We’re back talking with Alison McBain, writing whirling dervish. If you missed part one of the interview where we Alison offered a great insight into how to get your short stories and poems published you can find it here.
Can you tell me about what you enjoy about the writing process?
I love writing, but HATE editing my own stuff (editing other people’s stuff is totally fine, ha). I know some writers who are the opposite. I’m also okay at marketing and organising the background details needed to run a small press imprint, but it’s not my favourite thing to do. Honestly? I’d be happiest with a Thomas Pynchon lifestyle, hiding away and writing book after book. But that’s a bit harder to do in this era of “author platform” and the like.
Do you have any advice for new writers?
LOTS, but I’ll keep it down to three points.
1) If you’re a writer, write. Don’t just talk about writing, don’t just think about writing – sit down and write. Half of writing is editing the darn thing afterwards, but you can’t edit what you don’t have.
2) Don’t ever compare yourself to another writer. It’s the first step on the path to destruction. It doesn’t matter if someone else has won awards, has published younger than you, or if you think their writing is better than yours. There will always be someone better than you. It’s a fact. There are over 7 billion people in the world and it seems like half of them are writers. Just keep writing and keep doing YOU. Everything else will fall into place.
3) Don’t give up. This business has a lot of rejection. People will tell you that your writing sucks. People will tell you that there are too many writers out there. Don’t believe it. You have a voice, and it deserves to be heard. Use what people tell you to make your writing better, but never give up. Published writers are different from unpublished writers because of only one key fact: they are persistent.
Tell me a bit about your novel, The Rose Queen.
The Beast doesn’t always wait for Beauty. Sometimes, Beauty is the Beast.
Princess Mirabella is betrothed to a repulsive old man a year after her mother’s death. She refuses the marriage, only to find out her betrothed is a sorcerer as well. He takes his revenge by transforming her into a savage and frightening beast, giving her an ultimatum: she has three years to solve the mystery of her curse—or die.
Exiled to her mother’s estate to hide the scandal, Mirabella learns that the sorcerer was not alone in keeping secrets. Her grandfather was murdered before Mirabella was born, and her mother’s death is looking less and less as if it came from natural causes. The only point in common to all their ruined lives: her father, the king.
Faced with a conflict between saving her family and saving her own life, the choices Mirabella makes will change the future of the kingdom—and magic—forever.
What sort of research did you need to do about the work?
This book is set in an alternate world that closely resembles sixteenth century France. So I had to research a lot of woodcraft, customs, buildings, food, and geography to make it internally consistent. I also included several Easter eggs for history buffs like me. For example, in my book, the story is set in the made-up country of Dunlaidir. However, the Kings and Queens of Dunlaidir have the family name Villeneuve. This is a nod to the original author of the Beauty and the Beast tale, Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve. And there are other fun tidbits like this in the book, too. Most of the customs you can find in its pages were actual customs and practices from the Middle Ages.
What were the biggest challenges you faced?
This was the first book I ever completed, so the biggest writing challenge was just finishing the darn thing! The first draft was a LOT rougher around the edges than subsequent books I’ve written. This book had to go through multiple in-depth edits to get the story to a publishable state. But it was an extremely valuable process to go through, and I learned an awful lot along the way.
Do you have a marketing strategy for the book? Could you tell me a bit about it and what has been the most and least successful part of it?
My main marketing strategy is blitzkrieg, ha. Just get my book out to as many readers and reviewers as possible, and let them decide whether or not it’s a good book. Then I’ll be able to see how effective this strategy is for sales when I publish book 2. This has meant sales of the first book have been slow so far. I’ve read about a lot of successful indie publishing business models, and the most effective way to market your book/yourself is to, once again, build your platform and write books that are part of a series. You don’t want a reader to read just ONE of your books, but you want a reader to read ALL of them. So you give away the first in the series and hope that it’s good enough that readers will want to read the second book, too.
What has your experience been with using social media to build an author platform? Which do you find has driven the most interest, the most sales?
Social media has definitely helped with the extras of publishing – getting the word out, getting reviews, and getting more interest. I’m going to give a shout-out to a very talented animator who I found through Twitter – her handle is @JoeStalksBeck. She animates book covers, which you can then use for promotions on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. And, personally, I LOVE the creativity in the covers she animates. I’d definitely recommend her (in fact, I did recommend her to several of my friends, who also got their book covers animated by her).
How do you measure your own success and how is The Rose Queen measuring up on that scale?
Honestly? Success in writing, to me, is about the intangibles. I want to write stories that linger, that have people thinking about them and talking about them long after they turn to the last page. I want to inspire others the same way I was inspired by my favourite authors when growing up. I just want to tell a good story.
As to The Rose Queen, I hope I accomplished that. Initial feedback has been wonderfully positive. We’ll see what more readers think as they read it.
And finally, I think I already know the answer, but are you working on a new novel?
I’m always working on something. Ready for list 2?
I have two finished manuscripts undergoing edits – one is a far future science fiction story resembling apartheid South Africa, but with space ships. It’s the first of a trilogy. The second completed book is a contemporary romance about a woman who decides to open a B&B after a bad breakup. It’s the first of an ongoing series. Both of these will be published next year.
I also have two half-finished manuscripts. One’s a paranormal romance about a woman who moves to NYC, only to become haunted by her apartment building’s resident ghost. And my second half-done manuscript is an alternate history of the United States, where several Native American tribes in the 1600s fight together in an ongoing war to halt European colonisation past the Mississippi.
In addition, I have two books plotted/just starting to be written. The second in the Rose Trilogy is underway, in addition to the second in my contemporary romance series.
So… yeah, I like to keep busy. I find that everything around me is inspiration for stories, and all I have to do is find the time to write them all down!
Thank you Alison for your vibrant and comprehensive answers. I need to lie down now and while I’m doing that you can all check out Alison’s novel, The Rose Queen, which is available from Amazon now. It’s not completely goodbye from Alison as we already have another interview lined up in the near future where we talk about her experience as lead editor of her writing groups’ new book, When to Now: A Time Travel Anthology.
If you enjoyed this interview then why not follow my blog where I’ll be posting more interviews soon and I regularly provide an insight into my own experiences as I work towards publishing my debut novel, In The End. If you’re an author, or you’ve just got an interesting story to tell and you’d like to be interviewed, just drop me a line on email@example.com