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Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Conquering Your Writing Fears: Author Interview with Jane Delaney

What made you decide to write your fantasy novel? 
I've always been drawn to the fantasy genre, even when I was a very young girl. I love exploring different worlds and peoples and customs and letting my imagination take flight. I had a lot of tragedy in my life as a child, and fantasy books were the perfect refuge: evil vanquished and love and justice triumphs in the end.

For many years I was afraid to write. Afraid of failure. Afraid of ridicule. Afraid no one would like it. Afraid that even after hundreds of hours of work in the end my manuscript would be rejected, and all that time would be wasted. Then, one day I sort of had an epiphany, right around the time an old college friend of mine was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. I realized that when my life comes to an end, I would regret never giving writing a go, and so out of that epiphany, Theorie of the Storm was born.

How long did it take you to write the first book?
A long time. About 18 months, but during that time I had months where I didn't write hardly anything at all, and many of those early months were spent learning as much about the craft as possible. 

How many rewrites did you do on it? 
Honestly, I don't even know. If I had to guess I would say about six. I started off as a "pantser," someone who just sort of wings it as they go, with a very loose idea of the characters I wanted to create and the direction of the story I wanted to tell.

I am sure for many writers this method works well, but for me? It was a disaster. The story kept changing, evolving, and my characters and their motives became increasingly complex. I kept having to go back and rewrite earlier chapters to fit the changing narrative, which made the whole process three times as long.

I am currently working on a very detailed outline for my sequel, Visions of the Storm, along with fully fleshed character sketches. Because of this, I expect my writing process to be much smoother, with fewer bumps in the road. At least, that is what I am telling myself.

Who helped you with the editing?
I hired a freelance editor I found through a writer's group. To be honest, I wish I had shopped around a bit more. But my husband, and my little sister, who is 16 years my junior, helped with early critiques. This really made me see the book through a potential reader's eyes and make changes accordingly. For Visions of the Storm, I will be asking for unbiased Beta reader volunteers and looking for an editor with a bit more experience. 

Could you give me a short synopsis on the first novel, for my readers?
This is a hard one without giving anything away! My book has lots of turns and twists! If there is one thing I hate, it's a boring and predictable read. But basically, the story follows three main characters. The first is Theorie, an acolyte mage whose magic is stunted. The law states she has to take a test called "the trials" by her 19th birthday in order to determine her abilities. If she passes, she'll be granted the title of magi, a rank that brings great wealth and the privilege of making your own choices. But those that fail become the property of the High Council, who determine where and in what capacity you'll work.

In other words, acolytes who fail the trials usually get shipped off to fight in far-off wars or end up with not-so-glamorous public works positions. Theorie is somewhat spoiled and rebellious and resents this dilemma. She longs for adventure and wants to travel. Like most teens, she doesn't want anyone telling her what to do. 

The second main character is Kyte, a crime lord who has a big secret of his own--he isn't entirely human, but as he was abandoned at a young age, he has no idea who or what he really is. He wants out of Dynas Rhydent so he can find answers and forge a new life for himself, and he sees Theorie as the perfect meal ticket: a hostage who can be ransomed for enough money to pay his debts and start over.

Of course, things don't work out as he plans, and the two end up marooned on an island thought lost to the world forever. This remote island is home to ancient Fae who once ruled the world before disappearing after a long and bloody civil war. On the island, Theorie and Kyte meet the third main character: Taren,  a Fae prince who desperately wants to free the remainder of his people from the wards that have kept the Fae trapped and hidden for the past five hundred years.

But there are those on the island who have different plans, and things soon come to a head. The book ends on a cliffhanger, and readers can expect any unanswered questions from the first book to be revealed in the second.

Have other books been started and stopped along the way?
Well, when I was in high school my best friend and I started writing a book together. This was in the late 90s before everyone had their own computer at home, and so we wrote in notebooks and on loose leaf paper, and anything else we could get our hands on. We would each take turns writing a chapter. Our whole friend group got involved and was very enthusiastic. We even had friends draw beautiful character sketches and maps, all inspired by our story. I really wish I still had that old manuscript and those drawings.

In the end, the project fell by the wayside. Writing is tough, and even more challenging without the benefit of a word processor and the internet. But those memories of writing and collaboration have stuck with me, and I hope to one day write a book with my high school best friend, but this time we'll finish it. 

When did you decide to self-publish? 
For a long time, I thought I wanted to traditionally publish. I think there is this narrative still circulating that you aren't a "real" writer unless one of the big publishing houses validates your work. However, as I started to talk to fellow writers and do research, I came to realize that finding success in the traditional publishing world is very, very tough, and publishers are not eager to take on unknown, unproven authors. 

Further, I had a friend--a fellow indie author who will remain unnamed--tell me about some shady practices in the publishing world, stories like having to repay publishing advances if their book didn't sell, even if the publishing house did next to nothing to promote the book.

So, with the encouragement of my husband and my author friend, I decided to self-publish. It certainly isn't easy, as you have to take care of your own cover art, editing, formatting, and of course marketing. But I have no regrets. The indie publishing world is thriving, and it is easier than ever before to put your work out there. 

What type of publicity do you do to promote your book? What has worked best for you in generating sales?
This is something I am still working on. I had a Goodreads giveaway in January and over the holidays I ran a few Amazon ads. Those ads are expensive, and as an unknown author with only one book  I wasn't seeing a positive return on investment. I've decided to focus on promoting my book through book bloggers and via word of mouth until I get closer to releasing Visions of the Storm.

My plan is to start promoting about 8 weeks before the release of my second novel. I will utilize Facebook, Amazon, and Instagram ads, as well as pursuing a Bookbub deal and maybe even attending some conventions (if time and money allow).

The indie market changes every day, and one thing I love about self-publishing is the camaraderie it brings with other writers. We all work together to share tips on selling books, and I've practically made a new hobby of listening to writing and marketing podcasts and doing all the research I can. 

What do you know now about writing/publishing now that you wished you had known sooner?
"Comparison is the thief of joy." That is a quote someone recently told me, and it is so very true. Self-publishing takes so much time and energy and if you are constantly comparing yourself to the Titans in the industry, you aren't going to appreciate the small, but important victories. Every page read, every book sold, every person who "follows" me on Goodreads, or writes a review--those are all victories.

I have a competitive nature, and I've learned to step back and realize that so much about "success" in this industry is writing the right book at the right time and having the right people believe in you and promote your work. Like a lot of things in life, success in the writing world takes a lot of work, but also a fair amount of luck. I am learning to block out the "noise" and focus on what I love best: telling stories.

What other books do you have in the works?
My sequel, Visions of the Storm, is currently underway, and I hope to have one more book after that. I also plan on writing prequel/sequel novellas. I want to listen to my readers. If there is a character or a story line that is especially appealing to them, I will definitely give that more "page time." 

What is the best advice you’ve been given about writing or that you’ve learned

that you would like to pass along?
People always say to "write what you know," and I couldn't disagree more. Write what you love. Write what appeals to you. If you want to write about swashbuckling assassins but live in a small town and work at the local ice cream shop, chances are, you don't know much about assassination or swordsmanship. So learn.

Read and research all you can. And don't let fear stop you. In his masterpiece, the science fiction novel Dune, Frank Herbert writes that "fear is the mind killer." For too long I ignored those words and allowed my fear to rule me, killing my creativity and drive. Don't make my mistake and let fear stop you from working towards your dreams.

That’s all for today’s interview. If fantasy is what you read, check out Jane’s books.

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