Welcome back to Indie Tuesday! It’s been an embarrassment of riches around here in terms of talented writers sharing insights into the independant publishing community, and this week is no exception.
I am delighted to welcome the marvellous Eileen Cook, a prolific and brilliant writer of books for teens and adults. Eileen is just celebrating the release of a new novel REMEMBER, and is already looking forward to another title in 2015. What’s her secret?
Let’s find out!
kc: So, let’s begin with the structure of the book. Are you an outliner or a ‘seat-of-the-pantser’?
EC: I am a work in progress. When I started writing I was a total pantser. I would sit down at my laptop with only the most general idea of where I might go. Then as I learned more about story structure I evolved into someone who had 10-15 story points (opening scene, inciting incident, turning point one, the dark moment etc.) I found knowing the key points I was working toward made it easier, even if I changed those points as the draft was written. Most recently I’ve moved toward having more and more details, so instead of a few lines for each point I might have several paragraphs, or even pages, for each point. My last outline came in around 25 pages.
All of this has lead me to believe that no matter how you tackle writing a book it is the same amount of work. You may start writing and then have to do a lot of work in revisions. Or you may spend more time upfront and work out many of the story problems in an outline and then have a much shorter revision process. Neither way is right- it’s just what works for you.
kc: Do you have a favourite genre to read — or write — in? What draws you in that direction?
EC: I am a reading whore- I really get around. I love everything from YA, to thrillers, murder mysteries, non-fiction, historical fiction, women’s fiction, and if all else fails I’ll read the side of a cereal box. I find when I am writing I have difficulty reading in the same genre that I’m working in- it’s too easy for me to take on that voice.
When I started writing I felt I should write literary fiction, but the truth was what I wrote best was romantic comedy. Because comedy came easier to me it didn’t feel like I was working. Once I found my own voice it became easier. My books have turned to having a thriller/mystery bent. I think this is a result of my growth in being able to plot. Mysteries require you to think three or four steps ahead and I’ve gotten much better in this area.
kc: That is SO cool, and very helpful to me as I embark on my own take on romantic comedy. So, you’ve done both Indie publishing and the traditional route. What helps you decide which direction to take?
EC: When I started writing I felt I should write literary fiction, but the truth was what I wrote best was romantic comedy. Because comedy came easier to me it didn’t feel like I was working. Once I found my own voice it became easier. My books have turned to having a thriller/mystery bent. I think this is a result of my growth in being able to plot. Mysteries require you to think three or four steps ahead and I’ve gotten much better in this area.
One of the things I am most excited about is that writers have more choices now than ever before. One of the most discouraging things for me is the tendency for some writers to judge other writers. To assume if someone is indie publishing they weren’t good enough/patient enough to be traditionally published and if they are traditionally published that they are too enslaved to the publishing “man” and don’t have the courage to indie publish. The truth is that what route each writer takes is individual to them and possibly also to the book they are writing.
I like traditional publishing as I’ve had positive experiences in that area. I like working with an editor, copy editor, cover designer, marketing etc. This allows me to focus on the portion I enjoy the most- the writing. Having said that, indie publishing allows you as the creator to have the ultimate say and control. It is also more nimble. If you decide a cover isn’t working- you can change it. This is more difficult in a traditional environment. For me I pause before each project and think about what I want to accomplish. Does the book have a particular bent that would make it better suited to one or the other? Since the bulk of my traditional published work has been in the YA area, I’ve decided to keep my adult romantic comedies as indie published. (And I reserve the right to change my mind on either of these at any time!)
What I would suggest is that writers educate themselves. If you are signing a traditional contract know when/how rights might revert to you (so that you could self-publish later.) If you indie publish understand what you are undertaking and the limits this will put on a desire to try and traditionally publish the same work.
kc: Ha. I like that idea of flexibility. Okay, so what’s your favourite part of the publishing process?
EC: I am not sure it counts as a part of the publishing process- but writing is by far my favorite part. I am not one of the people who is tortured by my muse. While I can’t say that writing is always easy, there are days when each word feels like a struggle, but I adore the opportunity to create new worlds and characters. I also enjoy editing, both my own work and others. Seeing how a story is structured and how it might be improved is really enjoyable for me.
However, the reason I tend to lean toward traditional publishing is that the actual publishing portion- formatting, planning for release, marketing, promotion, and copy edits are not my favorite tasks. I do love the cover design process. I need to contract for this service as I lack any real artistic talent- but I love seeing how one comes together.
kc: What was the inspiration for REMEMBER?
EC: I’d read an article about some scientific experiments being done with memory. The scientists were looking for a way to reduce the difficulty war veterans have with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It occurred to me if people could get rid of very traumatic memories, there would also be a market for people who wanted to get rid of all sorts of memories.
I began to wonder what types of things might go wrong once you begin messing around with someone’s memory. It can be relatively easy to confuse what is a real memory from what someone might tell you happened. What if something you were sure was true, suddenly seemed to be uncertain, possibly a lie?
Once all these questions were swirling around in my head I knew I had a book- all I had to do is write it.
kc: And so you did! Can you name a favourite Indy author or two, and recommend a book?
EC: One of my most favorite YA authors, Cat Patrick, had an idea for a book that didn’t fit with her traditional published book so she indie published it. It is about a secret society hiding in modern day Wyoming. With murdered kings, romance and betrayal it’s a fun read. [You can find it HERE].
In a complete different genre, I adore Laura Bradbury’s Grape Escape series. I had the opportunity to edit the second of these books and fell in love with her writing. If you’ve ever dreamed of running away to Europe (and who hasn’t?) and wonder what it would be like be sure to check these out.
kc: Ha! We are big fans of Laura Bradbury here, too! So, to finish today, can you offer a piece of advice either to Indie writers or Indie readers, based on something you have learned from the process?
EC: My biggest advice to indie writers is to remember that this is your profession and your readers deserve the best book you can provide them. While you may be able to do it all- are you the best person to do each portion? If you’re not a graphic artist- hire a cover designer, if you aren’t a grammar nazi- hire a copy editor, etc. As much as you may feel like you can’t wait to see your book for sale, take the time to do it right.
My biggest plea for readers (indie or traditional) is that if you read a book and love it- please consider leaving a review. Reviews sell books. Helping an author find new readers by leaving a review provides you with some very valuable karma.
Wow — HUGE thanks to Eileen for sharing her insights with us today. I’d also like to add, in the spirit of full disclosure, that Eileen is also a fantastic editor. She’s worked on a couple of projects with me now, including FINDING FRASER, and I can’t recommend her highly enough. You can connect with Eileen through her website at EileenCook.com
Here’s a little more information about her latest title, REMEMBER:
About the book:
A thrilling tale about what a girl will do to get back a memory she lost…or remove what she wants to forget.
Harper is used to her family being hounded by protestors. Her father runs the company that trademarked the “Memtex” procedure to wipe away sad memories, and plenty of people think it shouldn’t be legal. Then a new demonstrator crosses her path, Neil, who’s as persistent as he is hot. Not that Harper’s noticing, since she already has a boyfriend.
When Harper suffers a loss, she’s shocked her father won’t allow her to get the treatment, so she finds a way to get it without his approval. Soon afterward, she’s plagued with strange symptoms, including hallucinations of a woman who is somehow both a stranger, yet incredibly familiar. Harper begins to wonder if she is delusional, or if these are somehow memories.
Together with Neil, who insists he has his own reasons for needing answers about the real dangers of Memtex, Harper begins her search for the truth. What she finds could uproot all she’s ever believed about her life…
And now — if you are interested in winning a copy of REMEMBER, leave a comment below or on Facebook or Twitter, and we’ll add your name to the draw. Winners announced next week! And as always,