I'm excited to be here today on COPPER WATERS and ANNALISSE Series book tour sponsored by iRead Book Tours. Today, the author Marlene M. Bell graciously accepted to do an interview with me and is offering a great giveaway.
Thank you Marlene for joining us today!
1. Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.
Hi, nice to be with you today!
When I met my husband in 1979, I picked up the nickname, “sheep lady” because we’ve raised sheep for the past 40 years. My writing career started in 2009 once we stopped showing sheep around the country through shows and sales. Our 4H club felt that I should write a book on raising sheep, so I took on the challenge and liked the experience so much, I started writing fiction shortly thereafter. My first series book was published in 2018 and the number of books has grown to five since then. My goal is to publish at least one new book a year, including a children’s book about our bottle lamb we raised in our laundry room!
2. Where did you get the idea for COPPER WATERS?
Keeping with the sheep theme and my main character’s love of farm animals, it was time to put Annalisse in a place where sheep outnumbered the human population. The island continent of New Zealand fits that description nicely. Annalisse needed a little space from her beau, Alec, and what is a better place to get away from it all for a short vacation in a country? A place she’s always wanted to visit. As par for Annalisse's adventures, things go terribly wrong…
Your Writing Process
3. How long did it take you to write and edit COPPER WATERS and/or THE ANNALISSE Series?
Copper Waters took less time to write than the previous installments because I’ve settled on the best method to outline my books. I use 3 x 5 cards and go scene by scene before I start each book. Filling in from there is the easy part. With Copper Waters, I outlined in January, began to write in February, and a first draft hit my developmental editor in June. The copy (line editor) worked on my rewrite shortly afterward. Generally, I can knock out the writing and rewrites it in about six to seven months. While the drafts are in the editor’s hands, I check in with cover designers (I ran a cover designer contest for the Copper Waters book, which was fun,) then contact my book formatter with estimates for book spines to a finished product. My proofreader does her work after both editors are finished with their duties. I would love to pick up the pace and write faster, but at this time, most of my novels are ready to publish by October or November of the same year I began the process.
My first installment, Stolen Obsession, took me eight looong years because I had to learn how to write the kind of fiction the reader expects in the genre. All in all, the Annalisse Series four books were published from 2018 to 2022 with a rewrite of the first book also in 2022.
4. Were you a plotter or pantser when you wrote this manuscript? Has this changed since you wrote COPPER WATERS?
Without question, I plotted Copper Waters because I have a tendency to go into too many subplots if I don’t. Freewriting is what got me into so much trouble with my first book and it’s the reason why the Annalisse novel named for my main character moved away from a standalone to a series. I had so many sideline plots and supporting characters, the editor instructed me to pick one story and save the other subplots for later books. It’s easier to complicate the plotline with twists and red herrings for the readers if I stick with a card outline. My writing style and the series of books stay more focused and wander less with structure.
5. What were the challenges you faced in writing COPPER WATERS or the series? How did you overcome it?
Copper Waters is the first Annalisse novel to leave Alec behind on the trip. He travels with her in previous books, however, their problems in book four required a different approach. The biggest issue I had to overcome was writing Annalisse alone with a detective friend, Bill Drake. (He’s a personal friend of Alec’s as well) entering the Annalisse series in the second book as an investigator and supporting character. Bill’s such a likeable and helpful guy, I’d inadvertently added too many sparks to Anna and Bill’s conversations without meaning to. Thanks to both editors pointing this out, we removed the obvious attraction between friends who should stay within bounds. Although Anna will occasionally send Bill mild flirtatious jabs because they can tease, knowing the lines not to cross. My Copper Waters goal was to show their companionship—not Bill as a future love interest for Annalisse. She’s totally invested in Alec Zavos, but they do have their reoccurring problems as a couple. Bill acts as a buffer between them. Can women and men stay only friends for the duration? As the series continues, we’ll find out…
Your Road to Publication
7. So are you Self-Published, Hybrid Published, or Traditionally Published? Why did you choose this route of publication?
Because I was so excited about the prospect of getting my first novel traditionally published, I wrote submission letters to nearly all literary agents who considered representing the romantic suspense genre. By the time I had slipped my fortieth rejection letter into my handy-dandy folder, I realized that my story might be too typical, or my writing could need more work. All the while, I heard a few terrible stories of talented authors who were traditionally published so sorry they’d turned their work over to others to manage, losing the story rights to the publisher for a few years.
I like being in control of my own writing, so I never mailed another submission letter after the first year of doing so. I love being a self-published author under the Ewephoric Publishing label. Ewephoric is my company name since raising sheep and selling sheep-related products which include my own artwork/photographs. I haven’t looked back—not once.
8. What tips, tricks, or secrets can you give a person about the type of publishing (self, hybrid, traditional) you did?
Publishing takes meticulous work and a suit of armor once reviews populate and the reader feedback comes rolling in. The type of publishing an author should try depends upon their own personal journey and how long they’d like to wait to see their books in print or eBook. A traditional route can take upwards of 2-3 years.
Research the publishing industry and write and write some more until you’ve fine-tuned your manuscripts free from errors. Each genre requires study so be certain you understand the genre you’re writing in. Mixing genres can give some traditional publishing houses heartburn because they know what their readers want and it’s typically a single genre, not a mashup like romantic fantasy and mystery all rolled into one! However, if you’re publishing your own work, and writing beautiful prose, pen what’s interesting to you—as long as reader preferences are always a consideration—if you plan to sell large numbers of books. Traditional publishing is strict and the editing and rewrites can be horrendous, I’ve heard. In addition, traditional houses are not publishing as many books at present.
Bottom line and most importantly: Finishing a novel is the easy part. Be prepared to spend a fair amount of your own money to advertise and promote your books. It can feel never-ending at times. I’ve heard numbers like 4,500 novels are published every day. That’s a crazy amount of competition out there but it’s not impossible if you love it. An author is only limited by his or her own mind. There’s no reason not to be successful.
9. How do you market your book? Did you have a marketing plan? If so, what is it? Did you have a publicist? Tell us the route you took in marketing your book and series.
Fortunately, I met my developmental editor at a TX Writers Retreat back in 2014. She sees my first draft of each novel—and it doesn’t hurt that she’s also a literary agent who knows the publishing industry, traditional and otherwise. Trial and error are how I began my writing journey and learned how to market my books. It helped that I already had an established website from years earlier and found out what draws clients to make a sale. I later added an author website to carry only my books.
Yes, I do have a publicist and her team from California. They are involved in the launch of each new book and some reoccurring publicity on older books as needed. Publicists are expensive and not for everyone, however. I worked with two publicists before settling on AME’s expertise.
Another must for book promotion is to sign up for virtual Book Blog Tours just prior to a new release or during the early months after the release. There are excellent tour companies that sign up bloggers to read your books or publish news about it on their individual websites. A few will also ask to review your new release if you’re fortunate to snag early reviews. Be prepared to send out print copies or electronic copies to those who sign up to read.
Social media exposure is a must. Every writer must have several social media accounts, preferably well-established. Having bloggers with huge social followings is what I look for in a book blogger. Those are typically attached to virtual book touring companies, but not always. Some bloggers can be approached individually with a professional email and a synopsis of your book.
Just Wanting to Know…
10. I’m a YA writer and do school visits and conferences that support and encourage teens to write. What advice would you give a young teen writer?
Read as many teen-centered YA books as you can. Study the writing and each author’s style. Do they write in first-person or third-person? Make a note of this, and also which point of view you enjoy reading. If you see more writing in one or the other, this will give you insight into how you should begin also. If you’ve written a short story or full-length novel, ask your literature/English teachers if you can read a chapter or two to classmates. This is the best way to get honest feedback from your target audience and might help you rewrite or add to your next book. Most importantly, never plagiarize from another author. Stealing written work from others is a definite no-no.
Teen writers are of interest to booksellers. If you’re fortunate enough to publish a book, talk to your local bookseller about offering a book signing at their store. Be sure and offer the store a cut of the sales made.
Thank you Marlene for this great advice. I can't wait to read your children's book about your lamb. It sounds so adorable!
Find out more about Marlene M Bell, the ANNALISSE Series, and enter the giveaway below!