Today’s featured debut author is Cyndi Tefft who lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest where the weather is overcast and rainy, much like the Highlands of Scotland, the setting of her debut novel, Between. Thank you, Cyndi, for such a thoughtful and informative chat!
Name of book: Between
Book genre: YA paranormal romance
Date Published: June 1, 2011
Publisher: CreateSpace (self-published)
What is your day job? I manage employee benefits for a midsize corporation. I’ve been working in the Human Resources field for the last fourteen years.
What is your book about? It’s a love story between a modern American girl who dies in a car accident and the 18th century Scottish Highlander who comes to take her to heaven.
What was the most challenging part of the writing process? Editing was the hardest part for me. Between was my first novel, so when I finished the first draft, I thought it was perfect. It wasn’t until I started getting feedback from other writers that I realized it needed some work. So I spent a great deal of time reading books about editing and learning all the newbie mistakes (many of which I’d made).
What motivates you to write? A good story spurs me on, to see what happens, to find out how the characters develop and overcome the obstacles. A coworker of mine was interested in reading the manuscript when I was about halfway through with it. She loved it so much (and read it so quickly) that she was always prompting me to keep writing so she could read more. It was a great way to keep me going!
Did you experience writer’s block? There were a few scenes that were particularly challenging, where the words just wouldn’t come. I typically powered through just to get something down and then came back to the scene later, when I’d had a chance to mull it over.
Why did you decide to self-publish this book? I finished the first draft of Between in about six months, and then spent over a year editing it and trying to get it traditionally published. It was a very long year, full of joyous excitement and rock-bottom lows. Readers seemed to enjoy the book, but I wasn’t getting anywhere with the traditional publication route. I finally realized that agents and editors are looking at each manuscript through a critical lens whereas readers are just interested in a good story.
The characters in Between are slightly older than a typical young adult novel, and the storyline doesn’t fit the mold of the romance genre, so agents would have a hard time placing it with a house. Readers don’t have to worry about any of that; they are just weighing whether they liked it or not.
Going the independent route is not for the faint of heart, though. There is no one to come alongside you and tell you how it should be done. On the other hand, indie authors have control over covers, fonts, marketing and such that traditionally published authors do not. One is not better than the other (in my opinion), and I think that sentiment will become more widespread as time goes on.
What is the biggest misconception about writing a book? People often want to know what inspired me to write a novel, imagining that I must have some impressive explanation for deciding to spend hours on end typing away. I guess they figure there must be an incredible impetus for someone to become an author, perhaps because they can’t imagine themselves doing it.
I saw a video with Stephenie Meyer discussing her inspiration for Twilight (a dream), and she looked pretty normal to me. I thought that if she could do it, perhaps I could, too. So I started noodling on what kind of story I wanted to write and then got started. I didn’t honestly think I’d finish it, but I found myself so engrossed with the characters that I didn’t want to stop.
So that’s just it. You don’t need to have a divine inspiration; just start writing for the fun of it, and see where it takes you!
What was your favorite aspect of the writing process for this book? I’d always wanted to travel to France (having taken several years of French in school), but I never had the chance. Writing Between provided me with the ability to go there vicariously through my characters. I spent hours researching what Paris and Versailles were like in the 18th century, and doing so filled a void I’d held within me for far too long.
My husband and I were able to go to France and Scotland last year (after I’d finished the first draft of Between), and it was a dream come true, visiting the sites I’d written about in the book!
Is there another novel on the horizon? After the launch of Between, I will jump into finishing the sequel, Hell Transporter. The first draft is about a third of the way done already, but I haven’t looked at it in a while. I’m excited about spending more time with Aiden and Lindsey and fleshing out the next chapter for them!
What tools/methods have you employed to promote your book? What advice would you give to writers regarding promotion? My marketing strategy has focused mainly on book bloggers. I’ve received a wonderful response from the YA community, with nearly 200 bloggers and individuals agreeing to be a part of the launch in some way.
My advice to writers would be that no matter where you are in your writing process (haven’t started, just finished a draft, ready to go with a polished manuscript), start social networking now if you haven’t already done so. Create a blog and get followers. Set up an author page on Facebook. Play and connect with other writers (and readers) on Twitter. Join communities on Goodreads, LinkedIn, AbsoluteWrite, Authonomy and others. Marketing is about getting your book in front of people, so the more eyes you have access to, the more successful you will be when the time comes. Above all, be friendly and supportive!
Oprah has famously said that there is no such thing as luck, without preparation and a moment of opportunity. Would you agree or disagree with regard to your own success as a writer? Writing is hard work. There are a million other things that you could be doing instead of writing. If, after you finish a manuscript, edit it, and get feedback on it, you are able to land an agent and a publisher quickly, then some would say you’re lucky, that you were in the right place at the right time. That may well be so. Still, you wouldn’t have been there at all if it weren’t for the time and effort you put into the writing in the first place.
Certainly, some writers get lucky, while others are stuck waiting in the wings. It’s not always about the quality of the book. That moment of opportunity may be the self-publishing revolution that allows authors to bypass publishers and take their stories directly to readers. It may be something else entirely. The important thing is to not give up. Being ready when the opportunity comes along is what will ultimately result in your success.