1. You’ve taken exciting risks: swapping a CFO position for writing, and then jumping ahead of the curve to embrace self-publishing and ebooks. What lead you to self-publishing?
When my former publisher started circling the drain in 2010, I told my agent to be ready to get my rights back as soon as the publisher was in breach of contract. Indie publishing was barely crawling then, but I already knew I was going to self-publish the backlist as soon as I had the rights back. I was an early adopter of ebook technology and had the first viable Ereader that Sony made. The ability to have 100 books in my purse while I was traveling for business was incredible. I knew that one day, competition would rise up and ereaders would become more common. I have to be honest though, I never dreamed indie publishing would become what it has for indie writers. It’s still surreal.
2. There are five books in the Miss Fortune Mystery series– given your experience, what are the most challenging things about self-publishing. Would you take a typical, traditional contract from one of the big publishers if you were offered it?
The most challenging thing about self-publishing is the amount of time it takes to do it right. I am a workaholic, so I have no issues with the discipline required to get the job done, but I always feel like there are 100 things I would like to do and don’t have the time for. I still worked full-time until the end of 2012, so it’s been two full years of writing full-time. At the end of 2013, my husband quit his day job to assist me full-time, and that’s helped, but I’ve also added things to our production schedule, so it hasn’t cut down on the amount of hours I put it, but it has significantly reduced my stress level.
I am not averse to traditional publishing. It’s the right option for a lot of writers, and could possibly be for me, but there are contractual things that would have to change. First, authors deserve far more than 25% of net for digital sales. The best thing about indie publishing is it pays the lion’s share of profit to the artist, and that’s the way it should be. Non-compete clauses would have to be eliminated. I believe they are restraint of trade. No publisher should be able to limit an author’s ability to make a living, and the vast majority of traditionally published authors are not making enough money to support a family. The last thing that would have to be addressed is reversion clauses. The way most read now, giving your work to a publisher is work for hire. You’ll never get your rights back. Reversion clauses should become time-limited, not based on number of sales within a period. The artist should not have to part with their work forever.
3. I love Gator Bait’s heroine Fortune Redding. What inspired you to write about a vixen, CIA hit-woman who struggles with love like the rest of us?
I love the fish-out-of-water themes in stories. Movies like Miss Congeniality appeal to me, and Louisiana is a great place to drop a character into an uncomfortable situation. I always write kick-butt heroines, so the contrast of an assassin versus her undercover identity of a librarian/former beauty queen was such an extreme that it’s filled with possibilities for stories. Fortune’s harsh childhood and her inability to and fear of attaching to people makes for perfect conflict in small-town Louisiana, where everyone wants to be part of your life.
4. Do you feel good fiction writing requires the ability to deceive, to anticipate what readers want and manipulate those anticipations? Is being a good storyteller a bit like being a secret agent?
I honestly have never considered what readers want when I write a story. I considered what had mass market appeal when I came up with the idea for the series, but it still had to be something I was passionate about writing. When I start a new story, I start with an inciting incident – for example, in my recent release Soldiers of Fortune, I had an explosion that turns out to be a meth lab. That’s it. That’s all I’ve got when I start writing. The story develops organically as I write. It flows from the characters, the setting and the situation. I can’t bend my work to fit anyone else’s vision or the story would read flat and shallow. I’ve even discarded my own wants and ideas because they didn’t fit with the direction and feel the story had taken. I think being a good storyteller requires an author to be honest with their work, which means putting all opinions aside, including my own, and letting the story tell itself the way it needs to.
5. Can you tell us about any of your upcoming projects?
I just released book six in the Miss Fortune series, and at this time, I have no plans to end the series nor do I have a set number of books in mind. As long as I still enjoy the storyline and readers still want the books, I’ll keep writing them. Of course, Fortune can’t remain undercover forever, so a shift in the way she is perceived and her relationship with the Sinful residents will undergo a change at some point, but for now, it’s status quo. After all, she’s only been in Sinful a little over a month, so there’s still plenty of summer left.
I am also taking a new direction with my writing this year, and have started on a thriller series set in New Orleans. I am really excited about all the possibilities for the series and hope I do as well writing dark thrillers as I do humorous mysteries.
Thanks for the interview!
Thank you, Jana!