Friday, April 21, 2017

Interview with Vanessa M. Knight, THE MAKEUP TEST

Can you give us a brief overview of your latest book? Is it part of a series?
My latest book is The Makeup Test. This is the sixth book in the Ritter’s University series. For those of you who have been following along, this is Parker’s book. For those who haven’t visited Ritter U yet, come on by it’s fun.

This book is about Parker, a college student that has started her own online business. She’s found some success, and is soaking up as much information as she can from school—well as long as it doesn’t include science. She hates science. She just needs to graduate and use that knowledge to support herself. Then she can finally be on her own, no rich parents and the ties that come from accepting anything from them.

Cade is also a student, but he’s working full-time as a cop with local law enforcement. He doesn’t have time for a relationship—especially one with a spoiled sorority woman. He has responsibilities. Not that Parker would understand… at least that’s what he thinks. Once he gets to know her, he finds she just might understand more than he thought.

Getting together is wrong—they’re from different worlds and those worlds don’t mesh. So when those worlds collide, nothing can keep them apart—well—maybe not nothing. They hadn’t counted on her father.

Do you have a favorite character?
This might seem a bit coincidental, but Parker is my favorite character. She always has been. Even when she was trying to steal someone’s boyfriend a few books back, I loved her. As she found an incriminating video of a classmate and showed it to the world—you got it—I loved her.

She’s done some bad stuff, but she’s apologized and tried to make things right. She’s grown and learned and changed over the life of these books. She hasn’t stayed stagnant. And for that, I’ve stuck by her and accepted her despite her mistakes.

Are you currently under a traditional publishing contract for future books or do you have manuscripts that you will self-publish? Are you doing both?
I’m doing both. I have the Ritter University Series that I self-pub and my Chicago’s Finest series which is pubbed through a small publisher. I like both for different reasons. I love having all the control. Muah-hah-hah. {finger-taps} My self-pub series allows me to experiment. I can change pricing, covers or blurbs. I can post the book wherever and however I choose. I can put it on sale and market the heck out of it.

With the publisher, I don’t have that control. They control if it goes on sale. They have to make the changes to the sites, so I have to monitor any promotion That includes a price reduction. I can’t just change the cover as a test or adjust pricing. Everything is done by the publisher, so I have no autonomy. But it’s not all bad.

With the publisher-pubbed books, I get contacted by editors and cover artists. I offer input and then once all the changes are done, they compile the epub and mobi files. They upload to the websites. The publisher takes care of that background work, so I don’t have to. Sometimes, that is nice.

Until I want to put the book up for sale and have to get a date that works for the publisher and the advertisement site. Then I cringe.

Do you belong to a critique group? Have they helped improve your writing?
I absolutely love my critique group. They help me in so many ways. We determine a date to meet, usually once a month. A week before our meeting, we send about 10 to 15 pages we’d like reviewed. The review is great. We get a marked up copy of the sample to take home and pore over.

But that’s not the best part. The best part is finding the holes in the story and talking them out. Many of my books have been completely revamped based on a discussion with my critique group. Storylines grow stronger. Motivations become clearer. Having someone on the outside of the story helps in so many ways and not just with fixing issues. My critique group has been known to help brainstorm me right out of writer’s block. They keep me motivated and on track.

Do you outline your story or just go where your muse takes you?
I am a HUGE outliner. My Ritter University Series takes place on a fictitious college campus. To keep everything straight I have a folder in One Note with everything from a map of the town to the printout of the houses I think they live in. I have character sheets and general college information.

On top of that I have a plotlines page, that lists the Chapter, point of view character, and a very high level listing of what happens in the scene. An example is below.

Example from my last book Sophomore Slump:
Chapter 1 - Sav - Summer at church at home - sent to basement to get wine, she freaks, hates it down there, it's where bad thing happened, tries to run out but runs into Leland, calls  Joe, he calms her down.

Chapter 2 – Joe…

As you can see it’s not very specific. In the finished scene I have her describe the basement and she runs into Leland downstairs—which totally freaks her out. There is a balancing act as she gives him the bottles of church wine and they head up the stairs to the glorious light of stained glass. She slips out into the dew covered grass and calls Joe in Poland to help calm her nerves.

Those three lines give me everything I need to know to begin building the scene and the story. Every chapter is listed in this document except for the last couple of scenes. I always wait on those. I don’t know why. I know how the story will end. I know the dark moment, but I rarely know how they’ll overcome that dark moment.

Maybe it’s my way of surprising myself when I get to that part. My way of keeping a bit of excitement going as I’m writing the story.

Did you hire an editor to review your manuscript before publishing?
Absolutely. I have editors for all the work I do.  Any book I’ve pubbed has gone through critique partners, developmental edits and line edits. I don’t write clean enough to be able to skip this part. I’m not sure anyone does. We all need a little reality check now and then. Whether it’s grammar help or a plotline problem, having another set of eyes is always a good thing.

Do you find it difficult to juggle your time between marketing your current book and writing your next book?
Time. I wish I had more of it. I work full-time, as well as write. On top of that I have a family I like to see every once in a while. It can lead to long days and long nights. Keeping up with the current book and all the marketing, as well as trying to write something new, can be rough. In fact, I find I’m more productive when I’m not on the marketing-machine. However, it’s all part of the job.

I think it’s important to fit the marketing piece in with the writing. Keep the time it takes to market in mind when planning your timelines. Fit in editing to your schedule, as well. And the most important piece is to fit in “you” time. Julia Cameron calls it refilling the well. Try to give yourself time to be creative again, instead of jumping from project to project.

What advice would you give a new author just entering into the self-publishing arena?
For those thinking about self-publishing, I would say a few things. First, why do you wish to self-publish? Someone once told me they were self-pubbing because they were sick of the rejection from agents and editors. If that is your reason, please be careful.

If you can find out why the book is being rejected, do. If there are inherent flaws in the story, fix them. Self-pubbing is putting that manuscript out there for the world to see. If you think agents and editors are rough, try reading a review by some nameless, faceless reader. They can be brutal.

But don’t let the fear stop you. If you’ve received mostly positive feedback from agents and editors (so why, oh why couldn’t they connect with it), you’ve fixed the issues they’ve identified and you’ve taken the initiative to have the book professionally edited you might be ready to put the book out there. If you’re happy with the book and feel it’s the best it can be, go ahead and expend time and money to release it.

Second thing I would say is that self-pubbing is not a get-rich-quick scheme. It’s a lot of work and time and money. With self-publishing you not only write the book, but you must find editors, find cover artists, format the book, upload the books to vendors, market the book… and manage the traditional “business” pieces of your business (taxes, expenses, sales). You can outsource one or all of these tasks, but that leads to less money in your bottom line.

Overall, I would tell anyone interested in self-pubbing— go for it. If you’re ready to put that book out there—do it.  Make sure you’re putting the best product you can out there and remember it is a business. It takes hard work and a passion for what you’re doing. But if you have that passion, it is fun. I love every piece of the process. I love watching a book develop as I write it. I love getting back edits and finding I wasn’t too far off the mark with my storytelling. I love seeing the cover for the first time. And I love uploading everything to the book vendors—seeing the final product available for sale is so rewarding.

Some fun facts about you, which do you prefer – dogs or cats? Chocolate or vanilla? Coffee or Tea? Talk or Text? Day or Night?
I have both dogs and cats so I can’t choose a favorite. Although, I like that cats don’t need to go outside. Winter in Chicago can be terrible.

I’m going chocolate over vanilla (except ice cream. I’m a vanilla girl all the way).

I don’t like coffee or tea—so I’m going soda or water

I prefer texting when just getting the facts, like where do you want to go for dinner… or how long till you get home. But when I’m in the mood to brainstorm or there are too many words to type quickly, I want to talk. And I can talk for hours.

And the last one. Night. I tend to be fuzzy first thing in the morning. And after that I’m just slowly building my coherency. But by the time night rolls around, I’m raring to go—sometimes to the detriment of sleep.

What’s next for you?
I have a book in my Chicago’s Finest series coming out at the end of 2017. I’m really excited about that. My characters are all in Vegas. So that was super fun—creating a Costa Rican based hotel on the Vegas strip with a gorgeous head of security. And he is gorgeous. I might have fallen in love just a little (don’t tell my husband—oh wait, he based on my husband—so go ahead.)

From there, I’m planning on continuing with the Ritter U series. The next book is about Gabi, the gorgeous Latina that makes Parker’s head ache. Gabi’s life is falling apart and she doesn’t have the energy to deal with guys—not even her best friend’s gorgeous older brother, Mike. Too bad he has other plans.

The Makeup Test
Vanessa M. Knight
Publication date: April 4th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance

Parker Breckinridge is a sophomore in college and already running her own internet cosmetics business. She doesn’t apologize for her successes—or anything else. She’s worked hard to get what where she is. She’s had to. It’s not like there was anything else in her life, despite her rich family.
Cade Adler doesn’t do relationships—especially relationships with uptight princesses. Been there. Done that. Destroyed the T-shirt. Besides, what with working full-time as a police officer and going to school, who has time for women? Not him.
With his tattoos and overall attitude, Cade is exactly what Parker doesn’t need. And between her father’s money and her piss-poor attitude, Parker is exactly what Cade doesn’t need.
So why is it they can’t stay apart?

Author Bio:
Vanessa M. Knight has always enjoyed writing and once she found romance, she was addicted. She props her laptop in the suburbs of Chicago with her husband, son and menagerie of 4-pawed, claw-babies (AKA cats and dogs.) That laptop has partnered-in-crime to write contemporary romances with a dash of humor and splash of snark.
 When she has a few moments to spare, you can find her singing off key (but she assures us it’s still considered singing), reading, kickboxing or killing a few brain cells as she stares at the many sitcoms and dramas available through the Internet and TV.
For more information on Vanessa, including her Internet haunts, contest updates, and details on her upcoming novels, please visit her website at

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