Where Writers And Authors Meet Interviews:
Wendy Miller was our Featured Spotlight author last week and vistors were encouraged to ask Wendy some of their own questions! Here is a link to that Spotlight! Feel free to ask more questions, and we might just be able to get Wendy back for a follow up interview!
1. So Wendy, tonight we had meatloaf with taco seasoning in it, an idea planted in my head, as I recall, by you. The kids loved it! So I’m wondering, have you or would you ever do a cookbook?(Asked by: Jim Henry)
I’m glad you and the kids enjoyed the meatloaf! Generally speaking, I write romantic suspense, so a cookbook wasn’t something I ever really gave much thought to. But I do love to cook and bake, and I often play with the recipes of others and put my own little “tweak” on them, so a cookbook isn’t entirely out of the question, I suppose. I’ve done a volume of poetry, so why not a cookbook? Thanks for the idea! I’ll give you a special thanks in the acknowledgments if I do it!
2. Do your sons beta-read any of your work or do they contribute in any way?(Asked by: Victoria Adams)
My sons do not beta-read my work at this point. They are only 12 and 9, and aside from my feeling that some of what I write is a little too mature for them, they don’t have much interest in romantic suspense at this point. They tend to be more into sci fi, kids mysteries and the like. Although my youngest will come sit beside me and start reading what’s on my screen sometimes. Does that count?
They do contribute, in a sense, however. Many of my books include children and their parents, and if I hadn’t had my sons, I think I would have found it harder to include a parent’s terror, heartbreak, confusion or anger in the various situations I put them in. I also find that having gone through various stages with my sons make it easier for me to write realistic children who actually act their age – I’ve never forgotten reading a book (which I won’t name here), in which a 3 year old spoke like a grown adult. It drove me insane, because it was just so ridiculous.
3. For authors, promoting your work is a never ending task. What one promotion “do” would you suggest to other authors trying to get their work noticed? (Kai Strand: www.kaistrand.com)
Promotion is definitely never ending. I’m not sure I could narrow it down to just one “do.” I use a combo of Facebook, Twitter, my own website, and getting out there in the real world to promote.
I guess, if I had to try to give just one, it would be: Get over yourself. I always tended to be a very shy, somewhat modest person. I worried about sounding like I was bragging or forcing myself and my books on someone, but I figured out pretty quickly that you’ll never make any sales if you don’t do a little bragging. So, now I get out there and I brag. I just dropped off a package of my books at the post office on Friday to go to my grandmother, and I told the man behind the counter all about the fact that these were my books, and their titles, where to find them, what they were about, etc. I don’t know that he’ll go buy them, but maybe he’ll tell someone else about how he met a published author in our tiny town’s post office (seriously, we have 2 stop lights! It’s small!), and they’ll get my name and go buy them. Who knows? But if I hadn’t said anything, then it definitely wouldn’t happen.
4. Hey Wendy, I have to applaud you for raising two sons alone, working full time and homeschooling to boot. You say your books are in your imagination, does your imagination draw from life experiences, movies, books, etc? I also like CSI and Criminal Minds.(Asked by: Jenny)
Thank you! I have a very vivid imagination. I was the kid that always had a ton of imaginary friends, or who made the creak in the stairs into the axe murderer that was going to chop up my whole family (boy, I bet my parents loved that!). My imagination draws from pretty much anywhere and everywhere. Life experience often comes into play, if for nothing else than remembering the feelings that go with a break up or the fear I felt when I was sitting in a broken down vehicle on the side of a deserted road at 2 a.m.
Movies, books, even articles can give me ideas. In fact, I got the idea for the book I’m currently working on from an article I read about a 1940s startlet that went missing and the case has never been solved. I started playing around with the “what if”’s, wondering why she might have gone missing, where she might have gone, what might have happened, etc. I decided to run with it and I’m having so much fun and learning so much about the 1940s, too!
TV shows – those are awesome, too. I love NCIS, Criminal Minds, Elementary, Sons of Anarchy and Justified, just to name a few. I find them to be helpful in my writing, as well as fun to watch. I try to figure out the who, what, where, how, or why before they give it to us, and I also find that it reminds me that even the tiniest, seemingly insignificant detail can be the one that helps solve the mystery/crime. It helps me to remember to pay attention to those details, not only to make sure I include them, but also to make sure I don’t include them too soon or too obviously and give away the whole thing before page 5.
5. Hi Wendy! I think suspense scenes are the toughest to write. How do you go about doing it? Do you put yourself in the main character’s mind-set? Are you cinematically inclined? Nightmares? I wanna’ know! (Asked by: Stuart West)
Hi Stuart! That’s funny, because I often find them to be the easiest! I read all different kinds of books, but most often I read romance, so when I first started writing, I wrote straight romance. And, I have to confess: they sucked! It wasn’t until I started including some suspense that people who read what I wrote really felt that I was writing something worth reading – not to mention, that I felt it was worth reading.
As for how I go about it: I do tend to be a bit cinematically inclined, definitely. I do see my books playing across my mind like a movie on the big screen. In fact, come to think of it, I see the books I read that way, as well. Seeing it play out like that helps me to get all the details of the setting, to see who does what to whom, people watching the action take place, etc. But I also try to put myself in the character’s mind, so I can get the emotions, too. I mean, let’s be honest – how worried are you going to be about a kidnap victim when all you read is that she’s lying in a trunk staring at the lid? But once you throw in her panic, her terror, the tears she’s fighting back as she kicks at the trunk lid and tries to find the taillights so she can kick them out and try to draw attention, now you start to worry and feel for her.
And nightmares? They sometimes play a role, as well. I’ve had instances where I was stuck in a scene, and I would have a dream that night which would help me figure out how to keep going, or where I’d gone wrong to get myself stuck, so I could fix it. I’ve also had nightmares that give me ideas. In fact, I’ve got a note sitting around somewhere right now from a nightmare that I woke up thinking that it would make an excellent scene in a book. I just haven’t found the book it goes in yet.
6. What is THE BEST marketing strategy for fiction? I’ve heard so much, and it’s very confusing. I’m a mother with little left-over time, too, so where would you spend all your time? Thanks! (Asked by: Maria Miller)
Wow, this is a tough one. As a single mom that homeschools in addition to writing, I definitely understand have little time for anything else. Since I haven’t started suddenly selling millions of books, I don’t know that I’ve hit on “the best” marketing strategy yet myself.
You have to intrigue your potential reader, especially with fiction. In non-fiction, you could be somewhat sure that at some point, someone will be looking for facts that you’d provide, so you could just focus on getting the word out that you have the knowledge to provide those facts. Fiction isn’t about facts, though (although if you get a fact wrong, readers notice!), so you have to find a way to catch their attention and make them think, “Hm, I want to know what happens.”
What I’ve been doing lately is using pre-set tweets that go out at pre-determined times. I use a site called Bookbuzzr.com, and they have an option to set up tweets. Mine are set for each of my three books (Ripped Away came out April 2nd), to send out a tweet once a day. I have tweets such as “When things go from bad to worse, Meadow and Stetson don’t know if they can trust the police to help them” (for The Secrets He Kept), or “Lacey was devastated by her mother’s secret – but will she repeat her mother’s mistakes?” (for Tangled Deceit).
I also find that updating my website is a pretty effective way of keeping on top of things. I can take 15-60 minutes to put something up on the site, then leverage Facebook and Twitter to draw people to it. If they share/retweet, then they’re helping me out with no more effort on my part, and it only takes me seconds to share or tweet the link to the site.
7. What advice would you give to other authors who are looking into self publishing? (Virginia Jennings: www.virginialorijennings.com)
Be even more particular about what you publish. Although there doesn’t seem to be quite the stigma associated with self publishing as there once was, it does still seem as though people hold you to a higher standard because you self publish. Well, higher standard might not be quite right – I think it’s the same standard as any other writer, but they don’t seem to cut you the same slack as they might a traditionally published author. You read a Stephen King novel, or a Lisa Jackson, and find a typo, most people are like, “oh, no biggie.” and they move on. But when they find that in your self published book, they’re on Amazon going, “Oh my gosh, she didn’t bother to check her spelling, and I found this, that and the other wrong in it! It was horrible, awful!”
But it’s not just the little things like typos. It’s also making sure that what you publish is the absolute best it can be. A traditionally published book doesn’t get released until it’s been written, edited, changed, edited, changed, edited and polished to “perfection.” Some self published books I’ve read were clearly an amateur’s first attempt – and by first attempt, I mean the first draft, with no editing, corrections or even a read through. It’s not a race. Take the time to write the best book you can write, edit it more than once, ask others to read it and edit it. Make sure there’s no plot holes, that you tie up everything that should be tied up, and that you really feel this is a complete book before you publish it.
Getting a book out there quickly doesn’t mean anything if all you get is bad reviews because it’s not your best work.
8. Tell us about your books (Virginia Jennings: www.virginialorijennings.com)
I write romantic suspense. My first published novel, Tangled Deceit, was actually a romance novel that I wrote when my oldest son was a baby (and he’s now 12!). I set it aside after getting many rejections from publishers, but when I started writing again, I remembered it. I pulled it out and had to make some revisions (of course! Things have changed a lot in 12 years!), and published it. But I found, as I was reading it, that it didn’t really resonate with me any more the way it used to. I liked it, but I felt like I was missing something.
When I threw suspense in, that’s when I really found my niche. My next two books, The Secrets He Kept and Ripped Away (which was released April 2nd!), are romantic suspense all the way. I found that once I start locking people up, or kidnapping them, killing them, etc., that’s when I write my best work.
The Secrets He Kept was actually an idea that came to me after reading 50 Shades of Grey. Yes, I really read that. But the thing that I noticed, in that and in Tiffany Reisz’s Original Sinners series, was that one of the core tenets of the BDSM lifetstyle is consent. Every bit of it, no matter how demeaning or controlling it may seem, is done with the consent of both partners. And when I was done, I started thinking, what if someone wanted to live out that lifestyle – but without consent? What could happen? Where could that go? And I started writing, and within in a month, I had my first draft done.
Ripped Away was actually my novel for NaNoWriMo last November. I actually don’t know for sure where I came up with the idea, especially as there were several major plot points that kept changing on me right up until the end. The basic premise of the store is a female police detective who is dating a family law lawyer, and his clients’ children are suddenly being kidnapped. When she tries to help prove he’s innocent, she starts finding things that seem to point the other way. She has an irritating ex-husband, too, who won’t take no for an answer, so she’s dealing with her job, her boyfriend and this ex who just won’t go away.
9. Tell us about your writing zone (Virginia Jennings: www.virginialorijennings.com)
Hm. I don’t really have one. I use a laptop, which gives me the freedom to write anywhere, anytime. Much of it is done in a recliner in my living room. But I also take it on my back porch while my kids play, and sometimes to bed at night for a couple of hours. I’ve even taken it to the park on occasion, although that tends to be rare because I’m a little paranoid that it might get stolen or lost (I guess spending so much time writing about bad people does have it’s downside!).
I use Scrivener to do my writing, which makes it easy to be anywhere. I don’t need to keep a bunch of notebooks, pens, sticky notes, etc., available, because it has options for all my research, notes, and anything else I might need. It makes it easy to just grab the laptop and go, and it keeps all my research and notes together, which is really helpful, because I’m probably the most disorganized person you’ll ever meet. I know that sounds ridiculous, because I also homeschool, but it’s true. But in my defense, I’m one of those people that is completely disorganized, but can also tell you exactly where something is. I just never remember to grab that something when I actually need it.
10. What songs are on your playlist? (Virginia Jennings:www.virginialorijennings.com )
My playlist is seriously eclectic and seems to become more so the older I get. I love classic rock, everything from Led Zepplin to AC/DC. Def Leopard, Foreigner, Journey, Poison, Motley Crue, Queen – it’s all on there. And I love country, as well. You’ll find Reba, Carrie, Taylor, Gloriana, Kenny, and Lady Antebellum, among others.
There’s also Ben E. King (Stand By Me is my absolute favorite song), Beaver Brown, The Pretenders, .38 Special.
But I’ve also got stuff like Kelly Clarkson Jessie J, Adele, Bruno Mars, Maroon 5, and Paul Van Dyk in there, too. I love Adele’s Rolling in the Deep when I’m really looking to dig into some deep emotion in a scene. There’s also some jazz, and really old stuff like Tommy and the Shondells and Etta James.
And I shouldn’t admit this, but there’s also a bunch of New Kids On the Block – old and new. There’s something about their music that I just can’t resist – and if anyone out there can hook me up with Jordan Knight, I’ll dedicate every one of my future novels to you.
From the Admin: Thank you Wendy, for sharing a little about you and your books with us! Your responses really made me laugh!
You can find Wendy‘s books on Amazon Here: