Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Interview with Jessica McHugh

Briefly describe your journey in writing your first or latest book.
The first book I wrote is “Maladrid: the Tales of Dominhydor, Book One.” It’s also my least favorite. Not because I dislike the story; in fact, I really love my Dominhydor stories. The problem with “Maladrid” is that I started it when I was 19, really just starting out as a serious writer, and no matter how many times I edited it before it was published in 2010, I could never get 19-Year-Old Jess out of the manuscript. But as unfortunate as that is, it’s also amazing to look back and see how much I’ve grown as a writer and storyteller since then. If you would’ve told me 10 years ago that I’d be on the cusp of my 12th novel release, I would’ve spit in your eye…then apologized…and spit again.

How long before you got your offer of representation/your first contract? Was it for your first novel?
My first published novel was “Camelot Lost,” an Arthurian Legend story. I sent it out to various publishers for several months and always received the same response: a rejection based on the story being too similar to Marion Zimmer Bradley’s “Mists of Avalon.” Well, as “Camelot Lost” bears very little resemblance to “Mists of Avalon,” I was led to believe that these publishers probably weren’t even reading the manuscript. It taught me a lot about writing good query letters and summaries.  If I’d described the book better, maybe they would’ve been more compelled to give it a chance. So, after a lot of rejections, I decided to send it to PublishAmerica, a local POD company. It was accepted in late 2007 and published in July 2009.

What factors influenced your decision to go with a particular agent or publisher?
Basically, I just wanted to be published, and even though the company didn’t have the best reputation, I figured the publishing credit was more important. I still believe that having that one published novel under my belt helped lead to the acceptance of my novella “A Touch of Scarlet” by Eternal Press and my novel “Song of Eidolons” by eTreasures Publishing soon after.

Are you currently under a traditional publishing contract for future books or do you have manuscripts that you will publish directly for Kindle?
I have not self-published anything yet, but that doesn’t mean I won’t. There’s this perception that self-published authors are lazy, that they don’t want to do the work to get published “for real,” but with most of the indie books I’ve read, that’s just not the case. I’ve read some really amazing self-published books, and knowing how much time and effort those authors put in makes them even better. I’m the lazy one. I want to spend all of my time working on stories and conveying my personality to my readers. I have no mind for business or the logistical side of publishing, and I’m really not looking forward to figuring out formatting. Not my idea of a good time.

If you used a graphic designer/publisher’s designer, how involved were you during the creative process for your cover?
I have worked with some really amazing artists provided by my publishers, like Dawn Dominique for “A Touch of Scarlet” and Philip R. Rogers for “Play the Way Home” (published under E.J. McCain). I also have to acknowledge my talented husband, Dave McHugh, who did the illustrations and cover art for my novella “Danny Marble & the Application for Non-Scary Things.” I have never had an issue dealing with the artists provided by the publisher. They are always very sensitive to my vision, and if I don’t have one, they’re great at creating something awesome. Reliquary Press, who published my novels “The Sky: The World” and “From the Herald’s Wearied Eye” is a company that makes their own covers, and they are some of my favorites so far.

What is your writing process?
The way I begin a book really depends on the story. Sometimes I plot a bit, the first few chapters maybe, but a lot of times, I just start writing. I let the story possess me, and I get to know the characters first. When I finish writing a story and get into editing, that’s when the story gets its meat and loses its fat. I clean up the whirlwind writing of a first draft and extend, extend, extend. Now that I know the entire story, I can add bits of fun foreshadowing into the beginning and make the characters much richer. I write everything by hand first, then type it up, print out the manuscript to edit, type the corrections back into the computer, and repeat until “perfect.” Then, I have the computer read the story aloud so I can catch all of the little mistakes my eyes missed. It’s the best kind of insanity there is.

What kinds of social media [twitter, facebook, webpage, blog, writing forums] are you involved with trying to garner publicity for your book(s)?
I’m very active on my Facebook Author Page (http://www.facebook.com/author.JessicaMcHugh ). I use it to promote my work, of course, but I also like to post little witticisms I call “DeepThoughtsy” or “McTruth.” I also like to support my inky cohorts and will often post links to other indie authors I’ve encountered along this crazy writing road.

Besides Amazon, are there any other sites where your books are for sale?
Most of them are also at Barnes & Noble, as well as the publishers’ websites. Just to name a few, you can find individual books at http://www.postmortem-press.com/, www.ReliquaryPress.com, http://etreasurespublishing.com/. If all else fails, just Google my name. Some helpful internet elf will help you on your way.

Do you find it difficult to juggle your time between marketing your current book and writing your next book?
I work on several writing projects at once, so while I’m writing one book, I’m usually editing a few others. It’s absolutely difficult, but if it was easy, everyone would do it.

What is the best advice you can offer new authors?
Writing is hard, time-consuming work. If you’re serious and passionate about being an author (a good author, especially), you have to make time for (at least a little) writing every day. Time, of course, is a about as readily available as Unicorn Pole Dancers, but to produce stories, you have to find it—and hopefully use it to write about Unicorn Pole Dancers. That brings me to my next piece of advice.

Write something new. Push your boundaries. Create comforting worlds and then, characters that rip those worlds apart. Have fun with your imagination. Writers (all artists, really) are given an amazing gift in being able to imagine vast universes that reality can never touch—and it’s not a gift contained in a tiny box. There are no limits. Use that freedom well.

What’s next for you?
Wow, I’m working on so many projects right now. In addition to writing extensions for my historical fiction “Verses of Villainy,” I’m working on the first 2 books in my YA “Darla Decker” series, and I’m always writing short stories and flash fiction for anthologies. I’ve already started writing bits and pieces, but I hope to start writing my bizarre sci-fi novel “The Green Kangaroos” full-time in a few months.