I'm thrilled to have my friend Joanne Brothwell here with me today. Joanne's first book, Stealing Breath, has just been released by Crescent Moon Press and I couldn't be more excited for her! Joanne lives in the country with her family where she says her stories are inspired by the dead things that appear at her doorstep on a daily basis. I'm really hoping we're talking about the little presents her cats are leaving for her! We had a conversation about writing and what's it been like being a newly published author.
Joanne: It is very difficult to find time, to be honest. I write for a few hours on my days off, squeeze in a half hour here and there, usually when everyone is in bed. My time management tip? Don’t watch TV.
Oh, boy. That one hurts, doesn’t it?
Jana: Yep, that's painful. TV junkie here. What has surprised you most about the writing/publishing process?
Joanne: How slow the process is. Everything moves at a snail’s pace, and for someone like me, who likes to get things done, it’s hard to be patient. Writing takes hours and hours on end, just to write the first draft, not to mention revisions. With the publishing process, it is much the same. Slow as molasses in January (sorry for the cliché). Geesh, I just wanted to get my book out there! Unfortunately, the industry doesn’t work that way, at least not in my experience.
Jana: Full disclosure here - Joanne and I both belong to the Saskatchewan Romance Writers, and both of us contributed short stories (Joanne 2, Jana 1) to SRW's anthology, "Love, Loss, and Other Oddities". What have you learned about promotion since you took on the task of promoting the anthology? Will any of that knowledge translate into useful promotion ideas for your own work?
Joanne: What I learned is that people will ignore you unless you pester them incessantly. I did three media interviews and four newspaper interviews, and for each of them there were several emails and phone calls before anyone responded. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, I guess.
I did notice a difference between print media and television media. I’ve had many people approach me after my interview came out in the Saskatoon Express, a local paper. In comparison, not a single person I know saw my TV interviews (unless I specifically asked them to).
The other thing I learned in the process is that it is difficult to discern whether those promotion methods really work. How many people watching the news at 7:30 am would be interested in paranormal romance? Not very many, is my guess
What might be more difficult when promoting my own novel is bragging my own book up without feeling like a shameless narcissist.
Jana: It's never easy to figure out whether the promotion efforts you're making are actually translating into book sales. But we keep trying. Do you think writing/critique groups are helpful for an aspiring writer?
Joanne: Oh, yes! Before joining the Saskatchewan Romance Writers, I was an aspiring writer with no hope of getting published. I don’t mean to sound self-deprecating, but it was true. My writing was absolutely horrific! After joining the group, I met people who gave me stellar advice, linked me to great websites and other writing resources, and eventually, led me to three critique partners. Writing groups are invaluable to a serious ambitious writer.
Jana: When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
Joanne: I had an idea three years ago and it just wouldn’t go away. I decided to write it and see what happened. I finished that manuscript in three months. That was when I decided that maybe I could be a writer.
Jana: Where do you get ideas for your stories?
Joanne: My favorite TV shows (Vampire Diaries, Supernatural), my favorite books (The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare, the stuff by Anne Rice).
Jana: How do you research? Internet, interviews, books, etc.? What’s the most interesting/crazy thing you’ve done in the name of research?
Joanne: I use the internet a lot. Most of my stuff is fantastical, so I make a lot of it up. But sometimes I like my lore to be rooted in existing mythology (like the Navajo Skinwalker in Stealing Breath), so I use the internet for that.
The craziest thing I’ve done in the name of research is go to a fortune-teller. I spent $60 on it, and the scene never made it into the final book! The strangest thing happened during that reading. I was to pick four “Angel” cards and turn them over. One of them was the “Indigo” card. My main character is an Indigo Child! I have to admit, I was creeped right out.
Jana: OMG! Maybe it was a cosmic sign, telling you that writing is what you're meant to do. What was one of the most surprising things you learned about being a writer that you didn’t know when you began your career?
Joanne: Just because you wrote a novel doesn’t mean you’re a good writer. That one took me a long time to really understand and accept.
Jana: What authors or friends have influenced you as a writer?
Joanne: Hayley E. Lavik has influenced me a lot. I met her early in my writing career, and we became fast friends. She did a great critique of an earlier version of Stealing Breath, and made me think long and hard about really important issues. She’s brilliant!
Jana: I agree, Hayley is definitely brilliant, and a brilliant writer. So Joanne, why do you write?
Joanne: It’s my passion. If I don’t write, I feel funny, like when I don’t exercise for days, or eat too much junk food. Yucky. I just have to do it.
Jana: Where do you like to write? Describe your work space.
Joanne: I have a leather club chair in my living room with a nice ottoman in front of it to put my feet on. I have a coffee table beside me for the vats of coffee I drink, and a gorgeous view of the Saskatchewan prairie out my picture window. It’s perfect!
Jana: What’s next for you? Tell me about your next or newest release? What are you working on now – your current WIP?
Joanne: I just finished a novella called Vicarious, a prequel to Stealing Breath. I submitted it, got a contract signed and a first set of edits back all within two days!
My current WIP is the first book in a new series. It is currently titled Inversion, and it is a New Adult Paranormal Romance. I hate to talk about new projects very much – it seems to take the wind out of my sails – but I will say that there are Demons (An Incubus), an Immaculate bloodline of humans (Immaculate), and hybrids (Demon/Immaculate) with names that are super-secret-squirrel!
Jana: How can readers connect with you online?
Joanne: My website: http://www.joannebrothwell.com/
My blog: http://joannebrothwell.blogspot.com/
Facebook: Joanne Brothwell
Joanne is offering to give away an E-copy of Stealing Breath to one lucky commenter. So come on down and ask a question or say hello!
To entice you, here's blurb from Stealing Breath:
Deep in the backwoods of North Dakota, Sarah Ross is searching for a
missing child when she is attacked by a glowing-eyed, transparent
creature. Using mysterious abilities, Sarah escapes, only to run directly into
Evan Valente, a handsome, charismatic stranger who helps her back tosafety. But why is Evan out in the forest so early in the morning?
Sarah learns her eyes bear the mark of the Indigo Child, an evolved human
with the ability to feel the emotions of others; unfortunately, her indigo aura
is highly desirable to those who wish to steal her powerful essence.
Soon, Sarah falls deeply in love with Evan and wants nothing more than to
follow her heart, but she can't ignore the lingering feeling that Evan is hiding
a terrible secret. The deeper she digs, the more danger she faces, forcing
her to face the darkest, innermost parts of her soul.
And an excerpt:
I awoke to rustling outside my tent. The crunching of footsteps on gravel, twigs and branches snapping. Was that a voice? I lay motionless inside my sleeping bag, heart pounding, listening.
A disembodied whisper. Was it right outside? I strained to hear but the throbbing pulse in my head drowned everything else out. I sat up. The atmosphere within the domed tent was wet, ripe with morning breath. The tip of my nose was cold as an icicle.
The murmur came a second time, more audible than the last. I was sure it was a child’s voice. My heart skipped a beat. Could it be the voice of the eight year-old, Jessica Crow, who had gone missing from the neighboring Indian Reservation three days ago?
I thought of the drive out to the campgrounds when my friends, Amber, Kate, and I had been listening to the radio report on the status of the missing girl from the Wakina Reservation.
Poor Amber. Once again, she’d cried at the reminder of her third cousin, Jessica, lost and alone in the forest. Everyone in the community, including Amber, had been searching for her night and day but had found nothing. I’d practically dragged Amber along camping, telling her she needed a night off from her worries. It was a hard sell, but she’d finally agreed.
I glanced at where Kate and Amber should have been laying, but their sleeping bags and pillows were missing. The last I’d seen them had been around the bonfire at two in the morning. They could have ended up crashing just about anywhere, and I wasn’t about to go peeking into random tents to find them.
Having fallen asleep in my jeans and a long-sleeved shirt, I slipped on my jacket and shoes, pulled the ponytail holder off my wrist and wrapped my hair into a tight bun. I swallowed hard and took a deep breath. Then, unzipping the door flap of the dome tent, I stuck just my head out.
Nothing was out of place. Empty cooler bottles atop the picnic table, charred wood in the fire-pit, and the car we came in. Every campsite around us was nearly silent. The sounds of late-night make-out sessions, pounding music, and yelling were replaced by the occasional snore.
Using my empathy, I focused on trying to pick up on the emotions of any lucid person around, hoping I would hone in on Jessica’s emotions. Normally, the waking feelings of others hit me like a gale force wind, without my even trying. In fact, it had always felt like a bit of a curse that I was a walking sponge for other people’s pain. But right now, all I felt was…nothing.
The voice had seemed right outside the tent. Could I have imagined it?
I slipped out. A low, white fog blanketed the earth, enveloping the world in silence. The temperature hovered around freezing, way too cold for camping. And last night’s vodka was no longer taking the edge off. I shivered.
After checking around the cars and circling the campsite, I started down the road. Inside the forest, the eerie glow of early morning and the cool fog blanched the world a ghostly white. The moist nip in the air sharpened the scent of pine needles that littered the camp ground. I continued down the road for about ten feet until it led to the mouth of a hiking trail.
Now that I was half-frozen and shivering, the May long weekend at the campgrounds of Greater Slave Lake, North Dakota, seemed like a very stupid idea, even if it was the annual spring kick-off party.
“Help!” the diminutive voice called out again, this time, louder.
The memory of Jessica’s face flashed through my mind when I’d met her last summer; honey-brown eyes and springy hair that always stuck up around her head with static, and her sweet smile, part baby teeth intermixed with adult teeth. She was such a sweet, innocent child. If she had survived this long, she could be dangerously close to death from cold. My heart battered against my chest wall, and I fought off the urge to start running, directionless, into the bush to find her.
The voice had originated from further within the tree-line, I was sure of it. Closer now, yet still far away. I entered the trail and headed straight.
“Jessica?” I called out. No response but the echo of my own voice from the trees around me.
The trail was straight and narrow for well over a hundred feet, the trees like two solid walls of green on either side of me. Then the trail began to snake back and forth until it forked into several side-trails. I stopped to listen.
A dry crackle emerged from the trail to my right, and I immediately followed the sound. This far into the forest it was darker, the only light filtered through evergreens and fog. I looked back. The vapor had closed in behind me, obscuring the pathway like a curtain of white. Shivering transformed into shaking.
Despite running these trails in the early morning numerous times, today it looked different. I cursed under my breath and shoved my hands into my pockets.
“Hello?” I called, my voice immediately diminishing, muffled by the woods. Other than the odd bird chirp and frog croak, the forest was quiet. If the voice really had been Jessica, she would need help and most likely immediate medical attention. I forced myself forward.
The trail wound to and fro, the brush dense, the fog almost material as it clung to the spruce needles. The path grew thin and sparse, barely enough room to place one foot in front of the other, with the way the underbrush encroached on the trail. I stumbled on twigs and logs as branches clawed my cheeks and pulled my hair. I began to trip, reaching out for something to hang onto. I fell, my hand forced into a thorny bush.
Damn it! I stood up and peered at my scraped hand, blood beading out of paper-cut sized scrapes. I’d been out here for at least ten minutes, but still, I heard nothing but the crunch of my feet snapping the twigs underfoot and my breath echoing through my own head. Ready to turn around and head back to my tent, the high-pitched voice rang out once again.