Saturday, February 16, 2013

Interview with J.L. Bryan

Can you give us a brief overview of your latest book? Is it part of a series?
My newest book is Fairyvision, the fifth book in my Songs of Magic series, which is basically a series of fun fantasy books appropriate for young readers.  In this installment, leprechaun newspaper magnate Aonghus Mac Lobhar introduces an exciting new magic mirror into Faerie, one that will enable Folk all over the realm to watch the same concerts, plays, and news criers at the same time.

Have you ever had a minor character evolve into a major one? Did that change the direction of the novel at all?
Sure, and I love it whenever a character comes to life with a strong personality. It makes my job so much easier!  A good example from the current series is Grizlemor, a cranky goblin who was originally supposed to be a minor character, but his constant complaining and disgusting personal habits made him a favorite character for both me and a number of readers.  He’s stuck around for all five books.

What factors influenced your decision to self-publish your book(s)?
It was a fairy easy decision that I made a few years ago, when I first read about other writers doing well by self-publishing on the Kindle.  I already knew that the vast majority of authors didn’t get much from publishers, anyway—for a midlist genre novel, the author might get a small advance, a few months of bookstore distribution, and that was about it.  Not many authors could make a decent living before ebooks.

If you used a graphic designer/publisher’s designer, how involved were you during the creative process for your cover?
I typically hire Claudia from Phatpuppy Art.  She’s done the covers for ten of my books.  If we’re creating something from scratch, it’s a very fun back-and-forth process, and I really enjoy working with her.  Sometimes I’ll see a piece she’s already made that happens to be a great fit for my story, and I’ll just buy that instead.

What is your writing process? Do you listen to music or do you like silence?
It depends on what I’m writing.  I will play different songs that I feel reflect a certain scene or character.  That helps me “tune in” a little bit.  Sometimes I put these together as playlists and add them alongside the books on my website.  Music can be a vital part of the creative process for me.

Do you outline your story or just go where your muse takes you?
The older I get, the more I outline.  The outline is flexible and evolves as I write—it may start as a sketchy list of scene ideas and random-looking notes, but it fleshes out as I write the first draft.

Did you hire an editor to review your manuscript before publishing?
Yes, I typically have a story editor, several beta readers, and a separate proofreader for the final draft.  You can never have too many eyeballs or too much feedback before publishing a book!

Besides Amazon, are there any other sites where your books are for sale?
I publish on Nook, Apple, Sony, Kobo, and Smashwords.  I like my books to be convenient and available to as many readers as possible.

What kinds of marketing [twitter, facebook, blog, forums] are you involved with for promoting your book(s)?
I spent a lot of time on Twitter, though very little of it promoting my books.  I keep a Facebook fan page and a blog so readers can connect with me if they like.  For promotions, I’ll usually provide material like guest blogs and review copies to book bloggers. I really enjoy guest blogs when I’m inspired to write fun ones.

Do you find it difficult to juggle your time between marketing your current book and writing your next book?
I spent most of my time writing and probably too little time marketing.  I have a toddler who’s not quite two years old, so the real challenge is finding time to work at all!

What advice would you give a new author just entering into the self-publishing arena?
Make sure you know your craft, and also be aware that books need extensive editing and proofing before being published.  Be open to feedback of all kinds, and never stop challenging yourself to improve your craft and push against your limits.