Hello again friends, bloggers and muses,
Welcome back to another week of Behind the Author, where we dig deep into the mind of someone who has found success in some form in their lives and we try to reveal their secrets so that we can all grow. This week’s author is a woman who writes for all the right reasons, pure passion, dreams and to vent those deep inner stories.
Today’s Guest: J. McSpadden of Praetorian Rising
Her novel has been finding quite a lot of success lately and this is partially due to the passion of the author behind the novel, and her belief in the quality of her work. This week we’re going to be speaking about writing, publishing and marketing your own novel.
Mathew: Hello Jessica and welcome to this interview! It’s a pleasure to have you. As a writer who only dreams about one day having a novel with my name on it, I find a lot to admire about you and where you are today with your writing ambitions. Would you mind explaining a little how your book, Praetorian Rising, first started and your journey towards completing it?
Jessie: I was lying in bed one night eight years ago listening to Muse as I was somewhat drifting off to sleep. The song Knights of Cydonia came on and a scene hit me like a lightning bolt. I saw Camille Scipio (the lead character) like she was right in front of my eyes, and I was just absorbed in the intensity of the scene that struck me.
I jumped out of bed, ran to my desk, grabbed paper and pen and started to scrawl out this scene. I then went to bed and woke up the next morning and the single scene turned into another and another. Before I knew it I had pages and pages of random scenes with this incredibly fierce woman at the center of it.
I became a bit obsessed with telling her story. About two years after that fateful night, I realized that I wanted to write a book. At the time, I worked in a low paying job at the very bottom of the totem pole and had an exorbitant amount of time on my hands. So, I started to outline the character, her history, then filled in characters and details from there.
To start, I will be honest and say I wrote this book incorrectly the first time around. I quickly learned my lesson though after discussing details with my Editor. I reworked the book and restructured my process to find my rhythm of writing. About a year ago I finally decided that I was going to go the route of Self Publishing and made my way through that path, practically bushwhacking through the millions of “how to self-publish” blogs, books, and articles, then I discovered for myself how to make it work. I still have a long ways to go in terms of marketing and pushing my book to the masses, but the first one is out there. And that is the key; that was always my first goal.
Mathew: What was the biggest challenge that you’ve had to overcome in completing your novel?
Jessie: I think the biggest challenge, at first, was trying to find the voice of my story. That may sound funny, but trying to find the theme and direction of my book, that I didn’t realize I was writing until I was really into it, was actually very difficult. I think from there it was figuring out how to get my book published. I knew early on that I was most likely going to go the self-publishing route but the how was always in the back of my mind. I won’t say it’s easy, but it’s not hard these days to get your book out there. It is hard though to do it cheaply and correctly.
Mathew: I follow a number of aspiring and new authors who also share the dream of publishing their first novel. What was your experience like with publishing your novel, and what sort of advice could you offer to a new author looking to do the same?
Jessie: I think the first thing to keep in mind is that there is no “right way” to publish these days. Whether you traditionally publish or self publish, I think it all depends on you as the author and what you would like to get out of the process. My experience was sending 100+ queries to agents in hopes of finding someone that would want to back me. I received 100+ rejections, mainly responses like, “This is a great concept and a great story, but I don’t have room in my roster to host this book. Best of luck..blah blah blah…”.
So, I think it’s less about being good, or even great really, and it’s more about timing, with a bit of luck. I realized early on, that in order to take my goal into my own hands, I had to be the one to decide what I would do and when I’d do it, instead of waiting for someone else to tell me I was good enough to get this story out there.
My best advice; write every day. Or whatever your goal is, do it every day. Even on days you feel you are total shit, do it still, because your actions create habits, and those habits create content. It’s the content you need to polish and to create a masterpiece. Shakespeare didn’t just become Shakespeare, and he also didn’t have anyone to tell him, “Go study Shakespeare!”. He just wrote and continued writing, and then obsessed over it. Obsess over your goal and you can achieve far more than you could ever imagine.
Mathew: Now, you’re the first author that I’ve had on my interview series who I have not actually discovered through WordPress. We bumped into each other quite coincidentally through Instagram. You seem to be much more of an Instagram woman than a blogging woman, do you feel like Instagram has helped you towards your goals?
Jessie: Well, I’ll be honest and say I am very new to the whole Instagram/Blogging World. A lot of the time I was working on my blog, I did it for me. And 8 months ago, I mainly was posting pictures of my dog on Instagram!
But, on Jan 2nd I decided (somewhat of a new years resolution) that I was going to publish my book by my birthday month. I wanted it to be an event and somewhat of a big deal. So I pushed to gain Instagram followers and put in the effort to get to know that community. I knew that through a community I would find those that could help support me too. Not just in my writing, but in the emotional support all artists need to continue working on their projects.
I think blogging, twittering, whatever else you do; it’s all about connecting and reaching out. My next goal for book 2 is to connect more with those on WordPress. To really make the strong connections through blogging that, I think in the end, will also help me to reach more readers in general. Bloggers tend to read a lot, who knew! My goal with my own self-marketing is always to be genuinely me with everyone I meet. I want to connect and share, and boost those up around me. I want to make sure not just to share my story and why I love it so much, but also share and celebrate the hard work of those around me.
Mathew: In one of your blog posts you mention the importance of taking input from editor’s or trusted fellow authors before releasing a novel to the world, or even along the journey of completing the first draft. Why do you think that collaborations and receiving constructive feedback is so important to producing quality work?
Jessie: I’ve always thought collaboration is key to any masterpiece. Now I don’t mean that as an author, musician, director, or whatever that you have to take input from everyone around you. If you hard disagree with input, that is totally ok, but I think we all need to recognize that every one of us has a different perspective. We all have our own ideas of what makes something great. When writing, I tend to lean on my husband, my friends and my editor to bounce ideas off of. I may have an idea that is clear and straight forward but they might see that idea as not necessary.
I’d built up a lot of great scenes and world-building by just discussing them back and forth with my husband; what makes it work or not, does it fit in with the theme of the story and is it realistic to the world. Collaboration is amazing when done with an open mind and with people wanting to create a beautiful masterpiece. One of the best words of advice I got from my editor was, “Trust your reader, they aren’t idiots so there is no need to spell it out.”
I think when working on a thought, I have a narrow point of view based on my background and history, my own thoughts and ideas, but when I check in with my beta readers, editor, and friends they see it differently. Seeking critiques and possible input on your work is a healthy way to grow as an artist, and I would say more often than not, solid collaborations always make the overall art better.
Side note to this; ignore ass hats that just critique your work in a pointless nature. That isn’t collaboration at all, that is just negative hate. Writing a book is hard. I would never say I liked E.L. James and her work, but you know what, she did write a book and is now a multi-millionaire. She did something right, so props to her. So collaboration is good when you are doing it with people who have the same mindset that you do; to create something amazing!
Mathew: Thanks so much Jessie for joining me for this interview! It’s been lovely to have you, and I’m sure my readers are all going to be very thankful for this great advice you’ve given. We hope to see you more often here in the blogging world, but if not, we can always find you on Instagram. I like to end these interviews with a more personal/fun question. Outside of writing, you’re also a producer for TV shows in LA, which is really cool. Do you have any celebrity interaction stories and if so, who was the person you were most happy to meet?
Jessie: So, I started my career by working at the bottom of the totem pole in Post Production. To explain what that is would take way too long, so a short version; I worked at a place that brought all the pieces of a movie or tv show together once Editing, Sound, and Filming were completed. We put it together like a puzzle, tied it in a pretty bow, and catapulted it to theaters and tv’s around the world, so to speak.
Now that being said, there were a lot of famous people walking in and out of the facility I worked at on a daily basis. I got used to it and those people were just like normal people to me after a time, but there was one person in particular that everyone and I mean everyone, was in a tissy about. I was working on a project at the time that had Jason Momoa in it (Yes, Khal Drogo!) and he was back and forth in front of my office almost all day long.
I got talking to him here and there on work things, very nice guy. Well, I was outside one day, he was there, just taking in the sun (because in the film we work so much we never see the sun. We are like vampires by force). Jason was walking down the street with his dog. I loved his dog, and this delightful dog was being super sweet, it practically ran up to me that morning while I was standing outside. He jumped up and kissed my face before running around behind my knees.
Now, this dog was on a short leash, and after the dog ran behind my legs, I had a 7 foot tall Jason standing less than a foot away from me with his dog wrapped around me. He’s insanely tall, but he didn’t even pause at this sudden burst of doggy joy. He leaned down and gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek and told me how much he’d loved working at my facility and that he hoped to be there again soon. He then untangled his dog, said he would see me around and walked back into the facility.
Yes, you heard that right, he hugged and kissed my cheek!!!!!! I was glowing for the rest of the day. One of the best moments of any of my “famous person meetups”.
Well, there you have it, another week of Behind the Author all wrapped up. This time with an emphasis on getting that first novel out there and reaching for the stars. Even when the stars seem so damn far out of your grasp. Just keep taking those little steps that way and push yourself every day, even just a little bit, and you will travel miles in the right direction over time. Thanks again to Jessica for participating in this interview.
Thanks for joining on this week’s, Behind the Author!
Please feel free to check out Jessie at her blog here.
Questions? Comments? Leave them down below!