Blog Archive

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

The Everything Else of Writing: Author Interview with Christine Schulze

Your bio says you’ve always loved reading magical fantasies. What made you decide to write the first one of your own? 

Well, if we’re being completely technical with this answer, I wrote my first fantasy book around the age of four or five, as a wedding gift for my babysitter. It was called Johnny to the Rescue and was inspired by these “Surprise, Surprise, Puppy Surprise” toys I had. They were these little dogs and cats that came with surprise outfits, like princess, mermaid, cowboy, etc. That made me come up with the concept of what I called “Surprisers,” which were dogs and cats who talked, walked, and did everything like people. Johnny was this heroic figure who was always rescuing Princess Brighteyes from King Baddy. I wonder if perhaps I got that idea from my love of watching my babysitter rescue Princess Peach from Bowser on my Super Nintendo.

I bring all this up because that book and the series that sprang from it would ultimately set the foundation for many of my current books. I remade the Johnny to the Rescue series a couple different times as I grew older and eventually expanded their world, creating the realm of Loz that’s seen in both my currently published series, The Amielian Legends and The Gailean Quartet. Other inspirations behind my current works include The Legend of Zelda games, Lord of the Rings, anything by Diana Wynne Jones, and Narnia.

Johnny to the Rescue is my earliest work, let’s talk about my most recently published Symphony of Crowns, third in The Gailean Quartet and my longest work to date, coming in at 800+ pages. The original version was written back when I was in college, so about twelve or so years ago. Since then, I thankfully found my current editor, Kira Lerner. We’ve honestly spent the past few years revising the entire series, including this book, so it’s hard to say how many revisions it’s undergone. A lot. A lot of rewriting, expanding the world, expanding the characters and their complexities, and a lot of just overall learning to improve as a writer.

I actually just had a reader give the most humbly glowing review. So, from Johnny to the Rescue all the way to Symphony of Crowns, I’d say all the hard work, dedication, and learning with my editor is well worth it.

What is the hardest part of writing for you? 
I think sometimes it’s just all that “middle stuff,” if you will. I love crafting a good, tense, in the moment beginning, and I likewise love writing emotionally satisfying conclusions. I’ve never been one to write completely in the order of events, and it’s fair to say that sometimes I have the beginning and end sorted before the middle.

But I have found in more recent years that outlining really helps. The word “outline” used to be terrifying, but I now understand that an outline doesn’t have to be anything formal or overly structured. Even just writing a list of events in the order they will occur can really get my thinking on track for how things ought to go, avoiding plot holes, etc.

What’s the best encouragement you’ve had in your writing?

I think one of the biggest encouragements has come from having a really great editor to work with. I would highly recommend that anyone serious about writing and publishing find a really good, solid editor who really knows their stuff. Who isn’t afraid to challenge you to change your book for the better, but who can also believe in you and your work, believe in what it can become once polished. If you can’t afford an editor right away, which is completely understandable, work on developing a team of beta readers who can read your book and provide both guidance and encouragement. You can find beta readers on various Facebook groups, Tiktok, etc.

It doesn’t hurt to have encouraging friends or encouraging significant other either. My boyfriend of two years now is super supportive of everything I do as I strive to make my dream of becoming a full-time author a reality. While it was never a relationship requirement for me, I am blessed in that he reads and loves everything I produce. I don’t think this is necessary, but you definitely need someone who supports what you do as an author and what it means to you.

Marketing is the biggest key to getting sales. What is the best marketing source you've used that has produced more sales rather than just clicks?

I’ll be honest in saying I’m rather new to the world of book marketing. I’m actually taking time off from writing this year because I’ve found that with my full-time day job, I don’t have the time I need to devote to both writing/editing and trying to learn/understand marketing.

That being said, I’m starting to see that it can be valuable to have a regular newsletter (mine is monthly) that includes exclusive info that readers aren’t going to get anywhere else. It’s intimate, personal, and a good way to start forming a bond and building a trusted relationship with your readers. I also just started my first Booktok. I’m still getting the hang of it, but I find making short videos on my books to be fun and it’s been a great way to engage with some new readers. I’d like to look into avenues like podcasts and more interviews like this one as well.

What do you know now about writing you wished you had known sooner?
This isn’t so much about writing itself, but I think it’s valuable for writers to realize that the real challenge isn’t writing a book. It’s not even publishing a book, as that can be done pretty easily these days. The challenge comes from everything else: having a solid editor, making all those revisions, finding the right cover artist, branding yourself, knowing how to get your work in front of readers, etc. For those who want to get serious about writing and publishing, there’s so much more that goes into it besides writing the book itself.

What is the best writing advice you’ve received or could give?

I would tell others who are struggling to just start writing. You can always edit what’s on the page, but you can’t edit nothing. And also, while it’s important to have a good editor and to make revisions and to make something the best it can be, on the other hand, once it’s done, it’s DONE. I’ve seen a lot of folks get hung up on nitpicking the details and never letting their work just be “finished.”

An author I follow on Tiktok, E.A. Winters, recently brought up an excellent analogy. She said that a carpenter doesn’t make just one chair that he spends years perfecting. He makes many chairs, tables, beds, etc. and continues to improve his craft with each new piece he makes. Writing is like that. The best way to improve and grow as a writer is to know when your current work is done and then move onto the next. I truly feel like I learn something and improve with each new book I write.

And that doesn’t mean that the older ones are bad! I’ve had loads of people who still find and enjoy my older works. They’re still solid, they’re still the best they could be when I wrote them. But the newer books will be even better as you apply all you learned from writing the first books and press forward.

What is the next book coming out? Can you give me a short synopsis?

My next book in the works for 2023 is The Last Star, a stand-alone YA fantasy novel with Words Matter Publishing. I’m pleased to share the blurb with you:

The first Stars were extinguished that fateful night. The work of the Shadows had begun.

Aspiring teenage astronomer, Lianna Sidra, knows the Stars are nothing more than blazing fires, providing light and warmth to her world of Novalight. They aren’t magical, protective Guardians. Those are just silly stories, fairy tales from which Lianna strives to protect her imaginative little sister, Celesse. After all, such superstitions drove away their flighty mother, and Lianna couldn’t bear to lose Celesse in the same way. Ever since Professor Donati took them in, life has been normal. Stable. And Lianna would prefer to keep it that way.

But then Novalight’s Stars begin to vanish, plunging their world into darkness, cold, fear. Shadow-like beings take over where light once reigned. Together with Celesse, Professor Donati, his goofy son, Dashiel, and her crush, the spiritual Soranu, Lianna embarks on a race against time. The pursuing Shadows seem especially drawn to Celesse. What’s more, evidence of ancient magic indicates that the key to defeating the Shadows lies in finding the next “Blue Star,” or ruler, of Novalight, challenging everything Lianna believes about her safely rational worldview.

As Lianna and her friends discover mysterious connections between their families at the Stars, they realize things are not as they appear. What are the Shadows, and why are they so fierce in their pursuit? Can they unravel the mystery before the last Star is destroyed, ending all light and life on Novalight? And can Lianna challenge her own beliefs to discern truth from fiction before she once again loses the people she loves?

Good Cliffhanger! But that's all for today's interview. If you'd like to learn more about Christine's books, here are some ways to get started.

Sign up for her newsletter to get exclusive content about her books:
Amazon Author Page:
Barnes & Noble:

And here's a bonus for my readers... Leave a comment on this post and you'll be entered to win one of her eBooks from her Amielian Legends series. One winner will be chosen next Wednesday night. Here's a link to that series:

Friday, March 17, 2023

Getting Validation as a Writer: Author Interview with Mary Ellen Bramwell - women's fiction

What inspired you to write about the trials of life?  
I read books from just about any genre, but I chose to write about life's ups and downs because those are the stories that stick with me. A mystery or crime is solved and then over with, but life is ongoing. So, the things we learn from living life, or the things we learn from reading about someone else's life, are the things that we ponder long after the trial (or story) is finished.

How long did it take to write the first book?
My first book took six months to write and six months to rewrite. Many edits were done along the way, but I went through one major rewrite (unlike one of my other books that went through four).

What is the hardest part of writing for you? 
Probably being comfortable with the story early on. I've started writing several books that sounded great in my head but on paper just felt flat. It's hard to keep pushing on a story when it's just not working. I abandon those ideas before I waste too much time on them. When a story starts to write itself, I know I've found the right one.

What’s the best encouragement you’ve had in your writing?

Several years before I wrote my first book, I published a couple magazine articles. The editor I worked with on the second of those said, "You're a good writer. You should keep writing for us." I never forgot that. When I began seriously writing, that always stayed in the back of my mind, telling me I could do it. Then shortly after starting writing books, I won an award in the Writer's Digest Annual Writing Competition. It validated the earlier comment. It is so easy to doubt yourself as a writer. Having people who did not personally know me tell me I could write made a huge difference.

Marketing is the biggest key to getting sales. What is the best marketing source you've used that has produces more sales rather than just clicks? 
Marketing was what I was least prepared to handle, yet we all need to do it. I was fortunate enough to land a BookBub deal early on. That featured eBook had over 50,000 free downloads. That spurred pages read and follow-on sales. Several years later, I'm still getting new reviews and ratings every week. 

Do you sell more eBooks or print books?
I definitely sell more eBooks than print.

What do you know now about writing you wished you had known sooner?

Just a better handle on mechanics. I've learned so much about how to be a better writer (from conferences, books, etc.) since I first started that I'm hesitant to read my earlier books. When I do read them, I'm relieved I still like them - even if I would have tightened up some of the language if I were to write them now.

What is the best writing advice you’ve received or could give?
Hire an editor. You need to have someone else put eyes on it. And the caveat is be willing to accept the editing advice.

Are there any other points about writing you would like to add?
A lot of people tell me, "I've always wanted to write a book." I encourage them to do it. Just sit down and put pen to paper and begin. In a way, the comment is a slight on writers. ("I could do what you do.") So, I'm always happy to support and cheer other writers who are willing to put in the hard work and produce a book. It is always an accomplishment to be celebrated. I've found fellow writers to be so supportive, so I try to be the same.

What is the next book coming out? Can you give me a short synopsis?

I'm usually knee deep in another book, but I'm not right now. I have a series of children's books in the works (with names like It Was a Dark and Squeak Night), and I'm working on getting the approvals from involved parties to write a nonfiction book. Both of these projects are departures from what I've written in the past, but ones I'm excited to explore. At the moment, I'm spending most of my time editing for others.

That's all for today's interview. If you'd like to learn more about Mary-Ellen's books, here are some links to get you started.
Amazon author page:
Goodreads author page:

And here's a bonus for my readers... lf you leave a comment on this post, you'll be entered in a drawing to win of one of her eBooks. The ones she is offering is either 
The Apple of My Eye or When I Was Seven. The winner gets to choose which book they want. The deadline to enter is 8:00 PM 3/23/23. So don't wait, leave a comment with your name now!