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 M. Leighton.
1.) How long have you been an indie author?
Only a few months. I first published to Amazon on January 29th of this year (2011, for those of us who really need a watch) and my book, The Reaping, became available January 31st. I guess that’s when I began to first officially identify myself as an "Indie." Since then, I think, like so many other Indies, I wear it as a badge of pride.
2.) How many books have you self published?
4 so far and I’m working on my 5th now. And I can say that, despite my freakishly obsessive and competitive personality, it has been a lot of fun.
3.) Are you a pantser or a plotter?
Total pantser. To the extreme, I might add. Almost every aspect of writing and publishing comes as a complete surprise to me. Again, it’s a personality thang:)
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.
I think my "process" is not really a process at all. I might come up with an idea for a character or a plot line or a particular scene or event and create an entire story around that. I think the only thing that really seems to be concrete about my process is that, by the end of the story, I have a notebook full of Post-Its, jots, scribbles and notes, a collection which I then tidy up and put away for future reference when I do the sequel. Other than that, it’s pretty much a new adventure (in every way) with each book I write.
5.) What is the best writing advice you’ve ever come across?
Don’t just emote. I have a tendency to do that and I have to work at keeping my eye on the ball as my story progresses. Until I get about 2/3 of the way through, that is, then it just flows like water.
6.) If you were going to mentor a new writer through the publishing process, what pitfalls would you warn them against?
From the perspective of the actual publishing process, I’d tell them to format their book simply and correctly from the very first page. It will save them hours of work and years of life.
From the perspective of being a published author, I would warn them about negative reviews and caution them against identifying themselves too completely with their books. It’s easy to see your work as a part of yourself and take criticisms very personally, but it’s a mistake. People aren’t criticizing you as a person, just you as an author or your work as a writer. Even though, to a writer, they feel like one and the same, they’re not. There’s a difference between your "who" and your "do."
7.) Are you currently earning a living with your writing?
Heck no! If my books weren’t $0.99 I would be making a great living. But, alas, they are. Therefore, I’m not. I am hopeful, however, that that will be changing in the near future:D
8.) What are your writing must haves? Music? A quiet table at a coffee shop?
I have to have complete silence, as in no music or television. I’m strange like that. I often use music to get in the mood or get some random inspiration, but when I’m actually writing, I prefer quiet. Better to hear all the voices in my head. *crazy eyes darting around*
9.) What tools or software do you use to write?
I always have a notebook and several different color pens and I have PCs so I use Microsoft Word to compose.
10.) What kind of promotion have you tried? What do you find to be the most effective?
I jumped into the deep end with absolutely no clue what I was doing, so the only thing I’ve done to promote my books is send them to bloggers. Many, however, have huge TBR piles so your book may not get a review for months, which I’ve run into more often than not. Recently, I’ve come across a few authors who had strategic marketing plans in place for their launches and it seems to have worked out very well for them, as opposed to "pantsing" it like I did. What did I tell ya? Pantser all the way!
11.) About how long from start to finish did it take you to finish your book(s)? About how many hours a day do you spend writing/editing?
I’ve seen a book through from start to pubbing in as little as 3 weeks and as much as 3 months. There are hundreds of variables that go into my production rate and, like the perfect storm, they rarely seem to all fall into place in the same way at the same time. I’d say average for me is about a month and a half. With a project like that, I would be writing probably 4 hours a day maybe 5 days a week, give or take an hour here and there. I have very little structure and I like it that way. I don’t force myself to write or perform to a certain level every day, like "I’m going to type 2,000 words today." That feels so stifling to me, I would abandon a schedule like that in no time. I do, however, give myself a week for my first edit. If it drags on beyond that (without a really good excuse), I get antsy.
12.) How much of the process did you do yourself and what did you pay someone else to do?
I’ve done 100% (for better or worse) on my own. If I had the resources, I’d pay for a cover artist and editor, probably someone to do a book trailer and market the book for me, but right now I wear all those hats. And, trust me, I don’t look good in many hats!
13.) Can you tell us a little bit about your book(s)?
I’ll be really quick since I have four. The Reaping is a YA paranormal romance about a girl who begins to see changes in her physical self that bring about a series of changes in her life that she never expected. Caterpillar is an adult paranormal romance that has a touch of horror in it. It’s about a woman who begins to find dead bodies at the houses she’s selling, bodies that lead her to startling discoveries about herself, her family history and her destiny. Wiccan is another YA paranormal romance, but it has a bit of the feel of a murder mystery. It’s the story of a girl who sees murders from long ago–usually. This time, she sees one before it happens, which is one of many indications that her blood is mature and that she is ready to take on the role for which she was fated. Blood Like Poison is my most recent release. It, too, is a YA paranormal romance, one about a girl who falls in love with a vampire (of course! right?), but she doesn’t realize that he has a death wish or that real vampires can die.
14.) Do you mind sharing a little bit about what you’re working on right now?
I’m currently stepping into the editing phase of the sequel to Blood Like Poison. I’ve not written a true sequel yet, and I’m discovering that unless you wrap the story up in the second book, you are forced to plan to a much larger extent than what I’m used to. It’s been a learning experience, but I’ve mapped out how the story will end, an ending which will occur in the next book. Unless, of course, my characters throw me a curve ball in book #3, which wouldn’t entirely surprise me. My characters really do write my stories in most cases, not the other way around, and sometimes they can be quite headstrong *sigh* But, who am I kidding? I love it! Most of the time, endings and plot twists are just as much a shocker to me as they are to readers.
Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Wren. I really appreciate your time:)
You can find M. Leighton online here:
M. Leighton is a native of Ohio, but she relocated to the warmer climates of the South where she can be near the water all summer and miss the snow all winter. Possessed of an overactive imagination from early in her childhood, Michelle finally found an acceptable outlet for her fantastical visions: writing fiction. Four of Michelle’s novels can now be found on Amazon, as well as several other sites. She’s currently working on sequels, though her mind continues to churn out new ideas, exciting plots and quirky characters. Pick one up and enjoy a wild ride through the twists and turns of her vivid imagination.
Blood Like Poison:
Like most seventeen year olds, Ridley Heller thought she had her future all planned out. What she wanted most in life was to get out of small town Harker. Her only goal was to keep her mouth shut and her grades high so she could win a cheerleading scholarship to Stanford. But that was before she met Bo.
In Ridley’s wildest dreams, she could never have planned for someone like Bo, for a love so intense it left her breathless. No human girl could.
A haunting stranger that watched her from afar, Bo stole Ridley’s heart from the moment she laid eyes on him. But he has secrets. Bo’s a vampire. Both his past and his present are a danger to Ridley, but the biggest threat is not her blood; it’s her heart. He’s feeding a thirst for revenge that will cost him his life, and it may already be too late.
The more darkness Ridley uncovers, the more she realizes that her life will never be the same—with or without Bo. Can she sacrifice her future and her heart for someone who has a death wish?
The murmur of death, a dark shadow overcast,
Ringing long and eternal as life slips slowly past,
It breeds the unthinkable and touts the unknown,
It begins at the end, on a whisper, a moan.
Bo was on his knees in the center of the concrete floor, kneeling on a black towel. He was shirtless and covered in blood spatter. Under the slimy red sheen, I could see a sickly greenish black color seeping across his chest, radiating from the left side outward. It was darkest over his heart and it pulsed as if gangrenous death was being pumped throughout his body with every slow squeeze of the muscle. That, however, was not the most alarming part. The thing that caught and held my attention was his face.
As always, when I thought of Bo, my heart clenched painfully. I remember seeing him that day, the horror of it and how terrified I was. But even now, I can’t bring myself to regret stumbling upon him like that. I might’ve gone through the rest of my days in a selfishly numb state of hiding if I hadn’t met him, hadn’t known him for who and what he was. He taught me so much about a world I didn’t know existed and so much more about a life I hadn’t been living.
He taught me to stand up for what I believe in, to shout it out at the top of my lungs. He taught me to feel—the deep, gut-wrenching, heartbreaking, soul-singing kind of emotion I had avoided for so long. He taught me about the importance of life. He taught me about the beauty of death. He also taught me about love.
This is our story.
Blood Like Poison: Destined for a Vampire
Ridley Heller thought that all her problems would be over if she could have Bo back—back from the dead. But what Ridley didn’t know was that her wish would come at a price.
Bo survived a condition that would have killed a lesser vampire, or any vampire for that matter. The only reason he didn’t die is because of who he is, someone Ridley doesn’t know at all. Someone Bo himself doesn’t know at all.
As Ridley gets closer to finding out Bo’s true identity, she discovers that loving him could also come at a price, a price much higher than she ever could have imagined. The question is: is there any such thing as a price too high to pay for Bo? For his love, for his safety, for eternity in his arms?
Excerpt BLP Book 2
I was skirting the writhing mob of dancers when I felt a familiar tug in my belly. I stopped in my tracks and looked around. Immediately, my heart sped up, banging like a drum, keeping time with the erratic expansion of my lungs as I grew more and more breathless.
I searched the faces for the one that occupied far too many of my thoughts, but I didn’t see him. I could’ve almost convinced myself that I’d been mistaken, but the magnetism that I felt intensified with every breath, assuring me that it was no mistake. Those invisible strings were pulling me, no dragging me into the middle of the crowd, where bodies were crushed together so tightly they moved as if they were one.
Weaving my way through perfumed and cologned figures, I felt like I was getting lost in the fray when I saw a tall, darkly cloaked figure watching me through a break in the mob.
He was dressed as Dracula. His robe was ebony satin with a blood red lining and the hood that covered his head shadowed all but his mouth.
My breath hitched in my throat and burned in my lungs. My pulse thumped wildly and my skin tingled in response to a presence that I couldn’t forget. It was Bo. Beneath the hood that concealed most of his face and the cloak that concealed most of his body, I knew it was him. I’d know him anywhere. I’d love him always.”