Novellas vs. Novels | Guest Post by @LindaHuber19, author of #TheColdColdSea

Novellas vs Novels

This is a guest blog post by Linda Huber. She wanted to share her opinion on novellas vs novels and I was happy to have her featured on my blog! You can read the post below. Photos were provided courtesy of Linda Huber.

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Last year, as a kind of holiday from my usual psychological suspense novels, I started writing feel-good novellas. My father was terminally ill at the time; I was having health issues too – a nice romantic novella where no one is hurt or worried or scared seemed like a good idea. In the beginning I’d only planned one, but A Lake in Switzerland has somehow turned into a series of four, possibly five short books.

Definitions vary; a novella can be anything from about twenty thousand up to fifty thousand words. Mine are all around the 35k mark. They’re set near my home in N.E. Switzerland, and tell the story of Stacy, who arrives for a holiday and ends up… well, the series isn’t finished yet so I’m not sure exactly where she’ll end up, but three books in she’s still here by lovely Lake Constance.

Lake Constance
Lake Constance | Photo provided by Linda Huber

I didn’t expect much from my novellas; they were really just a way to keep writing when life was tough. To my surprise, they’re doing all right – I don’t sell millions, but enough to make it worthwhile continuing the series – and I want to see where Stacy ends up too! I guess everyone needs a little light relief now and then, or a fun beach read, something you can be sure will turn out well – all reasons I started writing them, in fact, though I haven’t managed the beach holiday bit yet.

THE COLD COLD SEA COMPLETEWriting a novella is different to writing full-length fiction. To compare – for my novel The Cold Cold Sea, I needed the main plot – three-year-old Olivia goes missing on the beach – which was really two plots, as the story follows two families as each struggles to cope with what life flings at them. (No spoilers here!) This meant two sets of main characters, the parents in each family, all of whom should become as familiar to the reader as their own families (almost). And not only familiar, I want the reader to care about what happens to those people, as well as working out what happens to Olivia, and what’s going on with Hailey, the daughter in the second family. Then there’s Katie, Hailey’s teacher, who has a problem of her own as well as one with her pupil. The story rises and falls, alternating between the two families and Hailey’s school, until at end…

In A Lake in Switzerland, the plot is less complicated.

A Lake in Switzerland - High Resolution

It has to be, to reach a satisfactory resolution in 35k words. I have a storyline – Stacy goes to Switzerland on holiday, returns to England, and then goes back to Switzerland for another break. The story centres round Stacy and Rico, the hotel owner’s son, with a few minor characters to help them along the way. Stacy has one big, life-changing decision to make, and by the end of the first novella she has made it. A different storyline and different challenges await her in novella two, A Spa in Switzerland, which is also a complete story in itself.

 

It seems there’s a definite demand for short fiction, whether it’s feel-good or crime. People nowadays have busy lives, and I think this is one reason that novellas are so popular. Another reason is the rise of ebooks. People are happy to pay a small amount for a novella and have it on their kindle, whereas they may not have bought it as a (more expensive) paperback. My novellas aren’t out in print yet. When the series ends, we’ll look at making a compilation paperback, but until then, I’m very happy having them as ebooks only – even though part of me just longs to see them on my bookshelf beside my psych. suspense novels!

 

Linda Huber Biography:

Linda Huber grew up in Glasgow, Scotland, but went to work in Switzerland for a year aged twenty-two, and has lived there ever since. Her day jobs have included working as a physiotherapist in hospitals and schools for handicapped children, and teaching English in a medieval castle. Currently she teaches one day a week, and writes psychological suspense novels and feel-good novellas with (most of) the rest of her time.

Her writing career began in the nineties, when she had over fifty short stories publi

shed in women’s magazines. Several years later, she turned to psychological suspense fiction, and her seventh novel, Death Wish, was published by Bloodhound Books in August 2017.

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Linda’s latest project is a series of feel-good novellas, set on the banks of Lake Constance and just minutes from her home in north-east Switzerland. She really appreciates having the views enjoyed by her characters right on her own doorstep!

Amazon Author Page: viewAuthor.at/LindaHuber

Want to know more about The Cold Cold Sea?

Blurb:

They stared at each other, and Maggie felt the tightness in her middle expand as it shifted, burning its way up… Painful sobs rose in her throat as Colin, his face expressionless now, reached for his mobile and tapped 999.

When three-year-old Olivia disappears from the beach, a happy family holiday comes to an abrupt end. Maggie is plunged into the darkest nightmare imaginable – what happened to her little girl?

Further along the coast, another mother is having problems too. Jennifer’s daughter Hailey is starting school, and it should be such a happy time, but the child is increasingly moody and silent. Family life has never seemed so awkward, and Jennifer struggles to maintain control.

The tide ebbs and flows, and summer dies, but there is no comfort for Maggie, alone now at the cottage, or for Jennifer, still swamped by doubts.

‘A psychologically astute, edge-of-the-seat story.’ Hilary Johnson

‘Unsettling and disturbing… I couldn’t put it down.’ Rebecca Muddiman

‘Breathtaking and utterly compelling.’ Debi Alper

Connect with Linda:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorlindahuber

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LindaHuber19

website: http://lindahuber.net/

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Benefits of a Publishing Internship

Benefits of a Publishing Internship

It can be daunting to think of sacrificing your time for 6 months – 1 year on an unpaid internship. There will be times when you want to curl up with the new Netflix series and you have a list of tasks you have to attend to for an unpaid job. So, why should you do it?

If you want a career in publishing, you need to consider finding an internship. There are a lot of benefits to being an intern, especially if you go into it with the right mindset.

  • It can lead to a job.
  • It builds your resume.
  • It gives you credibility on your own platform.
  • You will learn the ins-and-outs of the publishing business.
  • You can find spots where your skills are lacking.
  • You can find areas where you excel.

It Can Lead to a Job

I found a Twitter post asking for people to submit resumes for a publishing internship. I had never interned before, but I wanted to give it a try. I wrote up a brief resume with all the skills related to writing and publishing, and submitted it. Before long, I was brought on as an editorial intern. I learned a lot in the 6 months that I dedicated to the company and eventually I was hired on as their marketing manager.

There are no guarantees with internships. You may or may not get a job at the company that you work for. However, whether you get a job or not, you are going to gain valuable experience within the industry and learn what career path makes sense for you.

It Builds Your Resume

If you want to land a job as an editor, you need to have experience. You will be more desirable to employers if you can show that you have a year of experience in the industry. There are a lot of English majors out there that are going to be competing for the job. An internship will help pad that resume and make you stand out. This is especially true if you can get a reference from other employees in the company that you intern for.

It Gives You Credibility on Your Own Platform

Initially, I wanted to do the internship so that I could learn more about the industry that I was trying to break into as an author. However, you might find, as I did, that interning for a company can help you build your personal platform as well.

I have been able to build relationships with other people in the industry, from bloggers to editors to authors. Working as an intern can also help you build trust with your readers and your social media audience. If you are just another person shouting into the void, your readers might not have a reason to believe that you know what you’re talking about. After you have experience as an intern, it adds another level of trust with your followers. You are not just some person, you are affiliated with a real company, and you probably have made connections with other legitimate bloggers and authors at this point.

Before I was intern, I struggled to find people willing to review my personal books or to let me interview them on my blog. Once I was able to add “Editorial Intern” as a title under my name, it was so much easier to find other bloggers and authors that were willing to work with me.

You Will Learn About the Business

As an intern, you will have many resources at your fingertips. You will be able to learn from the publishing team, from editing to marketing. Take advantage of these connections and follow everyone’s personal platform closely. Participate in publishing related events and get a feel for what a job in the industry would be like.

If you are working as an editorial intern, like I was, you will be able to observe the publishing process from start to finish. After a writer submits their work, it is the editorial interns job to read the manuscript and decide how close to complete it is. How awesome would it be to read the manuscript before anyone else and then see it go through the publishing process and land on the shelves of a bookstore? If you’re a writer or a book lover, that is an opportunity you won’t want to miss out on.

You Can Find Weaknesses in Your Skill Set

If you find yourself struggling as an editorial intern, this is a great opportunity to fill in the gaps in your knowledge by taking advantage of the connections. Interns usually work under more experienced team members. You will be able to ask questions and have a support team. This is valuable because you don’t always have such a hands-on learning experience when you begin working for a company. You will discover weaknesses that you didn’t know you had, but you will also have the opportunity to “stretch those muscles” until the task that once intimidated you become second nature.

While you will find your weaknesses, you might also find strengths that you didn’t realize you had. This is what happened to me. I discovered that I don’t feel as comfortable with line editing as I do with developmental editing. I was able to expand on those skills and improve in both areas.

You Might Find Strengths You Didn’t Know You Had

You might be wondering why I was an editorial intern that was hired on as a marketing manager. Well, when you begin to build relationships within the business, you might find crossover into other areas of the company.

I had been an intern for about 4 months when I found some areas that I thought could be improved on the company’s website. I put together a packet of information, with examples, and shared my ideas. I reached out to the owner of the company and sent the packet to her. I wasn’t intending to be hired on by doing this, I just really enjoyed working for the company and wanted to help it run as smoothly as possible. After that, I started picking up some responsibilities related to marketing and I found that I really enjoyed it. When I was asked if I would like to be hired on as a team member, I was so excited.

I didn’t imagine myself as a marketing person before the internship. Even though I had taken numerous business, marketing, and website design classes in college, I hadn’t considered it as a career path. Once I started working, I realized how much I loved it. I was able to try new things and expand my skillset a lot. Now, I know that I want to pursue a career in marketing alongside my job as a writer.

If you have been considering an internship, I hope this gives you the courage to just apply and reach out. There are so many types of internships, from remote to moving to NYC and working for a large publisher. You can find what fits you and your circumstances and go for it. Publishing is a huge industry and it’s a lot of fun. Best of luck!

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This is the badge that I was awarded at the end of my internship.

Should You Rush to Write the First Draft?

Should you rush to write the first draft?

Let me begin this blog post by saying that I have lived by the idea that writers should just get their crappy first draft over with and stop worrying about it so much. I have dedicated several Novembers to NaNoWriMo for this reason. However, after producing almost a dozen imperfect manuscripts, I’m starting to rethink this process.

Every time you sit down to write, you become a better writer. So, I know I’m not alone here. It’s hard to go back to a draft that you hate. It makes you feel like that draft was a complete waste of time. The first year that I officially participated in NaNoWriMo, I sat down and wrote around 80,000 words and celebrated. The 80,000 words in my head were far different from that ones that ended up on the page. When I decided to dive into the second draft, I was overwhelmed by how much was missing. I’m not just talking about plot points here. There were sentences that skipped words entirely, missed punctuation, characters that changed names halfway through the novel, the list goes on. I’m a little more experienced now and I recognize these as classic amateur mistakes. Sometimes you are typing at the speed of light, but your brain moves a lot faster than your fingers. I tried to clean up that manuscript, send it to beta readers, and ended up even more disappointed that they all hated parts of the novel. I tucked it away on the shelf never to be looked at again (until recently, but I’ll get to that later.)

While I had stored that word-garbage novel some place that I wouldn’t come across it and have it ruin my day, I didn’t give up writing. I continued pumping out manuscripts, sometimes two a month. I can’t remember exactly how many I wrote that first year (I want to say 7 or 8, but I’m too lazy to go look), but only one of them actually became something. Mythical Investigations was a lot easier to write and rewrite because it was a smaller project. I had written it with the intent of it being a similar experience to sitting down and watching an episode of a show. It wasn’t supposed to be this expansive, plot heavy book. It was supposed to be fun, different, surprising. I also wrote the next three manuscripts, that were to follow Mythical Investigations, and a prequel from one of the side character’s point-of-views. I don’t like any of them, so I’m writing them again.

There is a difference between the writer I was between 2015 and today. I’ve learned a lot about writing and rewriting. In order to remedy my inability to rewrite my drafts, I started beta reading for dozens of other authors. It was easy to see their mistakes and recommend ways they could fix them. I took a step back from writing and starting as an editorial intern at a small press publisher. I will have completed 6 months with them in August. I also reached out to one of the editors there and asked if she would teach me a thing or two about editing and let me work with her as a freelance editor. It is much easier to find creative ways to fix issues in a manuscript when you aren’t the one that is going to do the work.

Now, I have the tools to revisit those manuscripts without feeling completely overwhelmed. I have even decided to rewrite that first 80,000-word fantasy novel. This experience has taught me that writing a first draft doesn’t make you a writer, continuing to rewrite your drafts does.

The potential consequences of writing your first draft before you're ready.

So, should you rush to finish that first draft?

There’s nothing wrong with participating in programs like NaNoWriMo or pledging to finish that draft in a month. However, consider your own skill set and be realistic with yourself. If you will struggle to rewrite that draft, you may go nowhere fast. You might be able to sit down and rewrite it. You might consider paying an editor to do a developmental edit for you. If you don’t know, a developmental edit looks at the big picture plot issues before you are overwhelmed you the line-by-line grammar errors that are fixed in a content edit. I highly suggest this if you don’t know where to begin with editing that draft.

To answer the question, I would say no. Don’t rush to finish that first draft. It doesn’t matter if you finish it in a few weeks or a few months. It will probably still be difficult to read. Don’t agonize over every word and rewrite each sentence a dozen times. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just needs be at a level where you can handle going back and reading it later. If you hate that manuscript before it’s even done with, you won’t want to edit it. Whatever you do, don’t submit that first draft that you can’t stand reading. If you can’t get through the first few chapters, don’t fool yourself into thinking that an agent or editor will.

There’s a happy medium here, between hot garbage and pearls, and you must trust that you will get there. Writing takes time and experience. I don’t regret writing out all those manuscripts. However, I did spend an absurd amount of time agonizing over how to rewrite them. That experience taught me that I love doing developmental editing, just because you type “the end” doesn’t mean the book is finished, and that you should tackle editing with the same passion that you do writing.

If I were to do it all over again, I would have started the process a little slower. I began with poetry and short stories, so the leap should have been to novellas instead of to an expansive high fantasy novel. I wasn’t ready to write that novel yet. When I wrote Mythical Investigations, it was a natural progression from the many short stories I had written. It’s around 100 pages, which is much easier to edit and rewrite than 500 pages. I might not have explored editing, if I had done it this way, but I would have saved myself a few years of frustration.

The advice I’m trying to give, is to not be afraid of starting small. If the idea of rewriting a huge novel a dozen times turns your stomach, accept that you aren’t ready to write it yet. Let the process come naturally because it looks different for every person. Good luck.

 

Supporting other Bloggers

It can be a tough world out there for book bloggers. They get hate thrown at them for their reviews or even black listed by publishers if their honesty means less sales.

When I first started blogging on this site, it was mostly about my individual journey on Nanowrimo. I haven’t been blogging for even 2 years yet and still many of the bloggers that were around when I started are no where to be found. It’s sad that it is a huge surprise when I run into someone that I’ve known or read for years.

Just like authors that come and go with the wane of book sales, bloggers often quit because they are discouraged by a lack of reads or shares. As an author myself, I chose to interview other authors because I wanted to support others in my own industry. There’s room for everyone and I try to follow and support as many bloggers as I can.  The internet is so fast-paced that it is important to support bloggers and creators of any kind if you want to keep getting content from them.

In the spirit of this, I wanted to support some of the other bloggers that also participated in Brandy Woods Snow’s cover reveal. I posted about Meant to be Broken yesterday and so did these 5 bloggersYou can find links to each of their blogs below!

(I’m not being paid to share these bloggers. I’m sharing because they all have great blogs and book bloggers need to support each other! Each of these links will open in a new window.)

Lucy Turns Pages 

Rambling of a Book Nerd

Miranda Burksi

Tracy Renee Wolfe

Laura Taylor Namey

Thanks to all of you for sharing the cover reveal on your blogs and social media! Good luck to Brandy and I hope your book launch will be amazing.

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Pre-Order Meant to be Broken on Amazon

Pre-Order Meant to be Broken on FVP

Cover Reveal: Meant to be Broken by Brandy Woods Snow

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Pre-Order Meant to be Broken by Brandy Woods Snow

Release Date: July 2, 2018

“Her secret is big. Mama’s is bigger.”

Blurb:
Rayne Davidson is perfectly happy fading into the background. Her mama’s antics garner enough attention in their small Southern town for the both of them, but when Rayne catches the eye of all-star quarterback, Preston Howard, she’s enamored with the possibilities. Too bad Preston doesn’t make her heart thump—his brother does.
Gage Howard doesn’t mind the town’s stares because he doesn’t get them. Growing up in his older brother’s shadow, Gage shrugs off the endless parade of girls Preston brings home—until Rayne.
But there are unwritten rules that shouldn’t be broken, like cheating on your boyfriend or betraying your brother. Rayne and Gage deny their growing attraction, neither willing to hurt Preston—until the town finds out.

They think overcoming the gossip will be the hardest obstacle.
They’re wrong.
Rayne’s mama has a secret, and its revelation could divide the town, the families, and the new couple.
Can love endure if it’s all built on a lie?

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“Brandy Snow’s poetic prose keeps the reader turning the pages. This story is about more than just a love triangle. It is also a family drama with dark secrets and twists.

The story unfolds from both Rayne and Gage’s perspective. Growing up in his older brother’s shadow, Gage is almost oblivious to the girl’ s Preston brings home—until he meets Rayne. You want Rayne and Gage to get together, but you don’t at the same time because Preston is a good guy.

When Rayne and Gage finally get together secrets come to light that will surprise you!” R.J. Garcia, author of Nocturnal Meetings of the Misplaced

Excerpt:

At 9:30 Saturday morning, I find out Preston Howard wants to date me. At 11:30, my mama hears it from old lady McAlister and has a “spell” in aisle three of the Piggly Wiggly. It’s taken seventeen years, but I finally understand the two things my social life and Mama have in common. They’re both erratic and one usually suffers because of the other.

The store manager calls me on my cell and asks me to come get her. He has my number because he’s Daddy’s best friend’s brother and used me to babysit his kids a few times last year. I answer, expecting another job offer.

“Rayne? This is Dave Sullivan, you know, the manager down at the Piggly Wiggly? There’s been an incident with your mama.”

Apparently it’d happened in front of the Luzianne tea bags. She was comparing the family size to smaller ones when Mrs. McAlister offered her a coupon… and a piece of news.

The details get a little sketchy from there—something about her sinking to the floor and gasping for air. That’s when the manager came over with one of those small brown paper sacks they use to bag up ice cream and had her breathe in it. A nurse and a vet, both in the crowd assembled around her, agreed from their varied medical expertise it didn’t appear to be life-threatening. When the paper bag seemed to work, he decided to call me instead of the ambulance.

I pull into the parking lot ten minutes later. She’s sitting on the front bench beside the automatic doors where the employees go to smoke, under the “I’m Big on the Pig!” sign. Mrs. McAlister sits beside her, a little too close, waving a folded-up circular in her face. I wonder what the store employees and shoppers think of me, casually parking the car, walking-not-running, and looking both ways before crossing the main traffic flow. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out they’re all watching from between the weekly specials scribbled on the plate-glass windows.

I don’t feel the need to rush. It isn’t a heart attack or stroke. I call it her bipolar though Daddy gets mad when I refer to it like that. The diagnosis is anxiety, better known as my evil little sister—always around, always a pain, and always ruining my life.
This sort of episode has happened before, just not too often in public. In most societies that’s considered good news—but not in the South. They say we don’t hide our crazy, we dress it up and parade it on the front porch. And even if we don’t, someone else will do the parading for us—telegraph, telephone, tell-a-southern woman. We know how to reach out and touch some people.

Mrs. McAlister jumps up from the bench and grabs my arm as I step up on the curb. “I suwannee, child. She liked to turned over her buggy and spilt them groceries everywhere.”

Talking to some of the older ladies in town always feels like walking out of real life and into some part of Steel Magnolias. She gives me her version of the sordid details. Mama created quite a scene, not just with her episode but also by her scandalous choice of groceries. The mayonnaise was the only casualty, rolling out the leg hole of the kiddie seat portion of the cart when Mama accidentally gave it a rough shove while collapsing on the linoleum.

Mrs. McAlister hadn’t bothered to pick that up and put it back in the buggy, which was now waiting by the customer service desk. It wasn’t Dukes Mayonnaise. She leans in close to whisper because how embarrassing would that be for Mama. To her, it’s further proof Mama hadn’t been feeling well long before their conversation. What southern woman in her right mind buys off-brand mayonnaise?

“Brimming with romantic tension, Brandy Snow’s MEANT TO BE BROKEN is a story of forgiveness, friendship, and first love. Full of authentic southern voice and populated by characters who are real, relatable, and raw, this intensely emotional debut kept me reading late into the night. Romance lovers, you’re in for a treat!” Katy Upperman, author of Kissing Max Holden

Brandy Woods Snow

Website |Twitter |Facebook |Instagram

Brandy Woods Snow is an author and journalist born, raised and currently living in beautiful Upstateunnamed South Carolina. She earned a BA in English/Writing from Clemson University and worked in corporate communications and the media for more than 17 years before pursuing her true passion for novel writing. Brandy is a member of Romance Writers of America (RWA) and Young Adult RWA.

When Brandy’s not writing, reading, spending time with her husband or driving carpool for her three kids, she enjoys kayaking, family hikes, yelling “Go Tigers!” as loud as she can, playing the piano and taking “naked” Jeep Wrangler cruises on twisty, country roads.

This book is published by Filles Vertes Publishing, where I am an editorial intern. You can find more about Filles Vertes Publishing here:

www.FillesVertesPublishing.com | Facebook |Twitter|Instagram|Youtube

If you’re a writer looking for support, check out the Facebook group Passage to Publishing. It is run by FVP and I regularly participate in the posts there. It’s a group all about encouraging writers and other creators. Everyone needs support!

Do you love the cover for Meant to be Broken? It was designed by Broken Arrow Designs. 

 

Author Interview with Naomi Aoki

I recently got in touch with Naomi Aoki. She is the author of The Yakuza and the English Teacher series, which consists of three books. She is self-published so I asked her a little bit about that as well as her writing methods.

From her Amazon author bio:

“She would love to runaway to Japan or China and live there for a few years… but she can’t. Instead she goes there in her books, hoping to drag the reader into a world they’ve never been to before.
Historical. Contemporary. Time offers no constraint to the stories she writes, happily dabbling in both so long as there is a happy ending.”

You can get in touch with Naomi on social media:

Naomi Aoki Website | Twitter |Facebook

Eliza: Thanks so much for joining me on my blog, Naomi! You have three books released now and the third was the conclusion, right?

Naomi: Yes, Dangerous Life is the third book in the series and the conclusion of Jamie and Gou’s story. I do have a fourth book – a spin off – involving Gou’s nephew and Jamie’s best friend.

Eliza: Did you feel a lot of pressure writing and releasing the final book in the series?

Naomi: Only from myself to get it done, and maybe from the characters who wanted to have their story told.

Eliza: What time period does this series take place in? Did you have to do a lot of research about Japan during that time for the books?

Naomi: Contemporary Japan. I read books on the Yakuza; used Google Maps an awful lot to make sure I got directions etc right. But I’ve also visited Kyoto where this was predominantly set, as well as Nara and Tokyo, drawing on my own experiences there to write Jamie’s reactions to each place.

Eliza: Jamie and Gou have a lot of difficult hurdles they have to get through to be together. What was your inspiration for their romance?

Naomi: I had been reading a book on the Yakuza for another story and It mentioned that they owned Language Schools, and I was like ‘I wonder what would happen if….’ And went from there.

Eliza: When I’m writing a series, I know that I struggle to plot out too many books in advance. Do you have the whole series plotted thoroughly or do you just go off the cuff?

Naomi: I am pantser. I might have a rough idea of where the characters might end up but that’s it. Initially I had thought it might only be one book, but the characters had a lot they wanted to share with me – and I realised quickly that one book wouldn’t tie up the external conflict nicely – so I kept writing.

Eliza: It can be difficult to feel like your book is “ready” when you don’t have an agent or a company behind you to tell you when. How did you decide when it was time to publish?

Naomi: I ended up self-publishing – a steep learning curve – because at the time I couldn’t see where or with whom my books fitted. For starters they were set outside of the traditional spheres of America or Britain nor did they have any American characters, which at the bottom end of the world we are often told that books without at least an American character won’t sell… maybe that’s true, maybe not. Also, I wanted to prove to myself I could do it.

Eliza: What reaction gif would you choose for the ending of the 3rd book?

Naomi: giphy

Eliza: Is this series self published? Do you have any tips for writers who are considering self publishing?

Naomi: If you’re on a small budget -or no budget- because not everyone can afford to spend money on every aspect of the process, then be prepared to learn new skills. If you can’t afford to buy covers, then look around at different programmes and teach yourself how to do it.

Eliza: My last question for you, is what is next for Naomi Aoki? Do you have any future series you are working on?

Naomi: Currently I’m working on the spin-off book and have submitted an historical novel set in China to a publisher. And because I like to have many things on the go, trying to decide whether to start another Historical or a contemporary Rom-suspense.

Eliza: Thanks again for answering my questions!

 

Love was never meant to be this dangerous.

Dangerous Lessons by Naomi Aoki 

Available now on Amazon for $2.99

“The Yakuza and the English Teacher Series: Book 1

Falling in love had never been the plan when Jamie headed to Japan to teach English, but when a powerful businessmen takes an interest in him, how can he say no.

Except, Gou is no ordinary businessmen.

When the truth comes out, does Jamie run or does he stay?

And will he have a choice?”

 

Author Interview with M.E. Vaughan

I met Madeleine a few years ago, when she designed a gorgeous cover for me (the book has not been released.) I started out as a fan of her gorgeous art and I am now a fan of her books. I reached out to M.E. and asked her all the questions I have been dying to know about her book series and her writing process.

About M.E. Vaughan, from her website:

“M.E. Vaughan is a binational Anglo-French novelist and singer-songwriter, who specialises in fantasy, magic realism and mythology. Head writer, and founding member of the Hampshire-based Gaming Studio Enigmatic Studios, she is a Creative Writing lecturer at the University of Winchester, and has a 1:1 Bachelors degree in Creative Writing.

Her first novel The Sons of Thestian was published in March, 2015, with the sequel Blood of the Delphi following in February 2017. The books are part of a series called The Harmatia Cycle which draws on Celtic and Arthurian mythology, but modernises the typical archetypes and gender-roles within them. As well as working in fantasy, M.E. Vaughan also enjoys Mystery and Drama and writes personalised murder mystery games for parties.

In 2016, M.E. Vaughan and fellow author J.A. Ironside began an audio series named Dissecting Dragons, which is a discussion-based pod-cast that focuses on the ins and outs of speculative fiction. The series has invited a number of guests onto the show so far to discuss varied topics, and is designed primarily – as the tagline says – by writers and readers, for writers and readers.

Musically, M.E. Vaughan has achieved a Grade 8 Distinction, and a further Advanced Certificate in Singing, and is a keen composer. She was awarded the Excellence Awardee music scholarship at the University of Winchester, which granted her a bursury to pursue her musical interests. Later, when she graduated, she worked as the Foundation Music Intern, and an events administrator, and continues to run a folk and world music choir at the University today.

Artistically, M.E. Vaughan is a hobbyist, who enjoys painting, drawing and photomanipulation.”

Connect with M.E. Vaughan on Twitter or her website or tune into her wonderful podcast Dissecting Dragons.

Eliza: When you sat down to write The Sons of Thestian what came to you first? The character, idea, or maybe the plot?

M.E.: The book started with the prologue. I got the idea whilst walking home one winter. I was in Holland at the time, in the Hague, and darkness was falling. The streets were absolutely deserted, and I passed by this huge, old Gothic building. In the distance the bells tolled for the hour, and I remember the thought crossing my mind: ‘I need to hurry home—after the bells toll, the city belongs to the monsters.’

When I got home I sat and wrote the prologue, about these two men fleeing these monsters. I had no idea where I was going with it, and when I’d finished writing the prologue, I sat on it for several months. I had no idea what the plot was, but the characters came to life, and the next thing I knew, they were pulling me onto their adventure.

Eliza: That is amazing. It sounds like you might lean more toward “pantser” than “plotter” then. How extensively do you plot your story before you write it and how many times do you let yourself stray from that plot?

M.E.: I like to know where I am headed, but leave the journey a surprise. It’s like going to a music festival—there are acts you must see, and you plan around those, but that between time is the place of discovery where you may just discover your new favour band. I often know where I’m going, but not necessarily how I am getting there, and on several occasions characters have done something which I wasn’t expecting, or ended up down a rabbit-hole I never anticipated. For example, Arlen Zachary would never have become the character he is if I’d stuck totally with the original plan, and that’s a good thing! I think if you plan too rigidly and don’t leave room, your characters can end up feeling quite stunted and one-dimensional, and the story can lack soul.

Eliza: I think authors can really complicate the editing process and make it more daunting than it needs to be. When I started writing, I would rewrite a manuscript half a dozen times before I let anyone look at it. I’m not as thorough anymore and try to stick to just 3 drafts before I send it off to a beta or an editor. How many drafts do you do and has that number changed since you started writing?

M.E.: It can really depend on the book. I have a general rule which is that for every one hour you spent writing it, you’ll probably spend a minimum of three hours editing. I certainly wouldn’t send a first draft to an agent or a publisher. That said, I have sent first-drafts to my betas and editor.

I think writers can struggle to find that balance between sending their work out too soon, and nit-picking over it for too long.  I don’t suffer from the latter any more, mostly because of my degree. We did frequent workshopping, and I came to depend on that feedback and encouragement. I no longer see it as one of the final steps you take in editing, but as an essential early step instead.

As such I am often impatient to get my draft to my beta, as I am keen to get on with editing!

Eliza: I can see how that could be very helpful. Have you ever given up on a book and thrown away a manuscript?

M.E.: Yes, though I don’t really see it as ‘throwing away’. It’s important to remember that when you become a writer, you are more than any one of your books—you are a creative machine.

I have a ton of stories which never got further than my computer screen. Books I loved, stories which didn’t have a market, projects that petered out—absolutely none of them were a waste of time. I was practising my craft, sharpening and shaping it. And that juvenile novel I wrote when I was thirteen? Sure, it will never be published, and I’ll never finish the series, but there are lessons and themes and even characters which have been born out of it and appeared in my current manuscripts. I think it’s ok to let go of a project, even if you have been working on it for some time—clinging to something which isn’t doing anything for you anymore can be toxic to your creativity and stunt your chance of growing and creating something new. In my experience, if a story really wants to be told, it won’t let you go…And even if you take a break from it, to pursue other things, it’ll grow and change, and wait for you to be ready again. And one day, you’ll open up the folder, and find it, and go, “Gods, I remember you.” And you’ll fall right back in-love.

Eliza: Do you have any special rituals or routines that you have to do before you write or edit?

M.E.: Not particularly no, though I do physically walk-through action sequences and fight scenes with music. I call it ‘Dragoning’ and it is probably the single most embarrassing thing I do, because I sure as hell don’t look nearly as cool as my characters, and going through the movements of several characters by yourself is always going to be…tricky. It’s still something I enjoy immensely, and I do it almost every day. I’ve come up with some of my more epic sequences this way!

Eliza: I love that, you have to find what works for you! If you were to pick one gif to describe your reaction to the ending of The Sons of Thestian, what would it be?

M.E.

Eliza: Now I have to ask you more about your book series, The Harmatia Cycle. If you take one look at the reviews for your books, you see so many positive comments about the world building. You are also a talented artist. Did you create maps or draw scenes from the series?

M.E.: I did actually draw the map myself, yes! I’ve also done a number of diagrams all about the magic, and star systems, and all that kind of thing, none of which have ever seen the light of day! I have also done illustrations of the characters, though I haven’t drawn any of the scenes in particular.

Eliza: I see that an illustrator is credited on Amazon. Are there illustrations within the book?

M.E.: No, it’s just the front cover. Stef Tastan is an incredible artists and did such an amazing job with the artwork that I wanted her to be credited as much as possible.

Eliza: What is your method for keeping track of all the details that come with expansive world building?

M.E.: It’s inevitable that I’ll forget something and have to check the manuscript or website for it, but for the most part I keep everything in my head. I think it’s because the countries and cultures in Harmatia have got such strong associations in my head. I have spent so much time in each of them, that they’re very real to me! When I step into Bethean, I feel very Betheanian, which is a mixture between the way I feel about Ireland and about my home in France. Those feelings bring up a number of thoughts and feelings which are what originally developed Bethean, so they’re all easy to remember!

Eliza: I read that your book contains some flashbacks. It sounds like readers loved them and I was surprised to read that because it can be hard to predict if they will be received well. How did you fit them into the story in a way that would entertain readers?

M.E.: I think jumping times and place in any book always has the potential to be a little jarring, so it’s all about placing, and how the flashbacks are used. I tried to use flashbacks as transitional sections whereby, even though it was going back, it was moving things forward and connecting other scenes.

Eliza: On Twitter, you mention that you have an LGBTQ character in the book. I was excited to read that because you don’t see many YA novels, particularly in Fantasy, where there are LGBTQ characters. Without giving us any spoilers, can you tell us a little about this character (characters?) and your inspiration for them?

M.E.: The Harmatia Cycle has lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and ace characters. Most predominantly you have Rufus Merle, the protagonist, who is openly bisexual. As a bisexual woman myself, I created Rufus during a time when I was very much closeted but also trying to explore the nature of my own sexuality. Having Rufus as a bisexual character was very important to me, and having his story not evolve around his sexuality was equally as important. My ambition with The Harmatia Cycle is to reflect the diversity within our societies, whilst ensuring that no character simply becomes their sexuality or gender. I hope very much I have achieved this.

Eliza: I thinks it’s wonderful to strive for a broad spectrum of representation in your works. Your book is lengthy at 751 pages. Do you think that YA readers are yearning for longer novels in today’s markets?

M.E.: I think the YA audience grows every year. I believe this is because YA pushes boundaries which many adult novels don’t. If you’re looking for representation, I find YA is more likely to offer it, so it attracts a large range of readers of all ages. Technically, The Harmatia Cycle is too long for what is usually expected in YA, but I think it’s foolish to underestimate Young Adult’s capacity to concentrate and get through a longer book. I mean, Harry Potter was original written for Middle Grade! A story will be as long as it needs, and I think my readers would find it less satisfying if I cut corners in delivering that story all in an attempt to appease a pre-existing template.

Eliza: There used to be competitions between my childhood friends to see who could read the longest books. I think if we can challenge 15 year olds in high school to read literary classics then we can expect they can finish a book that is relevant to them. My last question for you is about your publishing company. Do you plan to publish other writers as well as your own works there?

M.E.: For the time being Mag Mell Publishing is a press for my own works and projects. I intend, at some point, to perhaps publish a collection of anthologies featuring other writers as well, but for the time being, it’s a very personal press.

Eliza: That is great. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to answer all of these questions. I wish you the best of luck with your journey as an author!

If you would like to purchase the first book in The Harmatia Cycle, The Sons of Thestian is available on Amazon, Book Depository, and Waterstones.