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Andrea Hurst and Associates
by:  Andrea Hurst, Andrea Hurst and Associates; Andrea Hurst Literary Management
e-mail:  info@andreahurst.com
web:  http://www.andreahurst.com, www.facebook.com/pages/Andrea-Hurst-and-Associates/174459902871
twitter:  http://www.twitter.com/andreahurst_
The Literary Experts With over 25 years experience as a literary agent, professional editor, and bestselling author, Andrea offers a full suite of services to guide you to publishing success.
January 12, 2018

AUTHORNOMICS Interview with Marc Edelheit

Marc Alan Edelheit has a Bachelor's Degree in Science and obtained a Masters in Education as a Reading and Writing Specialist. Marc has traveled the world, from Asia to Europe, even at one point crossing the border at Check Point Charlie in Berlin toward the end of the Cold War. Marc is the ultimate history fan and incorporates much of that passion into his work to bring greater realism to his fans. He is also an avid reader, devouring several books a week, ranging from history to science fiction and fantasy. Marc currently resides in New Hope, Pennsylvania, just miles from where Washington crossed the Delaware.

Tales of the Seventh Series: Currently on Kindle Daily Deal January in the US for $0.99 http://amzn.to/2CtJowV

Chronicles of an Imperial Legionary Officer Series: http://amzn.to/2lI5YGz

The Karus Saga Series: http://amzn.to/2CsWs5v

Stiger’s Tigers was your first published title, and continues to sell exceptionally well. What advice would you give to fellow writers who are working on their first novel?
Make sure you do it right. I did nearly everything wrong and despite that my novel took off. I read somewhere that the average person who self-publishes makes less than $500. If correct, that is an astonishing statistic. It means those books that take off are the exception rather than the rule. So… if you are going to put the time, effort, energy, frustration, tears and love into a book… make damned sure you do it right. Don’t rush it. Write it, edit it… edit it again… find a good developmental editor… LISTEN to their advice and then make changes… find an awesome copyeditor to make sure your word usage and punctuation is also correct. Do not neglect this stage. There is no perfect book. Out of a hundred and fifty thousand words… there is bound to be at least one error. Trust me on this… reviewers will mention and take stars away as an error is distracting. What will they say when you have multiple errors? You only get one shot at introducing your work to the world… so make sure you do it right.

Can you tell us a bit more about your newest book, Lost Legio IX? Were there any challenges you came across while writing this novel in comparison to Stiger’s Tigers?
Lost Legio IX was a difficult book to write. It was half historical fiction, half fantasy. The disappearance of the Roman Ninth legion is one of history’s greatest mysteries. Building off the historical record and getting the realism just right and believable was the hard part. That took a great deal of research. And research takes time. When writing historical fiction it has to be accurate. Readers of this genre will tolerate nothing less.

You were on a panel at DragonCon! Hearing positive feedback, meeting fans and peers in the community must be incredibly motivating. Tell us about your experience and you think this helps build an author’s platform.
Cons are great. This year I attended SuperCon, AnimeUSA, and DragonCon. It is truly fantastic meeting fans. I personally feel it’s important spending time with them. Whenever the opportunity presents itself, I make a point to ask a lot of questions. What book do you like the most? Why? Favorite Character? What did you dislike? That sort of thing. My goal here is to listen and learn, not to be judgmental or critical of their opinions. This process helps me become more in tune with my readers. I believe it ultimately helps me improve as a writer in that I will be better at catering to my audience and building my brand. Speaking with fans is also an opportunity to leave a lasting impression… in that they will hopefully continue to buy my books. I’ve run into a few of authors who develop overbearing egos that in my opinion turn people off. I think it’s important to remain humble and treat your fans with the respect they deserve. Without them… you as an author are nothing.

What first drew you to writing military fantasy? What appeals you the most about writing these types of stories? Do you ever see yourself wandering away from Fantasy and exploring different genres?
My passion is military science fiction. I puttered around for years struggling to write a novel… starting and stopping… but never finishing. One day, I woke up and decided if I wanted to follow my dream of becoming an author, a book would not write itself. So, I started fresh. Stiger’s Tigers became an experiment. I wanted to write a simple story that was straight forward… part historical fiction, part fantasy. It also had to have a realistic edge. I mapped out a story arc that turned out to be the book that became Lost Legio IX and was published this Oct. It was anything but simple and straight forward. I shelved that project and went back to the drawing board. Ultimately, I settled on Stiger’s tale… but instead of starting in the beginning, I began in the middle of his tale… with limited backstory which I fed my readers in drips and drabs. The rest is history…

Stiger’s Tigers has stellar reviews on Amazon and your readers love it! What was the biggest hurdle you had to push through while writing this story, and what advice would you give to your fellow writers who are experiencing the same? Do you ever feel pressure to do even better with each successive book?
My biggest hurdle was getting into a rhythm and working consistently on the book. I write each and every day. Distractions… TV, games, etc… must be cut out or limited. It doesn’t matter if you spend one hour or five on writing. I find as long as you work consistently on a project it will ultimately… somehow get done. And yes… I feel the pressure to do better with each successive book. I take it as a challenge to work harder. It must be working… as my last three novels, Stiger, Fort Covenant and Lost Legio IX all have an average review of 4.9 on Amazon. Truthfully though… I have awesome fans.

Having an online platform is vital in this day and age, from being active on Facebook and Twitter to having your own blog. How do you stay on top of it all, while working on your latest novel, responding to feedback, and everything in-between?
I love Facebook. It is the primary place other than conventions where I get to directly interact with fans. I receive messages all the time… and make a point to respond personally and as soon as humanly possible. I figure if my fans take the trouble to read my work and write… the least I can do is write back. It takes time of course… but I somehow manage… I guess since all of this is fun and ‘not’ work it makes it that much easier. Interacting with fans also serves as motivation to keep writing.

Since your first book, you have used agent assisted self publishing for your novels. Can you explain the benefits for authors in using this type of publication route?
Bottom line… I know my writing would not be as successful as it is today without my agent, Andrea Hurst. She provides constant advice, industry expertise and support. Andrea introduced me to my awesome editing team. She has also helped me build marketing plans to increase my brand, find publishing partners for my audiobooks, and so much more. In addition, she provides editing assistance (above and beyond that of my editing team) and thoughts on my manuscripts, which I have found incredibly invaluable. An agent should be a partner who is focused on your success. I have that with Andrea. She is on my side and I appreciate that!

For more of this interview and others, check out our blog!

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August 9, 2017

AUTHORNOMICS Interview with Marc Allen

Marc Allen is a renowned author, composer, and speaker. On the day he turned thirty, Marc cofounded New World Library with Shakti Gawain, and as the company's president and publisher, he has guided it from a small start-up operation with no capital to become one of the leading publishers in its field. He has written numerous books, including The Greatest Secret of All, Visionary Business, The Millionaire Course, and The Type-Z Guide to Success. He has also recorded several albums of music, including Awakening, Breathe, and Solo Flight. He is a popular speaker and seminar leader based in the San Francisco Bay Area. For more about Marc, including his free monthly teleseminars, see www.MarcAllen.com.

You co-founded New World Library with Shakti Gawain back in 1977. What motivated you to start up a company like this? What were some of the biggest challenges to starting your own publishing house?

I started the company simply by self-publishing a few little books… and then I realized that a “self-publisher” is exactly the same as a “publisher” — you have to do everything a publisher does in order to sell books. The biggest initial challenge was financing, seeing I had no money. I ended up raising money in a bunch of creative ways, including financing some books and music projects the same way movies and Broadway plays are financed: creating limited partnerships based on specific projects; investors put up the money, and we split profits 50-50. In my book, The Millionaire Course, I listed 12 different ways that start-ups can get financing — and as I wrote it, I realized I had done a lot of them, including “sweat equity,” local angels, loans from friends and family, credit cards, and SBA (Small Business Administration) financing.

The other big challenge is marketing and sales. It took me a while to find the right people to distribute and sell our books.

What do you wish someone had told you when you first started in the publishing industry?

I found people along the way who told me what I needed to know. An early mentor told me something I’ve never forgotten: Always take care of the business, number one. The business comes before the owners’ interests, and before everyone else. Take care of the company first, and it’ll take care of everyone else. I got another great piece of advice from an article I read about a Swiss hotel: Set up profit-sharing with every employee. Give employees 50 percent of the profits, and they’ll more than double your profits. It’s a win-win way to run a company, and I don’t know why more companies don’t do it.

New World Library is now one of the top independent publishers in the country. Could you talk more about the goal of New World Library of ‘personal and planetary transformation’?

It seems obvious to me that humans are a rapidly evolving species, and we’re here to grow in some ways. Personally, we all want inner peace, harmony, happiness, and love. Collectively, we all want the planet to be healthy and supportive of all the life on it. We publish books that support people in improving their lives and the world.

New World Library is a supporter of the Green Press Initiative, which encourages authors and publishers to use recycled paper. What further steps do you think that the publishing industry can take to protect the environment?

We use solar power in our offices, too. And a lot of our people have hybrid vehicles, and most of us live close to the office. And we’re happy to sell more and more ebooks, because they involve no printing, paper, binding, shipping, returns, and damaged copies to recycle.

As an internationally renowned author yourself, the president of New World Library, and a musician/composer for your own label, Watercourse Media; you definitely keep yourself busy. How do you balance all your different roles?

I see the truth in the cliché that time expands to fill however much time you allot for something. I give my publishing company about four afternoons a week; that way I have mornings, evenings, and a three-day weekend every week to do my other creative things with music and writing, and have time for family and friends and — something very important to me — time alone. Time to dream, to be lazy, to do very little. Time to read, time to relax.

Can you tell us a bit more about your latest book, The Magical Path — Creating the Life of Your Dreams and a World that Works for All. How can simple practices have a powerful impact on a person’s life?

When I published Visionary Business in the ‘90s, I did a lot of speaking. And sometimes if the audience was open to it, I’d say, “You know, it’s really all done by magic. I use a form of simple, practical magic.” I often say I never had to come to believe in any of these practices; I never had to make a leap of faith. I just tried some practices and prayers and rituals and affirmations in my own lazy, undisciplined way with an open mind, and I saw the results in my life — sometimes very powerful results, sometimes nearly instantaneous, and sometimes taking years to manifest. But manifest they did. So in The Magical Path, I recorded all of the things I’ve been doing for years that helped me transform my life from one of poverty to abundance, and from anxiety to a pretty unshakable inner peace.

What is one common misconception you’d like to set straight about what you call “Self-fulfillment books,” or to be categorized as “New Age”?

There’s nothing new in the new age. It’s the perennial philosophy. Each generation just needs to have the old truths translated into the current vocabulary. The Power of Now brilliantly translates the original teachings of Jesus and Buddha and the Vedas of India into our modern language.

In addition to publishing new titles every year, New World Library also focuses on its on backlist. What are some of the differences in your strategies for marketing between the new titles and the old ones?

There’s really no difference between our new titles and old titles. Every title we publish is something we hope to be selling for many, many years. We edit carefully to try to remove any references to current events or anything else that will date that book. Creative Visualization has been selling for almost 40 years, and I’m sure will continue to sell for many decades. We did a beautiful version of The Bhagavad Gita, which has been popular for about 5,000 years — and I hope it’ll be selling 5,000 years in the future!

For more of this interview and others, please visit our blog!

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June 28, 2017

AUTHORNOMICS Interview with Suzanne Kelman

Suzanne Kelman is an Amazon international best-selling author and a multi-award-winning screenwriter and playwright. She is the author of The Rejected Writers' Book Club and Rejected Writers Take the Stage, published by Lake Union Publishing, as the Southlea Bay Series.

As well as being an author, Suzanne is also a film producer, director, and screenwriter. Her film accolades include The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences - Nicholl Fellowship Finalist 2015, Best Comedy Feature Screenplay, L.A. International Film Festival, Gold Award, California Film Awards and the Van Gogh Award from the Amsterdam Film Festival.

Born in the United Kingdom, her comedic writing voice has been described as a perfect blend of Janet Evanovich and Debbie Macomber. Suzanne now resides on a beautiful island in Washington State which is the perfect environment for bringing great stories to life.

As an award-winning screenwriter, best-selling author, playwright, film director, and producer, you wear a lot of hats. What are some of your favorite things you do to relax?

When I first read this question, I laughed, then I had to think, what do I do to relax? That is when I realized that I am very lucky to love what I do so much that I don’t have a clean line between work and play. I love creating story and believe it or not everything I do to relax is somehow entwined with that passion. I love to read and try to read two to three books a week, normally I read audible books now. This means I can listen to stories while I complete mundane tasks like checking email or line-editing my work. I also perform in theatre, right now I’m putting the finishing touches to a comedy play I’m producing and directing, “Over My Dead Body”, which will be performed as a staged reading June 2018. I’m also working on co-producing and choreographing a musical show that will open next February. And for those snatched hours of relaxation, I love to walk on the beach or in the woods where I live.

Obviously, screenwriting and novel-writing are two very different animals. What are the challenges you face when switching back and forth between the two? How have the two skills combined for you in your writing?

Great question and it can be a challenge to many writers to understand the rules and work within the bounds of both types of storytelling. The challenge for me often happens in my novel writing. In screenwriting, I am always looking for ways I can cut lines and get the message to its purest form. In novel writing I have the luxury of spending pages creating a scene that in my scripts I have a sentence to build. So, the problem most novel writers have is where should I cut? With me it is always, where do I need to add? Also, screen and stage plays are so much more dialogue heavy, I have to inform the listener or reader by nuances detected through what my character says or does, in a book I have the ability to take my readers into my character’s thoughts. This is helpful when exploring my character’s motivations, something I have to hint at in as a screenwriter, allowing the director and actor to find ways to capture that character’s motivation with the camera.

What was your inspiration for writing your breakout novel, The Rejected Writers Book Club?

Like most stories, the book was inspired by more than one element. The first happened whilst attending a book reading for another author. He started his presentation by tipping all of his rejected letters onto the table to show us his writers journey. I remember being a little shocked but also in awe of his confidence. He went from being the “successful” one in the room to just one of us, someone who had also failed. And not only failed but he was proud of that fact. I don’t remember anything else he talked about, but that image stuck with me. Then about 8 years later I was working on a concept for a screenplay about a group of quirky women going to a pitchfest in L.A. to pitch their screenplays and the story just wasn’t working for me, so I laid it aside. I wanted to know more about these characters than I could portray in 110 pages of a screenplay. That was in 2011. That fall I decided to take on the NaNoWriMo challenge of writing 50,000 words in a month and looked at adapting that earlier screenplay. It was easier than trying to come up with something brand new. I changed the screenwriters into novel writers added a twist to the tale, that they were actually proud to be rejected, and the Rejected Writers Book Club was born.

The sequel to The Rejected Writer’s Book Club, The Rejected Writers Take the Stage, was just released in June! Congratulations! What are some of the unique challenges of writing a sequel versus writing a stand-alone novel?

I had heard that writing a second novel in a series could be challenging but I hadn’t really thought much about it until I tried to write one. The problem is if you have written something that people love, you have to at the very least recreate that feeling for the reader. I spent a lot of time while writing it asking myself, is this working? It was less about ego for me than about letting down my readers who had fallen in love with these characters. I also had some health challenges during the time I was writing this book, and it is very challenging to write humor when you are in pain. So, to put this into perspective, I have just finished the third book in the series and that re-write took me 3 months, the re-write on the second book took me 9 months.

In Rejected Writers Take the Stage, the ladies decide to write and perform a musical. How did your experiences as a screenwriter and playwright inspire some of the scenes in this book?

This was my favorite book to write because of the subject matter as my background is in theatre. I have been performing in theatre for over 40 years and I’m always drawn back to it. It was my first love, my very first experience of storytelling. So, I knew when I started writing the series that there would have to be a musical or a stage play that would somehow be incorporated into the storyline. The greatest part of writing the book was re-creating many of the mishaps that happened to me or someone I knew during all my years in live theatre. Recording art imitating life is always fun.

Can you tell us a little about your Author Street Team? What benefits does joining a Street Team provide? How important is it for authors to connect with their readers?

I think the number one thing an author should be doing is connecting with their readership, and a street team is a great way to do that. I have amazing readers, friends and other authors that are part of my “team.” They are the people I go to for support as I make big decisions. Book titles, book covers, book blurbs. They are the people who are there for me through a launch and encourage me when I’m feeling tired or worn out. They are also invaluable for getting those important first reviews on Amazon or Goodreads. In return I send them offers and giveaways and “first look” at chapters etc. I like to think it is a win-win situation.

Your website recently featured a Cookbook Recipe Competition, where readers submitted their favorite recipes to be chosen for the Southlea Bay Cookbook. What kind of delectable dishes can we expect and when will it be coming out?

I have lots of wonderful food inspired by my characters and the town of Southlea Bay. In my books, there are many recipes mentioned in the storyline and now that my second book is launched I will be turning my full attention to wonderful food delights such as “Doris’s Celebrating Rejection Lemon Cake, and “Gracie’s Tell it like it is Carrot Cake.” I am hoping that the cookbook will be ready at the same time as the third book, The Rejected Writers Christmas Wedding which releases in October this year.

In addition to writing, you also do a weekly Blondie and the Brit Podcast with K.J. Waters called Writing, Publishing and Beyond. Can you tell us a bit about Writing, Publishing and Beyond? How did it get started?

Yes, I love working with best-selling author, KJ Waters, who is just releasing her latest book, Shattering Time. We met on Twitter about five years ago, and then we started the podcast a couple of years ago to encourage and inform authors. We have conducted 82 interviews, so far, and have asked them everything from their writing process to what promotions they are have done to sell more books. We thought it might be fun way to connected both with authors and readers. And it has been. We just recorded a podcast last week that will be aired in the next month, with an author roundtable. We actually managed to connect seven authors together on Skype who were all launching books this summer for a conversation about that experience.

For more of this interview and others, please visit our blog!

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March 21, 2017

AUTHORNOMICS Interview with author Mark Dawson

Mark Dawson was born in Lowestoft, in the UK. He has worked as a DJ, a door-to-door ice cream seller, factory hand and club promoter. He eventually trained as a lawyer and worked for ten years in the City of London and Soho, firstly pursuing money launderers around the world and then acting for celebrities suing newspapers for libel. He currently works in the London film industry. He is presently writing two series. The John Milton books involve a disgruntled British assassin who is trying - without much success - to put his past behind him. The Soho Noir books, beginning with The Black Mile and continuing with The Imposter, follow the glitz and glamour of criminal life in London's West End from the 1940s to the present day. Mark lives in Wiltshire with his wife and two young children, plus a dog and two cats.

You have a varied professional background, from being a DJ to practicing as a lawyer. How did you first get into writing as a profession?

I’ve always been a writer, ever since I was very young. It was only when I started to publish my own stuff that I really made a breakthrough, though.

You’re often lauded as one of the great success stories of self-publishing. Can you tell us a bit about your experience in traditional publishing in comparison to self-publishing? What advice do you have for authors considering going the indie route?

Getting a traditional deal felt like a huge moment for me, but sadly getting the deal was the highlight. I felt my books weren’t being marketed as well as they could and I ended up shelving any hopes I had of a writing career.

It was frustrating but I didn’t know what to do about it. I was in the publisher’s hands with nowhere to go. So my writing career, if you can call it that, fizzled out.

Fast forward to a moment in 2012 when a work colleague mentioned that he was having success self-publishing direct to Amazon. I looked into it and immediately realized that this was what I was waiting for – a chance to take control of my career.

When you think about it, self-publishing makes perfect sense for lots of writers. Let’s face it: no one will work harder to sell your books than you! And with the significantly higher royalties on offer, it’s possible to make a living with fewer sales.

In terms of advice, I would simply say that you have to accord the ‘publishing’ side of your work as much importance as the writing. Take the time to drill down into the various ads platforms available and understand in detail how to make them work for you.

Maintaining steady sales is something a lot of authors struggle with, but you’ve had incredible success with running FB ads, and even created a course teaching other authors how to run their own successful ad campaigns. With ways to market books constantly changing, can you explain a little about FB ads, Amazon Ads (AMS) and now BookBub ads? What do you see as the next big up-and-coming venue for advertising?

Facebook Ads are still the main driver of my revenue. The incredible targeting options mean that I can run very efficient campaigns where every dollar I spend is laser focused on readers interested in my genre. More exciting still is the advent of Amazon Paid Ads, now available to all of us. The platform is developing but the early signs for me are extremely encouraging and I have added a specific module on AMS ads to my Ads for Authors premium course.What’s next? Who knows! Using content to drive traffic to your list is an area authors could exploit more. Services like OutBrain can help you get the attention of potential readers in otherwise hard to reach places, such as newspaper websites.

BookBub Featured Deals are probably the next best thing. I’ve had many BookBub pushes and they always make a great return for me. However, you can’t rely on being selected every time you apply, and so paid ads are required to build a steady income. BookBub’s own paid ads platform is definitely an option, too, with lots of potential.

What inspired you to create a loyal readers community through the creation of a targeted mailing list? How often do you email your followers, and what content do you use to keep them engaged?

I was actually late to the mailing list party. When I first published my book on the Kindle, I simply wasn’t aware of the importance of gathering readers’ email addresses. I still wince when I think back to how many people I gave my book to without asking for their email address in return.

Today, my mailing list is central to my marketing activities. It serves many purposes including providing me with a crack advance reader team, which helps shape the book and helps me launch the books into the Amazon charts, getting the all-important algorithms working for me.

For more of this interview and others, please visit our blog!

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February 21, 2017

AUTHORNOMICS Interview with author and writing coach Lisa Cron

Lisa Cron is the author of Wired for Story and Story Genius, her video tutorial Writing Fundamentals: The Craft of Story can be found at Lynda.com, and her TEDx talk, Wired for Story, opened Furman University’s 2014 TEDx conference, Stories: The Common Thread of Our Humanity. She’s worked in publishing at W.W. Norton, as an agent at the Angela Rinaldi Literary Agency, as a producer on shows for Showtime and CourtTV, and as a story consultant for Warner Brothers and the William Morris Agency. Since 2006, she's been an instructor in the UCLA Extension Writers' Program, and is on the faculty of the School of Visual Arts MFA program on Visual Storytelling in New York City. A frequent speaker at writers conferences, schools and universities, her passion has always been story. She currently works as a story coach helping writers wrangle the story they're telling onto the page. She can be reached at: lisa@wiredforstory.com

Along with presenting for writers’ conferences and workshops, you also offer coaching for writers facing story problems with their books. What kind of work does a story coach do? What do you like best about that part of your job? What are some of the biggest challenges you face?

Coaching, working one-on-one with writers, is my primary job – and it’s what I love best.

What I do is very different from what most coaches do. For instance, I do not edit, nor do I talk about “writing” per se, or “story structure” – which is a misnomer, it’s really “plot” structure. One of the biggest pitfalls writers stumble into is mistaking the plot for the story, thus assuming that if they come up with a plot, then write it up in beautiful prose, they’ll have a story. Couldn’t be less true. A story is not about the plot, a story is about how the plot affects the protagonist – it’s the internal struggle that has us riveted. In other words, story is about a subjective internal change, not an objective external change. In fact, creating the plot comes second, because it is constructed to force the protagonist to make a long needed internal change – a change they walk onto page one already needing to make.

I work with writers at all stages, from writers who come in with only the first glimmer of an idea, to -- just as often – to writers on their umpteenth draft who know it isn’t working and can’t figure out why. What I do is leap in and point out what’s missing in terms of the underlying story logic -- it’s never about editing or polishing; it’s almost always (okay, always) about going back to the beginning, and helping the writer define and create that story-specific internal problem the protagonist will enter needing to deal with, before he or she can begin to re-envision the novel (or memoir) from page one forward.

There is nothing more engaging, for me, than talking story with writers -- that’s the part I like best. Talking – diving in – brainstorming. There’s an intimacy in it, a bond, a trust that goes both ways – there is nothing general, rote or dull about it. It’s not about “technique,” it’s about meaning, it’s about what matters to the writer, and how they want their story to change the world. It’s exhilarating. Watching writers suddenly crack their story wide open – watching them figure out what it’s actually about, helping them create the clay that will become that story, and then working week after week until it’s finished is what I live for.

The biggest challenge I face is that there isn’t nearly enough time in the day.

How did your background working as a literary agent and television producer help shape your career at a story coach?

Every job I’ve ever had has shaped my career as a story coach, because they’ve all revolved around evaluating story. From working at the Daily Cal in college at Berkeley, to a decade in publishing, to working as a story analyst at Warner Brothers and William Morris (back before it was WME). For me, even as a kid, it’s always been about story -- what grabs us, and why.

Over the course of my career I’ve read thousands of manuscripts and screenplays, and I had to not only say whether they worked or not, but why. I soon discovered that it’s way easier to know something isn’t working than to be able to pinpoint what the problem is, and harder still to zero in on how, exactly, to fix it. That took time.

What astounded me was that the reason why those failed manuscripts didn’t work had almost nothing to do with what I’d been taught matters: it wasn’t about the “writing” or the plot or even the “voice.” What made a story successful was one thing: Did what was happening affect the protagonist? Was there in an internal struggle that everything that happened in the plot stoked? Could I feel what the protagonist was feeling? Not “feel” simply in the literal she’s-hot,-she’s-cold,-she’s-heartbroken sense, but in the much deeper and far more specific sense of being inside her head as she struggled – scene by scene – with how to make sense of what’s happening, and what to do to best achieve her agenda. Which, of course, meant knowing what her agenda was and why it mattered to her. In other words, I had to be able to see the world through her specific, subjective lens.

Can you tell us a little about your nonfiction books, Story Genius and Wired for Story? What inspired you to write about story crafting? How did you go about researching the “brain science” component of the book?

You bet! Wired for Story decodes what is actually captivating us when we read (turns out the brain is far less picky about lyrical language than we’ve been lead to believe), and uses brain science to debunk many of the longstanding writing myths that have forever been derailing writers. It reveals what the brain is hardwired to hunt for in every story we hear, and then gives writers questions to ask of their stories to be sure they’re on track. Story Genius Story Genius takes all of that theory and makes it prescriptive, taking writers through the step-by-step process of creating a story, from the first glimmer of an idea to an evolving, multilayered cause-and-effect blueprint that transforms into a first draft with the authority, richness, and command of a fully realized sixth or seventh draft.

As for the brain science, the truth is I’ve always been interested in neuroscience – because neuroscientists and novelists have the same goal: finding out what makes people tick. I knew I was onto something in terms of what it is that hooks us when we’re reading. I thought it was a theory I’d stumbled onto. But when I began reading about the breakthroughs in neuroscience – which have been exponential in the past decade – it was a eureka moment for me. It wasn’t just a theory any more. Neuroscience, in conjunction with evolutionary biology, revealed how – and why -- we’re wired to process information via story.

Once I realized that, I devoured countless books on neuroscience, evolutionary biology, and cognitive psychology. The amazing thing about the world we live in is that I could read a book that quoted, say, a dissertation or a paper presented in some obscure scholarly journal and almost always, within minutes online, I was reading the original source material. It’s a far cry from back in the day when the only way to do research was to call the NY Public Library and ask questions. Plus, back then you were limited to three questions per phone call. And you had to wait while they pulled a book to find the answer.

Your Story Genius Course is a writing workshop you co-teach with fellow author and writing coach, Jennie Nash. How did the formation of this course come about? What do you hope members take away from the course?

This course is one of the things I’m most proud of – I love working with Jennie, and her book coaches at Author Accelerator. Jennie has been my book coach from the start, in fact, I think I was the first person she “officially” coached. We’ve worked together for about 8 years now. She’s a relentlessly tough, super savvy taskmaster! And so when my book Wired for Story was published, she wouldn’t let me celebrate for more than a minute. She said, “Okay, great, but how are you going to turn that into a teachable, prescriptive method for writers?” That’s how Story Genius was born.

But in developing Story Genius, I instantly ran into a snag: what good is talking about the steps to take to write a novel unless you have a step-by-step example to go with it? That’s when Jennie volunteered to develop her next novel – literally from scratch – on the pages of Story Genius. That’s exactly what we did. When it came time to turn the book into a hands-on workshop, that’s precisely what enabled Jennie and I to create a class that brings the lessons of the book to life in a personable, really human way.

We start with the book’s lessons, of course, but the workshop takes writers even deeper. You get detailed step-by-step “how-to” instructions, Jennie’s examples, and you get me and Jennie talking about the process, digging into how it works, and why. Jennie shares what she did, and where she got frustrated, and where and how her breakthroughs came. And so writers can really experience what the process is like, rather than just seeing the finished product after the fact.

The feedback we get from writers actually brings tears to my eyes. This workshop cracks open people’s understanding of story. It helps them figure out how to actually do it – not in general, but for their specific story -- because with the workshop you get personalized, customized, feedback every week on your Story Genius lessons from Author Accelerator coaches, who were trained in Story Genius by Jennie and me.

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A R C H I V E / H I G H L I G H T S

AUTHORNOMICS Interview with Therese Walsh
originally posted: January 3, 2017

Editorial director Therese Walsh co-founded Writer Unboxed with Kathleen Bolton in 2006. Her latest novel, THE MOON SISTERS (Crown, Random House), earned starred reviews from both Booklist and Library Journal, and was named one of the BEST BOOKS OF 2014 by Library Journal. Her debut, THE LAST WILL OF MOIRA LEAHY was named one of January Magazine’s Best Books of 2009, was nominated for a RITA award for Best First Book, and was a TARGET Breakout Book. She has a master’s degree in psychology.

Your site, Writer Unboxed, has been named by Writer’s Digest as one of the best websites for writers for almost ten years straight. What’s your secret?

Hmm, is there a secret? If there is, it’s this: Writer Unboxed provides a daily stream of essays written by art-of-fiction devotees from all walks, who push beyond obvious advice to access true wisdom.

What prompted you to create Writer Unboxed? The shift from physical to virtual reading and publishing has affected many writers and creative minds alike in these past couple of years. How have your main goals when starting Writer Unboxed changed in comparison to now?

Writer Unboxed was founded in January of 2006, before Facebook went public, to put it all into perspective. The shift to digital publishing wasn’t on our radar then. Kathleen Bolton and I set up the site simply to publish articles about the industry and story. We wanted a platform because we felt we had something to say. It grew in a grassroots way from there, as we conducted interviews, were introduced to more people, and realized the site would be best served with many voices present.

Keeping up with a site that has such a large following must come with ups and downs, whether it’s technical mishaps or man-made errors. What have you noticed is the most important aspect to prioritize? Content? SEO? Traffic? Readers?

I think there are three answers here, relating to foundational issues.

First, the site itself must be stable and able to sustain the spikes in traffic that come when a post goes viral. To that end, we now have our own server.

Second, the content itself has to provide value, so while each article isn’t vetted, the contributors (and our guests) are all on the same page re: the tone and goal of the site.

Third, we have a good system with our Twitter team and Facebook page in terms of getting the word out about each new essay.

When all of that is in place, our community shows up. These readers/writers return because they’ve learned that we will provide them with high-value content they can rely on to help them reach their writing goals.

Why is online writer support so important? What have you noticed works best for authors to gain online support, and what are a few things authors don’t spend enough time doing online?

Writers have found ways to ‘tribe up’ in the digital age, which feeds a social need, as we spend most of our time working in isolation. Now we can write for a while, take a coffee break, and connect with our writing group on Facebook or hop onto a site like Writer Unboxed to weigh in on that day’s essay.

It’s not just social, though. Because so many writers experience the same challenges, connecting can become an empowering experience by learning how others faced and coped with those same challenges.

In terms of what authors should do more of online, I’ll suggest something you may not expect: Utilize a social media blocking app (like ‘StayFocusd’ for Chrome), so you can attend to your daily writing goals without distraction. The ‘net, especially social media sites, can too easily become not only a crutch but an addiction, keeping writers from their work. Keep track of the amount of time you spend online vs. off, and take steps to control your ‘net habit if you consistently fail to reach your goals.

There is also a “secret” Writer Unboxed Facebook community. Can you tell us a little more about how this group works? How do you decide which members to include?

The WU Facebook group —over 5,000 members strong—is unusual in that it’s a moderated, promo-free space for writers focused on giving and receiving helpful, empowering information. Everyone is included who agrees to the terms, which are sent to all who inquire. Members aren’t allowed to post links l to their own sites, essays, interviews, books, etc… Because of that, the content that you do see, is distilled to the ‘best of the best.’

Many people struggle to maintain a website with fresh content to keep readers coming back for more. How do you keep coming up with new material for your site and keep readers coming back for more?

Having so many contributors (~50) and guests is key here. We each have a plethora of ideas, and so we never really run out of them. Knock on wood.

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AUTHORNOMICS Interview with bestselling author Simon Wood
originally posted: November 15, 2016

Simon Wood is a California transplant from England. He's a former competitive racecar driver, a licensed pilot, an endurance cyclist, an animal rescuer and an occasional PI. He shares his world with his American wife, Julie. Their lives are dominated by a longhaired dachshund and four cats. He's the Anthony Award winning author of Working Stiffs, Accidents Waiting to Happen, Paying the Piper, Terminated, Asking For Trouble, We All Fall Down and the Aidy Westlake series. His thriller The One That Got Away has been optioned for a movie adaptation. His latest book is Deceptive Practices. He also writes horror under the pen name of Simon Janus. Curious people can learn more at http://www.simonwood.net.

You’ve recently hit the mark for over one million books sold. Congratulations! How does it feel to know that you have reached that many readers? What advice do you have for up-and-coming authors trying to make in today’s publishing landscape?

It's a little scary and intimidating to have sold that many books. Rather than feeling relief from reaching this milestone, I actually feel quite a bit of pressure from achieving it. There are now a lot of people expecting my best and I have to ensure that I keep turning out good books that people keep coming back for time and time again. That's quite a responsibility. The advice I would give to any writer starting out is forget trying to sell 1 million books or trying to get on the New York Times bestseller list and focus on writing good books and building a connection with your readers. Success comes at selling one book at a time. If a writer can build a strong community around his or her work then the sales and accolades will follow. I think it's become very important in the publishing world where everything is on a virtual bookshelf that if a writer can build a 'clubhouse' mentality through social media, then half the battle is done. If there is a small army of followers who are willing to and wanting to shout from the rooftops about your books that's all it takes to hit the heights.

Your past is full of exciting pursuits, from racing single-seater cars to becoming a private investigator. How have your past experiences impacted your writing? Do you ever feel tempted to return to these professions?

I think my past has given me quite a lot of material that I can draw from directly and indirectly. Motor racing was a very character building experience as they say. The trials and tribulations of trying to keep a racecar team alive certainly made me a stronger person and I'm not sure I would've had the courage to pursue writing if I hadn't raced. Certainly my time in motor racing was very eye-opening. The off track dramas and intrigue will provide me with enough story ideas to last a decade. Similarly my experiences as a private investigator as well as an engineer in the oil industry conjured up more than a few potential storylines for books. Not only that but these jobs were very much always jobs under pressure because there were always outside influences creating a lot of stress and stress is something that characters in a thriller are always dealing with. Would I go back to any my professions? Yes, I would go back to racing at the drop of a hat...as long as someone is running the team and providing the car. I'm not sure I have the willpower or the money to be an owner/driver again. I would certainly go back to being a PI if I thought the assignment would lead to a new book. My annoying trait is that I am very curious about people and situations, so I am always more than happy to roll my sleeves up and get involved if it might lead to a new book idea. :-)

As a person with dyslexia, what are some of the challenges you face as an author, and what has helped you sort through those challenges?

When I started out writing, I essentially had to start from scratch. I really didn't understand how composition worked. I had my wife read books on writing to me. I had to develop my own methods when it came to writing fiction. I use voice recognition software and I have modified Microsoft Word to AutoCorrect my spelling and grammar. My wife is my eyes. She reads everything and in most cases aloud in order for me to edit my books. Like any impediment, you develop your workarounds.

You admitted to channeling your love of racing into the character of Aidy Westlake. What do you think readers find so appealing about this character? Who are some of your favorite characters that you have created?

I'm not sure what the reader will find appealing about Aidy. For me, I wanted people to experience a world and lifestyle they wouldn't see or understand. Also I wanted to highlight Aidy's young age. Drivers embark on a very adult career as teenagers. Aidy is making some very adult decisions before he's even 21 years old, so you have someone wise and immature at the same time, which makes for an interesting character at times. I think Aidy's grandfather and his relationship with Aidy is my favorite thing about the Westlake books. I wasn't quite sure who Steve Westlake was going to be to Aidy, but during revisions, his character really came out and that's something really endearing between the two people.

Your books have been translated into many different languages, including four in German. Do you notice a difference in your book’s reception in foreign markets?

Around the world, I think people are more alike than they are unalike. People tend to like the books for the same reasons as everybody else does. I think it's interesting when you see some national lines being drawn. I think one German trade review remarked that the storyline was something uniquely American and could only happen in America and never in Germany, which I found quite interesting. I do find that an American audience is quite moralistic in some ways and if character crosses a perceived boundary then it's a black mark against that character whereas I don't see that aspect remarked upon by a British audience per se. I do like to think I write stories with a universal theme which everyone can relate to in some way.

In addition to writing, you also lead various workshops around the country. Can you tell us a little more about what your workshops offer and who would benefit from taking them?

I've written quite a few pieces for Writers Digest over the years and that's led to me presenting seminars and workshops on a variety of topics. I tend to approach writing with an engineer's mind in that I have to understand it by disassembling and reassembling the component parts of what makes a story. This tends to make my advice quite practical. So I've developed a number of workshops on all manner of topics from plotting and outlining to the nuts and bolts of suspense writing. Also my writing career isn't like most other writers. I came up through the small presses then to mainstream publishing. I turned to self-publishing after my primary publisher went bust during the financial crisis. I had two options — find a new career or start over. I developed a marketing plan, invested in advertising, re-edited the books and built a social media presence. Within nine months, I'd sold nearly 250,000 e-books and my phone started ringing. Publishers were inquiring about available rights. From there I developed a hybrid approach working with publishers as well as self-publishing titles of my own. All this has made me a very rounded writer and hopefully a savvy one too. With all the sales success over the last five or six years, people became interested in how I went about it all so I developed a workshop called the 21st Century Author, which goes into all the aspects of being a modern day writer whether you are published by a major publisher or whether you're doing it all yourself. It looks at how to build an audience and keep them while keeping an eye on the ever-changing publishing landscape.

You also write horror under the name Simon Janus. How did this pen name emerge? Do you plan to write more under this name? Have you found having two writing identities beneficial?

A few years ago, I was at a crossroads. Though I'd started out writing horror fiction, my novels were mainstream thrillers. This led to a little bit of confusion as to what kind of writer I was. In horror circles, people saw me as that thriller writer, and in mystery circles, people saw me as that horror writer. The upshot was readers didn't know what to expect from me. That's never a good situation. Because I already had a couple of thriller novels out I thought it was better to develop a pen name for my horror work. It helps my readers determine what it is they're getting and avoid disappointment. I do plan to write more horror novels under my pen name but my thriller identity keeps getting in the way.

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A B O U T   T H E   A U T H O R

ANDREA HURST, President of Andrea Hurst & Associates
www.facebook.com/pages/Andrea-Hurst-and-Associates/174459902871
Andrea works with both bestselling and emerging new authors to help polish their work, obtain publication, increase sales, and build their author brand.
She brings over 25 years experience. She is a developmental editor for publishers and authors, a bestselling Amazon author, an instructor for the MFA creative writing program at the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts, and a webinar presenter for Writers’ Digest. As a literary agent, she selectively represents high profile adult nonfiction and well-crafted fiction. Her clients and their books have appeared on the Oprah Show, Ellen DeGeneres Show, Good Morning America, National Geographic network, and in the NY Times.

For serious writers and professionals in need of assistance polishing, developing, and evaluating their book for public