Here on the east coast, I stand at the brink of summer, my dears. And Writer’s World is back, interviewing A. J. Flowers for the month of May.
A little bit about A. J.
Originally from an island a mile and a half wide named Sugarloaf Key, A.J. discovered new lands and cultures through books. Life has drastically changed since her childhood, and she currently resides in Detroit as an automotive designer, which has given her the opportunity to travel the world and experience regions and cultures she can incorporate into her work. During her free time, she saves the world from annihilation on her favorite video games side-by-side with her Dutch husband and princess Blue Russian Kitty named Mina. You can follow her writing advice, published work, and fun personal stories on her blog at ajflowers.wordpress.com.
A.J. Flowers wrote her first trilogy, a fantasy angel series, through college while studying to become an engineer. Once active in Detroit with her automotive career, she decided to make her personal goals a reality. Writing as a hobby and taking it seriously as a secondary career is daunting, to say the least. She started out by documenting any new tidbits of knowledge on her blog, and after five years writing, and two years blogging, had enough information to create a writing resource guide.
She’s written 5 books, hundreds of flash and short stories, and is just now about to blossom in her career. If you’re a writer, this interview may be a peek into your future. Here we go!
Tell us about your writing process and how you brainstorm ideas:
For the initial draft, I often start without thinking, just write the first thing that comes to mind. That will develop perhaps a character or story element I want to work with. Once I’ve gotten far enough, and that may be 1,000 or 10,000 words, I’ll have a good sense of what the story is meant to be about and who the characters are, what goals they have and what’s keeping them from meeting their goals. At this point I’ve learned to start outlining. I probably will have to scrap everything I’ve written, but the hard part is done. I know what my book is about! More so, I’ve grown familiar with my characters and can continue to develop them as I work through the story. This is a great place where a writing group comes in. I can discuss my outline and with other people’s help, we can spot places where character motivations don’t make sense or could be improved. From there the process gets more and more refined. I might write some chapters, and if they work, I’ll keep them. If not, I may have to start over. But the more I write, the more I outline, the closer I will get to that finished product.
I know everyone has their own process, and each writer needs to do what works for them. I’ve only met one other writer who has a process similar to mine and it’s terribly time-intensive. But it works!
I love learning about how other author’s write. Your process does sound really intensive. How long on average does it take you to write a book?
It depends if you mean write a first draft or actually finish the book. I wrote Sanctuary in 6 months. But the rewrite generally takes me 3 times as long as the draft stage. (So, a year and a half for revising, and 6 months for the first draft = 2 years in total to finish a book.)
I hope to improve and get faster, which I think will come naturally. I’ll keep writing and see!
3 times as long as writing is where I fall on revising as well. Fixing a draft really does take so much more than that first flood of creativity that created it. What motivated you to become an indie author?
A writing guide isn’t something I’d consider going through a traditional publisher. I know what it is I want to say and I know the audience for which it’s intended. Additionally, self-publishing is far more profitable than traditional and I can dedicate royalties towards my future novels for better editing and book cover designs. Amazon KDP offers 70% royalties whereas traditional publishers offer typically around 30%, and that’s even considering that it takes 2-3 years longer to go the traditional route which is time that the book could have been making sales. There are many pros and cons to indie publishing, but I’ll be the first to say it’s a tough decision. Both have their benefits.
It is a mixed bag, but indie publishing does have so many benefits. I know marketing is one area where I struggle. What are your views on social media for marketing, and which of them have worked best for you?
I believe social media is a place to be social, not market your book. Other than a tweet or Facebook post to announce book releases or giveaways, generally merchandise should never be advertised. People want to get to know you as a person, and once you build your fan base you will naturally sell more books. That’s the best marketing you can do for yourself, especially when it comes to social media.
That’s an excellent point. In the end, the best marketing for your current book is publishing the next book Let’s have a little flashback: Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I’m not sure if it was my first story, but I believe that would be a poem which was published by a magazine lost to time before I’d turned ten. It was after the loss of a cherished pet and I discovered I could express myself through writing. What came out was a poem and the realization that I was a writer.
After a bunch of poetry that was probably terrible, I started writing an angel novel in college, and 10 years later it’s been rewritten beyond recognition of the first horrid 180,000 word draft into the first novel in a series I can be proud of, Fallen to Grace.
I can’t imagine how different my first attempt at a novel will be once I go back and revise it. Congrats on getting it done, and published.
Find A. J. at the links below and check out her self-published works, including a guide for aspiring authors,
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