Author Spotlight: ANDREW RICHARDSON

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For this month’s Author Spotlight, I’m happy to focus on author ANDREW RICHARDSON, whose latest book The Faerie Handmaiden of Annwyn was just released (today), adding to his already impressive list of published fiction in several genres. Congratulations Andrew on your latest release!

Andrew lives in Wiltshire, England with his wife, a rescue cat, and a son who occasionally pops home from university. He’s within easy reach of Stonehenge and other historical places whose regal solitude provides a clear mind for working out plot difficulties and story ideas. And with a background in archaeology and having worked on sites in England, Scotland, and Wales, it’s not surprising that much of his writing reflects this interest and experience. Most of Andrew’s published work falls in the horror or historical fantasy genres.

Synopsis of The Faerie Handmaiden of Annwyn:

Dancing with her friends in the mortal realm, Penni, the fairest Tylwyth Teg, has no idea of what she will unleash by disobeying the law. A mortal attacks the handmaidens and blocks Penni’s return to Annwyn. Banished for breaking the law, Penni is forced to take refuge with Pelling, a mortal, and his family.  Penni and Pelling find love and marry, despite his brother’s hatred of the fairy folk. He wants to sell her – Tylwyth Teg slaves fetch a princely price, a great temptation for a poor farmer. The couple moves to the capital of fifth century Wales where King Maelgyn rules. Subjected to prejudice and cruelty, they are trapped in the bitter struggle between Christianity and the Old Ways of paganism. Accidentally burnt by iron – the fairy folk’s greatest fear – Penni seeks sanctuary and a cure in Annwyn. Can their love surmount the differences in cultures and religion? Can their marriage survive their separation?

I talked with Andrew about details of the mythology surrounding his new book and other aspects of his successful writing career.

Can you talk about the mythology of your new book and what inspired you to write it? 

One of my passions is sixth century Britain (The Age of Arthur), particularly north Wales where I studied the period at university, and another interest is north Welsh myths and legends.  ‘The Faerie Handmaiden of Annwyn’ combines the two.  It follows an ageless story about a man who married a fairy.  I set it in sixth century north Wales so I could include some of the period’s events and people, particularly the colourful King Maelgwn who is a fascinating character with countless myths and legends surrounding him.

Tylwyth Teg (fair folk) are the Welsh equivalent of fairies and feature a lot in Welsh stories.  Their kings and nobles appear in a lot of different places – even Shakespeare – so it was fun including some often-used characters around Penni, the story’s main focus.  The original is set in the Nant y Betws, a stunningly beautiful Welsh valley I know well, although sadly the meadow where the fairies danced and where Penni met her husband is now a sewage works.  Annwyn is the traditional Welsh Otherworld where Tylwyth Teg live, and while there’s no obvious sign of an entrance in the Nant y Betws these days, walking through the valley it’s easy to imagine the fair folk watching from behind one of the ancient field walls.

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You have an impressive list of publications, and even more impressive is your experience writing in very different genres. Is there one genre you feel more at home with than others? 

Horror and historical fantasy are the two genres I work in most and I enjoy each equally.  As a generalisation, horror stories tend to be relatively simple and linear, while fantasy has a more complicated structure and needs subtle sub-plots.  I like being able to just get on with a horror novel without having to plan too much, but on the other hand historical fantasy is more rewarding when it comes off because of the extra work involved.

Which genre made the biggest impression on you as a child and as a young reader?

My parents don’t like horror or anything remotely dark, so I wasn’t brought up with it.  That led me to wonder what it was all about when I was in my teens so I read a couple of horror novels (James Herbert’s ‘The Rats’ was my first) and I was fascinated not so much by the horror itself, but by discovering a genre I hardly knew existed.  In my teens and early twenties I read as much horror as I could get my hands on, so the structure of horror stories slowly sunk in which is why my first writing attempts were in the genre. Historical fantasy came a little later with my interest in Arthur’s period.  I wanted to see how different authors explained some of the more improbable elements of his story.

For novice writers wanting to break in, what are some of the industry “rules” about writing historical fantasy? Are there any challenges, or else any advantages to writing in this genre that you might not have in other genres?

The usual rules for writing fiction apply, like strong characters and imaginative plots.  An important ‘extra’ is to know the period because although you’re writing fantasy you’re also writing history, so you need to get the clothing, habits, beliefs, and the like right.  That’s why my fantasies are set around Celtic Britain; the time and place has always fascinated me and I feel comfortable setting stories there.

 An advantage of writing stories set in a period where there are hardly any written records is that events and characters are often very shadowy.  This gives writers a wonderful opportunity to interpret what happened, and the people involved, in the way they want or the way that fits best into the story, which is great fun.

How and when did you start writing books and who was your most important teacher or writing-mentor?

My wife works shifts, and when our son was born in the mid-nineties I wanted a hobby to keep me occupied in the evenings after I’d put him to bed.  I’d always enjoyed writing at school so I decided to give fiction a go, and loved it.

I’ve never had a formal teacher or mentor but after writing for a few years I met both Phil and Carole.  Both are an invaluable help in terms of critiquing early drafts of my work and giving moral support when I’ve needed it, and have become very good friends as well.

What else do you have brewing at the moment and do you have any future publications lined up?

I’ve just finished a horror about a group of archaeologists who uncover an ancient goddess, which is looking for a publisher.  It’s not a fresh idea so while I’m happy with it I’m not sure anyone will want to take it on, but it’s in the sort of 1980s fiction I grew up reading and it was rewarding to do a homage to the style.

I’ve also started work on a fantasy/horror about changelings.  Changelings were babies believed to be fairy children swapped by malevolent fairies for human babies in the night.  I’m writing about what might happen if this still took place in the modern day.

Is your latest book a standalone or part of a series?

It’s a standalone.  I’ve never written a series, I’m itching to try something different by the time I’ve finished a novel.  And my first interest was horror, which isn’t a genre lending itself to series so I’ve never really thought about it.

Thank you, Andrew, for joining us this month and sharing your writing experience and inspiration with us!

Learn more about Andrew here:

 

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Author Spotlight: NZ GRANT

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feeding_cover_medium (Large)NZ Grant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adding to his long list of published books in both fiction and non-fiction, award-winning author NZ Grant celebrates the publication of his latest thriller, The Feeding, a supernatural thriller released in April of this year by Rebel ePublishers. His book Mesquite Smoke Dance won the Richard Webster Popular Fiction Award, and his book Hawks has been sold to a UK-based film production company. And writing is just one of his many talents. Grant was formerly a professional hunter, and has been a bodyguard, a TV stuntman, merchant seaman, and is a competitive pistol shooter and instructor. With his native New Zealand as his base, Grant’s real love is travel, and he describes he and his wife as constant travelers. I asked him about this and other things in our Q&A below, so read on and learn about the man behind a most fascinating read.

About The Feeding:

Indian Mountain – spiritual home to the mysterious Ontchean tribe of medicine men, has been uninhabited for over a century. This rural southern Georgia setting is the backdrop to the unspeakable, grisly death of Abel Loomis and a train of otherworldly events and murders that follow.

As you’ve written both fiction and non-fiction, do you prefer one over the other?

I do prefer writing fiction to fact. With factual writing, such as my ghosted tales on euthanasia and medical themes, you are bound very much by facts. You can take the subject’s tale and spin it any one of a dozen ways, but they’re still facts. In fiction, you have total freedom to go where you want and explore what you want with the subject matter, storyline, characterizations, etc. I do love that freedom, though it doesn’t always pay the bills like ghostwriting or journalism can.

As you’re incredibly prolific, I find myself wondering about your writing process. Are you a highly disciplined writer in your approach? 

In addition to my 14 or so books, I also write for several magazines on a semi-frequent basis and one monthly publication as a staff writer covering historic themes. I also write voice material for a local radio station. Yes, I am very disciplined. In a normal working day, I kick myself out of bed into the shower, dress, have a good breakfast and am at the keyboard by about 8 am. I find that creativity is higher in the mornings. The afternoon is generally spent doing mundane writing tasks, like proofreading and research.

Your books seem to have very intricate plots. Do you outline your novels before writing them, and can you share a bit about how you do that? 

I don’t outline my novels, but I do outline my non-fiction books. Those require careful plotting because we are dealing with real people and events. I generally start with an idea – something perhaps sparked by a news item, a chance remark, an encounter, or just a thought that worms its way to the conscious center of the brain. The Feeding, for instance, was first written 15-years ago in rough draft and had languished in a file box all that time. I’m a great fan of horror tales, as written by King and Koontz and their contemporaries. I wrote The Feeding as an experiment between other projects. I re-read it two years ago and decided that it had legs, so rewrote it to bring it up to date.

As to the intricacy of the plots, I let the characters dictate what takes place. They take up lives of their own. And while I know what I want the outcome to be, I let them find their own way there. I often finish a first draft and find that one or more characters have developed certain traits along the way. That being the case, on the second draft I often re-write the first third of the book to accommodate what I have discovered about the characters at book’s end.

How does traveling ignite your creativity? Do you get most of your ideas when you’re away from home?

Travel is a wonderful way to fire up the creative juices. I spent much time in our mountains as a professional hunter. That lead to my book Hawks, which has been sold as a movie project and reprinted 3 times. As a seaman, I gained inspiration for Tyler’s Gold, another novel. Death in the Kingdom was set in Thailand, a country I have visited more than a dozen times. Singapore Sling Shot was set in Singapore, my second home. The Feeding was in part inspired by the time I spent in Georgia, USA, even though Indian Mountain and surrounds are a totally fictitious landscape. But, to the reader who has never been down in that part of the world, it is real and that’s the beauty of writing fiction. However, there’s one rule to follow: know the rules before you break them. Go large if you fictionalize anything and don’t be tentative.

Even if you can’t travel, get online, get to the library, and soak up everything you can about a location so you write about it from a position of knowledge. Speak to people who have been there. Little things you and your posse see and experience along the travel pathway in real life or even onscreen can foster some great ideas.

Where did you get the idea for The Feeding? It’s such an interesting story with a somewhat typical process of investigation amid a very atypical cultural backdrop. 

The premise for The Feeding came from a story told to me about a vanished tribe of Maori here in New Zealand. The People of The Mist were a tribe that supposedly vanished into the mists of one of our sacred mountain areas. That got me wondering if I could transpose that to Georgia, because I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the southern US. The forests in those states are so different from those in our country and I love being among the trees and mountains. I mountained up my fictitious south and created my southern counties and built the story from there. I wrote two collections of tales of the supernatural in New Zealand and four volumes of Asian supernatural tales so it would be fair to say I have an interest in it. I also have an ebook, In The Widow’s Shadow set on a mountain in Alaska. So I’ve definitely got a thing about spooky mountains.

What advice, tips, or tricks could you give novice writers about the writing path? 

When you’re writing there will always be plotholes. I don’t worry about them on the first draft (I always print out and correct draft 1 on paper before revisiting the screen for draft 2). The important thing is to get the basic story down. If you haven’t researched everything, don’t worry. Capture the basic tale. The time for research and hole-filling will come later.

Once you have draft one, don’t show to anyone, you have 3-4 more drafts to go. Take a breather – figure out what technology, location, and research are still needed. Plotholes will suddenly become caverns at this point. Don’t fret. Take your time and solutions will come to you. Once the research is done to your satisfaction, go for draft 2. When complete, now you show it to someone who you can trust to give you a no BS opinion. I use 3 trusted no-nonsense readers, and they are genuine readers, all of them devour books like popcorn. These are the people you need to get an honest opinion from. Best friends will tell you what you want to hear and that will not advance your writing in the slightest. So, take your reader’s comments, good and bad. Don’t be discouraged and burn your manuscript. Take a deep breath and consider what they have said, then go to draft 3. And on it goes. At some stage, you should get a professional editor involved. Put your pride to one side and heed their advice. An editor is there to improve your book and make you look good.

Another thing I’ve learned is the importance of nailing the location (if it is real) or if it is created really paint a vivid picture in your mind. Sketch out salient points on a whiteboard. The mountain and valley in The Feeding only exist in my mind but I can draw it. The same with technology, weapons or whatever – nail the 2-3 main elements then let the characters navigate their through your story, knowing that the technology/terrain/detail on the important steps is covered. I love exploring a concept and learning all I can about a subject. That’s a real joy – becoming an imaginary expert on a subject or location.

One of the worst instances of this failing was a book written in a Bangkok setting by an author who was visiting Singapore. Big Fail. Bangkok and Singapore and the relevant cultures are two totally different animals. It was obvious the author had never been to Bangkok and experienced the wonderful chaos of that amazing city. Lonely Planet just doesn’t cut it. You have to smell a place to know it.

What do you like to read most?

I love American crime noir and authors like John D. MacDonald, Ed McBain, James Ellroy, Elmore Leonard, Daniel Lehane, Michael Connelly, Jo Nesbo and James Patterson.

What writing projects are you working on now?

I’m currently working on a crime thriller set in both New York and the stunningly beautiful West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand, an area I know well from my years as an airborne hunter in the area.

Thank you NZ GRANT for spending time sharing your story and experience with us!

Find The Feeding here:

Smashwords http://bit.ly/2u3lsfG

Amazon http://amzn.to/2ptLx2R   

Learn more about NZ Grant here: www.writerzbloc.org

Ask him a follow-up question: grantshankswriter@gmail.com

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And thank for reading! If you like this interview, feel free to post a comment below. And if you’re a newly-published author and would like to be featured on this blog, email me at lisamarietowles@gmail.com.

Would you like to be featured in an Author Spotlight?

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Whether you’re an experienced, mid-career book author or you’ve just released your debut novel, Spotlight features are a great way to launch a new book, broaden your exposure as a published author, leverage the networking power of social media and, ultimately, drive more potential book-buyers to your Amazon or retail book site to increase sales.

The process is most effective if a post is published immediately after the release of your book, so readers can learn about you as a writer, read about your story, get interested in your main character, and then go directly to your Amazon page.

So far I’ve covered fiction and nonfiction, and I’d welcome any genre, as well as short story collections or poetry. Traditional, small press, agented, unagented, and self-published authors are all welcome.

If you’re interested in being featured in an Author Spotlight on this blog, email me at lisamarietowles@gmail.com, give me a few weeks’ lead time, and send me the following:

  • High quality photo of your book cover and head shot photo of you
  • Synopsis and the first few chapters of your book
  • Your bio and a press release (if you have one)
  • Publishing info

I’ll go through your materials and email you a list of interview questions. Feel free to check out my prior Author Spotlights to see how they’re formatted and structured.

And once the piece is finalized and published, you can use the URL to your heart’s content. Share it on Facebook or any social media site, or post it on your own blog or author website. WordPress is mobile-optimized, so your post should display well on an iPhone or similar device.

The writing path is difficult and solitary, so writers need each other for support and encouragement. Writing a book is a REALLY BIG DEAL, and getting it published is a huge accomplishment! I want to help you celebrate the success of your book release to encourage you to a) keep writing and b) help other authors by encouraging them. You can do that by taking the time to review books on Amazon and Goodreads, attending book-signing events, retweeting posts on new releases, and celebrating their successes. Comment here or email me with questions, and see you on the trail!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author Spotlight: DIANA DUFF

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The genius of Diana Duff’s writing is its elegant simplicity. “It seems such a strange thing to be doing, I thought, however ordinary the surroundings: waiting in a coffee shop in Oxford Street with the London traffic roaring outside, for my mother, whom I would not recognize when she finally arrived.”

With a path that led her from South Africa to Ireland, Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania, Ms. Duff’s page-turner memoir, Leaves from the Fig Tree reads more like an adventure novel, submerging us in the vastly different worlds she has known with a story of isolation, travel, rebellion, love, and freedom.

At age 2, she was transported from South Africa to her family’s historic estate in rural Ireland, County Cork, in a Victorian estate called Annesgrove (originally Ballyhimmock), built in the 1700s.

A descendant of the brother of the Earl of Annesley, Diana’s pedigree isolated her as a child within the rigid confines of Victorian life in rural Ireland, with no siblings or other companions except a series of ill-equipped governesses, juxtaposed with the expansive freedom and wild magic of the Africa that called to her again and again.

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I talked with Diana from her home in Johannesburg about her story and her writing path:

You were quite the globe-trotter! You went to Kenya from Ireland at age 18, then stayed in Kenya and Tanzania until you were 30, when you went to South Africa. What do you remember most about Africa in your early days there? There was a freedom there that allowed people to live an eccentric way of life doing their own thing. During that time, it was not a very structured society, and it was a fantastic place to live. People were really individuals, they didn’t try to fit into any social system or way of behavior, and they didn’t need to. Kenya was my freedom.

How did living in the midst of the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya impact your view of the world? I was so young, I didn’t really appreciate the dangers. But we certainly lived in the middle of it all.

In thinking about writing mechanics, is there one thing that you consistently see writers getting wrong? Nowadays there is a tendency to overdo the shock tactics, and maybe that’s required the way the world is now. It seems that authors feel pressured to write about sensationalist topics rather than writing what they feel strongly about, what moves them. And those books aren’t like art and it’s less of a pleasure to read them. In Isak Dineson’s Out of Africa, for example, you can really see the people, you can feel them.

Which is your preference for the books you read – fiction or nonfiction? What are you reading currently? Though I read mostly fiction now, I’m also reading Heat by Ranulph Fiennes and The Story of an African Farm by Olive Schreiner.

Since you’ve seen so much of our world, what do you think is most different about it now compared with when you were younger? Politics, power and money seem to be the ruling factors today. A drive towards material wealth takes all the color out of life  and is not at all appealing. But there are still magical places in the world. Where I work, we have a lovely Moonlight Market – an evening, outdoor organic market with organic foods and lots of gems and minerals, which attract amazing people with amazing stories. Stories are the common thread for me, for everyone.

Everybody’s interesting. Every single

person has got a story to tell.

At age 85, Diana still works – at Bryanston Organic Natural Market, an organic outdoor market and gem and mineral store, where she meets fascinating people every day. “Today I met a man who’s building a life center on Green Island (Queensland), I met two Americans, someone who’d gone to Malaysia on a canoe trip, and someone who’d been gored by a hippo.” And she has written another story (fiction this time), which takes place in Tanzania.

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Diana’s book, Leaves from the Fig Tree is published by Rebel e Publishers in Kindle, paperback, and other digital formats and can be purchased on Amazon.

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Thank you for reading! If you’ve enjoyed this post, please Like or Share it with other readers and writers 🙂

Author Spotlight: MARILYN MEREDITH

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For this month’s Author Spotlight, I’m happy to introduce you to longtime teacher, speaker, and award-winning crime novelist, MARILYN MEREDITH.

Marilyn has written over 30 novels in two ongoing mystery series – her Deputy Crabtree series and her Rocky Bluffs P.D. series (written under the name of F.M. Meredith0. As one of the earliest adopters of ePublishing, all of Marilyn’s books are available via Kindle. But we’ll get to more of that at the end of this post. For now, let’s hear directly from Marilyn about her books, her characters, and her writing process.

Of your many activities and contributions to our literary world, which brings you the most happiness and fulfillment? (writing fiction, writing nonfiction, teaching, speaking) Though I certainly love writing, I truly enjoy teaching and speaking about writing, and talking to young people about writing is particularly satisfying.

Of the writers you’ve admired in your life, who had the biggest impact on your writing career? One of the first published writers I became friends with was Willma Gore, who was in the critique group I joined. She taught me more about writing than anyone else or any of the writing classes I attended over the years.

Where did your idea for the character Tempe Crabtree come from? Is she based on you, or someone you know personally? Tempe is actually a combination of three women: A Tule River Indian I met who grew up on the reservation and is the one I see as Tempe, a resident deputy who told me about her problems as the only female, and a police officer who was a single mother who I did a ride-along with. All three have strong personalities.

What has Tempe Crabtree taught you over the years you have been writing her stories? If someone is in danger, Tempe will rush in to help regardless of her own safety. I’m afraid I’m not that brave—though in my younger years I did much of the same.

Did you plan your Tempe Crabtree and Rocky Bluff series’ ahead of time, or did you write a standalone novel and thereafter decide to bring back the same character for another book? (and another, etc.) With both series, I didn’t know that I would continue on when I wrote the first books. I fell in love with my characters, and the only way to find out what would happen to them next was to write another book, and on and on.

What advice would you give to new writers about how to navigate the publishing world? Things keep changing. You have to find out what is going on and what path would be the best for you to take. Though I have been published by one of the New York publishers at the beginning of my career, I’ve gone through several small publishers with both series. If self-publishing the way it is today had been available, I might have gone that direction. For those thinking about doing that, it is most important that a professional editor goes over your novel before you publish.

Do you maintain a strict writing process, and can you share some details of how you stay motivated and on track with your writing goals and publishing schedules? I wish I did have a strict writing process—but life often interferes, as do other writing jobs. I do try to write at least a few hours five days a week, but I’m not always able to do so. I’m a great list writer—I keep track of what I need to do each day, writing and everything else. I also keep a calendar that I check each morning so I don’t forget anything important.

What is your forthcoming book about? I’m almost finished with a first draft of an as-yet untitled Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery. In this one, two of the characters are named after two people who tied in a contest to have a character named after them. It’s been fun, because I do know these folks and their characters are nothing like either one. The plot is about the murder of two people—the mayor, and an old lady.

About Marilyn’s Latest Book: Seldom Traveled, which was released in August 2016:

The tranquility of the mountain community of Bear Creek is disrupted by a runaway fugitive, a vicious murderer, and a raging forest fire. Deputy Tempe Crabtree is threatened by all three. Tempe Crabtree is a female resident deputy in the mountain area surrounding Bear Creek which is located in the Southern Sierra. She is also an Indian (she like, others in the Tule River tribe prefer Indian to Native American) and at times she receives spiritual insights. Seldom Traveled is the latest in the series and was inspired by the fact that a fugitive on the run disappeared in our area, a spark of a story about a murder in a mountain community, and the fact that the area is prone to forest fires.

Available in Paper, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, and from the publisher, http://mundania.com/

Marilyn’s website and blog: http://fictionforyou.com/ and http://marilynmeredith.blogspot.com/

Please post any questions or comments, and thank you for reading!

Always keep the writer vibe alive…

 

Author Interview: CAT CONNOR

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If you don’t know her already, I’d like to introduce you to successful, New Zealand-based mystery/thriller author, CAT CONNOR, and the star of her highly acclaimed Byte series – Ellie Conway.

Did you invent Ellie Conway, or did she find you and ask you to tell her story? I saw a video in my head. I could not see the main character but I could hear her. I had no idea what her name was, but I knew she was FBI and she was living in Virginia. She never really introduced herself, she just showed me scenes and expected me to keep up. I only knew her screen name until another character called her by name. Which was a little bit weird, but fun for me. The other thing is that I didn’t know what she looked like for a long time. Everything she shows me is from her point of view so I couldn’t see her unless she looked in a mirror. She doesn’t so much ask me to tell her stories as show me video of scenes that don’t let up until I write them down. She is fun, though. Her sense of humor is great so I enjoy having her in my head.

Did you consciously set out to build a series around Ellie, or was the first book a standalone and then you later decided that Ellie had more to tell? The first book was a standalone based on a ‘worst case scenario’ after some real life chat room death threats. My rights to my book Killerbyte were tied up in the bankruptcy of my first publisher, and a very wise author (Jeffrey Deaver) told me to write another book while I was waiting/fighting to get my rights back. So I did. Turned out Ellie had a lot more to tell me. So I wrote another one … and by the time I signed with Rebel I had three of the Byte novels under my belt. So the answer is no, I never set out to write a series. Ellie just has a lot to say, and every time I think we’re done, something new pops up. She doesn’t like to tell me everything at once. For example, all the way through this series Ellie has mentioned New Zealand. We know she likes the place and she vacations in NZ, and that she’s worked there (both undercover with the CIA and also with the FBI), but it’s not until the 9th book that everyone will find out a bit more about her ties to the country.

Is Ellie you, and what do you personally have in common with her? Ellie isn’t me. I wish I was her. She’s someone I’d really love to hang out and drink tequila with. We share a birthday (Dec 12), we both dislike honey, although Ellie really hates it and I can tolerate it, if I’m sick. We are both a wee bit smart mouthed. Physically we are the about the same height and body shape – that makes it easier when I’m writing some scenes. For example, I know that (when both are standing) if someone is six foot tall, Ellie can look them in the eye quite easily but if someone is six foot six she needs to lift her chin to do that. But no, she’s not me.

What would you tell a mystery writer who writes standalone books if they want to write a series? Do you do a lot of planning to keep track of what you write about Ellie from one book to another? If you were planning to take a standalone novel and turn it into a series – get a notebook and make damn sure you keep really good notes regarding your characters. ALL of your characters. (Even the dead ones.)

I don’t plan. I rely heavily on Ellie to show/tell me the story, she never shows me the end until I’m about to figure it out for myself.

Every book I write has at least two large notebooks attached to it (I’ve kept them all, they live in a HUGE lidded plastic storage bin). The notebooks are for everything I think is important while the story is unfolding. (Formulas for explosives, locations of CCTV, names of people who were killed, partial scenes, chapter summaries (which I write AFTER the chapter is finished), chapter titles (which are always songs), occasionally photos of locations.

Because I’ve written the series and I’ve also written about twenty short stories about Ellie and her team, I have a lot of information in my head. I do trust myself to insert the right name/character detail/reference a lot of the time without checking I was right until I’m almost finished the manuscript.

I don’t usually need to check things regarding Ellie or her team, although I did have an issue with Lee’s eye color in DATABYTE, because I couldn’t remember if his eyes were brown or blue, or if we’d ever mentioned them. They’re brown. His brother has blue eyes 🙂

I have no overreaching plan for the series. I don’t have a development plan for characters either – they evolve as things happen. Maybe because they live in my head and are not confined to a definite set of black and white characteristics they are more fluid and more capable of evolving as the stories progress. Each story emerges through my fingers as Ellie starts showing me video.

What’s coming up for you as a writer in 2017? The 9th Byte book is coming up in 2017. I finished the writing of METABYTE last night and it will be with my publishers and editor by the end of November. METABYTE was previewed at the end of PSYCHOBYTE, and is quite the twisty tale.

Metabyte Preview: SSA Ellie Iverson nee Conway’s world is turned inside out by a late night call from her husband saying his teenage niece, Harley, is missing. Harley’s parents are out of the country and suddenly incommunicado, thus raising Ellie’s internal alert level from yellow to orange. Adding to the rising alert status is the discovery of freshly dead formerly deceased federal agents. Crime scenes and dead agents emerge at an alarming rate. Working under a directive from the Director of the FBI and with the Wayward Son Protocol, Ellie and Delta A try to stem the flow of death. Cryptic messages from missing Ret-NCIS Special Agent Noel Gerrard alludes to the seepage of sensitive data, and then undeniable CIA involvement. Coded messages hidden in attempted hackings of Iverson Technologies provide clues regarding the missing parents of Harley Iverson and a potential link to the Wayward Son Protocol. In the midst of turmoil, the sudden death of a team member leaves Delta A reeling. The team struggles on to uncover layers of deceit culminating in more death. 

Apart from METABYTE, I’m not sure. I expect Ellie will start pushing me to write another book soon enough. I thought 9 was the last, but she seems to think there’s another story to be told…


Cat’s books are published by Rebel ePublishers

For more information about CAT CONNOR and her Byte thriller series, check out: www.catconnor.com

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How do you deal with rejection letters?

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If you’re a serious writer who’s either published or working to get published, you’re not new to the dreaded rejection letter. They’re as ubiquitous to publishing as milk to the coffee industry. What happens when you get one of these in the mail?

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Do they cause depression?

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Rebellion?

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Anger?

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For some highly enlightened souls, rejection letters cause them to revise their manuscript and even create a new story twist or plotline that they hadn’t thought of before.

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Some truths about literary rejection letters:

  •  They are a sign of courage that you were willing to write something worthy of market value, polish and perfect it to industry standards, and put it before someone else’s eyes to be judged. Don’t discount this aspect, it means something.
  •  They are unbelievably common among all of our industry peers – from John Grisham and Dan Brown to J.K. Rowling. Depending on what you write and which market niche you’re approaching, the odds of getting a query or manuscript accepted by either a publisher or agent are unmistakably low.
  •  It’s not personal. Unlike relationship rejection, literary rejections are solely based on your manuscript and project, not you as a person. When you can think of it in those terms, doesn’t it become a bit more business-like, impersonal, even clinical?
  • They don’t mean you’ll never get published – just that it hasn’t happened YET.

Picture yourself at a job interview. You’re highly skilled in your field, have some polished work samples and business references with you, but you somehow don’t make it to that second interview. Why? There could be a thousand reasons, and mostly they’re all because you and your skills just simply aren’t the right match for the position. This mismatch concept holds true in the literary industry as well. You’re sending your unique manuscript to a complete stranger and hoping your project and vision will track with what the agent or publisher is seeking for their client list.

Let’s step back a moment and take a look at this literary agent. And let’s assume you’ve done your research and confirmed that this particular agent is interested in acquiring manuscripts within your genre and they’re considering taking on new clients. And let’s say you’ve worked with an industry mentor to perfect your query letter, you have your manuscript formatted perfectly, and have gone through three editing rounds to fix any grammatical errors. The thing is, even if all these bases are covered, there are still lots of other variables that can influence whether an agent selects your manuscript over someone else’s. Like what?

  • Gender – Not you, your protagonist. The agent might be looking for fiction with a strong female protagonist and yours is male.
  • Voice – They could be looking for third person POV and yours is first person.
  • Length – Your manuscript could be too long or short for the existing market of your genre.
  • Subject matter – Some agents are seeking stories consumable by a wide audience. So if your book has a super edgy theme and touches controversial topics, they might opt to pass.
  • New or published writer – Some agents are eager to hear from fresh industry voices; others only want to work with established and previously published authors.
  • Setting – Some want domestic stories, yours might take place in Paris.

And these are just a few! I know, it’s enough to make you go insane. But you’re not expected to mold your manuscript to every single thing a potential agent or publisher could possibly ever want. The platitudes are true – write what you love. The good news is that there are lots of publishers and literary agents available in every genre, more every day, and lots of them are looking for new writers. Where are they? Check here.

Too often, an agent will reject a manuscript because it lacks the specific WOW factor they were looking for. That doesn’t necessarily mean they didn’t like it and that it’s not good. Because the industry landscape has changed so drastically in the past few years, they’re forced to be even more selective with the types of projects they invest in. In other words, if an agent can’t immediately see the potential for revenue in your book, they’re likely to pass even if they otherwise like your story, your writing, and everything about you. Money isn’t all that matters, but it definitely matters.

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Emotional Intelligence

Rejection letters are a great reminder that we must constantly keep our thoughts on the right track and stay in a positive and inspired space when it comes to writing. DON’T wallpaper your office with rejection letters! The last things we need as writers are negative reminders. Observe your reaction to your last rejection letter. Did you use it as fuel to grow deeper into your craft and commitment to success? If not, it’s okay, there’s time to work on this. And it IS work and no one’s more worthy of that work, time and energy than you are. For more reading on creative resilience, check out this great article from Lifehacker.

Focus on Inspiration

What inspired you to write your book in the first place? What kinds of books and writing continue to inspire you? This is the fodder for your creative expression and it must be positioned on a pedestal because it’s the most important aspect of your writing relationship. You see beauty around you, kindness, amazing human stories. Whatever it is that drives you to your keyboard or your journal, hold that in your heart as your primary focus. Post pictures of that inspiration in your writing space, your desktop, as reminders of what motivates you and what drives you to succeed over and over despite the odds.

Self-Publishing

The publishing industry has shrunk, or grown, depending on your perspective. And the changes are vast. 31% of all e-book sales are from self-published authors. Why do some writers turn to self-publishing as an option? There are lots of advantages, such as royalties. The royalties are typically way higher than traditional publishers (though no advance), and it’s a super quick turnaround to see your work in print (generally 30 days as opposed to 15 months). As you’re not working with a literary agent to sell your manuscript, there’s no middle man to take a 15% cut off your royalties when they start coming in. But there are offsets, too. Self-publishing can be expensive ($500 – $5000 per book), and there’s a lot more work you’ll need to do to push your book into the commercial marketplace, like arrange for distribution, marketing, advertising, editing, cover art, and layout.

Check out these famous, best-selling books and authors that were initially rejected by (in some cases, many) publishers or agents:

  •  J.K. Rowling for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
  •  Jack Canfield for Chicken Soup for the Soul
  •  C.S. Lewis for The Chronicles of Narnia
  •  Dan Brown for The Da Vinci Code
  •  J.D. Salinger for The Catcher in the Rye
  •  Margaret Mitchell for Gone With the Wind
  •  Alice Walker for The Color Purple

There’s more here

What does this tell you? You’re in good company for one thing. Rejections give us an opportunity to re-examine what we’re doing…any why. If making money is why you write, self-publishing could be a great option for you. If you’re a compulsive storyteller hell bent on finding a traditional publisher or agent, then sink your teeth into that path and persevere and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

There are many forms of success – how do you measure yours and what’s your benchmark? If you’re new to the writing path, maybe finishing a novel is a worthy pursuit right now, or you might want to publish 5 books a year, or earn enough to quit your day job. A stack of rejection letters means you’re engaged, working, and investing time and energy in your success and future. Don’t let them derail you; instead use them as a necessary tool of the trade.

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What are your rejection war stories, or successes that started as rejection letters? Please share!