Mailbox: Another first for this grateful author
My Q&A with an enthusiastic, young reader
As a new author, it's exciting how many "firsts" I get to experience. Even this website is new, with my first blog entry posted on this day exactly three months ago. And it's thanks to this website that a pleasant surprise awaited for me in my inbox last week, which was yet another first!
I got an email from a student who I'll refer to as M. Their parents found me at a local book signing, and bought M my book as a birthday present. M really enjoyed my book, and was excited to learn I was a new author. So they used my website to connect with me about Wis' Apothecary and the self-publishing process. I guess you could call it my first fan letter haha. But seriously, I'm so glad M loved my book, and it meant so much to hear from them. It made my week!!
M isn't just a young reader, they're an aspiring writer too. So of course I was happy to answer all of their questions, which were not just about my book, but about writing and publishing in general. I think you'll agree that they were well-thought out and excellent questions, and I tried to return in kind with my answers. With M's permission, I've transcribed our back-and-forth as a Q&A for this week's blog post.
M: Are you going to do more vampire content in the future? You said you were going to do another book. Is it going to have more vampire stuff or other species of mythical creatures? I really like vampires a lot and I really enjoyed your take on them too so I was just curious.
A: Yes! We haven’t seen the last of Becca or her storyline. And if vampires exist, you can bet werewolves, dragons and fairies exist. But what about the vampire that turned Becca? There’s a lot left to explore when it comes to vampires. I really like vampires too, and Becca is precious to me.
M: Are any of the characters we saw in book one going to come back in book two for more adventures? All of them seemed really interesting and I would love to see more of them, especially the twins and Becca.
A: As I just mentioned, we haven’t seen the last of Becca. This is also true of many of the characters Isabel comes across and befriends. My goal was not just to create a world, but fill it too. If we know Heidi works in a bakery around the corner from Isabel, why wouldn’t see her again? And the twins are too much fun to not bring back.
With that said, I think there are different degrees to which they might appear. These characters won’t always be central to a storyline, and may not appear in every single book. But I hope this is a long series, and I have more ideas than time to write haha. You’re bound to see your favorite characters appear again at some point!
But also, the apothecary is a busy place, and Aramore is filled with all kinds of interesting people. I hope you also look forward to the new characters that will be introduced too!
* (The twins and Becca seem to be favorites for a lot of people, which I love to hear!)
M: Where did you find your cover artist? How does that all work? The cover art is exceptional. I know that's not specifically the story, but come on, they look amazing.
A: His name is Eduardo, and you should definitely give him a follow on Instagram! @abundisart. He’s seriously so talented, and I’m so thankful that I found him. He really brought my characters to life, and I’m obsessed with that cover. I had it printed and its hanging on my wall lol.
I found him on Reddit of all places. There’s a subreddit for artist commissions. I made a post, asking if anyone would be interested in designing me a cover. I got many replies, and after looking at everyone’s portfolios, I hired him to draw me a sample commission of Isabel and Wis. He nailed it, so we moved forward on the cover! You’ll be pleased to know he’s returned for the second cover. I hope to be able to share it soon!
M: How do you know what stories you are going to write? Like how did you form this collection of short stories? Did you know it would be short stories from the beginning?
A: I’m not sure if you’re familiar with light novels, but it’s a particular style of literature in Japan that are shorter and serialized, akin to manga without the pictures, or the “dime” novels you’d find here in the West. This was my inspiration for the short story format.
With that said, this was the plan from almost the beginning. I just started writing while bored at the airport one morning, and Isabel and the apothecary were born from there. In that initial draft, she was a fully-fledged witch. But things quickly evolved the more I wrote.
Almost all of my stories begin with a character concept, and the plot comes later. This isn’t always true, but definitely mostly. Like, what about a 150-year-old vampire in the body of a 10-year-old? Or what about a pair of con artist twins that scam the apothecary? Then I work out a plot after.
M: Do you have an ending in mind? I've heard a lot of advice like 'always write your story with the ending in mind'. Does that necessarily apply to you? Are you just going to keep writing as long as you have inspiration?
A: If every day at the apothecary is the potential for a new story, then I think I have a truly endless number of possible stories. Isabel is only 15, which gives us three more years before she becomes a witch. And then after she becomes a witch, then what? What if I wanted to tell a story from Wis’ perspective, or Becca’s? Get the idea?
Because I’m writing short stories, the rules are a little different than writing a full-length novel. Of course my short stories must have an ending, and that gets thought out as part of the plot. But do I have an ending in mind for the story as a whole? No, because I don’t see an end. I’ll just keep writing until I feel differently. But some series like mine have 20+ books. Hopefully I can keep the fire and passion alive that long! I truly love Isabel and the world I’ve created, and don’t want to wrap it up anytime soon.
M: How did you publish this story? What was the process from the end of the rough draft to me finishing the book? I have heard about many different ways to do it but it is never really specific and I have heard different stories from everyone about how it works.
A: I self-published through Amazon’s KDP program. There are other self-publishing methods though, like IngramSpark. Or you can go really old school and just print the book yourself and sell it online or to local bookstores.
Like you, I’ve always wanted to publish a book (more on that in a moment). But often I just write with the fancy strikes me, until the inspiration fizzles out and I’m satisfied. This could be a couple of pages, a few chapters or whatever. But rarely do I actually finish something. This was different.
Like I said, I started writing while bored at the airport. Then when I had extra time on my vacation (I was visiting home for a couple of weeks). Then I returned and KEPT writing. I was like, wow. I think I’m actually going to finish this.
At that point, I started searching for an illustrator, and an editor. When the rough draft was finished, I worked with my editor extensively - again, I was lucky to find really competent help. My editor is absolutely amazing, and really helped me take my rough draft to the next level.
After I had the final draft, I formatted everything, purchased an ISBN for my book and submitted everything to the KDP program. As a self-published author, I’m in charge of all of this on my own. And afterwards, I’m also responsible for my own marketing and advertising. It’s a lot of work, but worth it! Many of the best selling authors today started as self-published authors, as getting traditionally published has become more and more difficult with no name or reputation.
M: Finally, why do you write? I know it is sort of a broad topic but I really want to know. I read the thing in the [afterword] about COVID being rough but I just wanted to hear a little more about the process of building this story if you would be willing to share. Where did it start? At what point did you know you wanted to publish it? Why did you want to publish in the first place?
A: I write because I love it. I think we’ve touched on a lot of this question above, but I’ll concisely wrap it up here. Isabel started as just an idea, but the more I wrote, the more her voice, the world and other characters evolved around her. It was fun, and I’m passionate about the world I’ve created.
I’ve always loved to write, too. I started reading in kindergarten, and you couldn’t keep books out of my hands. In elementary school, I always really enjoyed creative writing assignments, and in middle school, I never minded essays or English class like many of my peers. Writing has always been fun for me, so of course, Isabel was written for fun too.
I’m a journalist because I love to write, and now I’m an author - a lifelong dream accomplished. But again, most of my writing has never seen the light of day. It was writing for me, and even now, it still is. This goes back to question 5, but I’ll keep writing about Isabel and company as long I keep feeling this way.
M: I want to add that it is amazing that you wrote and published a story. It is something I strive to do at least some point in my life and I think that it is incredible that you were able to do it. Writing is hard(for me at least) and getting the guts and the determination to send it to the world is something truly exceptional. Sorry if that was a little sappy or intense or whatever but I just really liked your book, your characters, your plotlines, and the world.
A: If you hope to be an author one day, my best advice would be just to keep at it. Write and write often. It doesn’t have to be good. You don’t have to show anyone. Write until you don’t feel like it anymore. And eventually you’ll have an idea, and you won’t be able to put the keyboard down. And that’s when you can think about publishing!
Writing isn’t always easy for me either, but don’t beat yourself up about it, or put undue pressure on yourself. “Oh, this isn’t good enough.” “No one will like this.” Whatever. Self-doubt is a writer’s biggest enemy, including my own. If you like writing, just write. When things are meant to fall in place, they will. But not everything you write needs to be shared with the world. When you write something you want to share, then you should!! But no pressure.
I want to thank M one final time for reaching out!! I've never received an email like this, and I was both surprised and touched. The questions were inquisitive, and I wish them the best of luck on their own writing journey! I love connecting with young readers, and in fact, will be reading to a 5th and 6th grade class here in Rochester next month. I look forward to reporting on that soon with everyone!
Do you have any questions of your own? Drop them in the comments, and I'll be sure to answer them too! And as always, I'd appreciate any shares if you think others might be interested in this week's article.
Thanks for reading, everyone! Until next time.