Hi Angela, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself and your background? Hi there! A little about myself… I’m an urban fantasy author from Missouri. I’m happily married to my best friend, and we have one very awesome son. We recently relocated to Lake of the Ozarks, where my husband and I both enjoyed our summers as kids, and now I feel like I’m on permanent vacation. It’s magical here. As far as background goes, I was actually more drawn to art growing up, and my degree is in art, too. I wanted to be an animator for Disney or Cartoon Network, and I was constantly drawing up storyboards and writing scripts for shows I wanted to create. A high school English teacher nudged me toward writing novels, after I showed her one of my script notebooks. It was at that point that I realized it was the storytelling element that really spoke to me. Before I made enough from writing to call it a career, I learned on my artistic talent and did a lot of freelance graphic design work. I miss my home state!
Discuss your newest book. “Ghost Market” is the sixth novel in my Lana Harvey, Reapers Inc. series. War in Limbo City has been thwarted, but there’s still a period of adjustment everyone is going through, including the now leaderless rebels. Some of those rebels have fueled the ghost market (like the black market, except they deal in poached souls) into a prominent problem that Lana is assigned to fix. If that wasn’t bad enough, the council, who are now fully aware of Lana’s unsanctioned special abilities, have decided that if she doesn’t fix the problem, her past transgressions are enough for them to vote her out of existence. Sounds ominous!
What are your current projects? Right now I am working on “Death at First Sight” book 2 in my Spero Heights series.
What books have most influenced your life? There are so many… but “Ishmael” by Daniel Quinn and “The Age of Spiritual Machines” by Ray Kurzweil both come to mind first.
What inspired you to write your first book? It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of the macabre, and the grim reaper is a just such a fun character to play with. I’m also fascinated with world religions—their similarities, differences, influence on history and art. The question of how an all-inclusive and modern afterlife might look and function was such a natural angle for me to approach with my writing. “Graveyard Shift”, my first Lana Harvey noel, began as a short story with a female grim reaper transporting a soul to the other side, through the harbor of Limbo City (the capital of the afterlife) and over the Sea of Eternity, where all of the heavens and hells waited on the outlining coast. I had a friend read that story, and they quickly informed me that it needed to be a novel, and not just a novel, but a series.
Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special? Lana Harvey doesn’t appear special at first. She’s a standard, low-risk soul harvester at Reapers Inc. That all changes when she’s assigned to collect a very special soul. The hazards of the new job end up revealing that she was not cast from the same mold as other reapers. She was given something extra that made this particular job something only she could do when the time came. She can see the importance of a soul—the very aura that determines their value, and whether or not they’re an original believer of a particular faith, something that is of the utmost value to Grim and the structure of Eternity.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp? As a fantasy author, my main goal is to entertain with a good story, but, like many other authors, I do believe that my values shine through to some degree. The message in my Lana series is aimed toward religious tolerance. People tend to fear what they do not understand, so slipping in bits about other religions and mythologies is something I hope will lend readers insight into faiths they are unfamiliar with. Knowledge is power, and it is also a means of compassion.
Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book? My answer for this one is constantly evolving, but at the moment, I think Ellen Page would make a fantastic Lana. Her sense of humor is totally on point. I think Christina Ricci would be awesome too though. Both great actresses in my opinion.
When did you decide to become a writer? I think I’ve always been a writer. I can remember stories that I wrote in 5th grade. But professionally, I believe that happened when I was 16. I went on to get an art degree, but my first novel was actually published before I finished that degree. Writing has always been part of my personal story.
Why do you write? Because I can’t help it. lol.
What made you decide to sit down and actually start something? The first time? That might be too long ago for me to remember. The one week mark after editing for my latest novel is complete is what makes me sit down and start something these days.
Do you write full-time or part-time? Full-time for the past year. : )
What is the hardest thing about writing? Scheduling my writing sessions. I am a serious creature of habit, and having my daily routine disturbed is a big challenge that I still struggle with constantly. The trick is to block out more sections of time than you actually need, so if you have to forfeit one or more for any number of reasons (doctor’s appointment, school play, funeral) you’re not totally thrown off track and miss deadlines. I have not mastered this yet. Maybe by book 10 I’ll have it figured out.
What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book? Scheduling my writing sessions. For real. This one kills me.
What is the easiest thing about writing? Dreaming up stories. I have more story ideas than I will ever be able to flesh out into novels. Unless science unlocks the secrets of immortality in my time. Fingers crossed!
What book are you reading now? “The Darkest Part of the Forest” by Holly Black. I love her.
What is one random thing about you? Hmmm. My favorite band is Our Lady Peace.
What is your preferred medium of writing? Pen and paper or strictly tablet and computer? I’m good with whatever I can get my hands on, though I can type faster than I write by hand, and it’s definitely more legible that way too.
What does your writing process look like? I outline everything with large post-it notes on a poster board, and then I type up a document with all of my chapter headings and add a typed chapter summary under each one. Then I go from there, occasionally jumped from chapter to chapter if I feel like working on something in particular that day.
Do you have any strange writing habits (like standing on your head or writing in the shower)? I don’t think so. Like I said, creature of habit here. 95% of my writing is done in my office, and the other 5% is done at the island in my kitchen, usually only if something on the stove or in the oven needs to be watched.
How important are names to you in your books? In my Lana series, many of the names were already determined by the various mythologies and religions I employed. Others were just names I liked, but there were a few that I researched for something more meaningful.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing? Challenges change day to day. There are certain times that I find writing angst and sorrow hard to do, or writing a death scene for a character that I like.
Did you make any marketing mistakes or is there anything you would avoid in future? I’ve made my fair share of mistakes along the way, but it’s hard to say, when it comes to marketing, what will work tomorrow or next year. It could be vastly different from what works today, so mistakes will happen. What I have learned to do differently is not beat myself up over them. The most productive thing I can do is keep moving forward.
What is your favorite motivational phrase? In with the Buddha, out with the Hitler. LOVE IT!!
What is your favorite book and why? The Wizard of Oz. Always has been, always will be. ♥
Do you have any advice for other writers? The internet is magical, and it’s a good place to find or form your inner circle. You’ll have access to thousands of like-minded writers all across the globe. This is how I found my critique group, the Four Horsemen of the Bookocalypse. Having a circle of friends all on the same path, who are dedicated to helping one another along the way, is such a wonderful thing. When I feel lost or unsure about something, I turn to them. And when I find something useful, I share it with them. Writing can be a lonely career, but it doesn’t have to be. You’ll want someone to share your ups and downs with.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing? I enjoy a lot of things. Mostly, I like spending time on the lake with my family. But I also enjoy painting and drawing and singing. And of course I LOVE to read, so I do a lot of that too.
From where do you gain your inspiration? Everything. There’s so much in this world. I try to be a sponge and soak it all up.
What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing against being published or the other way around? Self-publishing, like I do, can be challenging. I think it helps when an author has some experience in something other than just writing. I was lucky in that I had graphic design experience. I’m able to design a lot of my own promotional materials. I also have a bit of marketing experience, heavily linked into my freelance graphic design work. Not having this experience doesn’t mean an author can’t adequately tackle self-publishing, it just means that it might cost them a little more up front if they want a professional looking book.
Traditional publishing allows an author to turn over all other aspects of book publishing to a team of professionals, but that also means they’ll be turning over a larger chunk of royalties. Is it worth it? Sometimes. I’m happy with my self-published novels, but I can definitely see the appeal in letting someone else handle all the extra details of the job. It’s something I would still consider for future novels.
How do you market your books? I use a lot of different methods, but lately, I prefer BookBub and hosting Facebook parties.
Why did you choose this route? It’s fun, and readers seem to enjoy the silliness and prizes. : )
Would you or do you use a PR agency? I have not used a PR agency before. I think if it was something my budget would support and the company had plenty of testimonials from familiar authors, I might give it a try.
Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books? Do your homework. A quick Google search can save so much time and money.
What part of your writing time do you devote to marketing your book? It seems to take up a larger part of the pie lately. Maybe 30%.
What do you do to get book reviews? I include a short, polite request in the back of all my books. I also send out a handful of ARCs to readers who have been following my series from the beginning. It’s a great way to get a few early reviews on Goodreads.
How successful has your quest for reviews been so far? Considering I have over 800 reviews for my first novel, I think it’s going pretty well.
Do you have a strategy for finding reviewers? I just have a short mailing list for the ARCs, but I did try something new with my latest book. I hosted a Facebook party and gave away about a dozen extra ARCs as prizes.
What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews? Reviews are great! I try to read them all, even the bad ones. Sometimes the bad reviews will have good points that I’ll consider in future novels. Sometimes they’re just flat out mean and I try to chalk it up to that person was probably just having a bad day or my book wasn’t their cup of tea. Not everyone will like what you write. There is no writer who pleases 100% of readers. Take the last Sookie Stackhouse novel for example. I rather enjoyed it, but there are over 1000 1-star reviews on Amazon alone. : / Even Harry Potter has negative reviews. It’s part of the business. If there’s a silver lining here, it’s that negative reviews will at least make your good reviews more credible and should assure readers that more than just your friends and family have read your book.
Any amusing story about marketing books that happened to you? Erm… I once tried to set up a signing at what I thought was an indie bookstore in state I would be traveling through soon, only to find out that it was actually an “adult” bookstore. The name was very misleading, and it was quite awkward explaining that my book was not a picture book of that nature. lol lol
What’s your views on social media for marketing? I think it’s great if you use it right, and more of a noose if you use it wrong. Blasting “buy my book” non-stop is a great way to turn off potential readers. Social media should be used to connect with and entertain fans. Think like a writer, not a telemarketer.
Which social network worked best for you? I’ve dabbled in most of them, but I still prefer Facebook 80% of the time. Twitter the other 20%.
Any tips on what to do and what not to do? That’s a novel for another day. ; )
Did you do a press release, Goodreads book launch or anything else to promote your work and did it work? I have a mailing list, and I have a few friends who blog and post to social media the week of the release. I also have a really awesome reader, Andrea, who does Twitter countdowns a couple weeks before release day. I think it all helps. I might try a Goodreads book launch in the future though, now that you’ve mentioned it. Thanks!
Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why? Terry Pratchett. He was the king of world building and humor. I didn’t start reading his work until shortly after I published my first novel. A reader mentioned his grim reaper character in the Discworld series, and I immediately picked up the first book from the library. I’ve been smitten ever since, and it was a sad day when he left us.
If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why? That’s… a new one. Hmmm. Probably Peter Pan. It’s such a magical classic, and it has inspired so many other works: Hook, Pan, Return to Neverland, Jake and the Neverland Pirates, and the Tinker Bell movies (which I love to watch with my son).I mean, my kiddo thinks I’m pretty cool as-is, but if I had written Peter Pan, I’d be the coolest!
How can readers discover more about you and your work? My first book “Graveyard Shift” is FREE on Amazon, Nook, iBooks, Kobo, and more. You can also connect with me on Facebook or Twitter. Or find me at http://www.angelaroquet.com