Mandy Eve-Barnett's Official Blog

Inspiration for Writers & Building A Community ©

Ask A Question Thursday

April 25, 2019
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I have just returned from a five day writing retreat in the Rocky mountains. It occurred to me that we (writers) all enjoy escaping every day life to write. So today’s question is: Where is your perfect writing retreat?

retreat

Would you prefer mountain or forest cabin, or a beach house or somewhere else? Would you go alone or within a group?

 

Last week’s question: How did you build your author platform? Was it by personal effort or did you have professional help?

 

Special Author Interview – Autumn Lindsey

March 9, 2019
mandyevebarnett


AuthorInterview

Autumn

-What inspired your latest novel?

Before Remaining Aileen was, Remaining Aileen the novel, she was an idea I had for a screenplay. A few years back, around 2014 I had this super vivid vision of a young mom, who was on a plane that was falling from the sky. All hope is lost. Her thoughts revolve around never seeing her children, or husband again, and the devastating reality that she is going to die. Until she wakes up, alive, completely unharmed- or so it appears.

This scene became the inciting incident that would propel Aileen along her journey, as well as what started me down my path of becoming a writer.

At the suggestion of my amazing husband, Aileen became a novel instead of a screenplay, and now she is about to be released into the world and I truly still, cannot believe it. Fun fact, my very first title idea was Vampire Mom, and it was going to be this light-hearted story of a mom who becomes a vampire, until I realized just how HARD it would be to actually try and be a mom and a vampire. While I do keep some light-heartedness in the story, it did end up taking a bit of a darker/ more emotional turn (which I am so excited about) than I originally was planning. But if there is one thing I have learned about writing stories, is that they seem to tell you what they want to be regardless of your original intentions. It’s best to just see where it takes you sometimes!

How did you come up with the title?

My first idea for a title for this book was Vampire Mom, but as the story unfolded it just didn’t fit anymore. My main character Aileen really struggles with her new “life” as a vampire and does all she can to try and make her new life fit back with in her old one. So Remaining Aileen felt a little more descriptive of her goal and struggle within the story. 

How much of the book is realistic?

In many ways Aileen’s story into motherhood is based on my own inner struggles I went through while learning how to be a mom, but overall, this being a vampire story, it’s not exactly realistic.  

Are your characters based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

I think my characters are all inspired in some way by either people I know, have known, or maybe would like to know! But no one character is based on anyone specific.

Where can readers find you on social media and do you have a blog?

You can find me on Twitter: www.twitter.com/heylindseys Instagram: www.instagram.com/heylindseys Facebook: www.facebook.com/heylindseys

My website is www.autumnlindsey.com

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18940081.Autumn_Lindsey 

Do you have plans or ideas for your next book? Is it a sequel or a stand alone?

I do have plans for a sequel for Remaining Aileen, Aileen still has a way to go in her story and I’m excited to share the rest of it when the time comes!

Of the characters you have created or envisioned, which is your favorite & why?

One of favorite character’s ended up being Ana, Aileen’s Mother-in-Law. There is just something about her bulldog “don’t mess with me or my family” attitude that I deeply admire. Ana would do anything for the ones she loves.

Do you favor one type of genre or do you dabble in more than one?

I really enjoy writing within the speculative/paranormal realm of things. While Remaining Aileen is Women’s Fiction I prefer to add a speculative twist to it rather than normal/real-life type things.

Do you plan your stories, or are you a seat of the pants style writer?

I plan my stories. I need to have a clear vision for what my beginning, middle, and end will be before I dive in and write.

aileen

What is your best marketing tip?

I am so new to the world of marketing, so far, I don’t have enough experience to give any tips but if I end up with any I will gladly share!  

-Do you find social media a great tool or a hindrance?

I find social media to be more of a tool than a hindrance for me. It’s where I have found my support network for my writing, as well as a place I can connect with readers. I have made some really amazing writer friends through my social media platforms.   

OPTIONAL QUESTIONS

What do you enjoy most about writing?

What I enjoy most about writing is when you get that initial idea. The spark. That single immeasurable moment where what did not exist now exists and it’s such a great feeling. My next favorite moment is writing the words “The End”. I’ve never felt more accomplished then writing those two words at the end of my first finished draft.  

What age did you start writing stories/poems?

I was 28.

Where is your favorite writing space?

My favorite place to write is my white oak desk my husband crafted for me. We hand selected each board that went into it together, and the fact he made it for me makes it so special.

-Do you belong to a writing group? If so which one?

I started my own writing group of sorts called Writer Moms Inc., a support group for mom writers on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram. While Writer Moms Inc. mostly holds an online presence, I do try my best to meet up with my local writer mom friends and chat about all things writing and mom life, as well as encourage the members of WMI to do the same where they live!   

-If you could meet one favorite author, who would it be and why?

I have two authors actually I would love to meet, share a cup of tea with and chat about writing and life. The first is Anne Rice, because well, she’s Anne Rice! I really feel like her vampire stories were the precursor to many of the vampire fiction/movies/TV I love to watch.

I would also love to meet Stephanie Meyer. My whole inspiration for becoming a writer was because of reading Twilight, so I would love to have the chance to meet her in person and gush all about how amazing she is and how grateful I am that she put her stories out into the world.  

-If you could live anywhere in the world – where would it be?

I actually quite love where I currently live, in the mountains of the Sierra Nevada range, however, I really love the Pacific North West so if I could live anywhere I might head up north!

-Do you see writing as a career? 

I would really like being a published author to become my career. After Remaining Aileen, I will have her sequel to write, and then I have a few other novel ideas floating around I’d love to develop and publish.

-Do you nibble as you write? If so what’s your favorite snack food?

I don’t tend to eat while writing, but coffee or tea is a must!

-What reward do you give yourself for making a deadline?

Usually, my rewards for reaching deadlines, or completing drafts is to stay up at late as I want catching up on all the Netflix I missed while writing!

Here is a link to preorders!https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07PFMSGDK/ref=sr_1_fkmrnull_1?keywords=remaining+Aileen&qid=1551971606&s=gateway&sr=8-1-fkmrnull

 

aileen

Ask A Question Thursday

January 17, 2019
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The initial question was: Should you pick the genre before beginning your story or figure out what genre it is after you have written it?

(Look at the bottom of this post for the continuing query – Are genre formulas a myth?)

Last week’s responses:

I always have a vague idea of what the genre is going to be before I start a piece but if the inspiration takes me somewhere else then I don’t try and steer back because the characters lead the story.

Kristen Lamb 

Genre is essential for those who want to write professionally, for an income and for a living. For those who are having fun simply writing? No, doesn’t matter. For those who are new and learning? Not as huge of a deal but starting to be important. Those who want to be experimental and maybe want to win awards? Meh.

Yet, for anyone who want to be PAID for their books (code for product), genre is our lighthouse to keep us from smashing on the rocks.

The entire point of genre is so the author can locate and cultivate fans who will BUY his/her books…which they (readers) will also be able to locate because they will know where the book is shelved or what genre it’s listed under.

If no one has any idea WTH a book is, where to shelve it, or how to describe it? That’s bad.

If the book gets into a bookstore, then where do they put it? “General Fiction.” Okay. Sucky but okay.

But, since most people discover and buy books online, what keywords would you attach? Genre will matter BIG.

What other product/service/ business would be so indeterminate and hope to have any commercial success?

“You know, I am going to open a restaurant and just cook what I feel like and the ingredients just tell me what to do.” Um, have fun storming the castle. Rock on!

But marketing and advertising will now be a total nightmare. Good luck finding those who will eat a place no one can accurately describe.

Same with books.

Not impossible but adds a TON of unnecessary work when authors already have a ton to do as is.

I think a MAJOR misconception is genre somehow locks us into formulaic writing, which is patently false.

First of all, yes there are formulaic genres. Write a category sweet romance and there is a strict formula because these publishers know their readers and what they want.

And, since romance brings in BILLIONS and makes up over 70% of all books sold? Probably a good idea to listen to the guidelines.

Beyond that, genres can be melded and we (as writers) can get creative much like musicians who create fusions of sound, juxtaposing different types of music for a wholly unique sound (I.e. old gospel hymns influencing heavy metal).

Yet, the musicians KNOW music before playing around and reinventing new sounds.

Similarly, we should know and understand genre expectations. They exist for a reason.

Genres help us identify who is most likely to buy our book (which in the new paradigm we need to know no matter which way we publish).

Secondly, genres have rules and we break the rules at our own peril.

Breaking rules is fine. I do it all the time. But I know the rules BEFORE I break them.

For instance, there used to be a rule that one couldn’t mix POVs. If you began in first you had to stay there. If you began in third, you stayed there.

But WHY did the rule exist? Namely to stave off confusion. YET, Jefferson Parker (genius he is) wanted the audience to gain a closer psychic distance with the antagonist to make them more attached and thus more conflicted about him being apprehended/stopped.

So he wrote the antagonist in close first and the MC protagonist in third to make the reader psychologically struggle at a whole new level. Jeff knew genre, the rules, the constraints, THEN he bent them to do something never done.

Thirdly, genre is primarily for readers. It helps them find what they are looking for. When we don’t want to put a genre on our work because it ‘limits the muse’ or whatever, it is like asking our audience to go grocery shopping and buy canned goods with no labels and just trust it will be yummy.

Genres help readers have SOME idea of what they are getting. If we mislabel, there can be consequences.

Years ago, I had a client who believed she had a romance (but obviously hadn’t studied genre rules/expectations).

She self-published and got SLAYED in reviews, and panicked and sobbing, hired me to help. I took one look and knew the problem.

Yes, her writing was good and so was the story, but in her book…guy and gal didn’t end up together in the end.

In romance, (back then) you needed an HEA (Happily Ever After) which has loosened up to an HFN (Happily For Now) but the couple still has to end up together.

Without that? NOT a romance. She had a Women’s Fiction. She got a new cover, relaunched, slated in the correct genre and BOOM. Sales and great reviews.

In this instance, we had a case of completely different audience with different expectations.

When we slot a book in the wrong genre it’s like serving someone Tofurkey and trying to tell them it’s actually turkey. They are going to HATE it because the basis for comparison is TURKEY not vegan meat substitutes.

It’s like a bad bait-and-switch that ticks off readers.

Then, genre is going to give guideposts to word count. How LONG is the book roughly supposed to be?

Audiences in certain genres have preferences. Epic high fantasy readers give no figs about reading a 180,000 word book. Someone who likes cozy mysteries? No. Like 65K. Sure, feel free to write a 180,000 word cozy mystery but no one who loves that genre is likely to buy.

As far as considering genre ahead of time? I don’t understand how an author can’t do this, at least loosely. Stories are for the audience, not us. Unless we only want to sell a book to ourselves.

And this isn’t me saying “write for the market’ because that sort of “writing for the market” is when you, say, love writing Jane Austen historical romances and decide, instead, to write a techno-thriller because the genre is hot at the moment…and yet you can’t use your printer without tech support and are so bored by military fiction you want to kill yourself…but you write it because it is HOT.

Just no.

But beyond that, looking at genre is a FANTASTIC resource to understand our readers, who they are, what they want and not only give them what they want…but also slip in something they never knew they wanted until they read your book!

***This is why agents need to know genre. They have to have ammo to SELL our manuscript for the most BANK. If they can’t articulate what it IS, who is going to buy it? No one. Bye, Felicia.

Back to process. To me, failing to even roughly determine genre ahead of time is madness. I’ve done it (when I was a n00b) and it sucks and I have the scars to prove how dumb this was (for me).

My time is valuable. Without determining some broad strokes regarding genre, that is a formula for revision HELL. To be retro-fitting the Space Station for a hot tub.

It will make SEO and keywords a BEAST. Ultimately, it’s just a recipe for heavy drinking and ugly crying.

Just because we choose a genre in the beginning doesn’t mean we can’t get creative and blend or even veer at an angle toward a kissing-cousin genre (I.e. suspense can become a thriller).

In the end, writers can do whatever works for them and sells a lot of books. Yet—after fifteen years in this business professionally—I’ve found that, more often than not, writers who eschew genre rarely finish the book.

Or, if they do, revisions are like a trip to the fifth circle of hell which is why it takes FOREVER for them to ‘finish.’ Often, they can’t get traditionally published and so they self-pub and the books don’t sell (and there are reasons for that).

Look at authors making bank, traditionally and nontraditionally published. They KNOW their genre and audience and they WRITE FOR THEM…even the literary folks (*nod to Fredrik Backman*).

Anyway, long response but there ya go. My two cents…okay twenty bucks. Best of luck to everyone.

I’d say knowing at least a basic genre before you start writing is important. Maybe you know you want to write a romance, but figure out as you’re going along it’ll be an erotic romance. Okay, fine. But you can’t just start spewing words without knowing your characters, the plot, what genre, etc. You can’t sit down and just start typing without knowing some form of topic of what you’re writing. It’ll just turn into a mess that way.

over to you

So let’s look at this from a slightly different angle.

If you are writing in a particular genre do you ‘conform’ to the preconceived format of that genre? If romance – fall in love, difficulties arise, opposing feeling, loss of love, surprise event, and falling back into deep everlasting love? OR Sci-fi – the hero has to fight an enemy, the struggle is real and looks overwhelming, battles and fights, a glimpse of hope and the final defeat?

Do you want to conform to formula writing? Would you rather break the mold? Is it a myth that genres have formulas?

With a specific genre there is a better chance your book will be put into the genre bookshelf as opposed to a general fiction slot as Kristen mentioned.

Is this good marketing?

Does it restrict your creativity?

 

ASK A QUESTION THURSDAY

January 10, 2019
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Continuing the discussion for this month’s topic. See 3rd January for main post.

Should you pick the genre before beginning your story or figure out what genre it is after you have written it?

Last week’s responses were:

Konn Lavery 

Genre tends to come second for my process. The genre of choice comes up naturally as the plot, characters and conflict unfold. Sometimes I’m not sure what the genre is, but did get a handy booklet called Genre A Short Reference Guide and Dictionary by R. L. Bennett that has descriptions for each genre.
Once the first draft is done I look up in the booklet, then research about the genre and revise the manuscript.

Karen Probert

I never consider genre at all. I’m not even sure there is a genre name for my style of writing – maybe ‘realism’ would fit as my characters act and speak as normal people and there are no situations in my stories that could not happen to real people or be a part of normal day-to-day living in our society.

Gerri Bowen

Many of my stories tend to be paranormal, but I go where the characters take me.

Lisa de Nikolas

My genre preference is noir suspense thriller murder mystery! But my writing is more literary than genre and that makes it problematic when it comes to sales and marketing because promotion departments and bookstores like to have a simple, clear-cut definition.

I’m often asked for current, similar examples in bookstores of my books, and that’s very hard to do! I’d love to reply: “I set out to write good story, something readers can sink their teeth into, it’s fiction, that’s what it is!” But booksellers want something less complicated. I’ve described my work as Little House on the Prairie meets Pulp Fiction and what genre would that be?.

I didn’t set out to write this way, in fact, I’ve tried really hard to write formulaic genre mystery but it’s just not my style. Sometimes you’ve got to go with what you’ve been given! Thanks Mandy!

Kathie Sutherland

Life writing is my genre. The forms vary: journal writing, personal essays, poems, short stories,and autobiographical narratives. These forms end up in collections. I want the pieces to be realistic. I find fiction difficult to write. I have a novel in first draft and autobiographical fiction pieces and even they are life writing. The writing comes first, and then the genre follows.

Mary Cooney-Glazer 

I write second chance love stories with the primary characters age 45 and over. I chose the main genre because I wanted to portray mid-life women as resilient, attractive, productive people still fully engaged in life and capable of enjoying romantic adventures. Their men treat them well and respect their talents. I do like to include a little goofiness on both sides when it comes to figuring out relationships. Although the main genre is romance, there are elements of women’s fiction and rom-com. So, I guess I do choose the overall genre first, but the blending elements appear as the characters and plot develops.

Mike Deregowski

I generally have some sort of idea of what genre I am writing in, I don’t pick it though, it all depends on what will fit the story that wants to be told. Same goes for style I use. I believe there are no bad writing ideas, just not the right format or style.

Mandy Eve-Barnett

I have always written free flow so never think what the genre might be as I write the narrative. That comes later once the story has completed the first draft and I read it through, making revisions and getting to know the theme of the narrative. Sometimes the characters define the genre and other times it is the story structure and theme.

 

over to you
So is this the general consensus regarding genre? Do you agree or disagree?
If we are writing without a clear genre in mind does this make the process easier or more difficult?
There are certain well known ‘formats’ for certain genre’s, complete with cheat sheets. Are these a great writer’s tool or apt to make one a ‘lazy’ writer?
Let’s see where this topic takes us shall we? Over to you and your thoughts. Please leave your comments in the section below.

ASK A QUESTION THURSDAY

January 3, 2019
mandyevebarnett


Hello,

Here is the first question for my new monthly blog topic for writers and authors. Please join in the discussion.

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Should you pick the genre before beginning your story or figure out what genre it is after you have written it?

We can ask, answer and give our opinions in the comments on this post or subsequent Thursdays in January. Let’s make it as interactive as possible.

What is your genre preference?

How do you decide on the genre?

Would picking the genre first make it more difficult to write the story or not?

Do you merge genres to match your story?

Now-a-days there are many merged genres so it is easy to combined a couple (or more) to make your narrative ‘fit’ but is that okay or not?

More discussion on Thursday 10th, 17th, 24th and 31st January. We may go off topic slightly, reveal writing styles, publishing house experiences, agent advice or …

Let each other know about you!

Experience

My experience:

I have always written free flow so never think what the genre might be as I write the narrative. That comes later once the story has completed the first draft and I read it through, making revisions and getting to know the theme of the narrative. Sometimes the characters define the genre and other times it is the story structure and theme.

I have children’s books, YA novellas and several adult novels, so am a multi-genre author. I am led by the story initially, which can be sparked from an overheard conversation, a life event, a prompt/photo or an experience on a road trip.

What about you?

 

 

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