An Interview With The Awesome And Creative James Stryker

Again I find it necessary to be thankful to Twitter and its ability to connect people. I stumbled across James Stryker on Twitter and fell in love with the concept of his then upcoming novel, Assimilation. I was eager to get my hands on it and found a generous author willing to give me a copy for a review, and so started my love for James’s work.

In addition to being kind enough to have furnished me with copies of his books in exchange for my thoughts, he agreed to spend some time to do a video interview with me to discuss his books and his own writing journey so far. He was also generous enough with his time and thoughts to read my own novel and willingly discussed it with me with interest, criticism, and praise.

So without further ado, my friend and colleague, James Stryker!

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DM: Thank you again, so much, for being willing to do this (interview)

JS: Thank you very much for your time. It’s a pleasure, an honor. I love talking to other authors and having the chance to talk about my stuff and – I mean I know you sent me a list of questions but please feel free to talk about your stuff as well.

(The man is humble and truly enjoys discussing others’ work. I let him know that while I appreciated that, this interview was about him, so we tried to keep the focus on James.)

DM: So, I’m not sure which to ask about first, Assimilation or Boy: A Journey, but essentially I’m really curious about the same thing on both of them, and that is, what’s the first thing you remember as far as your idea, the seed of that idea?

JS: Well, I’ll speak to Assim first. I did a brief stint at a funeral home, and so I’ve always just been very interested in cadaver prep, like embalmings, cremations, and all that really good stuff has always been very interesting to me. And I was just researching one day, just reading about a lot of the new advancements and everything with the cryonic preservation theories and about the new challenges that they have and all that kind of good stuff and something that I ran across was that an inherent part of that invasive procedure is just the impact on brain tissue. Like, if it becomes successful, there is a very real possibility that someone could come back and have different personality traits. Also, just knowing that gender identity, possibility, and expression, the brain just plays a huge role in that, more so than just genitalia. So I had the image of a young man basically paralyzed in a hospital bed opening his eyes to a different man expecting his wife and child so, the story just kind of built itself from there. One of those, what if this were the kind of thing that could happen and it truly could.

For Boy, I’ve always just been really passionate about being an advocate for the transgender community. I have a lot of friends and am involved in a lot of the online support scene for it and something that’s just personally always bothered me a little bit, and I know it bothers a lot of other transgender people, is that there’s a lot of sensationalism around it. It’s constantly seen as something that’s very dramatic, it’s constantly erupting, it’s just this scarlet letter that will follow you for the rest of your life, and that might be true for some people, and I’m definitely not mocking that or knocking it at all, but I think there’s a segment of the transgender population where they transition and then they just carry on because they don’t see their true authentic self as being transgender. So, it doesn’t impact them on a daily basis and it’s so seamless that you would really just never know, and my idea was that if a transgender person that chose they wouldn’t have to reveal their past to anyone, and really under the right circumstance, I don’t think they would even have to reveal it to their children. When I brought that idea up in a few circles, several people kind of doubted that it was possible. I actually even had a psychologist tell me that there was no way it could be down so I just decided well, screw you guys, I’m going to write it because it is possible.

DM: I really loved the ideas. That was my first desire really, was to know where the spark of each of those came from because they were such interesting possibilities.

JS: Thank you, I really appreciate that. High praise coming from you.

 

After a moment of my patented awkward and extremely appreciative thank you, we delved further into a discussion about some of the elements in Boy: A Journey and how they relate to the transgender community.

JS: In my involvement with the community I’ve met a great array of people and there are some individuals where they identify as transgender and that journey is so meaningful and impactful to them that they always- that is how they prefer to be known and they are comfortable with other people knowing that, and not to say that the faction of folks that I write about is not comfortable telling people, obviously in Boy: A Journey is, but I think that what you see in the media all the time is all the drama and all the people that it’s just, sorry for lack of a better word, is just constant drama, constant upheaval, and it’s never just something that you move beyond where I think that the dream of a lot of young transgender people just is, I’m going to go through transition and then I’m going to carry out my life as if I were a “normal” man or a “normal” woman, that can be done. One of the, I know there’s the whole big thing about the bathroom issue and there so many great stories that were posted in light of that, of pictures of people who are transgender, and you walk by them every day on the street and you have no idea, but it’s not those people that you see in the media, or that you see in a lot of books and, in my personal opinion, I just feel like that’s where a lot of transgender folks really do fall and so I wanted to write about those people.

The other thing that I definitely do want to add is that, what I just love about gender expression and identity is that, you also then have a faction of people where they identify as they/them or both and that gender fluidity which is wonderful, that’s not the type of people that I write about it, but I just think that that’s incredibly as well. Just capturing everything. I really loved working with Nine Star Press because that’s what they do, they capture all of the binary or as much as one can.

Even if you pop into some of the transgender chat rooms and support groups, so much of it is upheaval. I’ve talked to a lot of teens and young people who are starting the process and the constant fear I see is you know, I’m never going to be normal, I’m going to be this freak, people are going to look at me and they’re going to know immediately, and it doesn’t have to be like that.

I hope that even though I kill Jay off immediately, that maybe that gives some kind of empowerment to folks who think that ‘I’m always going to be seen as weird or a freak,’ you don’t!

DM: Definitely. I do have to say that, Jay may have been killed off immediately but he was a huge presence throughout the book. You did such a good job of giving a character who wasn’t there, character.

JS: Thank you, I appreciate that.

 

On the subject of Jay, we discussed further some of the changes that can occur after someone dies, like that they almost become a different person to different people.

JS: It was great to explore how this man is seen in three different lights from three different people, all of his motives are questioned in three different ways, and I just, I really enjoyed that because I see that so often and have experienced that when someone does pass away.

DM: How long did it take you to finish writing Assimilation and Boy: A Journey?

JS: Well, actually for Assimilation it went very very quickly. I wrote that over the span of a couple of weeks actually, after the initial idea was completed. I’m a very fast writer and what I’ll do is I’ll take time off of work and I will write. I can write up to 15k, 18K a day because I’ll just go for hours.

DM: Wow..

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JS: Really, Boy: A Journey was a challenge because I mulled that idea over and over, had dozens of false starts, like, several different ways I tried to go about it because I really, again, it was very important to me to represent that faction of the transgender community and I wanted to do a good job at it, so I started it several, several times. It took about seven years before that was finished, so I ended up finishing Assim first.

DM: How long did it take you to get Assimilation published, from when you decided you were done and going to start?

JS: I finished that in, oh…February 2014 and it took me over a year for me to get it published because after I finish writing I don’t immediately send it out, I do the editing, I let it sit in the sock drawer for a while, that kind of good stuff. I sent that query to, probably over a hundred agents and publishers and wasn’t really getting any bites until I went through #SFFPits on Twitter and it got picked up by Momentum Pan Macmillan. So, the entire process was probably, from completion, a year and a half to get that published.

DM: That’s pretty awesome.

JS: Yeah, it went well, I think.

DM: I have such a problem with that, a pitch is hard enough but especially when you’re pitching on Twitter it’s just….ahhh!

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JS: Yeah, no, and there’s so many like amazing stories out there, to really make yours stand out, it can be quite challenging. There’s Twitter contests that I would enter that I would get tons of faves and then others where it just seemed like it got lost in the shuffle so, it all just really depends.

DM: As writers we all know that we put pieces of ourselves and our characters in our stories, what would you say is perhaps a trait or a characteristic of yours that you put into one of your characters? (in any novel you’ve written)

JS: Well, I think that kind of leads into one of the questions you were going to ask about my favorite book, I really think it kind of leads into that. Because normally I do try to separate myself somewhat. I mean I put in a little bit of how I act in to everyone but really try not to write me.

DM: Yeah, of course.

JS: However, while I really do love all of my books, a novel that I completed a couple of years ago that’s really meant a lot to me and I put a great deal of myself in that book. To be frank I was in a very dark place when I wrote it because my wife and I had been trying to have a child for a very long period of time and it was not happening. I was actually finding it even difficult to leave my house because seeing children was triggering me into anxiety and I happened to make a joke to my wife one day that I just need to find a place where there were not any kids and the perfect job for me would be the child catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.  That comment actually got the wheels turning and in doing some research I just discovered that there wasn’t really anything out there about his backstory and, I mean, this is a guy who, in 2005 he’s voted the scariest villain in children’s books and in 2008 Entertainment Weekly said that he was one of the 50 most vile movie villains but nowhere is there any explanation of why this guy does what he does. So, I really decided to try to take on that, and I reimagine him as a person who wasn’t evil but was suffering through some severe depression and just trying to cope with the inability to have children. Really, writing that book helped me to work through a lot of what I was feeling and it’s probably the most the most personal piece of writing that I’ve done. It’s difficult for me to read that over. It’s been difficult for beta readers who know me personally to read it because there is a lot of my feelings and anger and incredibly frustration in that. So, I do hope when that does get out there, that it’s able to help someone else feel not as alone. But I would say, in a long winded answer to your question, that’s where, of all of my books, I really wrote about me and my struggles and so it’s very meaningful to me.

DM: Gotcha. Wow. I really appreciate you sharing all of that with me. That was definitely one of the books I saw that you had that would be coming out that I was like, ‘I have to have that, I have to read this, I really want to know!’

JS: I would very much love to get your thoughts on it. It’s the only one right now that is not actively doing anything, it’s just hanging out there. Again, it’s a difficult one for me to read through and it- I have queried it before. I had some people that were interested, but it’s something where- you know, you have writers say, ‘this book is my baby’, and the other books, they are very important to me, but this one is my baby. So it’s been really hard to…let it go.

DM: Oh, I can completely understand that one. I mean, that was one of the depression issues I was having with The Foretelling Spark is because I’m like, it’s not bad, but it’s not my baby. It’s not the book I’m going to hold up as being the proudest of and say that I’m so glad I wrote this book. I mean, it was the first thing novel-length I was able to complete and I didn’t throw into something and set it afire, you know?

JS:  Well, and it was great. I mean, I saw, and again I know we aren’t super bffs but, just in speaking with you and, you know, looking at your Twitter and things that are important to you and how you view the world, there was a lot of you in it, but you could tell that there was, you had also taken that editorial eye to where you’re not just writing every thought that comes into your head. I see that so much in other writers, where there’s just not that filter; not to say that thoughts aren’t important, but every one doesn’t need to be written down.

 

We continued down this slight detour of discussion concerning my own novel, which James was kind enough to read and give some feedback on. There was much blushing and giddiness on my part from James’s praise and thoughtful critique of my work. But this interview is about the talented James, so back to topic!

DM: So, what would you say your publishing experience has been like so far?

JS: Uhhh….*heavy sigh* a whirlwind! I mean, as I said, Assimilation was picked up non-traditionally through a Twitter pitch on #SFFPit. And then Boy: A Journey was picked up through #Pitmad from Ninestar, so that was again, another non-traditional being picked up there. They also asked to then see any of my other LGBT work and that’s how they ended up publishing The Simplicity of Being Normal. They offered me based on that, and then, while all of this other stuff was going on I was still out there, still trying to find a literary agent, and I received an offer on my YA manuscript. And I sent out that standard notice of offer of rep and I was just beyond ecstatic that my dream agent actually offered me! So now I’m out of the querying, Twitter paryting scene.

DM: Ah! Wow! Congratulations!

JS: I’m super excited. It’s nice to not have to worry about that anymore, it’s just a relief. It’s also an honor to really be working with someone as talented and awesome as she is.

DM: Sounds like a good match, then. So, what would you say has been the most difficult part of the entire writing process? The writing, the editing, the querying, publishing, whatever part of it?

JS: I mean, querying is, as I’m sure you know, frustrating as hell, oh my god! So that was very difficult, but really, I mean, in just my personal experience, I feel like the publishing has been more difficult, but that really could be, it seems like every time I start the process of publishing there’s also something else going on. So, what ends up happening is that I end up procrastinating, and ultimately I feel super rushed and super stressed out about it. So even though querying is super frustrating, at least it was, okay, I send out this query, there’s nothing else I can do about it, and I let it go. But with publishing when there’s all the deadlines, it has to go through like eight different people, and I don’t want to be the hold-up, so the rush is very stressful, so I would could that the most difficult part.

DM: Do you have a favorite writing spot?

JS: It really depends on what I’m working on and how deep I need my concentration to be. When I’m at home I usually just write at the dining room table which is where I’m at right now. But if I really need a chunk of time and I need to focus I will go down to just a local coffee shop; it’s kind of hard to get distracted there, I don’t have kids running around and dogs running around. So it depends on what I’m working on.

DM: Makes sense. How do you balance your writing and the rest of life necessities?

JS: Oh god…uh…I wish that I really did have two other mes, that would be nice. Um, I mean it’s, I try to carve out writing times at night. I mean, I do have a full-time job that I’m very dedicated towards there, I’ve been a foster parent for a couple of years now, so caring for any children in the home is a hugs priority for me. So I usually write when everyone else is asleep! Luckily I have insomnia so I’m up all night.

DM: Ah, a tell-tale sign of a writer, too often. Too many of us anyway.

JS: That is true.

DM: What are some of your interests outside of writing?

JS: Um, well, my nine month old little guy. Nothing really brings me more joy than he does so he’s probably my main interest. I’m also really passionate about my full-time job, I’m part of a leadership team at a call center and I find that very rewarding. I have the opportunity to use a lot of my creativity, I design presentations, photoshop stuff, as well as mentoring other people. So, those are my main things.

DM: I know you’re a fan of Sci-fi, so for the record, do you have a favorite writing or reading genre?

JS: I actually, even though Assim is sci-fi, it actually shocked me because I don’t know that I’m a huge huge fan of sci-fi/fantasy. I really like, uh- like, I’m so excited to get my hands on whatever you’re working on that’s dystopian, so kind of like that soft sci-fi, because I’m very much character driven; that’s very important to me. Again, this is just my personal taste as a reader, sometimes with a lot of sci-fi or fantasy novels, the world building and descriptions and all that, I want to move and know what’s going on with these characters, that’s what grabs me. I more go for literary fiction. I really love books that have beautiful prose, which again one of your strengths! Really, I like things that have a purpose beyond just merely entertainment. I want to walk away being a little bit different. I’m not saying I like to read inspirational, and I don’t want to be ‘fundamentally changed’, but to walk away with even just a new idea, new perspective. So yeah, I really am more literary.

DM: That’s exactly why I fell in love with Assimilation and your characters in general because that is definitely one of your strengths. As I said in my reviews and before, you really know how to grab a reader with your characters and not let go.

JS: Thanks. That’s what I like to read, so.

DM: You definitely write it well, so I understand why you love to read it too. I definitely enjoy very character driven work. I mean, who else are you investing in?

JS: I definitely agree. I don’t know why, I’ve always found that, from a very young age, that I read a book because I want to be somewhere else, I want to walk in someone else’s shoes. But you know, the other thing that I think is very interesting to that too, and that I’ve tried to convey in my books, is that I don’t necessarily think that that person has to be super likeable; I really enjoy reading about characters that are flawed, that are deeply flawed because I think that’s so much more approachable. I can’t imagine myself being in the shoes of some saint, but people who are affected by their surroundings, who make very poor decisions, who can be very cruel, as cruel as they are kind, I feel like that’s part of what sucks me in as a reader, and so I try to convey that in my writing as well.

DM: I definitely say you do that quite well.

 

I mentioned that this was something I needed to work on in some ways with my own work; I have a problem understanding or having a character do something that could be considered mean or cruel without having a purpose or a deeper reason, and sometimes characters need to do those things, or have them happen to them.

We discussed my characters and the notes James made about my novel, which led to an interesting and important thing to consider while writing certain characters.

JS: What it reminds me of is the book I’m working on with my agent right now. It has a main character that…he’s an asshole. A major, major asshole that keeps everybody at arms’ length, and that’s a problem because, even though there’s a reason why he is an asshole, and there’s a reason that he keeps everyone at arms’ length, keeping the reader at arms’ length, it was then a struggle for the reader to connect with him. It’s been something that I’ve had to go back through and think about, okay, I know why he’s doing this, I know why he is just very standoffish, and why he is the way he is, but we’re in his head. So, he can be that way to the world around him, but not to the reader.

 

He then related this back to my own novel and how it is something to take into consideration. It was helpful and great to discuss these issues so that I can attend to them, not only in revisions for The Foretelling Spark, but something to take into future projects as well.

Then I turned our conversation back to James.

DM: Okay, we kind of talked about this before, so just to clarify, what is your favorite book that you’ve written? Is that The Child Catcher, or another?

JS: No, it really is. I love all of my books and there’s, you know, a message behind all of them and a reason why I wrote them. I did go into some depth with Child Catcher and why that one is really the favorite book, the most personal. However, a close second would really be Boy: A Journey. I wrote that, even though I did write that a lot for the transgender community, the portions of it with Tom’s death were very difficult for me to write because I dedicated the book and wrote it with my grandmother in mind. That was something that, a lot of what happens there at the end when he actually does pass, that was very personal to me in that I was, that I went through similar situation and so I would say, after Child Catcher, Boy: A Journey is very very personal to me because it was me saying goodbye to her all over again so, reliving that.

 

After a moment of sharing condolences and brief discussion about writing and encapsulating the loss of a loved one, we turned to slightly fuzzier topics.

DM: So, I know you mentioned your pugs so, I’m going to ask you to tell me about any writing helper/minions or furry distractions you have, if you don’t mind.

JS: I do have the pugs, and like I said, I also have a nine-month old little boy. He used to be in the ‘help’ category when he was smaller. I actually edited Boy: A Journey standing up at the drafting table with him like, in a snuggie on my chest. But now he just wants to be into everything including the laptop so, he now falls into that cute yet distracting bucket. That’s also kid of where the pugs are usually, they like to pile around me when I write on the couch. In most of my profile pictures is my senior girl, Binky. I look better when I have a pug. So those are the minions, distractions, ‘helpers.’

DM: How would you say your writing community has affected you?

JS: Oh I mean, tremendously. Besides that I wouldn’t have published anything or really found literary rep without Twitter, like I said, I went the traditional querying route and it didn’t really get me much of anywhere. But I’ve also met awesome people like yourself, sharing best practices, and it helps to make me a better writer, honestly. I’ve met some really great friends, again yourself included. I’d also like to think that I’ve helped a lot of people too, or I’ve tried to. If I could give a small shout out to Elizabeth Hamill,who has an awesome LGBT sci-fi that’s releasing in July, and J.M Sullivan who just published Alice: The Wanderland Chronicles on May 16th, they just, they rock. I love Beta Reading for them and helping them, or I like to think I helped them. They were awesome without me, but maybe I helped just a little bit. If nothing else, just the self-esteem boost of telling them that they’re awesome, sometimes that really helps, in a sea of rejections.

DM Definitely! And how would you say you found or created your writing community? Did you just get on Twitter, start tweeting and find some people, or was there something else along the way?

JS: My wife actually was doing it first. She’s also a YA author and she was just very much into it for a time and was telling me all about these Twitter parties and everything. At first I thought it was just crap and then I finished my books and considered giving it a whirl. I really started doing it a lot because of her and the Twitter parties and everything, just participating in that, I had the opportunity to be a slush reader at #70pits last year where I’ve met a lot of super awesome people to connect with.

DM: For writing tools, do you have a preference for Word, Scrivener, old-fashioned handwriting?

JS: I like just, Microsoft Word. Sometimes I will get an idea, usually it’s dialogue, like dialogue will pop into my head at 2 in the morning (I’m sure you understand), and I have to, you know, turn over and write it in my notebook by my bedside but, normally I do like Microsoft Word because like you, I do agonize over word choice and structures and I can’t imagine doing it hand written because I would be be crossing things out, whiting things out. I like being able to type out a sentence and then switch it around fifty different ways.

DM: Which author drink stereotype would you say is your biggest vice, if at all, coffee, tea, or alcohol?

JS: Coffee all day and wine all night. Lots of coffee, and I like wine. There’s a lot of good wineries around here I frequent. I’m not a drunk, but I do enjoy a glass of wine while I write.

DM: So I know I asked you about the most difficult part of the entire process, but what would you say is the most difficult part of novel writing for you?

JS: I’m really crap at beginnings. I really am crap at beginnings. You’ve read things so far where I’ve edited and edited the beginning and believe me, everything you’ve read, that’s not where it originally started. And I’m still, I’m…happy with how they start now, but I always have to redo beginnings. I feel like in everything it doesn’t really start to get good until 15-20 pages in, and that’s not good. So beginnings, I really struggle with. I don’t know why.

DM: Okay, I promise we’re nearly done! So, The Simplicity of Being Normal is your most recent release, is there anything you can tell us about it?

JS: Sure. It’s more similar to Boy: A Journey than it is to Assimilation. It is told from three different points of view like the other two novels are, and of course it has LGBT elements in it. It follows the story of an underage transgender young man as he is living in a very conservative community and there’s a lot of bullying and abuse that is going on at school. He does find allies in a couple of teachers at the school but just how he navigates and of course, because we’re in three different perspectives the other two main characters, the teachers, they also do have some secrets that they’re hiding and struggles they’re going through as well.

DM: Well, I really can’t wait to read more. I’m only a few pages in and already, just oh, Sam!

JS: It’s a struggle. Again, I wrote Boy to show that there doesn’t have to be that sensationalism and that is also what I hope comes across with Sam; that this is just a young man who wants to be seen as normal. He’s not out there hurting anybody, like he’s not out there doing drugs, or anything like that, he just really wants to be normal, and people are just fighting him the entire way. That’s what a lot of young transgender people go through.  Especially in communities like he’s in where they don’t have the support, they [lack] the ability to receive treatment so they’re kind of just stuck in limbo until they hit 18.

DM: Which by then is just…the difference between being able to start before puberty hits, to be able to, it just…how is that so hard to understand?

JS: It’s incredible. And besides the fact that the changes to the body are just so much more effective the younger that you start. I mean the teenagers, we all know it, cisgender, transgender, what may have you, those are building blocks to the person you’re going to be and spending those formative years constantly fighting who you are, being so depressed, so anxious, hating yourself, that is so destructive to a persons’ self-esteem, self-confidence. I’m very excited to see your thoughts, but I would imagine that even though Sam is going to be feeling those things, even after transitioned for years to come as many transgender individuals do so, the earlier that you’re able to start getting treatments, it’s just so much better on many levels. So I hope you enjoy it.

DM: As I said, I definitely cannot wait to sink in further. Okay, the last question I have is, what is your next novel coming up and what can you tell us about it?

JS: The next novel is the one that I’m working on with my literary agent. It’s a contemporary YA, so I would imagine that’s going to be the next one to come out, unless everyone hates it and I have to work on something else. I would say that it’s kind of like a YA twist on Fight Club. It follows a young man with medically induced dissociative identity disorder and he’s basically fighting to maintain control of the shared body. So it’s kind of like YA Fight Club if you were rooting for Tyler Durden. It’s pretty gritty, reads kind of similar to The Gospel of Winter, so it’s not like a super deviation from my other work in the literary realm, but it’s also not told from multiple points of view, unlike the other novels. So that’s what’s next.

 

From there our conversation turned to my own work, once again. We discussed a WIP of mine that’s I’ve been slowly piecing together over this past year or so, and it was a wonderful and lively conversation. I enjoyed myself immensely.

I highly recommend you snag yourself one of James Stryker’s fantastic books. I will besimplicity of being normal finishing up The Simplicity of Being Normal, and you can expect a review to come after. I will also be eagerly waiting for more stirrings about his novels to come.

Another huge thank you James for his time and doing this interview with me, and of course, for his thoughts, criticisms and praise of my own work and willingness to share his thoughts. Thank you, James!

You can find James on Twitter, or through his site.

An Interview with the Horrifically Wonderful Jette Harris

I’ve said it before but it deserves to be said again, I never thought I would be thankful for Twitter and being part of the Twitterverse, and yet I am. I’ve met some really wonderful people through Twitter…and my TBR list has never been longer. One of the best parts about Twitter is getting a chance to connect with authors as they get published and continue on their own writing journey. As long as people are willing to put in the time and effort to connect instead of sell, it’s a wonderful thing.

I’ve now been on Twitter for over a year (I can still hardly believe it), and I’ve met a variety of interesting people, many of which are fellow authors. I’ve had the pleasure of reading some, talking with many and even interviewing a few. I’ve chatted with and interviewed traditionally published Susan Crawford, as well as Jewel Leonard about her self-publishing experience.

Today, I’d like to introduce another wonderful Twitter-found author friend and share an interview I did with her about her own unique publishing journey. Without further ado, Jette Harris! (Please keep in mind that since we are discussing her books, some of the content discussed may be triggering to some people; her books come with a trigger warning)

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DM: So, your first book was Colossus, right?

JH: Well, my first published novel is Colossus. I wrote one other novel which was, I mean… I thought it was good, and then I thought it was bad, and now I’m realizing it’s unrevised. So, it could be good, I just haven’t touched it since 2006…so that’s sitting in a drawer….

DM: Is that kind of in the same genre or in a completely different genre?

JH: They’re…kind of the same genre…it involves a serial killer, but it’s more like a romance thriller

DM: Your idea for Colossus, what’s the first thing you remember getting for an idea, or where the idea came from?

JH: So what happened was…and this is kind of embarrassing in hindsight, but, I was watching HBO’s Rome, and the guy that plays Mark Anthony is James Purefoy. He seemed unremarkable beyond his character up to the point where, (if you’re not familiar with Rome it shows the rise Julius Caesar and Augustus)…so, up to the point where Julius Caesar dies at the end of the first season, I didn’t really think anything special about him. And then, when you see him discover that Julius Caesar has been assassinated, he gets this facial expression, which I thought was absolutely remarkable for an actor; it showed a real depth of talent, and I was just like, you know what, I’m going to take him, and I’m going to write a character for him.

I also had this really crazy dream where I was listening to Kesha sing “I Only Want to Dance With You” while a man, who is not Avery Rhodes, or James Purefoy or anything like that, was raping a teenage boy…

DM:…that…is definitely an interesting dream….

JH: Yeah….so, I combined all of those concepts and came up with a…at the time I wanted to work on short stories, I didn’t want to write a novel. I was going to write a series of short stories of a girl, Heather Stokes, fleeing this man who, at first he was just cold and calculating, unfeeling…he was just flat, a very flat character. As I wrote the story, or as I was writing the first few stories, I realized I needed to write an inciting incident, and so I started writing the inciting incident and it just kind of grew out of control.

DM: Gotcha. Bit of a snowball effect there.

JH: Yes. And so it turned from a series of about seven short stories, to a series of about seven novels. And then I also gave Avery Rhodes his own set of novellas of growing up and how he became the…I don’t want to say “monster” because he’s very much a human, but the serial killer you meet in Colossus.

DM: And that’s the Phoenix Rising and….

JH: Yes. There are two of those out right, and I have two more of those in revisions.

DM: Are you planning to put those out by next year or by later this year?

JH: I don’t know what I’m planning on doing. I’m just kind of at that point where I’m debating whether I want to keep tackling the Colossus novels and the Phoenix Rising novellas, or whether I want to set those on a back burner and come back to them at some future date.

DM: How long do you think it took you to write Colossus?

JH: So to write it…I would say it took a year and then a month to write and then revise Colossus… it was about late September-mid October that I came up with the idea for it, and then about April or May I thought I was completely done and I sent it to an editor. He had a lot of awesome suggestions and so I revised it, but at the same time I was writing material for Two Guns, which is the second book. I was also writing material for the Phoenix Rising novellas; I was also writing material for the other books that would follow Colossus and Two Guns, to get that series finished up. So I was working on a lot at the same time. So now I have chunks of several different novels in the same universe and all of these novellas. So it took a little over a year of inconsistent writing and revising.

DM: When you went to publish it, what route did you take originally for that? I know recently I saw that you had pulled it from where you had it but I wasn’t quite sure…..

JH: Yes, and, I haven’t really pulled it, which is a technicality….so, what happened was, in the summer of last year, I started talking to @EllaThomas22, which is a Twitter character account for Ella, who is a Stephen Moran character. Stephen had formed his own publishing company in order to publish his own novel, and he was also hoping to get other authors.

Ella is about a female serial character, it’s very savage. It’s a bit more…I don’t want to say gangster, but it’s a bit more money oriented than I like my thrillers to be, but the characters meshed very well. So, he asked me if I would make Colossus his first non-self-published book, and I thought that was pretty cool. He mentored me through the process, so basically what happened was that when I published it, I published it with his name on it, but at the same time it was self-published. So, publishing it under him was a technicality, but he’s also on my ISBN. When I decided that I wanted to shop Colossus for traditional publication for a wider release, because his company is very small, he has very small reach right now, and I wanted…more, so when I decided I wanted more, I pulled his name off of everything, but his name is still on my ISBN. So, I haven’t gotten myself a new ISBN yet, so I just kind of half-assed pulled it from them.

DM: So, you said you were going to try for traditional publishing for Colossus?

JH: Yes. I’ve been querying and I haven’t gotten any replies back, and for some of those it’s to the point they’re just not going to reply because they’re not interested….querying is hard hard pout face.gif

DM: Yes, yes it is, oh my gosh….

JH: Yeah, so if you’ve read Colossus and are familiar with it, it’s not surprising that most people I pass it to will pass on it…

DM: Yeah, it’s for a selective audience.

So, I think we kind of touched this, how many books have you written and published?

JH: I’ve written three. I wrote Perfect Words in college, and it’s about 53K. Then I wrote Colossus and that got published. Now, I’m actually very worried that I published it prematurely before getting more critical reviews on it, but….I had a lot of beta readers….all of the critical feedback I got I acknowledged, I adjusted most of it.

Now, I got a one star review and a two star review on Goodreads and, it just kind of knocked me backwards. It was stuff that my beta readers didn’t really mention, or didn’t have a problem with so, I’m kind of concerned now that I published Colossus too soon and didn’t let it sit long enough…but oh well..

And then I wrote Two Guns which is the follow up to Colossus, it’s the second book in the series. Two Guns is done, but it just doesn’t feel…right, and this was before I read the reviews, so that’s not what’s holding me back. It just feels like right now there’s too much going on and it’s too disconnected and so I’m thinking about just rewriting that. I’m going to keep most of the material in it and I’m just going to rewrite it in a uniform fashion so it’s smoother. But that’s going to be really time consuming.

Then earlier, for Camp NaNo I wrote a romance. It was a historical romance. It was based in 1800’s South Carolina and, I almost got to the very end, and then that last scene, I just couldn’t get it out. And I just let it peter it, so I have this almost finished romance novel that I’m going to revise. That one I might shop around because it’s more marketable.

DM: So, what do you have to say about your publishing experience so far?

JH: ……uh….fuck…..

DM:  Can I quote you on that?

JH: …I think I was impatient and I may have killed my opportunity to get Colossus traditionally published by publishing with Moran (which would have happened completely self-publishing as well). Then also, publishing with Moran prevented me from entering in any of the contests and competitions for self-published authors. So…I just think I was impatient, and if I had to do it all over again, I would probably shop a lot more agents and publishers before going and self-publishing.

DM: Would you say that the genre of Colossus is your favorite genre to write in?

JH: Yes. Yes, I would say….there’s debate among my readers and internally, in myself, whether or not to consider this a psychological thriller or a horror; because horror, and I read a really awesome article about this, about how horror is more about a monster or a horrifying being, and that’s very much true, but you also have the thriller aspect of everyone’s psychological descent as it were, not just the victims, but also the antagonist. I really do love being thrilled. I love reading something that gives me palpitations. Even though I’m not always happy about it, I always love that sensation.

DM: Is that your favorite reading genre as well, then?

JH:….so I have a confession, that I’m trying to break myself of, that I don’t read all that much…

DM: Really?

JH: Because, I devoted most of time to writing, and so I was writing mostly and I was just like “I don’t have time to read because I want to do nothing but write.” I was using writing to manage anxiety and so I’m not as anxious now as I usually am, so I’ve been slowly getting myself back into reading. I have a…. small…. TBR pile and it’s almost exclusively Joe Lansdale novels because they’re very easy to read and they’re hilarious, and they’re thrilling. They give me that fast heart-beat feeling, and so that’s kind of my stepping-stone back into learning how to carve out time for reading.

DM: Do you have a favorite writing spot?

JH: My desk at work. I actually wrote a blog entry, back when I first started writing Colossus, over two years ago, and I was talking about how, for the previous three or four years I had been wanting and trying to write and I just couldn’t sink my teeth into it. And it wasn’t until I got to the point where I was sitting in the same spot every single day for an extended amount of time, because I got a desk job that I finally got to the point where I could just sit down and write. I’m a customer service analyst for a software company that creates reading assessments, and so our customer basis consists of teachers and principals, and support staff, things like that, so we’re busy when they’re busy; we’re not busy when they’re not testing so, I have several hours of downtime a day at times, and I try to fill that with writing. So it took me a long time to get to where I could not just sit and write, but also to take writing anywhere else. Now, it’s a lot easier, especially if I’m in the middle of a story, I can take it anywhere, and I can write anywhere. But, if I were to start a story, or if I don’t really feel like starting or working on a story, even if I know I should, it’s a chore, but it’s easier now than it was previously.

DM: Are you working on anything in particular right now?

JH: Right now, I want to say no…but really, I should be. So, I also offer editing services, and I’m working on a medical thriller and a romance, or adult contemporary, for two different customers right now (people we know and love). When I’m done with that, if I have time between when I finish those and November, I’m going to pick a few more revisions for Two Guns, and then in November I’m going to write the third book in the Heather Stokes series.  Should be very emotionally taxing.

DM: Load up the funny movies, you know, have the Christmas fudge waiting…

JH: Yeah! The Hallmark channel will be doing their Christmas movies! Could totally do that!

DM: Can you tell me a bit more about the Colossus series?

JH: Two Guns was really fun to write. Two Guns is really funny. Basically it’s Rhodes meddling in the investigation. Colossus all occurs inside the house, it’s all very isolated, you have no idea, unless Rhodes implies something, what’s going on outside the house. In Two Guns, you don’t go inside the house. It’s concurrent, and it’s entirely outside of the house. It’s what’s going on with the families, and police, FBI, and Rhodes is having a field day among them and just kind of….fucking shit up.

The third book is the few weeks that follow Colossus and Two Guns, they basically end in the same place. The third book is called Ruin, which is kind of like a play off the archaic sense of a woman being ruined.

DM: Do you have any writing helpers/minions/or other furry distractions?

JH: Furry distractions. I have a cat and a dog and my dog is probably very upset he’s not in here under the covers right now. I used to have four snakes because they were all wild caught and we’re about to move out of state and it would be very, very illegal to take them out of state, especially seeing as one of them was venomous.

My dog is very distracting. He’ll sit at my feet and he’ll whine and whine and whine until I pick him up or have him sit in my lap. It’s annoying as hell. He’s a Velcro dog, he’s not comfortable being away from me.

DM: D’aww, poor puppy face.

pet

JH: He’s a spoiled little poopersnoot.

*temporary break and gushing about furry related cuteness*

DM: So, do you happen to have a favorite book?

JH: I have two. They’re very different, and for very different reasons. Richard Adams’s Watership Down, it’s just…I don’t even know how to describe it. I was young when I first read it, fourth or fifth grade, and so I didn’t really get the depth, but I did get the adventure and the character variety, it was amazing. I love them all, and my favorite will always be Dandelion because he was the story teller. I just, I used to read it every year, I haven’t done it a lot recently. I’ve read it maybe twice in the last six years, but every time I read it feels new and different and, I just love it very much.

My other one is Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic which I read for the first time in the eighth grade. It’s the reason I go by Jette; one of the aunts, her name is Bridget and she went by Jet, and my name is Bridgette. So between eighth and ninth grade I decided I would go by Jette, because I was sick of everyone calling me Bridge, I hated it. It was just so strange to read something where you combine this suburban house-wife kind of thing, kind of very normal family, and then there’s magic. You don’t really know if it’s really magic, but you get a sense that there’s something behind the shadows, and things happen and they can’t possibly be coincidence. It was so amazing to read that, and that was my introducing to, I think it’s called magical realism. It was just amazing how she describes things. Her descriptions are amazing. Her use of hyperbole and her description of things that, you know, otherwise would be normal is just phenomenal. Like, a guy who’s I love is leaning on a counter top, and he’s so in love, he’s so heated and hot for this person that linoleum begins to bubble…it’s just…ridiculous, and I love it.

DM: I can definitely get behind you with that….So, do you have a favorite book that you’ve written?

JH: ….that I’ve written or that I’ve published?

DM…either? Both? Since apparently they’re different?

JH: I think….my favorite thing is going to be the next Phoenix Rising novella. And if I had to choose one that I’ve already written and published…oh god…between the three that I’ve published….I…that’s a real challenge….I think it would have to be…it’s between the Phoenix Rising novellas. I don’t know if I like Salvage more or if I like Flint Ranch more….

DM: It’s okay, I won’t make you choose, haha.

JH: Okay, so, the Phoenix Rising novellas. I think the next one is going to be my absolute favorite because…I just love Thatch’s dad, Wren. He’s so cool, and he’s like so clueless. He has no idea how to raise a kid, but he’s a good man. And so, there was hope there for Thatch being a good man…and then there’s not, and that’s where I will leave that…

DM: How would you say that your writing community has affected you?

JH: I’ve finished a book. I’ve published a book. I’ve finished novellas, I’ve published novellas. I’ve almost finished Sweet Nothings, which is the romance, and they just keep me going, they keep me propped up. They taught me the importance of revisions and the importance of an editor. I would not have finished a book at all if it weren’t for Twitter, which seems like a ridiculous thing to say to somebody who isn’t familiar with the community. They just…that’s where I found my editor, that’s where I found my publisher, it’s where I found almost all of my beta readers.

DM: I was definitely surprised at the community I found on Twitter. I never wanted to be on it, ever.

So, for writing tools, do you have a preference for Word, Scrivener, old fashioned hand writing?

JH: Old-fashioned hand writing. If I had to choose one to live with for the rest of my life, it would be old-fashioned hand writing, as much as my hand hates it. I tried Scrivener for a couple of days and I liked the tools but I felt like…you have to use it for a while to get the most out of it and I wasn’t willing to take the time, to invest my time in it.

So what I do is I write out a scene for as long as I can write, or as long as I have an idea bubbling, and I’ll write it out in pen and paper. Then I will transcribe it either right after I’m done writing it or when I’m typing everything up into Word. I’ve recently become very familiar with Word. I learned how to track changes and make notes and that’s awesome. And that’s really helping my editing as well.

That’s basically what I do, write with pen and paper and then I transcribe. As I transcribe I’m revising and editing. I’ll make little changes, catch where something sounds unnatural. Because writing, typing, and speaking, they all use different pathways in the brain, so even if you’re conveying the same idea, it would come out different depending on what tool you’re using; it’s good to use as many different pathways as you can.

DM: Which author drink stereotype is your biggest vice: coffee, tea, or alcohol?

JH: …um….I hate coffee but I drink it…uh….so, coffee and alcohol, even though I’m not the write drunk, edit sober kind of person, I like to have a cider with my evening writing….I’m very much a soda person actually, I prefer Pepsi or Mountain Dew.

DM: What’s the, or one of the most difficult parts of novel writing for you?

JH: There are two. One is getting started with revisions. After you know what you want to revise and what needs to be done, then it’s really meditative almost, like you’re whittling a statue into shape, or smoothing stone or something like that. But getting to the place where you know what needs to be done is so difficult. That’s where I am with Two Guns, where I’ve revised and I’ve revised it. I’ve cut stuff out and added stuff to it, and it still feels…wrong. And I have people telling me it’s perfect and it’s exactly where it needs to be, but I’m just like no, it just feels wrong. So I’m just going to rewrite it and not worry about that.

The second part is knowing when you’re done. With Colossus, I revised it and I added to it, and I revised those, and then I was chipping away. And my then publisher thought it was ready, it was in publishable condition now, and I agree, I thought it was too, and I think it is, it’s just, there are still flaws in it that I didn’t smooth out.

 

It was a pleasure to interview Jette Harris, she’s a wonderful person and always willing to be there with a kind word. If you’re interested in finding out more about Jette’s works, visit her website here, or  take a look at one of her books!

colossus

salvage.jpg  flint ranch.jpg

 

A Look at Publishing Options and an Interview with Jewel Leonard

There are so many options in publishing today that it can be daunting sifting through them all to compare and contrast to find the best option for you. There are many considerations to take into account when you are exploring your options, and whether you’re going the traditional or self-publishing route, both have pros and cons. Here’s a quick rundown of each:

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Traditional

Pro

  • No upfront cost, money flows to you
  • Editor will edit for you (no charge to you)
  • Design and layout handled (no charge to you)
  • Publishing house handles: distributing to B&N and other stores, assign publicist, make it available for ebook, keep track of sales and pay you

Con

  • Moves slow
  • Much is out of your hands; often at the whim of others
  • Confines of genre and length
  • Payment good at first, but bad later

Self-publishing

 Pro

  • Lots of options or both print and ebook
  • You are in control; you can work different places (nonexclusive rights)
  • Better royalties
  • Speed
  • Length and genre no longer matter

Con

  • Too much control can be bad
  • Quality can be inferior
  • Stigma
  • You pay possible upfront costs (design, layout, editing, etc.)
  • No help with subsidiary rights
  • Tougher with bookstores and book fairs
  • Biggest issue: visibility and promotion

(many of these points are from a handout from the conference I attended in February, the talk was given by Chuck Sambuchino)

Now that we have those basics out of the way, I’d like to go into a little more detail about the ebook side of self-publishing. I’ve put some serious consideration into and have ultimately decided on a dual publishing approach, which means a lot of research and information.

jewelDoing research is great, and the Google gods are immensely helpful, but I decided to speak to someone that has taken this route themselves. She’s pretty wonderful, definitely sweet, and she is one of the many fantastic people I’ve met through Twitter. Her name is Jewel E. Leonard, and she was kind enough to let me pick her brain about her experience self-publishing her first book Tales by RailsTBRBookCoverPreviewGood-1

DMG: Tales by Rails is your first published eBook? How long is it and did you intend to publish it as an eBook?

JL: Yes, it’s my first published eBook. It’s about 27,000 words and I never even considered publishing it traditionally. I understand that short works are notoriously hard to sell and I was just writing this as light-hearted fluff.

DMG: How long did it take you from finished novel to published ebook?

JL: I wrote it in about 3 weeks. Once I started it, the words flowed better for me than they usually do. I wrote it in August, edited in December and decided to publish around Valentine’s Day for (I think) obvious reasons. So from start to publish, 6 months… Though I certainly could have done it faster. I had planned to publish it in December but I ended up participating in NaNoWriMo when I was going to edit it… Editing took about a month, when I finally got around to it because I was very undisciplined. I was too busy chatting on Twitter with new friends from NaNo.

DMG: How did you handle formatting? What considerations (if any) needed to be made?

JL: It helps to have the proper programs. I use Open Office as I don’t have Word anymore and the learning curve with Scrivener is so steep I couldn’t make it past the welcome screen… So I ended up getting help from my wonderful Ashley (@ashleygraham55) who did my formatting for me. However, I ended up discovering through experimentation that OO will save as PDF and once you save as PDF, you can convert to mobi and epub formats using free programs like Calibre.

But Amazon and Barnes and Noble will have you upload your file and then they will convert it…. Which don’t go without glitches and difficulties. Amazon, BN and Smashwords all give you a chance to review the file once converted: it is imperative to not skip this step or you’re risking complaints in your ratings and reviews.

DMG: Where is your book available for purchase? (You mention Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords?) How did that work?

JL: Just those three places. You have to upload to each individually which includes creating accounts, setting up payment and tax info… Really obnoxious work but the good news is, once the account is set up, it’s done.

Amazon had the fastest set up, B&N allows for the highest royalty. Amazon also has exclusivity options, which I chose to pass on.

Also, B&N didn’t have a pre-order feature and took about 5 days to process the file so plan accordingly.

DMG: That’s some great information, thank you. Did you create your author profile for each site as you created and uploaded your book, then? Could/would you maybe elaborate on what you mean by “exclusivity options” as well as your decision?

JL: Yeah, I worked one vendor at a time though really there’s no reason not to.

Amazon offers options where your book, for a certain amount of time, is sold through them exclusively. I skimmed the perks to that program and decided against it but that’s a personal choice. Obviously many others choose to do it.

I liked the idea of having multiple platforms… So that, for instance, my Nook possessing friends could read my novella the day it was released. And I know many readers are loyal to Smashwords, as well.

It made sense to me to offer through as many sites as I could easily access but, as they say, YMMV.

DMG: How was your blog tour arranged, how did it work and coincide with your book release?

JL: Ashley helped so much with the blog tour–she was a wealth of information. She set up the Google sign up form, told me the kinds of things that are normally done during blog tours and I got in contact with those who signed up and provided the content they asked for. She suggested the week prior to my novella’s release for three days which is what I did. (You don’t question a genius.)

To be honest I still don’t really know how blog tours work! Lol! The whole thing is a learning process and you just kind of have to accept that some things won’t come easily… May have glitches… And you just go with the flow.

DMG: Do you plan to continue publishing novels this way?

JL: Absolutely. My vendor accounts are set up, I know how to format my documents, I know (more or less) how to do the blog tour. Second time around should be far easier. That’s the great thing about experience!

I understand self-publishing is largely a numbers game and if you have any aspirations for success, you’re going to need to put out more than a single title.

DMG: Do you plan to keep to the romantic/erotica genre, or do you have plans to branch out into others?

JL: I really don’t feel like I’m capable of completely abandoning what is at the heart of my stories. Having said that, the second of my Rays of Sunshine series seems to be leaning a lot more toward drama with focus on interpersonal relationships and some erotic elements.

If I cannot find traditional representation for my other book series (I have 2 in progress) those will be self-published as well and the heat level of the romantic elements in those are definitely lower than Rays.

DMG: Anything you’d like to add?

JL: That the journey to publication is a personal one. I know writers who wouldn’t dream of putting themselves through the querying process and I know writers who would rather scrap years of hard work if they can’t get an agent than self-publish. Each journey has perks and pitfalls. But whatever you choose is good as long as YOU are happy with your choices. The most important thing is, as the lovely supportive writing community on Twitter will tell you: always keep writing.

 

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An Interview with Novelist Susan Crawford

I first tried to meet Susan Crawford at a group book signing of local authors at a nearby Barnes and Noble, but due to some poor placement of the authors around the store and my susan crawfordown introverted tendencies, I did not introduce myself. Nervously but determinedly (since I chickened out in person), I emailed Susan instead and asked her for an interview, noting my first sad attempt. Little did I know that I would find a fellow introvert who welcomed my questions and was kind enough to meet with me, returning to that same Barnes and Noble and indulging me in what would turn out to be a very lovely chat.

We started off talking a little bit about Susan and the start of her novelist journey. She deemed herself officially a novelist in 2014 when The Pocket Wife sold to a traditional publisher, which she had completed that same year. Susan noted that her first draft was written in about six months before going through edits and revisions that would lead to the eventual published tale.

DMG: I assume you like to read

SC: I do

DMG: What books do you enjoy reading?

SC: Right now I’m reading April Witch. It’s very dark in fact it’s a little too dark for me, have to read it in increments. I love Margaret Atwood, anything she writes. She’s able to write so many different kinds of books and people don’t care as long as she’s the one writing. Also, another favorite is Susan Minot. I like Kate Atkinson and Liane Moriarty. It is helpful to read other writers that write similar genres so you can say ‘oh, this works!’

DMG: Your Amazon author profile mentioned reading mysteries in a hammock as a child, what mysteries did you read?

SC: All of the Nancy Drew books, really.

After enumerating the ways that reading aids a writer, we turned to The Pocket Wife.

the pocket wife

DMG: What part came to you first? A scene, a character, the plot?

SC: Before I knew anything else, I knew there was going to be a dead body.

DMG: Did Dana come from anywhere in particular?

SC: She did.  I’ve been very close to bipolar people before, so I had sympathy and empathy for them. I thought it would be interesting because we always look in at the person with, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia and try to see what they’re thinking and judge them, you know ‘what are they going to do next’. And I thought it would be interesting to switch that around and try to show the world from the perception of the bipolar person instead of the bipolar person from the perception of the world.

DMG: One of the things I most enjoyed about The Pocket Wife was this aspect, most interested because of it

DMG: What about Jack Moss’s character? The empathy he seems to have for Dana or someone like her?

SC: I think people are very intolerant of most people with mental illness, which is why so many of them are living on the street, and then we put them down for asking for money. I wanted to show the humanity in Jack Moss. He’s in this position of authority and has, not much power but some power, in the situation at least, and he’s flawed. He’s screwed up his relationships with two women, and two sons and one of them died. And also to show that things that happen to us fleetingly when we’re young, and these things stay, often and make an impression. He had seen someone – maybe it was Dana maybe it was someone like Dana, but it made an impression on him that probably helped him to be a better cop and detective.

DMG: So I was curious, did you actively decide to use present tense or did it just start coming out that way?

SC:  I just do it. The next book is also in present tense. I’m not quite sure. Maybe because with suspense it seems a little more immediate, especially with Dana who is so frenetic.

DMG: Did you learn anything in particular from writing this book, The Pocket Wife?

SC:  I learned something about suspense writing by reading other suspense writers and I learned that it’s really a fun genre to write. And then the whole publishing world was an education.

 

On the subject of publishing and Susan’s writing process:

DMG: What influenced your decision for traditional publishing?

SC: I just never thought about any other way. I didn’t have the money, for one thing to do the vanity press or the personality to be out there selling my books. If it hadn’t been picked up, I would have continued to write.

DMG: What steps did you take to get published traditionally?

SC: Well I’m a member of the Atlanta Writer’s Club and once or twice a year they have a conference. Writers can go meet agents and editors. So that’s what I did, and found a fantastic agent.

DMG: Do you have a favorite writing spot?

SC:  I like, my daughter’s old bedroom, it’s sort of a small room. And it’s upstairs. It’s a really silly place because the computer is on this old desk and there’s a window right there so of course I can’t work there because the light comes through. So I have a shade over the window and I have a quilt over the shade. It would probably be smarter to find a different spot but…that’s how I write.

DMG:  What about music?

SC: I do like music, but it can’t be something so interesting that it takes my mind off work, so sometimes I work without music. Classic music is best, no lyrics.

DMG: What do you have the most difficulty with when you’re writing?

SC: The phone. If you’re not at work you’re not at work, so people think I’m more available, probably, than I am. To say nothing of telemarketers and just sort of random phone calls so I often work with the phone off the hook, and then when I take a break I’ll check my messages.

I’m not a terribly disciplined person so scheduling is key. What I do usually is get up, feed the cats, and then start working. People will say they have writer’s block, or only certain times of the day they can work, I don’t feel that way. I feel like there’s always something that can be put down. Even if I throw it out later.

 

On Susan’s upcoming novel and current writing project

DMG: So you’re next book is also a mystery/thriller type novel, but you said you like writing literary fiction. Do you think mystery/suspense is kind of where you’re leaning towards now?

SC: That’s an interesting question. I think…I like to combine them. I’m not sure I would say I wrote literary fiction because that’s such a nebulous term. I mean what does it really mean, I just really like characters. I like to develop the characters. So my emphasis is on the characters which I think then throws it into that genre of literary fiction. I do that with the suspense as well though. So the concentration is on the characters.

DMG: I definitely saw that in the Pocket Wife

DMG: What can you tell me about The Other Widow other than it comes out in April? The synopsis on the HarperCollins website was really intriguing. Can’t wait for April!

SC: It’s told from three points of view. One is the widow (the wife), the other is his girlfriend (the other widow), I wanted to make her a sympathetic character, not overly so but realistic instead of just somebody out there that steals people’s husbands, not this diabolical character. And then the third point of view is the insurance investigator.

DMG: What about what you’re working on now?

SC: I don’t have a title for what I’m writing right now.

DMG: Is it another suspense type?

SC: It is…I’m only at the beginning of it so it’s still forming, not quite sure where it’s going to go. Sort of feeling my way through it, with the help of the characters who do often sort of tell the story because of who they are. Being who they are, they will only do certain things so that when they come together it makes for a certain kind of scene, which is interesting. But right now we’re all flailing around.

Don’t forget to order your own copy of The Other Widow when it comes out in April!

 

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