Today my special guest is author Natalie G. Owens. I met Natalie several years ago at a Georgia Romance Writers meeting, and we took an instant liking to each other. She has since moved to the other side of the world and now makes her home in Malta, but we still communicate regularly on Facebook and Twitter.
I love Natalie's take on writing, so I asked her to share about her author experience in a two-part interview. Tomorrow she tell us about her new release, Something to Live For. Please join me in welcoming her.
How would you describe your story/book?
Something to Live For is a short paranormal/contemporary romance. It’s a story of two wounded people getting together and healing through intimacy and a bit of magic. You can find the blurb here - http://www.nataliegowens.com/p/something-to-live-for.html
What will readers like about your book?
I think they may like the fact that the hero and heroine are real people who have gone through some tough times in life. There is a lot of emotion there and my characters tend to be a little dark – so this may appeal to readers who prefer their romance to be dark and reflective. The sensual aspect is central to the story, but I’d say it’s more evocative than graphic – at least that’s what I hope readers will think when they read it! I hope they will simply say – “This is a short but satisfying read. It tapped into my emotions, and I’m happy I got this book.”
What inspired you to write this particular story?
I always had an idea of setting stories in my native country of Malta, and this is my second attempt at this. I also think that we should all believe in a little magic, in things that are often dismissed as fantasy. To believe in something we are tempted to rule as impossible is much like sticking to a dream. It takes courage, and a lot of love, to see it through. Therefore, in this story I married magic with intimacy, because both have the power to heal and inspire.
Also, I intend this to be part of a series of three or more shorts, leading to the last one which will be a full-length novel – the story Moonlight Dating’s Jeanette Lagrange.
When did you start writing?When I was in my teens. I have always loved the arts. As a child I used to enjoy drawing and playing the organ (or attempting to!). In my high school years, I started writing. I loved poetry because it helped me with my own issues at that time. At 19 I won a second place national award here in Malta by the literary society for a poem written in my native language. After that, I wrote articles in English for some local and college publications. I stopped writing for a while because I needed to finish law school. Then in 2006, I got laid off and my husband encouraged me to start writing and editing – something he knew I always wanted to do. He pushed me hard, and here I am today. I’ve gone through two e-publishers, and now I’m self-publishing my second short story. All I want is to get to the readers and offer them something they love to read.
When did you realize that you were a serious writer?
See previous answer – I believe it answers this question J
When did you decide that you wanted to write a book?
When I was laid off, in 2006, I wrote a short story. It took me two weeks to write and less than a month to sell it. Then I wrote another and sold that one, too. The publisher I was with closed down and I contracted the books with another publisher. Now, I’ve pulled those books from the market and starting afresh. I thought I couldn’t write a full-length novel, but I was wrong – thank God! I actually managed to finish An Eternity of Roses, Book 1 of the Valthrean Legacy, a sweeping paranormal romance that slowly took shape thanks to my critique partners and beta readers. It is presently in the editing stage and in the coming months I’ll have a release date.
What is your writing process?
SMADAW – sit my ass down and write. Then get up, play hide and seek with my two year old son, then SMADAW again. Then go to make lunch, and SMADAW again. You get my point…
How long does it take you to write your first draft?
An Eternity of Roses took me two years to finish – no kidding! But there’s a reason. I cut my teeth on writing with this manuscript, and I consider finishing this project comparable to taking a Masters in creative writing. I’ve now started work on another novel, one I’d classify as romantic suspense, and I already know the process will be much shorter because I’ve plotted this one more thoroughly than the first. I know more what to expect, and I’m prepared for it.
Why did you publish on Kindle and other eReaders?
Because I want to reach readers, and I didn’t want to wait for that to happen. I have nothing against traditional publishing and I don’t rule it out from my future – but when authors are given so many opportunities to offer their work to the public and keep creative control, why shouldn’t they indulge? For sure, these are exciting times. Plus, my husband and other writer friends have helped me come to this decision with their encouragement and advice. Actually, I wish I’d made up my mind sooner!
What do you think of electronic books versus hard copy books?
E-books are the future, I think. But, POD is a great way to satisfy those readers who prefer an actual book in their hands. I was one of these, too, until I got my Kindle…
Can you please tell us a little-known fact about yourself?
When I was young I dreamed of being an archaeologist – or rather, an Egyptologist. My dreams were shattered when I found that dust triggered my asthma.
I was also hopelessly in love with E.T.
That’s two facts for you (a two for one special J)
How has your writing journey been so far?
In one word – Enlightening! I learn something new every day. It’s a beautiful thing.
Have you seen a change in the independent publishing community?
I haven’t been part of this scene long so I can’t say much here, but one thing I do is stay clear of the debates as to who has the bigger balls – self-pub or trad pub. I think there are pros and cons to everything, and I do believe that we as authors should set the example. How do we expect readers to give us stellar reviews and at least be nice, when we are not ourselves civil? I’ve read blogs that are very informative, but I’m put off by the bashing tone of the author who’s following a certain agenda. I don’t mean not to share interesting articles that objectively describe the true picture of things, or not to share happiness and stats about one’s self-publishing experience – in fact, I’ve picked up so much from your self-publishing reports and the links you shared with other writers, Chicki! My idea though is not to worry about who or what is better. Our job is to write and produce quality work. Ultimately, it’s the work that speaks for you…not who you’re published with (or not).
Do you read other independently published authors’ works? Any favorites you would like to plug?
Yes, I do. I am also a freelance editor so I’ve worked on some great manuscripts. But no, I won’t pick a favorite J.
Do you have any advice for someone who would like to be an Indie author or publisher?
Know what you’re doing – and see my answer to the question “What advice would you give to a first-time author thinking of self-publishing on Kindle?” below. Everything applies.
Do you have any new works coming out soon that you can tell us about?
I have another short I’m working on, a contemporary romance called Everything to Lose (an extensively edited version of a previously published work), and my novel An Eternity of Roses. I’m also working on a few other projects, one of which will hopefully be completed in the summer.
Morning person? Or Night Person. How do you know?
Morning person. I love it when I get up early and get lots of things done by the time everyone wakes up. Don’t always manage though J
Tell us about your favorite character from your books.
Mmmm…I love them all. Especially with the novel, I spent so much time with them that they’ve become family. Although I must admit I’m intrigued by the secondary character, the enigmatic and tortured Massimiliano Damiani, who will get his own book next. It was so hard to work with a Richard Armitage lookalike… And then Adrian, the hero, a dead ringer for Chris Hemsworth…unbearable! :D
What is the hardest part of writing your books?
The plotting. I get the general idea and the characterization down pat, but don’t always see the resolution right away. Sometimes it feels like pulling teeth. But when it finally comes to me, it’s a “go” then!
Where do you research for your books?
I have tons of reference books and of course, the almighty Google always comes to the rescue. Once I actually flew to Venice to do extensive research at a library there (actually an excuse to take a trip, lol). It was a memorable experience. I still have that research, and I plotted the book. It’s a historical romance that’s waiting for me to write it – I plan on doing that next year.
Do you have critique partners or beta readers?
I have both. I think it’s extremely important to have trusted people that can give you constructive feedback, as well as potential readers to give me their perspective on the story. That’s how the book comes into its own, and I can’t imagine not having my CP and beta readers to help me through the process.
Plotter or Pantser?
I used to be a pantser, as I suggested above, but now I’m definitely a plotter. It helps move things forward faster for me.
How do you develop and differentiate your characters?
First, I have to know what they look like, so I create a PowerPoint file with pictures of the characters. Then, I set about building their GMC – goal, motivation, conflict. When I get comfortable with this and plant the central character in Chapter 1, it all flows from there. It’s all about getting to know the characters… just like in real life.
Who do you imagine is your ideal reader?
Someone who likes genre fiction with a bit of a literary flair to it.
What was your journey as a writer?
I think I answered this question above.
What authors most inspire you?
Too many to count! I must say though that I was introduced to romance through the purple prose of Dame Barbara Cartland, and I’ll always be grateful for that. Then another book that has always been one of my favorites is Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. Such a classic! And Mr. Rochester is the perfect brooding hero. It probably accounts for the gothic undertone and literary style I use often in my writing.
How have you marketed and promoted your work?
Yes. As a new author, one has to market as much as possible. However, I do take breaks because I have to write.
What advice would you give to a first-time author thinking of self-publishing on Kindle?
First, EDIT your book. Have a professional look at it. Take advice and constructive criticism graciously and always thank the person giving it, even if you inwardly disagree with their perspective. Never burn bridges because every bridge burned is one sale (or more) lost, and don’t do the hard sell. Create real relationships with people, don’t just shove your “new release” down their throats. Promote and post your news on groups but take some time to give a personal touch. Always – and I mean always, even when it hurts – be polite and use etiquette. Then, be prepared to burn the candle at both ends. It’s a lot of work, can’t avoid that. Some will underestimate you, and when you take the plunge, you’ll find out who your real friends are. Most importantly, believe in yourself because when the bad reviews come in, and sometimes they will, you’ll have to keep your wits about you. You cannot please everyone, but you can improve and do your very best every time you publish. Finally, be polite and use etiquette in dealing with other authors/readers/CPs/editors or anyone who comes in contact with your work (did I say that already? Doesn’t harm to repeat…)
So, what do you write? And why?
Ooooh, this is interesting because I write different stories in different genres. My first release was literary horror (A Kind of Judgment), my second a paranormal/contemporary romance short. I write historical romance, paranormal/fantasy romance, and romantic suspense, as well. Why? Because I write the story that comes to me. I hate it when authors are forced into a tiny box for the sake of branding. It’s okay if it’s a personal choice, but if an author wants to explore different genres even within the gamut of romance categories, why not? The important thing is distinguishing who your readers are – basically mine are lovers of horror on one side and romance on the other. Sometimes the two may overlap, albeit not often. In the past I used a pseudonym; now I no longer do. I don’t think I need one just to write different genres of romance and I don’t believe it affects sales. For instance, Lisa Kleypas does it without a pseudonym – she writes both historical and contemporary romance. I love her historicals most. Julia London writes historical romance, contemporary romance, and women’s fiction. I see no confusion in this – all I have to do is check the cover/blurb to learn what category a book falls under – and I believe that the marketing machine can sometimes destroy creativity in favor of “the formula” and often underestimates the savvy readers.
What would your characters say about you?
Who’s this “loco” lady who keeps muttering and complaining when I don’t do what she says? She’s not the boss of me!
Do you have a favorite of your own books and why?
They’re all special to me – and while I’m writing a book, it’s the most important story in the world to me. So, I honestly can’t answer this.
Do you like more Alpha or Beta heroes?
Alpha, but sometimes my heroes straddle the fence. That’s life, isn’t it? Everyone has an Achilles’ heel…and even an Alpha has his weak moments. I like a strong Alpha with a vulnerable streak – makes him more interesting!