Ripples author,Evan Williams

I love it when I find another local author. This week it is my pleasure to interview Evan Williams, a fellow North Carolinian writing from the Asheville area.

Hi Evan. I read that you entered your first writing competition in sixth grade and won second place. Would you please introduce yourself to my readers and tell us how your writing has changed since the day you held that nifty winner’s plaque?

IMG_4403Hey, Tammy. The hey is a mountain thing or maybe more an identifier that the natives here use to distinguish themselves from the huge influx of folks who have moved in from parts wide and far. My own ancestors arrived here pre-Revolutionary War. They came. They saw. They liked. They stayed. To which I add that we obviously have no ambition whatsoever.

The common thread among my Williams family is farming, apples for sure. I marvel at the tenacity of settlers to these mountains faced with clearing virgin forest with nothing more than oxen or mules and hand tools. Every fifth tree at that time was an American Chestnut known to grow several feet in diameter.

I cannot even imagine.

The stubborn, independent streak required of those pioneers has transfused directly down to me.

I began school at the same building which both my parents attended and three grandparents as well. My first grade year was the last for a teacher who had taught all those family predecessors, which is a prime indicator of the closeness and heritage in my small, agricultural community.

From my enthusiastic, country kid writing, a brilliant middle-school teacher forced me to compose a collection of poems and later, a short story. Now, I attribute the miles and years as having transformed my burgeoning paradigm.

I wrote short stories and poems mostly for my own consumption until health issues more or less forced me to seriously consider the less physical career of writing.

Now, perhaps the only caveat I impose on myself is a desire to compose work which will prick readers’ hearts and even prod drowsy minds. Relevant, plausible fiction which encompasses the complexities of human behavior is my only guideline. 

That is the perfect segue into a discussion of your novel Ripples. It draws heavily on your family’s multi-generational apple-growing business and most definitely focuses on the complexities of human behavior. 

Yes. I’m at least the seventh consecutive generation of apple-growing Williamses. It may go further back, but I can’t say for certain. My mom’s family also grew apples, the two farms less than a mile apart.

Like Ben Bramley, the novel’s protagonist, I grew up next door to my grandparents. The oldest of three grandsons, we all worked long hours in what was truly a family business.

When considering the setting and circumstances for my novel, I fell back on the most familiar. The shoulder-to-shoulder work in the orchard provided the friction which comprised much of my story-line. That balance of learning to get along, bite one’s tongue, develop alliances, and even harbor secrets, is the perfect dynamic for illuminating longstanding hurts and tragedies in RIPPLES. Add in fundamentalist church doctrines, and the result is a minefield of potential catastrophe for boyhood Ben Bramley. 

The cover seems to capture the feel of the story very well. Tell us about the process for coming up with the design.

All hale Olivia M. Croom, cover designer! All hale!

Truly glad to hear that you like it, Tammy. The process made it plain to me that I am not so detached or Zen as I would like to think. Part of my overall creative process involved the use of Pinterest. Long before the manuscript was complete I began saving images to a board entitled “Cover Ideas for My Next Book.” That board grew to 2.3k images—maybe a few degrees beyond obsessive.

Southern Fried Karma (SFK Press) allowed me to submit ideas and asked questions about my desires and pet peeves, to which I submitted several options.

What followed was a round where Olivia returned multiple designs for me to appraise and then took into account my comments. She implemented the font for the cover that I had been using for years on the cover page of my manuscript. To use any other would have seemed traitorous.

I have since learned that few publishers take into account the desires of authors where cover design is concerned. For that I am grateful. 

What is the most surprising thing you learned while writing this book? 

Many authors, maybe most, are outliners. Not me, unless you consider the mishmash in my head. But halfway through the first draft of RIPPLES I realized that if I had a whiteboard the size of a barn, I could not have outlined or organized the thousands of details which I tracked mentally: What color are Granny Bramley’s eyes? What was the dog’s name? Did I already reveal this fact or simply allude to it? How old is Ben in this scene?

Thousands of little details.

Were it not for the little binoculars icon on the Microsoft Word page which allows me to search an entire document by specific words and terms, I would have been sunk or perhaps institutionalized. 

What would you like readers to know about your book that might not be apparent with the reading of it alone? 

RipplesTattRIPPLES is deeply personal to me. So much so that I got the cover art tattooed onto my right forearm—my first and only ink.

That is so cool!

It has taken me fifty-nine years of life experience to be able write this book. No shortcuts and no self-censorship. Everything, and I mean everything I have has gone into my writing and I hope that resonates with the reading. 

Do you have any writing quirks that you can share with us? 

I take a poetic approach to the prose which I write—counting the number of syllables per sentence, any repeating vowel and consonant sounds of words in proximity to one another, and a great deal of reading aloud to discover anything halting or otherwise awkward.

Having drawn a reader into suspending reality, I won’t abide any poor word choice, shotty phrase, overused word, or lack of smooth continuity to derail their dream state. For that reason I also work hard at transitions between sentence end and new sentence resumption, in addition to paragraph transitions, and I heed sentence and paragraph lengths to keep from lulling the reader into a monotonous pattern.

I read the book. It certainly isn’t going to lull anyone into a monotonous pattern. Can you give us a rough timeline of how the book came together?

May, 2013, I began the MFA Creative Writing program at Queens University of Charlotte.  I began RIPPLES and had a rough manuscript completed by graduation to fulfill my graduate thesis requirement.

Continuing to refine it after graduation, I submitted it to SFK Press’ novel contest in 2017 and heard that though I would not win, they considered it a “keeper.”

What followed from SFK was an editorial letter from a professional book developer. Her insights and suggestions instigated six months’ worth of major re-writing and reformatting, yielding a sizable chunk of new scenes and plot turns.

After submitting the new and improved manuscript, it and I underwent another six months involving three rounds of revisions and two proofreads. The brief period between the final proofread of the eBook version and the release date of April 9th should have come as a relief but the high anticipation made it difficult to patiently endure.

After the writing of a novel, the hard part really begins. What is the best marketing tip you have received?

Take a broad-spectrum approach to marketing, utilizing a long-term view.

Are you working on anything now that you would like to share with your readers? 

My next novel is underway. Collecting information and notating ideas began about a year ago.

RIPPLES’ fictional county in Western North Carolina is the setting, though not much will be mentioned of the small Abundance community. Instead, the focus will be on Groverton, the county seat. The new novel needs a larger populous.

The arrival of an anonymous stranger with a “blasphemous” message threatens the stability of the indigenous religious infrastructure and by virtue, the entire city’s status quo.

Multiple points of view will arise in the story-line as attention shifts to the local individuals and small groups which dare to entertain the siren call. 

Share a favorite photo with us and tell us why it is your favorite.

RipplesThis photo captures the crux of my life and features my latest major accomplishment. The apple trees in bloom in the foreground are those of a large farming family with whom I share both generational history and a property line. Above and beyond those trees lies my family’s property with my home, my son’s home, and our equipment shed roofs in the center. My childhood home, still occupied by my mother, is also pictured along with that of my brother. The Blue Ridge Mountains form a perfect frame of fortifying strength while promising opportunity for endless, outdoor adventure. This is the land that my grandfather taught me to appreciate and ultimately love and every time I view it from the vantage point where this photograph was taken, my heart soars. 

Do you have any events or book promotions coming up that you would like to tell us about? 

With a few behind me, I am at work scheduling more. September 11th, 2:30 pm, I will be at the Community Room in the Historic Henderson County Courthouse for a reading and discussion with the Courthouse Book Club.  

I love meeting with book clubs. That may be one of my favorite things to do.

Where can readers purchase your books? 

Several independent bookstores have RIPPLES on their shelves. A quick check on INDIEBOUND.org can verify locations, or readers can order directly from their favorite bookstore by following this link.

If you prefer Amazon, it is here, also.

Bookstores or individuals interested in ordering in bulk can do so directly through SFK Press’ website. Bookstores which schedule events with SFK authors will receive an additional discount plus promotional materials and advertising from SFK.

Are you on social media and can your readers interact with you? 

If folks can’t find me on social media, then they aren’t really looking. I’m everywhere and available to interact, especially with readers, other authors, or aspiring authors. After five years of solitary confinement composing my novel, I’m more than ready to discuss it with the reading world.

My media connections include a webpage and a Goodreads Author page. There are also the usual culprits: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Perfect. That’s about all the time we have for today.  

Okay. One more, just for fun. What book is currently on your bedside table?

Appalachian Reckoning: A Region Responds to Hillbilly Elegy (Personalized and autographed by one of the editors, Meredith McCarroll)

My thanks, Tammy, for offering me this opportunity to talk about my biggest project to date.

Write on!

Evan

Getting to know Anne Hagan

Since writing Sandman, I have had the opportunity to meet and learn from so many wonderful authors. It is like being given a key to an alternate universe, a beautiful one.

It isn’t that I couldn’t talk to these folks before. I could have.

It isn’t that I am someone different now. I’m not.

It is that I feel stronger somehow in my own self-worth. I know it’s dumb. I know I shouldn’t have felt that way, but I did.

Now that I am learning that these authors are super approachable, and that they really want to help new authors, I want to introduce them to all of you. Maybe you were wiser than me. Maybe you already reach out to authors and start conversations. If so, keep it up! It is the key to learning this crazy world of writing and publishing.

Recently, I had the honor of talking with a prolific author named Anne Hagan, an author with 19 books to her credit.

I asked her what she is working on, and that turned into an interview discussion that I am sharing with you today.

Hi Anne. I would love to learn more about your upcoming release, Steamboat Reunion. I read that this book is the third in a series of three. Truth?

Steamboat ReunionI never meant for this to be a series, and I use that term loosely. I write a mystery series, The Morelville Mysteries. The two leads in these books, Barb and Janet, are secondary characters.

There was a story there and I ran with it, giving them a book of their own, Broken Women. Readers have a love/hate relationship with that book. It’s not set up the way a romance typically is. These two were broken, which I showed with one of them and then with the other, before I brought them together in the final third of the book. It ended with them deciding to try to put all of their baggage behind them and start a relationship with each other.

You indicated that some readers didn’t like the ending of this book. Why?

Readers simply wanted more. Many felt I didn’t give them a ‘Happy For Now’ (HFN) scenario, let alone a ‘Happily Ever After’ (HEA) one.

The 2nd book, Healing Embrace, picks them up right where I left them and carries them forward. The resolution is definitely on the HFN scale which, given what they’d been through in life, especially Barb, rang truer for me than having them brush aside all of that and have a HEA.

In the big scheme of things, everything is really just a HFN ending, right? LOL. Should readers make sure they have read Broken Woman and Healing Embrace before they pick up Steamboat Reunion?

Agreed.

If readers want all of the backstory, especially for Janet, I recommend reading the others, but I touch on Barb’s past heartbreak enough in Steamboat Reunion that they’ll know what she’s been through and why the potential of a HEA is so hard for her to accept.

Weaving so much together sounds tough. With that in mind, what’s your elevator pitch for Steamboat Reunion?

I hadn’t given any thought to that until now. Here’s what comes immediately to mind: Sometimes happily ever after takes half of a lifetime.

I like it.

I recently explored your blog, and in your pages you list some of your passions as “Stories of family and friends,” “Love, murder, and mayhem,” and “Lesbians.” How do these passions play out in your novels overall?

“Family, friends, love, murder and mayhem” has been my mantra as I write for the last couple of years. My mystery series should be read in order. The mysteries stand alone, but the family, the couples…everything grows and changes through eleven books and counting. And, as we’ve talked about, these three newest romances came from that.

I also spun a cozy mystery series that features the moms of my two leads in another series that includes a lot more of the extended family. It’s quite the web of books I’m weaving.

Whew. It makes me dizzy just thinking about how hard it must be to keep all of that in mind as you write.

As such a prolific author, you have had the opportunity to get to know many others who write in your genre. Many of these, and many others, are listed on the Lesfic Author List that you have on your webpage. Why did you start this list and how has it grown since inception?

In June of 2017 I did a blog post about 42 lesfic books every lesbian should read. Those were culled from my personal favorites, some classic, some contemporary. It was to set up a contest to win eBook copies of those books from me.

Uh oh. That sounds like a lot of books.

You’re right about that. It ended up costing me $340.00 US! And so many readers wrote to me and said, “What about this book or this author?”. There was just no way I could cover every classic, and I certainly couldn’t afford to give that many books away.

I decided I was going to create a top 50 list of living and still writing lesfic/WLW authors in a blog post. That proved impossible. Just from my own paperbacks and what I’d downloaded for Kindle, I had 153 writers. How do you pick 50?

I couldn’t.

Neither could I. Instead, I created a list with all of them and shared it with the world: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest… Readers contacted me in droves giving me names and authors wrote asking to be included. I did two more blog posts as the list grew longer and longer. When it passed 250 names, I gave it a permanent page on my website. It now stands at 463 names and counting. New, writing/publishing authors (and some old ones) get added all the time.

That about wraps up our time. One last question. From one author to another who lives in a tiny conservative town, what do you find wonderful, challenging, both about where you live and what you do as a career outside of writing? 

Living here has ups and downs. Idealistically and politically, it’s a very conservative area. That said, my wife grew up here. Her family is active in the community, liked and well respected. People in the village and her friends have been supportive and accepting of us as a couple. They’re conservative, yes, but most are also of the live and let live variety. The ones that are not tend to be hypocritical in other ways. We don’t point fingers, we just pitch in to help wherever the help is needed. As for my job, as I write this, I’m finishing out a two week notice with the postal service. I started part time at the village post office, but I was promoted to a full-time position in a larger office several miles away a couple of years ago. I didn’t want full time, but for family reasons, I ground it out for a while. Government agencies have rules, regs and training about things like diversity, harassment and so forth. I’ve had no issues with supervisors and co-workers. I’ve been treated with respect.

I’ll be starting my new job, running the second shift at our village gas/filling station soon. I look forward to it. I’ll be close to home again and working seven days on, seven days off. Between mornings in my ‘on’ weeks and my full weeks off, I’ll have a lot more time to write while my wife works a traditional day job.

Thank you! 

Learn more about Anne on her blog.

Follow her on Goodreads.

See the full list of her books.

Marketing woes of a new author

Sandman_FlashpointMy debut novel, SANDMAN, was released December 15, 2018.

Writing it was my second job for the last two years.

My first job takes me to a local college where I work with a great team to ensure the best possible education for transfer students. I have to be there at 8:30, and I leave there around 5:00. It pays the bills and, truth be told, I actually like it and don’t mind giving it my full attention when I am there.

Equally fulfilling is the second job. I love it so much. When a story starts taking shape under my fingertips it is invigorating. And writing “The End” on the last page of a novel, especially a first novel, is a feeling I can’t even describe.

I thought I would ride that high right up until I wrote, “The End” on the next novel. And, I am. However, I can no longer just settle in each night and write.

Instead, I typically find myself doing something else, a third job, if you will. It goes like this:

I am 3/4 of the way through novel number two. I know where I am going. I know how the story ends. The problem is, novel number one is pushy and demanding.

Novel number one says, “Market me. You are a new author. No one knows you. You want to sell me, yes?”

And I do. I want that more than most anything. And so I market.

Like so many other authors in today’s world, I do the following:

Create graphics using Canva. 20190119_074938_0000

Post graphics on Instagram with relevant hashtags.

Watch Instagram to calculate number of hits in relation to other graphics.

Brainstorm future graphics based on what is working.

Create graphics using PicsArt, because the free version of Canva is not super robust, and I am running out of ideas.

Post graphics on Twitter.

Repeat what was done for Instagram, except don’t use as many hashtags. Rumor has it two to three hashtags on Twitter is the magic number.

Respond to some of my favorite folks. Retweet their tweets. Hope they will retweet some of mine.

Look for new people to follow who love words as much as I do.

20190118_221956_0000Write posts on Facebook that deal with writing and reading and coffee. Okay, coffee may not be helping my marketing, but I wouldn’t be able to do any of this without it.

Contact the wonderful photographer who did our kid’s senior pics and set up a date to have head shots done.

Change my Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pictures to similar photos. Creating a brand is a thing.

Go to Goodreads. Discover I can put an “Add to Goodreads” widget on my blog. Figure out how to do that. Do it.

Go back to Goodreads. Interact. Apply for an author page. Create a bio. Start answering author questions.

Find someone who can create a short trailer for SANDMAN. Contact her. Write back and forth to discuss needs and payment.

Reach out to my local library. Request my book be added to their shelves. Get approved. Dance. Try to figure out how to get other libraries to pick up my book.

Realize I can only request a book be added if I have a library card at said library. Go back to Canva. Make a graphic telling readers how important it is to request books of those you love.

Post on all of the social media spaces.

Do a search for Free Little Libraries. Buy ten of my own books at cost, write a message in each of them that says, “If you find me, please share with someone who loves psychological thrillers. If you read, please review on Goodreads and Amazon.” Put books in the Little Libraries.

Take pictures. Post them to social media.

Agree to be the guest speaker for a World of Words initiative at my college. Meet local authors who are also looking for ways to be seen.

Reach out to writers to see who is doing readings, signings, panels, etc. Discuss partnering up and/or get ideas for places to go and how to request to go there.

Create social media postings to announce readings.

Agree to be the guest at the local book club that was kind enough to have SANDMAN as the Book of the Month. Laugh a lot. Take an awesome selfie. IMG_20190219_211419_687

Look for other potential book clubs. Meet with a couple of them and offer a copy of SANDMAN for review. Agree to be a guest when they finish. Take more selfies. Laugh some more.

Create an Author Central Page on Amazon so I can announce readings and so people can follow me.

Revise my Nitty-Gritty site to include an author page. Try to figure out what to put on it that will highlight SANDMAN.

Do readings and signings. Meet so very many cool people.

Check Amazon and Goodreads and other Webpages to see if my book is being reviewed.

Create graphics that talk about how important reviews are. Post to, you guessed it, social media.

Try to build a following on an author page on Facebook. Wonder why it takes so long. (Not really, I know it takes time. I just wish everyone knew how fun I am so they would just like my page and hang on my every word.)

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

I say all of this to say that if you are writing, start this madness now!

Get pages set.

Start making graphics ahead.

Study the greats who came before you.

And, if you have any other ideas for marketing, drop them in the comments below. I am running out of ideas, but I am not ready to stop.

Now if I could just find a bit of time to write the rest of my next novel, “Book of Promises….”

 

Interview with horror writer, Mia Carter

Today I had the honor of interviewing author, Mia Carter. Her debut novel is titled, The Dare. It was released in 2018.

the dare bloody hand300Mia, I got spooked just looking at the cover, so I want to start there. How did you decide on the cover art?

I had fun picking out the cover, there were so many to choose from, and I wanted the cover to stand out. Initially the bloody hand was on the printed copy and I had a bloody knife for the ebook, and the more I kept looking at the bloody hand the more I knew it had to go onto the ebook cover as well.

Is there a place in the novel where this visual will play out?

There is a part in the book that this does draw from, it is a murder scene in the book and that’s all the spoiler I’ll give!

Fair enough. I want to hear more about the genre where you place yourself. I find it fascinating that you are a YA author who writes with a touch of romance and a touch of horror. Can you share a little bit about why you decided to write in this genre?

I started in the genre/category of YA. But since I was introduced to the New Adult genre, or NA, I have decided that is where my work best fits. It is best suited for, I’d say, 18+ age-range readers. As for why, well, I have always loved action, thriller and horror movies, and my books just went in that direction. When I got “old enough” to read romance novels, I realized there was a whole new world of books out there. And just like that I wanted to incorporate the steamy genre with the thriller genre.

I heard you actually wrote The Dare when you were in high school. Is this true? Yes! I wrote it when I was… fifteen… eek! I had to grow it up quite a bit.

A lot of authors say that, I think. Age definitely has its advantages.

Why did you wait until 2018 to publish?

Honestly, it was fear that held me back. I was so scared of what people would say if mia carter photothey read my books that I just kept them for me. I hate to admit it, but that is the only reason I sat on them for so long. I am still scared, but I believe there is a time for everything and the time for The Dare is now. As a novel, it could never have been this story had I released it before “life” happened! Fifteen-year old me is quite different from… gasp… 37-year-old me.

The fact that there was so much time in between, and that it needed to be told now instead of then, makes me wonder how much research went into The Dare. Can you tell us a bit about that?

Oh my goodness, a ton! I am surprised no black SUV’s showed up at my doorstep at some of the things I had to research.

I can only imagine!

I had a friend help me for the accident scene. Google was a primary source in many other scenes. Some pieces I even drew from ideas based off of TV shows I watched. All of that was sprinkled with a little creative license.

It is so interesting to me that this book was so many years in the making. If you had it to do over again, what would you do differently?

This goes back to believing that there’s a reason things happen at certain times. Life happened and made The Dare what it is now, and I wouldn’t change anything. I would, however, go back and possibly spend the money for an editor. Being an indie-author on a budget, and a book that size, an editor wasn’t cheap!

Good work never is, but I absolutely think the money spent for a good editor is an investment in oneself.

Now that you have this novel under your belt, what can your readers expect next?

Oh, get ready for She Danced in the Night, Part One: Marked for Death!

Yikes!

It’s completely and totally different from The Dare. It is still thriller/suspense/romance, but I have added a myth that comes to life and terrorizes a rural town in France. I have a few more books waiting in the wings as well and a sequel to The Dare is building in a notebook somewhere. I also am co-author on another book that is due to release some time this year.

You are certainly busy. In addition to all of that, I know you are also involved with #empoweringfemalewriters, which is getting some attention on Instagram. What was your inspiration for this?

That hashtag really started to gain momentum when the women writing fiction group got going. I’m not sure who originally started it, but it’s been great seeing these tags grow!

On your social media pages, you pay it forward for many fantastic indie authors. If you could only give a shout out to three, who would they be and why?

Only three???!!!!! Oh my goodness, that is so hard. Everyone I have connected with has been so helpful and supportive in so many ways. There’s so many groups that I’m a part of that have amazing authors. I hope no one gets upset. I’d mention everyone if I could.

Oh man… ok

@kara_s_weaver – She’s been incredibly supportive and encouraging since I joined IG, and she’s such a fun person to chat with.

@all_things_lisa – She has been so helpful with questions any of us have had. She has quite a few books out there, and she is so knowledgeable with Amazon KDP, character building, and so much more.

@letztalkbooks – He has been building a site and making an indie network that is growing each day. He posts about cover designers, editors and other people and tools that can help us indies on a budget.

I wish I could list everyone, there have been so many great new authors I’ve met!

I wish you could, too. I am a firm believer in holding one another up. Time is getting away from us. Let’s step outside of the novel realm for the remainder of the interview.

Readers always want to know about pets. Do you have any pets?

I do! I have two canine fur kids, (aka writing assistants). They are both five and keep me on my toes!

A little birdie told me you are an avid action/horror movie watcher. I guess I should have known that from your novel and genre choices. LOL. What is your favorite movie and why?

Hahaha. That’s the same as asking me to shout out to three of my friends on IG. Oh gosh. There are so many movies I love. Dawn of the Dead would be one of my favorite zombie movies. I love the classic Dracula’s with Christopher Lee. Indiana Jones for action is in the favorites too! There are just too many. 

Okay. Your favorites make me want to go back to your novel for just a minute. Most of us dream of someone coming across our work who can turn it into a movie. How about you?

That would be a huge dream come true!

What would that look like for you in a Utopian world?

I have a soundtrack in my head for it. I know who I would want to do the score. I haven’t gone as far as casting, but if The Dare (or any of my books) became a movie, I would be elated beyond elated. I would love for it to be shot on location in Colorado as well.

I would love anything shot in Colorado.

Last questions. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

Hmm…

I’d have to pick a mountain town here in Colorado like Estes Park, Grand Lake, Steamboat Springs, or some where like that. I love the mountains, I love forest settings, and there’s just something about the wind rushing through the pine trees that is so calming and inspiring to me.

Thank you for chatting with me today.

Thank you so much.

___________________________________________________________________

You can purchase The Dare on Amazon.

Connect with Mia on her website.

%d bloggers like this: