Welcome to the one hundred and twelfth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, directors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. Today’s is with children’s, YA and adult author Stacy Juba. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate the author further. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here.
Morgen: Hello Stacy. Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
Stacy: I’ve been writing stories since third grade, and by fifth grade, I was writing my own mystery series. I wrote my first novel at 16 and it was published by Avon Books when I was 18. After college, I wrote for newspapers, magazines and newsletters for several years. Writing has always been my strength.
Morgen: Wow, you’re so lucky you knew what you wanted to do when you were young, so many people don’t (including me). What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Stacy: I mainly write adult mystery / romantic suspense novels, but I’ve also written young adult novels and children’s picture books. I pursue whatever story idea most excites me at the time.
Morgen: Me too which is why I end up doing a bit of everything. What have you had published to-date? Can you remember where you saw your first books on the shelves?
Stacy: I saw my first book, Face-Off, on the shelf in a local chain store when I was 18 years old. I remember another time being at the mall with my friends and seeing the book on the shelf. That was quite a rush. My books published to date are: my adult mystery novels Twenty-Five Years Ago Today and Sink or Swim and my children’s picture books The Flag Keeper and Victoria Rose and the Big Bad Noise. My upcoming titles are the young adult novels Dark Before Dawn, Face-Off (which will be a reissue of my out-of-print novel), and Offsides (Face-Off: Book 2), as well as the picture book Sticker Shoes, and the children’s e-book bundle Teddy Bear Town, which will showcase all three of my picture books in one download.
Morgen: ‘Sticker Shoes’ sounds fun. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Stacy: I do a great deal of marketing. I have a web site, blog, and am active on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads. I regularly contact reviewers and do several interviews per month for bloggers, newspapers and / or radio shows. I brand myself as a mystery author, and also as an author who has books for everyone in the family, from children, to tweens and teens, to adults.
Morgen: Some authors pick marketing as their least favourite but it sounds like you enjoy it. We shall see when we get to the favourite / least favourite. Have you won or been shortlisted in any competitions and do you think they help with a writer’s success?
Stacy: I was a 2005 recipient of the William F. Deeck Malice Domestic Grant, which was awarded at the Agatha Awards Banquet as part of the Malice Domestic Convention. I received a $1,000 grant to use toward pursuing my career as a mystery writer. Winning this award definitely helped me to get to the next level with my career. I do think that contests are worth entering, as long as there isn’t an entry fee.
Morgen: And there are surprisingly many. Most do charge but if it’s in a writing magazine then it’s likely to be legitimate. I agree don’t hand over (chunks of) money unless you’re sure. Do you have an agent Stacy? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Stacy: I had an agent for nearly three years, and it didn’t lead to publication at that time, though the agent worked very hard on my behalf. I wound up selling my books on my own. I don’t think agents are vital to an author’s success, with the way the publishing industry has changed in the past couple of years. Now authors can self-publish to Kindle and have their books available to thousands of readers. I would like an agent at some point for audio rights, foreign rights, and film rights.
Morgen: That’s a good point, let’s hope one sees your online presence and snaps you up. So your books are available as eBooks? What was your experience of that process? And do you read eBooks?
Stacy: Yes, I hold the digital rights to my books and have been independently publishing the e-book versions. There was a learning curve, but it turned out to be a much easier process to format and upload e-books than I had anticipated. I work with Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. Thousands of readers have downloaded my e-books in 2011 and I am optimistic that this will continue to grow as more people buy e-readers.
I read both print books and e-books. I have over a 100 books on my Sony Touch, and I’m about to buy a Kindle also.
Morgen: I went with a non-Kindle (with the knowledge that my editor Rachel has one so we can test most if not all formats) but I may end up getting one as well, just to be sure). Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Stacy: I had many years of rejection between my sale of Face-Off as a teenager to my sale of Twenty-Five Years Ago Today as an adult – about 17 years of writing and submitting different manuscripts. It was a long, tough haul and it was frustrating. There was a lot of blood, sweat and tears. I never thought I would say this, but in hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t get published again until 2009. It’s so much easier to promote a book now, via the Internet and social networking, and with the growth of e-books, it’s much easier to reach readers now than it was five or 10 years ago.
Morgen: Me too. I’m rubbish at sending things out but am so glad I waited until I felt ready. Even the novels I presented this year I realise aren’t my best work, which is probably a good reason why they didn’t get taken up. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Stacy: I released a couple of new books, including a re-issue of Face-Off and my young adult paranormal thriller Dark Before Dawn. I’ve been releasing all of my books as audiobooks for Amazon, Audible, and iTunes which has been a great experience. I’m currently finishing up a romantic comedy.
Morgen: Do you manage to write every day? What’s the most you’ve written in a day?
Stacy: I manage to do something related to my writing career every day. It might be social networking, blogging, doing an interview, editing a book, proofreading or formatting a book. I’m taking a break from actual writing until next spring, when all of my books in production will be launched and available to readers. It will be fun to work on something new. My best writing day would be about 5-6 pages in a day.
Morgen: There’s always so much to do isn’t there but if you love it then it’s not a chore. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Stacy: I always do an extensive outline. The outline for my work-in-progress, the first in a planned mystery series, is over 20 pages.
Morgen: I think that does help with a novel which is probably why I prefer short stories; I’m no planner. Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Stacy: I often use baby name books to choose first names and telephone directories to find last names. I also fill out extensive character charts for my main characters and the most important supporting characters. My charts are about seven typed pages. I think it’s important to get into the viewpoint character’s head so that the reader understands why this character is saying certain things or acting in a certain way. Before the author can convey that information to the reader in a believable way, the author has to do his / her homework.
Morgen: That’s interesting, your character charts, author Ditrie Sanchez and I will be talking about exactly that in her forthcoming guest blog which will go out on Thursday 7th September. Who is your first reader Stacy – who do you first show your work to?
Stacy: My first reader is usually my critique partner Carol. We met in Sisters in Crime and have been critiquing each other’s work for nearly 9 years.
Morgen: That’s brilliant – sadly Rachel doesn’t write as much as I do (she’s a publisher’s feedback panellist amongst other things) so we can’t swap but she has a reader’s head on which for me is just as valuable. Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Stacy: I did a lot of rewriting when I started out years ago, but now that I’ve gotten into long outlines and character charts, my writing is more fully formed. I edit as I go along and I give it a thorough edit once the first draft is complete, but the rewrites are a lot less than they used to be, thank goodness.
Morgen: Me too, it’s practice. Like playing the piano – the more you play, the less duff notes you’ll (hopefully) hear. Do you write on paper or do you prefer a computer?
Stacy: I prefer a computer. I do carry a notebook around with me sometimes and scribble parts of a scene, but I’m a lot more productive when I’m typing.
Morgen: Me too. What sort of music do you listen to when you write?
Stacy: I don’t listen to music when I write or work on the computer as it distracts me. But in general, my favorites are Aerosmith, Bon Jovi and Def Leppard.
Morgen: I saw Def Leppard in concert in the 80s, they were great. Fond memories. And I love Bon Jovi’s ‘twisted’ songs especially ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’ and Aerosmith’s (collaborative) ‘Walk this way’. What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Stacy: Definitely third person. I’ve never tried first or second. When I write, everything just comes out in third.
Morgen: Wow. Regular readers of these interviews will know my passion for second person but having never done first person isn’t necessarily a bad thing as I know that it’s been done to death and agents are fed up with it… well, the ones I’ve spoken to certainly. Do you use prologues / epilogues? What do you think of the use of them?
Stacy: I use epilogues sometimes, to wrap up the story, but I rarely use prologues. I find that prologues slow the story before it’s even begun and that it’s better to just start with chapter one.
Morgen: Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Stacy: I have boxes full of young adult novels that I wrote in my late teens and early twenties, and those will never see the light of day. The characters weren’t fleshed out and there wasn’t enough conflict.
Morgen: Maybe if you have time to go back… What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Stacy: I would recommend finding a critique group or a few critique partners, taking a few writing classes with published authors, and reading some books about writing and editing to get your manuscript as strong as possible. Then learn about all the options available to you, such as self-publishing on Amazon. Whether you wind up publishing with a large publisher, a small press, independently, or some combination of the above, you’ll also need to give yourself a crash course in book promotion and marketing.
Morgen: Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are a great way to start. What do you like to read?
Stacy: I’ve been enjoying the books of Claire Cook, Meg Cabot, Claire Cook, Darcia Helle, and Maria Savva lately.
Morgen: What do you do when you’re not writing?
Stacy: I’m spending time with my family, working on client newsletters, reading, or watching movies with my husband.
Morgen: Are there any writing-related websites and/or books that you find useful and would recommend?
Stacy: I helped to start the site Bestseller Bound, http://www.bestsellerbound.com, which is run by indie author Darcia Helle. It’s a great place for indie and small press authors to network with one another and reach readers. There is a lot of great discussion about books, writing, and marketing. Coffee Time Romance & More and The Romance Reviews are great sites for romance writers.
Morgen: Ooh not heard of those but could be because I’m in the UK. In which country are you based and do you find this a help or hindrance with letting people know about your work?
Stacy: I’m in the U.S. and that’s where my main audience is. I sell some e-books every month in the UK, but I’d like to sell more there.
Morgen: Let’s hope some of my compatriots are reading this.
Stacy: Twitter does help a bit with getting the word out to readers in different countries, but I’ll need to look into more opportunities than just Twitter to reach readers in other countries. For example, when my Face-Off hockey novels come out, I’ll need to get the word out to people in Canada since hockey is so popular there. It will take some research to find the best avenues.
Morgen: There’s a nice long list at http://www.canauthors.org/links/writingassociations.html which may be a start. You mentioned Twitter, are you on any forums or other networking sites? If so, how invaluable do you find them?
Stacy: I’m on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads, and I hang out on a lot of forums such as Bestseller Bound, Coffee Time Romance & More, and the Kindle Boards. I find them extremely valuable. I’ve met readers on these sites, as well as book reviewers, bloggers and interviewers who have helped me to promote my books. Out of the social networking sites, I’d say that Twitter is by far much more helpful than Facebook.
Stacy: You can visit my web site: http://www.stacyjuba.com to find reviews, excerpts, book trailers, retailers, my blog and free downloads. I also have a newsletter that comes out 3 times per year and you can find the sign-up form by clicking the contact tab. You can also follow me on Twitter and Facebook.
Morgen: Wow, you are busy. What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Stacy: I think in the future, now that technology has come so far, writers will continue to be more in control of their careers than they were in the past. Before, they were dependent on publishing companies and agents to allow them magic access into the world of publishing. Now, books are becoming products and writers are becoming entrepreneurs. If you publish a quality product and have marketing skills, you can get it into the hands of consumers.
Morgen: Isn’t that great? Finally, do you have an extract of your writing you could include?
Stacy: Here is an excerpt from my adult mystery novel with a touch of romance, Sink or Swim.
Cassidy sat poised in her chair as former contestants filed onto the soundstage at WBC in New York. Together, the studio audience and television viewers had watched the recorded footage of her walking the plank. Gabriel would now interview the competitors from the inaugural season one final time.
More importantly, he would announce her prize. If it erased most of her debts, then it would at least make this whole embarrassing experience worthwhile. Cassidy’s heart kicked in her chest and sweat moistened her brow.
As one of her old teammates entered, her heart rate skyrocketed for a different reason. Josh Sanchioni slid into a bucket seat, carrying himself stiffer than normal in his sharp gray suit. Studio lights caught his sun-bleached strawberry blonde waves, brightening the reddish gold tints.
Cassidy slipped her gaze to his leather shoes. If Josh hadn’t been engaged, they could have been an item. Instead, they’d been good friends until that one evening when the cameras were off and they almost kissed. They’d both realized their mistake and backed away. Things were strained until Josh walked the plank a week later.
Tonight, not only did Cassidy have to face Josh, she would probably meet his fiancée.
Morgen: Ooh… Thank you Stacy.
Although Stacy Juba specializes in writing adult mysteries, she has also authored books for children and young adults – she pursues whatever story ideas won’t leave her alone. Stacy’s titles include the Amazon bestselling adult mystery novels Twenty-Five Years Ago Today and Sink or Swim, the mystery short story Laundry Day, the children’s picture books The Flag Keeper and Victoria Rose and the Big Bad Noise, and the upcoming young adult novels Dark Before Dawn, Face-Off and Offsides. She is a former journalist with more than a dozen writing awards to her credit.
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