We at Character's Shadow are in the process of starting up a new feature: Author Interviews!
First up, we have someone most of y'all have probably seen around here before, when she talked about her publication process for her book, The Dragon Within: Melody Jackson!
Melody Jackson is an author and lover of all things geek, especially anything related to Doctor Who. She lives in the unbearably hot state of Arizona, (at least it's a dry heat) with her crazy family, as well as a menagerie of animals that includes her four siblings, two cats, and one grumpy chinchilla.
Now, onwards to the interview!
How long have you been writing, Melody?
Well, I've been writing ever since I could hold a pencil, pretty much. I've written lots of little stories for school and such throughout the years, but I only started writing my first full-length novel at twelve.
What genres do you write?
At the moment, fantasy, though I will probably branch out at some point. I think almost all of my stories will have an impossible element in some way, though. Urban fantasy, sci-fi, et cetera. I like 'what if' stories, and those 'what ifs' usually mean something that can't happen in real life. Which makes it fun to write about. :)
Can you tell us a bit about The Dragon Within?
Sure! It's about a world where dragons are considered evil, though it was not always so. And while some still believe dragons can be good, most think they need to be destroyed altogether. But which is true? There's an ancient evil threatening to destroy everything, and Kaena must decide what she believes and convince the opposing sides to join together before their world is destroyed. But the real question is: are they fighting the right enemy?
Ooh! Sounds interesting! So, you self-published The Dragon Within. Can you tell us why you chose to go the self-publishing route rather than traditional publishing?
Ooh, this is a multi-layered question. For one, I wanted to have full control of my book and all its rights and design and such. With traditional publishing, you don't get that kind of control. Also, when I wrote "The Dragon Within", I had a deadline to have the book done by June of 2014. (I'd been working on it for three years on and off and we decided it was time for that kick-in-the-pants to get it done. And I'd also signed up to sell it at a convention in July before it was actually finished. So that was good motivation, haha :) And that meant I needed to get it done quickly and couldn't have used the long way around with traditional publishing even if I wanted to. And I'd researched both routes plenty and decided not to go traditional anyway. So basically, I like being in control of my books and not having their fate decided by someone else.
That totally makes sense. Do you have any advice to give to anyone looking into self-publishing their novel?
Biggest piece of advice I can offer is do your research. Everyone and their mother will tell you that you need to shell out a couple thousand dollars to make a good book by self-publishing. Guess what? The only thing I paid for to self-publish my book was the actual manufacturing/shipping costs, which was rather minimal, all things considering. I had friends who know graphic design make my lovely cover, other friends who beta-read and edited it, and I proofread and formatted the book.
I do have to say, though--especially if you're using Microsoft Word and trying to format your own book--find someone to do that for you if you can. I know several wonderful formatters who do it rather cheap and trust me, it is such a relief not to have to wrestle with all that stuff and be able to actually focus on just writing instead. I'm doing that for Dragons' Bane, and already feel like a huge weight has been lifted off of my shoulders. It's worth the money.
Also, for editors and such, try different critique sites. They're great for critiquing, obviously, but you can also find some great editing/beta-reading partners in places like that. Or the NaNo site as well. Self-publishing doesn't have to be expensive. And if you look on my website at melodyjacksonauthor.blogspot.com, I've got a list of writer resources that I used for my own book that is definitely worth checking out.
Thank you! That's some awesome advice! Now, what's the most helpful piece of advice you've been given?
Haha, this is a funny question because my favorite piece of writing advice--and most helpful--is "Never take anyone else's writing advice too seriously." Really, it's a good thing to keep in mind because what works for me might not work for you. Writing advice and 'rules' and such should all just be taken as guidelines, helpful things that you may or may not be able to use. Getting caught up in writing 'rules' makes for a rather miserable writer, let me tell you.
I completely agree. So, moving on from writing advice, what's your writing process like? Plotter? Pantser? Plantser?
I suppose you could call me a plantser, haha. It kind of depends on the scene and such. To explain, here's a look at my writing process. I spend quite a while planning out the bare bones of the story, especially the beginning and the end, because without that end goal, the story just wanders on and on... (I learned that during draft one of The Dragon Within, haha) And I do a lot of character searching, too. I find it's a lot easier to let them guide the story and not have to force what's said if I know my characters like I know myself, you know? So sometimes, then, they'll lead me into totally wonderful pantsed scenes, because they just know how it would go.
When I get stuck on scenes, though, I will plan them out like a movie in my head before writing them. So I would definitely be a sort of plantser then, I suppose.
I'm a plantser too, and I totally agree with you on the importance of really knowing your characters. So, what does your typical writing time look like? Do you listen to music? Write in the morning? Evening? Whenever?
I do listen to music a lot, though it has to have lyrics or my one-track mind will completely block it out, haha. As for when I write... that kind of depends on the day. Usually if I have nothing going on in the morning, I write in the morning or afternoon. If I do, though, I write more at night. Sometimes it seems my best scenes come at night, though then I just don't want to stop writing and go to sleep, haha. So mid-morning/afternoon is probably the best, though as I said, it depends on the day.
I totally know what you mean. My writing time varies depending on the day too. So, finally, because we simply must know, if you could be any character from any book, who would you be?
Oh dear... how on earth would I pick? Any character from any book... hmm. I think if I boiled it down, my choices would have to be either Annabeth Chase from Percy Jackson, or Kale Allerion from the DragonKeeper Chronicles. When I was younger, though, it was most definitely little Lucy Pevensie from The Chronicles of Narnia. Little old for that now, though. ;)
Thank you for answering our questions, Melody!
Readers, be sure to head over to Melody's blog and check out CreateSpace for a copy of The Dragon Within. :D