has been writing a long time but was given the greatest gift by her
husband in 2016 when he encouraged her to take a sabbatical from
teaching special education in order to write her first book, Lily
Barlow: The Mystery of Jane Dough.
She enjoyed the experience so much, she resigned from teaching to
start the second book in the series, Lily
Barlow: The Mystery in the Mangroves.
She also contributes an amusing, garden-themed column to a local
magazine called The
Word on the street is she writes a pretty funny FB post on occasion.
me about your writing process: schedule, environment, inspirations,
etc. Does it differ for a novel versus essay?
there was a gold medal for waking up early, I’d be on the podium. I
get up between 4-5am, even on the weekends, even on vacation. I take
the first dog out, and fix a cup of coffee. At that point, I sprinkle
the fairy dust and the magic happens (meaning I open my computer).
First I check to see if anyone left a review for Lily
Barlow: The Mystery of Jane Dough
on Amazon. It’s shocking the rush of adrenaline I get when I see
that number tick up. I’ve been holding at 60 for the longest time,
but I know #61 is out there!
that, I delete all the junk mail from my inbox and fiddle around
catching up on social media. I do check that stuff throughout the
day, but it’s easier to get caught up first thing. I try to post
something fresh for my Facebook friends who follow me there.
I shift into the project of the day, which is generally either
writing, editing, or promoting. It’s hard for me to multi-task. If
I’m involved in an author takeover, I can’t write in between
takeover posts. I try to interact with everyone who leaves a comment,
and I like those days to include lots of threads so by the end a
person has a sense of who I am both as a human being and as a writer.
It takes my full attention to do that. So on those days, not much
else gets done.
no set schedule. I don’t know ahead of time that I’m writing on
M/W/F. I let each week have a natural ebb and flow, and I just do
what needs to get done on a day-to-day basis. So, some weeks I may
write every single day, other weeks, not at all.
the weather is cool, spring and fall, I love to write on the back
porch. For a while, I worked on the kitchen table. Now I’m usually
on the couch, with one dog laying behind my head and the other in the
space beside me. When we travel, my husband sleeps a little later
than I do, so I get up and write. I wrote large chunks of Book 1 in
the lobby of a hotel in Charlottesville, Virginia, and in the living
room of a rental home in Moab, Utah.
I’m struggling with inspiration, I have to ask myself a tough
question — Am I truly uninspired or just lazy? Sometimes the
inspiration wears thin, and I need to charge it up with a hike, a
camping trip, a visit with friends. Other times it really is the trap
of laziness. I may be in a scene that’s taking a long time to
write, and I say I’m not inspired, but what I mean is that the
scene is kicking my butt and I’m getting tired. Those times I just
have to power through and get words on the page.
is true for all the things I’m writing now—novels, essays, blog
entries, articles. And interestingly, when I find myself in the
middle muddle of whatever Lily Barlow book I’m working on, it’s a
real temptation to put the story down to write essays. I think it’s
because the essay is short and there’s an end in sight. When I’m
writing, and writing, and writing, sometimes it’s just a relief to
me through your publishing process from “final” draft
to final product, including who does what when, and marketing that
you do as the author. I’m especially
interested in how you chose your hybrid publisher, their
responsiblities, and the cost.
publishing process starts when I hand the final draft over to my
publisher, Lifestyle Entrepreneurs Press. I work closely with an
editor I adore because she does not sterilize the voice of my
characters, even when their grammar is questionable. Funny story
about the editing process…with a degree in language arts, writing
and editing, I was quite full of myself when I made the statement to
the publisher that they wouldn’t need to spend much time cleaning
up my manuscript. HA! We probably found over 200 errors that were
missed by me, my husband, and a rack of beta readers.
we’re editing, the publisher has an artist working on the cover. I
have pretty specific ideas when it comes to the visual
representation, but my ability to explain it is sometimes lacking.
The artist who did the first cover also did the second cover. Both
are awesome. He listened very carefully to what I was trying to say
and captured the feeling so incredibly well.
all that’s going on, I work on blurbs and info for distributors,
and eventually I start recording the audio version of the book. That
was hilarious. I recorded the first book in our teardrop camper
because it was the only place in the house that was quiet enough—no
dog collars jangling, no phones ringing, no air conditioner clicking
on and off. I padded the camper walls with yoga mats, and each
morning I’d head out before the sun was up to record a chapter.
That’s about all I could do before it got too hot to work in there.
the publishing team and I shift gears and start prepping for the book
launch. I reach out to people to encourage them to buy an
introductory copy of the book and leave a review. Reviews are really
important, and they’re surprisingly hard to get. I think people
feel like they have to write some critical PhD thesis, but really a
few simple sentences is all it takes. (As my husband is famous for
saying, he only reads the short ones anyways!)
have support from the publishing team, but I do a lot of marketing on
my own. I’m out there pounding the pavement, working to get indie
bookshops to carry the book. I try to get myself invited to author
events where I can sign books. I look for opportunities to do
interviews (like this one) and author takeovers. The next goal is to
get on somebody’s podcast. My publisher turns up bigger
opportunities like the chance to sign books at Book Expo in 2018 or
the American Library Association in 2019. Those were both incredible
opportunities for a new author with a debut novel.
everybody, I have a story of how I went from an unpublished writer to
a published author. First I tried the traditional path, but I
couldn’t get a press interested in my story. Then I approached
agents but had the same problem. Not interested. That left me with
self publishing as my only option, but I was as interested in that
process as I am in understanding the physics of inter-orbital space
flight. In other words…well, you get it.
found a hybrid publisher—basically I hired a company to be the
“self” in my self-publishing initiative. I interviewed a series
of candidates before I settled on Lifestyle Entrepreneurs. They
offered the most complete package of services, but it came at the
highest price. It was, however, an investment I was willing to make
in building my brand as an author. I can say that not every author
will realize a return on investment if you go this route. And it
remains to be seen if I’ll fall into that category or not. But I am
prepared to follow through because I believe in the Lily
I committed to LEP, I hired a literary attorney to review the
contract, which is just good business sense. He asked that several
small changes be made to protect my interests, and the company
do I get for my investment? The publisher provides formatting and
art. They print ARCs. They distribute to all outlets including
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the independents so I don’t have to
store or ship books. They produce the e-book and master the audio.
They create opportunities for exposure. If I’m trying to reach a
blogger or some other influencer but just can’t get in, they’ll
take a swing at it. We’re working on a marketing plan now to help
Book 1 gain traction and create a foundation for the release of Book
2. They created a “landing page” and are connecting it to my
about your support system online and IRL; who are your biggest
fortunate that I have a lot of friends and family who cheer me on. My
husband leads the parade with his love, praise and check book (let’s
face it, this initiative has definitely been a considerable financial
investment up to this point). In addition to Ricky, there are a few
very close friends who always pick up when I call or text. I use
these three or four people as sounding boards to keep me grounded on
multiple fronts. First, since I’m my own biggest fan, I sometimes
need a voice of reason who can tell me straight out “Nope, that’s
not gonna work.” Secondly, while the writing part is definitely my
specialty, all the other parts are most definitely not
my specialties. That means the contracts and the sales and the
promotion and the social platforms and the technology. My support
team rises to the occasion where all this stuff is concerned.
love learning about your life through your essays and the
inspirations for your novel. How does your writing influence your
a lot of people, I write what I see and hear. Sure, I might tweak it,
or jazz it up, but it all comes from a source out in the world. I
spend a lot of energy gathering these tidbits, so, I’m kind of on
safari all the time, hunting for the next thing I can incorporate.
Sometimes these safaris take me to exotic destinations, like when we
drive Jeeps off road in Moab, Utah or hike the Escalante Staircase,
but sometimes they’re way more ordinary than that. It could be a
greasy spoon on a road trip somewhere, or a market where I have a few
minutes to talk with a farmer, or that six seconds of silent eye
contact when I connect with a complete stranger pumping gas.
I’m always in search of these moments, I like to go places, even if
it’s just up the street. My fear is that my next great idea is
happening somewhere right now, and I’m not there to memorize it.
do you love most about your creativity?
like the freedom it gives me to explore. I’m a pantster, so I write
from the seat of my pants. This is different from a plotter, who
outlines a storyline and knows where it’s going from the first
word. I like following the characters down rabbit holes, and I like
being surprised when they do something I wasn’t expecting.