Victoria and I met as fellow authors in a Kindle Vella group. I heard she had a Merlin/Morrigan story and I had to check it out. There are just so many great series out there that I haven’t finished hers (or any others) yet. While writing such amazing episodes she kindly took the time to answer my questions. It is really too bad that Vella does not have images built in yet. I’m lucky enough to see her scale models in Facebook posts. They are amazing!
Without further ado…
How did you know you had this series in you?
This series actually grew out of a Google blog I was authoring about ten years ago, called “Mini Mayhem.” I was writing serial fiction way before it was the popular format it is now. I was before the times I guess. My other passion is making and collecting 1/12 scale miniatures to create wildly elaborate scenes. Vanity aside, I’m pretty good at it. I started out by writing little stories about the photos of my miniature scenes. I began with a murder mystery, but during the course of those 5 years, I tried romance, time travel, spy thriller and finally fantasy just to see which one I enjoyed most. It was the fantasy that I adored, and so I stuck with that for nearly a year. Because I was teaching full time, I was releasing a new episode and new photos once a week on Saturday mornings. When I stopped, I had over a 1000 followers from all over the world.
Then, I had this big (stupid) revelation that I needed to try writing a whole novel just to say I did it and so I gave up the blog. Biggest mistake of my life. It took me a year to finish the book which was a spin-off of the same characters from the blog. I went the traditional publishing route, sending out query letters and samples for nearly a year, which was extremely time-consuming and sucked the joyful wind out of my sails. Although I had a few agents interested, they all determined I’d have had to write the whole thing again from a single female POV, or in the other case, add a whole bunch of steamy interludes between some of the characters, neither of which I was interested in doing. Despite great reviews from several beta readers, I just stopped sending out queries, and the draft got thrown into a box for 3 years as real life took over. When Amazon introduced Vella, I decided to pull out the draft and put it in serial format since Book 1 of the series was already written. I immediately started working on Book 2 which is 32 episodes in, with outlines for Book 3 and 4. I think about all the readers I gave up when I left blogging, and I could kick myself as I struggle to build up a following again.
Marketing is truly the hardest part of this process for me. It’s important that you chased your dreams, even if hindsight is 20/20.
Why did you choose to use a series format?
I love the freedom of a serial. If I come up with a really clever piece of dialogue, or a genius plot twist, there’s always a way to use it for future use. Even though I outline my entire storyline before I begin, there’s always room to change it up if I feel some part of the characterization or plot isn’t working or I come up with a better idea.
Plus, I really love the idea of writing the “perfect last line” of an episode that makes my readers groan that they have to wait.
I do enjoy having short scenes so I can write as the mood sets, and I can set aside a piece and fit it in later, or jump to a different POV and back again without disrupting the series.
As to my other writing experience, during my time teaching Jr. High ELA, my teaching partner, who was also the science teacher, and I created this cross curricular unit we called “Live Mystery.” She would teach forensic science basics to our 8thy graders, while I taught an in-depth unit on the mystery genre, usually along with a classic mystery novel. Then, I would write a special mystery just for that particular class, one that included the students as the characters, including the perpetrator. We would hold an event in an out-of-school venue (country club, bowling alley, movie theater, etc.) where a mystery (usually murder, and sometimes murder/theft) would unfold around them. They would have to solve the mystery using forensic techniques in a mock forensic lab. One of them was the guilty party, but they didn’t know it until they pieced together the evidence. It was so much fun, and the highlight of the year for our 8th graders, and to date, some of the best plots I’ve ever created.
This sounds amazing!
Challenges – we all have them
What is your greatest challenge in writing?
Knowing when enough is enough. I tend to be “wordy,” so I am happy to have an editor who tells me when I’ve gone on too long.
What surprised you in the writing process?
I had forgotten how much I enjoy writing. When I put away that draft a few years ago, I stopped writing anything. I was very disillusioned with what I saw being sold as the “popular genres”…which was stuff I didn’t want to write. Now I have a set routine, and I usually work at least three or four hours a day on drafting or editing. I’m retired now, so it’s no longer something I have to “squeeze in” even if I’m exhausted. That makes it more fun as well.
Is there something that you found particularly helpful?
As I mentioned before, I am a pretty accomplished miniaturist, and all my projects ( I have over a dozen dollhouses of assorted types; lighthouse, Catholic church, stores, English cottage, etc)
They are my inspiration and vice versa. Many of the settings you read about in my fantasy stories have 1/12 scale counterparts. It’s my hope Amazon will add images to the Vella platform so I can create serial “picture books” for grown ups. I bother KDPSam about that at least once a month😉. I know it will be a huge boost to gaining readership. There are a lot of dollhouse fanatics out there, not only in the US but worldwide as well. When that happens, I’m ready to roll with some fabulous photos.
I love that lighthouse. I think I saw a post with that right about when I started reading a story that you have set there…I might be wrong though. I do know I love that miniature.
Did you hit the library again?
I know we tend to write what we know, but did you need to do research for this book?
I do research all the time. The main setting for my series is Swampscott, MA. Not only do I not live in Swampscott, I’ve never even been there, so everything I write about, street names, geographical descriptions, restaurants, businesses, history, etc has to be researched. Thank God for Google. Just yesterday, I searched the same information for Llandudno, North Wales for my just released episode. Two of my male MCs will be staying at “Bumble Bee Cottage” which is a real place on Rectory Lane in Llandudno, although I do make it much more “honeymoon-ish” for a comedic purpose.
If so, what was the coolest or most surprising thing you learned?
Lol…that Glock makes pink handguns for women. I know because my female MC has a one, a pink handled Glock 19 Gen 3. It was a birthday gift from her spy husband..the gift that keeps on giving. 😂
What else can you describe in your writing process?
Some days are easier than others. I have days when I can’t get the words down fast enough, and others where I simply stare at the screen a lot. There are days I have a hard time falling asleep because I’m writing dialogue in my head. I keep my laptop next to my bed, and have been known to get up and put something down so I won’t forget. This does not please my husband.
Ready, set, share!
How do you know your piece is ready to be shared/complete?
I have a reader fan who was also an editor for her law review before she retired. She has so graciously offered to edit all my episodes free of charge before they post. (and sometimes after they post if she ends up not liking how something reads or looks.) She says she likes getting the next episode before everyone else. I am very lucky and grateful for the extra pair of eyes. She doesn’t coddle my feelings. If it’s not working, she tells me.
Who is your expected audience?
Using my little fan club as reference, it’s definitely females ages 50-70. They love, love love the MCs, and a lot of them message or email after every episode. They talk like my characters are real people. It makes my heart all mushy. It was like that with the blog as well. These characters are really likable and relatable. If I can add those dollhouse photos, the younger women may also be drawn in simply for the photos. But I think it will remain mostly women.
Who has been your strongest supporter?
My longest and most fervent supporter is my former teaching partner. She’s been along for the ride since my very first blog post, was my initial beta reader, and still hits my episodes as soon as they go live. As I said before, I have a handful of ladies who are my consistent readers, all of whom were strangers before they began reading after seeing a teaser on social media. They are the best, and I am grateful for their support.
What has really struck me in this Vella journey is the overall lack of support from my family and close friends who I would have expected to at least give my story a couple of free reads. Not sure why that is not happening. Lots of excuses of no time, and maybe that’s true. Unfortunately, it is what it is.
If you could have any author (alive, dead, or fictional) read your book, who would you like to read it? Hmmm…that’s a tough one. I think maybe Mark Twain. I think he would have enjoyed my character centric approach, and my tongue in cheek dialogue.
What author, or book, or series most influenced you?
I was a big Outlander fan with the earlier books, but it takes Diana Gabaldon so long to get new material out, I seemed to have lost interest in the story line and the characters. I’m a huge fan of UK historical mystery authors Lindsey Davis and Ruth Downie. They both have a detective type series set in ancient Rome. Absolutely fascinating, and I love both of their male MCs. I get my love of urban fantasy from Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, and my thriller fix from Lee Childs’ Jack Reacher novels.
More, more, please
You know about the dollhouses, which lends itself to additional hobbies, like needlework and all types of crafting. I’m a recent transplant from the Chicago area to Middle TN which has been a real culture shock but I’m loving my new home state. I’m a Trekie who likes watching science fiction more than I enjoy reading it, and I love a good Renaissance Faire to the point of owning several costumes that I wear when I go.
I have always wanted to go to a Renaissance Faire, but then something always comes up.
What else is important to share about your book?
The strength of my books weighs on the backs of my characters. They are multidimensional and the kind of people you wish you knew personally. I’ve even had one woman tell that if Fr. Kevin was a real priest, she would probably go back to the Church. Readers should expect to come for the fun fantasy adventure, but stay to keep in touch with your favorite new book friends.
When can we expect more from you?
Book One of the Merlin/Morrigan series, Trick or Treaty is complete. Book Two, Jingle all the Fae has 32 episodes live and will wind up nicely with Christmas HEA finish. Book Three, Stupid Cupid, has a Valentine’s Day theme. All the books are centered in the same Universe and can be read as stand alones, but are best enjoyed if they read in order as they happen chronologically.
I have read some of Trick or Treaty (and I will finish it) and it’s good!
I’m also working on a fantasy ROMCOM…a slow burn with the tooth fairy as the MC. I hope that will go live in March as well.
Where can we find your book?
Currently, I am exclusive to Amazon Vella. I may turn the books into ebooks with KDP in the future.
I definitely think you should!
Where can we find you?