Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Interview with S.M. Blooding


Can you give us a brief overview of your latest book? Is it part of a series?
When Synn El’Asim is captured, his Mark is brutally awakened. He finds himself the most powerful Mark, and quickly becomes a coveted weapon in the war between the Great Families and the Hands of Tarot. However, only he can decide how he will be used to shape the lives of all the tribes.

This is book 1 of the Devices of War trilogy.

Do you have a favorite character?
Synn. Though, Joshua’s a close runner up as is Queen Nix, our villain.

Synn is just so…real. From the outside looking in, he knows what he’s doing, he’s very decisive. He’s confident, capable, strong, powerful. However, inside his head, we get all these little nuggets. One of my favorite lines is when Varik corners him in Egolda City. Varik’s going to blow the entire town, destroy the lethara, kill countless people. He’s taunting Synn when he says, “Are you scared, little boy?”

What was Synn’s internal response? Why, yes. Yes I was. But he doesn’t act on that. He stands up to Varik and he helps to save as many Egoldan lives as he can. I just love how courageous he is. There are times when he’s like, I had no clue what to do, but everyone was looking to me. I just had to hope I did the right thing. He’s just very human.

Have you ever had a minor character evolve into a major one? Did that change the direction of the novel at all?
These guys…for all that they’re invisible people inside my head, they can really derail a story!

Like Joshua. I came up with Keeley’s character first. I knew what she needed to do for Synn’s plot-line. However, when I delved into how she became who she was and what her decisions were based on, I discovered she had an older brother.

When I introduced Joshua’s character into the mix, so many things happened! Real chemistry was thrown into the mix. He became the glue that held the whole group together. He has this quick wit, and he’s the one with the brains to develop all the gadgets we’re playing with. He knows how to get the group to understand Yvette who’s hard to read, and how to cool Synn’s temper, and how to build Keeley’s courage. He’s even able to pull the best out of Haji, and the two barely know one another. You’ll be seeing a lot more of Joshua in the coming books. He plays a really major role in the development of the war.

He has so many great, great lines, but my favorite of his is when Yotaka-san is teaching them all how to use their Marks. He pairs Yvette (water) up with Joshua (plants) and tells them to prepare to fight using only their power. Joshua replied with, “What are we going to do? Make things grow to the detriment of others?”

He makes me laugh all the time. You should see what does in Knight of Wands, book 2. Ooooohhhh my word!

Are there more books in this series?
Book 2, Knight of Wands is already written and is currently in edits. It should be out around Christmas. Book 3, Menagerie is in brainstorming mode and will be written this fall.

I’m planning more trilogies though, with other characters. You’ll meet the main character for the next trilogy in Knight of Wands, but you’ll really get to know her in Menagerie. Oh, I’m excited! I think you’re going to like some of the ideas running through my head! There are just so many!

If you used a graphic designer, how involved were you during the creative process for your cover?
I used Ravven Glass for the cover. I told her about my world, and about our ships, our cities, our ways of life. I told her a little bit about Synn and his Mark.

She came back with her initial cover ideas and I was blown away! It was like she’d reached into my head and pulled what I’d been picturing. It was amazing. She had me choose from several models she’d already picked out. Then she wanted to know what needed to be tweaked in the background. Then it was on to the title. It was an excellent experience.

Do you outline your story or just go where your muse takes you?
I outline. I start out with my basic outline. I line out what needs to happen plot-wise and character arc-wise in quarters. This way, I get a feel for the pace. Do I have too much plot in there? Is there enough room for the character arc? (This is a common problem of mine, so I know to look for it. *grin*)

Then I start with the first quarter and break that out into chapters. I try to keep my outlines fairly loose. Sometimes, even though I think my outline/pace is good, my characters sometimes disagree. Also, there are times when they completely change their minds and do something else. Synn did that to me really early in book 2. I had the book mapped out and then all of a sudden he said, “No!  I can’t do this!” and it completely changed everything!

The key to outlining is to not allow the outline to rule your muse or to back you into a corner.

Did you hire an editor to review your manuscript before publishing?
Oh, good grief yes! I’ve learned that lesson by the skin of my face. I still, to this day, feel the road rash. Oh my word! That hurt! When I first started out, I enlisted my friends. We hit my books hard, or at least I thought so. When they hit the market, though, almost every single review came back with “grammar, grammar, grammar”.

The grammar wasn’t even that bad, but it was the fact that in every chapter, there was at least something. A sentence that could have been stronger. Two repeat words in the same paragraph. A misuse of a word.

So now I hire a few editors and BETA readers who go through it, looking for anything! I still use my small army of friends, too! Every single eye finds something! If I have a gut feeling that my book needs another set of eyes, I hire another proofreader. There are many great editors and proofreaders out there. A “good story” won’t cut it in this market. It has to shine – as grammar free as possible.

What have you’ve learned during your self-publishing journey?
Soooo many things! I think the biggest one was with this book. I didn’t have a marketing plan when I launched this the first time. I said to myself, “Self, you have this great book. Slap a cover on there, a title that’s Google friendly, and people will swarm to your book!”

Not so much. The cover, title and blurb that I had originally didn’t give a clear indication of what the book was about and people were getting seriously confused. You wouldn’t believe how many people picked up this book thinking it was a romance. They were offended by some of the scenes in here! And it’s not because they’re graphic because they’re not. They are serious, I will say that, but they’re the kinds of scenes that are absolutely taboo in the romance market.

I’ve already started getting reviews in from this latest re-launch (new cover, new title, new blurb, new plan) and they’re right on the money. People are picking up the book, knowing right away what the book’s about, what kind of adventure they’re in for. Yeah. Having the right marketing plan in mind before you pick a title is KEY!

What advice would you give a new author just entering into the self-publishing arena?

STOP!

PAUSE!

THINK!

Repeat!

There are a lot of books out there that are just…there. They aren’t going anywhere, aren’t drawing any attention. I’m also very active on the review/promotion side, helping other authors. So I see this all the time. Take your proof copy of your book an ask random strangers (book stores and coffee shops):

Does this cover appeal to you? What does it say? Do you want to pick it up?
Does this blurb tell you what you need to know? Do you want to pick up this book?
Does this title catch your attention? Does it make you think of the chosen genre?
Does this excerpt make you interested in the book? If not, why?

Then be really, really honest with yourself. Is your book edited? I mean, is it EDITED? If I were to pick it up, open it to some random page, would I be inundated with poor sentence structure? Bad punctuation? Mis-used words? When I’m approached for reviews by SP’d authors, I usually turn them away for A) poor cover, B) poor blurb and most of all C) it needs to be edited.

What’s next for you?
Right now, we’re editing Knight of Wands, book 2. We’re in the first stages of editing, but it looks like it should be ready to launch around Christmas. It’s just such an awesome book! It’s so visual! They all are, really, but some of my favorite scenes (visually speaking) are in this book. I love where all of my characters are branching out, and we get to meet new people. I will say, I bawled like a baby when I wrote the final chapter. My sister walked in on me and thought someone in the Real World had died. No. I was just writing the final scene and it ripped my heart out. Oh my word! You’re going to love it and hate me at the same time.

I’m also brainstorming and researching Menagerie, book 3. There’s a lot going on that I need to prep for in that book. We’re reshaping our world, rebuilding it after what happens in Knight of Wands. I need to work out a lot of the science before I start working on writing the book because I really don’t want the reader to have to suffer through my learning curve. It’s so neat though! I’m digging into bio-engineering right now and micro-biology. There’s a lot of this stuff that’s going over my head. I’m not going to lie, but it’s going to be amazing if I can just get a small portion of all this information to sink into my brainpan. I will start writing that book this summer to be published in 2014. Get excited! It’s going to be a wild ride!

Thank you so much for allowing me to be on your blog!