daniel Tammet after I’d written the novel – to know there are high functioning individuals with savant syndrome.

Also initially I thought I was creating something that didn’t exist, but then Dr Treffert let me know that there are cases of acquired savants. Still, I worried Abel’s skills would be unrealistic. I’d read about Kim Peeks and his astounding prodigious talents so I knew I wasn’t far off what could be. I had to purchase/send away for a few of the documentaries on savants that I found online and they helped a bit with the speech pattern.

Did you need to do a lot in terms of research or are you already pretty knowledgeable when it comes to math and philosophy and savant-ism?

I knew by the 10th grade I’d be going to art school, so took only the required math classes for entrance into college.

I received good grades but I can’t say I cared about math or know it well. That’s probably why I felt so nervous when I attended the math tea I was invited to at Princeton.

What if they ask me Anything math related?! But to some degree I’m a shy person and I spoke very little while I was there and also figured I could talk a bit about the mathematician biographies, or those books about some of the greatest unsolved theorems I’d read. I got to know certain aspects of the culture, and the outlook seemed connected to a creative process I could relate to as an artist. Neurological studies and books on philosophy have always been members of my cycling bedside stack.

When you began writing this, did you know how it would end? Do you plot things out or does the plot emerge as you’re writing?

I remember writing the section in the very beginning with Abel climbing the tree, talking about the freedom feeling and wanting the ending to have a similar quality.

In my notes, I had the novel ending on 11/10/1983-the same day Gates unveiled Microsoft Windows for the first time…that’s a little Easter egg for anyone interested.

No, I didn’t know the ending exactly but I knew it would be treetop freedom. I did not plot my first two. I had loose directions, knowledge of specific stations I’d stop at but nothing detailed like my latest. I find outlining to be freeing and confining at the same time – not sure if I’ll abandon it or ever try it again but it’s nice to check back in and have an idea about where I’m going but there have been occasions where all the detailed notes I include snail the process.

This book stands out for me from a lot of KindleScout books because it is pretty genre-less and more literary in style. Do you think about genre while you’re writing?

That was my fear when entering the Kindle Scout program, the winners mostly seemed genre focused and I had my doubts mine would fit. I felt somewhat surprised when my first agent talked to me about my book Bulb being science fiction. Luke got it, he talked about it being speculative more than straightforward scifi but for me the writing comes from ideas or characters not a desire to create a specific genre focused work. What if light was programmable and everything light reached was recorded in a grand archive for people to reference – a world where privacy didn’t exist? What if a child with prodigious savant syndrome went largely unrecognized? Those kinds of questions (sort of) come to mind and the story fills in around them.

What can we expect to see from you next?

During my commute this morning I was listening to Douglas Harding’s book On Having No Head. It had me thinking more about adopting ideas, the way that philosophy is born from geography and culture, from food and music – and the difficulty of transplanting it – of the efficacy of migration, the way philosophy twists over generations and for whatever reason I started thinking pickles pussy papaya, pickles pussy papaya. It had a rhythm bum bum bah-bah-yah – like something from the Paul Thomas Anderson’s documentary Junun that I watched this past weekend and have been listening to the album since. It documents Jonny Greenwood (from Radiohead) recording the album (also called Junun) with musicians in India. I’ve been thinking a lot about other brain potentials, about what is mind and what proprioception extension could mean, could accomplish. Set in the 90s, an accidental death, some MDMA use, and maybe a cult or folksy Buddhist belief or both thrown in. So far it feels like it has flavors of the first two books but mainly in the way I’m interested in brain potentials. I’m also working on illustrating a children’s book based on a reworking of Thich Nhat Hanh’s short story The River.

Looking forward to it. Thanks to Bradley Wind for sharing.

Interview with Mystery Writer James M Jackson

James M. JacksonJames M Jackson is a mystery writer and Kindle Scout winner. He’s in the  midst of writing a series of books, three of which are available on Amazon. I was recently poking around his website and became curious. He was nice enough to answer my questions.
Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?
Some authors say they always knew they wanted to be a writer. I may have been called at an early age, but I have a problem listening to people who tell me what to do. So, if called, I shouted down the voices in my head. I always enjoyed reading, and in grade school I did write a short story titled “The Mystery of the Red and Green Striped Zebra.” (Spoiler alert, the paint washed off when the kids gave it a bath.)
My poetry was good enough to be published in the high school and college literary magazines, but I considered poetry more as a means to impress girls than my creative spirit clamoring for an outlet.
I was a math guy (BS Mathematics, MBA Finance) and made my living with numbers and computers and eventually by explaining difficult financial concepts in ways that allowed executives to understand the important points so they could make decisions.
So, when did you figure it out?
In my early fifties I had an epiphany: while my job was math-based, what made me excel was the ability to tell stories about the numbers. In 2002 I finally figured out I wanted to be a writer.
I loved reading mysteries, knew a series could sell easier than a standalone, and so I started writing, and writing, and writing until I had a finished novel. I proudly gave my work to some trusted friends. They told me they liked it a lot. But it did start too slowly. Its middle was muddled and action slogged down to a crawl. The dialogue was chunky. Descriptions minimal. They couldn’t connect with the characters. But, gee, the plot was terrific.
Do you consider yourself trained as a writer or self-taught?
Those friendly critiques taught me the hard reality of Justice Louis D. Brandeis’s statement that, “There is no great writing, only great rewriting.” With the help of the Cincinnati Writers Project’s Wednesday night critique group and immersing myself in writing books, classes, and conferences, I gradually learned to write.
I rewrote the first book in the series many, many times over the next three years. That book received an agent offer of representation, which I ultimately turned down because of contract provisions. I’m glad I did because in retrospect neither that book nor that agent was quite ready for the big leagues. I eventually put it away and worked hard on the second in the series.
The second book in the series was published first?
Yes, but that was not my first published book. My outlet while working diligently learning to write mysteries was to learn to play competitive bridge. I decided to write a bridge book for intermediate players. I wrote the book in about three months’ time, sent out a proposal to the largest English-speaking publisher of bridge books, and in a week’s time they offered me a contract. Just like that.
That book, One Trick at a Time: How to Start Winning at Bridge was published in 2012 and received excellent reviews in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Bridge World Magazine.
While I was making edits for that book, I landed a contract for the second book written in the Seamus McCree series, Bad Policy. It was published in 2013.
So, it took me ten years from deciding to become a writer for my first book publication and eleven years for the first fiction. I had had short stories and an essay published in the intervening years.
After your first mystery was published, then what happened?
The next Seamus McCree novel, Cabin Fever, was published in 2014 by the same small publisher as Bad Policy. Then I decided to revisit that very first novel attempt. My friends were right, the plot had been strong, but the writing no longer met my standards. I improved the plot and applied all I had learned when I totally rewrote the book for the final time.
The Kindle Scout program had just started. (Here’s a link if you are unfamiliar with the program https://kindlescout.amazon.com/) I figured it would be better to have Amazon, rather than a small publisher, help market my book. Ant Farm was selected for publication and Kindle Press brought it out in 2015. As it turns out, Amazon has a promotion running through March 15, 2016 on the Kindle version of Ant Farm, marking it down to $1.99.
What are you working on right now?
I am in the final rewrite of the fourth in the Seamus McCree series, Doubtful Relations, which will be published in 2016. I have a completed first draft of the fifth Seamus McCree novel, Empty Promises, and I have written the first 20,000 words of the sixth novel, False Bottom.
What is your favorite thing about being published?
I get a thrill anytime I meet someone or get an email and they tell me how much they have enjoyed my book. I write to entertain, and knowing I have done so is a great pleasure.