Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Author Interview with Lexi Revellian

Today I had the pleasure of doing an Author Interview with Lexi Revellian who has sold over 60,000 ebooks and spent eight months in the UK Kindle Top 100.

Tell me about yourself, Lexi.
I’m a jeweller/silversmith, urban cyclist, and live in central London. I’ve self-published five novels and a short story collection. I have a writing website and a blog.

When did you know you wanted to become an author?
Rather late. I’ve always read a great deal, and never thought I’d be able to match my favourite authors. Then my daughter suggested we write a fantasy novel together. She stopped, I carried on. It was huge fun – like reading a good book, but better. I can still remember the pure visceral pleasure of writing it. Everything went straight down on to the page, reckless POV shifts, authorial interjections, slabs of backstory; nothing got between me and the intoxicating sensation of story telling.

Is there a central theme to your books?
I don’t think so, though each book tends to have its own theme, which the reader may or may not notice. Remix’s is truth and lies, Replica is about identity and not letting people push you around, Ice Diaries is about trust. The WIP’s theme is money. Probably.

What books have inspired you the most in your life?
Mary Renault’s, because I love the way she writes. Her books are very good indeed, though I didn’t realize this at first because they are also hugely enjoyable. I constantly reread them. I picked up her semi colon use; she was very particular about punctuation, and wouldn’t let editors tinker with it.

What’s a typical day in your writing routine like?
Not sure there is such a thing. It depends how busy I am with my jewellery work. Sometimes I set myself a (modest) word per day target. At the moment, I’m getting into the new novel, always a painful process for me. I make a point of writing something every day, and think about the book before I go to sleep.

What is it that you do to relax?
Potter on my workshop balcony which is large and full of plants, or indulge my tempestuous passion for Adobe Photoshop 7.0. I make my own covers, and enjoy it a lot.

Do you use an outline or do you write organically?
I start writing once I have the what if? situation, the hero/heroine and a few other characters, and the ending. Though I changed the endings of both Replica and Ice Diaries, I need to know where the story is heading when I start. I make the rest up as I go along.

Have you ever had writer’s block and what did you do to push past it?
I get stuck quite often – I wouldn’t call it writer’s block – and fret a lot. I’m an expert fretter, though I fight it. I’m always happy when I’ve reached 60,000 words or so, as up till then I have no confidence the book will work out. When stuck, I try all sorts of different methods:
  • Consider what each of my characters wants at this point, and what he/she is doing to achieve that – re-assess what’s at stake for each character
  • Keep saying, “What would happen if…” until I strike gold
  • Do some research into my characters’ interests, or where they live – internet estate agents’ sites and Google Street View are good for this
  • Read a good novel
  • Write a letter from each character to myself
  • Write a scene between two characters who don’t meet in the book
  • Dip into Jerry Cleaver’s book, Immediate Fiction, which is full of encouragement and helpful ideas

Is there a certain time of day when you are most creative?
Mornings in the bath when my mind drifts free. Driving on my own used to be a creative time for me, but these days I’m mostly on my bike. Walking’s good, too. I got lots of ideas for Replica when I had a broken shoulder and had to walk to work and back which took an hour each day. You can’t think while cycling as the traffic is too dangerous and you have to focus on not getting killed.

How many drafts do you usually write of a manuscript and what is your editing process like?
Just one draft. I’m a slow writer because I edit as I go, and won’t leave a chapter until it’s the way I want. The advantage is that when I get to the end, it’s nearly good to go. Ice Diaries took six and a half months from start to publication, averaging 400 words a day because of rewriting parts. I try to get my daughter to read chapters as I go along, and sometimes she tells me I’m heading in the wrong direction and I have to scrap thousands of words. She’s always right. When a novel is complete, I put the text through Pro Writing Aid to catch word echoes, then ask immediate family members to read it. My sister reads several novels a week, and is a stringent critic. (I don’t know why people maintain families only offer praise. My lot are ruthless.) Then I send it out to half a dozen beta readers, asking them to mark any bits they find boring or puzzling or out of character. You have to encourage betas to be critical, not polite. Then I make changes if I agree, or if two readers make the same point.

What do you think of the recent changes in the publishing world?
 I think Amazon has, so far, been a force for good in the publishing world. I’m appalled that Big Publishing’s response to the success of self-publishers is to use Author Solutions to set up their own vanity presses, using respected brand names like Penguin, Simon & Schuster and Harper Collins as a lure to rip off na├»ve writers.

It’s a pity that authors aren’t treated better; without them, there would be no publishing business. Traditionally-published authors receive only about 8% of the sale price of a print book – so people who didn’t write the book get 92% of the proceeds. That’s not fair, and means only top-selling writers can earn a living by writing.

Out of all the books you’ve written do you have a favorite, and if so why?
I admit to a fondness for all my novels. Perhaps Replica, since it was technically difficult to write, switching from first person to third in alternating chapters. Its heroine, Beth, moves from being a doormat to becoming assertive, a journey too many of us need to make – and I like that the hero, Nick, is flawed and readers have to decide for themselves what they think about him.

What are you working on now?
I’m superstitious about discussing the WIP, lest the life is sucked out of it. My lips are sealed until it gets to the magic 60,000 word mark.

Where can we buy your books?
…and if you are tempted by my early fantasy novels…

Bryan Koepke Official Author Website is Live

Got my official Author website posted yesterday. It's still a work in progress but it's up. www.bryankoepke.com

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Author Interview with Sharon Woods Hopkins

Hi Bryan, I'm so happy to be joining you in The Writers Cabin Blog. Thanks for the invite!

1. Sharon tell me about yourself.
I am a branch manager for a mortgage office of a Missouri bank. I also own the original Cami, the 1979 Camaro featured in my books.
I am a member of the Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, the Southeast Missouri Writers’ Guild, and the Missouri Writers’ Guild.
My first Rhetta McCarter mystery, KILLERWATT was nominated for a 2011 Lovey award for Best First Novel and was a finalist in the 2012 Indie Excellence Awards. My second book in the series, KILLERFIND, was released in July, 2012, and won First Place in the Missouri Writers Guild “Show me Best Book Awards” for 2013, and was also a finalist in the 2013 Indie Excellence Awards.
My short story, Rear View Mirror won third place at the 2013 Missouri Writers Guild Awards.
Besides writing, my hobbies include painting, fishing, photography, flower gardening, and restoring muscle cars with my son, Jeff.

I also spent 30 years as an Appaloosa Horse Club judge, where she was privileged to judge all over the US, Canada, Mexico and Europe.
I live on our family compound near Marble Hill, Missouri with my husband, Bill Hopkins (also an author) next door to my son, Jeff, his wife, Wendy and my grandson, Dylan, plus two cats and one dog.
2. When did you know you wanted to become an author?

I wrote a lot of non-fiction in the past, but it wasn't until about five years ago that I thought I'd try my hand at a mystery novel. I had a character and plot dancing in my mind, and thought I'd give it a whirl.
3.  Is there a central theme to your books? 

An ordinary forty something woman in an extraordinary situation can be a true hero. She can also crave cigarettes, dislike the cops, and drive a seventies era muscle car.

4. What books have inspired you the most in your life?

I read all of the Nancy Drew mysteries and would imagine myself as Nancy, solving mysteries. Another book I absolutely adore is Anne of Green Gables, a book I read more than once, something I seldom do.

5. What’s a typical day in your writing routine like?

I have a haphazard writing schedule, which means I have no schedule at all. The only time I can spend an entire day writing is on the weekends, and even then I get distracted. Like today, I felt compelled to wash my '79 Camaro. Yep, it took up writing time, but I had to do it. I couldn't leave bug juice on her from an outing last night. I usually fix a giant cup of coffee, take it downstairs to my office and go. I can sit for several hours at a time writing full steam. I generally start my writing by re-reading the last ten pages I wrote to put myself back where I was, then tweaking it a bit before going forward.

6. What is it that you do to relax?

I love to fish, work in my flower garden, or drive my Camaro.

7. Do you use an outline or do you write organically?

I don't really outline. I have the whole story in my head before I start. Sometimes a character will come along or something will happen to Rhetta my protagonist, or Woody, her assistant, that moves the story forward, so I add it in. But I want to stress here that I know what's going to happen before I start writing. I can see the plot like a movie in my head.

8. Have you ever had writer’s block and what did you do to push past it?

I don't think I've had writer's block in writing my mysteries. I have, however, experienced massive writer's block at writer meetings and conferences, when taking a class or a session. When given an exercise in writing, I can never do it because the subjects seldom interest me, and I can never think of anything. My husband, Bill Hopkins (Courting Murder) can always write out something so quickly in those circumstances, and it's usually brilliant.

9. Is there a certain time of day when you are most creative?

Usually right after lunch. Although I get up early, I'm not a true morning person.

10. How many drafts do you usually write of a manuscript and what is your editing process lik

I re-write the first draft with corrections and edits as I go. However, I do a LOT of editing and correcting so I don't know how to count that as a draft. When I'm finished, and type The End, there's only one draft. I don't actually re-write the entire manuscript, but sometimes I rework a scene or flesh something out, or take something out. My husband, Bill is my first and best editor, so his reading my manuscript helps me make changes and corrections as I go. Major revisions are made when I get the marked up manuscript back from my editor, Pat Smith.

11. What do you think of the recent changes in the publishing world?

I think it's terrific that an author can now be in charge of his or her own work, and offer it directly to the reader. That said, however, I can't stress how important it is to have the manuscript professionally edited, then proof read several times before offering it for sale. A good cover is important, as is proper formatting . There may be a lot of inferior work out there, but now the reader is the one who decides what they will buy and read. The publishing gatekeepers are losing power. There will always be publishers and agents, but now, thanks to Amazon and Smashwords and self publishing platforms, they are no longer in total control. An author can choose many different routes to get a story out, and all of it is good for the readers.

12. Out of all the books you’ve written do you have a favorite, and if so why?

I am on my third book, titled Killertrust, and it's my favorite. I think it's my favorite because it's still new and fresh in my brain.

13. What are you working on now?

I'm finishing up Killertrust, which will be out this August.

14. Where  can we buy your books?

My books are available as print and ebooks from Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords. My first book, Killerwatt, is also available as an audio book from Audible.com and iTunes. Or a reader can buy directly from my website, www.sharonwoodshopkins.com.
My short story, Rear View Mirror is free on my website.

Check out my Rhetta McCarter Mystery series at http://www.sharonwoodshopkins.com/ or Amazon.
KILLERWATT is now available as an audio book from Audible or iTunes
KILLERWATT Kindle version is just $.99.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Author Interview with Bill Hopkins

Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Bill Hopkins the author of Courting Murder a mystery novel.

1.  Tell me about yourself.

I retired after beginning my legal career in 1971 and serving as a private attorney, prosecuting attorney, an administrative law judge, and a trial court judge, all in Missouri. My poems, short stories, and non-fiction have appeared in many different publications. i've had several short plays produced. A book of collected poetry, Moving Into Forever, is available on Amazon. I'm is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Dramatists Guild, Horror Writers Association, Missouri Writers Guild, and Sisters In Crime. I'm also a photographer who has sold work in the United States, Canada, and Europe. My wife, Sharon (a mortgage banker who is also a published writer), and I live in Marble Hill, Missouri, with our dog and cats. Besides writing, we are involved in collecting and restoring Camaros. Courting Murder is my first mystery novel.

2.  When did you know you wanted to become an author?

When I was nine years old (MANY years ago), I decided I didn't like the Robin Hood episodes on television and began writing my own. I didn't sell a single episode.

3.  Is there a central theme to your books?

Sometimes you must break the law to allow justice to prevail.

4.  What books have inspired you the most in your life?

Fiction books that have inspired me the most are To Kill A Mockingbird, Moby-Dick, An American Tragedy, Catch-22, A Farewell To Arms, A Confederacy of Dunces, andTobacco Road.

5.  What’s a typical day in your writing routine like?

My home office has no windows. I designed it that way. I sit and write until my dog needs to go outside, then I go check on the weather. Afterwards, I come back in and start writing again.

6.  What is it that you do to relax?

Walk the dog.

7.  Do you use an outline or do you write organically?

I outline first so I'll know where I'm going. It's a casual outline that follows the three act structure. Every time I find something I want to change, the outline changes and the book never turns out the way I started it.

8.  Have you ever had writer’s block and what did you do to push past it?

I've had times where I couldn't find my way out of a thicket and had to talk to some of my minions. That helps. But if you mean have I ever run out of ideas, the answer is no. I won't live long enough to write all my ideas.

9.  Is there a certain time of day when you are most creative?

I'm a morning person. If I had complete control of my time, I'd start writing at four each morning.

10.  How many drafts do you usually write of a manuscript and what is your editing process like?

I don't really county my drafts. Every day when I start writing, I'll go back two or three chapters and revise, then start a new chapter. I guess that means a whole lot of drafts.

11.  What do you think of the recent changes in the publishing world?

Every change has some good and some bad. As far as self-publishing goes, I've met too many aspiring writers who don't think they need editing. My wife, Sharon Woods Hopkins (www.sharonwoodshopkins.com), is my toughest critic and best editor. Since she writes murder mysteries also, if she doesn't understand something I've written or tells me it needs to be changed, I revise it. I do the same for her. Not many writers are blessed as we are. Stephen King still needs editing. Need I say more?

12.  Out of all the books you’ve written do you have a favorite, and if so why?

I've got one published fiction book (Courting Murder) so it's my favorite.

13.  What are you working on now?

I finished the second book, continuing the story of Judge Rosswell Carew that I started in Courting Murder. I'm almost finished with the third.

14.  Where can we buy your books?

Courting Murder can be purchase on Amazon (
Barnes and Noble (http://tinyurl.com/Barnes-Noble-Courting-Murder)
Southeast Missouri University Press (http://tinyurl.com/SEMO-Press-Courting-Murder). 
Please visit my website: www.judgebillhopkins.com.

Friday, June 7, 2013

How to Get Published

1.  Read everything you can get your hands on.  Decide what genre you enjoy reading the most.  Study that genre.  Learn from the masters.

2.  Buy a notebook or a computer and start writing every day.  Think about the genre you enjoy reading and dream up a story.  Sounds easier than it is.  For me it all started after reading an article about  Diamonds.  I started jotting down notes in a notebook at lunchtime away from my day job.  Soon I had what I thought at the time would be a great thriller novel.  It took me a year and a half to write and rewrite the story several times.  Eventually I put this first novel aside in a desk drawer and started a second novel with an entirely new cast of characters.

3.  Join a writing organization like Mystery Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, Thriller Writers International, or a genre specific group.  If you have the time and the money attend a writers conference.  I went to my first, Killer Nashville, in August of 2012.  It was a great experience and I got to eat dinner, and talk to published authors. One of the highlights was talking to members of the FBI, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, and local police.  I remember how inspired I was with my writing after returning to my home.  Writing Conferences range from big to small.

4.  Research every part of your idea. This includes building a character sketch for each of your main characters and asking yourself their likes, their wants, their dreams, and anything else you can think of.  There are several good character sketch questionnaires on the Internet.  The next step is to think through any action scenes you intend to write to ensure that the cinema-graphic details of the scene are correct. Research anything technical or detailed in the novel.  Identify the motivation of each and every character with the story.

5.  Outline each of your scenes and chapters.  There are two types of writers - organic and outliners.  I've heard about many writers who just free write 500 pages and have a first draft.  If this works for you do it.  If not construct an outline.  Another thing to remember is to not box yourself in with the outline.  It's just a guide to help you plot out your novel.  It becomes valuable with each new draft and can help you keep everything organized.  There are many software tools such as Scrivener that help you outline.

6.  Write your novel.  Read it cover to cover.  Congratulate yourself for accomplishing a task that many set out upon and few conquer.  Everyone wants to write a book.  You've done it.  Now the hard part begins.

7.  Rewrite your novel.

8.  Set it aside for a month.  I've heard this advice from many, but the one author who explains it the best is Stephen King in his book "On Writing".  This is a good time to start learning everything you can about the publishing industry.

9.  Edit your novel.  Rewrite it. Edit it. Rewrite it.  If you feel like something is wrong with the novel something probably is. Print out your novel, read it, and edit it on the hard copy.  Read it out loud to yourself.  This is especially helpful when something doesn't seem right, but you can't put your finger on it.

If you have the money you might consider hiring a freelance editor at this point.  New writers often discover that their story is not as good as they thought.  Editors can help with what's called developmental editing.  Once the story is set they can help with line editing and copy editing.

10.  Beta Readers - Put together four our five pages of tough questions about your novel.  Find 5 beta readers who regularly read in the genre you have written. Give them the questions and a hard copy.  I used Kinko's to print out hard copies until I decided to buy a black and white laser printer.  In the long run the printer was much less expensive than having books printed at Kinko's.  Find beta readers who will be honest and critical of your work.  This is what you want and need at this point.

11.  Rewrite, edit, rewrite.  Look at grammar, sentence structure, and cut anything that doesn't move the story forward.

12. Write a Query Letter.  Good luck with this.  It can be tough to do at first, but there lots of great resources on the Internet to help.

13.  Research agents on query tracker and agent query.

14.  Send out Query Letters.

15.  Submit.

16.  Land a literary agent.

17. Sell your book to a publisher.

18. Rinse your hands and repeat.

                                                          Good luck fellow writers.