Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Interview with Juliet Campbell

Today I'm interviewing Juliet Campbell. Although she's not the main character, Juliet plays an important part in Death By A Dark Horse. I'm pleased she can join us to give us some insight into who she is and maybe a little more information about some of the other characters.

Susan Schreyer: Hi Juliet, and thanks for being here. You're Thea's younger sister—

Juliet Campbell: Hi! Yes, I'm six years younger than Thea, and five inches taller, when I'm not wearing heels, which I do most of the time—wear heels. I work at Copper Creek Equestrian Center in the office. I'm the office manager—I knew you were going to ask. Thea does all the accounting for us, and the payroll, so I don't have to, but I do everything else.

SS: Okay, thank—

JC: Oh, and Delores is the owner, which makes her my boss. That's Delores Salatini. She and her husband Frank—who died about five years ago—started the place a long time ago. Frank was a big-time jumper trainer, and Delores did a lot of competing, too, but now she just runs the place. She's really nice, even though she comes across kind of crabby sometimes, and she's good friends with Aunt Vi and Uncle Henry—

SS: Whoa! Hang on a sec, Juliet! Thanks for volunteering all the information, but can we stick to the interview format?

JC: Oh, sure. Sorry.

SS: Do you live in Snohomish, too?

JC: Yes, but not with Thea. I have my own apartment kind of north of where she lives. Living with her would make me nuts. She's not exactly Miss Spontaneity, in case you hadn't noticed. And we have way different taste. You should come see my apartment, the colors will blind you—but in a good way. I've done all the art work and decorating myself. It's not big enough to have parties, which is the only problem.

SS: You have an active social life?

JC: Yeah, absolutely. I go out with friends a lot. I'm over at Thea's quite a bit, too, as well as Aunt Vi and Uncle Henry's. Aunt Vi is a great cook—

SS: Anyone special in your life? A boyfriend?

JC: I've dated lots of guys.

SS: Anybody special right now?

JC: Kind of. I don't know, we'll see.

SS: Who?

JC: You wouldn't know him. Can you believe Thea's still going out with Jonathan? Wow. I mean, what a tool! You know, for as smart as Thea is, you'd think she'd ditch his ass for somebody who'd add a little excitement to her life. How much dull can one person stand?

SS: "Dull" is a bad thing?

JC: It is when there's other options. Shoot, the only thing she's passionate about is riding.

SS: I was under the impression she's happy with her life—except for some problems with Jonathan right now, and of course Valerie. Now there's a touchy subject.

JC: No joke. That girl is such a bi—um, brat. I really hate her.

SS: No confusion on your feelings about her I see. What'd she do that makes you dislike her so much?

JC: She's spoiled--thinks she's so much better than everyone else, and so hot. She's always after the guys. You ought to see her try to play Miguel, our assistant barn manager. It's pretty funny. He's like twice her age and isn't impressed. He's one of the only ones who can handle her vicious-as-hell horse. She thinks she has to flirt with Miguel to get him to do favors for her. It's his job, for crying out loud. He just does what she asks and Delores adds it to her bill. Funny! Poor Eric, though. He has to be polite to her 'cuz he's the barn manager—and well, he's really nice anyway—but she's after him all the time 'cuz he's so hot, and he's…she just makes me angry. Eric shouldn't have to put up with her. I may have to kick her butt.

SS: Eric can't take care of himself?

JC: He can take care of himself just fine, but I don't think he's capable of being rude and if you don't get in Valerie's face she just keeps pushing. I hate her.

SS: I see—

JC: So, listen, I gotta go. You should come try out my motorcycle sometime. It's a yellow Kawasaki Ninja, and it is beyond awesome. It flies!

SS: Oh, thanks, but I'll pass. Don't you---okay, bye! That was Juliet, Thea's younger sister, who seems to be very good at controlling the direction of an interview.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Interview with Thea Campbell

Today at Writing Horses I'm interviewing Thea Campbell, the twenty-nine year old protagonist in Death By A Dark Horse. Thea lives in Snohomish, Washington where she was born and raised. She is a self employed accountant and runs her business out of her home (her house is really cute, by the way. I drove by the other day!).

Susan Schreyer: Hi, Thea, thanks for being here! Shall we get started? I understand you quit your job with that big accounting firm in downtown Seattle and started an accounting business that you're running out of your home. Why did you quit your other job? I'd have thought the pay would have been hard to give up.

Thea Campbell: Thank you for asking me here, Susan! To answer your question, there's a lot more to life than making money, and that's all I was doing. I hardly saw my family and friends and it was difficult to keep to a riding schedule—all due to the long commute and long work hours. And let me point out that this wasn't a hasty decision. I don't make hasty decisions.

SS: So with all that extra time, what are you doing? Do you have a social life now?

TC: My business does take up time—it has to be a priority if I'm going to continue to pay the mortgage, but I've been able to ride more and yes, I do have a boyfriend—Jonathan Woods.

SS: So…?

TC: I'm not that serious about him. Not that he isn't husband material, but not for me…. Oh, okay, I can see you're not going to let this drop. I'll be honest with you, since I really doubt he'll read this. We were pretty serious for a while, but lately it seems he's not happy with me. Shoot, I can't even breathe properly some days. And critical? Holy cats. He bought me an "ensemble" the other day to wear to dinner with his parents next weekend. I have clothes, and a purse and jewelry—and certainly nice enough to wear out to dinner with his parents—but it's like he doesn't think I'm capable of choosing appropriate attire. He's making me nuts.

SS: Wow. Why don't you break up with him?

TC: I've tried, but he seems to have a knack for turning things around. I shouldn't be surprised—he's an attorney. He knows how to work an argument to his favor. That shouldn't stop me though. I'm going to have to do it—one of these days. I can't believe I let it go on, but…well, maybe I do really feel something for him….

SS: Uh huh. Maybe we should talk about something pleasant. You're getting more riding in, you said. Tell me about your horse.

TC: That's Blackie. He's a seven-year-old, dark bay Hanoverian gelding and he's wonderful! Riding him and being around him keeps me sane. I was there when he was born. My great uncle raised him. Uncle Henry used to ride competitively. In fact he rode for Great Britain in the Olympics back in the 60s, in dressage. He's retired from that and horse breeding, but he still teaches. In fact he coaches me and Blackie.

SS: Do you compete?

TC: No, I don't really want to and Uncle Henry doesn't mind that I don't, even though Blackie is so talented. Some of my friends would like to see Blackie and me in the show ring, though.

SS: So why don't you do it?

TC: I'm really not interested, and don't tell me I should sell Blackie to someone who would show off his potential, because that's not going to happen.

SS: I wasn't going to. That seems like kind of a sensitive subject.

TC: I just get really tired of defending my choice. Especially to people like Valerie Parsons—freaking bully. Just because she was long listed for the last Olympic team and has enough money to spend the winter training and competing in Florida doesn't mean I should sell Blackie to her.

SS: She offered to buy him?

TC: Repeatedly. I'm not good enough for him, she says. I'll ruin him—she badgers me with that constantly. I'm sick of her already and she hasn't even been back in town a month. I can't go out to Copper Creek Equestrian Center without running into her, and it sure doesn't help that Uncle Henry coaches her. I was working on flying changes yesterday and she marches into the arena and tells me to get off my horse so she could show me how it was done. Can you believe it?

SS: Did you let her ride Blackie?

TC: Are you kidding? I'd sooner run her over. No way is she touching my horse!

SS: Wow, um, I was kind of hoping to get into some other stuff in our interview, but we've kind of run out of time. How about we go have some lunch at Bernard's Restaurant and plan on finishing this another time?

TC: Oh, sure. That sounds good, I like Bernard's. I can tell you about my trip to Victoria with Jonathan.

SS: Works for me.

Next week I'll be interviewing Thea's sister Juliet!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Decisions, decisions, decisions - Part 2

Last week's post ended with the questions I'd posed to myself that would determine the route to travel toward publication, knowing full well whatever the answers were, I'd be giving up something.

The answers didn't come easily. My old goals had become wound up with everyone else's, and I'd adopted the old "acceptable" methods as my personal bench-mark without asking myself why.

The truth was, I didn't know what I wanted for myself. I was incapable of making a decision, and any decision seemed rash. Not a comforting place to be. I did the only thing I could, my goal became to watch, as carefully as possible, and find out as much as I could. Just so I wouldn't dither, I set a time limit of five months. On September first I would take what I'd learned and make a decision based on the information I would discover along the way.

In the meantime, Sister in Crime sent an investigating team to Amazon, Google, Apple, Smashwords and others. More changes surfaced in the industry, more people voiced their opinions, and J.A. Konrath started looking more and more sensible.

Needing something to do (inactivity makes me crazy), I continued to work on my third novel and proceeded with the steps I would need to take to connect with my audience once I was published--none of which committed me to any particular path. The steps would have to be done, regardless of what I chose, and could be abandoned easily if I decided to ditch the whole writer thing and become a lounge singer (kidding, here. I can't sing).

By the time the Sisters in Crime summit report was available in mid August, I'd formed some solid opinions. The report confirmed that I wasn't imagining the changing state of the traditional publishing industry or the importance of e-publishing. E-publishing was here to stay, and it was not just something that was "going on," it was (and continues to be) a revolution—simultaneously rallying enthusiastic support from some while scaring the living daylights out of others.

Something else became very clear: I wanted to be part of the revolution.

Despite the warnings from experienced authors that this was not a wise path for the yet-unpublished, I yearned to embrace it. I was told, as a fiction writer, I didn't know my audience, and probably only seasoned publishing professionals could figure it out.

Well, that statement had been proven wrong on so many occasions it was hardly worth the energy to argue the obvious (note: JK Rowling being told her book would never sell, Tony Hillerman being told he shouldn't write about Indians, etc. etc. leap to mind). Besides, I found out I have a very clear notion of my audience. I'd been reaching them—all over the world—through my blog, Things I Learned From My Horse.

The empowerment of career control lost none of it's appeal on me, either, despite being told I was going to have to work hard at self-promoting. Hey, I'd have to do that anyway, even as a lounge singer or an author for a traditional publishing company.

The decision made itself. I would self publish my work as e-books. I would become an Independent Author. Success or failure would rest in my hands. I could deal with that.

My goal, clear at last, was to get my books into the hands of readers and to make a living wage.

The path is equally clear. Make my books the very best they can be by seeking and obtaining the help I need from people I have confidence in. Market and promote my books to my audience in smart ways. Self-publish.

Essentially, there are three steps—with sub-steps that can be tweaked as necessary.

Will I achieve my goals? I know I'll achieve at least one: I will get my books into the hands of readers. That is the one item being an Independent Author can guarantee me over the traditional route that may never be opened to me. I'm thinking the fate of my other goals is more securely in my hands as well, but that remains to be seen. I know I'll work at it. That's a given.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Decisions, decisions, decisions - Part 1

What are the steps are to becoming an Independent author? Plenty of people have asked me that, and about the reasons behind my decision to self publish my mystery novel. They've been curious, too, why I chose to go the e-book route. If I have a good book, one people will want to read, why not suck it up and pursue the traditional route to becoming a published author?

The fact is, I DID begin on the traditional path. I wrote my book, lucked out connecting with a wonderful critique partner, then rewrote it, and took the first steps to acquiring an agent. I had no idea what I was doing, but hey, lots of people had trampled down that path and (I soon discovered) were willing to impart the knowledge they'd gained to people like me. I joined a writing group, Sisters in Crime, the Puget Sound Chapter, and then the Guppies Chapter. I immersed myself in learning my craft and the process of getting published.

This was a smart move. And if I had to do it over again, I'd do exactly the same thing. The knowledge and skills I've gained surpass any value I could ever put on them. The support and friendships I've made continue to be my rocks. Also, along the way I stirred the interest of agents and publishers, some of whom generously shared their wisdom.

The thing I didn't get was offers of representation. I did get offers of publication from some small publishers, but they usually came with a caveat I was uncomfortable with; change the point of view to third person, change the story to be a suspense novel instead of a cozy mystery—that sort of thing.

At about the same time there were rumblings of change in the industry. Friends who had agents weren't getting sales to publishers, other friends who were mid-list authors were dropped by their publishers, other friends who captured the attention of editors at publishing houses ended up being rejected because the marketing departments didn't know how to promote their work. Still others who were continuing to be published were finding they were suddenly dividing their time between promotion, marketing and writing—and having no clue how to do it or if they were being successful. Many of them worried constantly about their publisher not renewing their contracts.

As much as I wanted to get my book into the hands of readers, life after publishing didn't seem all that great. Was the thrill of holding a copy of one's book in one's own hands really worth it?

Then, with the economy forcing the issue of money (or lack of it) close to home I was forced to take a very practical look at what I was trying to do. Despite the rising price of books, it seemed to me authors' work was not being fairly compensated—particularly since most of them had to hold down another job or depend on the financial support of family members just to sell their books.

I started taking note of rebel J.A. Konrath. I was intrigued in the same way one is intrigued by watching someone pursuing and activity that might end in tragedy. However, he seemed to be doing pretty well. Surely he was an anomaly. But once my curiosity was stirred, I couldn't help looking around. Other authors were putting their own work out on their own.

They were self publishing. A major no-no. Instant disrespect. The mark of someone who didn't have a clue and didn't have the guts to go through the cleansing fires of the traditional route. And yet, a good number of these people had been published through traditional channels and were now publishing their out of print books, or early efforts that hadn't found a home, as e-books.

I watched, I read, I listened. Opinions weren't hard to come by. By spring 2010 you couldn't turn on your computer without reading something about it.

At the same time the publishing industry was groaning at a decibel level I usually associate with a wounded animal. It was impossible to ignore. Major changes were taking place. The routes I had at first chosen to take to get my work published were getting narrower and narrower. Those who were getting through seemed to be dropping into a hole, and I started hearing about how "lucky" we unpublished authors were to still have creative control over our work and joy in our lives. Now, I've never had any illusions of becoming a millionaire author. Mid-list was my target. It seemed comfortable. But now what had seemed a happy place appeared sinister. I wasn't so sure anymore that I wanted to go where my fate could be ripped so completely out of my hands.

It was time for some very serious soul and goal searching. No matter what route I chose, I was going to lose something. Now the questions became; what was it that I wanted, and what was I willing to give up to get it?

Next week: Part 2