Author (and pastor’s wife) Amy C. Blake has just released a new adult suspense novel called Whitewashed. I’ve already snagged my copy and can’t wait to read it. Meanwhile, Amy is visiting here and answering questions about Whitewashed, writing, and life!
Hi, Amy. Welcome!
Readers love to know about writers, so tell us a little about yourself, family, dogs, cats etc.
I’m a pastor’s wife and homeschooling mother of four from Columbus, Ohio, and we have a spoiled, 11-year-old English Springer Spaniel named Chrisgo. I earned my BA and MA in English from Mississippi College, the place on which Verity College in Whitewashed is loosely based. My husband and I met at Mississippi College and argued against each other in Argumentation class. We still debate about who won the argument because the teacher voted for him while the class voted for me (which, of course, means I won).
What are some of your favorite activities?
I love to read suspense and YA fantasy, along with other genres. I enjoy playing games like Spades, Rook, Euchre, and Dutch Blitz with family and friends. I also like cuddling on the couch with my kids watching good movies.
What made you want to be a writer?
I’ve always loved to read, though for years I never had enough self-confidence to believe I could become a published author myself. Eventually, I took a couple of writing courses, attended writers’ conferences, and decided to give writing a try. I started with short stories, articles, and devotionals and was encouraged when some were published. Then I moved on to books. My first novels were pretty bad, but they helped me learn how to write. Now I’m glad I stuck with it through the discouraging seasons.
If you could do anything that you are not doing now, what would it be?
Right now, I’d love to be sitting on Poppa and Grand’s porch in Mississippi soaking up some sunshine. These Ohio winters are too cold!
Tell us about your new book. What age range is it for? And with female protagonists, I’m guessing it’s mainly for girls, or is it for both genders?
Whitewashed is primarily for girls, especially those in the older teen/younger twenties range who are transitioning into adulthood. However, I’ve had a few male readers tell me they enjoyed the book, and many women all the way into their senior adult years tell me they couldn’t put it down.
What’s the novel’s theme? Or what do you want readers to take away when they’re done?
Whitewashed has several themes interwoven into the plot, but I’ll just tell you about one. Patience is a real stickler for truth, so much so she sometimes can’t see people. She’s even been known to scream truth in the faces of people she loves, and in so doing caused much more harm than good. I want the reader to learn, along with Patience, that truth and mercy go hand-in-hand. Just as God is a God of truth who is merciful to His children, we should be people of truth who also show mercy to others.
Whitewashed is book 1 in the On the Brink series. The other stories feature Patience’s sisters, correct?
Actually the other two On the Brink books feature Patience’s two best friends, Nat and Christy, who are also homeschooled. Christy’s story is set in Buckeye Lake, Ohio, and ties into the 1920s when Buckeye Lake–with its amusement parks and nationally-known ballrooms–drew huge crowds. Nat’s story is still in the works, though I’m pretty sure it’ll be set in Washington DC.
Eighteen-year-old Patience McDonough has a plan. Despite her parents’ objections, she will attend Verity College in Hades, Mississippi, and live with her grandparents. She’ll complete her degree in record time and go on to become a doctor. But things at the college are strangely neglected, her class work is unexpectedly hard, Grand gets called out-of-town, and Poppa starts acting weird—so weird she suspects he has Alzheimer’s. On top of that, she has to work extra hours at her student job inputting financial data for the college—boring! But soon her job gets more interesting than she’d like: she finds that millions of dollars are unaccounted for and that something creepy is going on in the Big House basement. She discovers secrets tying her family into the dark beginnings of Verity, founded on a slave plantation, and she is forced to question the characters of people she has always trusted. Finally, confronted with a psychotic killer, Patience has to face facts—her plans are not necessarily God’s plans. Will the truth set her free?
Amy C. Blake is a pastor’s wife and homeschooling mother of four. She has a B.A. and an M.A. in English from Mississippi College. She contributed to Barbour’s Heavenly XOXO’s for Women,Book Lover’s Devotional, and Every Good and Perfect Gift. Amy wrote short stories and articles for Focus on the Family,MatureYears, Significant Living, Vista, Encounter, and other publications. She won awards at St. Davids Christian Writers Conference and West Branch Christian Writers Conference. The Trojan Horse Traitor quarterfinaled in the 2011 ABNA contest. Her juvenile fantasy novel The Trojan Horse Traitor, releases in November, 2015, and her new adult suspense novel, Whitewashed, released February 15.
For all you folks out there wondering about self-publishing, today’s feature on “How I First Published” is a real gem. Indie Christian fantasy author Kara Howell not only gives us an overview of her publishing experience, but also takes us behind the scenes to describe the nuts and bolts of how it’s done. Very valuable information!
So tell us, Kara, how did you first publish?
I’m a new author with one book published. I choose to self-publish my book after following a number of e-mail threads posted by fellow authors on the John 3:16 author network. I just didn’t see any benefit to traditional publishing for a new, unknown author.
So how did you self-publish?
First I wrote my book. Duh! It took me nine months to write the first draft. Then, since school had just started and life was busy, I let it sit for three months. When I picked it back up, I completed my first re-write.
One of the things that you should know about me, is that I’m not one of those authors that has always wanted to write. I’m an avid reader and have always wondered how people could come up with such great stories and complex plots. It was while I was reading a book to my kids for school that I suddenly wondered if I could write a book. Two days later I started typing. I had no specific education on writing. When I think back to my school experience, the last time I remember writing a fictional story was fourth grade. Sad, huh? I tell you this so that you will know just how bad my first draft was. The nice thing is that I didn’t know how bad my writing was. Good for me . . . not so much for editors.
That brings me to my next step. I needed to hire an editor. I wasn’t so naive as to believe that I didn’t need one of those. Once again I turned to the John 3:16 author network. I sent out a request for referrals to editors. I contacted three and God made it so clear who should edit my book. One of the editors was so expensive; I couldn’t even consider using them. Since my writing was really more of a hobby, and I’m self-published, all of the cost came out of my pocket. The second read over what I sent her and had so many questions that it was clear she didn’t understand my story or my vision for writing it. That probably was not all her fault, remember, my first draft was pretty bad. The third editor was not only affordable, but she was excited about my book and teaching me how to make it better.
I jumped into the editing process with gusto. At least for the first round of edits. By round three, I was not quite so excited. I did learn a ton and my book is so much better for it. After round two, I had several beta readers read my manuscript and implemented the changes from their feedback. The fourth round of editing was my last. That was the least painful of them all. It took me almost a year to go through all four rounds of editing.
So publishing was probably easier than all that editing and rewriting, right?
Hah! I thought that the e-book would be easier to publish than a print book since I’d not looked into print yet. Well, then I found out that to make the best possible e-book you need to create an HTML document. A what?!
My husband is a programmer, but he hates GUI programming. Apparently that is what HTML is. I spent the next month banging my head against my computer desk and wishing that I used foul language so that I could tell my computer exactly what I thought of it. Slowly, I began to understand the big picture of HTML.
In the meantime, when I was too frustrated to look at more HTML code, I tried to upload my book to the Create Space template for a print book. Through the publishing process, I learned just how much of a perfectionist I am. I wrote a book and I had certain ideas about how I wanted it to look. Without a publisher to argue with, I thought it would be easy to make my ideas a reality. Not so much. I didn’t want to pay for anything that I didn’t have to, so I spent a lot of time learning.
For my print book, I wanted my page numbers in a unique place on the page. I’d read a book series that had the page numbers in the middle of the outside margin. I loved it. It is so easy to find pages. I’m one of those weird readers that actually look up things in fiction books. So I tried several times to get the Create Space template to save my changes to the page number. I finally gave up and just formatted my own document. I’d already done so much formatting on it that I figured I had to be close to what the finished format should be anyway. Sure enough, one quick tutorial online and I had a paperback that was formatted correctly and had my page numbers where I wanted them. Whew! I was surprised that my paper back was ready to publish before the e-book.
Here’s a picture of the paper back with the page number where I wanted it. You can see the dark 1 on the right side. It’s a little close to the text, but you get used to that.
By the way, I had read that the best thing to do was to write your book in a formatted template, but by the time I’d read that I was on round three of editing. It never occurred to me to start working in a template at that point. I’m writing book two in The Chronicles of Kings and Dragons series now, and I’m writing it in my own template. I hope that this will save me tons of time on book two.
Back to HTML. I was able to get most of the book the way that I wanted it, but I still had a programmer friend, that doesn’t hate HTML, come over and help me with a few trouble spots that were making me pull my hair out. Because I followed a blog with instructions on HTML coding for an e-book, I was able to do some cool things. I was even able to have a widget on each chapter page, and my chapter title in the font that I used on the cover. That’s not something you see in most e-books.
Here it is:
Next, I uploaded the e-book to Kindle Direct Publishing and the paper back to Create Space. With Create Space you have the ability to order a proof copy. I ordered two, and had four friends proof read the book for me. It was shocking how many mistakes they found that the editor and I both missed. Fresh eyes can’t be underestimated! Then I made all of those changes to both the e-book and paper back documents. From now on, I won’t even create the HTML doc. until I’ve had my book proof read and corrections made. Then, I uploaded the new versions and clicked that all exciting and dreadfully terrifying button, “Publish.” My book was available for sale on Amazon within a few hours. The last and most important step of self-publishing is calling all of your friends and family to scream, “I just published my first book!!! Praise the LORD!”
Thanks, Kara! Tell us more about where we can find you and your books.
If you are interested in learning more about who God is through the Old Testament, I’ve written The Presence of Shadows. This book is the first in a young adult fantasy series in which I dramatize the lives and event of the Kings and prophets of Israel.
Dive into the world of Ta-Val and take a journey with Brehane as he decides who to trust.