Greetings booknerds, as I near the end of my journey with The Monster of Selkirk, I think it’s about time I talk a bit more about my monsters, don’t you? Specifically why I made my monsters more of an obstacle rather than the series villain.
In the land of Selkirk, the human denizens are tormented by feral elves. These elves are nothing like what you may be familiar with from things like Lord of the Rings—at least, not in their current form—as they are not regal or good, heck, they don’t even speak a language anyone can understand anymore! Instead they click at each other like insects, grow their nails out to talon-like length, file their teeth into razor sharp points, and have sickly, glowing yellow eyes. These are elves who like to kidnap children and eat the flesh of any human they catch. They are, in a word, monstrous. They weren’t always that way, however. They used to be more like the traditional elves we’re all used to—forest dwellers who worship tree deities with exceptionally long lives and agility, which made them fierce on the field of battle. They were beautiful and noble, but as the humans took more of their land they grew desperate for a way to stop them and save their trees. They sought help, but the help they received didn’t go as planned, and instead turned them into the beasts that have plagued the humans for three hundred years by the time the first book in the series starts.
So why did I pick elves to be my books’ monsters? And how did I decide what attributes to give them in order to make them beastly? First, I needed to research writing monsters in general to figure out what purpose my feral elves needed to fulfill. For instance, in things like the Walking Dead, the “monsters” (the zombies) are more of an obstacle. Sure they are gross and can be scary when they are in a herd, but they aren’t smart and the humans know how to deal with them. But using them as an obstacle means that it forces others to do evil things in order to survive. It makes for more complex villains as they can use these obstacles to their benefit against those they plan to victimize. Similar to Frankenstein’s monster. The creature wasn’t necessarily the bad guy, but using fear of this “other” creature allowed Shelley to show who the true bad guys were. Sure, there are more traditional monsters, smart and menacing who prey on the innocent like Stephen King’s “Cujo” or the original “Dracula” which work because it forces your stories heroes to outsmart them and find ways to destroy the thing trying to kill them first. But ultimately, what all monsters have in common is that these creatures are scary.
Villains can be scary too, but what makes a monster is more of that primal fear they illicit in your characters. So, when I was crafting my monsters, I had to think first of what would be scary for my characters to interact with, what fears my characters had that these monsters could play off of, or I could embody within them. I had to ask myself: is my monster meant to be an obstacle that my other bad guys use or that stands in the way of my main characters goals? Yes, monsters can be villains obviously, but it was important for me to decide if my bad guy was going to embody something truly frightening, or if they were going to be everything my hero was not and therefore oppose the goals I had established for my main character to accomplish.
Once I established what role my monster elves needed to fulfill—an obstacle that served as a motivator—that’s when I started to have a lot of fun with monster building, because I knew exactly what I needed from these beasts and how that would impact my other characters. At this point in the creative process, I was asking myself questions like: what does my monster look like? Where do they come from? What makes them scary? What are their powers or abilities? Their weaknesses? Are they brand new creatures or based on an archetype? How does this monster fit into my story/what goal does the monster have? This is when in the process I actually settled on flipping elves into the bad guys, by the way. The creature based on an archetype bit, in case you want to know exactly when the magic happened. I also relied heavily on a great resource for crafting my monsters—and will continue to use for my books in the future as well--“Writing Monsters” by Philip Athans. This guide was instrumental when I decided that my feral elves were going to be the monsters that served as both a metaphor, were sources of pity, brought the worst out in people, were an obstacle, and were legitimately terrifying—both for my characters and, hopefully, you, the reader.
There can be dozens of layers when crafting a truly remarkable monster that will stand out, and also pose all kinds of terrifying obstacles for characters to deal with. Monsters can be as rich as the main characters themselves, which leads to a more robust world, and a creature that is both well rounded, and believable even if they are completely made up. Monsters can be villains, but they can also be so much more than that if you want them to be! AND it leaves room to show what lengths your other villains will go to in order to harness the various monsters with which to oppose my main cast of characters. Which in turn led me to create multi-layered human bad guys. But more on that in July!
Greetings friends and fellow booknerds! As some of you know, I am a tour host for the Indie Blog Hop, a book blog tour group specifically catering to indie and small press authors (like yours truly). But even if I wasn't a host, this interview with fellow author, Dave Heron, is long over due. Dave and I happen to share the same publisher - DevilDog Press - our debut books releasing near the same time. Once Dave saw that our book baby's birthdays were so close, he made a point to reach out to me and share his excitement and nervousness about his book entering the world, and I pretended like I wasn't as nervous or excited as he was! Dave's awe and enthusiasm for other authors as well as his love for writing and the characters he creates is both humbling, and inspiring. More importantly, however, Dave has turned into a great friend and is the perfect nerd to have super late night conversations with about, well, pretty much anything! His entire family is pretty swell too, if I do say so myself. So, without further ado, allow me to introduce you to Dave, his books (but mostly his second book, "Wings of the Chosen"), and his journey to published author! Be sure to scroll to the end to see more about his book and where to stalk - I mean find him on social media!
Chelscey: “Wings of the Chosen” is a very different book then “From the Ash”, and I know has a personal meaning for you. Can you tell us what inspired “Wings” and why this was such an important story for you to share?
Dave: Bear with me on this one. It’s going to be a long answer. The inspiration for WOTC was an unfortunate one. At twenty-five weeks into her pregnancy, my wife had a seizure as we were driving home from a friend’s house. We would later find out that these were grand mal seizures (Jaime ended up gaving five of them) due to sudden onset preeclampsia. The doctors informed us that they must perform an emergency c-section, and that Max would have a “50/50” chance of survival. Over the next one-hundred-and-twelve days inside the NICU, I watched as my wife and son showed me what true strength really was. Jaime was released after just five days. I thought she was dead that night, and here she was; smiling, laughing, telling ME everything was going to be alright. Like...how? It was incredible. And then there was Max. I’ll never forget when I walked up to his incubator for the first time. I felt utterly hopeless. His skin was translucent. Tubes ran all over his body. The doctor asked for my wedding ring, and when he slid it onto Max’s arm and pulled it all the way up to his shoulder, I lost it. How could he possibly survive being born this early? But...he did. He had his mommies strength, fighting through multiple setbacks, surgeries, you name it, he conquered it. Finally, after three and a half months...we brought him home.
During all of that time in the hospital, and when we came home, writing became very therapeutic for me. It was my way of dealing with everything that happened. The story arc I wanted to tell became instantly clear. The words flowed easily. And it wasn’t just Jaime and Max that became part of this story. There were kids that I saw that were SO sick, some terminal, that would become the core of this universe. They would smile, play, laugh, each time I saw them, and it made me realize who I wanted to be the main heroes of this arc. Before I knew it, I was writing the ending of book I and had things in place for book II & III.
Chelscey: How did your family feel about you writing “Wings of the Chosen” given how personal it is to you all?
Dave: Besides Jaime and my niece, no one really knew I was writing it. I honestly can’t remember telling anyone about it until a year or two later. Once they did find out, especially after it was published, they were so supportive. I’ll never forget my dad calling me up after he read a certain part and saying, “Boy...that part made me tear up.” A lot of my friends have been incredibly supportive too. I can’t thank them all enough.
Chelscey: Given “Wings” origins, how was “From the Ash” born? What’s the inspiration behind your first novel?
Dave: Ah, my guilty pleasure novel. FTA’s birth was a lot less complicated. I’m a huge Tom Hardy fan. I remember seeing the previews for ‘Mad Max’, and being a fan of the originals, this was a must see for me. After the credits rolled, I was stunned. There was never an action movie that had entertained me as much as Mad Max did (maybe 300). I remember thinking “I want to write something like that”. So...I did.
Chelscey: Both “Wings” and “Ash”, while in different genres, share similar elements, and themes, both using horror and fantasy elements, as well as discussions of mental health. What is it about those genres and topics that you like the most, or feel are important?
Dave: I became obsessed with fantasy after playing ‘Final Fantasy VII’. The story, characters, twists, it was mind blowing and drew me into this incredible world. I was fourteen and already had a wild imagination, but this just blew the doors wide open to my nerdism. And the horror element? I mean, who doesn’t like a good horror story? I’ve always been a huge fan of horror novels/movies, and I wanted to add that dynamic to FTA. The first book of FTA isn’t overly drenched in it, but book two is going to have a lot more slathered throughout. Mental health is a huge part of FTA as well. Phoenix—the protagonist—not only has to deal with this new post-apocalyptic/dystopian world, but also has the challenge of keeping an old foe at bay that has hounded her ever since her mother died; her severe depression. I think we’re all enemies of ourselves throughout our lives, some far worse than others, and adding this layer to Phoenix’s story was something I wanted to do from the start. There are a few people in my life that I see fighting against it, and this side of Phoenix is all of them wrapped into one. It was my way of writing about a topic that, unfortunately, seems to get brushed aside more often than not, and maybe people dealing with this issue can find some strength in Phoenix’s journey.
Chelscey: Is there a genre you love to read, but wouldn’t write? Why?
Dave: If I can ever become a full-time writer, I will most likely take a crack at every genre. I love writing new things, and already have a few ideas for multiple genres when I’m finished with Ash & Wings. Nothing is off limits for me!
Chelscey: The story behind you getting published is also a rather inspiring one, can you share how you ended up with DevilDog Press?
Dave: Man, now that is a crazy story. A few months before Max being born I came across this book ‘Zombie Fallout’ by Mark Tufo. This book was awesome. It made me go through every emotion you can think of as I tore through the pages. When I was done, I instantly became of fan of Marks. I was thrilled to see he had more books and began adding to my library right then and there. I sent him a tweet about how much I enjoyed his book, and almost immediately, he responded. From about March until October, I kept Mark up to date on everything I read of his; pestered, might be a better word. Here I was, a fan being able to talk to the person who wrote these amazing stories. It was really cool. And then that night happened. Mark knew that Jaime and I were expecting our first child. I’ll never forget the tweets he would send me after that. Him and his amazing wife; Tracy, became part of Max’s journey, and I couldn’t be more grateful for their support. Now, during all of that, and the time that followed, I began writing at a furious pace. It wasn’t until my niece told me about a site called Wattpad that I had any notion of sharing these stories. I was absolutely petrified of putting my work out into the world, but what followed, was what laid the groundwork for where I am today. The community there was incredible. People sent me messages, giving constructive feedback on what they felt works and didn’t, helping craft each story into what would become the first completed drafts. When Wings and Ash were both done and I began working on the sequels, I asked Mark for advice. He simple said “Talk to Tracy”. So, I did. I sent her a message. Now, I knew Mark had read Wings and Ash, and when I had the pleasure of meeting him and his wife, told me that he enjoyed them, that I should “make this my new career”, I honestly just thought he was being nice. Tracy asked me “What are you looking for? Fame and fortune? Notoriety?” I didn’t have an answer at first. I just enjoyed writing...it was fun. Then it hit me when I looked over at Max and Jaime. I pictured them holding a physical copy of Wings and I wanted that more than anything. Tracy’s message will stay with me forever. “Welcome to DDP.”
Chelscey: If you were able to sit down and have coffee with your main characters, what do you think they’d say to you?
Dave: Luckily, I get to hang out with one of my MC everyday! But Phoenix? I’d more than likely have to run away after what I’ve been putting her through, and will put her through...yeah, I’m running for my life!
Chelscey: What are the biggest things you wish you knew, or could tell your younger self, about writing and publishing a book?
Dave: The editing process will test you. I love working with Sheila, my incredibly talented editor. She doesn’t just make sure my grammar and punctuation is correct, she really has helped me become a better writer each time I work with her. But reading through sentences, sometimes hundreds of times, is mind-numbing. It just kills me.
Rapid fire 1 word answer questions!
I want to thank Dave for taking the time to answer my questions. This guy seriously burns the midnight oil between working full time, always being their for his kids, and writing. He's truly a great guy and a talented writer. Want to learn more about "Wings of the Chosen"? Of course you do! So check out this synopsis, and then check out all things Dave.
A child who has yet to draw his first breath becomes the obsession of an unknown entity; a powerful being who seeks to claim the thrones of both Heaven and Hell as its own and unleash Armageddon upon the mortal realm. Haunted by visions of its own undoing, this usurper will stop at nothing to eradicate the one responsible; this mortal child.Bishop, the Archwarrior, is declared the guardian of this unborn child, though he doesn’t quite understand why he is tasked with such a role. But when forces rise from the depths of Hell, Bishop, along with his Warrior Angel siblings, quickly learn that this child is hunted by the usurper, who seeks not only the boy’s death, but the demise of any who protect him. One fateful night, Max Harper’s story begins.
Hi booknerds and friends! So I’m a bit late to the whole “goals/resolutions for 2019” post… thing. There’s good reason, I didn’t forget the New Year happened or anything like that; I assure you, I do not party that hard. But I didn’t want to make just a generic post about what I wanted to do or accomplish this year, with a—supposedly—clean slate. Sure, I could have sat and agonized over my thoughts and what I want to make a reality this year, and what would need to get sacrificed in order to accomplish that, but I didn’t. I was being present in the moment with my family and friends, so it just didn’t happen. Which sounds rather flippant, but eh, there it is. But, I have put some real thought into what I need to do and what I truly want to do this year, and really considered what I’d need to do to accomplish that. So, here goes!
Firstly, it should be mentioned that this is the year the 6th, and final, book in The Monster of Selkirk series will be released. Which is a huge fucking deal, or it is to me. This was the book, and then the series, that started it all for me. Now I have a couple of my short stories published in various anthologies, and have been hard at work writing 2 different books. One is a family drama that is in the super final stages of peer review and beta reading, which means I’ll be drafting the query letter for that and then, you guessed it, sending that out and waiting… and hoping that an agent, and then publisher picks it up! So that’s goal #1: send out queries. As I’m not in control of when or if an agent picks it up, I’m not going to set myself up for failure and say “publish that book” this year. This particular process will be a lot longer than what I went through with TMOS, which is ok! I want to query for the entire year and see what happens before looking at the self-published route. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but this year has taught me a big lesson: while I did work in the advertising industry, I don’t like marketing. I don’t like “pounding the pavement” and the emotional energy it takes to constantly promote myself. It’s necessary, it’ll always be something I do, but self-publishing requires a lot more of that and… I am just not passionate about that. I’d rather write all the new words! Which I can’t do when I get myself stuck in these promotion and social media loops. But I digress.
Goal #2 is simply to write more. I have started another fantasy series which is very adult and in the cyberpunk vein, which I have made no secret of--especially on Pinterest. I have finished writing the first book in that series and need to really buckle down and get draft 1 into the place it needs to be before I give it over to my beta readers. This is a lot of detail adding and editing for me. Making the world feel whole and complete and making sure I keep everything consistent. Not exactly fun but necessary, especially as doing that means that I can—and will!—start writing the second book to that new series. Which needs a name. Desperately. Ugh… So that’s a pretty vague goal, but it’s mainly to get farther in this new project as a whole, which means writing the next installment, and handing the first book over to beta readers.
In order to make that second goal attainable, it means I need to take a bit of a step away from my previous reading goals. As you all know, I do a lot of book reviews for other indie authors. I accept most of the books I get requests for, and as such, it means my “currently reading” pile—which is really just my indie book pile—is still very long. Even when I stretched myself and read 65 books last year (I am not a fast reader), I didn’t put much of a dent in that pile. I do genuinely feel guilty about authors having to wait a long time for a review from me, but as I do promise to read the books and post the reviews, I am hoping to be forgiven for goal #3: to cut back on the number of books I read this year, especially indies, in favor of reading things that will better my craft—research material and other books in the genre I am currently writing in in order to ensure I am presenting a unique voice and memorable characters—that aren’t mirror images of the characters in TMOS. Which is a huge fear of mine, by the way, to just recycle my old work unknowingly. That’s not fun, for you or me. But I digress. Again.
That brings us to goal #4: to get out of my comfort zone and do more events, make more connections with book sellers and librarians, and just, frankly, to get out there more. I hate cold calling people/places. I had a job that required it and its left this lingering paralyzing fear in me ever since. I really don’t like calling up strangers and trying to convince them I’m worth their time and my books are good. It makes me feel icky, which I won’t get into the psycho-analysis of right now. But, to my previous point, even with a traditional publisher this would be something I’d have to do, so I should just do it. Not doing it hurts no one but myself. Yes, this kind of marketing and going to events costs money, but I’ve been working a little part-time gig to pay for things like that specifically and have for all of 2018 (which is continuing in 2019, too). So I really have no excuses and I need to just get out of my own way on that front. So, if you want to see my face at some point, I’ll try and make that happen? Just tell me where you want to see me!
Last, but certainly not least, is less of a goal and more of a mantra: be ok with my process. Often, I look at other writers of varying levels and stages in their careers and how they craft their stories and think “well, I don’t do that, so clearly I’m not doing it right.” Which is wrong and all those authors and writers I follow would say the exact same thing! Just because their process works for them, doesn’t mean it does, or even should, work for anyone else. My process works for me, taking my time in writing, elaborately world building and character crafting before I write the first true sentence of a new project, so even if no new words are getting done, I am still working, and hard! I need to work on not feeling guilty and holding myself to others standards for what productivity looks like. This is not something that’s a light switch, it’ll probably be something I work on and struggle with this year, and years to come as I work on myself and silencing my imposter syndrome. But the point is to try, to breath, and to be ok with my pace while applauding what others can do in their own time. To remember life isn’t a competition, and my success doesn’t mean you can’t also “make it”, or vice versa. I will be reminding myself of this constantly throughout the year, and welcome anyone who also wants to drop me little reminders from time to time.
So, this is going to be my 2019 in a very large nutshell—sorry for the rambling, but, well, that’s me for you. So tell me friends, what are some of the things you are going to work on this year, or some of the things you want to accomplish? No goals are too small, because remember, even baby steps are steps forward! So let’s do great things together, friends!
Hello booknerds and friends! I'm not a big fan of the "year in review" posts, but I figured I'd make a bit of an exception this time. Well, sort of. It should be common knowledge by now that 2018 was a HUGE year for me and book releases. Book 3 in the Monster of Selkirk series was released in October, almost an exact year after the second book in the series, and book 4 was released in late November. Just a month apart! Not to mention book 5 is slated for a January 1st release. While that’s technically in 2019, it’s so close to 2018 that I’m going to count it. A lot of you have shown amazement or expressed things like “Oh sh*t! That’s so fast!” And it is, and isn’t, all at once. Yes, it’s very rapid fire in terms of releases, but that in no way means I wrote these stories nearly as quickly. Allow me to elaborate.
It’s no secret that my dear friend and editor passed away last Christmas. We had been working on finishing up “The Machines of Theda” and I was devastated when Rob, my editor, passed away suddenly. It was hard to finish “The Machines of Theda” after that. It took months before my publisher and I even wanted to attempt it, and then when we did, we couldn’t find an editor that we were both happy with. That changed in August when Sheila showed up on the scene (she’s also a talented author herself, check out her book!). Once she got a hold of my novels, things finally started to move again, which explains the year gap between book 2 and 3, but not why books 4 and 5 came out so quickly thereafter.
While Rob and I were working on “The Machines of Theda” I was busy writing, and in fact had already finished writing the first drafts of both book 4 and 5. Don’t let the release dates fool you: I am not a lightning fast writer! I started “The Duality of Nature” and finished writing it back in 2014—this was still a good couple of years before it would be picked up by my publisher. I believed in the story and world I created so much that, even without the validation of a publisher, I was continuing Tallis’s story. In fact, I had already started writing the fifth book by the time “The Duality of Nature” was picked up by DevilDog Press and they contracted me for all the books in the series.
It takes me OVER A YEAR to write one book. This is especially true for my longer fantasy books as I have to world build and character build, not to mention jotting down the little “wouldn’t it be cool if…” flashes of lightning that only sometimes turn into plots for my stories. But because of how long I was sitting on “The Machines of Theda” it looks like I was just spitting out words like tepid coffee. Trust me, I was not. In fact, even if a book is released really close to its sequel, I can guarantee you the author had been writing that sequel long before the first book came out. But with how long publishing takes, it just looks like they did nothing but bleed words for like two months.
So why did I choose to release three books so quickly? Because I am a fan of binging: binge watching series on Netflix, binge eating when I’m in one of THOSE moods, and binge reading series. I know so many people who refuse to start a book series until every book in that series is out because they don’t want to be left waiting if they fall in love with the stories and just have to know what’s going to happen next immediately. I am one of those readers! So, because we had so many books ready and waiting when Sheila finally joined the team, my publisher was totally on board with the back-to-back releases. It was an interesting experiment in book releases, one that highlighted my inability to maintain the energy required to really market myself for that amount of time. But that’s fine! Because we decided to put a bit of a gap between book 5 and 6—the last book in the series—to let people catch up, and give me more time to work. Book 6 was the only one I wrote after getting my publishing contract, by the way.
So, there you have it, friends! A little insight into why so many books were released right on top of each other, as well as a teeny bit more insight into my writing process. So, tell me, do you binge read series/only start once the entirety of a series is available? Or do you read series even if not all the books are out yet? Let me know in the comments!
Greetings my favorite booknerds and friends! I so enjoyed talking to some of my author friends and sharing with you all their tips and processes for writing, that I just had to share another before I get back to the "regular" business of blogging. Allow me to introduce you to Baj Goodson! Much like Tyffany and Becky, I met Baj through the bookstagram community rather randomly. We just started liking each others posts then responding to each other's stories, then we found out that I lived maybe 2 hours from her in Louisiana before moving back to California... We were so bummed we never got a chance to hang out before I left! Over the past six months or so, Baj and I have gotten pretty close, sharing some of our personal life struggles and dishing on our struggles with coming up with stories. She's such a fabulous motivator and supporter, plus she has the kindest heart. She's seriously one of the sweetest people I've ever met! Who says you can't make real friendships virtually?! Plus, Baj is an incredible writer at the start of what's going to be a long and successful career. I had the honor of reading her debut novella when it first came out, and loved it! Check out my review for her story here, and in the meantime, enjoy the interview! Be sure to go all the way to the end so you can find Baj in all the places!
Baj: You got that right! Crazy ride indeed. But I tell you what, every one of those job experiences led me to another open door, and if it hadn't been for each of those doorways I traveled through, I wouldn't have gotten to a place where I was so miserable in the workforce that I was desperate enough to just GET OUT and take the plunge into writing full-time. It was a huge risk -- when I tell you I had nothing going for me besides a dream and a husband who believed in me, I mean it! But it turned out to be one of the most rewarding decisions I've ever made. I always knew I wanted to write books one day, but by the time I graduated from college, I was just trying to find a "real job" with a dependable income so I could pay my bills like a big girl. Yet all the jobs I worked were dead-end, just something to give me that steady paycheck; I wasn't passionate about any of them. They had their fun moments, sure, and I learned a lot of marketable skills that have come in handy later in life (and even in writing realistic characters in realistic job settings), but more than anything, I learned about MYSELF through those jobs. For instance, I determined I don't want to work for anybody else -- I don't care to forever spend my days checking off the goals of other people when it means I have to stand still. I want to further MY goals every day. I even tried multiple times to go into business for myself, but nothing worked out long-term in a way that I could financially support myself. Still, even those failures taught me things that would become vital -- years later, mind you -- in the process of self-publishing and doing all my own marketing. So should I even call those failures? Everything came together in the end, and now, although I may be living a simple life with only 2% fanciness, I am no longer crushed by the stress of my job because I am totally passionate about what I do!
Baj: Ah yes, the WhimsiGals! That's a fun story. Even though we haven't been together long, I love those ladies dearly, and I am so thankful to have them in my life now. I'm convinced it was all divinely orchestrated! We met back in March of 2018, which is when I first became a part of #bookstagram. I was paying a lot of attention to several writing gurus on Instagram who gave out tips on how to be the best writer you can be, especially if you intend to publish. One thing I kept hearing was to "find your writing tribe". No one had come to find me, so I took that to mean I should go out and find my own peeps -- and I couldn't have dreamed up a better crew! Our group is perfectly balanced at 4 people -- Daphne, Rebecca, Adelaide, and myself. I had been interacting a lot with each of these ladies individually for awhile, solely on IG, and had a recurring itch to ask them if they had writing groups already. When I messaged each of them privately with my proposal to form a small group, they were all interested! It was a little risky of me since I didn't know them super well, but they just felt RIGHT. So we gave it a trial run and simply talked, determining if we meshed together. As it turned out, we are made up of similar personalities, so we mesh BEAUTIFULLY while still having enough differences to keep things interesting. We understand each other, we encourage each other, we challenge each other, we're honest with each other, and we bring out the best in each other not only as writers, but as supportive friends. Writing would be a much lonelier endeavor for me without them. For example, we often bounce story ideas off the group, we collaborate, we do writing sprints, we give feedback on one another's work, we celebrate all manner of goals accomplished, we share our fears and victories, and sometimes we just vent. It's great because, although we come from all over the spectrum in terms of writing experience, that's part of what makes us fit together like 4 little puzzle pieces! We really do balance each other out.
Baj: I'll be totally transparent here and tell you that I have done minimal community-building on Wattpad. Eeeeep! I find that most of what is popular there isn't my cup of tea, which means that my story, SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL, won't have most of the elements that has so many readers hooked on the top stories. So I bypass the community altogether (whoops?) and simply use Wattpad as a free platform to give readers that already actively follow my writing some periodic material to enjoy between books. Plus, it gives me the opportunity to air out my YA stories and appeal to a different audience than I intend to with my books (well, if I ever get with the program and do some effective marketing, anyway...).
Baj: Believe it or not, this was one of THE hardest things I had to figure out when marketing and doing the back-end work in uploading my book to be sold. My husband and I must have discussed it a hundred times! Even determining the key words and themes became a hotbed of deliberation and uncertainty! We finally decided the most "safe" genre to put it under was suspense. When people ask me what kind of book it is, that's what I now tell them. Is it the best label? Honestly?? To this day, I am only 75% sure.
Baj: While many characters and stories of mine were first born as dreams (my current WIP concept came to me this way!), that was not the case with WoC. It was an evolution. Rewind a few years to 2016, when there was unprecedented rainfall where I live in Louisiana that resulted in a flood of catastrophic proportions. Many families, including my own, experienced the devastation firsthand. During the aftermath and clean-up efforts, one of the biggest eye-openers for me was a rather unexpected one: the realization of just how much “stuff” we accumulate (meaningless stuff!) that serves little or no purpose besides taking up space. It took over a year to manifest, but the initial concept of Wall of Crosses was born from this revelation. After I quit my job and was determined to become a full-time writer, my first ambition was to write a short story. I wanted to churn it out quickly to begin selling it ASAP, so I brainstormed the skeleton of a plot on the fly. My goals: it would be character driven, thematic, incorporate the experiences I'd had from the flood, have a twist or two, and would challenge me to make something unlike anything I'd written before. Instead of feel-good warm fuzzies and neat bows to tie everything up at the end...it would be the opposite. The prospect of going that direction, once the thought occurred, totally excited me. I longed to write that story — the one that wasn't a cookie cutter imitation of what we’ve seen a million times, but something that broke the mold a little and left an impression on the reader, whether they loved the story or not. Since I am predominately a discovery writer, the tale branched out with slow, unfurling roots, eventually becoming far more deep and convoluted than I’d planned. I spring-boarded off my personal post-flood experiences and those of people close to me, and the plot and characters really began to take shape. I just ran with it until everything came together as the story you see today! There was very little research involved, to be honest...mostly geographical, and a few things about wills and hoarding and arborists and spoiler-y stuff I can't talk about, hehe. Everything else, I just made up to suit my needs, lol! Even the characters were complete fiction -- the only exception was Ruth, who is, ironically, probably the one character people assume is fabricated!
Baj: I chose to be a self-published author after researching every which way to go in publishing, and determined it was the best fit for me. I'd already found out through recent experiences that I didn't want to answer to anybody else when it came to my own aspirations, even if that meant potentially turning my back on fame and fortune. I may not sell as many books or make as much money per unit sold, but I have 100% control over my work, my life, and everything in between, and that's more important to me. It ended up being a good decision for me, as I can be very frugal when it comes to spending, so I managed to fork out less than $1k on publishing my first book. It was a lot of work (with many all-nighters, tears shed, and tight deadlines), but I did almost everything myself, or with the help of my husband. I set my own deadlines, we hired a friend to make the cover, I tweaked it myself for all the variations we needed, I made my own teaser graphics, did 95% of my own marketing, formatted the manuscript, sought out tips from author friends and influencers when I needed ideas about or help navigating certain preparations, consulted beta readers and my writing group for editing and revisions, and established my author platform online well before my publication date. It was HARD, and I made a lot of mistakes (i.e., turns out you HAVE to have the cover and the MS formatted before you can upload your book for pre-ordering). But I've also never experienced a fraction of this kind of fulfillment in any other career path. It may sound cheesy, but I was made for this!
Baj: The genre I'm best at writing is probably contemporary, but I have spent a lifetime making up creatures and worlds and toying with supernatural and magical concepts, so I can promise you that sort of thing is on the horizon. But I don't think I could ever write a self-help book. Too much responsibility!!!! As much as I love helping people, I wouldn't be able to handle the nasty flipside of that where your advice ruins someone's life.
Baj: Some days I do a better job of it than others, but having less to do with social media has been a big help. I schedule posts as often as I can on my author platform accounts so I can still be present to my followers, but I really try to limit how much I get sucked into the digital realm doing the mindless scrolling thing. I also don't have the TV on unless I'm watching it, I don't have kids, my husband works out of the home, I may qualify as a hermit because I don't leave the house much, and I lead a generally quiet, simple life that would bore some people to tears. It's the perfect environment for someone like me, though, and the silence keeps my mind from being overloaded, so creativity flows fairly easily (most days -- sometimes I'm blocked up like nobody's business! My writing group helps me a lot during those instances!).
Baj: I know it's different for everyone, so I feel like the majority of advice is subjective. But one thing that I think applies to everyone is this: Nothing is free. Whether it be time, effort, or otherwise, everything cost something. Authordom is no exception. If you want it, you have to work for it. But if you stick with it, and you really put the pedal to the metal, I promise that one day you'll have something to show for it -- it's just a matter of time. That determination that drove me to put in the hours toward reaching my goal...that's what got me where I am, and will continue to push me toward my next goal. Well, heh, that and a whooole lotta grace!
Baj: Oh gosh. These are so hard!!! I'm not a cut and dry person when it comes to this stuff!! I'll have to pretend it's life or death, must pick only one...
Cats or dogs: Dogs
Beach or mountains: Beach
Cake or pie: Cake
Plotter or Pantser: Plantser
Favorite food: Tex-Mex
Favorite author: Uhhhh...today it's C.S. Lewis
Favorite City: Home -- Lindale, TX
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I want to thank Baj for taking the time to chat with me during her busy schedule. I seriously love this lady, and I hope you all do too after reading her fun interview! She really is a marvelous human, all of which comes through so beautifully in all her words, whether on Instagram or in her books. I'll be getting back to blogging again soon, but this won't be the last author interview you see, never fear!