Blog Tour

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Thanks to my good friend, Terry Tyler, for inviting me to take part in this tour. I met Terry on Twitter; she was one of the first reach out & help me as a writer on Twitter. Because there’s a special way to interact as a writer on social media, and there are rules of etiquette, as well as accepted marketing practices, just like in any other social or business situation. Right. The questions:

What am I working on now?

I’m currently working on three books, all at differing levels:

♥ I’m doing tasks like filling out the art fact sheet and writing blurbs for my next Wild Rose Press release, Luke’s #1 Rule. Awaiting edits that should land on my desk any day now. I expect Luke out sometime this summer.

♥ I am also revising my indie paranormal, Sweet Melissa after receiving comments from beta-readers. Sweet Melissa will released on or before June 1 of this year.

♥ Finally, I am writing the first draft of Fast Eddie, my third book in the Blue Lake series with Wild Rose Press. Eddie and his bar and grill have made cameos in both previous Blue Lake books. I’m finding out some very interesting things about this mystery man. The secondary plot fills in Bob and Lily’s love story from Blue Heaven, cut short then by college and Lily’s issues. That deadline is October, so my plan is to write fresh material every day and have a great opening chapter for my critique group May 9.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

I have two genres: contemporary romance and paranormal. One is e-published with POD and the other is indie and e-book only. I think that’s different right there. But my romances are different in that TWRP has let me grow beyond the normal boundaries of romance. I have subplots. I have other POVs. I am closer to women’s fiction than romance, but they’re just labels. My paranormals are different in that there are no vampires. I’ve created a unique world, at least one I’ve not seen done in fiction before. My world is a  mix of science (super string theory) and fantasy (flying and a talking moon mother).

Having said what’s different, I prefer paranormals that take place in an almost recognizable world. So my people do visit their other world and it helps them catch bad guys, but most of the story is set in our contemporary American world.

Why do I write what I do?

I love to read everything: blogs, magazines, poetry, short stories, novels, memoirs, physics, metaphysics, self-help, biography and the Sunday New York Times, mostly for book reviews.

And that might be why I have written in so many different categories. My first book, and only full length non-fiction work, Your Words, Your Story, is part writing memoir, part writing manual. I wrote it for a specific audience, my creative writing students, who would come to class all wanting to write different things. So I covered all the stuff I’d written and published to that point (2007), a wide spectrum from journalism and criticism to poetry and short stories to creative non-fiction. Even a screenplay treatment. And of course my blog, here since 2002.

After YWYS came out, I focused on getting my many novels published. Again, I didn’t stick to one kind of novel, but Luke’s #1 Rule is the book of my heart, the book I always wanted to write but also feared writing. That’s when I know I should write something. If it scares me, pushes my boundaries, it’s good.

How does my writing process work?

It’s a bit chaotic, as I also teach and tweet. Plus I’m on a quest for better health via food and exercise. So I try to write first thing. Often, I have to check for email from my publisher before “first thing” 🙂 Many days I end up tweeting for an hour or blogging for two before I manage to get those new pages written, but that is the plan right now. New pages for next novel every day. Start on them early.

So far, I’ve been writing longhand. I bought a new pen and notebook, a ritual for each new book. I researched some background on Eddie and his first love (they meet again at their 20th high school reunion) and wrote a bit from each of the four POVs. After I fill the notebook, it’s time to write a draft in Word docx.

I’ve tagged Edith Andersen, and Sylvia Hubbard, and Gretchen Riley, three wonderful — and wildly different — writers.

Hello Old Friend

tartt I support indie writers. Some books, I go indie myself. But one thing I’ve noticed…I don’t see many indie “literary” novels. Terry Tyler comes closest. She calls her work “contemporary.” No labels for Tyler. Not even the literary label. And good for her.

Still, lots of genre in the indies. Maybe I’m not looking in the right places? One of the things that seems most wonderful to me as an indie is I don’t have to follow any rules. I’m not chained to my romance or mystery perch like Fabritius’s goldfinch. Or am I? Are we all?

That’s the type of discussion that goes on in some literary novels like Donna Tartt’s fabulous The Goldfinch which I just finished last night. The last twenty or so wonderful pages would have been slashed to nothing had I sent them to a genre publisher. And that’s a shame.

So indies, what’s going on? I could take a guess or two. Maybe indies want to be discovered and offered huge multi-million dollar contracts like that erotica author who started out writing fan fic about Edward and Bella. So the indie genre books are calling cards, of a sort. Maybe.

Or maybe the indies who write in a specific genre just really like vampire books. Maybe they’re not thinking HBO series material at all. All I can really say is this indie, me, likes coloring outside the lines, and publishing indie lets me do that.

Why not submit to literary agents and publishers, then? Ah, no. I’m no Fabritius, no Tartt either. I know my limitations. We all have them. And so what do I hope to achieve with these indie novels? Well, some money would be nice. Although it does not seem to be happening, at least not yet, and I’m okay with that.

In fact, not making money from my writing is probably a good thing, even though it’s bad. (This ‘good but also bad’ dicotomy is one of the themes in The Goldfinch.) It’s bad because of course I would rather make art than teach. It’s good because I’ve been teaching so long I’m due for retirement and pension soon:) It’s bad because if I put my work’s value at a dollar amount, then my work is zero.

It’s good because I found out that I will still write, even at zero. That’s something worth learning. Because it brings me back to the innocence I had when I was 16, writing in a notebook, trying hard to get the feelings right, with no thought to being discovered, published, or important. The work was important. And that was all, that was enough.

Terry Tyler

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I discovered British author Terry Tyler on Twitter, where we struck up a conversation about writing. She’s got several very funny but also heartwarming contemporary novels for sale on Kindle, and so far, I’ve read three of them.

Here’s a mini-review of Dream On, the first Tyler novel I read. Full Circle is the sequel; I loved revisiting these characters. The Other Side blew my mind. It has a brilliant high concept. Terry’s novels are set in small English villages and sometimes her characters make it all the way to London. A common thread is music. Many of her characters are musicians. These novels are as addictive as any I’ve ever read. I wondered “How’d she do that?” and so I asked. Here are her replies:

You have five novels out on Amazon  exclusively, right? Are they only in Kindle format or do you also have paper versions? Why did you choose to go this route with your work?

 My books are only in Kindle format.  This is because I haven’t got round to sorting out getting them done in paperback yet, though I am not sure that I will; I don’t really fancy doing the book signings that people seem to have to do to sell them; and it appears that you have to sell them so expensively to even get your money back.  Having said that, for vanity reasons if nothing else I would dearly love to see them in print form!

How long did you look for a publisher (if you did) before going indie? How does the term “indie” strike you? What are the perks of being an indie author?

 I found an agent who liked the way I wrote back in 1999, but I wasn’t prepared to change the plot of a book to make it fit in with what she thought she could sell to a publisher; I don’t know if that was silly of me or not.  When I started writing again after a 10 year break I sent a synopsis and sample of my new effort,You Wish, to an agent.  She liked it, and asked to read the whole thing, but when she had done so felt, again, that she couldn’t sell the whole story to a traditional publishing house.  I sent sample and synopsis to about 3 other agents with no luck, then just left it.  Then, about 9 months later, someone told me about Amazon KDP, so I thought I would give that a go.  The term ‘indie’?  It’s not one I use, and I don’t think of myself as “an indie author”.  I’m just a writer, and I’m independently published because no traditional publishing house has offered me a book deal, that’s all – I don’t feel it necessary to wear the badge ‘indie’.  The perks?  I suppose if you compare it with the self-published authors who go with a publishing company, it means that I get to choose my own pricing, for instance.  I’d hate not to have complete control over what I do.

One thing I love about your books is the voice. Your books are set in England, where you live, and the characters sound like it. When a New York publisher buys a Brit author, they take out all the Britishisms and put in American slang. That ruins it    for me. Your vernacular, your particular voice, is part of what draws me  to your stories. Does that come naturally to you? From reading your blog  & books it seems you come with a built-in sense of humor and the pages just flow. It seems effortless. Bet it’s not. Comments?

Thank you!  It’s such a compliment to be told that – I couldn’t wish for a greater one.  The dialogue and everything does come naturally, as do the nuances of any language to someone for whom it’s their mother tongue.  I wouldn’t say that it’s effortless, because I put a lot of work into making sentences and phrases tighter, or more amusing.  But I’ve always written stuff that makes people laugh, down to and including my Facebook status updates, so perhaps I am a ‘natural writer’ to some extent.  My books would be ludicrous if translated into American slang – they wouldn’t work at all because, as you say, they are very English!

How long did it take to write The Other Side? It covers a span of several years and it reads like someone is writing in-the-moment. So how did you do that? I was thinking as I read, I wonder if she wrote each part      when she was that age, or in that year? Did you?

 The Other Side took me 5 or 6 months to write, from December 2011 to May 2012.

It covers the period from 1987 to 2012 – 25 years.  I’m glad it works well in each different ‘moment’ – I suppose it does so simply because I’ve been all those ages!  I’d written a similar book in 1999, but I started The Other Side from scratch, using only some of the ideas I’d written in the previous one.

Was the structure of The Other Side a departure for you? It’s quite unusual and very cool. Tell me where the idea came from and how you did it. We have to avoid spoilers because the twist is so great. I even hate to say “twist” because then readers will be looking for it.

Years ago I read a book by Elizabeth Jane Howard that went backwards and it fascinated me, because I loved reading about the character in one situation, then going back to find out what brought her to that point in her life.  I’ve wanted to do something similar ever since.  I always make lists of timelines for the events in my stories when I am writing them, but I had to do much more so with this one, as you can imagine – and I made a few ghastly errors along the way!  Avoiding spoilers, I’ll just say that I’ve always been interested in the way the tiny threads and seemingly unimportant decisions take us to particular stages in our lives – and how easily everything can change.  I love books with complicated twists in them – Nobody’s Fault has a huge one, and You Wish has one on the last page!  The only one of my books which is just a straightforward story with no twists is Dream On – I’m overloading my brain trying to make my new one, working title Head First and currently at 20K words, contain a couple of good ones!

Your characters are so varied. How do you write about all the various people, who are all so different from one  another? Do you keep a list of character traits as you write or do those individuals just speak to you in their own way as you write?

I’m so glad the characters come alive for you!  I don’t write character plans or keep lists of their traits.  I think if I did they’d be cardboard; i.e., I don’t go, oh, better make Robert say this now, because I’ve just looked at my list and reminded myself that he’s supposed to be insecure.  I wouldn’t say that ‘they speak to me’ because that would sound pretentious; I don’t know, really; I just visualise them, and then I write about them!  Oh dear, I’m not really telling you very much, am I?!   I do think about them, when I’m doing other things, so I suppose that’s how I develop them in my head.

Let’s talk revision. How many drafts  do you write? Do you have anyone to edit? Do you belong to a critique group? About how long does it take you to write a book, start to finish?

I write about 6 drafts per book.  I couldn’t bear to have anyone edit anything of mine – perhaps just as well I’m NOT traditionally published!  I don’t belong to a critique group and never have done – I’m not much of a one for groups and I’m fairly confident about how I write anyway.  I’d prefer to listen to the opinion of the reading public; I think I can tell if something isn’t working during the editing process.  Obviously I’ve made mistakes, but I hope these will be less and less as I go on.  My sister is my only ‘beta reader’.  Takes me about 6 months to write a book.  You Wish was published in November 2011; I wrote it in 2010.  By the time I published it I had nearly finished Nobody’s Fault, which was published in January 2012.  The Other Side, which was the 3rd one, was published in May 2012.

How do you market your work? Or do you  not bother? Any tricks or ideas? (I dislike marketing and don’t do very  well at it, myself).

 Marketing – Twitter, Goodreads, Facebook, book blogs.  I spend a lot of time on it.  I liked and used social networking sites before I published on Amazon anyway, so the ‘marketing’ of my books is only an extension of that – except that I don’t bore all my Facebook friends with posts about my books, and keep it for my author page only.  Tricks or ideas?  Loads, far too many for an interview such as this!  In a nutshell, remember that marketing is about communication.  And it takes time and work, lots of it.  You don’t build up an ‘online presence’ overnight, or by thinking ‘oh God, I suppose I’d better post something on my Facebook page’ once a week.

What is your writing background? Did  you go to University? Do you have a creative writing degree or did you ever take workshops or classes? Did you write non-fiction before you  started writing fiction?

 I don’t have a writing background.  I didn’t go to university because I was much too rebellious to knuckle down to anything like that in my late teens.  I’ve never attended a workshop or class.  Or written non-fiction.  I used to be really good at English at school, though, ha ha!  I wrote some short stories in my 20s, but they were pretty crap.  Aside from the stuff I’ve always done to amuse my friends, I’ve written nothing else until I wondered, in 1993, if I could write a novel.  Then I wrote one.  And another, and another, and…  then I stopped for 10 years, started again in 2010.

Why do you write?

 Because I enjoy it!

Thanks for wanting to interview me, Cynthia – I hope my answers are of some interest to you and your readers, though I am acutely aware of not having very much to tell you!!  I don’t have lots of complicated creative processes – I just write stuff! 

 Just the opposite, I learned a lot! Cheers, Terry