Hi Heather, thank you for agreeing to this interview.
Discuss your newest book. My newest book, Fighting Perfection, is the second installment in a series detailing the events in Mimi Ashcroft’s life, two years following the end of the first book, Shattered Perfection.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated? All my life I have loved the written word, and have devoured thousands of books. English was always a strong subject for me in school, and I have a fertile imagination that is constantly taking real-life situations and wondering “What if it went this way…”
What are your current projects? Right now, I have two works in progress, both as yet untitled. One is what I anticipate to be the last book in the Perfection series, the other a standalone. I also have another idea marinating in my head, to be written following the completion of my standalone book. I have working titles for all of them, but I tend to make a final decision after the books are finished.
What books have most influenced your life most? There have been so many moving stories that I’ve read in my lifetime. Any book that moves me to tears is one that will forever be a favorite. The first book I remember reading that made me cry was P.S. I Love You, by Barbara Conklin, when I was in the eighth grade. As an adult, Dean Koontz’ The Watchers was the next one that made me bawl like a baby.
What inspired you to write your first book? I was going through an extremely hard and sad time in my life. I had all these emotions I needed to get out. Normally I would have kept a journal, but I didn’t want to record the events as they happened, because that would have been unbearable for me. Instead I created a completely different story that would evoke feelings that were similar to the ones I was feeling so deeply at the time.
Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special? Mimi is a fun and I think relatable character. She goes through a series of difficult, often scary and heartbreaking situations where she gets knocked down—hard. But, she always rises again, with her sense of humor intact. Sounds Good
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp? I want then to be free to take away whatever meaning they find in them. More than anything, I want them to feel the emotions that I have felt, to live certain parts of my life so that they know that they may not be alone in some of the more difficult things they have experienced.
Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book? That’s a hard one, because I’m not familiar with many of the actresses today, (at least not by name) and in the first book, Mimi is only 24-25 years old at the beginning. In the second, she turns 30, and I think Rachel McAdams would be a wonderful choice.
When did you decide to become a writer? I always wanted to be one, whether it was free-lance, non-fiction articles (I abandoned that idea, because I didn’t think I knew enough about anything to share with readers). I wanted to write novels but didn’t think my ideas were good or interesting enough to appeal to readers. Finally, I was moved and inspired to actually complete a book, and fell in love with the story I’d told. I showed it to an author friend, who urged me to try to publish it, and it gave me the courage and confidence I needed.
Why do you write? Truthfully, because it’s fun. Once I get an idea, I love seeing where it takes me. It’s like reading; it’s a whole new world for me to live in and experience and I get completely consumed by it. Reading will always be a love of mine, but writing? That’s where I truly get lost and live a story.
What made you decide to sit down and actually start something? I had a lot of false starts, but my lack of confidence always held me back. When I was moved to actually finish one, it’s because I had so much emotion in me that I needed to express somehow, and I couldn’t think of any other way to do it. It was cathartic, ended up being a very satisfying endeavor for me, and something I am very proud of.
Do you write full-time or part-time? When I’m writing, it tends to be full-time. I take breaks between books to rejuvenate and clear my mind so that new ideas can come in. It’s not uncommon for me to take a month or two between novels because I need to rest. In that time, I find myself reading again like a fiend, and I eventually find something that stirs the creative juices and sends me running back to my computer to write again.
What is the hardest thing about writing? For me, it’s bridging one scene to the next. I always have plot points worked out in my head from the beginning to the end when I start writing. Getting from one to the other and still making it interesting can be a challenge for me. I tend to stop writing for a couple days as I try to work it out in my head, but really the only thing that seems to work is just sitting down and writing, to see what comes out on the page. That’s when the inspiration really hits. #ToughTransitions
What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book? The first book was so highly emotional that I was concerned that the second one wouldn’t live up to the expectations I created with it, and I don’t think I accomplished that. I was really worried that I would disappoint my readers. Fortunately, the reviews, comments and emails I received have proved that at least some people have liked it.
What is the easiest thing about writing? I hate to say anything about the writing process is easy because it’s not, but loving what I’m doing is very easy. Other than being a mom, I have never found anything in my life that was more fulfilling, satisfying and purposeful as writing.
What book are you reading now? I recently started a book blog with a good friend of mine, so I’ve been reading a lot of unpublished titles. One of the things I read recently that really stirred me was the ongoing Bellator Saga by Cecilia London. Fantastic books, fantastic writing which have me eagerly awaiting the completion of the story.
What is one random thing about you? Random, huh? Hmmm… I used to take salsa lessons. I loved it even more than writing.
What is your preferred medium of writing? Pen and paper or strictly tablet and computer? While I have always found the sight of a fresh, blank piece of paper inspiring, I do all of my writing on a computer. I don’t think I could handle the writer’s cramp writing with pen and ink.
What does your writing process look like? Me, sitting in my pajamas furiously pounding away at a keyboard while drinking copious amounts of coffee and chain smoking.
Do you have any strange writing habits (like standing on your head or writing in the shower)? No, I don’t think so, but I do tend to lay down to think out my next scenes which doesn’t work well. I always end up falling asleep! Not good!
How important are names to you in your books? In my first book, I named the main character after one of my favorite authors. I love her name and I love her writing, so it seemed like the perfect choice for the type of person I was creating. Last names, I couldn’t really come up with, so while I was watching the credits for a TV program one day, I looked for last names that I thought might fit well with the first names I’d picked.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing? As I mentioned before, it’s the transition from scene to scene. I always believe that each step should drive the plot forward and be a natural progression for developing the characters, bringing their thoughts, moods, etc. to life, so a reader really feels like they’re living the story. I often read so many books that leave me scratching my head and wondering “What was the purpose for that scene?” I don’t want my books to be like that—I never think of a scene as just a “filler” to get to one plot point to another.
Did you make any marketing mistakes or is there anything you would avoid in future? Marketing is still a learning experience for me. I should have learned more ideas and avenues before I published, but I don’t regret it too much. It’s been fun for me trying new avenues and techniques. So far, I’ve found advertising on social media to be the most effective way to get my book out there, but it can be costly. I’ll try just about anything though. It’s the only way for me to learn what works for me and what doesn’t.
What is your favorite motivational phrase? “Upward and Onward!”
What is your favorite book and why? I have read so very many. I have hundreds of physical books on my shelf, and thousands on my Kindle. I spent two years reading a book a day in the not-so-distant past. It’s hard to think of an all-time favorite. I do have to reiterate that The Bellator Saga is my favorite right now. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Do you have any advice for other writers? Go for it! Don’t be afraid, and have confidence in yourself. If you have a story you want to tell, someone is going to want to hear it, whether it’s five people or five million. It’s a learning process as you go along, and even if your first book doesn’t bring you the feedback or success you hope for, it’s all a learning process and you will improve with each book you write. Not everyone is compelled to tell stories, and if you are, you have something of value to share.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing? Read! I also enjoy spending time with my family, watching films, and thinking about what I’m going to write next.
From where do you gain your inspiration? Past experiences, everyday life, and people I meet or already know.
What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing against being published or the other way around? I submitted my first book to a host of agents, only to be rejected. However, I realized that they want books that they think they can easily sell, generally based upon what is “hot” in the market at any given time. I knew that I wanted to share my story, and that there would be at least some people who would find it moving. Self-publishing gave me that opportunity. Also, depending on how you sell your books, the royalties are higher than with traditional publishing. Sure, you have to be particularly savvy with marketing to reach a wide audience, but with self-publishing, you’re free from a handful of people’s opinion as to whether your book is marketable or not. Readers just want an entertaining story, and while some do like to stay with what’s hot, (i.e. the Motorcycle Club novels, the MMA fighters, BDSM novels, etc.) I find that they’re willing to take a chance on what they think is an interesting story. I’ve had a few great reviews that have started with “This is not my typical kind of book, but…”
How do you market your books? Right now, my most successful avenue is with Facebook ads. Social media is used by nearly everyone these days, and there is a wide reading community out there. Writers love to read too, and indie authors are especially good at supporting one another and helping you to get your titles out. Bloggers are also invaluable! Readers develop trust in them, and are willing to take a shot with books that their favorite bloggers recommend. Additionally, bloggers are very gracious about sharing titles, even if their to-be-read piles are enormous.
Why did you choose this route? I’m trying everything that I think will give me results. I continue with it, because I’ve seen proven results with it so far.
Would you or do you use a PR agency? I don’t currently, but am very interested in this avenue.
Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books? I wish I had a tried and true formula, but as yet I don’t since I’m still learning. I recommend having an advertising budget, to know exactly how much you want to spend and actively work within those parameters. Word of mouth is still free, so giveaways are a great way to get the word out. Don’t expect to be a financial success at first, or even ever. I read once that the average indie author only makes a few thousand dollars a year, so forget about getting rich. Concentrate on believing in your work and getting it in the hands of others. True success to me is getting positive feedback and gets me more excited than increased sales for me. Also, keep writing. Having a back list helps drive sales. The more books you have to sell, the more you are going to sell, simple as that.
What part of your writing time do you devote to marketing your book? I am either writing or marketing. I always have a small amount of marketing that I do while writing, but it’s mostly the simplest of things, since my focus is on getting my work on the page. I find both to be highly fun, so I compartmentalize the two.
What do you do to get book reviews? BEG! I’ve done a few blog tours that garnered me a few reviews, and I listed my first book on NetGalley that got me a bunch more. NetGalley was a little disappointing because a very large number of people who were approved to read and review the book didn’t actually take the time to review it. I had hundreds request it and received about 15 reviews. Also, the majority of those reviews were done on Goodreads, and while that’s great, reviews where you sell your books are far more valuable. I do get a lot of mini-reviews on my ad on Facebook, which is exciting since I advertise heavily there and it helps people decide to take a chance. I really love the Facebook community.
How successful has your quest for reviews been so far? It’s always a struggle. In contrast to the number of books I’ve sold, I only have a handful of reviews. With only a few exceptions, they’ve all been great, but the more you have, the more exposure you get. So, you’ll always find me begging for reviews.
Do you have a strategy for finding reviewers? I still try anything and everything. I will continue to beg, I will keep doing blog tours and anything else that might draw a few my way. I wish more readers knew the value of their opinion, whether good or bad. People really do rely upon them when making a decision, and most authors are starving for feedback.
What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews? All reviews are gold. The good ones help drive your book sales and make you feel so accomplished, flattered and satisfied. Bad reviews, while disappointing and hard to read, they give insight into how you can be better. Of course, no matter what you do, there are going to be people who just don’t connect with your work, and that’s okay. I’m grateful that so far no one has criticized my writing abilities, it’s all been that they just didn’t enjoy the story. I can live with that, but if I did receive one that did, you can bet that I will take it to heart and keep it in consideration for my next work.
Any amusing story about marketing books that happened to you? There’s been no specific incident that has been funny so far. What amuses me most is how clueless I was at the beginning (and in some ways probably still am). One blogger asked for my “stalk links” and I had absolutely no idea what that meant. I felt like a doof once she explained it to me. It didn’t even occur to me that “stalk” meant actually for fans to pseudo-stalk you. I had visions of corn when I first heard it. We learn something new every day.
What’s your views on social media for marketing? Invaluable! Nearly every blogger has a Facebook page, so they are easy to make contacts with and develop relationships. I am continually amazed at how enthusiastic they are about helping you get the word out to their audiences. Additionally, there are TONS of groups that invite you to promote your books, and that’s all free. Perseverance is the key.
Which social network worked best for you? As you can tell by now, Facebook is my favorite. I have a Twitter account with thousands of followers, but I find they all have their own agenda of sharing their tweets, not nearly as much interest in sharing others (author followers excepted). I have an Instagram account, but really haven’t taken the time to figure it all out, I’m always hungry for new ideas, so if anyone can help me out with that, I’d be grateful. Facebook FTW!
Any tips on what to do and what not to do? I say try everything you can think of, and do internet research to gain new ideas. Talk to other authors and see what has worked for them. Cultivate relationships in the community. It’s amazing what your friends will do to help you.
Did you do a press release, Goodreads book launch or anything else to promote your work and did it work? I did not. I just wanted my book out there and published, so I didn’t do any marketing beforehand. I felt as a new author, people weren’t going to be as willing to read or be excited about my release. (I also was still largely clueless on what to do). I haven’t done any kind of promotion for my second book. I am waiting until the series is finished so I can offer it in a boxed set, and intend to do a full-scale blitz then.
Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why? I would love to meet President Obama. I think he is tremendously intelligent, and just so very cool. I’d be equally thrilled to meet President Clinton. They both just seem to have the kind of sense of humor I enjoy. Go Obama! Good luck Lady Clinton!
If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why? I can admire the success of any author, but I can’t say there is a certain book that I wished I had written instead. There are several authors whom I find so clever, the humor so flawless that I envy their abilities, but every author’s idea is unique and their own. I can’t begrudge them that.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers? Just do it! Put your heart and soul into it. If you are moved by your own writing, there will be others that are sure to be as well. Most readers are empathetic, otherwise they wouldn’t enjoy doing it. They WANT to live your story. Put it out there. There’s nothing more gratifying than giving your story life and scary as it may seem, sharing it with the world.
How can readers discover more about you and you work? I do have a website, www.heatherguimond.com, but I am dismal about updating it. You can email me from there, however. The most effective way to reach me is by Facebook, whether by friending me or liking my fan page. You can find me there as a friend by searching for Author Heather Guimond. My fan page can be found at https://facebook.com/heather.guimond. I LOVE interacting with readers, and I’m really quite friendly. I love to make relationships with readers and writers, get to know them and actually be friends. No one should hesitate to reach out to me. I’ll always respond quickly.