Author Interviews

* you can find the original interviews and much more on my 'everything writing' blog (http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com), including author spotlights, guest posts, book reviews, flash fiction or poetry - new items posted 6am UK time Monday to Saturday and writing exercises at 6pm very weekday.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Author interview no.683 with short story writer Joanna Sterling (revisited)


Back in June 2013, I interviewed author Joanna Sterling for my WordPress blog. I hope you enjoy it...
Welcome to the six hundred and eighty-third of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with short story writer and The Casket host Joanna Sterling. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Joanna. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Joanna SterlingJoanna: I was born in London and have lived here most of my life.  I would consider myself a Londoner. I took up writing after early retirement.  But I have always told stories and as a child had a fertile imagination.
Morgen: I went the other way; I early retired last March (a few months before my 45th birthday) to write full-time and can’t see me ever having a proper job, although I’ll be teaching creative writing for my local council’s adult learning from January so that still isn’t ‘work’ to me. :) You predominantly write short stories (my first love), did you pick them or did they pick you?
Joanna: I think they picked me.  I’m comfortable writing short stories and I enjoy the discipline they impose. There is a craft involved in their construction no matter how concise the story.
Morgen: Absolutely. I started off writing short stories having ‘discovered’ creative writing on an evening course eight years ago and despite having written seven novels, they will always be my first love and would ‘win’ if I had to choose between the two formats. Is there a particular market you aim for when writing stories for publication?
Joanna: Generally I would say my stories are aimed at a female market, but not exclusively. 
Morgen: Are there any publications you can recommend for short stories (submissions and reading)?
Joanna: I regularly read Mslexia and the Bristol Short Story Prize Anthologies.  Also One Story which comes from America and arrives once a month.  A single story in a slim booklet that can be slipped into a bag or pocket. 
Morgen: I subscribe to all the writing magazines, including Mslexia, and recommend writers get at least one of them as it does bring the writing community into your home. I’m intrigued by ‘One Story’. I was going to add it to http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/submission-information/submissions-flash-fiction-short-stories but then found out it’s already there. Your The Casket site is listed under both categories too. :) Why do you think short stories are so hard done by (with most readers going for novels)?
Joanna: The publishing industry focuses on novels and puts the weight of their marketing budgets into this area.  They are what readers see when they first go into the big bookshops and at supermarket shelves.  Short stories are often published by small independent publishers with limited resources and therefore unable to compete.  Whenever I read out my stories, at events like National Short Story Week, people enjoy them.  And often comment that they wish more short stories were readily available. 
Morgen: That’s the great thing about eBooks and self-publishing, we can publish our own and really they can be any length – my shortest (free) eShort is just over 600 words. You accept flash fiction, do you write it too? Can you remember the word count of the shortest story you’ve ever written?
Joanna: Yes, I love writing flash fiction and regularly have it on my website.  One of the hardest flash fictions I did was a ‘Drabble’ which is a story in exactly 100 words, no more no less.  Now that is difficult.  My shortest to date is ‘Lunchtime at St Vedast’s’ which was published on London Literary Project – that was only 60 words.
Morgen: My first published story (back in the day when Woman’s Weekly took them) was a 60-worder. :) I’m currently doing Story a Day May and the first day was to write a Drabble; I loved writing it (called How the Drabble came about). What have you had published to-date?
Joanna: I have had stories published in a couple of anthologies, on some flash fiction websites and on English PEN.  And of course my own website.
Morgen: Are your stories available as eBooks? How involved were you in that process? Do you read eBooks (novels or short stories?) or is it paper all the way?
Joanna: On my website some of stories are available as downloads for eReader.  Converting and uploading them is a time consuming process which I do myself, which is why not all stories are available for eReader.  But there is a print option on the website so anyone can have a free copy.  Generally I tend to read paper versions, but not exclusively. I do have a Kindle and I do read stuff on the web and on my smart phone. 
Morgen: It’s amazing how many people do, including novels. I have a BlackBerry with a lovely clear screen albeit fairly small as it has a full QWERTY keyboard so short stories would be enough for me. I love reading longer pieces on my iPad. Do you have a favourite of your stories or characters?
Joanna: Oh yes, my favourite character has to be Susan Tate, a quirky librarian who lives in Canterbury.  She rides a tricycle and has a cat called Charles Dickens.  There are several stories about her on the website.  I hope one day to have a whole collection. 
Morgen: It sounds great. Do let me know when you do have a collection, you could come back and do an author spotlight, and I can list them on http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/books-other-peoples/short-stories. In the meantime I do welcome <1,000-worders for Flash Fiction Fridays. :) What are you working on at the moment / next?
tubetrainJoanna: I have just launched Tube-Flash, it is in conjunction with Transport for London.  I have paired a number of London Underground stations with brooches and writers have, and are, contributing flash fiction stories inspired by either the stations or the brooches.  It started as a small idea of just one flash fiction based on the Elephant and Castle and then sort of grew.  It is all terribly exciting a new flash fiction story is published on the website every Monday morning at 09.55, except Bank Holidays, Christmas & Easter and during August.  Like all good public transport we are closed for our summer holidays and maintenance! Tube-Flash will create a diverse collection of stories by a wide range of writers. They are recorded every six weeks, published on a Wednesday at 09.55 and put onto iTunes as free podcasts. They are another way to enjoy Tube-Flash, great fun with train sounds and announcements.  I couldn’t have imagined how wide reaching the project would become when I started.  And there is still more in the pipeline. 
Morgen: It’s a wonderful idea. Do you manage to write every day?
Joanna: No, I don’t.  I do set out every day with that intention, but I’m easily distracted.  Life gets in the way. 
Morgen: Doesn’t it just. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Joanna: I usually start with an idea; often it is an incident or a character.  I have a beginning and the end, I then mostly let the story run.  Sometimes I do more detailed plotting if the story requires it, for example ‘The Female of the Species’, a thriller about a female assassin, I needed to ensure I had the key player in the right place at the right time, winging it was not an option.
Morgen: You mentioned Susan Tate – do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Joanna: The name of a character is often the last thing I decide.  Among the earliest choices are the clothes and mannerisms.  Does she wear high heels and twirl her engagement ring round and round?
Morgen: Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Joanna: I do a great deal of editing and reworking.  A story often ends up quite differently from how it began.  I also ask people to read and give feedback on my writing, you can be too close to a piece.  I find it helpful to have others’ views and input. 
Morgen: Second opinions are vital and why I set up five online writing groups. It’s all too easy for us to know what we mean by something but a reader without knowing our intention can often become stumped and therefore the story doesn’t work for them. Do you have to do much research?
Joanna: This will depend very much on the story.  I have one that is in the pipeline called The Lady Elfleda set in the North East in 680 AD.  This has involved a fair amount of reading around the subject, what people wore, ate, how they lived.  The story is loosely based on real people so I do need to be accurate in terms of place and atmosphere. 
Morgen: I write very little historical – it was one of my worst subjects at school, so there’s probably no coincidence, although I submitted a story to Writing Magazine this week about Sir Walter Raleigh and QE1, which was great fun (although a lot of research including a Black Adder 2 clip on You Tube :)). What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Joanna: It will depend on the story.  I switch around depending on the story.  That is one of the joys of short story writing you can switch between points of view and tenses in each story both for variety and to stretch yourself.  The second person is interesting but I don’t think is sustainable, mine have all been flash fiction stories. 
Morgen: It’s my favourite point of view but I agree. I’ve tried reading Jay McInerney’s ‘Bright Lights, Big City’ but never (yet) made it to the end and it’s not even that long; 182 pages of reasonably-sized print. Do you enter competitions? Are there any you could recommend?
Joanna: Yes, it is a good discipline, a story has to be complete and as good as it possibly can. Makes you finish a piece rather than leave it languishing as nearly there but just needing that last bit of polish.
Morgen: Do you do much marketing for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Joanna: At the start I had business cards printed and my husband calls me a ‘card tart’ because everywhere I go I try to have them with me and hand them out.  People ask me about the brooch I’m wearing and it is a great introduction into the site and my writing. For my latest project I’m having printed postcards so the writers can hand them out or post them to friends.  A bit more fun than the traditional flyer.  I also have a Twitter and Facebook.
Morgen: It’s all about getting out there in one form or another, isn’t it. What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Joanna: My least favourite aspect has to be promoting my website and the Tube-flash project.  You can put a lot of work into something like a press release, send it out, follow up with phone-calls and nothing.  Sites like yours are a godsend, responsive and interested in writers but they are rare and far between.
Morgen: Marketing has mostly been the answer to ‘least’ favourite. Even if an author enjoys it, it takes so much time away from what we should be doing; the writing. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Joanna: I attend a writers’ workshop, I find this invaluable.  It is a safe environment to share work.  You can criticise each others’ work and test out new ideas or writing styles you have not previously attempted.  If your fellow writers have difficulty with something it is likely that your readers will have even more difficulty. Writing is by its very nature a solitary activity so it is important to meet other writers. 
Morgen: I run / belong to four writing groups and love them, but then I live and breathe writing so talking about it with other writers is always enjoyable. Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Joanna: For the last couple of years I have been part of National Short Story Week and held events called ‘Telling Tales & Taking Tea’.  Reading both my own and other writers short stories to my local community.  These have proved popular.  I also collect brooches.  I have over 450 and counting.  I wear one every day sometimes more than one.  And they feature on my website and are playing a key role in Tube-Flash.
Morgen: Are there any writing-related websites and / or books that you find useful?
Joanna: As a short story writer the best book I have read is ‘Write short stories and get them published’ by Zoe Fairbairns.  In terms of general reference the two books I use most are Collins ‘Thesaurus’ and Penguin ‘Dictionary of literary terms & literary theory’.
Morgen: What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Joanna: Technology is changing how readers want to interact with material so writers need to reflect this and be flexible. 
Morgen: Indeed. Where can we find out about you and your writing?
The Casket LogoJoanna: I have a website where I publish both my own and guest writers’ work: www.thecasket.co.uk. A whole new area has recently been created to allow online submissions – anyone wanting to submit a short story or flash fiction to The Casket can find details at www.thecasket.co.uk/submit. I’m on Twitter at https://twitter.com/casketfiction and have a Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/casketfiction 
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Joanna: I would like to mention that The Casket is a Made for Mobile website, which means you can read everything on the site on your smartphone or iPad or Tablet as well as your computer.  I believe this is the way forward.  Particularly for short stories and flash fiction.  I’m not sure but I think The Casket is one of the first literary sites to adopt this technology.
Morgen: I love technology and apparently it’s getting more people reading so that can only be a good thing. Thank you, Joanna.
***
If you are reading this and you write, in whatever genre, and are thinking “ooh, I’d like to do this” then you can… just email me and I’ll send you the information. They do now (January 2013) carry a fee (£10 / €12.50 / $15) for the new interviews on this blog (they also subsequently get posted on http://morgensauthorinterviews.wordpress.com and http://morgensauthorinterviews.blogspot.co.uk) but everything else (see Opportunities on this blog) is free.
If you go for the interview, it’s very simple; I send you a questionnaire (I have them for novelists, short story authors, children’s authors, non-fiction authors, and poets). You complete the questions, and I let you know when it’s going to go live. Before it does so, I add in comments as if we’re chatting, and then they get posted. When that’s done, I email you with the link so you can share it with your corner of the literary world. And if you have a writing-related blog / podcast and would like to interview me… let me know.
** NEW!! You can now subscribe to the mixed blog on your Kindle / Kindle app!
You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything. You can contact me and find me on the internetview my Books (including my debut novel, which is being serialised on Novel Nights In!) and I also have a blog creation / maintenance service especially for, but not limited to, writers. If you like this blog, you can help me keep it running by donating and choose an optional free eBook.
For writers / readers willing to give feedback and / or writers wanting feedback, take a look at this blog’s Feedback page.
As I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t unfortunately review books but I have a list of those who do. If there’s anything you’d like to take part in, take a look at Opportunities on this blog.
I welcome items for critique for the online writing groups listed below:
Morgen’s Online Non-Fiction Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Novel Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Poetry Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Script Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Short Story Writing Group
We look forward to reading your comments.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Author interview no.682 with publisher KG Books (revisited)


Back in May 2013, I interviewed author and publisher Tracy Kauffman for my WordPress blog. I hope you enjoy it...

Welcome to the six hundred and eighty-second of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with writer and publisher Tracy Kauffman of K G Books. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.

KGBOOKS LOGOMorgen: Hello, Tracy. Can you please briefly explain the structure of your publishing house… perhaps who’s involved along the process of an acceptance to the book / story being published.
Tracy: First of all I want to thank you for inviting me to be a part of your wonderful blog.  KG Books is a traditional type book publisher located in North Alabama.  It is a part of a partnership and both my partner, Vicky and I agree on whom we publish. 
Morgen: You’re very welcome, Tracy. I’m delighted you could join me today. You’re also a writer – does this help with deciding which projects to take on?
Tracy:  Yes, I started out as an author before deciding to start my own company.  I had seen where certain companies published authors but charged a fee just to get the book to print.  Our company charges no upfront fees.  We only make a percentage if the book sells. 
Morgen: They do and there are a lot of scams out there (which is where sites like http://pre-ed.com are invaluable). The $64,000 question: out of all the submissions you receive, what makes a book / story stand out for all the right reasons?
Tracy:  First of all, the book has to make sense.  You wouldn’t believe how many manuscripts have been sent to us that have not been edited.  They are simply hard to read.  Editing makes a huge impact on whether we accept the submission or not.  Then, we look at length, genre, storyline, and if it is interesting to us.
Morgen: Submissions should be the best they can be. A book will be edited by the publishers but even so… Without naming names, what makes a book proposal / story stand out for all the wrong reasons? :)
Tracy:  Our mission is to publish decent stories to the public.  Therefore we will not consider any erotica type books at all.  Excessive cursing is the second thing that makes us say NO.  Cursing doesn’t make a book appealing.
Morgen: It would be out of character (literally) for a rough and tough antagonist to say, “oh darn”, but less is most definitely more. What genres do you accept? What would you suggest an author do with a cross-genre piece of writing?
Tracy: We accept all except erotica.  Cross genres are actually easier to market because they reach a wider base of customers.
Morgen: I’m sure there’ll be so many authors reading this who will love to hear you say that. Is there a genre that you haven’t published and would like to?
Tracy:  I hope to publish some Crime / Mystery books in the future.
Morgen: They are incredibly popular. Is there a genre that sells better than others or that you can’t get enough of?
Tracy:  Although we haven’t published any Crime / Mystery books, they seem to be selling well.
Morgen: How can an author submit to you?
Tracy: They can submit directly through our website at: http://Kgbooks.org or through our email at: kgbookspub@yahoo.com
Morgen: Can you suggest some do’s and don’t’s when submitting to you.
Tracy: 1. Do take time to proofread.  2. Don’t be blunt and think we are at your mercy.  3. Do take time to research the market to see what sells.  4. Do give us time to read your manuscript. 
Morgen: I have heard of authors submitting manuscripts then phoning up the next day to see if the agent / publisher has read it yet! Are there authors that you deal with on a regular basis and / or perhaps represent directly?
Tracy: We play a key role in marketing and helping our authors learn to market for themselves.  One author which I will not name, calls almost everyday.
Morgen: This is a question that I ask authors but I think is just as relevant to you as a publisher: what was the first book / story you published?
Tracy: The first story was A Closer Walk but it was only in Ebook format.
Morgen: Do you run competitions?
Tracy: Not as yet.  Most of our time right now is dedicated to publishing, marketing and educating our authors.
Morgen: To your knowledge, have any of your published books / stories won or been shortlisted in any competitions?
Tracy: Not as yet, but we are hopeful.
Morgen: :) What do you feel about an author writing under a pseudonym? Do you think they make a difference to their profile? And would you recommend an author writing under different names for different genres?
Tracy:  I think an author should take credit for their work.  If they keep the same name throughout the process then it will be easier to market them.
Morgen: It certainly would. It takes a lot of work to get known. Another semi-priceless question: do you think an agent is vital to an author’s success? How would you suggest an author gets one?
Tracy:  I know most publisher use agents but we prefer not to.  At least not at the moment.
Morgen: Now for, in theory, a simple question: what’s your opinion of eBooks, do you publish them and do you read them?
Tracy: I think ebooks are becoming more and more vital to the publishing industry. So, yes we publish them.
Morgen: Poetry and short stories are, in my opinion anyway, the two most hard done by genres… what do you see as the future for them? Do you think the eBook revolution will help given that eBooks seem to be getting shorter?
Tracy: The way the world is becoming so fast paced, most readers like to read something quickly and then move on to the next book.  So I think short stories are going to become more prevalent.
Morgen: As a short story writer first and foremost I’m biased, but I think so too. Is there a plot that’s written about too often?
Tracy: The vampire scene is getting redundant. 
Morgen: I tend to agree but perhaps will return in another few years – Dracula will always be a favourite of many. Do you have to do a lot of editing to the stories you accept or is the writing usually more or less fully-formed?
Tracy: We have editors and yes, all has to be editing in some way or another.
Morgen: For your purposes, does it matter what point of view a story is written in?
Tracy: The point of view of a story depends on how the author wants the book to be viewed.  So if it helps the story, I say go for it.
Morgen: Have you had any surprising feedback about any of your published works?
Tracy: My books have had lots of surprising feedbacks. 
Morgen: Good, hopefully. Is there a story, section or theme of a book that you’ve printed, or yet to print, that you’re particularly fond of? And why?
Tracy: I enjoy reading more realistic type books but historical is nice to read too.
Morgen: I have had agents say to me they want more crime and historical (and a mixture of the two!). What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Tracy: Don’t be so quick to get your manuscript in print.  A polished book takes time, energy and lots of editing.
Morgen: It certainly does. I’ve done six NaNoWriMos and soon learned that the writing was the easy bit. What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Tracy: I see more and more writing careers out there other than just writing a book.
Morgen: Are there any writing-related websites and/or books that you could recommend?
Morgen: Given that more emphasis these days is put on the author to market their published works or indeed themselves as a ‘brand’, how involved are you generally with your authors post-publication?
Tracy: We help the author not only market some themselves but we use different venues to market them too.  If they succeed, we succeed.  We don’t get anything if the book doesn’t sell, so we strive to make sure it does.
Morgen: That’s a very good incentive. Apart from your website, how do you market yourselves? Are your authors involved in marketing for you / themselves?
Tracy: We use various ways to market including cold calls, social media, book signings, etc…
Morgen: In which country are you based and do you find this a help or hindrance with letting people know about, or distributing, your publications?
Tracy: We are based in the United States. No, it is not a hindrance at all.
Morgen: What do you think of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and more business-related such as LinkedIn? Do you think they’re invaluable or too time-consuming?
Tracy: They are definitely ways to market an author and are invaluable.
Morgen: Apart from the stories in your publications, what do you like to read? Any authors (including those you’ve published) that you’d like to recommend?
Southern Attraction CoverartTracy: There are too many great authors to name just one.  I encourage readers to give Terry Bradley’s new children’s book: How Bees Came to Make Chili a try or my book: Southern Attraction.
Morgen: Are you involved in anything else writing-related?
Tracy: I write three blogs.  One for the publishing agency, two myself. 
Morgen: Again I’m biased, but blogs are a great way to get noticed. What do you do when you’re not working?
Tracy:  It seems like I am always working.  I do enjoy spending time with my family.
Morgen: I ask my guest authors for their least favourite aspect of their writing life and the answer is usually ‘marketing’. Even those who enjoy it resent the time it takes away from their writing – we are writers, after all. Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Tracy:  We are taking submission in any genre except erotica at Kgbookspub@yahoo.com or through our website at Kgbooks.org
Morgen: Is there anything you’d like to ask me?
Tracy: No but I appreciate the interview today.
Morgen: You’re very welcome, Tracy. Thank you for joining me.
I then invited Tracy to include a self-contained excerpt of her writing…
Excerpt for: Southern Attraction, Chapter Five
Heather was awakened by the sound of her alarm.  Today is the first day of the rest of my life, she thought as she stretched and yawned.  She jumped up out of her bed, hit the silence button on the alarm, and went to her closet to pick out her clothes for the day.  After looking through all her clothes, she sighed deeply.          
What can I wear to this illiterate, rustic school.  If I dress up, then people will think I’m a snob and snub me.  If I dress down, then I will blend into the crowd, and I will not be able to accomplish anything.  I guess I have my answer.  I need to be seen in order to make a difference, whether good or bad.
Heather picked out her black leather skirt, a white dress shirt, a black fringed soft leather jacket and her black leather boots.  At least I’m wearing boots, that way I’ll blend in somewhat, she thought.  She styled her hair the way she always did and put on her makeup with a little more emphasis than usual. 
Heather heard a knock on the door, “Yes, what do you want?” she asked.  “I’m going to be outside.  My cotton pickin’ cow, Molly, got out of the fence, and I have to round her up.  Be back after a while,” Mick said through the door.  “All right, but I’m leaving in a few minutes, so I’ll see you after school,” Heather replied. 
“Okey dokey, see ya later,” Mick responded. 
“Okey dokey!  I can’t believe I’m living with a redneck, dirt farmer,” she said as she rolled her eyes.  Heather glanced at the alarm, “Crap, I’m going to be late”, she said as she grabbed her purse and ran out the door.  The door slammed behind her as she ran to the car.  She looked around for Mick, but didn’t see him anywhere.  I guess he’ll realize I’m gone when he doesn’t hear from me, she thought.
As Heather drove down the narrow gravel road she looked for the right road to take to get her to the school.  She saw Mick with a belt whipping his cow.  “Now I’m seen everything,” she said as she laughed.
As Heather approached the school, a green ford truck ran right in front of her.  She paused for a second after giving him the finger.  I can’t believe these idiots, she thought.  She pulled into the parking space closer to the front of the school, and she looked over to the green pickup truck. 
A scruffy looking guy with long hair climbed out of the truck.  “You need to watch where you’re going.  This ain’t New York, this is my town,” he said very hatefully with a smirk on his face.  “No, you need to watch where you are going, you hick.  You’re the one who ran in front of me,” Heather replied as she pointed her finger at him.  Heather was a little tougher than she looked.  She wasn’t going to let some corn fed hillbilly talk to her like that. 
“How do you know I’m from New York anyway?” she asked. 
“That is for me to know and you to find out,” he replied as he turned away from her. 
Heather wasn’t used to people treating her this way, especially boys.  She was the most popular girl in the whole school at Manhattan High School.  Now she was in a place that was oblivious to the fact that she wore an eighteen hundred dollar Armani jacket and Louboutin boots.  How can anyone not care about fashion, she thought.  Fashion is what made her so popular.  Everyone in Manhattan wanted what she had.  She was the envy of all the girls at her school.  Now she felt like she was an outsider looking in through a dark stained glass and no one could see her.
***
If you are reading this and you write, in whatever genre, and are thinking “ooh, I’d like to do this” then you can… just email me and I’ll send you the information. They do now (January 2013) carry a fee (£10 / €12.50 / $15) for the new interviews on the mixed blog but everything else (see Opportunities on this blog) is free.
Alternatively, if you’d like a free Q&A-only interview, I now have http://morgensauthorinterviews.wordpress.com on which I’ve rerun the original interviews posted here then posted new interviews which I then reblog here. These interviews are Q&A only, so I don’t add in my comments but they do get exposure on both sites.
If you go for the interview, it’s very simple; I send you a questionnaire (I have them for novelists, short story authors, children’s authors, non-fiction authors, and poets). You complete the questions, and I let you know when it’s going to go live. Before it does so, I add in comments as if we’re chatting, and then they get posted. When that’s done, I email you with the link so you can share it with your corner of the literary world. And if you have a writing-related blog / podcast and would like to interview me… let me know.
** NEW!! You can now subscribe to this blog on your Kindle / Kindle app!
You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything. You can contact me and find me on the internetview my Books (including my debut novel, which is being serialised on Novel Nights In!) and I also have a blog creation / maintenance service especially for, but not limited to, writers. If you like this blog, you can help me keep it running by donating and choose an optional free eBook.
For writers / readers willing to give feedback and / or writers wanting feedback, take a look at this blog’s Feedback page.
As I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t unfortunately review books but I have a list of those who do. If there’s anything you’d like to take part in, take a look at Opportunities on this blog.
I welcome items for critique for the online writing groups listed below:
Morgen’s Online Non-Fiction Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Novel Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Poetry Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Script Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Short Story Writing Group
We look forward to reading your comments.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Author interview with Jaquelyn Muller (revisited)

Back in May 2013, I interviewed author Jaquelyn Muller for my interview-only WordPress blog. I hope you enjoy it...

Welcome to my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, scriptwriters, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with children’s author Jaquelyn Muller. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Jaquelyn. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Jaq 71Jaquelyn: I am based in Melbourne, Australia. I am married with two daughters who everyday dare me to back myself – hence the writing.
Morgen: You write children’s books, was there a reason to choose this genre?
Jaquelyn: I still think and behave like a kid myself in many ways. I don’t understand why anyone would make a jumper with itchy wool if you expect people to wear it and I understand the importance of a good pencil case!
Morgen: What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
Jaquelyn: I have just published my first book, ‘I Love You 5 Lollipops’ under my own name. I worked with illustrator Kathryn Zammit which was one of the best working relationships I have ever had (she understands the attraction of a good pencil case also).
Morgen: They’re fanastic illustrations. What age group do you write for?
Jaquelyn: I have written for ages up to 12 years old. I like the variety in subject matter and tone as it is such a massive learning and growing curve in anyone’s life when you think about it. Kids are adopting, developing and moving on very quickly from all sorts of concepts.
Morgen: Which authors did you read when you were younger and did they shape you as a writer?
Jaquelyn: Louisa May Alcott and Lucy Maud Montgomery. I was a bit of a romantic as a child and loved the historical aspects of the settings and social nuances. I even asked my grandmother to make me a ‘petticoat dress’. I think the sophistication of the relationships between women in those days was quite evident. They didn’t have the interruptions that we had as children and I loved the way they spoke. I don’t know how many little girls I probably freaked out because I wanted them to be my ‘kindred spirit’?
Morgen: Which author(s) would you compare your writing to?
Jaquelyn: I wouldn’t dare compare myself to another writer, but I admire the work of Stephen Michael King, Freya Blackwood, Anna Walker and Sam McBratney. I love the way they represent individuals.
Morgen: Do you think it’s easier writing for children than adults?
Jaquelyn: No, not at all. Since early childhood picture books are so much shorter you have to grab the attention of the younger audience instantly and hold it. Adults may be inclined to wade through a few chapters of a book to see whether they like it or not. Children don’t give you that opportunity. You need to know what you are going say and do it well very quickly! 
Morgen: Do you get a second opinion on your stories before they’re published – if so from adults, children or both?
Jaquelyn: Both and on-going at different stages through the process. The inception of the idea I generally run passed the kids, then I have the base text assessed by an adult for grammar, story, age appropriateness and marketability. Both audiences will have feedback on concept layouts, then it’s a matter of finessing it from there.
Morgen: Do you have any tips for anyone thinking about writing for children?
Jaquelyn: Don’t just assume that it is a matter of writing a cute story about a chicken or a frog. Marketing and self-promotion is a huge part of the process which often takes you away from the joy of writing. You are marketing the book to parents and grandparents as well as children so you need to think about how you are going to do that before anyone even sees it.
Morgen: Have you self-published? If so, what lead to you going your own way?
I love you coverJaquelyn: Yes I have self-published ‘I Love You 5 Lollipops’. I had the text assessed by a highly-regarded children’s book editor who told me it could be developed into a beloved family favourite, but I didn’t want to wait around for a publisher to pick it up. I have a background in publishing and marketing so I felt that with the right preparation I could take this on. I am extremely proud with what I have ended up with and the support for the book has been heart-warming. I feel like running through a meadow in petticoat dress!
Morgen: :) Are your books available as eBooks? How involved were you in that process? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Jaquelyn: Not yet but there are plans for this down the track. I am a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to picture books but I love the idea of all the digital assets that can be created around them to enhance a child’s relationship with that book, eg. website, app, activity sheets.
Morgen: Did you choose the titles / covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
Jaquelyn: The attraction of self-publishing is that you can have far more control over the design of your book and since I had a very clear vision for ‘I Love You 5 Lollipops’, this was very important to me. Book covers are particularly important in children’s picture books as the cover needs to engage both adults and children.
Morgen: What are you working on at the moment / next?
Jaquelyn: I am planning a ‘I Love You 5 Lollipops’ follow-on series involving the central character, Elizabeth Rose and her family. Both the illustrator, Kathryn Zammit and myself are eager to work together again and feel there is plenty to explore with this character.
Morgen: Do you manage to write every day, or ever suffer from writer’s block?
Jaquelyn: I do write everyday whether it be for my blog, press releases, teacher’s notes for my book, my other digital consulting work or other social media. I don’t necessarily work on my books every day, which is a priority for me this year.
Morgen: Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Jaquelyn: I tend to find more creativity when I am on trains, in the car, outside or observing. I will write down a few notes on the spot then I will start to flesh it out from there. I tend to work at my desk when I am getting into the nitty gritty of story construction and editing.
Morgen: Do you write any poetry, novels, non-fiction or short stories?
Jaquelyn: This book and my next are both poetry. I have also written a novel for pre-teens.
Morgen: Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Jaquelyn: The novel that I wrote for pre-teens!
Morgen: Oh dear. Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Jaquelyn: Of course. It is hard at the time mostly because of the time it takes from the time you send the submission to when you receive an answer, so you sweat on it a bit. I think you just have to accept that it is part of publishing and have another stream of income!
Morgen: Ah yes. I quit my day job last year and am doing the pauper writer thing, even with two lodgers (paying housemates) but I don’t regret it for a second. Do you do much marketing for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Jaquelyn: I have spent a lot of time in the marketing of myself as well as my book. I have a background in PR and marketing so I have spent many years marketing other people and products. It has taken a while to feel comfortable doing about myself, but I am getting better at it.
Morgen: Marketing is definitely a learning curve, and the usual answer to the ‘least’ part of my next question… What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Jaquelyn:  My favourite aspect is when I am deeply in the zone of writing and I am happy with what is coming out. I have been humbled by the support I have received from people who don’t know me and their enthusiasm for what I have produced. I have also been surprised by how much I have enjoyed the business aspects of publishing (not too many authors say that).
Morgen: Not many have to me, no. :) If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Jaquelyn: Billy Connolly, Jane Austen and George Lucas, they are all great story tellers. I think I would cook something warm and comforting like risotto. I suspect there would also be a few bottles of pinot involved.
Morgen: If you had to choose a single day from your past to re-live over and over, what day would it be and why?
Jaquelyn: Recently I took my girls to Disneyland. It was the first time there for all of us. When I caught a glimpse of the Magic Kingdom from a distance it was an excitement that I had anticipated for over 30 years, the fact that I got to share that with my daughters was a day I will never forget. Cheesy but fun.
Morgen: Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Jaquelyn: ‘May the force be with you.’
Morgen: :) Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Morgen: What do you do when you’re not writing?
Jaquelyn: Cooking (there are people who live in my house that insist on eating all the time), running (it clears my head and sets me up for the day), attempting to grow vegetables (I am waiting for People Against Vegetable Abuse to knock on my door any day).
Morgen: My mother is very green-fingered. I take after my father. Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Jaquelyn: I find the children’s author groups on LinkedIn quite good. I have been able to get onto a few book reviewers that way. It was also how I did some of the research around self-publishing platforms.
Morgen: Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Jaquelyn:
Morgen: Is there anything you’d like to ask me?
Jaquelyn: What are your top 3 favourite children’s books?
Morgen: My all-time favourite is Russell Hoban’s The Mouse & His Child. I don’t have my original copy unfortunately but did get another edition quite recently from a car boot sale (like a garage sale but held in a field). It’s been quite a while since I was a child (I’m mid 40s) so the other two don’t come so easily but I’m a big Roald Dahl fan so Matilda and James & the Giant Peach are ones I’d love to have read to my children (had I had any). Thank you, Jaquelyn.
I then invited Jaquelyn to include a synopsis of her book, ‘I Love You 5 Lollipops’…
A new book by Melbourne author, Jaquelyn Muller, is set to become a cherished family favourite enhancing bedtime for children and care givers as they read aloud together.
Released through amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and selected independent bookstores, ‘I Love You 5 Lollipops’, is a full colour paperback that follows the story of Elizabeth Rose and her unusual family.
With timeless circus themed illustrations by Kathryn Zammit, ‘I Love You 5 Lollipops’, is a return to the tradition of bedtime story telling. Jaquelyn has used elements that many children will recognise but the concept of family and relationships is represented in a fun and imaginative way designed to promote discussion.
Although produced in the early childhood genre, ‘I Love You 5 Lollipops’ can be introduced to the youngest of babies and toddlers, while the images allow for art, literacy and numeracy project adaptations for kinder and school-aged children.
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Jaquelyn Muller has skipped, ran and at times spun in circle around a 20-year career in marketing and public relations, starting out in magazine publishing then moving on to start and run businesses with her husband. 
Now daydreams through the home office window are to be put to good use and weaved into tales she hopes will bring moments enjoyed through her children’s books.
Inspired by the thousands of fearless authors and illustrators, who at some point were prepared to ‘have a go’, Jaquelyn will release her first early childhood picture book, ‘I Love You 5 Lollipops’ in early 2013 via Amazon and other online bookstores and selected bookshops.
Collaborating in creative relationships is one of the gifts Jaquelyn appreciates in writing for children. ‘Whether working with other authors, illustrators or discussing story ideas with children, there is a deep level of trust in handing over your creative vision and asking others to invest their time in it. The path from inspiration to page is like having a best day every day, which will hopefully come through in the books I create’.
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