I'll cut right to the chase. Last post I asked you to submit your questions about me, my life as a self-published author, the business, and writing in general. You didn't dissapoint - I received several great questions.
Here then, are my As to your Q's...I've combined, condensed, and paraphrased questions as necessary:
1. Tell me a little about your childhood.
I'm an Air Force brat, born in Germany, and lived in England long enough to establish a life-long love of fish& chips, British comedy, and the Queen’s English (even though I spoke both that and Cockney fluently by the age of seven).
2. What genre do you write?
My writing falls under the Women's Contemporary Fiction umbrella. I prefer to consider my writing “transformative, entertaining, literature for women” which is a fancy way of saying I write about women who despite the trials and tribulations, learn to love and accept themselves. I hope that anyone reading my writing is able to transform in similar ways – that they come away from my stories with a sense of self that’s stronger, more positive than when they began.
3. How did you get started?
You know, I’m not at all sure. I know I’ve been writing with some skill since I was 12 years old. I was an avid reader and for me, the two went hand in hand. I eventually started keeping a journal when I was 15 and I've been writing creatively in some way ever since. I was late getting to the "I want to be a (well-paid, published) novelist". But long about my mid 30's, one day at work – stop me if you’ve heard or read this before – my supervisor passed an article around to the team, “Dressing for Success” or some other such nonsense. Basically, it was an article all about how to dress professionally. When it was my turn to read it, one line stood out, “dress for the position you want.” Immediately I thought to myself, if I were to do that, I’d be showing up in my pajamas, robe, and slippers because what I really want to do is work from home, making a living from my writing. It would still be another three years after that before I self-published my first book, and another two after that before I really got serious about making "paid novelist" the last job listed on my resume.
4. Describe your writing routine.
Routine? I wish. I’ve learned from the writing community that I’m what’s known as a “pantser”, as in I write by the seat of my pants – there is no planning, no routines, no set and narrow path by which I come to putting words to paper. Usually what happens is a character will start talking to me or I’ll get this vivid image of a scene in my head. From there, it’s write or go crazy. The times I’ve imposed anything resembling a schedule to my writing (NaNoWriMo), my muse seems to take a vacation, and my characters clam up. They don’t like being told when to produce apparently and will leave me high and dry if I give them deadlines or schedules to follow.
5. How do you manage to fit writing into the rest of your life?
Writing is fluid as far as time is concerned; it flows around the other obligations in my life quite nicely. I write in all the free spaces my “regular” life leaves. Fortunately, at least as far as my schedule is concerned, I quit my day job and now have the time to write whenever the characters demand. With the exception of the financial stress, I'm living the dream - I set my day up the way I need it to be and there's always time to write.
6. How long did it take you to have your first book published?
From start (meaning when I got the idea to do a collection of short pieces) to finish (when the books were in my hands) was a little longer than a year. The stories had already been written in one form or another so it was mostly just a matter of formatting to get them into one document I could then format to fit a “book”. There was time spent looking for agents and publishers before deciding to self-publish. Then there was time looking at self-publishing companies and realizing that I couldn’t afford, nor did it make sense for me, to go that route. Tack on more time finding out how to produce a book myself and you have over seven months of a learning curve that finally got me in a position to purchase my own ISBN and find a company that would do the printing and binding.
7. Which do you prefer, the publishing or the writing?
Writing, most definitely. That’s the only part of this lifestyle that I have any real control over. Publishing? Well, in my case I have a lot of control over that as well seeing as how I’m pretty much a one-stop-shop. What’s out of my hands is when the money to pay for ISBNs and printing services is going to fall into place. I have the usual regular living expenses and until my marketing efforts begin to pay off, or I find a sponsor, then I’m at the mercy of my regular budget which tends to be stretched pretty thin as it is. It’s frustrating to have people ready to buy, but then I have to make them wait until I can pull together the money to print the books. I can offer Kindle versions of my books fairly quickly, but most of my readers so far are old school in that they prefer a bound book in their hands.
8. What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
First off, learn the business of publishing. Once you know the way the process works. You’ll find it easier to be patient waiting for responses to your submissions and a lot less likely to end up discouraged when rejections show up (if you’re going the traditional submission route). You’re also in a better position to understand the contracts self-publishers are offering, how royalties are paid out, and so on. Knowing the business will keep you from being taken advantage of in most cases.
Second, learn the business of self-promotion and marketing for writers. This was one area I had really, no clue about and it’s been a rude awakening. Time management is key in this area if you’re a newbie and working a full-time job of any kind (anyone at home with kids works a full-time job). Marketing is going to require you to maximize all of your resources as well as use every opportunity to promote your work. Do whatever you can to overcome any shyness or reluctance you have in this area as connecting with readers and gaining their support is SO important.
Lastly, and maybe this should be first because ultimately, it’s what fuels so much – but please, please, please, hone your craft and WRITE. Never stop learning how to improve your writing, and then keep writing – articles, novels, short stories, blog posts, flash fiction, whatever. You have to have a body of writing to choose from as you enter contests, query agents, and publishers. You’ll need to be able to pull excerpts and samples at a moment’s notice sometimes and it’s great when you have a hard drive/flash drive/file folder full of pieces to choose from.
Oh wait, I guess this is my last bit of advice. Keep in mind, as much fun as you may have writing, it’s still a business and one that relies heavily on first impressions. Your product, your writing persona, your image – all of them need to be as well put together as any business person you know and trust.
9. Who are your favorite authors?
If we’re talking “mass-market fiction” my favs are:
James Butcher, and
Self-published authors I recommend:
In “literature”, I love
Edgar Allen Poe,
H.P. Lovecraft (select sotries), and
William Shakespeare, surprisingly enough. While I can’t quote the Bard from memory, I do have my favorite plays and characters. Once deciphered, his writing comes across to me as so lyrical not to mention he was the Stephen King of his day – a prolific writer and known to write some pretty horrific scenes for that time in history.
What Else Would You Like to Know?
Did you have any lingering questions you'd like to have answered? If so, be sure to drop them in the comments. I'll arrange to do another Q&A post soon. Till then, as always, sending light and inspiration.