Book promotion is WHAT? by PJ Nunn

mosaic-01Whether you call it a mosaic, a jigsaw, or a collage, effective book promotion is not as simple as some like to think. There’s no list of 5 things to do and check off to signify that you’re done. You honestly might never be done. It’s complex, a myriad of details that often are seemingly unrelated. And just the same way an author may have a very structured and organized outline that creates an impression of the book, the final product is so much more than the simple completion of the outline. It’s the nuances and threads that wind and weave and lead from one place to the next until you finally arrive at an often unforeseen destination. When done well, the joy is in the hidden things, the twists of phrases and words that are invisible yet so clear you can almost hear them.

As a grad student, I remember the first time I observed the practice of mirroring in couples therapy. It was fascinating to watch, time and time again, as one person heard things the other never said. Interpretation, insinuation, reflection, assumption. The list can go on. The same thing happens when a reader picks up a book. Readers will hear and see things the author never thought of simply by virtue of the way they piece together the information they’re given. Sometimes it means they assume something before even finishing a sentence. Jumping to conclusions.

The first time I saw the movie The Sixth Sense, I staggered at the ending and immediately wanted to go back and watch again to see if I’d been cheated or if the writing was so good I’d really missed the clues and hints that were obviously there. It was the latter. And one of the few times I’ve ever truly said, “I wish I’d written that.”

You probably think by now I’ve totally digressed and what does this have to do with book promotion really? But I haven’t. I get asked a lot if a client’s press release is ready. Like there’s only one. They’re surprised to learn that I don’t send press releases to most people I contact on behalf of clients.  Bad publicist! No, I have just learned to use the right tools for the job.

Media personalities tend to be very visual. The picture’s worth a thousand words, right? So I don’t send them a press release that’s all text and black and white. I send them a bio with a photo and book info with a cover. It’s not all fancy, but it does what it needs to do – captures the right person’s attention better than a single, typewritten page.

If I’m trying to convince a national television program that my client is the guest of the hour, I don’t send a book and bio page alone. I dress them up in a professional folder and print a copy of the head shot on glossy photo paper (which reminds me, some of you really should ask for new headshots for a holiday gift – just saying). I dress up your promo, include good reviews and blurbs, some of the more significant recent markets that have featured you and your book and generally make you look like you’re really somebody. And then (and you thought I was finished) I put together an idea that sometimes looks like an outline mosaic 02for the show! I get them on the phone and I make the pitch. If they like the pitch (and I do mean IF) then I send them the fancy package.

Book promotion, like a mosaic, may start out small and is usually comprised of tiny, shiny, broken segments of the whole, pieced together in such a way that they create the illusion of a picture of something entirely different. It’s easy to want each action contained in a promotional campaign to be complete in and of itself, and to be able to judge its success or failure accordingly. It just doesn’t work that way anymore than you can attribute the success or attractiveness of a snowman to a single, particular handful of snow. Book promotion is a complex, contrived and ongoing effort that starts as a small, but beautiful piece of art that continues to grow and evolve as you go. Enjoy yourself. It’ll create a better picture.

An interview with LC Hayden

lcbig1L. C. Hayden is an award winning author.  Her Harry Bronson series have been the finalist for the Agatha Award for Best Novel (Why Casey Had to Die) as well as finalist for Left Coast Crime‘s Best Mystery (What Others Know).  In addition Why Casey Had to Die is a Pennsylvania Top 40 Pick.  She has repeatedly captured First, Second, and Third place status for her works at the annual El Paso Writers’ League, and even won the coveted Best of the Best Award.  She also won a gold medal at the Senior Olympics Writing Competition and garnished a Second place for Tallahassee’s Writers Association’s Seven Hills Writer’s Contest.

PJ: How long have you been writing?

LC:     I’ve been writing my entire life, but professionally, I began with nonfiction while I was in college. A term paper that I did for a professor was the first thing I ever got published.

PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?

LC:     Unfortunately, that moment hasn’t come. Soon as I accomplish a goal, I move on to the next one. There will always be one more step to take in order for me to really be a successful writer.

PJ: Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?

LC:      You dream of writing and selling. Hitting the big time. Big money. Big deals. Then reality hits. You’ve got to promote. If you don’t, you don’t sell. Wish we could go back to the days when authors wrote and the publishers promoted. Uh, was there ever such a day?

PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?

LC: It’s now beginning to do that—although it’s still a long way from reaching my dreams. You’ve got to realize that my first book was published in 1998 and just now my income is finally something to be proud of. That’s a heck of a long time.

PJ: Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?

LC: It’s not just getting published that counts. It’s how many books did you sell? Publishers are only interested in how much money they make, not establishing a struggling author’s careers. The focus in writing has switched to selling—otherwise, your publisher will drop you.

PJ: How long did it take you to get published the first time?

LC:  A nice even number would be 10 years. I wrote, revised, submitted. Rewrote, revised, re-submitted. Over and over. I was caught by a scammer—too late I realized that and that held up the production of the book. Finally, ten years later the book Who’s Susan? came out and it became a Barnes & Noble Top Ten Best Seller.

PJ: Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?

LC:  I would avoid the scammer. My problem is that I’m too trust worthy. What a twirp I am!—but a trusting one!

PJ: Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?

LC:  I set deadlines. By such and such time, I will have written five chapters, contacted so-and-so for promotion, I’ve edited this much, etc. If I don’t meet those goals, I beat myself up with a wet noodle and get back to work!

PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?

LC:  Dang, that’s a hard one. I’m not sure if I should choose being major awards finalist for my books, being selected to be a speaker at major cruise lines and travel all over the world for free (and I still get paid!), or when a reader tells me how reading my books helped them either spiritually (like for my angel book series) or by keeping them glued to the edge of their seat or having to stay up all night to see how the book ended. All of those experiences are so special.

PJ: What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?

LC:  Book sales. I pour my heart and sweat into my novels. Then they’re released and bang! The sales just trickle. Eventually, they pick up but they have slow starts. Wish they began with a bang!

PJ: With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?

LC: As far as my mysteries go, I’m known as the writer of edgy books. By that I mean a plot full of twists and turns with bang-up endings that will surprise the readers.

PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?

LC: Believe in yourself. Don’t ever give up. Make that dream come true. Don’t let anything or anyone ever discourage you.

PJ: What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?

LC: My ability to do great presentations. God gave me the ability to speak on just about any subject and amuse and hold the audience. When I do presentations, I normally a lot more books than when I do just a signing.

PJ: What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?

LC: Finding the money to pay for the book promotion!

Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:

List of L. C. Hayden’s books

Aimee Brent Mystery Series

ILL ConceivedIll Conceived

Coming soon: Vengeance in My Heart

Throw Away Children (working title)

Harry Bronson Mystery Series

When the Past Haunts You

When Death Intervenes

Why Casey Had to Die

Novels featuring Harry Bronson

What Others Know (Part 2)

When Colette Died (Part 1) (Bronson not featured)

Where Secrets Lie

Who’s Susan?

Inspirational

Nonfiction: Angels and Miracles Abound (coming Fall 2013)

Angels Around Us

When Angels Touch You

Fiction: Bell-Shaped Flowers

Children’s picture books: What Am I? What Am I?

Puppy Dog and His Bone (coming soon)

Paranormal: The Drums of Gerald Hurd

Writing Advice: Help! I Want to Write

Contributed to

A Second Helping of Murder (a cookbook)

Haunted Highways (collection of haunted places in Texas)

Edited and compiled Breaking & Entering: The Road to Success (a Sisters in Crime how-to guide)

Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title:

ILL Conceived: Grandma Louise hears a scream in the middle of the night. When no one else does, the police dismiss it as an old woman’s ravings. Aimee Brent, an ambitious, dedicated reporter for the North Shore Carrier, the Lake Tahoe newspaper, sets out to prove Grandma right. In so doing, she’s forced to face her past, a past filled with so much darkness that it threatens her very existence and leads her down a twisted, dangerous road from which she may never return.

Where can we buy it?

Best place is as a Kindle through Amazon, although it can be ordered from any store (if you live in PA, Mystery Lovers Book Shop, stocks it) or various places on the Internet. You can also order it directly through me.

What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?

LC:  I still write longhand. I revise longhand. Then I enter it into the computer, making revisions as I go along. I print out the manuscript and revise it again in longhand. I’m old fashioned, eh?

Thanks so much for the interview! Hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it!

Thank you for joining us LC. I really love your work and know our readers will too! PJ

An interview with Joann Smith Ainsworth

JoAnn sittingJoAnn Smith Ainsworth experienced food ration books, Victory Gardens and black-out sirens as a child in WWII. These memories help her create vivid descriptions of time and place, which put you in the middle of the story as a participant in a fast-paced journey through paranormal realms as U.S. psychics hunt down Nazi spies.

Ms. Ainsworth lives in California. She has B.A. and M.A.T. degrees in English and has completed her M.B.A. studies. Her agent is Dawn Dowdle of Blue Ridge Literary Agency.

PJ: How long have you been writing?

JA: I started writing novels in 1998 when approaching retirement. I needed a way to supplement my Social Security. I had a Bachelors and Masters in English and my MBA studies. I decided that “author” was the way to go since, as long as you write a great story, no one cares how old you are.

Little did I know how difficult it is to create a novel. Just having a story in your head isn’t enough. You have to know how to present the action on paper—how to evoke images in the mind’s eye of your reader to bring the story alive.

It took me four years of online classes to learn the craft techniques to create today’s fast-paced, commercial novel. The result was my medieval romance, Matilda’s Song.

PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?

JA: I felt successful as a writer (and switched to calling myself an author) when I completed my first manuscript. A first manuscript is no small feat.

PJ: Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?

JA: I didn’t realize that creating and selling today’s novel would be so difficult and so time consuming. Authors have to wait months and years to know if their submission resulted in a sale or a rejection. I have a file of rejection letters.

In the end I sold all five manuscripts to mid-level publishers and I’m under contract to an agent (Dawn Dowdle of Blue Ridge Literary Agency).

Your readers can follow my writing life by visiting Twitter @JoAnnAinsworth. To learn about my experiences during WWII and about writing a novel where the U.S. govt. recruits five psychics to locate Nazi spies on the East Coast, visit Facebook at JoAnn Smith Ainsworth Fan Page.

PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?

JA: I met a few wealthy authors, but most of us need a day job. My day job is Social Security.

At about 90 cents a book, an author needs a large readership to make a comfortable level of income. For most of us, this is a slow climb with Word of Mouth being our best marketing tool for building a solid readership base.

PJ: Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?

JA: No change in my focus.

Each manuscript must be submitted to stand or fall on its own.

PJ: How long did it take you to get published the first time?

JA: Ten years almost to the month after I started writing novels.

My first sale to Samhain was Out of the Dark, a medieval romantic suspense novel with a sight-impaired heroine.

PJ: Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?

JA: I don’t think so. Everything was a learning experience. The setbacks made me a stronger author and a more targeted marketer.

PJ: Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?

JA: I am disciplined to the point of being annoying about it. My mind separates tasks into categories. Stubborn determination will not let me slack off. Each category must be completed on schedule, if humanly possible.

PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?

JA: The most exciting thing was opening the box of author copies and holding my first book in my hand.

PJ: What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?

JA: Finding that there is no “coasting” for an author. There is always something to do and these days the competition is greater. Each year, my books must be brought to the attention of readers despite the millions of other published novels in bookstores.

PJ: What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?

JA: The most memorable is that what started as a business proposition turned into a passion.

I write stories of self-awareness and self fulfillment in historical settings. The heroine becomes empowered as she tackles each story challenge and transforms into an indomitable woman. Even if I never sell another manuscript, I will continue to write these stories for the rest of my life.

PJ: With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?

JA: My historical settings are so detailed that readers become immersed in the time period. My novels have a moral tone:  good eventually triumphs over evil. My stories entertain, inspire and keep the reader in suspense.

PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?

JA: Never give up and never believe you’re too old to succeed. Keep getting up every time you get knocked down.

My fifth novel will release when I am 75 years old. It’s been a fifteen year journey, but I have touched my dream.

PJ: What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?

JA: I believe we authors are our most effective tool in promoting. What we write comes from our hearts. We want to share our experiences and hope these experiences will inspire readers.

PJ: What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?

JA: PINTEREST. I can keep track of 90,000 words, but I’m not visual. It’s difficult for me to think in terms of interesting graphics.

PJ: Do you have a local independent bookseller you’d like to mention?

JA: Many of the booksellers where I had signings and was on panels went out of business during economic downturn. For my recent release, POLITE ENEMIES, an historical western romance, I have author event invitations from Books, Inc. in Alameda (an independent bookstore) and from Barnes & Noble in Antioch.

Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:

MATILDA’S SONG (978-1-60504-195-7)MatildaSong200x300

OutDark72webOUT OF THE DARK (978-1-60504-277-0)

POLITE ENEMIES (Book 1) (ebook:  978-1-61160-636-2; paper:  978-1-61160-590-7Polite-Enemies-COVER21

THE FARMER AND THE WOOD NYMPH (Book 2) (ebook ISBN:  978-1-61160-660-7) release Dec. 2013

EXPECT TROUBLE (print ISBN:  978-1-61009-074-2) release April 2014

Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title, Polite Enemies:

IDA OSTERBACH survived range wars and the murder of her husband. She’s kept the farm going through sheer grit and determination. The last thing she has time for is romance.

 

JARED BUELL was never particularly charitable to farmers, even eye-catching ones like Ida. When an old nemesis comes to town and threatens both of them, he has no choice but to get involved.

 

Experience this action-packed romp through 1895 Wyoming where Ida and Jared find love when they least expect it.

PJ: Where can we buy it?

JA: Whiskey Creek Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble Nook and from independent bookstores which used Ingram as a distributor.

PJ: What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?

JA: I awake each morning with energy and excitement because I have a new day to craft another novel.

Thank you for this opportunity to introduce myself and my writing to your readers.

I can get it there but I can’t make them love it by PJ Nunn

PJNI’m a publicist, not a wizard. I’m a really good publicist. Some days, I aim to be the world’s greatest publicist. But a man’s gotta know his limitations, as they say.

People hire publicists for a lot of reasons, and one of those reasons is to pass the buck. They’ve worked hard and finally, one way or another, their book is published. They’re tired and they feel they’ve taken it as far as they can on their own. For most, hiring a publicist is a big step, not one they take lightly. And it’s a sizable expense in many cases so, yes, they have high expectations of what they’ll get in return for their hard-earned money.

I learned early on that one of the main things I do for my clients is take rejection. Nobody wants to make a pitch for their book only to be told “NO.” We don’t want it. We don’t think it’s good enough. No. Of course when you call a store in hopes of setting up a signing event and are told “NO” it’s rarely a personal thing. More likely it’s a scheduling thing or a policy thing or some other “thing.” Chances are they didn’t look at your book information long enough to know enough about it to form an opinion of any kind. But when someone says “NO” it feels personal. Especially when you’re making more than one call and they keep saying “NO”. A publicist is nice to have at that point because I’m used to hearing more “NO” answers than “YES” and because I really know that it’s not personal. It’s timing. So hiring a publicist shields an author from too many “NO” responses.

But because I don’t tell every author about every NO I hear on their behalf, some think I don’t get “NO” answers. They think hiring a publicist means I can make people say “Yes” to them. I wish I could make them an offer they can’t refuse, but that’s not what I do. I do have contacts that you probably don’t have. I can pick up the phone and call the Guest Booker at the Today Show. I can make my best pitch for you and your book. But they still have to say something. If I’m really on my game that day, maybe they’ll say “Sure, send me more info and I’ll take a look.” Or maybe they’ll say, “NO.”

Most days, after doing this for 15+ years, I get more, “Sure, send me more info…” answers than “NO” answers. That’s when it gets tricky. That’s when people forget what my job is. They think it’s my job to get them to say “YES.” Don’t get me wrong, I love it when they do. But when they say, “Sure, send me more info,” I’ve done my job. My job is to get you there – in front of the people who matter. My job is to get the right people to look at your work. It’s the audition for the part. To get you noticed by people who can share you with their audience who will hopefully want to buy your book.

Now, there are lots and lots of things I can do that bypass that audition. I can call a radio host that I’ve worked with over the years and tell him I have an author I think he’d like to interview. Based on our past history, he’ll schedule an interview without ever talking to the author or seeing the book based on my say so. Don’t think for a second that I take that lightly. If I don’t really think he’ll like you, I won’t pitch you even if I know you’d like to be on that program. Hey, wait a minute! That’s not right!  Yes it is. First, if he doesn’t like you, it won’t be a good interview and you’ll probably be mad that I set it up in the first place. Second, I have to call him again for the next client. No need to make everyone unhappy. But I digress.

Whether I’m arranging an “audition” or an actual appearance, you or your book still have to show up and perform. I get you there but it’s up to you to make them love you. That means I hope you’ve honed your interview skills and are able to give an entertaining talk in front of an audience. That means when the reviewer opens and reads those first few pages, they better be error free and engaging enough to make them want to keep reading. I’ve been shocked over the years when I find a particularly compelling writer who can only stare at the floor and give one word answers to an interviewer. Or even worse, find a fabulous storyline in synopsis only to find the final copy is riddled with grammatical or formatting errors. And whether it’s fair or not, more than one really good book has been passed over because of an ugly cover. You know that’s true.

I realize when things just don’t turn out the way you’d like and maybe sales don’t increase after a promotional campaign, it’s easiest to blame the publicist. But if you don’t want it to keep happening, I urge you to bite the bullet and take a good hard look at your product and presentation. Chances are there’s room for improvement somewhere.

For your best chance of success, make sure you’ve done all you can to fine tune your presentation skills, make sure your book has a good editor, formatter and a professional cover then join up with a professional publicist who has a good track record. Don’t be hasty!

It’s worth the effort to do things right!

Do you have any experiences along these lines that you’d like to share?

Book trailers and Student Resources by Julie Anne Lindsey

tinyBook trailers and Student Resources by Julie Anne Lindsey

Do you know about book trailers? They’re all the rage now for readers and writers alike. They’re the literary answer to a movie preview. Book trailers are slides or video, plus music and words. People with artistic talent and creative vision put them together to represent a book they love. I’m a book trailer addict. I spend hours on YouTube watching trailers for books I love and discovering new books I need to read as soon as possible. Book trailers are gaining momentum and popping up everywhere books are found. I’m in love with this trend.

When I signed a contract last year for my YA suspense, DECEIVED, I knew I had to have a trailer, too. I wanted to join the exciting league of authors on YouTube. I couldn’t wait! There was one little problem. I had no idea how to make a book trailer. No technical skills to speak of and my artistic talent petered out in preschool. I do words. Only words.

Sadness.

Then, I remembered I’m not an island. I have resources. I contacted my alma mater, Kent State University, and approached Mass Media and Communication students with a proposal. Help this befuddled author with her book trailer and I pinky swear to promote the daylights out of your work. I promised to give them full credit for their efforts, name them on the acknowledgements page inside my book and generally spout my appreciation from the interwebs. The students could use the experience to hone their skills, pad their resumes, and beef up their portfolios. As a bonus, if the book did well, they would benefit from that, too. It was a pretty sweet deal for everyone.

I had no idea.

One young man, then a junior, was interested in making a theatrical trailer. I was open to that. Sure. I had no idea what theatrical trailer meant, but it sounded cool. This student, Matt, wants to work in film after graduation. He will. He’s wonderful. I’ve seen his work first hand and you will too in a minute. Matt did the unthinkable. He spent his time recruiting a cast and crew, developing a script, creating scenes, securing shoot locations and arranging multiple friends’ schedules to accommodate this project. He did this for zero dollars. Yeah. Out of the goodness of his heart. For me, an utter and complete stranger. Delightful as I can be… still.

The finished product was so much more than I could have imagined. I’d hoped for some slides set to music and maybe a little something extra. I didn’t really know. Even as we spoke about what he envisioned, it went over my head. I didn’t get it. Couldn’t get it. My brain doesn’t work that way, but the result is spectacular. I’d love to share his work with you, but first, a final thought. If you need help with something, contact your local college. Students are an untapped resource in the community. Plus, they’re fun.

DECEIVED by Julie Anne LindseyArt._DECEIVED_SL1000_

Ever since she could remember, Elle has had to hop from town to town to keep up with her dad’s demanding career as a corporate insurance agent. Each time, a reoccurring nightmare followed her wherever she went–until the day that the frightening figures haunting her at night became all too real. When news of a serial killer spreads throughout her new school, Elle worries that the Reaper has been leaving her his calling card in the form of cigarette butts on her doormat and an unusual ribbon in her locker. With the help of Brian, a boy she meets at a flea market, she discovers that this isn’t her first encounter with the murderer and that her father has been concealing her true identity for the past twelve years. But despite her father’s desperate attempts to protect her, Elle still comes face to face with the darkness she has been running from her whole life. Trapped in the woods and with help hundreds of miles away, will Elle be able to confront the Reaper and reclaim the life she lost?

Available September 18th on Amazon Barnes & Noble Book Depository and more.

About Julie:

Julie Anne Lindsey is a multi-genre author who writes the stories that keep her up at night. In 2013, Julie welcomes five new releases in three genres including her newest title, DECEIVED, a YA suspense from Merit Press, and her first cozy mystery, MURDER BY THE SEASIDE, book one in the Patience Price, Counselor at Large series from Carina Press (a digital imprint of Harlequin).

Julie is a self-proclaimed word nerd who would rather read than almost anything else. She started writing to make people smile. Someday she plans to change the world. Most days you’ll find her online, amped up on caffeine and wielding a book.

Julie is a member of the International Thriller Writers (ITW), Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI), Sisters in Crime (SinC) and the Canton Writer’s Guild.

Find her online:

Tweeting her crazy @JulieALindsey

Soothing her book obsession on GoodReads

Pinning the pretty on Pinterest

Tumbling lamely on Tumblr

Blogging about books and writing at Musings from the Slush Pile

Facebook

Review: Floats the Dark Shadow by Yves Fey

fey_floats-the-dark-shadowFloats the Dark Shadow

by Yves Feyauthor-yves-fey

ISBN-13: 978-1937356200

BearCat Press (August 31, 2012)

Ever since seeing this book’s gorgeous trailer…

I’d been eager to read it, wondering if it could possibly live up to its preview. Let me tell you, it does not disappoint. Yves Fey is a consummate artist. Her passionate, enthralling world fully involved all my senses—including the sixth. Fair warning: that enthrallment included “the fascination of the abomination” in unstinting measure.

Set in Belle Epoch Paris in 1897, here’s how the story starts: “Gilles unlocked the scorched oak door and raised his lantern, illuminating the staircase that coiled down to the dungeons of the chateau. Underneath the smell of ashes, of damp stone and lantern oil, he inhaled traces of other odors. Mold, urine, and feces, Clotted gore. Fear. The fetid bouquet blossomed in his nostrils. Repugnance entwined with anticipation.”

“Repugnance entwined with anticipation”: Gilles feels this and often so does the reader. Fey’s prose is vastly more than words on paper, vividly evoking odors, images, sounds, sensations (on the skin), and feelings (in the heart)—as many of them sinister as sumptuous. Her work clearly has been impeccably researched and fully imagined, in meticulous detail. Like the mists of Paris in the novel, these details constantly swirled, coalesced, disappeared, and reappeared in new forms in my mind. After this, my imagined Paris will always be the City of Light and Shadow.

The book’s multisensory richness is more than matched by emotional energy and complexity rarely found in characters outside the classics. The passion of some scenes nearly sets the pages on fire. There’s not a predictable personality in sight—though there are some you’ll recognize, since Fey weaves in historical figures such as Oscar Wilde, Charles Baudelaire, and the infamous child murderer Gilles de Rais, he of the “gore-sodden soul” (a compound adjective worthy of Homer).

For an expanded experience, log onto http://yvesfey.com/, the most beautiful website I’ve ever seen. You’ll be able to visit the mysterious Paris of Theo, Averill, and Michel (depicted by artists of the Belle Epoch); read and hear its poetry; and learn about its history, customs, and institutions.

All in all, Floats the Dark Shadow exerted an irresistible allure that enveloped me totally—exactly what I want from a novel. I understand this book is the first in a series. As soon as I reached the last page, I was longing for the sequel.

An interview with Connie Knight

connie10PJ: Welcome Connie! How long have you been writing?

CK: I started writing in the eighth grade. I won’t tell you how long ago that was, but I will say that Mother Estelle-Marie encouraged me. I wrote a play which she produced, with most of my classmates as actors and the rest of the school attending. Also, I wrote a poem which she entered in a national contest run by the Catholic Daughters of America. I won second place nationally and ended up with prize money of $69.

PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?

CK: Eighth grade, I guess, thanks to Mother Estelle-Marie. In high school, I won another poetry prize in the annual Pegasus contest sponsored by the San Antonio Public Library.

PJ: Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?

CK: Yes and no. In the eighth grade and before, I read old books strewn around my grandmother’s house, including one by Bennett Cerf. I imagined writing life as taking place in New York, with dinner every night at the Algonquin restaurant, talking with Dorothy Parker and Robert Benchley. That’s where I thought I’d end up.  I didn’t realize those days were already over.

On the other hand, I thought I’d be a novelist, and at last I am.

PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?

CK: By this point, after I spent years at journalism and other creative pursuits, I don’t expect authors, singers, dancers, musicians, artists, etc. to make a lot of money. Just a few lucky ones who manage to reach the top rake in the dollars.

Others, who are successful to a moderate degree, may earn a moderate income. We’ll see.

PJ: Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?

CK: I am thrilled about being published as a novelist at last, but my focus hasn’t really changed. I’ve been published for years in journalism. What’s new is finding time and a genre that work for me as a novelist. I’m writing a series of mystery novels set in rural Texas near San Antonio, in an area settled by my father’s family.

My first book, Cemetery Whites, draws upon family characters and stories to some degree. Some are totally fiction and others are fictionalized. I loved writing the story, and my focus is really to find readers. I love to hear from readers who tell me how much they enjoyed my book.

PJ: How long did it take you to get published the first time?

CK: The first thing published was my prize-winning poem in the eighth grade. I wrote a newspaper article in high school, too. It focused on racism and integration, and was published by the Catholic newspaper in San Antonio.

PJ: Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?

CK: No, I don’t think I would have much reason to do things differently. For example, I earned my bachelor’s degree in creative writing, but then I followed that with a year of journalism classes so I could find a job and make a living. My creative writing circled around poetry and short stories—no money there.

PJ: Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?

CK: It’s not easy. I tend to separate writing time from publishing time, but I’m trying to combine them—somewhat successfully. I’m working on my third mystery right now.

PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?

CK: There have been lots of exciting things. With my first novel Cemetery Whites, at a writer’s conference, I conferred with a literary agent who asked me to e-mail him the first three chapters. I almost swooned. When I left the meeting, I collapsed into a chair in the hallway, and my heart beat like it was ready for an attack.

PJ: What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?

CK: This happened early. Back in the eighth grade, I wrote a short story. I handwrote it on notebook paper, fastened it with a bobby pin, and sent it to the Saturday Evening Post.

To my surprise and heartbreak, they returned it! They didn’t give me an A or a prize, and I didn’t understand their kindness in enclosing a nice rejection slip and supplying the envelope and postage. I didn’t know about the stamped, self-addressed envelope I should have sent with the story.

PJ: What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?

CK: So far, that would be a speech I gave to a book club here in Houston. It was well-received and many books were sold. Then a member approached me and asked if I belonged to the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. I wasn’t, but we agreed I might qualify. She sponsored me, and I did the research and application, which was recently approved. I’m a member now.

PJ: With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?

CK: I believe everybody’s work is different, reflecting their experience and views of life, their ambitions in writing, their personalities.

My mysteries reflect my interest in Texas history, sociology, culture, habits of living, and language, as I have perceived them during my life. They have interesting, unusual characters who are portrayed with some humor.

I’m delighted to hear from readers of Cemetery Whites who tell me they enjoyed reading it. That’s my goal. I want readers to enjoy my books.

PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?

CK: That often happens, even to very good writers who ultimately achieve bestseller status. If writing is important to you, keep up with it. Keep sending it out. Find a writer’s group whose critiques are useful. Consider what you could do to improve your work, and try to find a publisher or literary agent who like your kind of book.

PJ: Do you have a local independent bookseller you’d like to mention?

CK: Two independent Houston bookstores come to mind: Murder by the Book, and Brazos Bookstore. They’re right down the street from each other. I’ve had book-signing events at both.

PJ: Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order.

CK: Cemetery Whites is the name of my novel now being published as an eBook. It’s my debut novel, with the second one ready to Cemetery Whites Coverpublish and the third one in progress.

PJ: Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title.

CK: In Cemetery Whites, Caroline Hargrove Hamilton and her cousin Janet Judson solve murders from 1875 and 2010. They find Professor Harrison, a black man, lying dead in a patch of white irises in the Hargrove Family Cemetery in DeWitt County, Texas. He lies close to a grave where it’s rumored a second body is secretly buried.

Caroline and Janet become amateur detectives, uncovering half-a-dozen family secrets related to both murders. Research involves trips to historical sites in San Antonio, a night at a country bar, and another one at a rooster fight. Letters, journals, and oral histories reveal more and more information.

There’s a day when Janet is stuck in an oak tree surrounded by a herd of wild javelinas. She’s rescued by Josh Gaines, related to Professor Harrison. They’d met at the professor’s funeral in San Antonio.

The two of them look for Caroline, who is missing. With the help of Constable Bob Bennett and Uncle Cotton’s hound dogs, they find Caroline—in the clutch of the man who murdered the professor.

When the murders are solved, a treasure is found. It answers a question no one—except Professor Harrison—knew to ask.

PJ: Where can we buy it?

 

CK: Starting on Friday, May 3, it’s scheduled to be available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and other online book retailers. It will be published by Maple Creek Media.

PJ: What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?

CK: I think everybody with any interest in the topic knows about me and my work, because I talk a lot about it. The last thing I should say is, Thank you for listening.

Thank you for stopping by, Connie! I’m looking forward to reading Cemetery Whites and hope a lot of people will buy copies and enjoy a virtual trip to the San Antonio area in another time!