Author Insight: An Interview with Sarah J. Bradley, Part 2

Yesterday was the first part of this interview with author Sarah J. Bradley. If you didn’t get a chance to read it, I hope you’ll hop over here. If you are all caught up, here’s part 2!

Sarah J. Bradley at a book signing

Poorly.  I’m terrible at editing, and I have no patience.  Which is why I actually pay someone to do final edits for me.  I’ve tried to edit.  It’s like I forget how to read English.  I always have an eye out for content, not for spelling or punctuation or any of that.  If Spell Check doesn’t catch it, I don’t either

 

Do you belong to a critique group? Or a general writing group?

I used to belong to a general writing group. That’s so vital if you’re just starting out, because you need honest feedback, and you’re not going to get it from your best friend or your family members.  I learned so much about what I do both in that group and in classes I took through the local technical college.  Taking classes on writing is not a must, but it doesn’t hurt.  It really gives you a solid focus, even for just the length of the class, and focus is probably the hardest thing for any author to have.

Now I have two wonderful critique partners, Linda Schmalz and Author Kelly Moran  (another genius author) who are honest and very helpful. Linda has been a friend for many years, but I’ve never physically met Kelly.  We’ve been friends on line for a while and recently decided to be critique partners.  Finding a good critique partner or partners is vital no matter where you are in your writing career.

I am a member of Mad City Writers, Wisconsin Romance Writers of America (WisRWA) and Romance Writers of America (RWA), but those are more business support groups.  For day to day writing, I lean on my Face Book friends who are also authors.

 

How do you find the time to write?

I don’t sleep much, my family doesn’t see me all that much on weekends, and when I’m in the home stretch with a book, I’ve been known to call in sick to work.  (I probably shouldn’t have said that!)  I write on my lunch hours, (thank goodness for WiFi at the bagel shop!) and I write at work when I can sneak story ideas onto paper.

 

Can you share your experiences with self-publishing? The process, the marketing, etc.

Oh boy, that’s a huge question!  I remember when electronic readers first came out, how long ago, and Stephen King released a novella just for e-readers  and a lot of writers said, “Well, that’s fine, but no one is going to sell anything unless they’re Stephen King.”

Flash-forward and now self publishing is fast becoming the norm for new authors.  I was blessed to hear author J.A. Konrath speak a few years ago and it changed my life.  He explained how e-publishing worked for him and how it was the wave of the future.  Call me a disciple.  Granted, I haven’t quite hit his sales levels yet, but hey, it’s all about getting the story out there. His mantra is “KEEP WRITING!”  And he’s right.  I’ve sold more books in the last six months than I did in the two years prior because the more you have your name out there, the more people are going to buy.  Which is why I’m working so hard to get the whole Elsie series out before the end of the year.

Self publishing is a lot of work.  A LOT OF WORK.  And it can be a bit expensive if you don’t teach yourself a few things along the way, but nothing like it was back in the day when “vanity presses” were the only option for the unpublished. Amazon and Smashwords provide tremendous, low cost or free tools for publishing. I’ve recently started doing my own cover art.  Sure, I pay to have editing done, but I don’t pay for cover art anymore  (except for nominal image fees) so my costs are very low.  My book sales are at a point where they cover expenses, so that’s a great step to hit.  Next up, making an actual profit!

Marketing on the internet is wide, mostly free, and sometimes overwhelming.  Since I do all my own marketing, I am constantly talking up books.  I haven’t even scratched the surface, though, of the marketing some of my fellow self pubbed authors do.  I just don’t have the time…yet.  But there are a million opportunities for marketing online.

I like self publishing.  I pitched to agents and editors over the years, and I actually sold “Dream in Color” to Wild Rose Press.  But that process is very nerve wracking and can takes months, even years to get picked up.  I think the over all publishing market has changed.  Basically, if you’re not a celebrity with a tell all book, or an author that’s written ten million books, you don’t have much of a shot.  Unless Oprah likes you.  Agents and editors just flat out aren’t going take a risk on an unknown.  And yet, I know people who have gotten big book contracts after they e-published because an agent “found” them on Amazon.  So I guess right now e-publishing is like waiting tables in Hollywood.  You just know someone is going to see your book and pick it up.  Meanwhile, you get the story into the hands of the readers.  That’s the goal, right?

 

What are your best writing tips?

Just keep writing.  Put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, and write.  No one is going to read what isn’t written.

Okay, that and drink wine while you’re writing a love scene.  It tends to make you more relaxed about breaking down a steamy scene to actual words.

Don’t fear words.  My mother tells me all the time that the swearing in my books isn’t necessary.  Okay, well, Jesse Alexander is a rock star.  I doubt he’s going to say something like “Oh fluffy bunnies…that didn’t quite go my way, did it?”  Be truthful with your words and your characters and your writing will work.  I’m not a person who swears a lot, but I have characters who do.  If you are writing fiction, you don’t have to impose your morals and personality on your characters.  You have to let them be who they are.  In “Fresh Ice,”  Serena, my villain, had a fairly surprising back story that made me almost feel sorry for her.  Not a great thing when you are writing a villain you want everyone to hate.  But I made it work.   Almost on her own, Serena got over her pathetic self and grew into the bad, bad, bad girl I wanted her to be.  I just had to be honest about who she was.

 

Do you have a writing mentor?

David James Elliott

Not really. I mean, my critique partners do the best they can with me (it’s sometimes a thankless, hopeless job!) When I think of mentors I think more of a teacher sort of person who stood by me and guided me through.  I haven’t really had that.  My creative writing teachers in school  (and I know a lot of people are going to think the same way here) sort of patted me on the head and told me to edit my final copy better.

There were three people in my life who took me seriously and did wonderful things to boost my career.  Two of them have passed now, but I feel I have to mention them.  One is Bill Lietz, a man who was married to my mom’s cousin when I was a kid.  The original plan for “Lies in Chance” was that Bryan and Drew were going to be paramedics.  (That would be the influence the TV show “Emergency!” had on me.)  When I was thirteen, I met Bill on a family vacation. He was a paramedic in Phoenix.  A couple years later, out of the blue, he called me, long distance  (that was expensive at the time) and we talked for almost two hours. He gave me so much material on paramedics.  Bryan and Drew wound up being teachers  (mostly because while the paramedic business has changed drastically over the years, I grew up with teachers and was a teacher and I knew I could write teachers.)  but I never forgot the kindness and support Bill gave me in that one phone call.  He passed earlier this year from cancer.

The second person who supported me in a very special way was Victoria Mooney.  Vicki’s friend, Wendy heard me during a radio interview when “Dream in Color” came out and Vicki immediately contacted me and told me she knew Rick Springfield, that we were both going to be at once of his concerts, and that she could get a copy of my book to him and arrange a meeting between us.  I was skeptical, but it turned out she DID know him and I got the very best 30 seconds of my life thanks to that lovely lady.  I also have Rick’s autograph on a copy of “Dream” and I keep that on my desk as a daily reminder that dreams come true with the help of complete strangers sometimes.  Vicki, Wendy, and I kept in touch over the years, so I was stunned very recently to get a text from Wendy saying Vicki had passed away.

The third person was my mom’s cousin, Jill Frick (formerly married to Bill Lietz).  After reading “Dream in Color,”  Jill dared me to write a hockey romance.  She said, “You love hockey so much, you could write it.”  I wasn’t so sure.  Then Jill gave me a phone number.  Turns out, she is best friends with former NHL star Jeremy Roenick’s wife. (Jeremy Roenick, one of my all time favorite hockey players.) She was working for Jeremy at the time, and insisted I give him a call.  BEST PHONE CALL I EVER MADE!  He was a darling guy to talk to, and he gave me a ton of material that helped me shape Quinn Murray for “Fresh Ice.”

These three people gave me huge boosts of confidence and validation in a way that no teacher or family member ever did.  I can never ever repay them, but I hope that someday I can pay it forward with some young writer or something.

 

Who are your favorite authors?

Oh the list is long and well known:  I love anything Bronte or Poe, and Margaret Mitchell is a goddess.  More recently I will read anything Phillipa Gregory, Billie Letts, or Adriani Trigiani put out.  When I want something fun I’ll read J.A. Konrath’s latest, even though he told me once his writing was too scary for me.  LOL!  And of course, I’m blessed to get a front row seat to the as yet unpublished works of Linda Schmalz and Kelly Moran.  Those ladies have amazing voices and are very talented.

 

Are you as funny in real life as you are at writing Elsie W. stories?

Since my Elsie W. stories are  (unfortunately) my real life, I guess I have to say yes.  I do enjoy making people laugh, and I really do seem to have a ton of material when it comes to ridiculous things that happen around me on a daily basis.  Maybe that’s why I write so much fiction…I need to escape my life! I like to believe that we have a choice in life, we can take everything seriously or we can laugh at it all.  I choose to laugh.

 

Seriously, is Elsie a real person?

Proof that Elsie is real…her rolling cooler. Just read the book!

I have four saved messages on my phone to prove not only is she real, but the book doesn’t even scratch the surface of how exhausting she is.  While I loathe my job, having Elsie…and late Noelle C…at my side has been very entertaining.  I mean really, what warped mind could possibly come up with a person who brings a container of fruit flies from home to the office?

The trick with writing about anything in real life is you have to have the right frame of mind.  In fiction, you can sort of power through chapters even if you’re in a foul mood.  Worst thing that happens is maybe you kill a character or something.  But when you’re writing funny, you better feel like laughing.  Working with Elsie made me furious for a long time, so it’s taken a few months to get my temper right with the work.  What cracks me up is that on my blog  http://itcanonlyhappentosarah.blogspot.com I shared some of these stories in a fit of rage and people thought they were hilarious.  That’s when I knew I had a book.  I just had to tone down the angry a little.  If you have ever worked with a someone like Elsie, you know.

 

What’s your go-to writing food? [I find myself craving peanut butter and Andes mints—not together, of course]

Oddly enough, I don’t eat when I’m writing.  It’s the perfect diet plan, and clearly I’m not doing enough of it.  I don’t like food around me…it gets in the way of the 99 candles I light when I’m writing.  I also don’t like typing with goo on my hands, and most of the foods I eat on a daily basis tend to be gooey. Just look at me.  Fluff and goo…you are what you eat!

However, I do drink copious amounts of coffee  (before five) and wine (any time thereafter) while I’m writing.  I find Pinot Noir to be a nice wine to drink in quantity without heartburn or hangover later.  All the great American authors had some form of addiction…why mess with a formula that works, right?  Right?

 

How do you celebrate the end of a book?

By releasing it before it’s been properly edited and then cursing myself while I fix everything.  My first print copies of the Elsie W. book had no less than 3 different author names on them.  Two on the cover, one inside.  Three names.  Yep, that’s how I then get to market the “limited edition” copies.  But that just proves I’m not creative enough to make up Elsie.  I can’t even get my author name on the book right!

I also give myself permission to take a week off of writing, blogging, reading, editing, critiquing or anything literary.  I basically go to work, come home, eat cheese doodles, and watch terrible TV.  I get in touch with my inner couch potato for one week.  Then I get back at it.

 

What’s on deck? What new books do we have to look forward to?

Elsie’s second book, “It’s Elsie’s World, We’re Just Here to Clean It.” will be coming out September-ish, with the final book in that series, “Elsie W.:  Unsafe at Any Speed.” coming out toward the end of the year.  After that, I have the Noelle C. book to write, I have that Collier book to write, and I have that missing children series to get on.  Basically, what I need to do is win the lottery so I can quit my day job and just sit down and quiet the voices in my head by writing.

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