Welcome, Velda! Let’s virtually sit down and talk about books and publishing. I hear you’re getting into E book publishing.

Velda: When I began working toward EBook publishing, I never dreamed I would put books so close together. Another is still on the drawing board, so to speak. It’s an exciting time to be an author.

Lori: I’ve been seriously thinking about EBook publishing myself, now that self-publishing doesn’t have the stigma that it did until recently; also, the “royalties” from EBooks are generally higher than those from books in print on paper. What drew you to the world of EBooks?

Velda: Lori, I was probably most fascinated by Ebooks when I learned I could republish all my backlist to Kindle. Once that became a possibility, I started thinking about what books I had that had circulated in New York, had some good feedback, but never sold. Why couldn’t I submit those to E book publishers and see what happened? I had no idea that two of them would sell within weeks of my submitting them. One is still under consideration.
What I like most about E books I think is that I can do almost all my promoting and marketing online sitting at my computer. I’ve been in this business a long time and am getting weary of book signings and personal appearances. Not that I don’t enjoy meeting all my fans, I love that part, but the physical effort is getting to be more than I can handle. I also enjoy the high royalties involved. Of course that varies between E book publishers and Kindle.
You should look into publishing some of your work through Kindle. There are plenty of good E book publishers out there as well, if you wanted to go that route.

Lori: I’m not sure if I want to go through an E book publisher, or self-publish through Smashwords or Kindle, but I am putting together several of my older stories (and revising them) that I intend to at least put on Kindle, although I don’t know when that will be, or how I’ll promote it! (Maybe a visit to your blog?) Can you tell me more about the E books that you’ve sold or have “in the queue” to sell, and about your published works? I know you’ve published a fair amount, and I’d love to learn more. How did you go about selling your two E-books so quickly?

Velda: Selling those first two E books was amazing for me. I had written a western historical romance which my agent didn’t like. I really thought it was good, so I did some more work on it and sent it to Rhonda Penders at Wild Rose Press. I met her at the Ozark Creative Writer’s Conference in Eureka Springs, Arkansas in October. I hadn’t even thought of submitting anything until a friend who had pitched her work to Rhonda came over to me and told me that they were looking and buying (in this case, that simply means contracting, as Ebook publishers don’t usually pay an advance) and if I had anything at all I should pitch it. So I dug around in my mind, thought of this manuscript that was gathering dust and pitched it to Rhonda. She asked for it and they accepted it in November. Said they were absolutely enthralled with the story. It will be out in February as Stone Heart’s Woman, just a bit over a year from the time they contracted it. It will also be in print.

The second book I sold around the same time, I had spoken to Rhonda about it and she asked to see it also, but it didn’t fit their strict guidelines for a romance. She told me to submit it somewhere else as a paranormal mainstream, which is precisely what I did. In this case I got online and checked out several Ebook publishers, picked SynergEbooks because I liked the books they were publishing a lot. They sent me a contract almost by return mail. We just today finished the final edits on it. My editor was concerned about one important point in the book and she helped me work out what we should do to fix it. I just Emailed the manuscript a few minutes ago. I really thought it would qualify as a romance, but I guess there was too much “other story” in it. The title is Wolf Song, and it has a mystery, a lot of shapeshifting, murder and the like. It would appear that it’s a cross genre, but they’re marketing it as a YA and Adult novel. I’m excited to see how it does. They’ve been taking pre-orders for a few weeks.

I am all over the map, so to speak, with my writing. I have five regional nonfiction books out about the Ozarks of Arkansas. My creative nonfiction, which is a biography that takes place in New Mexico, was a finalist in the WILLA Literary Awards for Creative Non Fiction in 2008. I have six western historical romances that were originally published in NY and four are now on Kindle, with the other two ready to edit and format. I have three women’s fiction novels about middle aged women meeting some sort of crisis in their lives. I plan on self-publishing them to Kindle. And would you believe I have a horror novel that’s still with an Ebook publisher that is taking way too much time to decide. I may end up publishing it to Kindle as well.

Lori: I would believe it. The stories I’m hoping to put on Amazon are horror stories. I think everybody has a few nightmares that they can get out by writing, if they try.

Velda: And that about covers what I’ve written so far. I tried straight mysteries, but couldn’t keep everything lined up, and I don’t have the patience to write one of those big thrillers with their layers and layers of story line. What’s next? Once all of these are headed in the right direction, I’ve already started another western historical romance I hope to get published through Wild Rose Press. Did you know they were chosen for the fourth year in a row as the best E book publisher by readers through Preditors and Editors?

Lori: No, I didn’t know that. But I’ll certainly be visiting the Preditors and Editors website before I approach any publisher. I think many authors or would-be authors don’t know about that site; I hope this can help spread the word.

Velda: I think it’s a good idea for you to get something published on Kindle. Promoting and marketing is a lot of work, but at least you’re not stomping around trying to get a few people to pay attention to you at a book signing. Though I do enjoy that a lot because of the wonderful readers I meet.

Lori: Thank you for the advice. I did a lot of that stomping around with my first book, Spooky Creepy North Dakota, and I didn’t enjoy it — except for the people I met that way.
Thank you so much, Velda, for visiting my blog. I hope to be reading your new books very soon.

Velda: I appreciate you having me. It was tons of fun to converse with you this way. Sort of like having coffee together and chatting.

Today’s post isn’t about me or my life (imagine that!). Today I’m posting an interview with Meg Justus about her new novel, Repeating History, available in Kindle format on Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005E8S8UM) as well as Smashwords (https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/76672). This is the first stop on Meg’s blog tour, which I hope will be a long one. If you want to host a blog stop, you can contact her at mmjustus@nwlink.com. Her own website is http://mmjustus.com/ so stop by and check that out too!

Meg’s book doesn’t fit neatly into any genre, which to me is a good thing. The protagonist of Repeating History is Chuck McManis, 20 years old in 1959, a college drop-out, and taking a road trip to Yellowstone Park. While watching Old Faithful erupt, Chuck finds himself in the middle of a major earthquake, which throws him around and knocks him out. When he comes to, he realizes that he is no longer in 1959. He learns that, in fact, he is in the 1870s, and everything he knows can’t help him survive here — not only that, he is apparently his great-grandfather, and returning to the future means that he’ll lose Eliza, his great-grandmother from his time, but now the woman he loves.

1. I know we all get tired of people asking, “Where do you get ideas for writing?” but seriously, what inspired you in starting this book?

I actually like this question for this book, because I’ve never met anyone else who was inspired to write a time travel novel after watching a geyser go off. A few years ago I was in the middle of watching my first-ever eruption of Grand Geyser (not Old Faithful, but just down the boardwalk from it), the tallest predictable geyser in the world, when I suddenly thought, wow, this would make a terrific time travel device. I started researching Yellowstone’s history and things just kind of snowballed from there, especially after I found a firsthand account written by one of the tourists kidnapped by the Nez Perce.

2. Can you describe your experience with the setting? It’s clear you’ve been there, and love it, but tell us more!

At age four I was too young to remember my first visit to Yellowstone. I went back again as a teenager and as a young adult, but I did not fall in love with the park until I spent a week there as part of a solo 3-month cross-country road trip in the fall of 1999, when I saw that eruption of Grand Geyser and was absolutely enthralled. Geysers are said to play, and I’ve actually seen people applauding geysers because they’re so much fun to watch. Each geyser has its own personality, too. I’ve been back to the park numerous times since then at various times of the year, and have spent as much time as I could in the park archives doing research, as well as in other archives and libraries in the area. And, of course, I’ve spent a lot of time wandering in Chuck’s footsteps, and in the geyser basins waiting for things to go off.

3. How did you choose your protagonist? Is there a reason you chose to use a man rather than a woman? And do you feel that you’ve written a believeable male character?

Chuck started out as a military officer, on bereavement leave to bury his father. I keep trying to make characters into soldiers. I don’t know why that is, but Chuck rebelled almost from the beginning. For one thing, his voice kept sounding younger than I had originally intended him to be (mid-thirties, turned out he was twenty), and for another, I kept seeing him in my mind as a young blond Buddy Holly, gangly, glasses, and all. The reason Chuck is male, besides the fact that he absolutely positively couldn’t be anything else, is because in every other time travel novel I’ve ever read, either we have a man coming forward from the past to the present, or we have a woman going back from the present into the past. I’d never read one where a man went back into the past. And so that’s why I chose a male protagonist.

I like to think Chuck’s believable. I hope he is. I agonized more about him being believably from 1959 (the year I was born) than I did about him being male. I had a harder time writing Eliza, who is a very traditional woman of her time, than I did writing Chuck. But I think that’s more a function of me being about as untraditional a female as it is possible to be than anything else, which is probably one reason why it was easier for me to write a male character.

4. Who are your favorite characters in the book, and who was the most difficult to write about (and why)? And do you incorporate bits of people you know into your characters, or parts of yourself?

I’ll start with that question about the most difficult. Killing someone with gangrene resulting from a gunshot wound to the hip was not fun. I had to research it, of course, and I did, and the character really did have to die, but I didn’t have to like it.

I like all my characters, even the ones I’m not supposed to like, which sometimes makes things difficult. The character who turned out to be the most pleasant surprise was Lucy. She simply strolled onstage about two-thirds of the way in and started talking. She never tried to take over the book, but she turned Martin, who had been pretty much a pain in the neck up to that point, into a real grown-up. And she enabled plot point after plot point. I have no idea what part of my subconscious she came from, but I’m extremely grateful she showed up.

I don’t consciously incorporate bits of myself or other people into my characters, with two exceptions, one large and one small. The small exception is Chuck’s looks. The large exception is that Repeating History is based on real events. The Nez Perce did flee through Yellowstone in 1877, and they did kidnap at least one party of tourists along the way. Eliza is based on a real person. So are Martin and Anna Cooper, and William Byrne. Unconscious incorporation of bits from any source is another matter altogether.

5. Why did you choose first person over any of the other main types? (third person, multiple third persons, omniscient, etc.)

Because when I first started writing the story, I was working in single viewpoint tight third person because that’s what I’d been told sold easiest. The words had to be pulled out with pliers, and they sounded terribly stilted. So, on a whim, I started over in first person, thinking that once I had a draft I’d rewrite it in third, and it was like turning on a fire hose. The story just started running, and it didn’t stop. I never did do that rewrite. The sequel of sorts I am working on right now is also in first person, but it is not in Chuck’s point of view. It’s from the point of view of a !horrors! woman, which I fought for far longer than I should have. But she’s decidedly not traditional, which helps.

6. Do you start with a written outline of some sort(either with numbers or just a paragraph), or do you just get the ideas in your head and go for it? Will you use the same process in the sequel — if you’re writing a sequel and I hope you are?

For Repeating History I borrowed a system I had heard discussed by author Lois McMaster Bujold, who talked about plotting turning point to turning point, or, to use her term, to the next event horizon. I figured out where things were going until I couldn’t anymore, then I wrote to that point, then I figured out where things were going next and and wrote to that point and so forth, to the end of the book. The kidnapping and escape part was plotted for me, since I was writing a version of a story that really happened. For the sequel, and, yes, as I said there’s a sequel, sort of — one of the main characters in my work in progress is Chuck’s son/grandfather, and True Gold is about his adventures in the Klondike in the late 1890s with a young woman he rescues along the way, which I hope to have up on Amazon and Smashwords by June — I tried writing a full outline, using techniques I read about on author Holly Lisle’s website. At least I thought it was a full outline. It appears now, however, that I was just plotting to the first event horizon, so I am apparently using the same method I did last time, just coming at it from a different angle.

7. What is your favorite part of the writing through publishing process, including marketing, and what is your least favorite?

Call me insane, but I love revision. I feel about revising the same way I do hand quilting, which is my favorite part of making a quilt. The writing process (as I do it, at least) does have a lot in common with the quilting process, come to think about it. First I get the idea, then I figure out how to make it work, then I write the first draft/cut and piece the top, then I revise and layer in the rest of the story/do the quilting, then I proof and go over it one last time/bind the quilt. It helps to think of it that way, too. That way I don’t expect a finished story when all I’ve got is a pieced top. Because my most complete rough drafts are, to put it kindly, only about half of the finished story.

My least favorite part so far is marketing, but that’s because I have a lot to learn. This interview, I hope, is a good first step. Thank you for the opportunity.

8. Why did you choose self-publishing over the agent and book publisher route?

Honestly, if, in the seven or eight years I wasted submitting Repeating History to agents and publishers only to be told over and over that it was a good story but not something they thought they could sell, someone had offered to take me on, I would have jumped at it. But self-publishing suddenly became more acceptable and economically possible at just about the time I was ready to throw in the towel on traditional publishing, and I thought, why not? Besides, I have a fairly entrepreneurial spirit — I am an independent museum curator in my other life — so being in control of the entire process appealed greatly to me.

9. What is your favorite part of the book?

There are two, both have to do with Chuck’s realizing what’s happened to him and who he is. One is when the party of tourists he’s stumbled into tries to plug up Old Faithful (the early tourists did a lot of stupid things, but then I don’t think the early tourists had a monopoly on stupidity) and he recognizes what’s going on as one of the stories his great-grandmother told him when he was small. The other is when he and Eliza and Anna arrive at the Bottlers’ ranch and he’s standing out on the porch staring at the stars and realizing that if he really is his great-grandfather, he’s going to marry Eliza. And that he’s not unhappy about that turn of events at all. I know a lot of people look at the whole “I’m my own great-grandfather” storyline and roll their eyes (several agents certainly did so), but honestly, it’s my favorite part of the plot. What would you do if you had the chance to live the life of someone you idolized, only to find out that things didn’t happen the way you always thought they had at all? Second chances has always been the main theme of my writing, and Chuck’s story is the ultimate in second chances, so far as I was concerned.

Thank you, Meg, for providing us some insight not just into your book, but into the writing and publishing proocess!

Meg Justus clearly knows a great deal about subjects ranging from Montana history to geysers and anything in between, and I’m sure she’d be delighted to visit your blog to talk about them!