Pen Friends ~ A treat and an inspiration for you today, Laura Frances, Indie Author of Slave, is here to share her writing tips and publishing journey with us!
SP: Hi Laura! Thanks for joining us. First, please tell us a bit of who are you and how long have you have been writing?
Thank you so much for having me. I’m thrilled to be featured here on The Spinning Pen!
I’m a wife and mom currently living in beautiful Japan. We teach English at a school run by a local church. On the commute from the States to our home here, we hauled over 150 pounds of books. It’s safe to say I have a problem, because yes, I do also own a fully stocked Kindle.
My love of writing started in first grade. Our teacher would have us write and illustrate stories, and would then ‘publish’ them by using cardboard and wallpaper to make covers, author pages…the works. Teachers are truly world changers. I continued loving creative writing assignments through high school, but after marrying and having kids at age 21 and on, I didn’t do much for years.
In about 2010 I developed an insatiable love of books. I devoured stories one after another non-stop in a way I never had previously. A few years later I purchased legal pads and started scratching out words. I’m sure I looked like I’d lost it, but I couldn’t stop.
SP: So let’s talk about your debut, SLAVE. Where did you get your inspiration and idea for the book?
Originally SLAVE was a dare made by me for me. I wanted to write something for the YA demographic that could stand up with other well-loved books, but be clean enough for all varieties of people to enjoy.
The process of writing SLAVE became very cathartic, and my personal struggles with social anxiety and fear, and the freedom and peace I’d found, began to fill the story. That is the first inspiration.
Another one, which greatly influenced the setting, was watching a documentary about a region of China where the smog from factories is so thick a little girl admitted she’d never seen a real star. As someone who loves to gaze at the stars, this struck a chord with me.
Lastly (for the sake of keeping this short), it was important to me to create a different kind of ‘heroine’. In Hannah’s case, great physical acts of heroism didn’t make sense for her, especially in book one, where she is mentally battling to be free from fear conditioning and the lies she’d been fed. But empathy can change a life. Forgiveness can alter a person’s course. These are the things I wanted to highlight.
SP: You are close to finishing Book 2, yeah? How is writing your second book different from the first?
SO MUCH HARDER! Good grief.
I think the issue is that Book One was, like I said before, extremely cathartic. Though the whole process took a year, the story itself came so easily. With Book Two, I still love the story, love the characters, love the purpose…but we’re in the second act now, and it’s much more intense. The revolution is winding up, and it’s my first go at this kind of thing. I just find it incredibly intimidating every time I sit down to write.
SP: What has your self-publishing journey been like? What are some of the most difficult/most rewarding aspects of self-publishing? Will you seek agent representation in the future?
I leaned heavily on free online tutorials and training when I was getting started. When I became serious about writing, I spent hours and hours watching YouTube videos by other authors, iTunes U videos, lectures, etc. (I still watch these all the time.) I kept notes. I read more books than I can count. I had a lot to learn, and I was very eager.
There is a lot of trial and error in self-publishing. I am continuously reading articles on how to do this or that, and in the beginning became very active in Facebook groups for writers.
I had no budget for publishing SLAVE. Absolutely zero to spend. I honestly didn’t know what I was getting myself into. My publishing experience was, I think, exceptionally challenging. I couldn’t hire an editor or cover designer. So I learned how to do those things too. I did have awesome beta readers who caught a few things that I’d missed.
There is a lot of pressure on indies to produce work that meets the standard of books you might find from a traditional publisher. But you don’t have a company of individuals to each focus all their attention on one part of the process. So it’s hard work, and I do recommend if you CAN hire out for some of it, please do.
Editing was easily the most difficult, but also the most rewarding when it was all said and done…because I’d somehow managed to do it. Needless to say, by the time I clicked ‘publish’, I cried. A lot.
As for seeking agent representation, I am open to the idea. But I also love the freedom I experience in self-publishing, so there would be a lot to consider.
SP: What are some books that have inspired you along the way/as a child? What are you reading now?
Right now, I’m focusing on reading books by other Indie authors. I’m currently reading a book called Reclaimed by Jennifer Rodewald and loving it! It’s cozy, heartfelt, and full of intention.
Books that have inspired me…hmm. As a child, I read all the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books. LOVE them. I also enjoyed Frank Peretti’s Cooper Kids series. The first book I binge read as an adult was The Hobbit. I read it on a fall afternoon drive from New York to Maine. Tolkien’s skills as a writer awakened some buried need in me for stories.
I devoured The Hunger Games trilogy and the Divergent trilogy. Those books exposed me to today’s dystopian trends, though that’s not to say I follow them all. My biggest take away from The Hunger Games was a harrowing sense of how our choices impact not only our lives but those around us. And of course the destructive nature in humanity that, unchecked, can become somehow acceptable as time passes.
Veronica Roth had a large impact on my writing style. I feel like I developed my first person POV style sometime after reading Tris’ voice so clearly and feeling everything she felt.
Lastly, I have to also mention Julianne Donaldson. She writes Proper Historical Romance, and her characters are so alive!
SP: Deep POV. You are quite good at taking the reader into the characters mind. Any tips on how you developed your craft?
Thank you! I first read a ton of books written in a very deep first person POV. I read to study, not just enjoy, so I was dissecting everything. What worked. What didn’t. What pulled me out of the story. Dialogue tag usage. How characters talked to each other. I could go on forever with a list of different technical aspects that I focused on with each read through. I didn’t go to college, so this was part of my crash course in creative writing. I’m still learning.
A few quick tips from what I’ve learned for anyone interested in this kind of POV might be:
- Keep the MC’s inner dialogue short and to the point. Less is more. Too many fancy analogies or unending descriptions will break the flow and your reader will start skimming.
- Be realistic with reactions, both physical and emotional. If your reader can relate, they’ll feel empathy for your character. But unrealistic reactions make readers roll their eyes.
- Spend time in your characters mind before you write. I will spend hours listening to music while I clean or cook, letting my imagination wander and feeling what my characters might in different situations. I’ll often go to bed listening to my playlist when I’m working out a specific scene.
Hope that helps!
SP: What kind of a writer are you? Do you make outlines? Journal? Story Boards? What works for you?
I want to outline. I daydream about it. But so far, I haven’t been able to develop that skill. I wrote SLAVE front to back without an outline. I do scribble notes and work out different character issues on paper. I even have a sketchbook (I don’t really draw) where I was trying to visualize scenes.
I love movies and film scores and acting, so stories tend to come to mind very visually for me. I’ll be listening to a song and certain scenes or emotions will start playing like a movie in my head. I think a lot of writers are this way today. For me I feel like my best writing comes out of the emotions stirred by a song or film I watched.
Probably not the best advice though. If you can outline…do that! J
SP: Writing Tribes/Groups/Critique Partners–are you part of something like this? How has this been helpful to you? (Optional!)
Facebook writing groups have helped me tremendously. I’m always amazed by the wealth of generosity and encouragement you can find in the Indie author community.
SP: What’s your go-to? Fav place to write? Fav drink while writing? (Optional!)
It’s such a romantic idea to sit in a café and sip something yummy in between paragraphs. But it never works out for me. I’m very self-conscious by nature. So my go-to place to write is my dining room table or the couch. And ALWAYS while sipping iced matcha.
SP: Where can we learn more about you and your books?
The best place to connect with me right now is my Facebook page: www.facebook.com/Lfranny
You can check SLAVE (Book One) here: http://amzn.to/2pBTMLd
I’m also on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Lfrannyfran
And I have a blog that I’m trying to get better at: www.laurafranny.blogspot.com
SP: Thank you for sharing and good luck with book 2!!!
Nova, signing off