I loved C.S. Lewis and Madeleine L'Engle as a kid, and I still think they're most influential to my own writing. I love the usual suspects like Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, and George RR Martin. I've also really enjoyed reading indie authors, and some of those favorites are S. A. Hunt, Christina Moore, and Blake Rivers.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
1 -- Speaker for the Dead, by Orson Scott Card. This was the first book I remember reading and thinking, "Ah-ha! I want to do this!" I'm usually good at seeing twists coming, but this one blew my mind. 2 -- The Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe. I love his use of language, wit, and dark moodiness. 3 -- Freedom in Exile, by the Dalai Lama. I was mad at China for probably too long after reading this. But I loved this insight into a religion and culture I'd know little about beforehand. And the Dalai Lama is a wonderful human being. 4 -- Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte. I don't reread books often, but I've reread this book many times. It's just a great, in-depth look at a multi-layered character. I get something different out of it each time, as I age and grow. 5 -- Dune, by Frank Herbert. Hands down the sci-fi book I'm most in awe of. And jealous of. I love good world-building, and this one is the absolute best, in my mind.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
My aunt read us books on tape for every birthday and Christmas. My brother and I listened to those tapes until we wore them out. I don't really remember the first one I read along with, but "The Chronicles of Narnia" was definitely a huge influence on me. I loved the way the fantasy elements were allegorical, with deeper meaning behind the adventure. And I loved that the main characters were so fun and multifaceted. I think I've tried to mimic that approach to stories ever since.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I've been really lucky with reader/author/reviewer groups I'm a part of - Facebook, blogs, Twitter, etc. Once I hear about a book from an author that I think is interesting, I hunt the book down, usually on Smashwords or Amazon, since I have a kindle. (Psst. My trick is to never read a book blurb and just dive in, finding out what the book's about along the way. Reading a book is pretty fun that way.)
What do your fans mean to you?
I love hearing back from fans. I think every author does. I started writing as a way to capture the stories I came up with as a kid, and it's wonderful when other people like these stories as much as I do! It's also interesting how different people see the stories in different ways, and that's always really, really cool to discover.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I've mentioned before that I'm a control freak. Really, that was where it started - I wanted to do things MY way. My main goal for writing has never been to make money (I'm a realist), so this path works fine for me. I've also always dreaded the idea of shopping around to traditional publishers. I've had friends who do this, I've seen what they get out of it when they do get a deal, and it just doesn't seem worth it, to me. It's also true that I started self-publishing before the Indie movement was really a thing, so this is just my comfort zone. It's been WONDERFUL to see the Indie community grow in recent years, and I've finally found a community of people who know EXACTLY what I'm doing. Sharing the writing journey with other Indie authors is something I absolutely wouldn't trade.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I spend a lot of time outdoors - hiking, swimming in Lake Michigan, or just reading under a tree. I'm also a movie junkie. And of course I spend as much time as I can with family and friends, usually over great dinners.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I hogged my mom's typewriter as a kid and wrote god-knows how many stories about horses. I still have some of them bound together with clips. I even illustrated my own covers.
What is your writing process?
I have no set system. I know some people can sit down and write for x-amount of minutes each day, but I can't force it. When my creative juices start flowing, I'll go through a spurt where I write for hours and hours at a time. One thing I do like to do is make some kind of timeline before I start. Not an outline necessarily, but just some vague guide of what's going to happen when. ...Then I usually butcher the thing as I go and change my plan, but whatever.
How do you approach cover design?
I'm a control freak and creative, so I do my cover designs myself. I wanted my Kota Series covers to match with the basic Kota Mark wrapped around the cover, so they're united that way. Then I made each color scheme and pattern of the covers reflect an important feel of each individual book. I think a cover should give an immediate sense of the book inside but leave a little mystery so that people want to know what's up.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
With so many books out there, so many authors, so much on the web in general, I think the human element is the single most important thing to keep in mind. You can't just promote all the time. You have to come across as a real person so that people get interested in your book. Also, I learned early that paying $5-10 dollars for book promo services are often just not worth it if that's all you're willing to do. Like I said, there's a LOT out there, so just throwing your book into the fray isn't necessarily going to do much for you. (If you are going to pay for a service, go big. Get on mailing lists to people who're already likely to be interested - genre specific groups, for example.) Really, just be willing to stay active. Very few of us "make it" quickly, and it's much more fulfilling to interact with people and gain their interest that way rather than getting sales but never hearing from your readers again.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.