1.When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve been writing books since I was six years old. However, I never dreamed of publishing anything until my big brother persuaded me to self-publish a novella I wrote in eleventh grade. (Looking back, HUGE embarrassment! LOL.) I continued to write throughout my early twenties, and considered myself a writer and blogger, but still never dreamed of traditional publication. I didn’t think I was even capable of finishing a full-length novel until I actually did with The Duchess Quest.
2.What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
When my son is in pre-school, I use those vital hours to write. I also write on weekends and evenings. When I’m taking care of my son and not in a position to concentrate on a manuscript, I monitor my business emails and social media from my phone.
3.What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
In terms of the content of my writing, it’s probably the humor. Not everyone gets it. It’s subtle. It involves anachronisms and modern sayings slipped into the otherwise historical atmospheres of my novels. It also involves a certain mocking of the characters…I never let them take each other too seriously. And some of my characters themselves also tend to be quirky.
4.Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
It’s a conglomeration of a lifetime of influences, interests, fascinations and favorite films and books. I start with the question: “What inspires me today?” and run with that. I will say, if I’d never seen films by Mel Brooks, Disney, Monty Python, “The Princess Bride”, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, or Pirates of the Caribbean, I probably never would’ve written my stories.
5.When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I wrote my first picture book at age six. Then my first novella at sixteen. Finally, I wrote my first complete novel at twenty-four.
6.What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I’m also a freelance editor, book reviewer and blogger, musician (piano, vocals and production), and avid podcast junkie. Apart from fiction, I love to read about spirituality, metaphysics, skepticism and philosophy. Jesus and Richard Dawkins are both my homies, simultaneously.
7.What does your family think of your writing?
They are amazingly supportive and always have been, since day one. My mom and dad read everything I write – even the sex scenes (which is pretty embarrassing, but they never seem to mind). On days that I get a bad review or low sales report, and just want to quit and give up writing forever, my husband absolutely forbids me and forces me back in my office to keep working. Everyone in my family believes in me and sees (often with far more clarity than I do) that it’s my calling. It’s amazing. I’m so thankful for them.
8.What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
That I could fall in love with a character unexpectedly. I think that’s why The Duchess Quest still feels so personal to me. I had other ideas for the heroine’s love interests when I started writing the book, but the villainous comic relief in the story actually jumped from the pages and stole my heart. That character changed everything for me. I thought I was in control of the story. I wasn’t.
9.How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
To date, I’ve written nine books. The Duchess Quest will always be #1, and The Duchess Inheritance goes hand-in-hand as the follow-up. But I must say, my current favorite is the one I just finished writing, which is not yet published – The Duchess’s Descendants. It’s the third book in the Jordinia series, featuring the next generation and a whole new cast of colorful characters. It’s laugh-out-loud funny and I just love it.
10.Speaking of favorites, which is your favorite character, couple or thing to write about?
Jon Cosmith is, by a landslide, my favorite character. One reviewer described him as a “charming bastard.” Spot-on. He is slimy and despicable…yet irresistible, and a better person than he realizes. He does some horrible things, but he redeems himself – especially in the second book. I loved writing any scene with him, especially when things became romantically tense. *Spoiler Warning: Just as much, I also loved writing about his son, Drew, in The Duchess’s Descendants. Drew is so much like Jon, but then again quite different, his own person. I loved resurrecting Jon through his son, yet still creating a whole new character with his own love story and destiny.
11.Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?
Become a good editor. Don’t be afraid to delete irrelevant text, even entire chapters. Wordiness is your enemy. Always remember: less is more. I had to learn that the hard way, earlier in my career.
12.Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
I do receive an occasional email or Facebook message, or of course, I see my Goodreads and Amazon reviews. It always makes me feel great when they connected with, understood and enjoyed the book. I can’t win everyone, and not everyone “gets” my writing style, but that’s life. I write for my heart, because it demands it, and for the people who text or email me and insist, “More, please. Now.”
13.What do you think makes a good story?
I like atmosphere and world-building, and strong, distinct, lovable characters playing out relationships in that world. The stakes should be high enough for us to be worried, and the characters should be realistically flawed, yet have qualities that make them lovable, redemptive, or at least fun to hate.
14.What have you found most helpful in marketing your book? What have you found least helpful? Is there anything you want to warn authors to stay far, far away from?
Ooh. Good question. There is no easy or quick-fix to marketing your book if you’re an indie author. You have to just chip away at it, piece by piece, every single day. The biggest mistake is to hope for or expect overnight success. I’ve been building my author platform online and on social media for just about two years so far, have published eight books between three publishers, been nominated for awards, reached bestselling status in my category…but I’m still nowhere near where I need or want to be.
I’ve been told the secret to marketing in any business is your emailing list. I’ve also found that giving away stuff for free (that doesn’t cost you anything, like digital downloads) and networking with other authors in person (at things like local book conventions) are pretty helpful for spreading the word about who you are. In this industry, other indie authors and bloggers are your best friends, and you’ve got to stick together and support each other. In terms of what to stay away from – don’t waste your money on pay-per-click ads; beware that not all blog tour companies are created equal; and don’t advertise like a spambot on social media. Just be yourself and post interesting or pretty things that other people might like.
15. Who created your cover art? If you did it yourself, could you explain how you did it? If someone else did it, how did you hear about their services? What was it like working with them?
I’ve had a few different cover designers. My first publisher, 48fourteen, used a fantastic designer named Amanda Matthews of AMDesignStudios.net. I couldn’t be happier with her amazing work. Fellow 48fourteen author Lyndsay Johnson designed my cover for The Red Pearl, and lastly, 48fourteen got the cover for The Wrong Prince from a company called Ampersand. As per my publication with Limitless, Capturing the Captain, its enchanting cover was designed by the popular Deranged Doctor Designs. If you’re on a budget, you can design your own eBook covers on Canva.com for free, with only the cost of stock photography.
16. Do you have an editor? Did you edit your own manuscript? Do you have advice for other authors editing it themselves or hiring someone else?
You MUST have an editor. ALWAYS. Otherwise, readers will detect all the errors and throw the book (or their Kindles) against the wall! Do not self-edit; I guarantee it will not be error-proof. Even the best writers and editors in the world still need editors. So, as if my answer weren’t obvious (LOL!), yes, I have two wonderful editors through 48fourteen and Limitless, and I myself am also a freelance editor. Do not forego an editor, but don’t break the bank for one, either. I offer extremely affordable editing at a flat-rate of just $175 for regular-sized manuscripts. I also edit via the company Break Through Author (I don’t know their rates yet; I do know they’re affordable).
17. Where have you decided to publish your books? (Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, etc.)
My publishers are currently 48fourteen and Limitless Publishing. (I also own my own imprint for a few pet projects, called Elphame Press.) Most of my books are published via CreateSpace, with distribution to Amazon, B&N, Books-A-Million, and all the major online retailers. As per my eBooks, they are exclusively published on Kindle (Kindle Direct Publishing/KDP). I do have Nook & iBooks copies to send to reviewers, but since hardly any sales come through those outlets, the eBooks are now exclusive to KDP so that they can be enrolled in Kindle Unlimited.
18. Did you format your own book? Did you run into any trouble formatting it? Do you have any advice to fellow authors about formatting their books?
I formatted my three publications for Elphame Press, and it was a major headache. I accomplished it, but I don’t recommend it for the layperson. Break Through Author does amazing formatting and is extremely affordable (way more affordable than paying CreateSpace, and better quality too). For my books with 48fourteen and Limitless, the publishers did the formatting.
Get C.K. Brooke books here and go read them and leave a review or two!