1) How did you get interested in electronic publishing?
A couple of years ago Romance Foretold held a chat for me for my first novel, THE KEEPER OF THE WIND. The chat was almost over when Penny Hussey joined us. After everyone else had left the chatroom, Penny and I talked and I was bemoaning the fact that I was having trouble getting the other eight novels in The WindLegends Saga published. I had signed a contract with two other publishers and it was obvious that neither were going to uphold their end of the contract. As we talked, Penny hinted that soon RF would be going into the publishing field with electronic text and she encouraged me to contact Lorraine Stephens, who would be in charge of submissions, to see if my work would be something the fledgling company --Starlight Writers Publications-- might find of interest. I did as Penny suggested, but Lorraine felt my work was too 'dark' for the lighter vision that would be SWP. As a result, she spoke with Lida Quillen, Gina Haldane and Penny and because they felt my work was good and saleable, Twilight Times Books was created to showcase my writing. I can tell you that I was humbled and very appreciative of these ladies' efforts on my part. Twilight Times has since become Dark Star Publications, but I can always say an entire publishing company was started so readers could see my work. I am eternally grateful to Lorraine and Lida for having such faith in me. I hope I have lived up to their expectations.
2) What do you find are the biggest strengths of Electronic publishing?
I like the idea that no matter where you are in the world; no matter the time of day or night or the condition of the weather; in your bunny slippers and threadbare nightie, you can go online and buy a novel or two or three in comfort and with the surety that it will be on your computer in far less time it would take you to find your car keys and drive into town to your local bookstore. You can be sitting in your favorite chair, chips and salsa at hand, reading and enjoying an author's words without having had the inconvenience of having to fight traffic, ill-mannered and bored bookstore employees, and abysmal road conditions. As a writer, I like the ability to send my entire manuscript and do all the edits via email attachment. In the length of time it used to take to write a query letter and receive back a form rejection letter, you might well have queried, signed, and submitted your novel. I like the ease with which ebooks are being embraces by people who are tired of paying upwards of $10 for a paperback novel when they can download a book for under $4.00. I am thrilled that ebook publishers allow for cross-genre stories while traditional publishers keep saying cross-genre doesn't sell. I laugh every time I read a letter of complaint on an email list that such and such famous author has 'lost' his or her voice and is writing the same old/same old cookie cutter junk that reader's are beginning to find boring. I smile when I see blurbs on those same lists wondering at why Ms. Famous Author is starting to write out of her recognized genre. Ebook publishers realized a lot sooner than the traditional publishers that if you're going to keep people coming back to buy your books, you're going to have to give them something more entertaining than the same old girlmeetsboylosesboyhasababyoutofwedlockgetsbackwithboytolivehappilyeverafter schlock. You've got to throw some curves in there for the new, smarter generation coming along. Give 'em something exciting and unexpected and THAT is what epublishing is all about.
3) What challenges face you when publishing ebooks instead of traditional paper?
The only challenges I've had are the dyed-in-the-wool print readers who are adamantly refusing to try ebooks because they like the 'feel' and 'smell' of a print book in their hands. One woman made the comment: "I don't know anything about ebooks and I don't want to know anything about them." These people are certainly entitled to their opinion, but they are missing out on some really fantastic, innovative work. Albeit, the ebooks that are selling will eventually be coming out in POD or trade paperback, but for now, everything fresh and new is in electronic format. Many of my ardent fans have told me they will be buying the books in print to go along with their download versions. That's wonderful. I have assured them I will happily send autographed bookplates if they'd like and I get an average of four to five requests for those every week. I have had several name reviewers tell me that as soon as my book are out in print, they will be more than willing to review them. I have never had any trouble finding reviewers willing to read the books via email attachment. Each of my novels has at least four reviews while many have over a dozen from reviewers who want the book as soon as the Advanced Review Copy (ARC) is available. That proves to me my work doesn't have to be in print to get noticed, but once it goes into print, that's a larger market of people who will have access to it. That will make my publisher happy and make me happy knowing that many more people might be enjoying what I have to say. I'm not in this to make money. I write so other people will be able to read my words and perhaps embrace the characters I create.
4) Tell us a little about your books. Can you detail any future releases?
My books are speculative fiction. They are dark-cast novels with tortured (sometimes quite literally) heroes. The stories are told from the male characters' viewpoint. The female characters aren't the main focus and I think that's why I have as many male fans as female fans. There are paranormal shapeshifting romances, erotic horror, vampire, psychological thrillers, sword & sorcery adventure, dark fantasy, dark romance (think Marilyn Harris' Eden Saga series), and sci--fi/futuristic. There are four separate sagas: The WindTales Trilogy which has WindFall, WindChance, and WindBorne (out in 2002); The WindDemon Trilogy which has BloodWind and the upcoming DarkWind and EvilWind; The WindBroken Trilogy which has In the Teeth of the Wind, In the Heart of the Wind, and In the Arms of the Wind (coming in 2002); and The WindLegends Saga which has nine novels including The Windkeeper, The Windseeker, and The Windweeper. I have two stand alone novels: In the Wind's Eye and The Prince of the Wind plus three short stories in three anthologies: Millennia Milestones: A Celebration of Change, Twilight Obsessions, and At Grandma's Knee. Each of the short stories has my trademark 'wind' in the title. I just recently turned in the edits for The Winddreamer, the sixth novel in The WindLegends Saga series, and for DarkWind. Currently, I am working on The W.I.N.D. Force, something a bit different but a novel I guarantee romance and thriller fans are going to love!
5) Who are some of your favorite E and print authors?
My favorite print authors are John Sandford, David Wiltse and John Saul with Dean Koontz, Andrew Greeley and Ken Eulo running close seconds. My favorite e-authors are Patricia A. Rasey, Arianna Overton, Trace Edward Zaber, Kate Hill, and Penny Hussey....all, I am honored to say... I know and respect greatly. Patricia White and Carrie Masek are two e-authors whom I think are absolutely terrific and I am proud to call each of those mentioned friend. I would be remiss if I did not also mention Leta Nolan Childers and Jeff Strand who have helped put ebooks center stage with their remarkable writing.
6) How does your writing process start? Do you begin a book or series with plot or characters?
My writing process begins with an idea I can't seem to shake. I worry it like you would a rotten tooth: poking at it, looking for holes. I turn it upside and inside out trying to see what will fly and what won't then I sit down and scribble out a few notes; add on to the notes; put it aside and give it a day or two before going back to flesh out the idea. The characters always seem to come along with the idea. I find myself dreaming about the storyline and 'seeing' the character actors who would be great in the movie version of the story. That is usually how I flesh out my characters: from the vision of the actors who I could see playing them. I never do outlines and I don't do intricate play-by-play. When I start to write, I write. I rarely get what some writers refer to as writer's block. Actually, I've never thought there was such a thing as writer's block. What I believe the problem is are distractions from real life that creep in and cast a pall over your creative juices. It's hard to concentrate on creating when the dog needs feeding or the cat litter needs changing. If the house is dirty, the phone or doorbell rings, or the hubby needs his ego bolstered, you have to break away from writing to take care of the situation and you lose your momentum. It's not writer's block so much as it's everyday life intrusion most of the time. Unfortunately, there isn't much any of us can do about that and probably wouldn't want to anyway even if we grumble and mumble about the situation. We need everyday life to help keep us grounded else we'd fly into our make-believe worlds and stay there!
7) The WindLegends saga has a cult following. What do you feel has contributed to this appeal?
I'm a cult leader???!!! Arggggh! Please don't tell me I've got to go out now and buy Koolaid and cookies! Where am I to find bells and cymbals and all those ugly-ass sandals in the dead of winter in Iowa? Incense makes me sneeze! I don't look good in saffron-colored sheets and I don't do bald well. And temples are far too drafty for Southern girls like me! <SIGH> Those who know me are reading those lines and saying: "Yep, that's Charlee: Irreverent as always!" And that's probably why so many people read my work. They have come to expect the unexpected and to embrace the silliness of my attitude toward the stuffier side of romance and writing. I got myself into all kinds of trouble a year ago on one of the listservs for daring to suggest that you didn't need the almighty Happy Ever After ending to each of your novels. Life doesn't always have a happy ending. The example I gave was if Cinderella and Prince Charming lived Happily Ever After, what the heck was he doing with Snow White? (Ah, HAH! Didn't think of that, huh? Licentious dude that he is, he also would up with Sleeping Beauty!) I believe one of the reasons I have such a large fan base is because I respect the individuality of my readers and they respect mine, giving me their approval to be as un-cookie-cutter-like as I dare to be in my storylines. For those who like pathos in their tales, they know they'll find it in my writing. They also know that the hero ---while being strong and sexy and handsome --- will also be fragmented, torn, in some way. He will be less than perfect but 'striving' to be the best he can be. He might not always succeed, but the reader will remember the journey he made. I get dozens of fan letters a week from readers who tell me they were thrilled to discover a writer who has a new and innovative voice that doesn't harp on the tired old HEA. They are looking for different and with my work, they can be assured that is what they'll get. Word of mouth has sold more books for me than any amount of reviews. I think that's why readers keep coming back for each new book as it's released.
8) Do you adhere to any sort of a daily writing schedule? How long does it take you to complete a book on average?
I work a full 40-hour week as my church's office manager. I also take sign language classes once a week. I try to write at least ten to twenty pages a night when I come home, but that isn't always possible. My weekends are spent in my office, writing, answering mail or networking. I try to find a new website every week that I can write to and promote my (and other ebook authors') works. I also look for new places to send my book for review. Just writing a book and turning it in doesn't mean a writer's job is done. Promoting that book is 80% of the success of it and at least 50% of that promotion MUST come from the author if the book is going to be noticed. It takes me about four months to write a 90K word novel and six months for 120K+. I also do articles for several websites and could do more if there were more hours in the day. But even though article writing gets your name out there, it also takes time away from creating your novel. I try not to over-extend in that area. Fiction is my love and if it is yours, try to concentrate on making your work the best it can be. Edit and re-edit at least twice before ever turning it in to your publisher because you're gonna have to do edits again anyway!! :)
9) What advice do you have for unpublished authors?
If even ONE unpublished author heeds the advice I am about to give, I will be happy. Unfortunately, there will be several more who will read it and dismiss it in their haste to become published authors, but here goes:
Please stay away from vanity and subsidy publishers! Don't spend one thin dime to have your work published. There are too many honest, royalty-paying publishers out there who do not require you to invest any of your hard-earned money for you to have to resort to paying to have your work pubbed. As someone who was twice burned by vanity publishers to the tune of several thousands of dollars, I can honestly tell you that you WILL NOT RECOUP WHAT YOU PAY OUT! No matter how good the deal sounds, you will never be able to come out ahead. And if you decide to ignore this advice and get hooked up with one of these outfits, at least investigate them thoroughly before you signed the contract! Call the Better Business Bureau where they operate; ask for author references; ask for credit references; ask to talk to the company that distributes their books (you might be surprised to learn they don't even have one! If that's the case, how will YOUR book get out to the public?) Go to the Preditors and Editors website and see what other writers have had to say about that company. A rule of thumb to remember is if a publisher comes to you (via letter or email) to solicit your work, you'd better think long and hard. Most legit publishers don't EVER go out looking for writers. There is no need for them to. The same holds true of so-called 'agents' who want to represent you for 'a nominal fee'. If you're considering going the ebook route, join firstname.lastname@example.org. We discuss these outfits and you can have the benefit of many published authors' experiences to pull from. If you're going to go the self-published route, please make sure you have distributors lined up before your book ever rolls off the presses. What good will it do for you to have 2000 copies of your work if you've nowhere to sell them? Distribution is vitally important and without it, all you've got are 2000 copies of your work sitting in a closet, gathering dust. I'm not trying to discourage would-be writers from pursuing their dreams. What I AM trying to do is to keep them from making the same mistakes a lot of us have in our zeal to become published. Take our mistakes and learn from them. It might save you a dime or two and it might even keep you from being among other authors in a class action suit against an unscrupulous publisher. Believe me when I tell you that you do NOT want to throw more good money after bad in a situation like that!