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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
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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.
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.

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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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January 3, 2017

AUTHORNOMICS Interview with Therese Walsh

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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November 15, 2016

AUTHORNOMICS Interview with bestselling author Simon Wood

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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October 13, 2016

AUTHORNOMICS Interview with bestselling author Dete Meserve

Dete Meserve is an award-winning, bestselling author who is searching for Good. Like Kate Bradley in the novels Good Sam and Perfectly Good Crime, Meserve searches for people who are doing extraordinary good for others. While most mysteries focus on finding the killer or kidnapper, Meserve's novels focus our attention on finding the helpers, the rescuers, and the people who bring light and hope into the world with their selfless acts of kindness. When she's not writing, she is a film and television producer in Los Angeles and partner of Wind Dancer Films. Meserve lives in Los Angeles with her husband and three children—and a very good cat that rules them all.

As an author, creator and producer of movies and television shows, you must be pretty busy! How do you prioritize your writing time? Do you have a set amount of words/pages per day that you try to achieve?

Producing television and film and running a company does keep me very busy. Add two kids at home to the mix, and there aren’t many hours in the day for writing! Sometimes people say to me, “I’d really like to write, if only I had time.” But I’m living proof that if you really want to write, you can and will find the time.

Most of my writing is done at night after my youngest has gone to bed or early in the morning before work, but sometimes other obligations—reading production scripts, for example—crowd out that time. I also aim to nab a few hours on weekends when my daughter is in ballet or gymnastics, but inevitably someone arrives at the door or a family member needs my attention. Lately, I’ve found I have to schedule/announce my writing time and work behind a closed door because interruptions—even small ones—are the killer of creativity and productivity.

I don’t set page goals for my writing sessions but instead approach each writing session with 2-3 things I want to accomplish. It might be polishing up dialogue or reworking the scene descriptions, which are sometimes even more important than page counts. Once I get started writing, I never want to stop!

What inspired you to write your first novel Good Sam? How did the theme emerge in your life and translate into the book?

For most mysteries, we have to get inside the head of the killer or kidnapper or some person doing bad things in order to solve the mystery. But as a reader and viewer, I was tired of having to “think like a killer” in order to enjoy the story—why do I want to waste time thinking about all the tragic ways people can plan out and destroy other people’s lives?

That’s what inspired me to write Good Sam, a mystery where we are searching for someone doing extraordinary good. I’d been giving a lot of thought to the idea that if our entertainment and news focused as much attention on people doing good as they do on those doing violent, hateful acts, we might inspire everyone to think differently about their world and their ability to have a hand in making it a better place.

Good Sam explores the idea of one individual making a positive difference. What do you hope your readers take away from this idea?

One of the main things I hope readers take away is a sense of hope, especially in these troubling times. Although the media rivets our attention on the latest disaster or violent acts, those stories don’t represent all or even most of what’s going on in the world. There are people doing extraordinary good for others every day, quietly and often anonymously, without expectation of reward or notoriety.

Good Sam is in development as a film that will premiere on the Hallmark channel in 2017. How has the process of turning book to film been for you? How much influence do you have over the production of the film?

I’m just reading the first draft of the screenplay this week and it’s exciting to see the story and characters live in another medium. Writer Teena Booth has a big job taking a story written with the “unlimited budget of the imagination” into an 88 minute screenplay which can be produced for a reasonable budget. As a producer, I am intimately involved in the production and I’m really enjoying the experience of translating this story to screen.

You recently released your second book, Perfectly Good Crime this summer, another mystery about the search for good in the world. What has been the response to this novel? Do you plan future novels with this theme?

Because the news media and entertainment are obsessed with telling crime stories—both real and fictional—I asked myself: what if someone used a crime of major proportions to bring attention to the plight of the poor, the disabled, and the needy? That’s the underlying question in Perfectly Good Crime, the follow up to Good Sam.

When the estates of the 100 wealthiest Americans are targeted in a series of sophisticated, high tech heists, Los Angeles TV news reporter Kate Bradley must venture inside the world of the super rich to investigate the biggest story of the year.

As the heists escalate, Kate’s search is thwarted when the Los Angeles police detective she’s been working with mysteriously disappears, her senator father demands that she stop reporting on the heists, and the billionaire victims refuse to talk to the media. Kate uncovers clues that those behind the robberies have shocking, yet uplifting, motives–it just may be a perfectly good crime that brings about powerful change.

The response to the novel has really surprised me. Parade, Sunset Magazine, Buzzfeed, USA Today and others featured it and it got strong reviews from top reviewers. And what surprised me is that people love it even though it’s a mystery without a single dead body, killer, or a kidnapper. These are the mainstays of mystery fiction yet readers write to say that they were turning pages to find out the identity of the “Robin Hood” behind the heists and why he/she was doing it. And they really enjoy how this perfectly good crime inspires others to help those who need it most.

As a follow-up, I’m working with award-winning journalist Rachel Greco on a non-fiction book featuring the stories of 25 ordinary people who are doing extraordinary good in the world. Some stories are poignant, others are heartwarming, and others are lighthearted and fun. We think this will be an uplifting, inspiring book which readers will want to gift to others, that book clubs and church/synagogue groups will want to discuss, and that even kids and schools can use as powerful real-life examples of compassion and making a difference in the lives of others.

I’m also working on a follow-up to Good Sam and Perfectly Good Crime, following Kate Bradley and Eric Hayes as they both take a new and important step in their lives and another twist on the search for Good.

How did you make your choice for the publication of your book? Do you work with a staff for editorial and marketing for you books?

For Good Sam, I submitted the manuscript to a few agents and a few small publishers. The agents passed but two publishers made proposals. When I looked at the proposals and researched what traditional publishers might offer, it just didn’t make any business sense to go the traditional route. Why would I give up the lion’s share of the royalties and the creative and business control of the property in exchange for a relatively small sum from the publisher and no guarantee of a specific marketing or promotional spend? And would their editing and book design process really be better than what I could hire on my own? For me, the answer is no. I began choosing my own editors and book designers—all of whom had extensive experience working for traditional publishers and highly regarded authors—and working directly with Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes, etc. to release the ebook, paperback, and audiobook. That means I control how the book is positioned, how it’s marketed, what it looks like, how it’s priced—and I don’t have to seek permission or cajole a publisher to tweak or change any of those elements. That freedom is priceless and it’s paid off. I’m close to selling 90,000 copies of Good Sam and 2 ½ years after its publication, the response to the novel is greater than ever.

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

AUTHORNOMICS Interview with bestselling author Bette Lee Crosby
originally posted: September 2, 2016

Bette Lee Crosby’s work was first recognized in 2006 when she received an NLAPW Award for an unpublished manuscript. Since that time, she has gone on to win numerous other awards, including six Royal Palm Literary Awards, five FPA President’s Book Award Medals, three Reviewer’s Choice Awards and two Indie Discovery Finalist Awards. Spare Change, Book One in the Wyattsville Series has been featured on the USA Today Bestseller List three times, is a Barnes & Noble #1 Bestseller, and an Amazon #1 Bestselling Historical Mystery. Baby Girl the fourth novel in her Memory House Series became a bestseller before it was actually released.

As a USA Today bestselling author, what is your number one tip to staying motivated as an author?

Write what you truly love to write; you will enjoy working on it and your love of the work will shine through to your readers. This can be a fickle business with one theme or sub-genre suddenly popular and then just as suddenly not. Authors can easily fall into the trap of pursuing the newest, latest, greatest trend; but the thing is trends come and go. Well-written fiction that carries a piece of your heart will outlast the trends plus both you and your followers will love what you’ve written.

You have published eleven books since 2011. Are there any tricks to being so efficient with your writing?

No easy tricks, I wish there were. I write almost every day but I don’t go by word count. Some days I can write three or four thousand words, other days I am lucky to do 500. I try to measure each day’s work by the quality of the words rather than the quantity. On days when the magic isn’t happening, I rewrite and rewrite until I get the particular scene or passage so smooth I can read it aloud and have it roll right off of my tongue.

Did you have any favorite books or authors in the past that inspired you to write your own books?

As a kid I loved Grimm’s Fairy Tales. I started out as an artist and wrote for business marketing throughout the earlier years of my career. I can’t say it was one specific author who inspired me to turn to fiction; it was more an issue of simply doing what I loved. I am a very avid reader and believe I learn something from every book I read.

You mention that your mother was a wonderful storyteller, and that you use her voice in much of your writing. Would you say that she has impacted your writing more than anyone?

Yes, definitely. My mom grew up in a coal-mining town in the hills of West Virginia and did not have the advantage of a higher education, yet she was one of the wisest and most resourceful people I have ever known. She never wrote stories, she told them—but she told them in a way that made each one seem magical. In a whispery voice, she could make you believe anything was not only possible, but also about to happen. That to me is storytelling.

Can you tell us a bit about your writing process? What environment do you find most comfortable to write in?

First the writing process—Each evening when I stop writing, I start thinking of what I will write the next day. Not the words, just the feelings and thoughts of the characters. In the morning I walk about five miles and the whole while I am imagining the scenes as they will be written. Once I am back home, I shower, have breakfast and go to work. I go into my office and by then I am ready to write.

My office is where I do almost all of my writing. This is my space. I am surrounded by lots of lovely little treasures—books, teddy bears, souvenirs, pictures, plushy throw pillows and the like, so this is where I am happiest. My computer is a MacBook Air, so on occasion I will unplug it and move to the lanai for a few hours.

Is there a certain type of scene for you that is more difficult to write than others? Do you have any favorites?

Yes, for me intimate romance scenes are the most difficult. In most of my books such scenes require a true outpouring of emotion and it is very easy to step over the line and let your characters say things that sound trite in such a situation.

Oddly enough, it is easier to write scenes of anger than those of love. In love scenes every single word should be sincere and meaningful, whereas when a person is angry they can explode into all kinds of sputtering and stammering hammered-together phrases.

Do you read your own reviews, the good and the bad? Do you have any advice for other writers on how to deal with the bad?

Yes, I always read reviews. While I have been fortunate in getting more than my share of glowing reviews, there are also a few bad ones that pop up now and then. Some I recognize as meaningless—for example, I have a new book coming out September 14, titled Silver Threads. It is book 5 in the Memory House Series so in mid-July we put the book up for pre-order with just the cover and a book description. A week later I handed the manuscript off to my editor. Before I got the manuscript back, before the earliest beta readers even saw it, when there was no way possible an outsider could have seen it, a one-star review popped up on Goodreads. Reviews like this you just have to accept that they are bogus and move past them.

However, there are other times when I have learned from reviews that are less than favorable. For example—On Memory House, the story ended with a budding romance. The book averaged a 4.5 rating and most of the reviews were excellent, but there were some—not a lot, but enough to make me take notice—who said the ending was too abrupt. I thought about this for a while and in the long run decided to go back in and expand on what happened to those budding young lovers. That’s a case of learning from your reviewers.

What is the best writing advice you can give to someone just starting out?

Create characters that you feel for, characters people will actually care about. They don’t have to be perfect people, a few flaws make them more human. But make sure that you know each and every character, both the good and the bad. Knowing your character doesn’t mean just the color of their hair and eyes, it means knowing what is inside their heart and why they feel as they do. You don’t have to explain all of that to your reader, but if you honestly know your characters then when you write a scene that is out of character for that person, you’ll know it and your story will have believability.

For more of this interview and others, please visit our blog at http://andreahurst.com/blog/

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AUTHORNOMICS Interview with author Ashley Farley
originally posted: August 10, 2016

Ashley Farley writes books about women for women. Her characters are mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives facing real-life issues. Her goal is to keep you turning the pages until the wee hours of the morning. If her story stays with you long after you've read the last word, then she's done her job. After her brother died in 1999 of an accidental overdose, she turned to writing as a way of releasing her pent-up emotions. She wrote SAVING BEN in honor of Neal, the boy she worshipped, the man she could not save. Ashley is a wife and mother of two college-aged children. She grew up in the salty marshes of South Carolina, but now lives in Richmond, Virginia, a city she loves for its history and traditions. Ashley loves to hear from her readers.
Feel free to visit her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ashleywfarley or twitter.com/ashleywfarley
Amazon author page http://amzn.to/2aKfnHo
Author website http://www.ashleyfarley.net

As a bestselling author, how do you keep your readers “turning pages until the wee hours of the morning”? What are some of your strategies for maintaining suspense in your books?

I learned this lesson a long time ago. If I’m bored writing a scene or chapter, my readers will be bored reading it. When I start surfing the Internet for a new pair of shoes, it’s time to either throw out the chapter or mix things up a bit. Writing from multiple characters’ viewpoints creates opportunity for more plot points. Cliffhangers at the end of a chapter are a great way to keep a reader engaged. If the reader starts a new chapter, chances are she will finish it.

What is your writing process? Do you write every day?

When I am in first draft mode, my goal is to write a chapter every day. For subsequent drafts, I set goals that enable me to meet my publishing deadlines. So yes, I write every day.

When you write, are you more of a pre-planner or do you just let yourself write and mold the story as you go along?

A little of both. I swim laps every morning. During that time, I plan scenes, paragraphs, and sentences. When I sit down at my computer later, the words flow much easier. When I start a project, I usually have a general plot in mind. But I count on my characters to show me the way.

What keeps you motivated?

My readers! I love hearing from them. Knowing I have touched their lives motivates me to give them more.

Your latest novel, Lowcounty Stranger, was just released this month. What inspired you to write this continuation of the Sweeney sisters’ story?

I took a break from the Sweeney sisters to write Merry Mary and Breaking the Story. I felt a connection with Scottie Darden and her brother, Will, but it was more from the parent/child perspective. I relate to the Sweeney sisters more because they are the same age as me, and each exhibits a different facet of my personality.

Do you think you’ll write more featuring the Sweeney sisters? How did your writing experience alter in comparison to your first novel about them?

Yes! Boots and Bedlam, a Sweeney Sisters holiday novella, is scheduled for release on October 18. And I’m deep in the first draft of the untitled fourth sequel. Writing about the sisters was much easier the second time because I already knew the characters so well. I understood their likes and dislikes. Their talents and their flaws. But I struggled with the backstory. There’s a fine line between bringing the reader to speed and giving away too much. You want to present a stand-alone book for new readers, but you don’t want to spoil it if they decide to go back and read the first novel.

You introduce new character, Annie Dawn, in Lowcounty Stranger. What inspired you to incorporate her into the Sweeney sisters’ world?

I had unfinished business with all three sisters that I wanted to address. Hence the need for a sequel. Annie Dawn’s plot line tied everything together. I really Annie’s character. She’s resourceful and street smart, yet naïve in certain ways. She’s kind and considerate and touches all their lives. Yes, you will see much more of Annie Dawn in the books ahead.

You’ve mentioned that your brother’s death led you to use your writing talents to reach others, and your novel Saving Ben is a direct result of that. What do you hope readers will take away from this novel in particular?

I want others to know they’re not alone in struggling with addiction, mental illness, bullying, and eating disorders. Okay, so maybe there are a lot of themes for one novel. But hey, it will hold your attention until the dramatic conclusion. An interesting note on the ending, by the way. I hadn’t planned the startling conclusion. When I arrived at the scene, I let my characters show me the way. I love it when they take control.

Have you been able to find some peace through your endeavors? How can others make a difference like you?

Very much so. Writing Saving Ben was therapy for coping with my grief over my brother’s death. My writing career in general is about me having a life outside of my family. I’m devoted to my children and husband, but having something that belongs only to me makes me feel complete. People make differences in many ways. After my brother died, I envisioned myself speaking to groups of young people on the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse. I quickly learned that I’m not a public speaker. Words come much easier for me when I’m putting them on paper. I encourage readers to identify their passion. Whatever it is that drives your emotions, find a way to express it to others. No one’s effort is insignificant.

For more of this interview and others, please visit our blog at http://andreahurst.com/blog/

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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