Answers To Eleven Key Questions

ATOW-AV_HEAD

A Clue for Adrianna (Captain’s Point Stories) The first novel in the Captain’s Point series.  A romantic women’s fiction/family saga/chicklit novel written by Annie Acorn & Juliette Hill writing as Charlotte Kent.

Also available in print on iTunes and for Nook and Kobo.

A Man for Susan (Captain’s Point Stories) The second novel in the Captain’s Point series.  A romantic women’s fiction/family saga/chicklit novel written by Annie Acorn & Juliette Hill writing as Charlotte Kent.

Also available in print on iTunes and for Nook and Kobo.

Chocolate Can Kill (Emily Harris Mysteries) a full-length, cozy mystery by Annie Acorn

Also available in print on iTunes and for Nook and Kobo.

Many of you already know that @JulietteHill1 and I collaborate as @CharlotteKent20 in the writing of the Captain’s Point romantic women’s fiction, family saga series.  In September of 2013, the two of us were each honored by receiving invitations from Rosie Amber and Stephanie Hurt to do an interview for the #RomancingSeptember 2013 blog tour.

Being a reasonably controlled and contained individual, Juliette kept her answers short and to the point, thereby delivering a blog entry that was appropriately long.  Intrigued by all eleven questions asked, the answers I provided were much more in depth and more thoroughly reflected my thoughts, feelings and ingrained habits.

Rosie (God Bless Her!) dealt beautifully with the overflow, trimming my replies down to the basic nuts and bolts.  Both interviews were posted, and the response pleased Juliette and me immensely.

Since then, though, Juliette has repeatedly expressed her desire that I publish my responses in full, so that other writers/authors would have the benefit of what she claims are helpful reams of information and opinion, without which the literary world will have trouble existing. 

So, in response to this popular demand of one, you will find below the completely unabridged version of my responses to the #RomancingSeptember blog tour questions that were asked of me.

My hope is that, whether you are a multi-published author, possible collaborative partner, hopeful writer or interested reader, you will find this expanded version interesting and helpful.

I should probably add a disclaimer stating that my opinions do not necessarily agree with those of the other authors whose works are published by Annie Acorn Publishing LLC, although I would lay money on a table in Vegas stating that they probably do. 

Reference: A Man for Susan (See Above)

Rosie –

1) Hi Annie, yesterday we met one half of the writing name Charlotte Kent, today we are welcoming you to the blog, please tell everyone how you came to join with Juliette to form Charlotte Kent.

We at Annie Acorn Publishing LLC are very lucky to have Juliette Hill as one of our authors, her specialty being the romance genre.  On January 10, 2013, she and I were discussing how best to organize her efforts during the coming year, and I suggested she attempt a romance series.

In an effort to inspire her, I outlined the basis for a mystery series that I had carried around in my mind for over twenty years.  The series was supposed to be set in a Victorian home in a Midwestern small town with a blonde-haired, blue-eyed heroine, and I thought the basic premise would work just as well for a romance series.

The more I talked, the more excited I got about the project.  In the end, we decided to collaborate.  I committed to writing 1000 forward moving words per day on the current Captain’s Point work in progress, I would then phone Juliette, read the words to her, revise/edit per her input on the spot and so forth.  She would also be primarily responsible for all copyediting and public relations.

For the initial, set-up book, Juliette would provide descriptive passages, write the letters we felt would be needed in the text and make other contributions, including such necessary writerly things as setting up @CharlotteKent20, writing the press release and arranging blog tours, etc.  This worked well, since by definition the initial book could only handle one basic story line that would be wrapped in the necessary introduction to the town of Captain’s Point and many of its primary residents.

The minute I began writing, I knew we were in trouble, because Adrianna refused to be blonde and blue-eyed, demanding to be dark-haired and dark-eyed, was on her way to the eastern shore of Maryland and had bonded with a fellow passenger on the plane, who Juliette and I knew nothing about.  The house had morphed considerably and contained more characters we had not envisioned.  In the end, Juliette and I agreed it would be best if we merely went with the flow, since we could hardly do otherwise.

2) A Man for Susan is the second book in the “Captain’s Point” series, how many books are planned for the series?

The simple answer to this question is who knows?

As I was working on A Clue for Adrianna, text for other books in the series kept coming to me, inevitably at 2:00 a.m. in the morning.  I would dutifully sacrifice my sleep, get up and record these word jewels that eventually morphed into what Juliette and I named as the main storylines for A Man for Susan and two other books we titled Love’s Surprise and I Love You, Baby!

By the time A Clue for Adrianna was completed, I had already written over 10,000 words of A Man for Susan, over 5,000 words of Love’s Surprise, and the entire Adrianna storyline for I Love You, Baby!  Additionally, I had identified a fourth storyline pertaining to Susan’s love interest that I knew for sure would be appearing in book #8 in the series, although I couldn’t for the life of me have told you why.  I should point out here that Juliette was, as always, kind and patient with me throughout and managed to keep any thoughts she may have had in regards to my overall sanity to herself.

Then we completed A Man for Susan, and I began serious work on Love’s Surprise.  We now had a fairly large cast of characters, all of whom our readers have indicated they want to know more about as they follow their lives/romances forward.  Juliette and I had originally envisioned Love’s Surprise as completing the arch of a third couple’s relationship over a period of months, but once again, the characters had other ideas, particularly the newly married ones.

A few chapters into the work, I contacted Juliette and advised her that I had no problem writing the book we had intended, but it would run to approximately 160,000 words.  Being a reasonable person, Juliette suggested that we divide the work into two volumes, the first one – what will now be the third volume in the series – being titled Love’s Journey with Love’s Surprise now filling the fourth book position and I Love You, Baby! being the fifth.  Oddly, I continued to see the additional storyline about Susan’s love interest as appearing in book #8.

I have already suggested to Juliette that we may have a need for another book to go between Love’s Surprise and I Love You, Baby!, and she has agreed, although I’m concerned that she may just be humoring me in an effort to keep me from losing it altogether.  We have a tentative title of Love’s Second Chance.  Yes, the additional storyline will still appear in book #8, although I can’t tell you why.

3) In this book Adrianna sets out to find a man for her friend, that’s quite a controversial issue, how long did it take for you both to agree on the plot?

Two seconds.

Frankly, we didn’t have much choice in the matter.  Adrianna had set her mind on doing so, it was completely in line with her character, and way down deep inside, Susan wanted a man for herself anyway.  It appeared to be win/win/win, so we went with it.

4) When you share writing a book, do each of you have a special role?

Yes, but I would point out that when you’re doing a series the way we are, it morphs.  I outlined our roles for the A Clue for Adrianna in my answer to #1, but as the series has progressed, I have continued to do the basic writing for the primary storyline, while Juliette has taken on responsibility for secondary storylines (Arthur and Edwina in A Man for Susan) and did the initial write through on our soon to be released Captain’s Point Christmas short, A Christmas Kiss.  It is quite possible that in a future book/story our roles will be reversed.

Other series writers have worked quite differently, though.  For instance, the writing cousins who worked collaboratively under the pseudonym of Ellery Queen divided in another way.  One wrote the basic storyline almost like a screenplay, and the other filled in the descriptions and moved the characters from here to there as the story progressed, if memory serves me correctly.

5) I’m glad you have worked humour into you book.  I like a book that makes me laugh.  Many people find writing humour extremely hard, does it come easilyy to you both? Or are you like a pair of comediennes where one of you is the straight man?

Over the years, I have developed a fair reputation as a humorist, although it is not something that I actively intended to do.  Truthfully, I was not aware that there was a fair amount of humor in A Clue for Adrianna until I read the whole book from start to finish, once the writing was completed.  In point of fact, the chapter where Adrianna digs up the bottle that contains locks of hair is quite funny, and I surprised myself by laughing out loud when I reread it.

In A Man for Susan, humor is even more evident, especially in the Chase and Adrianna storyline, but think about it.  Here we have a young, newly married couple on their honeymoon, who are bubbling over with happiness.  They are both intelligent, fun loving people, and Chase is relaxed and free of a heavy burden he has carried for years.  Chapter three set the stage for this storyline going forward to be lighthearted and fun.  Chase and Larry will certainly continue to banter with one another throughout the series as lifelong friends do and have already included Jack in their inner circle.  Susan is probably right.  Part of them will never grow up.

On the other hand, though, I don’t think you can force humor.  It has to happen naturally as it would in everyday situations.  Good humor also relies on very clean copy and excellent timing.

Juliette claims she has no sense of humor at all, but I disagree.

6) How steamy is the romance in this book? What age range have you marketed the book at?

Captain’s Point Stories is not an erotica series.  With the advent of A Man for Susan, though, we now have a young, married couple who are certainly going to be spending a good bit of their honeymoon in bed.  By Love’s Journey we have two such couples, and the numbers will surely grow as the series continues.

Readers can expect situations in which lovemaking between consenting adults begins to develop, whereupon there will be a brief fade, followed by either a humorous or what Juliette and I hope is a deeply moving moment.  We are marketing the series as General Adult.  As for a rendition of explicit details, knowledgeable readers can let their imaginations fly in whatever directions they wish.  This is in line with the overall offerings presented by Annie Acorn Publishing LLC as well.

7) Have you heard of the new marketing bracket for books N/A (New Adult) do you think there was a need for it?

I have heard of it, certainly.  I would suppose that, for those who use this nomenclature to search for titles they believe will be more to their liking, there is a perceived need.  The problem with new marketing brackets is that they tend to be devised by authors and the reality is that book sellers, such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and iTunes, don’t tend to offer the categories as choices to those of us who are uploading content onto their sites.  Additionally, these ‘Big Four’ venues vary widely as to the categories they do offer.

8) You’ve published your books through your own company “Annie Acorn Publishing” do you specialize in certain genres?

We currently have offerings available from a number of authors in the romance, mystery, nonfiction (health, weight loss and finance), anthology, children’s literature and Christian genres, although it is not our intention to limit ourselves to just these.  For instance, we are currently working towards epublication of a well-received book of poems titled Know Alabama, authored by award-winning poet Peggy Teel, for whom we have already published a number of works including her mystery Niki Knows the Dirt written as Denise Hays and her Christian inspirational God and Grandma written under her own name.  A complete listing of our publications as they stand at the time of an individual book’s launch appears in the back of each book.

9) You’re a very busy woman, how long did it take to write and then edit “A Man for Susan”? Could you advise a working time ratio for writers from starting writing to publication?

Now, this is a trick question.  As previously stated, I had unintentionally written 10,000 words of A Man for Susan by the time A Clue for Adrianna was ready for publication.  A Man for Susan comes in at just over 80,000 words, and it was published two months after A Clue for Adrianna.

On the other hand, I worked on my cozy mystery, Chocolate Can Kill, on and off for over twenty years – occasionally tossing it aside as worthless for as many as five years.  Eventually, it became a Malice Domestic Contest finalist under another title and achieved a sales ranking of 12 on the Barnes and Noble website approximately ten weeks after its publication.  Hopefully, this is a sign that I got it right in the end.

Is Chocolate Can Kill a better book than A Man for Susan?  Am I more proud of the former than the latter?  In point of fact, both of them are well-written and edited and provide good entertainment to my readership, based on their reader feedback.  It took me a long time to be satisfied with Chocolate Can Kill because I had to become a good editor in order to become a good writer.  On the other hand, I don’t believe I will ever be any more satisfied as to my having my achieved my goal as an author than I am with both Susan’s love story in A Man for Susan and Chase and Adrianna’s storyline in I Love You, Baby!

Any committed author can write a full-length book.  You simply state that you will write a set amount of forward words per day on the manuscript and follow through on this commitment until you have completed the story.  The trick is for the story to say something that will capture readers’ imaginations.

From my perspective, there are three things that contribute heavily to success in this area:

1).  Write about both what you know and are passionate about

2).  Edit well, and

3).  Always, always, always listen to your characters.

I can’t tell you how many times a writer has come to me completely blocked, and all I had to do to help them move forward was show them where they took over the story and forced their character(s) to do something that was completely against who they were.

I will add two more pieces of advice that I have tweeted out as @Annie_Acorn.  One, the minute you begin to write your character’s dialogue for them, you have killed your character.  Two, you write with your heart and your gut.  You edit with your mind.  The minute you begin to rewrite with your mind as part of what should be the editing process, you destroy the heart and soul of your work.  Think about it…

10) Can you tell fans the title of the next book in the series and its estimated publication date? (I’m hoping there is one!)

Juliette and I are both confident at this point that Love’s Journey will be the third full-length volume in the Captain’s Point Stories series.  The writing on this book is about half finished.  We anticipate publication will occur sometime during the fall of 2013.  The cover has already been designed by @Angel_Nichols, who designs all of Annie Acorn Publishing LLC’s books, and approved.

I will give your readers a sneak preview by confirming that, yes, Kate Sinclair will return to Captain’s Point and will be the center of the new storyline.  The man she is pursuing?  Now, that would be telling.  Suffice it to say that it is someone readers of A Clue for Adrianna and A Man for Susan will have already met.

Stephanie –

Annie, here is my part of the blog tour. Rosie is doing her interview part and my part is to get to know what the author thinks. The question that I am asking is simple. What’s your biggest challenge writing romance in today’s society?

What an interesting question!  From my perspective, the biggest challenge isn’t in the writing of the romance.  I imagine writing a quality romance that will spark a readers’ imagination is much the same today as it was for Jane Austen or Georgette Heyer – two of the early greats.  One could make a case that there are more subgenres today, ranging from sweet to erotica, but once you’ve identified your genre, then all you have to do as an author is stay true to your choice and your readers’ expectations.  Oh, and write a really great story!

The real challenge for romance writers today is the marketing.  Major outlets for romances such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and iTunes vary widely in the categories they offer to indies and publishers such as Annie Acorn Publishing LLC.  This can mean that while you as an author are secure in how you would categorize your work, it may prove to be difficult to denote this to possible readers as they search for your masterpiece on these venues’ websites.

Two other marketing challenges are also making it much harder to achieve real success with a romance, particularly a stand alone volume as opposed to a sequential work in a series.

The first is the sheer number of romances that are now available in the marketplace.  Here’s an example, when I published my cozy mystery Chocolate Can Kill, if you searched under Nook books/mysteries/women’s sleuths on the Barnes and Noble website, you would have found approximately 190 pages of volumes from which to choose.  When A Man for Susan was published as a romance just a little over a year later, a similar search would have provided a possible reader with over 1200 pages of volumes from which to choose.  The pages for Chocolate Can Kill had risen to 236.  The mystery genre is not tiny, but the romance genre is HUGE!

The second is the advent of free books for ereaders.  I have several friends who read romances almost exclusively.  They have individually shared with me that our Captain’s Point Stories romances are the ONLY ONES they have paid for since the advent of free offerings, and they did so only because they knew me personally.  True, they tell me, these free books often include erotica they don’t want, bad edits, poor storylines and fewer total pages, but they are willing to sort through the chaff to reach the wheat when the books are free.

As an author, I am deeply concerned about the trend towards free books.  Because I was eating, sleeping, indeed living in Captain’s Point in my head while writing A Man for Susan, Juliette and I were able to bring it to publication in a little over two months, thanks to her additions to the text and copyediting along as I wrote.  Still, even though I was running on 3-4 hours sleep per night much of time, it took the two of us a fair amount of time working all out in multiple directions to bring a quality, full-length volume to publication.

Believe me, since we rely on our literary endeavors for our incomes, both Juliette and I want to be paid for our efforts, especially as we continue to produce more and more books in the series.  I expect this is the ultimate goal of most of the authors who are offering their books for free as well.  I suspect that many of them see ‘free’ as the only way to get their name known.

In point of fact, I have read many blog posts written amongst my 10,000+ Twitter followers, most of whom are authors, in which the writers state that their sales had in fact been growing slowly, but steadily.  Then they offered their book for free and a gazillion copies were downloaded to folks who were by definition potential purchasers.  As soon as they returned to charging for the book, their sales dropped to their former level and again continued to climb slowly, but steadily – the only problem being that they had now lost a gazillion potential purchasers and the time during which the book was offered for free from that continuing growth.

I like to point out at times like these that the turtle did win the race over the hare, and there are other ways to get your name out there – primarily Twitter, Goodreads, Facebook and wonderful blogs like Rosie’s and yours.  Yes, such aspects of an author’s work are not as exciting as others, but once you have invested the time and built your readership base, if you offer your readers a consistent level of quality entertainment going forward, your efforts will be continuously rewarded over the long term.

In closing –

I wish to thank Rosie Amber and Stephanie Hurt once again for including my thoughts in the #RomancingSeptember 2013 blog tour and for all of the hard work that went into the production of this multiple time zone, across the Great Pond endeavor.  Who knows?  The next Jane Austen or Georgette Heyer may have been inspired, mentored and/or taught something new as a result of their efforts.

As always, I welcome your comments because it is you who inspire me.  If you’re an author, teach me something new.  I’ll be grateful.  If you are a writer, who is still learning our craft, I hope you have learned something helpful.  If you are a reader, then I say, “Thank you!”  After all, without readers, authors would cease to exist.

Annie Acorn

A Tired Older Woman: Loses Weight and Keeps It Off! by Annie Acorn

Also available in print on iTunes and for Nook and Kobo.

Snowbound for Christmas and Other Stories (Annie Acorn’s Christmas Book 1) by Annie Acorn

Also available in Print and Large Print on iTunes and for Nook and Kobo.

Murder With My Darling (Bonnie Lou Mysteries) by Annie Acorn

NOTE: Author is NOT responsible for anything the main character says!

Also available in print on iTunes and for Nook and Kobo.

 

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7 Responses to Answers To Eleven Key Questions

  1. Susan Ricci says:

    I just wanted your to know that your post was just like having a conversation with you AND Amber Rose is posting an interview with me on October 17. I contacted her after I read Julliette’s and yours. Thanks, too, for the gentle reminder about setting your books free. I ran a promo with Digital Books Today this past week, and although I kept Dinosaurs at 1.99, I only sold 5 books, but I did sell 7 print books at the Octoberfest with Olga. I am, for sure, one of those turtles you speak of, I guess… Much love to you and have fun with Peggy!

    • Annie says:

      Susan – I’m pleased to learn that you could hear my voice coming through in this post, since you know me so well. Best wishes for dinosaurs! Annie

  2. Found you through your lovely message on Twitter. So nice to “meet” you both! 🙂

    • Annie says:

      Kristen – This is the Annie half of @CharlotteKent20. Collaborative writing like our #CaptainsPoint series is a whole different world, but we both embrace it as part of our writing experience. Glad you found us! ♥

  3. Sharame Vodraska says:

    thanks for following me on Twitter. I appreciate the newsletter.

  4. A great example of how we writers are midwives for our Muse!

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