Interview with Romantic Comedy Author Heather Grace Stewart

Heather Grace Stewart is a bestselling Amazon author, speaker, and poet. She trained as a journalist, started her own freelance magazine writing & editing business, Graceful Publications, and her first book, a non-fiction book for youth on Sir Wilfrid Laurier, was traditionally published in 2003. Heather’s debut novel, Strangely, Incredibly Good, was released by Morning Rain Publishing (June 2014). It has been reviewed as ‘A Fun & Feisty Bridget Jones for the Digital Age,’ and ‘Funny and touching.’

Heather Grace Stewart
Heather Grace Stewart

In 2016 it hit #1 in Time Travel Romance in the Kindle Store Canada and the UK and reached the Top 50 Bestselling Romantic Comedy novels in the US, Canada and UK Kindle Stores. Its sequel, Remarkably Great, was launched in August, 2015 finding spots on various Kindle bestseller lists in Australia, France, Denmark, Japan and India. Stewart’s third novel, The Ticket, hit the Kindle charts in February 2016 as the #1 Hot New Release in Movie-Tie Ins, and within days reached the Top 20 Bestselling Romantic Comedies on Kindle Canada.

Heather is also the author of numerous poetry collections, a romantic comedy screenplay, two non-fiction books for youth on Canada’s Prime Ministers, and a book of children’s poetry, The Groovy Granny.

Born in Ottawa, Canada, she lives with her husband and daughter near Montreal.
In her free time, she loves to take photos, scrapbook, cartoon, inline skate, dance like nobody’s watching, and eat Swedish Berries — usually not at the same time.

When did you know that you wanted to be a writer? What steps did you take toward making that dream a reality?

I knew I wanted to be a writer very early on. I started writing poems at five, and was writing short stories by twelve. As soon as I was in high school I volunteered for their paper, and for the local paper, and became a news reporter for the cable TV stations’ local news show. Those experiences led me to my decision to take Canadian Studies at Queen’s University so I could have a broad education before entering the graduate diploma program in Journalism at Concordia. I worked as a reporter for a small Montreal paper and then as an associate editor of four national magazines a year out of J-school, so I got training in many aspects of the publishing industry early-on. I didn’t really think about getting my work published in book form until the Internet really took off in 2000. That’s when my first collection of kids poems was published by an e-publishing company that was way ahead of its time, Electric E Book Publishing. They put my book out as a PDF and no one knew what to do with that on a big clunky desktop computer. We needed e-readers!

My career has been about perseverance and patience, so that things could unfold. Before I could do what I do now, epubs and mobi files had to be invented, Kindle had to be invented, social media had to take off…and I believe more is coming, specifically in the book industry. This is just the beginning. Hologram books: that’s next. Can’t wait!

One of the most brave, or possibly most stupid steps I’ve taken in the last three years to try to make my books a success is to focus on them and them alone. I stopped all freelance magazine work because it took up too much of my time. I continued my speaking engagements at universities, and doing interviews like this and sharing about my journey on my blog, but other than that, I stuck to writing the books and marketing them. It’s been like I’ve been having a torrid love affair with romantic comedies for three years solid. I think I’ll stay married to them, but I also want to try to get back to my poetry some day soon.

 What genre(s) do you write in? What is it that you love about them?

I write romantic comedies and poetry. I have a background in theatre – drama classes from age five and then I was in Kanata Theatre – so I think it’s just a natural progression of my interests. I’ve always loved entertaining people. I like to make them laugh, and touch their hearts.

You are an indie author having published a few novels and poetry collections. What made you decide that self-publishing was the best path for you?

This is a long story. You’re going to have to grab a drink…

I have whisky, lay it on me.

I’m a “hybrid author” meaning I’m both traditionally published and self-published.

I had started my poetry blog Where the Butterflies Go in 2008, named after a poem that had resonated with many people and had been published in Wild! Magazine for kids. The blog took off, and people suggested I put all my poems in an anthology. I had many dating back from my first poems that were published in the Queen’s Journal in 1991. I’d heard good things about the Print on Demand company Lulu and decided to self publish after having my manuscript rejected by a few publishing companies. The book did quite well for a self-pubbed poetry book, selling 200 copies in its first year out, and Lulu put the books on iBooks for free – sort of a deal they had to get iBooks going – so the book took off on iBooks and I went on to develop the blog, and write another collection, Leap, before my third collection was accepted by a US publisher, Winter Goose Publishing. Carry On Dancing did very well as a traditionally published book, but I realized that I prefer being able to have complete control over content, cover design, and being able to make price changes on my books, and making my own marketing decisions. Having the publisher in the US was a bit problematic for me, too, because I wanted to work more closely with them, although now Skype and FaceTime has taken off, it might not affect me as much now if I ever sign with a US or UK publisher. Everything changes so fast in this industry. It’s month by month now. Keeps me on my toes.

A few years later, Strangely, Incredibly Good was accepted by the Canadian Publisher Morning Rain Publishing. I had a great experience with them. They’re wonderful people to work with: Skilled, knowledgeable, and fun! However, I’d been studying the Kindle system, and it became obvious to me that books that were sometimes discounted to free or 0.99 seemed to have a wider audience, and books in the Unlimited Kindle library did exceptionally well. I decided to try my next book, the sequel, Remarkably Great, on my own, but I hired MRP to provide me with editing services. Remarkably Great definitely did better than my first novel, and it could be for a number of reasons, but my guess was that it was in the Kindle Unlimited Library. It hit #1 in Time Travel Romance in the UK in November 2015, and people were buying the second book first! They were finding it on Kindle before they even found the first book, which wasn’t in the Kindle Unlimited library.

I decided to stick with Kindle exclusively for a while, and try lending all my books out on Kindle Unlimited when my next book, The Ticket, was launched this month. Again, MRP provided me with professional editing services and I hired a professional cover designer.

I have nothing against traditional publishing. I wouldn’t be where I am today with out my publishers! I’m simply trying something new, because it’s helping me find a wider audience. I’ve never sold so many books in Japan, France, Brazil, Denmark, Australia, and more. It’s a great feeling. It’s not about the money: it’s about my work being read. I don’t write for my work to gather dust in a computer or worse, on a bookshelf. I’d rather make $1.37 on my book via Kindle but have the whole book read by someone who may not have found it otherwise than earn nothing for a book to sit at Chapters or Barnes and Noble only to be sent back to my publisher because it didn’t sell. Sorry to make the outlook for aspiring authors sound so bleak, but it kind of is. The traditional publishing industry needs to make some major changes so that authors get paid more for their hard work, but while it takes a while for those changes to happen, I’m going to enjoy getting my work in the hands of readers all over the world, thanks to Kindle, and I’d like to encourage other writers to do the same.

What inspires your ideas? How do you come up with them?

Oh gosh, if you looked inside my brain, it would be like an amusement park. There’s so much going on – it’s a complex and bizarre adventure park in there! And it’s open 24 hours. I honestly feel for my family. They’re awesome people to put up with me. I believe that I need to write books to clear out the amusement park every now and then!

This is my fav question and I always ask it, so if one of your novels was made into a movie, which would you choose and what actors would you cast to play the three main roles?  

I’m simply in love with story of The Ticket and its characters, and I think it belongs on a big screen. I’m working on both the screenplay and talking to producers about optioning the book rights. I have a few people in mind for the role of Pete: Michael Fassbender, Gerald Butler, Colin O’Donoghue, to name a few. I think Drew Barrymore, Emma Stone or Natalie Portman could handle the comedy-dramedy of Allie, and someone really funny like Tina Fey, Maya Rudolph or Sandra Bullock should play Allies BFF, Trix.

the ticket

What have been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned on your writing journey so far?

You’re on your own path. Don’t get off that path and follow someone else’s. You can waste so much time looking at what other authors are doing – and some of that is helpful – I truly hope I can help other authors with my insights about the industry – but the part where you kick yourself because someone else is higher in the charts than you are – that’s such a waste of time. Every one of is unique and on our own adventure here, and what might work for JK Rowling won’t work for me. Once I stopped beating myself up for not being an immediate bestseller in 2014 (the year Strangely, Incredibly Good came out) great things started happening. I let go of self doubt and started believing my hard work would pay off in time. I learned to pay attention to writing and finishing my own story, not anyone else’s, and that made all the difference.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers about the process of writing and editing?

You have to want it really badly. You can’t just think “I’d like to write a book.” You have to live, breathe, dream a bestseller to make a bestseller. I’m thinking of writing a book called “Be the Bestseller.” (I’m chuckling) You have to set a writing schedule and stick to it month after month. You have to be willing to make absolutely no money before you make any money. You have to have fun with the journey.

Any advice for a writer who is trying to decide what publication route they should pursue?

I think like anything in life, you need to stay true to yourself. If you’re the kind of person who shies away from the camera and chatting on social media, and you don’t like being in creative control when it comes to cover design and marketing material, you might want to keep trying to find a traditional publisher, and hiring a publicist. Just be forewarned that a lot of the above is crucial to being an author today, whether you’ve got a traditional publisher or not, because publishers don’t have the time to help out every author anymore.

Unless you land a deal with one of the big five publishers, I don’t think it’s true that traditionally published authors make more money or have it easier (work load wise) than self published authors. I’m making more money now that I’m self-published, and after three solid years working in the romantic comedy genre on Kindle and another five years studying Kindle, Kobo and the rest of the ebook industry, I’m convinced that author success is just about determination, the quality of work you put out there, and more determination.

Thanks so much for having me here!

Thank you for coming on!

Follow Heather on Twitter @hgracestewart

Her blog http://heathergracestewart.com

Her Facebook Page http://facebook.com/heathergracestewart

Instagram Heathergracestewart

Official website http://heathergracestewart.me

 

Interview with Fiction Writer and Dreamer Bibiana Krall

Bibiana Krall
Bibiana Krall

When did you know that you wanted to be a writer?

I remember this notion first crossing my mind when I was about five. I had a life plan forming already. I guess I was an unusual kid. The moment it really held on was a summer night a few years later. I was rocking a tutu, laying in the grass dreaming, as I watched the stars twinkle. The endless sky made me realize, we are so miniscule and the Universe is infinite. I wished to carve my rock inside that understanding.

What steps did you take toward making that dream a reality?

I began with poems and making up silly stories in my head. I have journals that I wrote thoughts or anecdotes and closed it to begin another. I have not published any of that material, some was lost in one of my many moves. I decided last year that it was time to get to the next step. I read everything I can get my hands on, with an emphasis on the classics and college reading lists.

I woke up and simply began. I paid off bills and tried to spend less. My husband didn’t totally understand it, but he was excited for my new quest. I couldn’t have accomplished nearly as much in one year without his total support.

I was recently given a scholarship and a chance ( virtually out of nowhere! ) to attend grad school. That is pretty cool. It is scary as hell being 47 with teenagers and a family, starting this new path. I am a full-time student and still writing two books at a time. I honestly admit that the laundry is left more often than it used to be.

What genre(s) do you write in? What is it that you love about them?

CAROLINA SPIRIT is (Literary Fiction) and ESCAPE INTO THE BLUE (Suspense). My latest KLEINE MERULA, is a (Corporate Thriller). I like to use elements of mysticism in everything I write.

Suspense appears to be my forte, but it is really the story that pushes me. I don’t limit myself by genre. If a story chases me in my dreams, I will write it. I enjoy Suspense the most because it is a flirtation of sorts, a fan dance of words. Who doesn’t enjoy a skilful flirtation?

You are an Indie author having published a few novels with more to come. What made you decide that self-publishing was the best path for you?

I like the freedom to express myself without anyone else telling me what to do. I am 100% in control. It is awesome and terrifying. I haven’t decided if Indie is the finite rule.

I have begun pitching my latest book, KLEINE MERULA to agents. I love being Indie and also like to challenge myself. My new plan is to be a hybrid and self-publish some and have a brilliant agent for my more commercial work.

There is a ton of negativity towards Indie writers from the traditional publishing world. Some is deserved, some is not. I look at it the same way I look at wine. I used to think that it was a closed, elite world and I couldn’t join. Not so folks, I drink wine and write and have yet to own a private jet or pay a mortgage in the Hampton’s.

(Hahaha. I knew I liked you.) 

Changing this opinion in itself is a challenge. The world of publishing is ripe for change and I hope to be part of that in a big way. I have come to the conclusion that not all writers who make it big, do so because of their writing skills. There is a lot more to writing than just the story. You have to be a chameleon and sometimes you have to modify to get your work the attention it deserves.

I say hold steady and do what is right for your project. People in writing world will constantly give you free advice, mine is: “Listen to your inner voice.” You know better than anyone what your heart desires. Writing is hard work, and you should learn all you can before you decide. It is not life and death, but it is important.

Would you like to tell us a little about your newest work in progress?

The project holding my attention right now is named, THE BOATHOUSE. It is suspense with paranormal elements. I am enjoying fleshing it out. It has more dialogue than I usually go for, but the secrets …whew! The playas’ be playin.’

The setting is coastal Maine or Downeast, as the locals call it. A spirited young lady named Charlotte grows up with money and prestige, but the only real love she receives is from her paternal grandmother. When her grandmother is discovered dead next to the boathouse, things begin to unravel. Her family hides a dark secret that is passed from one generation to the next. The question is- when Charlotte discovers the truth, will she uphold tradition or finally set things right? Stay tuned…

Ohhhhh. What inspires your ideas? How do you come up with them?

THE BOATHOUSE, actually came from a vacation in Maine. There is a real boathouse made of stone that was a cove away from where I stayed. Something about that place haunted me. I was obsessed. I get that way a lot. It can be a flower or a scent, a building or a person. The world is full of ideas for writing. Some are not enough for a story, but you can take notes and use those to expand a character. I have little clippings and voice recordings all over the place. Hanging out somewhere busy will give inspiration if you need some. Humans are entertaining.

Do you outline or write by the seat of your pants?

I am a seat of my pants writer, but I have a few ideas about expanding my writing. I may one day do an outline. I begin with words that spark me and go from there. You can’t force good writing. You have to light the match and hope it stokes the fire that will burn the darkness away.

Your website bibianakrall.com is very cool and elaborate. Are you a techie?

Ha ha! Thank you! Techie? Hardly. When I ring the cable company, I call the router a “thingy.” I had never built a website before last year and looked at a whole bunch to understand what I wanted to do with my own. I decided that mine would be a visual feast and hopefully draw people in to also read my work. I am super creative and use visuals to push emotion, mine included. On the days I had a difficult time writing creatively, I worked on my site. Left brain/Right brain is a good balance and helps to get back to the flow.

What does a typical writing day look like for you/what is your process?

Coffee, a call to my dad or my bestie, exercise and then solid writing time. I blast music and stay off the internet. I try to walk around when I am brainstorming and argue with the bushes a lot. My neighbours are used to it now. I try to do marketing and read in the afternoons. Sometimes my project carries me way past lunch and well, you can’t exactly tell your Muse to run along. You need each other.

All writers are readers, so what are some of your favourite books and why?

That is a tough one. Catcher in the Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Old Man and the Sea, Treasure Island…I could write a book about the books I love. To me a book is a secret world that comes inside and whispers a new understanding to you. I love books because they have saved me when I needed something to push me along. Each and every one has affected me somehow.

Catcher in the Rye, helped me understand my teenage rebellion. To Kill A Mockingbird, made me realize that it is imperative to stand up for what matters. The Old Man and the Sea, taught me respect for my elders and what they know. Treasure Island, offered me the rich life of adventure on the high seas and also the lesson that you must be tough to survive.

If one of your novels was made into a movie, which would you choose and what actors would you cast to play the three main roles?

I will say ESCAPE INTO THE BLUE, only because I hate cold weather and really want to hit a decent beach in the Caribbean.

( Sophia ) my protagonist would have to be a no-name, but drop dead gorgeous with green eyes and long blond hair. Open casting call… Think Blake Lively or early Nicole Kidman when she had long hair…

The other two are men and both Latino. ( Pedro ) is older and wealthy, maybe Esai Morales? And for the younger guy ( Armando ) with the abs- Cristian la Fuente. They would definitely keep my eyes glued to the film. LOL!

Sounds like it!

What have been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned on your writing journey so far? Any advice for aspiring writers?

The biggest lesson is write no matter what. Write like your life depends on it. Write when everyone around you says you can’t or shouldn’t. If you don’t like to read or confess that you don’t, the train just left the station. You must read and write to grow. I will not read a fellow writer’s work if they don’t read, because they are not ready. I have a long way to go and I admit it. That is part of this journey, the understanding that you have to keep at this.

You don’t become a runner when you buy the shoes. You become a runner when they are filthy and covered in mud. Invest in writing like you would anything that matters to you. You are the only person in the world who can pen your book. Don’t sell yourself short, focus on the art and your voice. Be open to where this takes you and trust it.

You will find yourself wavering. Am I good enough? What gives me the right to be here? Trust me, if you are writing- you will go through this. What does it mean? It means you are growing. Stick with it, because you are already focusing and moving towards your goals. Exploring how writing fits into your life is part of this process.

Stop making asinine excuses and get to it. I cannot begin to tell you how many people say, “ I want to write a book.” OK. Then you better get going! Chop-Chop! It might not be that great, or it might be the next big thing. It isn’t going to be anything until you finish it…

What advice do you have for a writer who is trying to decide what publication route to pursue?

My best advice is make friends with lot’s of writers, ask them all this question and consider their answers. Look up writer’s you admire and read their memoir to find out what they did. Everyone has a different journey. You must know the market to make a good decision. Know what is out there and where your project will fit in. How you publish a book is a personal, business, and demanding choice no matter what you decide.

Thank you so much Bibiana!

Thank you for having me as a guest. I can’t wait to see what you decide with your own projects. Keep writing and all the best to you Kelly!

Where can people find out more about you and your books?

Website: http://www.bibianakrall.com

You Tube Book Trailers: http://bit.ly/1QrzuGN

Online at: Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Bibiana-Krall/e/B00Y5UIMKG

Tower Books: http://bit.ly/1WesVvw

Barnes and Noble Nook: http://bit.ly/1TSCDVI

 

Interview with the Brilliant YA & Women’s Fiction Author Carey Torgesen

Carey Torgesen
Carey Torgesen

When did you know that you wanted to be a writer? How did you start?

As an English teacher, I always loved reading but never really thought about writing. It seemed like something other people did, not me. One day while I was talking to my kids about making goals for themselves, I threw out the idea (without much thought) that I would make my own goal. As I wrote the words “I will write a novel” on the board, I didn’t actually think I would ever do it. But something about putting it out there, in front of my students, made me committed to the idea. From that point on, I realized how much I was learning about the craft of writing as I was working on that first novel. By the time I was finished with it, I realized writing was something I really enjoyed doing. That was about five years ago. I’ve been writing ever since.

What genre(s) do you write in? What is it that you love about them?

I write primarily contemporary, both YA and Women’s Fiction. My style is pretty much based on the chick lit genre I loved when it was big. Bridget Jones was a huge inspiration, as well as Devil Wears Prada and every Sophie Kinsella book written. I love the quirk and spunk of the women. And I love how every woman can relate with these very real, very flawed characters. Though I think my spin on the genre is to take the fantasy element of happy ever after, and turn it around to having females who don’t define their happiness on men. I want my characters to stand on their own and learn they don’t need anyone else to make them happy. It’s all within them. Probably because I am working on that myself.

What path are you taking toward publication, traditional, indie or hybrid?

I am still actively seeking traditional publication. It’s what I want most for my career. I’m not opposed to some small press or self-publication, but for my first foray into the business, I prefer to leave my work to the experts in their field, aka. editors, literary agents, and publishing houses.

All writers are readers so who are some of your favorite authors and why?

As I said above, Sophie Kinsella is a huge inspiration to me. She makes me laugh and swoon and connect to the characters as if they’re my friends. I also like John Green, Rainbow Rowell, and Maggie Stiefvater. I just love that they are really masters and innovators of their craft.

What inspires your ideas? How do you come up with them?

Different things inspire me. Sometimes it’s a song. Sometimes it’s an experience. And other times, it’s a title or singular image I come up with. I have a problem because I have too many ideas and not enough time to write them all. I have three ideas that I really want to see to completion right now. If only I had more fingers and keyboards and never needed sleep!

What are you working on now?

The WIP I am working on is quite dark. It’s actually inspired by some of my own experiences with students who don’t always know where the line is between student and teacher. My main character has serious mental health issues and has attached herself to her teacher. So really, it’s about that relationship and how sometimes what students see and feel isn’t always how things really are. It’s about how strong an influence teachers have on their students and the impact, both positive and negative, that they make. It’s told in non-linear style and takes place in three various timelines, so it has been a challenge. My toughest one to write to date. Also, it’s a total departure from my usual light and humorous tone. But I love it.

I want to read this. Now! 

Do you outline or write by the seat of your pants?

I am a total planner. I found it’s the best way for me to make sure everything is weaved in and connected. I am ok with the story veering off too. But without a plan, I would just write with no direction and feel like I was wasting time. So for me, outlining is a necessity. Especially for the one I am working on now. With non-linear, you really have to know and plant seeds and clues for what will be coming next. Lots of foreshadowing.

What does a typical writing day look like for you/what is your process?

It’s probably a little like this:

open up WIP

open up twitter

tweet

research

write

tweet

write

coffee

write

(This is hilarious and very true for most of us)

I usually write for a long chunk of time. Then take a few days off. Sometimes weeks when I am stuck.

If one of your novels was made into a movie, which would you choose and what actors would you cast to play the three main roles?  

I think Princess Paradox would have made a great movie. I’d put America Ferrera as Nora, Jared Leto as Finn, and maybe Chris Hemsworth as Aidan.

What have been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned on your writing journey so far?

I think that it’s not always easy. And that rejection is a part of the writing process. I thought I would get published right away, so learning that it takes time and that you get better the more you write is a big lesson. I also have learned you can be a talented writer, but the market indicates what books get picked up and what ones won’t. And that kind of sucks. But if you like what you write, just keep doing it. Ultimately, you’re doing it for yourself and that’s the most important thing.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers about writing? What about the process of trying to get published?

Oh gosh. This could fill pages. I think the best thing I’ve done as a writer is to intern for an agent. I’m learning so much about what works and what doesn’t in writing. The biggest mistakes I see when I read are: the story doesn’t have high enough stakes, they aren’t edited or revised, basically that they aren’t ready to go. When you sub to an agent, that manuscript has to be damn near perfect. The characters should be realistic and fully realized, the world has to be carefully crafted and consistent, and you have to make sure the story makes sense. Are all the loose ends wrapped up? Are there plot holes? How is the pacing? If the story takes 50 pages to really get going, it’s not starting in the right place. Lastly. I have learned that everything is subjective and sometimes when agents say they don’t “connect,” it’s because they really don’t. It’s not personal and it doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer. It simply means the story didn’t speak to them. For me, that’s a huge aha. And it’s really very true.

Anything else you would like to add or talk about?

Nope! Thanks for having me, though. 🙂 It was fun.

Thank you so much! Where can people find out more about you and your books?

They can find me on twitter https://twitter.com/careytorg and my blog: http://seattletfiles.blogspot.com/