Today, I have an author interview with Bev Stout, author of Secrets of the Realm (a fantastic historical – click the link to read the whole review). So enjoy learning a little more about Bev and life as an indie author.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you do when you are not writing? Do you have a day job?
Until last year, I taught piano for thirty-five years. On the weekends, I work with children in a Christian outreach program. I enjoy new experiences with my husband, from river rafting to whale watching. I love activities with family and friends, especially playing tennis at least twice a week even when the temperatures are in the triple digits here in Arizona.
In six words, what is Secrets of the Realm about?
Girl faces adversity with unwavering spirit.
Have you written anything else?
I am writing the sequel, Return of the Realm, and a contemporary paranormal novel, My Name is Nissa. Both are in rough draft form.
Where can we buy/see Secrets of the Realm and/or your other works?
Secrets of the Realm is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iBookstore. An audio book version will be coming out in late summer 2013.
Where did you get the idea for Secrets of the Realm? How did you come up with the title?
I wanted to pass something down to my family. The initial idea was to paint a picture, but Annie sort of popped into my head. I knew she was resilient. I knew she lived in 18th century England, and I knew I had to tell her story. The title was the easiest part of the whole experience. Secrets of the Realm was the working title from day one, even before I realized Annie was not the only one aboard the Realm who had a secret.
How long did it take between having the idea and publication?
I started writing the story about six years ago and finished it in about six months, not counting the revisions and editing that had to be done. In the meantime, I went to writing conferences, joined two critique groups and submitted it to agents and publishers. I put it on hold for a couple years until my husband’s nephew, who had read an earlier draft, told me how much he wanted me to get it in print.
How much of the book is based on people you know and/or things you’ve experienced?
Joao Perreira was my grandfather’s name before he Anglicized it to John Perry.
While I used a number of family and friends’ names throughout the book, none of the characters are actually based on real people. I believe everyone has known someone in his or her life who has faced some sort of hardship, not necessarily the same as Annie had faced, but equally traumatic.
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
Deciding how much back-story should be in it and then deciding where to put it. Also, the first chapter was the hardest to write. I revised it more than any other part of the book.
What part or scene was the most fun to write?
Almost any scene with Symington, Annie’s nemesis, in it was the most fun to write. I also liked the sweet moments Annie shared with Doc.
If you had to do it over again, what (if anything) would you change about this book?
I don’t think I would change anything of significance.
How did you first become interested in writing?
Before Annie invaded my senses, I never thought about writing.
What is the hardest thing about writing? What is the easiest?
I am easily distracted. Keeping on task can be difficult for me. The easiest is finding my characters. They just show up.
How much research do you do?
I did a ton of research for Secrets of the Realm. I wanted to be as accurate as possible for the time period. I haven’t had to do extensive research for My Name is Nissa since it is a contemporary paranormal novel, but I still had to do some research into police procedures.
Do you work from an outline or just write and see where the story takes you?
For me, an outline would be too confining. The characters take me where the story is going. In Secrets of the Realm, I found myself writing a particular scene while not truly understanding the relevance of it until later in the story. One event needed to happen before another event could take place in a later chapter.
Do you ever get writer’s block? How do you deal with it?
I don’t exactly get writer’s block. But like I said earlier, I get distracted. I deal with it by walking away. I play a game on the computer, read, watch TV, go shopping. I don’t worry about it.
What made you decide to go the Indie route in publishing?
While I had some positive feedback from publishers and agents about Secrets, the consensus was that there was not a big audience for YA historical fiction. However, my husband believed in both the story and in me enough that he convinced me to go the Indie route.
What are some of the challenges of Indie publishing?
Marketing and editing. However, many of those I know who are traditionally published have said they also do most of their own marketing. Unless you are an established best-selling author, it appears writers don’t get much help from publishers. As an Indie writer, you have to either hire an editor or do it on your own. I did both.
What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of Indie vs. traditional publishing?
The royalties are better in Indie publishing. I have no deadlines or schedules which sometimes drives my husband crazy. A disadvantage of being self-published is the lack of respect that it has carried over the years, but that is now improving. I know a number of traditionally published authors who are now dabbling in self-publishing.
Who designed your cover, and how was it created?
My husband designed and created it using Corel Paintshop Pro X5. My grandson took the picture of his sister. Annie’s eyes are ice blue like my granddaughter’s eyes. By just showing the eyes, I felt the cover left a bit of mystery of what Annie looked like. I wanted my readers to use their imaginations.
How do you market your books? How much time do you devote to marketing?
My husband does my marketing. As an engineer, it is not his forte, so it has been a steep learning curve.
Did you make any marketing mistakes or is there anything you would avoid in future?
Biggest oversight was not starting soon enough.
What do you think of “trailers” for books? Do you have a trailer or do you intend to create one for your book?
I only learned about trailers recently. At this moment, I do not plan to use trailers.
Do you think that giving books away free works and why?
I believe it works better for established authors. However, I intend to try it when my sequel comes out. I might give away a prequel about Annie’s earlier life or I might give away the actual sequel, Return of the Realm for a few days.
Who is your favorite author and why?
Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird. She may have written only one book, but what a masterpiece. Her characters, Atticus, Scout, Jem and Boo Radley are such memorable characters.
What is your favorite book and why?
The Human Comedy by William Saroyan is a beautifully told story about love, loss, determination, family. It hits every emotion. I’ve read it numerous times over the years, finding something profound in it each time. It is such a simple, easy to read book. A grade school child can enjoy it as much as an adult. It is a book for all ages.
Is there any particular book or author who made an impact on your life?
To Kill a Mockingbird because Atticus Finch was such a good role model for his children. He stood up for what is right and tried to make the world a better place.
Do you prefer ebooks or hard copies?
I prefer hard copies. I enjoy supporting local authors and my author friends at book signings. However, I have been reading more on my Nook lately.
What book(s) are you reading right now?
A Fatal Waltz by Tasha Alexander.
What are you currently writing?
Return of the Realm and My Name is Nissa.
Can you tell us about them, and do you know when they will be released?
Return of the Realm continues with Annie’s saga. Annie remains true to herself, daughter of a humble fisherman. New characters will be introduced, including Geoffrey Sheffield, who has an impressive lineage. He is not as tall as Captain Hawke, nor is he as brawny as Ambrose Barrette; but for someone who isn’t a sailor, Annie notes he is a fine specimen of a man. I am hoping it will be released in the winter of 2013 or early spring of 2014. Meanwhile, My Name is Nissa is about a baby left in the courtyard of a young couple, Lily and Peter who want children, but haven’t been able to. Nissa, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Lily, is no ordinary child. Not sure when it will be out.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Embrace life. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Be true to yourself.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Read books in the genre you are interested in. Join a critique group, one that will give you good advice and constructive criticism. Write, don’t stop. You can edit, do research, fill in the blanks later. But most of all, write for the pure joy of it. Writing is the fun part. The rest is work.
Is there anything else you want to say to your readers?
Thank you for taking the time to read this interview. And thank you, Jalyn, for giving me the opportunity to introduce myself to the reading public. I really appreciate it.
Thanks, Bev, for being willing to talk about your book and what life is like as an indie author!
You can find Bev: