Interview and an Excerpt is a weekly feature that explores the process of writing and indie publishing through interviews with self published authors. The aim is to demystify the process for those who are aspiring to become indie publishers themselves. This week’s guest is the ever lovely, Courtney Cole.
1.) How long have you been an indie author?
Around a year or so. I finished my first novel and signed a contract with Whiskey Creek Press last summer. That book is being released in July. Since then, I’ve written two more books and I decided to form my own small press to publish them. It made more financial sense for me to do it that way. I have definitely enjoyed the freedom of doing everything my way and retaining my own rights.
2.) How many books have you self published?
(I sort of answered this above)
3.) Are you a pantser or a plotter?
I’m a total Pantser, much to your frustration as my crit partner, I know. :) I tend to form a very loose outline and then I start writing to it, then chuck it and write whatever I want, throwing caution completely to the wind. Along with my pants. (Did I just say that?)
4.) Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process? Feel free to be as detailed as you like, this stuff is fascinating.
My writing process… well, I get a kernel of an idea. Usually, I think of a character first, not a plot idea. I’m definitely a character writer. And then usually, I think of how I want their story to end up. And then I’m left with coming up with the middle details. The middle stuff is always hardest for me. So, I brainstorm. A LOT. I do a lot of mulling over and then I bounce ideas off of you (thank you, by the way). And then, because I’m a total Pantser, I just start writing. And also because I’m a Pantser, I do end up having to edit A LOT and do about a million re-writes.
5.) What is the best writing advice you’ve ever come across?
This is over-used and you hear it all the time, but I honestly think it is the best. Stephen King said to write every day. Even if you only eke out 200 words, write something (anything!) everyday. And I do think that’s the best advice ever. If we don’t keep that writing muscle limber, it will waste away. And we can’t have that!
6.) If you were going to mentor a new writer through the publishing process, what pitfalls would you warn them against?
Oh, man. Okay. First, write good work. As an indie, I think we have a responsibility to try and change the bad reputation that currently plagues us. We need to produce good, professional work. Edit it. Edit it again. Edit it a third time. If you can afford it, hire a professional editor. If you can’t, then edit it a fourth time. Second, have a good cover. If you aren’t skilled in photoshop, then hire it done. Covers are so important. If you don’t have a good one, readers won’t even bother clicking on your book to learn more about it.
Market smartly. Decide how to best reach your target audience and concentrate your energy and your focus on those areas. Don’t just throw money at the whole she-bang. Pinpoint where you’re going to market with a good marketing plan. And then use your plan.
And don’t give up. Being an indie means a lot of hard work. Writing is the easy part, believe it or not. You have to network, market, stress about your sales numbers, call your friends and stress about your sales numbers (thank you for that, too), get talked off ledges (thank you, thank you for that as well ) and basically, juggle about 7 million things at once, particularly if you also have a day job. It’s a lot to balance. But if you really want it (and most indies do) you will stick with it. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
7.) Are you currently earning a living with your writing?
No, I’m not. I have a day job in a marketing department. But my first book was only just released on April 21. My ultimate goal is to someday earn my living as a full time writer. My one month sales numbers today were: 159 e-books of Every Last Kiss have sold in 30 days. It has started to increase over the past few days, so I am hoping that will continue to grow. (If you’re reading this, go to Amazon and buy Every Last Kiss. You’ll love it I promise. 🙂
8.) What are your writing must haves? Music? A quiet table at a coffee shop?
I can’t listen to music while I write– I’m waaaaay too easily distracted. I listen to it while I plot my storyline, like when I am walking or jogging. But I need to have it fairly quiet so that I can write. I also can’t write in front of the TV for that reason, so I seclude myself in my office. My dog usually lies at my feet and I write that way. Also, I’m just compulsive enough that my desk needs to be clean and neat before I can focus. (It’s possible that I’m a teench OCD….)
9.) What tools or software do you use to write?
Well, you introduced me to OneNote, so I jot notes down in OneNote, but other than that, I use Word. Old-fashioned, right? I don’t use a specific writing software. I know. You’re going to give me an earful about this later. I can feel it coming now…
10.) What kind of promotion have you tried? What do you find to be the most effective?
Well, my book has only been out a month, but I’ve tried to get as much exposure as I can. This includes Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads. I have done some author interviews, I have submitted my book to book reviewers/bloggers and it is on their massive TBR piles. I’ve heard that word of mouth is the best tool for authors– be yourself, be interactive and people will respond to that. So, that’s what I’m doing.
I decided against Facebook ads. I’ve heard good things about them and bad things. But for me, it boiled down to the fact that my target audience is teenage girls. They access Facebook on their phones where ads aren’t visible, so it wouldn’t pay off for me to run them.
11.) About how long from start to finish did it take you to finish your books? About how many hours a day do you spend writing/editing?
Every Last Kiss took the longest (around five months) because of the massive amount of research that I did about ancient Egypt. Hours and hours of research. With Princess and Guardian, it took 2-3 months, I think. I spend several hours a day writing and editing. I’m a writer who edits my work as I go… so before I start writing something new, I begin my writing day by re-reading and editing the chapter that I worked on yesterday. It gets me into the right frame of mind to write, plus it means less editing at the very end. Yay for multi-tasking!
12.) How much of the process did you do yourself and what did you pay someone else to do?
I did everything myself except for the cover. I toyed with the idea of hiring an editor, but I’m pretty good at grammar/editing myself, so I just went with that. I might hire an editor in the future simply because it is migraine-inducing to comb over every single line, hunting for errors. Formatting e-books is also a headache that I might hire someone for in the future. SUCH a headache!
13.) I’ve read Every Last Kiss and I have Princess in my TBR pile. I have no doubt that you’re an up and coming writer who is going to have a lot of success in the field. Can you tell us a little bit about them?
Well, thank you. I appreciate that because I very much value your opinion. Every Last Kiss is my fave right now. It’s a paranormal romance featuring a girl who is a keeper of fate. She has lived for thousands of years, reborn into each life not remembering what she is. She has to relearn it every time. She has angst in Every Last Kiss because she is returned to a previous doomed life (her life as Cleopatra’s handmaiden, Charmian) and she knows that everyone around her is going to die, including her soul mate. She’s put in a bad position… should she interfere and save them all or do what she was born to do and keep Fate’s plan?
Princess is darker. It turned out much darker than I meant for it to be. It’s a contemporary YA, absolutely no magical influences of any type in it. It focuses on the life of 17-year old Sydney Ross, the daughter of a wealthy senator. Her life appears perfect from the outside, but it turns out, she’s got some serious troubles… pretty twisted troubles. But twisted in an entertaining way, I hope.
14.) I know I’m waiting eagerly for the sequel to ELK. Do you mind sharing a little bit about what you’re working on right now?
That is exactly what I’m working on actually. And everyone’s going to be in for a surprise, I think. My characters threw me some curve balls that I never saw coming.
Thanks for having me, Wren. It was fun being here.
Thanks for being here, Court. I’m excited to be able to share you with the world.
If you want more Courtney Cole, you can find her here:
And now for an excerpt from Every Last Kiss.
Dipping my fingers in a jar of scented oil, I glanced back into the mirror as I began to apply it. And froze with my fingers at the base of my neck.
A woman, pale and beautiful, sat on the bed behind me as though she belonged there. Her eyes were ice blue and her long hair was so blonde that it was snow white. I whirled around to face her.
“How did you get in here?” I demanded. “How did you get past the guards?”
She smiled peacefully at me, but didn’t answer.
“Can you speak?” I asked. “Who are you?”
She studied me again, unmoving and silent from her perch on my bed. She wore silvery robes embroidered with rich blue which were spread around her and her long fingernails were silver. They sparkled in the muted light from my window. She reminded me of what a fairy would be like. An odd sensation began to build in my chest and I hesitated.
“Who are you?” I whispered again.
“You know who I am,” she said gently, as she rose from the bed. She was so graceful that it seemed as though she floated as she walked toward me.
“I don’t,” I argued, as she came to a stop behind me.
“You do,” she insisted softly, as she placed her hands on my shoulders. And in that instant, the second that her hands touched me, I did.
I was standing face to face with Lachesis, the middle sister of the Fates. Terrifying and powerful, the last time I had seen her, she had been an ancient, stooped hag. My eyes flew in amazement to her lovely, young face.
“I can appear as I wish, Charmian,” she said lightly. “You are beautiful. So, of course I wanted to appear beautiful, as well. I have no wish to scare you.”
“Then what is your wish?” I asked quietly, keeping my eyes locked on her face.
She reached past me and picked up the jar of oil, dipping her long fingers into it. Picking up my arm, she gently began rubbing the scented oil into my skin as she spoke.
“You are one of twelve, Charmian. Did you know that?” I shook my head, instantly intrigued.
“Yes. Twelve very important people were chosen so long ago to assist us throughout the millennia. You were chosen for your bravery and your heart.”
She turned my wrist over and fingered my scar.
“I placed the mark of the phoenix upon your wrist myself. The phoenix is sacred to the order, Charmian. It symbolizes re-birth and life, the very thing that we stand for… the things that we protect. And we gave you that mark. It is an honor.”
I nodded. “Yes, of course it is.”
“Then why have you been doubting us?” she turned her large blue eyes to me, beseeching me.
“I haven’t!” I protested. “The priest Annen has tried to convince me of his theories… but being a member of the Order is all I know. I have no wish to believe him.”
“But you’ve wondered.”
She stated it as a fact, watching my face as she absently held her open palm out to a butterfly that had flown in from my window. The delicate yellow wings quivered as it crawled onto her hand and sat still.
“I know your heart, Charmian.”
I sighed. “I couldn’t help but wonder how much truth was in what he said. But I have no wish to believe him. I’ve put his claims out of my mind.”
“As you should,” she instructed with the first trace of a harsh tone.
She watched the butterfly for a moment more, her blue eyes glinting, before she snapped her hand shut, crushing the delicate insect between her fingers. I gasped as she put it in her mouth, chewing calmly as she contemplated me.
“You are one of the best we have, Charmian. Yet you’ve lost your bloodstone.”
My heart dropped into my toes. I couldn’t deny it.
“Yes,” I admitted in a whisper, my head bowed.
“Get it back,” she hissed, her face clouding over and for a split second, one brief moment, I saw a glimpse of the ancient hag that she was. I sucked my breath in, waiting for a storm.
She calmed herself, resuming her tranquil tone, her face regaining its youth and beauty.
“Our bloodstones are powerful, as you know. They are the keys to everything. That sniveling eunuch will not be able to use it- because it was made for you. But the bloodstones were made from one stone. One. When one is lost, we all suffer.”
I stared at her intrigued, as she pulled her own bloodstone out of her robes. Hers was larger than mine and set in an intricate setting surrounded by rubies, but it had clearly been cut from the same mother stone… glistening blood-red, with black veins.
“Our power as a whole should not be diminished because of the carelessness of one, should it?” she purred, sliding her hands smoothly over my shoulders and stopping with her fingers wrapped lightly around my neck.
I gulped, then shook my head quickly.
“Then, fix it,” she instructed pleasantly, removing her hands. “No matter what you need to do to repair your error, you have my support. Do you understand?”
Did I? Was she saying that retrieving my bloodstone using any means necessary was more important than restoring history?
Before I could speak, she nodded. “I see that we’ve come to an understanding. You’re such a bright girl.
Confusion flooded through me as I watched her adjust her clothing. How could this be happening? My entire being was dedicated to enforcing the plan of the Fates. Never had we deviated before, under the threat that chaos would ensue. How could we deviate now? Unless the threat was just that… an idle threat. I had forgotten that my thoughts were not safe around her, until she snapped me from my reverie with a growl.
“Do not question us again, Charmian! There are times when the Plan is not as important as protecting the Order. It is as simple as that. And I will not explain myself to you!”
But she just had. The Order had a weakness. The Bloodstones. And nothing on earth was as important as keeping them. I quickly blanked my thoughts so that she couldn’t read them again and nodded.
“Yes, Lachesis. I’m sorry. Rest assured, I will fix this…” My voice trailed off hesitantly.
“But?” she prompted.
“But can I just ask one thing? Can I just know one thing… because I know I will not remember it in my next life anyway.”
She studied me quietly, reading my thoughts and hearing my unspoken question. Her face an unreadable, lovely mask.
“In each life your memories from your previous lives are wiped clean for your own benefit,” she finally explained. “It benefits you in many ways. If you were able to remember the sadness from your previous lives, it would drive you to insanity. You would lose your effectiveness as a Keeper.”
I nodded. Ahmose had been right.
“And you forget the gifts you are capable of through your bloodstone as a safeguard,” she added. “The power that we are able to harness is exquisite and enormous. Too much burden for any one person to be aware of, life after life.”
“My sisters and I have each other to keep us in check. You have no one. But your Aegis.”
Realization settled upon me like a cloud. So, Ahmose wasn’t just there to assist me… he was there to keep me firmly in place.
“So, now you know.” She stared at me. “For now. You’ll forget it again soon enough.”
That thought was not comforting.
I looked up at her.
And she was gone.