writing

Interview with Professional Editor Kristen Tate

For this month’s post, I am pleased to interview professional editor Kristen Tate. I hired Kristen for developmental editing, copy editing, and very soon, the interior formatting of my second novel. I am a pantser – that is, I plan very little as I write. This writing style most often requires many edits after the first draft is finished.  In my case, I had great difficulty with both the characters and plot and was at a loss on how to refine and improve it. I needed help and was worried I would have to abandon the project if I couldn’t make it work. Fortunately, with Kristen’s guidance, direction, and tremendous patience, I was able to polish the writing into a finished manuscript that I am satisfied with. I asked Kristen to share her experiences and insights in the writing world in an interview and she agreed.

1. Q. Please tell me about your background and how you came to enter the field of freelance copyediting?

Reading has always been the thing I loved most, so I looked for a job that would pay me to read. At first, I thought I would be an academic and I got a PhD in English, which was a (mostly) wonderful experience. My job this week is to read Bleak House and Paradise Lost and write about them and show up in class and say smart things about them? Yes, please! But then I had to face the challenging realities of the academic job market. I had a toddler and a baby at that point, and it wasn’t going to be easy for me to relocate somewhere for a job. After a while, I started doing pro bono editing work and exploring jobs in publishing, as well as getting freelance work as a copywriter. I had a client who was self-publishing a book, and that was the first time I realized that I would be able to build a viable freelance career focused on book editing. I took some additional courses to hone my copyediting and developmental editing skills and started to build my business, little by little.

2. Q. I saw your name on Joanna Penn’s list of copyeditors. I hired you because I thought you did an excellent job on my manuscript’s sample edit and your price was reasonable. How do you stand out in the large field of copyediting freelancers?

I try to be authentic and relatable in all of my communications, whether that’s a blog post or an off-the-cuff tweet. We get so many generic marketing messages these days that simply sounding like a real human can help you stand out. I also draw from my training and experience as a teacher. My job is to help authors improve the book we are currently working on together, but my mission is to teach them skills they can use in every piece of writing they will do in the future. My clients learn to trust me, and at least half of my projects during any given year are from repeat clients or from client referrals.

3. Q. What do you enjoy most about your work? What do you dislike about it?

I love working with words and stories every day. My job is to make sure authors tell the best story they can and that readers have the best experience possible. What could be better than that? I love that I can set my own schedule and work processes. The downside will be familiar to anyone who freelances: I’m also in charge of invoicing, accounting, taxes, website maintenance, and all kinds of other boring things that just have to get done.

4. Q. I believe I speak for many writers when I say that I wish I could write full-time or have a job using my writing skills instead of writing whenever I have free time. What would you advise writers like myself?

This is something I have come to believe as I have gotten older: All of us have a vision of a perfect future life – if only I could do X, then I would be happy. The truth is, if you were doing X you would still have a lot of the same challenges, they would just take different forms. That said, it’s easier now than ever before to build a career around writing skills. But you’ve got to be self-disciplined and realistic and learn how to be a freelancer who can make an income. Those are different skills than writing skills, and not everyone wants to learn them.

5. Q. How did you receive training for copyediting?

I started by taking the professional editing certificate sequence at the University of California at Berkeley and then supplemented that with developmental editing courses offered by the Editorial Freelancers Association. I also learn a lot from my thousands of virtual editing colleagues, whom I’ve met in online forums, through professional associations like the Editorial Freelancers Association, and at editing conferences like ACES. And I read and read and read. Writing craft books, grammar books, novels, business books – all of it teaches you to be a better editor.

6. Q. Please tell me about the level of difficulty entering this field? Do many copyeditors work for publishing houses or other related companies full-time?

It’s not necessarily hard to enter the field as a freelancer, but it can take quite a while to find your footing. Many copyeditors do work full time in house, though a great deal of that work is outsourced to freelancers now. If you live in a place where there are publishing companies, getting some in-house experience can be really valuable, and you may find that you love the work and want to stay. I did an internship at Chronicle Books and enjoyed every minute of it. It’s exciting to walk into a bookstore and see a book you helped with on the shelf. I do occasional work for publishers, but most of my work is with independent authors, and I think that’s where the growth will be for freelance editors. 

7. Q. How do you find the self-publishing field today? Is it flourishing? Are too many writers publishing their work unedited and thereby harming the reputation of those who choose to self-publish?

I think the self-publishing field is starting to mature. There is so much good information out there these days and a lot of tools and services that can help writers put out a professional product that is indistinguishable from a traditionally published book. There are also a lot of authors who have had traditionally published books and are moving some or all of their work to self-publishing, which helps raise the bar and standards for everyone. 

8. Q. Do you do other work besides copyediting?

I also do developmental editing (also called content editing), which involves helping authors fine-tune the big-picture aspects of their books like plot and character arcs and narration. But editing is my full-time job. I’m working on a novel manuscript as well, but it may never see the light of day. I see myself as an editor/reader first and a writer second.

9. Q. What books do you recommend for writers? For those interested in copyediting?

I spent 2019 reading a different writing craft book every week, so I have a lot of recommendations! Writers can check out my blog archive at https://www.thebluegarret.com/novel-study, and I’m also gathering the reviews into a little book called All the Words: A Year of Reading about Writing, which should be out in February 2020. For anyone interested in copyediting, I’d recommend The Copyeditor’s Handbook and Workbook by Amy Einsohn and Marilyn Schwartz (look for the most recent edition, published in 2019), The Subversive Copyeditor by Carol Fisher Saller, and The Smooth-Sailing Freelancer by Jake Poinier.

10. Q. Are there writing organizations that you have had dealings with that you can recommend to writers who would like to improve their writing and/or marketing skills?

I’m a huge fan of podcasts. Writers are knowledgeable and generous with their knowledge, and you can learn so much from their experiences. My favorites are Write-Minded, with Brooke Warner and Grant Faulkner; the Story Grid Editors Roundtable; the Editing Podcast; and, of course, Joanna Penn’s The Creative Penn. Jane Friedman also has remarkable amount of well-organized, in-depth information for writers on her website.

For writers looking to build a virtual or in-person community, I think participating in one of the NaNoWriMo events and joining a writing circle there can be a great way to start. There are also so many fantastic regional writing conferences, where writers can learn about both the craft and business sides of being an author and can build connections with other writers. I’ll be attending the San Francisco Writers Conference in February on behalf of the Editorial Freelancers Association.

11. Q. Is there anything else you would like to share?

Whether you want to publish a novel or become a book editor, stick with it. Persistence in the face of difficulty, doubt, lack of time, imposter syndrome, and all the other ordinary demons is the thing that will get you where you want to be. You’ll learn along the way, and you won’t regret the time you spent pursuing your passion, whatever the outcome is. I love what Anne Lamott says in Bird by Bird: “Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. That thing you had to force yourself to do—the actual act of writing—turns out to be the best part. It’s like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony. The act of writing turns out to be its own reward.”

Thank you, Kristen for your assistance and willingness to share your wealth of knowledge.

My second novel, The Book of Revelations, a women’s fiction and will hopefully be coming out soon.

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My Interview with Eva Lesko Natiello, Best-Selling Author and Book Marketing Consultant

I attended two BookBaby conferences in Philadelphia and heard author and marketing consultant Eva Lesko Natiello speak at both of them. I was so impressed, not only with the success of her best-selling self-published novel, The Memory Box, but also her generosity in giving other writers very practical and useful tips on book promotion. So I decided she would be a great person to interview for my website.

Q. Please tell me about your background and how you began your writing career.

A. My writing career actually started when I left my first career to start a family. I have always had a daily need to do something creative, and it has taken the shape of many things over the years from painting, singing, sewing, cooking, crafts, etc. I actually had never intended to write a book, but I had just moved to New Jersey from New York City where I was living and working. Moving to the suburbs with young children plopped me into a new social circle of suburban moms. There is a definite way things are done in the suburbs that’s different from the way they ‘re done in the city. When I started writing my novel, I knew instantly that I wanted to set this psychological suspense in a bucolic suburb where the community of stay-at-home moms, a sub-culture all its own, would help highlight the juxtaposition of conformity and deception.

Q. How long were you writing before you began your novel? Did you take classes to polish your writing skills?

A. I basically started writing when I was writing my novel—though I didn’t know I was writing a novel at the time! I actually did take a writing class at the New School when I was about halfway through my novel and needed direction. It was an invaluable experience.

Q. How did you come up with the idea for your novel, The Memory Box?

A. One day I read a story in The New York Times about people Googling themselves. It mentioned that a 17-year-old boy, who was living in Los Angeles, Googled himself and discovered he was on a missing persons list in Canada. He had no idea until he Googled himself, that he was a victim of parent abduction. The fact that someone could find out something so personal about himself from a Google search was a fascinating concept to me.

Q. You have spoken to audiences about your journey to becoming a self-published author. Please explain it here briefly because I know other writers will be inspired by your story.

A. To be honest, self-publishing was a back-up plan. I had hoped to be traditionally published. But after three years of querying agents and receiving 81 rejections, I had to make a decision: give up and tuck the manuscript away, or learn everything I could about self-publishing and publish on my own. I had no idea it was going to find so many readers and hit the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists. So many wonderful things have happened along the way. None of which would have happened if that manuscript were still on my computer.   

    Q. How were you able to promote your self-published book so that it became a New York Times bestseller?

A. That took a lot of hard work! And a good deal of time. Building sales momentum takes time when you’re an indie and you’re wearing all the hats. I started marketing in my community where people want me to succeed and I received a ton of support. One of the things I did early on, in the first year especially, was to get book clubs excited about The Memory Box. It’s a great book club read and people love to talk about it—mostly because it has a shocking ending. I attended as many book club discussions as I could. To date, I’ve attended over 200!

Q. Do you think the publishing world is slowly beginning to accept self-published authors or is there still a great deal of bias?

A. Oh definitely! Every day you hear about another traditionally published author coming over to the indie side. That’s when you know there’s real value and power to self-publishing.

Q. You have your own business helping writers promote their work. What types of services do you offer?

A. I help authors prepare to self-publish and share everything I do with my own books. I also coach authors on book marketing—giving them the tips and tools they need to increase visibility for their books in order to find readers and sell books.

Q. What type of authors should consider investing in a publicist? Is a marketing strategy always needed?

A. There’s definitely a lot of value in publicity, whether that’s with traditional media, book bloggers, influencers, etc. Before hiring a publicist, an author should consider how commercial their book is, or if it has a unique hook, or perhaps, if writing non-fiction, if the topic is newsworthy.

I also want to add that whether an author hires a marketing consultant or not, every author needs a marketing strategy. It’s impossible for a book to find its readers, gain traction in regards to sales, and have any hope for visibility without marketing. There are just too many books published in any given year. And if you’re an indie author, it’s even harder for your book to get noticed. But once authors learn a few targeted marketing tools and strategies appropriate for their book, genre and for them as an author, it feels incredibly empowering to know that they are moving the sales needle.

Q.  What common mistakes do you see beginning authors making that you would like to warn them about?

A. I recently published an article on Medium titled: (Mostly undiscussed) Advice for Beginning Authors. You can read it at https://writingcooperative.com/mostly-undiscussed-advice-for-beginning-authors-73f31e9e869d. 

Q. Are there particular books you recommend to help writers develop their craft?

A. I really like Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King.

 Q. Please share some trends you are noticing in the book industry.

A. I see trade authors self-publishing and I see self-published authors publishing some trade books. So, what’s emerging is the hybrid author: someone who publishes in more than one way.

Recently, I had a phone consultation with Eva about a book cover design for my new novel. She provided me a wealth of tips and information.  If you are a writer, I highly recommend her services and advice. To sign up for her newsletter, go to https://evanatiello.com/.

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Book Review: Dreyer’s English

I was an unusual kid in school – I loved English grammar. I still remember diagramming sentences to demonstrate my understanding of the different parts of speech. Reading Dreyer’s English brought me back to the days of my high school English classes.

Of course, reading an entire book about straight grammar, style, and punctuation would be dry and boring, even for me. But this book is anything but. Benjamin Dreyer, the copy chief at Random House, gives entertaining and often humorous explanations and comments while writing about proper English usage and style. Dryer writes about words and rules in which people often make mistakes. Some examples include similarly-spelled words like aid and aide, which titles need quotation marks and which require italics, and the frequent mistake of using two words when one is sufficient (For example, the term “free gift” is a redundancy). Dreyer uses famous people, books, TV shows, and songs as examples. Together with his wit, Dreyer’s English a pleasure. While I was reading, I started wishing I became a copy editor myself because he made the rules so fascinating – I would love to work with words on an everyday basis. My only complaint is the footnote symbols are so tiny that I often missed them, so by the time I got to the bottom of the page, I didn’t know which section each footnote was referring to. Overall, it is a handy reference book for everyone.

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Meet Writer/Editor Ben Wolf

I am so excited to write about this year’s Write Stuff Writers Conference that I attended on March 21-23. The Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group (https://greaterlehighvalleywritersgroup.wildapricot.org/) organizes it every year and this was my fifth year going. As always, I learned a lot and enjoyed it immensely. Everyone was so warm and welcoming that I felt I was reuniting with life-long friends.

Author/Editor Ben Wolf was this year’s keynote speaker. He has written and edited over 100 published works. Ben is the founder of Splickety Publishing Group, a magazine that publishes flash fiction. He has written novels and a children’s book. In 2015 he won the Cascade Award (https://oregonchristianwriters.org/2015-cascade-contest-winners/) for his novel, Blood for Blood, and his children’s book, I’d Punch a Lion in His Eye for You, was a Cascade Award winner in 2016 (https://oregonchristianwriters.org/cascade-award-winners-2016/). His concentration is primarily in speculative fiction.

Ben is 33 years old. When I arrived at the conference to find him as the keynote speaker, my first thought was, “How could someone so young teach the attendees, most older than he is, about writing?”

But it turned out he could. He actually taught us quite a lot.

The following are a few pieces of advice from his talk on “The Three Pillars of Storytelling: Your Novel’s High Concept.” He referenced his information from the book Fiction Writing for Dummies by Randy Ingermanson.  In some of the bulleted points, I will be quoting directly from a few of Ben Wolf’s PowerPoint slides.

  • The Goal of Every Story is to deliver a powerful emotional experience.
  • Every story must do at least one of the following: educate, entertain, or persuade.
  1. ) Entertain-writers are required to do research to make sure they are meeting their readers’ expectations, particularly in that genre (e.g. In romance: some combination of love, lust, and conflict).
  2. ) Educate-writers must think of what they want their readers to learn along the way.

3.) Persuade-in the case of “issue” fiction, they must decide what topics they want to change or influence readers’ minds about.

  • There are 5 pillars of writing fiction

1.) Construct a believable setting

2.) Create interesting character

3.) Create a strong plot

4.) Develop a meaningful theme

5.) Do all of it with style

In this blog post, I am going to concentrate on the second pillar-interesting characters.  Ben used examples from the movie Star Wars. For those unfamiliar with the plot, Trance (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0076759/plotsummary), a plot author, summed it up as follows: “Luke Skywalker joins forces with a Jedi Knight, a cocky pilot, a Wookiee and two droids to save the galaxy from the Empire’s world-destroying battle station, while also attempting to rescue Princess Leia from the mysterious Darth Vader.”

  • The best way to hook a reader is with a compelling character. How does a writer achieve this? By knowing their character’s backstory.

1.) Who are they?

2.) Where did they come from?

3.) What happened that shaped who they are today?

4.) What does the character want?

5.) What is their motivation?

The writer must know the following about each character in their story

  1. ) Values-Those things a character holds most strongly to be true. Nothing is more important than. . .  Writers must convey values through action and behavior and make sure their character’s values have potential for conflict.

As an example, Darth Vader’s values were that nothing is more important than power and his son, Luke Skywalker.

2.) Ambition-The one abstract thing your character wants the most in life.  Give each character one ambition per story. What does your character want to gain? Some examples are wealth, power, peace, destruction, healing, and success.

Luke Skywalker’s ambition was to be a hero.

Story Goals-The one concrete thing your character wants in the story. The character must believe this will help him/her achieve or get closer to achieving their ambition. The more specific the writer can be about the character’s story goals, the better. It is essential the reader believes the story goal matters, the character has a chance to achieve their goal, and there is a chance the character may fail.

3.) Han Solo’s story goal was to obtain the money he needed to pay off the bounty on his life from Jabba the Hutt, a powerful gangster in the galaxy who had great influence in both the criminal and political underworld.

Finally, as demonstrated from Trance’s plot summary stated earlier, the author must formulate

  • A simple, one-sentence idea that describes the main conflict of the book.

Ben has spoken at over 40 writers’ conferences to date. I highly recommend any writer striving to improve their craft sign up and listen to his advice. He may be a youngster, but he gives many valuable pointers to writers of all genres.

Authors interested in getting help with their stories can reach out to Ben through his website, www.benwolf.com/editing-services. He offers coaching and editing services and has helped many authors bring their works to publication.

Idelle Kursman is the author of True Mercy, a thriller designed to bring awareness to two issues: families coping with a loved one with autism and the human trafficking crisis. True Mercy is for sale on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IngramSpark, and Smashwords.

Need help with blog content? Please contact me through my website, www.idellekursman.com.

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Interview with Horror Writer Jennifer Sullivan

 

Up-and-Coming Horror Author Jennifer Sullivan

 

In 2017, I attended the first annual BookBaby Independent Authors Conference in Philadelphia. I met Jennifer Sullivan during the orientation and we connected instantly. I wish she lived in my town so we could regularly meet and chat about writing! But alas, she lives in Canada and I live in the U.S., so we stay in touch through social media. Jennifer is a horror writer and is preparing her first novel for publication. It has been well-received by her beta readers and I wanted to interview her for this week’s blog as she gets it ready.

 1. IK: Tell me about your background and what led you to become a full-time writer.

JS: I’ve always dreamed of being an author, but, as so often happens, life got in the way. I started a career as an independent contractor for major retail chains working with Lease Administration departments, reviewing legal documents and writing summaries of them in plain English. My aim had been to earn enough income through my work so that I could support myself as I waited for my writing career to take off. Then both of my parents became ill, my mom with Multiple Sclerosis and my dad with cancer. It was the most difficult time of my life – trying to juggle a career, being a primary caregiver, running my parents’ household and my own, plus all the other things we all deal with. Writing kept me sane through it all. It was my escape from real-world responsibilities and created a bit of time during the day that I could call my own. My mom had been blinded by her disease but wanted to know what I was writing, so I would take my stories to her and read them out loud. She loved being lost in the worlds I created (even if she wasn’t a big fan of the gory parts) and reading aloud really helped me clean up my writing.

Unfortunately, my parents both passed away within ten months of each other. She was only 59 and he was 64. My whole world seemed to unravel then – I was no longer needed to run errands, book doctor appointments, travel with them out of town, or all the other tasks that usually took up several hours every day. But writing was still there, and I needed it then more than ever. I took on more work and began writing consistently for a couple hours every day. The more I wrote, the stronger my skills became, and I started gaining confidence in my abilities. I started sharing more of my work with other writers and started to think that maybe I could make something out of that long-ago dream.

In 2017 my husband and I began having conversations on how I could take the leap into writing full-time. He gave me the nudge I needed to start thinking about changing careers, and by the beginning of 2018, we had our finances in order so that I could take my first big step, ending my 15-year career as an independent contractor. It’s been a rollercoaster of a year, working on my novel, writing short stories, setting up a business plan, and collecting mostly rejection letters, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

 2. IK: I understand you are getting a book ready for publication. What would you like to tell me about it?

JS: Back in 2016 I wrote the first draft of a horror novel titled Thirteen Doorways for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). It was the first full novel I’d written, which was a huge accomplishment. Since then I’ve been refining and editing the story, and plan to start submitting the final manuscript for publication in the next few months.

The story centers on Rhonda and Jordan Butler, a married couple in their thirties, who have just bought the house of their dreams. Before they even move, Rhonda receives devastating medical news that destroys the picture-perfect image of her future. As she tries to cope with her loss, strange things begin happening in their new home. Nightmares and disturbing visions plague her daily. Jordan deals with his loss by throwing himself at work and befriending the town’s elite businessmen with powerful connections to ancient supernatural beings.  Rhonda and Jordan soon find out demons aren’t the darkest entities in our world as something more sinister lurks in the shadows. But the paranormal may be the least of their worries as the businessmen, lusting for power at any cost, attempt to collect the entity that dwells within the Butler’s home, by any means necessary.

 3. IK: What steps have you taken to prepare your book for publication so far?

JS: The biggest step I’ve taken was this summer when I sent out my manuscript to beta readers. I reached out to the writers I knew and was ecstatic when several of them jumped at the chance. I was a nervous wreck waiting for feedback, but it was a fantastic experience and a step I think all writers should take. Receiving detailed critiques has helped me identify which areas of my novel needed more attention, and which sections were working well. Before my work is published, I want to take it to the highest quality I possibly can, and the feedback I received gave me the direction I needed to make that happen.

I had originally planned to self-publish my book (and I may still go that route), but a couple of my beta readers have convinced me that I should try submitting it to publishers first. What a boost in confidence that was! So, for the past few months I’ve been researching different publishers, talking to writers about their experiences with those companies, and reading works within the publishers’ catalogues. When I am ready to query, I don’t want to waste time submitting to publishing houses that don’t purchase the type of story I’m trying to sell, so I’m spending a lot of time doing the ground work first.

Besides that, I’ve been establishing a social media presence, interacting with other writers, book reviewers and potential readers, so that once my novel is available, I already have a pool of people that will be interested in supporting my work.

 4. IK: Some of the gentlest, most refined writers I have met write horror and I always have to ask what attracts them to this genre.

JS: Yes, it does seem to be a contradiction to those who have no interest in horror! I too have found that most writers in the genre are extremely caring individuals who wouldn’t hurt a fly in real life. The common thread with both writers and fans of horror is a sense of being an outsider. When I was growing up, I always had an interest in strange and unusual things (like the paranormal) and was often bullied for being weird and different. That feeling of not belonging never really goes away, but through horror I found a group of people who had similar experiences.

If you look at works in the genre, the main character was never the most popular person at school. Many horror characters are people who live on the fringes of society, either because of their interests, economic backgrounds, sexual orientation, or religious beliefs. A lot of horror fans can easily see themselves in the shoes of those outcasted characters, and it creates a sense of being less ostracized. Also, in many dark fiction stories, it is these outsiders who save the day, and I think most people are attracted to the heroes that most mirror themselves.

 5. IK: How do you get ideas for your writing?

JS: That’s a tough question. A lot of my ideas are a result of innocuous events or items clashing with my overactive imagination. For example, last summer I was out at the mall with my friend’s kids and we stopped at the Build-A-Bear kiosk. The sales clerk was so bubbly and friendly and genuinely seemed to love her job. When I got home, I wondered what would happen if this lady also had a fondness for taxidermy and hated her boss. The result was a story titled Build-A-Friend, which appeared in the Issue #3 of The Serial Killers Newsletter magazine.

To paraphrase advice from some horror legends, if you take a scary trope (like zombies or monsters) the reader already has an expectation of how the story will take place. But, if you take something innocent, like a child’s toy, and twist it into something frightening, then your audience is taken off guard and it can really get under their skin. That’s exactly what I enjoy as a reader and what I hope to accomplish within my own work.

 6. IK: What information is contained on your website?

JS: Right now, my blog, Writing Scared (https://writingscaredblog.wordpress.com), is operating as my website. It has links to all my social media accounts, some posts about what I’ve learned on my writing journey, a few short stories, and book reviews with interviews of the authors. I haven’t had as much time (or brain power) as I would like to post much in the last few months as I’ve been concentrating on editing my novel, but in the new year I will be posting on a more regular basis.

 7. IK: I know you have written short stories. Do you send them out? Do you publish them on your website? How else do you share them?

JS: For a long time, I just wrote short stories and then put them in a drawer. But I’ve gradually mustered up the courage to start sending them out to magazines and anthologies. This year I managed to have 3 stories published: “The Forest” appeared in Indie Writers Review, Issue 4 (March 2018); “Build-A-Friend” made a splash in Issue #3 of The Serial Killer Newsletter; “Eddie’s Evil Elf” can be found in an anthology called Midnight Gore: Bloody Christmas. Of course, there were many more sent and rejected, but you can’t hope to be published if you don’t try.

And, yes, I do have a few short stories on my blog. Many publications won’t accept stories that have been published on websites or blogs, so I’ve been limiting the number I post. However, I do plan to continue releasing a few on my site in the coming year to give readers an idea of my writing style.

Another way I share my stories is through online competitions. Again, I don’t enter many as those stories would then be ineligible for paid publications, but they are fun! In the fall, I sent a story to The Bold Mom’s October Terrors Readers’ Choice Contest and finished in 22nd place out of over 70 entries. It was great reading all the other submissions and from that I met new authors, expanding my writing network.

If you’re looking for ideas on where to send your work, I highly recommend subscribing to Authors Publish (https://www.authorspublish.com/). Every week they send out an email with links to a variety of open calls for submission in several different genres. For any other horror writers reading this, make sure you also check out Dark Markets (https://www.darkmarkets.com/) which is a fantastic resource.

 8. IK: Which writers are your role models and why?

JS: Like most writers in horror, Stephen King has been my role model for a long time. His volume of work is astounding, and he’s managed to break into mainstream culture. Even people that are not fans of the genre know who he is, and that’s not something many horror writers can say. As I talked about earlier, a lot of characters in King’s stories are outsiders, which I find relatable.

Another role model of mine is Clive Barker. Besides being an incredible horror writer, he’s also a screenwriter, director, illustrator and visual artist. I admire his range of talents, and while some of his work can be quite grotesque, there’s something almost beautiful in his creations. The worlds and characters Barker creates are so vivid, part of my mind forgets they are works of fiction.

 9. IK: Do you attend a writers group on a regular basis? Do you have writer friends you meet up with?

JS: Yes, I do, and I would be lost without my group. In 2011 I attended my first short story workshop and immediately clicked with one of the other students, Barb. We started meeting monthly after the class was over, and gradually expanded into a group of four writers. Every month we send each other what we’ve been working on, and the following week we get together to provide critique notes. We all write in different genres which I think helps strengthen our own work since each of us notices distinct aspects of writing. For example, horror relies heavily on sensory descriptions, so I often find areas where my group mates could improve their visuals. One of the other writers concentrates on contemporary literature and is very adept at spotting dialogue that doesn’t sound true to life.

Back in October, I met another local writer at a horror convention, and in the new year we’re planning to start a new writers’ group with a few others in the genre. As much as I love my original group, it’s important to work with writers in your own style of writing as well to master the craft within a specific genre.

 10. IK: What are your writing goals for this new year?

JS: My top priority is to finish editing my novel, Thirteen Doorways, so I can start sending it out to publishers, but that’s just the beginning. I have a filing cabinet full of other novels I’ve started, and I’d like to take at least one of them to a point where I can send it to beta readers. On top of that, I plan to write six or seven new short stories, plus edit a few others which are nearly finished and send them out to open calls for submission. Another project I might tackle is finishing the first few drafts of a screenplay I’ve been toying with for a few years. To some writers, my goals may seem painfully small, and to others it may seem overly ambitious, but it feels like the right pace for me and that’s all I try to worry about.

  11. IK: Is there anything I haven’t covered that you would like to add?                                                                   

JS: I’d just like to say to other writers out there, no matter what genre you write in or where you are in this journey, don’t give up. Someone needs to hear the story that’s trapped inside of you, so keep chipping away. It doesn’t matter if five or five thousand people read the result, your soul will be better for having created something out of nothing.

 

About the author: J.A. Sullivan is a horror writer and paranormal enthusiast, based in Brantford, Ontario (Canada). She likes discussing books, movies, and everything to do with writing. If you’re interested, she’d love to connect with you on the following social media sites:

WordPress: https://writingscaredblog.wordpress.com

GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/20319805-j-a-sullivan

Twitter: www.twitter.com/ScaryJASullivan

Instagram: www.instagram.com/j.a_sullivan

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ScaryJASullivan/

 

Be sure to check out Jennifer’s website to find out when this rising horror author star will publish her book!

 

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