A Chat with Stephanie McKibben

 

Stephanie McKibben

Stephanie McKibben is one of the most generous, open publishers I’ve ever met. Her genuine desire to help other writers obtain their desires of becoming published authors is clearly evident in the audio message she’s recorded on her website at Troll River Publications (http://www.trollriverpub.com), and she welcomes readers with open arms. Her engaging personality comes through clearly, but she’s a stickler for ensuring that she and her writers are held to high standards in terms of the quality of the product they produce. Not just a body behind a desk, like many small presses, Stephanie does it all; editing, publishing, career development, and hand-holding aplenty. She cares deeply about writers and readers, and brings them together with joy and purpose. Welcome, Stephanie!

Interviewed by
Debbie A. McClure

Q: Stephanie, you are both an author and the small, independent publisher of Troll River Publications. Can you tell us how and why you decided to take on both of these extremely challenging roles?
A: I was always going to be an author, but it was Patricia A. Knight who convinced me to publish for other authors. When I was thinking about publishing I decided to go the indie route and create a separate company—a publishing company. That much I knew I was going to do. My crit partner, Patricia, didn’t want to be a self-published author and queried publishers to no avail. When she said she was going to put her manuscript in a drawer and forget about it, I freaked out. I told her I would publish it. I told her I would do the things she didn’t want to do – like convert the word document to an .epub, or do the technical side of things. I would help her through the process. I convinced Patricia that her story was too awesome to hide in darkness, so she became my very first signed author to Troll River Publications. That book is now the first of our most profitable series.

Q: How did you come up with the name Troll River Publications for your company? Does it hold any significant meaning?
A: When I was deciding between becoming a self-published author or going with a publishing company, I always came across people saying the Big 6 (“The Big 5” now) were trolls. They were the gatekeepers. Sometimes they were vilified. When I took the mantel of being a small press I decided that if I was going to become a “troll” that I might as well embrace the stigma.
But I also had a strange dream one night while trying to decide which way to go. A troll on the bridge of “publication” stood there, mean, ugly and not letting anyone through until a little girl handed him a book. He sat down and read the book, allowing all the little authors to dance over the bridge of publication and get their stories past the gatekeeper’s iron fence. And the troll was happy.
So I thought, why not? Because the bridge was over the river of writer’s tears, I called it Troll River Publications.

Q: You are the author of eight erotic fiction novels. How did you get started writing erotica, and what is it about this genre that fascinates you?
A: I guess there’s no other explanation than, I like sex. I like erotic romance the best, and I try to bring a certain amount of romance and story to each book.

Q: How do you decide which writers to work with and which ones to pass on?
A: I don’t really take queries. I talk to authors. I get to know them. If they like, I look at their work in progress and become an editor/critique partner for them. If they work well with me as an editor, I know I’d probably work well with them as a publisher.
Editing requires a bit of a thick skin. I don’t pull punches, but I don’t try to be mean. I just tell them my thoughts and if their feelings are hurt, I know they won’t be back. Writing takes so much more than just dealing with constructive criticism. You have to be strong. You have to be a marathon runner—I see a lot of writers slowing down and saying, I need to pace myself, after two years or about three to four books.
I also take referrals from TRP authors that have worked with the writer. But I still talk to the referred writer, tell them what we’re all about, and try to help them the best I can.

Q: What is Troll River Publications looking for in a writer and in books to publish?
A: In writers I’m looking for enthusiasm, willingness to work with me, drive to make the best book they can, have a thick skin, and love their audience.
As to what I’m looking for in books, I mainly go for romance. We have a few odd books out there in different genres because I believe in the author and what they have to say.

Q: What advice would you give to new writers just starting out on their publishing journey?
A: Finish the book. I understand you want to make that first one the best novel ever…but know this…the book you write today will never be the book you write tomorrow.
One day you’ll have twenty books out there (don’t balk—writers who complete the first one will go on to write more), you’ll pick up your first book and then proceed to rip apart your own work.
But you have to finish that first one. It’s also okay to spend more time on the first one. But if it’s taking so long that it’s been five years, set it aside and write the next. You don’t have to abandon the first, just make sure you finish something.

Q: What are your thoughts on the whole traditional vs self-publishing options facing writers today?
A: There is no right or wrong. You must decide what you want to accomplish and whether you’re willing to split the work and the profit. Either way can leave you to die trying. Don’t think it’s better to go self-published or traditionally published. You can try one, then the other. In fact I think it works best if you do both.
(I’m sorry, I have to laugh for a moment. Originally “Traditional publishing” was self-publishing. There were no agents or publishers during the times of the first print press. An author purchased the time and materials for ink, a type-setter, parchment, renting the press —everything. So for me to say “traditional” publishing makes me roll my eyes. Personally, self-publishing is just bringing the industry back to what it was.)

Q: As a publisher who works closely with your writers to polish their work and get it ready for publication, what is the most common error you see new writers making?
A: Most of my writers hold onto their first manuscript so close to their chest and snarl at me that it’s “not ready” that I have to tell them to stop editing and rip the manuscript out of their hands. I wouldn’t say it’s an “error” but it’s the most common thing I see in first time authors. They want it “perfect” and they forget that “excellent” is not perfect. I have to tell them I only want the very best they can do at this time. After the second book, they realize they can have as many “babies” as they want and start getting excited again.
As for writing mistakes, each writer has been different. For some it’s too many occurrences of the same word in one paragraph. With others it’s writing in passive voice, or forgetting about the reader. But these things are pointed out as we work together.

Q: Writing is a craft, a personal journey, and a business venture. What have you learned about yourself since you began writing and publishing?
A: In writing I’ve learned that I have endless stories. I used to wonder if the first book was all I had, but the words kept coming. When I finished one, another would arise.
In publishing I’ve learned that spreadsheets are my friend. I’ve also learned that even smart marketing can’t be as good as an ultra-fan, and there are a lot of books out there. It has been a really fun road. The things I’ve learned before and after publishing have been too great to number. I’m still learning. I’m still drawing strength from those who believe in me.

Q: What has been your greatest life lesson so far?
A: That having a mentor to help me has made all the difference. No matter where you start out, always try to find a mentor and do what they tell you.

Q: What three things can you recommend writers do to move them closer to a “yes” from a publisher?
A: Well I don’t know about other publishers, but for me, if you’re dedicated, unemotional about edits and are willing to reach out to fans, then that moves you closer to being signed.

Q: What is more challenging for you, writing or publishing books for other writers?
A: I have to say writing books for other authors. I’m a ghostwriter as well. It can be hard to give them my best work and never receive recognition for it. Writing is fun. Publishing is fun. Neither are more challenging, only different.

Q: What do you feel Troll River Publications offers writers and readers that’s different from other publishers?
A: I tell every writer that they can do what I do. They don’t need me. You can do it! In fact, I’m an advocate for self-published writers. However, I get a lot of authors who don’t want to do this journey alone. They have questions. They’re unsure. They want or need someone to tell them to stop editing—and rip the manuscript out of their hands to publish the book. Some writers are so lost and don’t know where or how to start. I’m different in the way I help. I’ve encouraged several authors to do it themselves, and many have. Those that asked me for advice and responded to my help in a professional manner sometimes come on board with TRP. But Troll River is also different in the community. Our authors help each other. Even the ones that don’t run in the same sub-genre. I have were-wolves helping vampires. Cats helping dogs, and military guys holding out a hand to the geeks.

Q: What’s next for you, Stephanie?
A: In writing, I’ve got a stack of my own manuscripts to publish and clients who want my next story yesterday. (can you give me the name of your own latest release so I can link to it?)
In publishing, Troll River has two books coming out every month in 2016. Visit us at http://www.trollriverpub.com to see our new releases! We’ll be at the RT Conference (https://www.rtconvention.com/) in Las Vegas April 12-17, 2016, and are hoping to get all our writers to a personal retreat in June, 2016.

You can find out more about Stephanie and Troll River Publications here:
FaceBook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Troll-River-Publications/553065864724059?ref=hl
Twitter: https://twitter.com/TrollRiver
Web page: https://www.trollriverpub.com
Blog: https://www.trollriverpub.com/blog
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqJflEmvzQVB4e9uYne98rA
Email: stephanie@trollriverpub.com

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Children of the Night (series)

FallenEmbers cover art

Vampires and sex! What could be better for paranormal romance lovers? Author PG Forte certainly pushes the envelope and explores the dynamic, complicated lives of her vampire characters in her Children of the Night series. I wanted to delve into the world and mind of a writer who creates such complex characters and doesn’t shy away from writing outside the proverbial box. With open candour, PG provides answers that give readers insight and a behind-the-scene look into what goes into writing this kind of series, fitting in, and the benefits to not fitting in.

Interviewed by Debbie A. McClure

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Q So what’s a nice Catholic girl like you doing in a sexy vampire fantasy writing world like the ones you pen? What draws you in and holds you to this genre?

A LOL! Would you believe my daughter made me do it? No, seriously, she did. She was reading a lot of vampire fiction at the time, and I’d been complaining about the various vampire traditions I didn’t like—not being able to see themselves in mirrors, being allergic to Holy Water, that sort of stuff. She suggested I write my own, so I did. What keeps me there are the characters I created.

I love them because they’re a family. They care about each other, even though they don’t always show it. They can live forever, which isn’t always the blessing it appears to be on the surface. That’s why the first line of the first book is, “When you live forever, you’re bound to make a few mistakes.” Oh, and they do! lol! But, on the other hand, when you live forever, there’s also time to get a few things right.

Q You are writing your sixth book in a vampire series. What would you say are the challenges writers of serial books face that are different from single titles?

A Oh, where do I start? lol! I guess I should begin by saying that I love writing series. It can be hard sometimes saying good-bye to a set of characters at the end of a book. With a series, you do get a bit of a reprieve. On the other hand, I generally find myself getting frustrated at some point and have to be talked out of killing off the majority of my characters. While I was writing my Oberon series, for example, I kept threatening to have an earthquake destroy the town.

One of the big challenges is consistency. I have to go back and re-read earlier books all the time to make sure my characters aren’t contradicting themselves from book to book. Also, with a big, sprawling series, like most of mine, you end up with a lot of minor characters. Sometimes you don’t remember all their names—which can be a big problem when you reuse a name, or call the same person by two different names. Usually it gets caught in time, but I live in fear. lol!

Another problem is writing yourself into a corner—it happens a lot! Even though I plot everything, my characters have a way of taking detours or going off on tangents. Sometimes those are great, serendipitous moments of glorious inspirations. Other times, you find yourself lost in a world of pain and re-writing, to get yourself back on track.

And then there’s the pacing. You need a few series-long story arcs, but those are often the things that try your readers’ patience. Some loose ends take a while to tie up. For example, there’s a bit of a mystery in the Children of Night series involving Conrad and Damian. The two were lovers for nearly four hundred years. Then, in 1856, they had a terrible falling out. They didn’t speak to each other for the next hundred and thirteen years, and it took them another forty years to finally get back together.

Not surprisingly, readers want to know what happened. No one is thrilled when I tell them I’m not going to explain it until the seventh and last book. And, no, it’s not because I don’t know the answer! I know exactly what happened between them, and why it happened, but as it happens, they’ve both been keeping secrets from each other, so they don’t know. And until they break down and tell each other the truth, there’s no way for the readers to find out either.

So that’s another challenge: keeping your readers so interested in what’s going on, that they forget how frustrated they’re getting with you for not telling them everything up front.

Q What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned about yourself since you began your writing journey?

A Well, I’ve learned I’m a bit of a perfectionist. Trust me; anyone who’s seen my house will be as surprised as I am by that fact. I have patience—who knew? I have determination and the ability to persevere, and a trace of paranoia, which appears to be an occupational hazard for many of us. I’ve also learned I’m a lot more competitive than I ever realized.

Q Would you say you’re a plotter, or a pantster, and why?

A Oh, total plotter. Occasionally I’ll start writing a story before I have the entire plot laid out. Usually this happens when I have a deadline and start panicking about the fact that I don’t have the entire plot laid out. But even then I usually have to stop and work out all the details before I can proceed.

On the plus side, even when I get side-tracked I always have a map to get me back on track. And my finished outlines are so detailed, all I need to do is clean them up again and voila! Instant synopsis—which is a huge advantage!

Q Could you give our readers a brief summary about what your latest book is about?

A I’d love to! Fallen Embers is the fifth book in the series. It’s a seven book series, so this is the point where things are starting to look pretty bleak for some of the characters, while other characters are just starting to come into their own. Exciting times!

The series for the most part is about Conrad Quintano, the patriarch of the Quintano vampire family, and his two youngest children, twins Julie and Marc Fischer. Julie and Marc were born vampire—which is supposed to be impossible. By all the rules governing vampire culture, they should have been killed at birth. But Conrad promised their mother on her deathbed that he would protect them and raise them. He and his partner, Damian, went into hiding together (even though they were no longer lovers) and raised the twins in secret until they were adults and could “pass” for normal vampires.

In each of the books, the twins learn a little bit more about their true heritage and destiny. And, in each of the books, we also explore a little more about Conrad and his relationship with various members of his family. Fallen Embers is largely about Conrad’s relationship with Georgia—his oldest friend and another of his former lovers.

Conrad and Georgia first met in the early twelfth century. On the night they met, Conrad saved Georgia’s life, but he’s always maintained that she saved his as well. It was Georgia who taught him that, just because he was a vampire it didn’t mean he had to be a monster as well. But that was then and this is now and a lot can happen over the course of nine hundred years! They’ve both been keeping dangerous secrets from each other, and now they’re starting to come out.

Q What inspired you to write this series?

A To be honest, I didn’t exactly intend for the series to go this way. In the very beginning I wanted to write a paranormal mystery series. I imagined the twins would be growing quite bored with their lives. Sure, Conrad has amassed a huge amount of wealth over the centuries, and you’d think this would mean they could do whatever they want. But after forty years of not being able to pursue any kind of career (since they don’t age, etc.) and having to keep a low profile, I figured they’d want something to keep their minds occupied. So I thought they should start investigating crimes and mysteries in the paranormal community.

The first book was going to be an introduction to the series and their first case was going to be finding Conrad, who’d gone missing. In the course of writing the book, however, I realized there was a lot more to Conrad’s story than I’d realized. And a whole lot more to Damian’s as well.

Five books later and here we are. Sure there are still mysteries to unravel and the twins are in the thick of things, but it hasn’t unfolded at all the way I thought it would. On the other hand, I love these characters and enjoy spending time with them … now that I’ve been talked out of killing them all off!

Q For you, what is the easiest part of writing a book, the beginning, middle, or end, and why?

A It depends on the book. A lot of beginnings are easy because even when I haven’t worked out all the details of where I’m going or how I’m going to get there, I at least know where I am at the start. But beginnings are also probably where I spend the most of my time, because I am never satisfied with them and, until I have the beginning just right, I can’t move one.

Middles can seem endless, and it’s really easy to get bogged down in them, or to get turned around and lose your way. On the other hand, once you get a little momentum going—and assuming you follow your outline and don’t get off track—you can make a lot of progress in a relatively short period of time.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that endings are usually the easiest for me. However, there are a couple of exceptions. If you’re ending a series, or a stand alone book and saying goodbye to characters you aren’t ready to say goodbye to, endings can take forever. Also, I love endings; which means I’m a perfectionist. I want them to be just right. I’ve written a couple of books in which the last chapter took an embarrassingly long time to write. In fact, in one book, Waiting For The Big One, the last chapter took as long to write as the entire rest of the book. Of course, it was just a novella, and I wrote the rest of it in record time, but still!

Q Do you have a favorite character in this book, or in the series? If so, what makes this character your favorite?

A I love all my characters … well, almost all of them. Even the minor characters have a way of surprising me from time to time. I have one I just can’t kill. He was supposed to have died a couple of times, but one of the other characters keeps stepping in and saving him at the last minute. But, having said all that, I have to admit to being especially fond of Conrad and Damian. And Damian maybe a little bit more.

After 1200  years, Conrad’s a bit tired and jaded. His early life was, for the most part, very unpleasant. And by early life I mean the first several hundred years of it. This has also left him with more than a bit of a bad temper!

Damian, on the other hand, is more irrepressible—and a lot more flamboyant. Unlike Conrad, he was raised in relative luxury. He came from Spanish royalty and was serving as a courtier when he met Conrad. He fell in love with Conrad and ran away from court (and his patron—a very jealous Archduke) to be with his “demon lover”. He also has a temper, however, and a reckless, impulsive nature that regularly lands him in trouble.

I think it’s fair to say Conrad treats Damian, at times, as he would a trophy wife. He loves to indulge him and shower him with gifts, but he doesn’t always understand Damian’s needs and insecurities. There are also some times when he really wishes Damian would just shut up and do as he’s told. Yeah, that’s never gonna happen.

But the two of them love each other to death and have enormous admiration and respect for each other, so they’ll be okay. At least they will once they get those pesky secrets they’ve been keeping sorted out.

Q What’s the one thing about you that might surprise our readers?

A Uh…you mean beside the fact that I talk about my characters as though they were real people? I don’t know. I’m assuming most of them already know about the tattoos, the piercing, and the unicorn hair. That’s old news anyway. One thing that continues to surprise my husband is the fact that, when I’m on a roll, I can happily spend days in front of my computer writing. Seriously, if I’m the only one at home, and as long as I don’t run out of coffee, wine, or dog treats, I’ll barely even stop for meals.

In fact, now that the kids are out of the house, whenever my husband has to go out of town for business it’s exactly what I do. And I’m perfectly content.

Q What are your thoughts on the future of publishing and the self vs. traditional publishing debate?

A I think the more options the better, at this point. I was not an early adopter of the indie publishing movement, to be honest. DIY is a lot of work, frankly, and I really believed—or wanted to believe—that publishers had, perhaps, a better grasp on the industry than individual authors.

I still think some publishers have a better grasp on some aspects of publishing than some authors—but for the most part, I think the days when ANYONE could lay claim to having a handle on what’s going on in the publishing industry—or how best to appeal to the book buying public—are long gone.

At this point, I think the smartest way to go—for me—is hybrid. I don’t want to do all the work for every title, but some titles, yeah. I like being the one making ALL the decisions.

Right now, however, I think it’s really kind of a free-for-all. I think everyone has to decide for him or herself what kind of career best suits them.

Q You write erotic books featuring both gay and straight characters. Has it been difficult finding your “niche market” readers and/or publishing venues? If so, what has been your greatest publishing challenge?

A Oh, yes! Absolutely. Writing a series which is basically impossible to categorize? Terrible, awful, very bad idea. But it’s worse even than you know. Some of the books in the series are erotic; others have no explicit sex at all. There were several important reasons for why there was no sex—either all the sex took place in the past while my main couple were broken up and sleeping with other people and my editor pointed out that, while it was understandable they had both taken other lovers, readers would get upset if they “saw” them having sex with other people. And rightly so, btw, because readers did mention the fact after the book was published! Then, too, I write really long books, and when you have to cut 40K out of a book before it can be published, sometimes the sex has to go.

I don’t know if I’d do anything differently, because as I said, I love my characters and I’m happy with the way the series is turning out, but yeah … not a good idea. Lol!

Of course, I write in a lot of different subgenres anyway, which has hurt me in some ways too. It’s hard to sell books when you can’t easily elucidate your brand.

Q So, what’s next for you, PG?

A Well, I’m just about finished with the follow up to Fallen Embers, which is called To Curse the Darkness and is due out in December. This one picks up pretty much right where Fallen Embers leaves off. Then, before I tackle the seventh and last book in the series, I’m hoping to release a trilogy of novellas which are the start of a spin-off series from my book Inked Memories. The stories all revolve around a tattoo shop in Oakland, CA where a reality TV show is being shot. These are straight up contemporary romances … well, straight up with a little bit of kink and a lot of tattoos. I’m also hoping to finish up a short story and a novella that, hopefully, will also be released this year as part of two anthologies I’m involved with. So, hopefully, it will be a real busy year.

You can find PG here:

Website: http://www.PGForte.com

Blog: http://www.RhymesWithForeplay.blogspot.com

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorPGForte

Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/TheCronesNest/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/PGForte

Tsu: http://www.tsu.co/pgforte

Beacon of Sound

Beacon_of_Sound

A woman who seemingly has it all is about to get her world shaken up by one worldly man, and the results just might be too hot to handle. Take an average counselor living an unsuspecting life and throw in one incredibly delicious prince who thinks he needs to save her, and the result just might be one sensual disaster. In this mildly erotic tale by R. M. Garry, two people learn just how far each is willing to go in order to find a place in each other’s lives, and perhaps something beyond wild desire.

Interviewer: Christy Campbell

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Tell us about yourself and how you came to enjoy writing.

I am a day dreamer. I know everyone says that, but it is true in my case. My characters are always role playing in my head. At least now I have a way to share the insanity with the world. Beyond my work, I am a mother of three boys. My husband has had the pleasure of being married to me for the past 12 years. During my nonexistent spare time, I am a full time Master’s of Mental Health student. Every day, I create a new fantasy about quitting my day job and writing until my fingers burn.

What’s the story behind Beacon of Sound?

I have been asked that same questions numerous times. There are numerous stories within Beacon of Sound. The reader has to pay attention because I give them all the answers they will need. Yes, it is a very adult book with many adult scenes. The introduction is specifically blunt to lead the reader in a particular direction. Once you read the story, you realize Beacon of Sound is more than you expected.

Why did you write Beacon of Sound instead of a novella?

It was time for me to really work. A novella would not have told the whole story. The world of the Noir Dera is very complicated. I know a novel the first time out is ambitious, but I had to drink the whole bottle. It was the only way to decide if I would continue to write.

Your novel is an erotic paranormal romance. Your cover does not convey that description. Why did you choose that cover?

I work with a fantastic cover artist. Her work is beyond amazing. We both decided that this cover fit the story. The heroine is a stubborn mental health counselor who happens to play a mean cello. While her profession and life seem perfect, there are secretes hiding right below the surface. The woman on the cover looks angelic yet mysterious. She definitely has something to hide. She fools you into coming into her world and you are completely unprepared for what she has in store.

What are you hoping to receive from your readership when it comes to this genre?

I hope to gain minions. Yes, I said minions. It is imperative I gain worshipers that love everything I write. The only thing I want is to put out great stories that people connect with.

Authors are always busy creating and rolling ideas around in our heads. Is there anything that would interfere with your desire to keep up your writing career?

I would only stop writing for two reasons. If my children needed me and my work caused me to be unavailable, then I would put the work aside. My wolf pack comes first. The second reason is very simple. I love to write and share my work with the world. The moment I no longer enjoy writing is when I will walk away without any regrets.

You like to get that music playlist going once you dive in. What makes your playlist differ from another’s?

While working on Beacon of Sound, I listened to nearly 20 hours of music. Every single song had to be significant. The songs had to fit with the emotions flowing through each scene. I love art in all forms, but I am a music groupie. At some point in my life, I have listened to almost every common and some uncommon musical genre. After spending seven years playing a cello, I know that a story is naked without music. My playlists are as important as the words I write.

After publishing your first book, explain why you chose to follow the Indie route.

If I had sent query letters and received numerous rejections the first time, I would have quit. Being self-published gave me the freedom to learn and grow on my own. For now, it is the best way to get my work to readers.

Did you have any sales expectations for your first novel?

I expected to sell one or two copies. When I sold more, it made me feel as if this was something I could do long term.

How do you find balance when it comes to work, writing, and parenthood?

I gave up expectations. There was a time where I expected to do it all. I was going to be supermom, wife, employee, and student. Then one day I realized the more I expected from myself, the less I did.

What’s next on the goal list for R.M. Garry?

I just completed a contemporary romance and will work on having it published by January of next year. I recently started working on a novella that ties Beacon of Sound to the second full novel in the series. I hope to have Beacon Holiday out by December. There are at least three other series waiting to be written. My brain never stops creating stories.

 

The Prince Charming Hoax

Prince Charming Hoax

Once upon a time…[blah, blah, blah]…and they lived happily ever. For many a young girl who grew up reading fairy tales, that blah, blah, blah in the middle was always incidental. Who really cared if the heroine of these childhood stories was smart, clever, brave or had useful skill sets like spinning straw into gold? If she couldn’t attract a handsome guy on a white horse by the final chapter and give up her day-job to go be his missus, she was doomed to spinsterhood and may as well just spend the rest of her days luring lost children into an edible house of gingerbread. In the real world, waiting for a prince to come and rescue you is no guarantee of a blissful ending, much less a rewarding day-to-day in which the genuine you can go forth and sparkle with gusto.

In her spicy new novel, The Prince Charming Hoax, author Shelley Lieber (aka Elyse Grant) puts the spotlight on two boomer women who break free of the “happily ever after” myth and decide to rewrite their life stories in a sexy, thoughtful tale.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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 Q: Your bio describes you as “an author with a split personality.” Tell us more!

A: The “split personality” is how I explain the contrasting aspects of my life and career. Shelley Lieber, The Wordy Woman, is a nonfiction author and publishing consultant. In that persona I wrote 4Ps to Publishing Success and Publishing Made Easy & Profitable; created the VIP Authors writers community; and founded Visual Impressions Publishing, a publishing vehicle for independent authors. My wilder side writes erotic fiction under the nom de plume Elyse Grant. The Prince Charming Hoax, my debut novel, introduces two boomer women with strong and sometimes conflicting personalities that reflect this dichotomy: smart, creative, and nurturing vs. sassy, ambitious, and daring.

Q: How did you decide on your pen name?

A: Elyse Grant is a combination of my two children’s middle names. It seemed appropriate to use a pen name for fiction, since my inspiration for storytelling seems to spring from a unique source within myself previously unknown to me.

Q: Were you a voracious reader growing up?

A: Yes, definitely! I particularly loved stories with strong female characters. I read fiction and biographies. I remember reading the stories of Madame Curie and Elizabeth Taylor back to back, and changing my answer to “What do you want to be when you grow up?” from “scientist” to “actress” in a week’s time.

Q: Who were some of the authors – and titles – that may have influenced your storytelling style?

A: Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand; The Women’s Room by Marilyn French; and Fear of Flying  and How to Save Your Own Life by Erica Jong. I don’t know that these authors influenced my writing style, but they influenced me as a young woman—which probably had a significant effect on the subject of my writing and the type of protagonist I found interesting.

Q: Which one of those authors would you most like to have lunch with, and what question would you most like to ask him or her?

A: I’d have to say Erica Jong. The question I’d ask her today is very different than the one I would have asked years ago. Back when her groundbreaking novels came out, I would have questioned her about the source of her courage, and if she had ever been tempted (or advised) to “tone it down.” Today, I’d ask her if she’d bump it up a notch if she were writing for the current market.

Q: Tell us about your inspiration to write The Prince Charming Hoax.

A: The novel began as a nonfiction book about dating after divorce. The book was inspired by my own experiences and other women’s stories shared with me. One day as I struggled with the format and organization of the book, the characters of Leah Gold and Roxanne Stein popped out on the page and Elyse took over the keyboard. Once that happened, the writing flowed and the story was told.

Q: Was there any research involved in the creation of this fictional work?

A: The research began with the nonfiction version. I held Sunday brunches and invited the divorced and separated women I knew and encouraged them to bring their friends. Each brunch had a theme—such as dating a man ten years your junior or senior—and the women shared dating stories on the selected topic. Once the book turned to fiction, the “true” stories were combined and some were completely invented. I’ve never been to a “swinging” club like the one where D.J. took Roxie in The Prince Charming Hoax, so I interviewed someone who has had that kind of experience in order that the scene I created would be an accurate account of what could happen.

Q: Do your characters ever surprise you by taking over the story and moving it in a different direction than you originally envisioned?

A: Absolutely! I used to roll my eyes when I heard authors make that statement, but I found it’s true. The characters take over once they get on the page. I had to fight Roxie the entire time I was writing. She’s such a strong personality and could have easily overshadowed the story. I finally promised her the lead in another book, and she behaved better after that.

Q: Who is your intended audience for The Prince Charming Hoax and what do you think is its strongest takeaway value?

A: As a genre, contemporary women’s fiction confronts issues of modern-day women and their relationships with men, other women, careers, and children. My intention was to explore some of these issues. I’d say my ideal reader is a boomer-age woman who appreciates that the pursuit of purpose, passion, and fulfillment can be a bumpy, but enjoyable ride. I think the strongest takeaway a novel can provide is reading enjoyment. So, my goal with this book was to explore the issues in an entertaining and engaging way.

Q: Do you believe in love at first sight?

A: I do because I experienced it—twice. Years ago I saw my first husband standing on the steps in front of the Student Union at Ohio University. There was something in his posture that told me I’d marry this man. Years later, after my divorce, I met my second husband in an arranged meeting. We spent about an hour standing and talking in a parking lot, and I knew that night I’d found my soul mate and he would be my forever husband.

Q: The book title and its premise suggest that happily-ever-after’s are just a myth. Do you personally think this is true?

A: I absolutely believe in the possibility of a “happily ever after.” Without creating too much of a spoiler here, I’ll say that the myth (or hoax) is not the viability of a happily-ever-after ending. Rather, it’s about discovering the true source of a woman’s happiness as opposed to what fairy-tale endings suggest will make us live happily ever after.

Q: Tell us a little about your publishing background and why you became a publishing consultant.

A: I’ve been in the publishing industry since I got out of college (more than just a few years ago ;-). My first job in the industry was assistant editor at a New York publishing house. After eight years and several promotions, I moved to Florida with my new baby. Book publishing barely existed as an industry there at that time, and for many years I worked as a freelance writer and editor for national and regional magazines. I spent much of my working time alone in my home office. When I began to write my novel in 2002, I sought out writers groups. Once other group members found out that I knew about publishing, that’s all anyone ever wanted to talk about! But I was there to get feedback on my writing, so I began offering publishing workshops and helping other writers finish their work and prepare submissions to agents and publishers. In 2008, when self-publishing became a more frequent choice for my clients. I started a publishing company because I wasn’t happy with the available options at the time, and I knew I could offer better service at a better price.

Q: What do you know now about the publishing industry that you didn’t know when you first started?

A: I had no idea that the industry could change so radically. Publishing today barely resembles the world I entered as a recent college graduate. In fact, publishing has changed more in the last five years than in the previous fifty! As a creative industry, publishing lagged far behind film and music when it came to adapting to new technology. The big houses and established literary agencies resisted indie authors and digital publishing, and as a result, lost their advantage. Since things never go backward, only forward, I can safely assert that publishing will never be the same!

Q: Any wishes for do-overs?

A: Yes. I wish I had started writing fiction earlier in my life.

Q: Do you belong to any forums, organizations or critique groups that have helped your career as a writer? In what ways have these been beneficial?

A: I’m a strong advocate for critique groups, both local and online. Getting constructive feedback on your writing is essential, especially in the beginning. The hardest part is to find the right group of good writers who can offer qualified constructive criticism. I was very fortunate to find two groups right away. Sometimes it can take longer, but the support and valuable feedback a writer gets is well worth the effort.

I’ve already explained how being in a writers group helped launch a new career for me as a publishing consultant. But, even more important, was the feedback and emotional support I received from other group members. My first group was held at the local Barnes & Noble and writers from all genres were welcome. From that group, several of us who were writing novels banded together to meet separately once a week. We did in-depth readings and critiques of each other’s work. I think the accountability to have a new chapter ready for review is what kept me going when I wanted to quit. I don’t know if I would have ever finished the first draft of The Prince Charming Hoax if it weren’t for that group.

Q: What’s your best advice to aspiring writers?

A: Write every day. Be open to the feedback of others, but follow your own instincts about what and how to write. Learn everything you can about writing and publishing. Don’t make excuses for anything.

Q: What’s next on your plate?

A: Well, I always keep my plate full. I’m writing the follow up to The Prince Charming Hoax, mixing genres, bringing parallel time travel into my erotic, contemporary fiction, allowing Leah Gold to examine a “what if” scenario—along the lines of the movie, Sliding Doors. I’m exploring a metaphysical twist for the third book of this series. Roxie, the character who fought me for the lead in The Prince Charming Hoax, exchanges “consciousness” with another character when they are trapped in a car that has plunged into a canal. She wakes up in the other woman’s body.

In addition to writing these books, I’m writing a series of erotica titles with two writing partners that will be published under a new pen name.

I’m also working with another author to create a new publishing platform that will distribute and promote boomer lit books and authors of all genres.

Q: Where can readers learn more about you?

A: Here are the links to my blogs and social media:

Links:

Shelley Lieber: http://shelleylieber.blogspot.com

Elyse Grant: http://elysegrant.blogspot.com

Amazon: http://amzn.to/Y5YRaC 

Facebook: http://facebook.com/shelleylieber

Twitter: http://twitter.com/wordywoman

Goodreads: http://goodreads.com/shelleylieber