Since winning the silver IPPY for best SF/F/H ebook, I’ve gotten to know the other two medalists in my category. The three of us have been chatting (and put together the awesome giveaway I’ve linked at the bottom of this post). We’ve been learning about each other, and this has led to some fun interview opportunities.
Today, I ask a few questions of Abigail Owen, bronze medal winner for Blue Violet. Enjoy!
1. I love that Blue Violet started with a single scene and then grew into a whole book. (See Abigail Owen’s blog post on this writing method.) Are all of your books plotted out that way?
For some odd reason I do tend to think in terms of scenes. A lot of my initial ideas start with a particular scene whether it’s a fight – like in Blue Violet with the wolves vs. jaguar shape-shifter fight scene – or it’s an interaction between two characters. I need to be able to picture a character in a very specific way to make them real for me. I think it’s how I relate to stories personally – both in movies and in books. I like strong, redeeming characters. But I really like to see them in scenes where they get to kick butt.
Once I get the first scene set I expand pretty fast from there and build the world around the characters. But I still tend to write by scene by scene. I’ll even skip around – if I’m struggling with one scene I’ll write a different one and then come back to it. I do sometimes work through various exercises where I brainstorm things like backstory, motivation, etc, so that the scenes have purpose and flow. For the Svatura series (Blue Violet is the first in the series of four) I outlined the entire rest of the series in detail when I wrote the second book – Hyacinth. But the outline is almost entirely in scenes with lots of notes about characters’ thoughts, discoveries, motivations that are revealed or highlighted in that scene.
2. Our audiences have a bit of crossover. What would you say to my YA SF-adventure readers to get them excited about your books?
You’re talking to a girl who loves Sci-Fi/Adventure as well as Fantasy. The Star Wars movies remain my favorites of all time (episodes 4-6 of course). And I devoured the Star Wars series of books – which was really just getting started at the time – all through high school and college. But I was equally into super-power related fantasies – like X-Men (I started out loving the cartoons before they ever started the movie series).
I love the freedom both Sci-Fi and Fantasy give us as writers to really imagine anything we want. The biggest difference between Sci-Fi and Fantasy to me is the setting. Setting the book in a completely different universe, or a future where we are able to travel the universe, or on an Earth with humans that are not quite what we know them to be are all equally awesome. I love to see what the author does with that. What twists they add in their world that really spark my imagination. Don’t be surprised if you see me come out with my own space-opera some time down the road.
3. You’ve incorporated a Romany element into Blue Violet. A quick Google search teaches me that some of your words (e.g., “vyusher” and “te’sorthene”) have meanings in that language. (See the Romany/English dictionary at Wordgumbo.) How did that come about?
Haha. I’ll admit that it started because I am awful at coming up with new words or made-up words. In Blue Violet I needed a few specific words to be able to reference some very specific concepts. For te’sorthene, if I hadn’t come up with one word I would have been writing a full sentence describing fated soul mates every time I wanted to talk about it. Or Vyusher references the wolf pack – it’s an entire clan/tribe/pack of wolf-shape shifters. It would have been really boring to just call them “the pack” the entire time.
I researched a lot of lesser known languages to try to find words that worked for the concept and also sounded pretty cool. Romany is a beautiful language that worked perfectly for what I wanted to achieve! What ended up being a very happy coincidence is that many Romany stories are very similar to the powers my characters had or fought against (wolves and – SPOILER ALERT – dragons). It allowed me to weave a tiny but of that culture’s history into my own story in some really cool ways.
4. Have your readers seen any themes in your books that you didn’t consciously intend to write?
I get a lot of “Twilight meets X-men” comments. While I absolutely see X-men, it took seeing the Twilight comments for me to notice that element in this story. There aren’t vampires, so that’s not it. I think it’s more the young love surrounded by a mystery involving some kind of super-natural powers that people see. And now I can see that as well – especially in Blue Violet – much less so in the following books.
5. So, this book, Blue Violet, is FREE. Is that something that’s been working well for you (e.g., increasing your visibility, convincing more readers to purchase Hyacinth)?
Corollary: Do you think it’s a tactic we’ll start to see from the traditional publishers as they take ideas from successful indie writers?
I never would have thought I would put something I put so much work into out there for free, but it’s one of the better decisions I’ve made as a self-publisher. Originally I priced it at $0.99, and that did help it sell – I think – but I also did the Kindle Select program on Amazon. I discovered that the 5 free promo days boosted my sales after the promo exponentially. I set Blue Violet free when Hyacinth was released in February hoping to drive more sales of my 2nd book. And I’m convinced that my sales on Hyacinth – which are 2X Blue Violet in the same amount of time – are because of the readers I reach with Blue Violet at free.
I will also say that the number of free books on the market seem to be growing exponentially. So it’s getting harder and harder to get your book noticed in that space. I don’t know that I ever see traditional publishers going this route. Or if they do it will be with online fiction that helps to promote and upcoming release.
6. Do you feel like a successful writer? If so, when did that happen? If not, what would you need in order to feel that way? (Amusingly, someone asked me this question just before we won the IPPY awards, and I said that I wasn’t successful yet, but would consider myself so if I won an award. Guess I don’t have a choice now!)
Awesome question! I don’t know that I’ll ever feel like a really successful author. There are days when I’m reading someone else’s work and I think, “Wow, I really suck. I could never write something as awesome as this.” So I’ll be working on my craft – trying to improve my writing – all my life I’m convinced.
But that said, I’m finding that I keep reaching other areas of what I would consider success. My first success was finally finishing writing an entire book. Before I wrote Blue Violet I had started countless books and never finished them. So that was success. Then I had no idea if it was even readable. I found my awesome editor – Wendy – who didn’t know me from Eve – who said that she liked the book. So new level of success – random stranger, whose job it is to be critical, likes it.
Then I published and started hearing from readers. And yeah, a few out there don’t like it – and that smarts – but a much larger group do. I have some fans who’ve reached out with so much encouragement and praise that it’s humbling. In my eyes, reaching readers like that is definitely success! I published a second book – a follow-on to the first – and fans who liked the first liked the second. My fear that my first book was a total fluke was settled – new success. Then I won that IPPY award – which absolutely blew me away. Winning an award definitely feels like success.
But what’s funny is that as I hit new achievements I raise the bar on myself. Success to me – right now at least – would be to make this a self-sustaining effort. I’m still in the red after paying for everything (editor, book cover, marketing efforts, etc.) for my first two books. If my sales could cover the cost of self-publishing, I would consider that success. I am hopeful that that day is going to happen within the next year or so. Fingers crossed!
7. Blue Violet is set in Colorado, where you’re from. Are all the places mentioned real places? Are there any shout-outs that only a Colorado native would get?
I grew up in Texas actually, and now I live in northern California, and love both places. Look for more Texas and California from me in future books. I was born in Colorado and have family there. My grandparents owned a house in Estes Park that I’ve visited all my life. Estes is my favorite place on the planet. Tons of fun memories of hiking, visiting the Rocky Mountain National Park, eating in various favorite places, and shopping in downtown Estes along the Big Thompson river. I figured if I can’t live there, at least my characters could. Most of the places in the book – including Ellie’s house – are real. I highly recommend a visit to Estes Park if you get a chance.
8. You’ve been super-busy with work, your MBA courses, and kids. How do you make the time to write?
Haha. I get that question a lot, particularly from my fellow MBA students. What a lot of people don’t understand, I think, is that (for me at least) writing is my outlet. It’s my stress relief and my break time. Some people exercise, or watch tv, or read a book to unwind. And I do love that stuff. But writing is really how I unwind. I do most of my writing late at night after my kids are in bed and I’d finished whatever work and homework I had to do. I will say that taking on writing/publishing my first two books while in the middle of my MBA was insane. I honestly have no idea what the heck I was thinking.
9. What do you like best about self-publishing?
I like a few things. I like that I didn’t have to wait to publish. Especially with digital readers and how easy it is to be published, I started reaching readers immediately. If I’d gone the traditional publishing route I’d probably still be waiting to even get a request to look at my manuscript. But instead I’ve had the privilege of building a loyal following of readers and getting feedback on my stories for the last year.
I also like the complete control I have. From what I’ve heard going the traditional publishers route you lose a lot of that. I get to control my book, my timing, my cover art, how I interact with folks, how it’s published, pricing, etc. It’s a lot of work, but it’s really fun.
I will admit that it would be nice to get the money and marketing part of the traditional machine behind me. And I do plan to try to go the traditional route, but I also plan to be very picky about it. I’m way too happy self-publishing to give it up without some really good incentives.
10. What are you working on right now?
I’m in the middle of writing the 3rd book in the Svatura series – Crimson Dahlia. I estimate only about 50 more pages to go and then I hit the editing phase on that. I plan to publish it at the end of August! It’s the darker book in the series before I get to the 4th book and finale which I’ll start writing next and plan to publish next February.
I have two more series ideas in my head… a future dystopian series that’s more character-based, and a fantasy dragon-related series that has a specific scene solidified and I’m not sure yet where it’s going from there. My MBA will be over in July and I get an 8 week sabbatical from work in the fall. My plan is to start work on the first book of both of those then.
11. What’s the best place for people to interact with you?
Lots of different ways – my blog, or email, or twitter, or I have an email list I send stuff to monthly – all are great. But my favorite I have to say is on my Facebook page. I really enjoy daily interactions with readers there.
Don’t forget to enter to win a Kindle Paperwhite + all the IPPY award-winning SF/F/H ebooks, including Blue Violet by Abigail Owen.