I spend a lot of times on sites like smashwords and goodreads browsing books, seeing what my friends are reading, and reading reviews. And if I discover an author I like, I usually try to read all of his or her works.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I spend my time practicing piano, or playing my fiddle. I am working on a master's in piano performance. My current favorite piece I'm working on is Beethoven's Waldstein Sonata.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
The first story I wrote was an illustrated book starring a mouse named Patches. I was about eight and was obsessed with An American Tale.
What is your writing process?
I usually come up with my characters and setting first, and I let them marinate in my brain box. The plot evolves as I start to write. I have found I can't force it, either. I write when the inspiration strikes. I'm terribly inefficient.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I've read tons of books (hey, I have a master's in English!) but the one that really finally inspired me to start writing seriously was the first romance novel I read in my late twenties. I had never read that genre before then, but I was hooked after that. It was Lisa Kleypas' novel, Dreaming of You. I still think it is the finest romance novel I've ever read.
How do you approach cover design?
When I published my first book, I did my own cover. It looked okay, and it was a fun project for me to do. But once I started to sell books and had some spare pocket change, I started to shop around for a professional. I'd been seeing so many great covers out there, I wanted one of my own for my next novel. I found a cover designer, Clarissa Yeo at http://www.bookcoversale.com, who took the idea I had envisioned, and ran with it. She did such a good job, I asked her to do a coordinating cover for my first book. AND once I uploaded the new cover for my first book, I saw a significant increase in sales. So my tip for new authors is to get a sleek professional cover done off the bat. Appearances matter!
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Middlemarch by George Eliot. Ulysses by James Joyce. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Atonement by Ian McEwan. Those are my top five literary faves! But I could make endless lists!
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
I have no budget for advertising, so I'm really taking a grass roots approach. I am extremely active on goodreads and google+, where I have gained a core group of fans. Gaining a following, no matter how small, is invaluable, because this core group spreads the word to other readers.
And don't be afraid to ask for reviews. Search for bloggers who read your genre and submit requests for reviews. There are tons on google+ who are always looking for new books. I even had to take down a post asking for reviewers because I was getting so many responses I couldn't keep up! This has been the best marketing strategy I have found. Honest reviews from readers are invaluable. but be careful not to "buy" reviews or pad them with friends' reviews. Savvy readers can tell when a review is fake. I know I can!
When I was doing free book giveaways, I would list my book on as many free sites as I could, but I am not sure how effective that was. I think I might have wasted my time.
Describe your desk
My desk is my bed. I know it's terrible, but I work best curled up in my bed with my computer and a cup of tea!
What's the story behind your latest book?
The story behind my upcoming book grew out of my first novel. I introduced two characters, Inspector Elijah Drexler, and Lady Christiana Harker, who needed their own book. My inspiration for the book comes from a couple of sources, but foremost among them are my love for Anne Perry's mysteries, which are set in Victorian London, the BBC series, Sherlock, with Benedict Cumberbatch, as well as the steampunk-ish movies with Robert Downey Junior. I kind of wanted to evoke the same sort of milieu. That said, this is a story I've been wanting to tell for a few years now. And I know it's becoming almost trite to do so, but I have been dying to write a book with a vampire hero! Especially a tortured angst ridden vampire hero.
What do your fans mean to you?
My fans are the reason I am writing. After I published my first book on a whim, the response I have received really motivated me to keep writing, I had sort of given up on writing until that happened. Growing a community of friends online who have enjoyed my book is really an incredible experience.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I became an indie author on a whim. Several years ago, I tried the traditional route. I sent out query letters and samples of an earlier incarnation of Prince of Hearts to tons and tons of agents trying to get picked up. I even joined a romance writers' organization and went to their giant conference, hoping to get somewhere that way. Nope. Sigh. Sad face. Aside from a few agents who gave me what I call "enthusiastic rejections" I got nowhere, and after a while, I gave up. I was extremely disheartened. But last summer when I got my iPad and started reading ebooks, I saw all of these indie authors publishing their books online, and I thought, why the heck not?
I whipped out my old file of Prince of Hearts that I'd never quite finished, turned it from a straight historical romance into a steampunk romance (which it was always meant to be), uploaded it with a homemade cover, and waited to see what would happen. I really didn't expect much, but now I am pretty much making a living off the success of Prince of Hearts and A Dark Heart. Fingers crossed that success continues! Indie publishing is the best thing that ever happened to me. It gave me confidence in my ability to write a good story, which had been pretty much suffocated by my whole foray into the traditional publishing world. I don't know what all those agents and publishers who rejected me were thinking. People like what I write. I have the royalties to prove it, AND I don't have to share them with an agent or publisher. I guess I am laughing all the way to the bank these days!
As far as I can see the only advantage to going the traditional route is the advertising a publishing house has access to. But even so, my grassroots approach seems to be working. I have spent next to nothing on advertising. Readers, bloggers, and my own ten fingers do it for me on social media.
Indie publishing is the way of the future ... Is the way of the present, really. Sure, there is plenty of dreck out there that is indie. So what? I hate that complaint. There is also plenty of dreck out there that has a publisher, people. Readers know what they want and can separate the wheat from the chaff themselves without publishing houses telling them how to do it or what to like. Readers know a good book when they see it. I hazard to say that is why I have been so unexpectedly successful. Sure, Prince of Hearts has its rough patches and weaknesses (it's my first book I ever finished) but it is a fairly entertaining read for people who like romance. Thank god for indie publishing. I can actually pay back my student loans now!
Who are your favorite authors?
Tough answer, as I like many genres. My favorite historical romance authors are Lisa Kleypas, Loretta Chase, Liz Carlyle, Julie Anne Long, Elizabeth Hoyt, Tessa Dare, and Anne Stuart. I actually don't read much steampunk (my own genre), though I have read Bec MacMaster's first book and Meljean Brooks' Iron Duke. Those were really good.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
The thought of settling down at the end of the day with a good book and a cup of tea.
What do you read for pleasure?
Historical romance, m/m contemporary romance (can't get enough of it), and the occasional paranormal title. Really in love with anything by Eli Easton and Karina Halle at the moment.
What are you working on next?
My next book is going to be the 3rd installment in the Elders and Welders Chronicles. Its title is Thief of Hearts and will feature Rowan Harker and Hex Bartholomew as the love interests. Super excited. I estimate it being available by this August of 2014.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.