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A Book and A Dream Episode 59

 

Megan: [00:00:00] When we finally get to emerge from these crazy, homebound cocoons with our sourdough starters and our language owl-thing app...programs, what do you want to bring out into the world with you?

A Book and A Dream Episode 59

 

Megan: [00:00:00] When we finally get to emerge from these crazy, homebound cocoons with our sourdough starters and our language owl-thing app...programs, what do you want to bring out into the world with you?

 

Announcement: [00:00:16] Welcome to A Book and A Dream with Megan O'Russell: an author's adventure in writing, reading, and being an epic fangirl.

 

Megan: [00:00:26] Hello, my name is Megan O'Russell, and welcome to Episode 59 of A Book and A Dream. Have you been making bread, shearing your own sheep, learning a new language on an app? What has your pandemic activity been?

 

Megan: [00:00:43] You see, the way I see it, we've all sort of been crammed into little cocoons by the pandemic. We are all shoved into these little boxes. And whether we like it or not, we are transforming. This has taken too long. There's no way we're coming out on the other side of this the exact same person we want in. So how do we look at our cocoons? And you know what? If you're listening to this and you're like, "I haven't made bread, I haven't learned another language, I have barely maintained my sanity or maybe not maintained my sanity and stayed alive." You know what? That is also winning.

 

Megan: [00:01:19] If you're...if your cocoon is just, like, survival land, you're still doing a great job. Don't let anyone tell you anything different.

 

Megan: [00:01:26] So, the reason I started thinking about this is because I was lucky enough to get my first dose of the COVID vaccine, which is sort of the first time I've been able to see that there will be a world after all this. I will be coming out on the other side of this. So that's great. But it made me realize that I'm not going to be who I was when I went into this going out of it. And it also just so happened to line up with some fun news from my literary agent. So that's cool.

 

Megan: [00:01:55] So, I made a list of how things are going to be different for me. And these are, like, the overall general things, not deep-seated, me as a human being, contributing to world and society like glossary things. So since I dove into isolation in March, I've released six books. It's a lot of books. I mean, I have twenty-one books out. But when you look at like percentages, six is a lot to add.

 

Megan: [00:02:24] I got two cats, I've had blue hair, and as of the day that I'm recording this, I now have a book on submission to some really big literary houses with my agent.

 

Megan: [00:02:37] So that's super exciting. It's basically like auditioning for Broadway, but I'm not actually needed to be there. So, I'm auditioning for Broadway, but I'm wrapped in like a TARDIS blanket in my living room, hanging out, which, in one way, is super weird, because it doesn't feel like something that big should be happening when I'm not, like, actively participating. But on the other hand, it's great because no one's expecting me to wear heels. So that's a super fun experience.

 

Megan: [00:03:09] And I hadn't really done this kind of submission thing with my agent before this. So this is the first time that I'm, like, out there with the big kids. And I have more books in my catalog. And I have two cats that like to bite my feet and my microphone while I'm recording podcasts. So things are very different for me, even just on the cursory level.

 

Megan: [00:03:28] And then you look at how the world is going to be different, and there are like the big, deep, dark ways that the world's going to be different because we're never really going to be able to go back to the way things were. It's like Ragtime: we can never go back to before. But again, on just, like, the surface of the little things that are going to be different, in the submissions that my agent is putting out for me, one of the places he's submitting is Simon and Schuster.

 

Megan: [00:03:56] Well, Simon and Schuster was just acquired by Penguin Random House. So they're merging. So since the pandemic began, all of those agents, all of those writers, all of those editors, and, like, cover designers and secretaries, and, like, all these other people...their whole literary world is merging and changing because that's huge.

 

Megan: [00:04:19] That's, like, massive.

 

Megan: [00:04:21] That's a publishing giant. It's like the blob. It's just eating everything. And that's going to reshape the world of indie publishing, because a lot of authors who have normally stayed with traditional publishing only are going to start exploring indie options because there's only a few big players left in the publishing game. And so people are going to branch out into indie because there's not going to be as many choices for submissions.

 

Megan: [00:04:48] And books are going to come out slower because why would publishers want to compete with their own titles? So it's going to be a really different world soon because of this merger that happened while we were all hidden away. And on the other side of my life, on the theater side of my life, which, you know, has been the industry has been completely torn apart...everything's going to be different.

 

Megan: [00:05:09] Broadway's not going to be able to do the huge kind of musicals that they're used to. They're going to have to do things that aren't going to take full houses in order to recoup the costs. Some things are never going to reopen. A lot of theaters, like regional theaters, have already gone belly up. One turned into a warehouse already, Blue Man Group in Orlando have already announced that they are not reopening. Some of their other sites will, but not Orlando. A lot of regional theaters will close down forever.

 

Megan: [00:05:36] A lot of actors who are pushed out of their careers are not going to go back. Maybe because they feel like there's not room for them, because with fewer theaters, the competition is going to be fiercer, or because they found a normal job that makes them happy and they've decided that security is where they want to be, which that is a totally legitimate choice. And if you're retiring from theater, don't let anyone tell you that you're giving up your dream. And "how could you abandon what you've wanted your whole life?" Priorities can change. If you want health insurance and a nine-to-five where you know how much you're getting paid all year. Good for you. There is absolutely no shame in that.

 

Megan: [00:06:10] It can be a bitter pill to swallow that the artistic industries―publishing, theater...basically, everything with the arts, because underfunding is a massive issue, but anyway―it can be a bitter pill to swallow that we're not going to get to step back into our lives as they were. And that doesn't just go for the arts. A lot of other industries have tightened their belts. Work from home is probably going to stay in place for a lot of people. Kids are going to have ongoing weird issues because they're going to think that people should stay six feet away at all times. Everything's going to be weird, everything's going to be different.

 

Megan: [00:06:43] But once we take that and accept it, there are some choices we have to make. Like, who do we want to emerge from our cocoon as? What do we want to bring back into this changed world?

 

Megan: [00:06:55] Now, once again, staying on the fluffy level―not going into: appreciating every day and not turning down invitations because we don't like to see people, we should take advantage of actually being able to be in the same room as people, even though we're really introverts, even though everyone thinks we're extroverts and really we just want to hide with the pets in the corner―like, not getting into that. Like staying on the fluffy level. Who do we want to be when we go back into that world? And again, if you just want to be alive and have kept your miniature humans alive, that is absolutely legitimate. Being like, "I dragged two kids into this. I'm draggin' two kids out of it." Good for you. Anyone with miniature humans, you're winning at life. If everyone is, like, fed and clean―maybe not even completely clean, just like not too stinky―you are doing such a good job.

 

Megan: [00:07:48] So what do I want to bring back out into the world with me? I mean, for one, I want to keep publishing. I have sort of slowed down my schedule to a less manic publishing schedule. I did six books in a year's time instead of, you know, ten, which...six still sounds insane, but I slept. I did the sleeping thing. So improvement. Good for me.

 

Megan: [00:08:15] I want to keep pushing for bigger publishing contracts because I love being an indie. I love the freedom. But there are certain audiences that it's really hard to reach if you don't have the support of a major, traditional publisher. There's...there's just so much that I can do on my own. And there are things that if you have a team, teams can accomplish because teams are fancy. So I want to start looking more into that now that I have my baseline of, like, all of my backlist is out. I have these complete series. I have audio. I want to start going more in that direction just because I feel like I'm at the point that I could be an indie and still pursue trad(itional publishing), where before I was just barely keeping my head above water with getting my books out. So that's nice.

 

Megan: [00:09:03] I also know that I was super lucky to get to perform in two different shows during the pandemic. It was handled in a very safe way. Great pandemic safety things. It was...they changed the air conditioning to do things with germs, I don't know, but it was very scientific and fancy. Who's to say? But I do know that I want to be a part of theater's reopening, even though things are not going to be what they were. Salaries won't be what they were. It's not going to be as fancy. There are going to be budget cuts while people try to recoup, and smaller casts and la-dee-la. I know that I want to be a part of it, even though it is going to be hard trying to get everything going again. I, I do know that I love theater and I will take the hardship in order to make sure that things come back. So I definitely want to be a part of that.

 

Megan: [00:09:52] I also know that I want to prioritize things like sleep and, you know, not dying, and sleep. So there are things that I know I want to do. And again, going and hanging out with friends and not just talking to their pet in the corner, because I should savor human interaction 'cause friends are nice and I like them.

 

Megan: [00:10:15] So there are things that I definitely want to do and I would encourage you now, which we are not, we are not out of this. We are not out of this. But the end is coming closer to being within sight. There's like a sign that says "light in three hundred yards." So, you know, eventually we're going to get to see the light in the distance. So keep keep hanging on.

 

Megan: [00:10:37] But take a moment and think of what do you want to bring back out into the world with you when we finally get to emerge from these crazy, homebound cocoons with our sourdough starters and our language owl-thing app...programs, what do you want to bring out into the world with you?

 

Megan: [00:10:58] Because this is...a horrible opportunity we've been granted where we have been forced to step back and have perspective that hopefully we will never, ever have again. Never. Precedented times only from now on. Never unprecedented. I want thoroughly precedented. So hopefully we'll never have this opportunity again, so we might as well use it.

 

Megan: [00:11:23] What do you want to contribute to your industry, to your family? Who do you want to be? Have you always been a fashionista and you've realized that you don't actually need to do makeup to be happy? Or have you realized that doing makeup every day really brings you joy? Are you going to start tutoring? Are you going to sing more? Are you going to, I don't know, do picnics every week because you've decided that joy in nature is necessary even if you're not trapped inside or in a park six feet away from each other because, you know, there are no other choices in the world.

 

Megan: [00:11:54] What is it that you want to bring out? Because the world's going to be different. And if we're going to be forced to be different, too, we can at least choose some of the changes that are being inflicted upon us, because there is no bright side to this. There's never going to be a bright side to this, but at least we can pick the little handholds that are available to us to drag ourselves back out of this darkness.

 

Megan: [00:12:26] So, choose what you want to bring with you, put them in your backpack, and then when we finally find the light at the end of this tunnel, then you will know what you want to carry with you and what you can shove back under the couch with all the candy wrappers you've been hiding.

 

Megan: [00:12:44] In the meantime, I will see you again next week. Stay safe. Buh-bye.

A Book and A Dream Episode 58

 

Megan: [00:00:02] Now, the fact that the two videos that have gotten strangely big on TikTok for me are one about boobs and one about saying [bleep] seems to say a whole lot about me as a person.

A Book and A Dream Episode 58

 

Megan: [00:00:02] Now, the fact that the two videos that have gotten strangely big on TikTok for me are one about boobs and one about saying [bleep] seems to say a whole lot about me as a person.

 

Announcement: [00:00:16] Welcome to A Book and A Dream with Megan O'Russell: an author's adventure in writing, reading, and being an epic fangirl.

 

Megan: [00:00:27] Hello, my name is Megan O'Russell and welcome to Episode 58 of A Book and A Dream. What do Fantasy, fashion, swearing, and TikTok have in common? It turns out, quite a bit. I've had a very interesting week on social media with thousands of views on some very random videos.

 

Megan: [00:00:47] But yeah, I'm going to save that story for just a minute because first, I wanted to talk to you about the fact that it is the Heart of Smoke book release week. Now, this is the first book in a brand new dystopian series. I am really excited about sharing it with the world. And it also has to do with the TikTok story. So first, here's a little blurb from Heart of Smoke.

 

Megan: [00:01:09] One will betray her, one will save her, one will destroy her world.

 

Megan: [00:01:13] Ooh.

 

Megan: [00:01:14] Do the work, steal the goods, keep her sister alive. A simple plan Lanni has been clinging to. With the city burning around her and vampires hiding in the shadows, makin it...making it until morning is the best she can hope for. But order in the city is crumbling, and the thin safety that's kept Lanni alive won't be enough to protect her family. The people who live in the glittering glass domes, lording over the city, safe from the dangers of the outside world, have grown tired of the factory filth marring their perfect apocalypse.

 

Megan: [00:01:45] With a new...when a new reign of chaos threatens her sister, Lanni faces a horrible choice: accept the fate she was born to or join the enemy she's sworn to destroy.

 

Megan: [00:01:56] [Melodramatically Sung] Bwah-bwah-bwah-nah!

 

Megan: [00:01:58] So that is the blurb for Heart of Smoke. You can kind of tell from the blurb it's going to be a dark world. It's dystopian, it's going to be gritty. It's not like some happy, fluffy story. That leads us into the TikTok story.

 

Megan: [00:02:11] So, because Heart of Smoke is a dystopian book, it is aimed at Upper YA. There is some cursing in the book because people are dying, bad things are happening. Sometimes, it's appropriate to say words like [bleep] or [bleep] when, you know, death comes. I posted it in an author group that I'm a part of being like, "Where is the line between, like, cursing and too much cursing?" expecting people to be like, Well, it's situational." Or, you know, "You have to put, like, a disclaimer on the bottom" or something like that.

 

Megan: [00:02:44] And I did get some of that. I got some people being like, "It's a dystopian. Put in what you want" or "Teens are going to say way worse than you could ever think to write in a book" or "Just look at, you know, About Alaska. As long as you're not doing that, you're doing OK." And I did get mostly that.

 

Megan: [00:02:59] But there were some people who were so mad that I'd even consider swearing in a YA book, not a middle grade book, not a kids' book, a young adult novel which is aimed at teens, who like...go to high school, most of whom can drive, they're dating, they're watching TV, they have access to the Internet. It's not like I'm stealing someone's innocence here. Like, they've heard worse. They've read worse on the bathroom walls at school. Come on now, people.

 

Megan: [00:03:37] But there was so much anger about how it was, like, destroying YA books by making them too mature and how dare I? And so I've been on TikTok for a while. I've been starting to, like, be a good author and use it regularly. And so I made a series of videos about the lessons that I learned from getting yelled at by all these authors about daring to put cursing in my novels. And one of the videos gained 15,000-some views.

 

Megan: [00:04:09] Now, in terms of like "viral," that's not a thing. Like, that is nowhere near viral. That's just, like, an odd number of views on a video, especially when you consider with platforms like Instagram and Facebook, it's really "pay to play" if you're a business account on either of those things, I can only reach, like, maybe a 20th of my audience at the ti--at a time, because they cap you, and they want you to pay for reach. So, if I actually want all of my Facebook followers on Facebook to see something, I have to give Facebook dollars or they won't let me do it. It's the same thing with Instagram. They will cap you.

 

Megan: [00:04:44] TikTok doesn't do it. So you have organic reach. And if people comment and like your videos, it can go as far as it wants to go, and they don't mind. So 15,000 for zero dollars is like...clutch in the author world. Like, that does not happen on other platforms. You just can't do it because they will stop you from doing it deliberately. Yeah, I know. Not really cool, but that's how it works.

 

Megan: [00:05:09] So we got like 15,000-some views. Cool. So here is the video/the audio from that TikTok that got some attention.

 

Megan: [00:05:20] [TikTok Audio] Lesson number four: violence and harassment are way more acceptable than any form of cursing in books. Let's take something like Hunger Games. Now, you can kill other teens. Just don't swear at them. Because swearing is bad. Rip out somebody's eyeballs, tear out their lungs, murder some people. I don't know, shove a girl into a corner, kiss her against her will. Those are all fine. Just don't you dare curse at anyone while you kill them. [End of TikTok Audio]

 

Megan: [00:05:49] Who'd have thunk? Now, I do stand by my decision to use cursing in Heart of Smoke. There's also, you know, some sex workers involved. Nothing graphic. I will not. That's where I draw the line. I will not put super graphic sexual content in YA novels.

 

Megan: [00:06:04] I also try to, like, not have entrails, even though you'd be way better off having sex in a book than entrails because most people will have sex at some point in their life. Hopefully, the vast majority of us will never encounter entrails that have been removed from the body. So really, if you're talking about which one's worse, violence is way worse than sex. Because hopefully we can all avoid violence, and the human race would stop if we all avoided sex.

 

Megan: [00:06:33] So pick your poison

 

Megan: [00:06:37] Anyway. So that happened. And I was like, well, this is fun. Look at all these notifications I'm getting. Weird. And so I made another set of videos just being me on TikTok, and I was talking about things in fantasy wardrobes that bother me. And there are quite a few things that bother me about fantasy costuming. The...the biggest thing that bothers me about fantasy costuming, my number one pet peeve, is that heroines always have perfect hair. They're at a ball. They have been dancing. It's glorious. They go back to their room. It's romantic. They pull a singular hairpin from their hair, perfect curls fall down their back...and that's it. That's like the whole getting their hair out of ballroom-state. It's one singular pin, and it comes out perfectly. As someone who wears pin-curls for theater on a regular basis, I come out looking like an electrocuted sheep.

 

Megan: [00:07:34] It's not cute. And granted, pin-curls are, like, way more heavy duty than you would necessarily need to do. But anyone who's ever worn a for serious updo, it's not one pin, and it's not necessarily going to come out cute.

 

Megan: [00:07:48] There are some people who are really lucky, and it tumbles down in curls, but even they don't just have one hairpin.

 

Megan: [00:07:52] It takes lots of hairpins to do things like that.

 

Megan: [00:07:56] It also really bothers me when authors write women in corsets and not like a sensible, like, bodice, but like a real corset. Like we're cinching your waist deliberately. We are pulling it in to give you a specific figure. They write women being strapped into these corsets tight, it's like a plot point that it's tight, and then they have women running away.

 

Megan: [00:08:22] And not passing out.

 

Megan: [00:08:25] As someone who has done a fairly extensive amount of living history, a lot of which involved wearing a corset that was pulled in to be cinched for a certain period look...if you're actually cinching your waist to be period appropriate, you're not going to run very far. It does, in fact, affect how well you can breathe once you're trying to get that shape. And so if you make a plot point of them cinching the waste and then you have her booking it from an evil villain, she's going to pass out. There is oxygen deprivation involved. You can't fill your lungs all the way to the bottom, you're going down, which is also my problem with heels in fantasy novels.

 

Megan: [00:09:04] We have women wearing stilettos. Oh, it's in Hollywood, too. They do it in Hollywood, too, where they have women wearing these four-inch heels and then they're like, "Ah! Bad Guy!" And they're running away in the four-inch heels.

 

Megan: [00:09:16] You're going to break an ankle, you're going to fall, you're going to die. Kick off the shoes, then run for your life. That was one of my favorite things in Black Panther when she took off her shoes before the car chase. Don't worry, that's not a spoiler. There are lots of exciting things, but watch. She takes off her shoes. It's brilliant, because that's what a real woman should do, hopefully. If not, she's probably going to die because running in four-inch heels is not really a thing unless it's your superpower.

 

Megan: [00:09:45] So all of those things went in videos on TikTok. And then I recorded one more, which is one of my bigger pet peeves, but you run into it less often in YA, which is usually where I'm reading. We don't usually describe bras that often in YA because usually there's like some kind of covering, or we're, like, being discreet about the fact that there's no covering. So we don't really talk like how much bosom coverage there is at all times.

 

Megan: [00:10:12] But sometimes, sometimes you'll see a woman who is described as having an ample bosom. You'll see her in a little shift with nothing under it and you'll see her running.

 

Megan: [00:10:25] These things do not logically track. It is just not possible.

 

Megan: [00:10:29] So this is the video about women's bosoms and running in fantasy that got a lot of views.

 

Megan: [00:10:38] [TikTok Audio] Book fashion, pet peeve. If you are going to describe the characters having an ample bosom, and then she's going to be in a negligee with nothing underneath, barely anything to cover her...she can't just run away. You can't. You can't run away with no bra on if you have an ample bosom, it doesn't work. Even in fantasy realms. [End of TikTok Audio]

 

Megan: [00:11:02] Now, the fact that the two videos that have gone strangely big on TikTok for me are one about boobs and one about saying [bleep] seems to say a lot about me as a person and where my niche might be as far as social media. So that's interesting. But it's also been very cool to explore the book and reading community on TikTok. So I have found in, you know, trying to find readers and other book lovers, because I'm also a huge fiction junkie, obviously. Otherwise I couldn't really write books, because why would I do that if I hated it? But anyway... So, in doing those things, there are very different niches on Instagram and on Facebook.

 

Megan: [00:11:47] And one thing that I will say about TikTok is that they're a lot more likely to laugh, and they're a lot more likely to communicate. Even if the communicating is a like or an emoji in the comments or something like that, they are very eager to reach out to agree to say different things on your videos. So that is very cool. And I'm not a huge, huge TikTok fan as, like, a user. I get sensory overload when I open the app because it starts making noises at me.

 

Megan: [00:12:17] So I have to, like, turn the volume of my phone way down so that it's not too loud so that I can handle all the sounds. But it...it is a very cool book community, and I would encourage you to explore it because there's a lot of authors. Authors are flocking to TikTok right now. It's kind of crazy. Some authors you can't even get on Twitter are going to TikTok because they've realized they don't cap your growth there. So it's a...it's a big opportunity, but it's also so many readers. And they're not just posting, like, pretty pictures like on Instagram being like, "Here's this book with a pinecone." They're like, "Here's this book. And what it made me feel. Here are these books that make me sob. Here are these books that make me angry." And so it's a lot of people's reaction to fiction, whether that reaction is "Why is this person not saying [bleep] when they're running from something," or "No, breasts don't work like that. If you're above a B Cup, you're not running for your life unless you're holding them up, because that's going to be painful. How are you...no, you need something. You need something there."

 

Megan: [00:13:22] And so it's...it's very cool to find that community that craves that interaction, that craves that reaction to what they're reading. Not just pretty pictures or nice comments about, like, "Oh, yeah, I loved your book. Great."

 

Megan: [00:13:36] So I would encourage you to explore it. Even if just to, like, hop on, maybe never post videos, but check out some of your favorite authors. They are on there. It is very fun. It's also entertaining to see what's getting lots and lots of views for random reader...for random reasons. So, if you are a reader and you do like social media and you're not a social media fast for the next few days, then check out TikTok. I will put the link to my TikTok below, as well as the link to Heart of Smoke, because that book release is coming up this week.

 

Megan: [00:14:09] Yeah, I even put a little note when I was reaching out to reviewers being like, "P.S., this book has adult language." And the first review I got was like, "Great book. Has adult language." So...proof that even reviewers don't read the whole blurb.

 

Megan: [00:14:24] What are you going to do?

 

Megan: [00:14:26] Maybe reach out on TikTok and ask some people to read the book and review for me people who are comfortable with me saying things like [bleep] in a book.

 

Megan: [00:14:35] But yeah. So there you go. You have my fantasy fashion pet peeves. You have a great story about why TikTok is actually really fun for building a book community, and news about a book release coming up this week.

 

Megan: [00:14:52] Now, if you have strong opinions on cursing in books, please share it in the comments or send me a message on one of my social media sites. If you have strong opinions on fantasy fashion and you have other pet peeves you would like to share, please tell me. I want to know them all. What are your fantasy fashion pet peeves? My favorite fantasy fashion thing is when women actually get pockets that they can put things in. I think that's a great time. And I will see you next week after the Heart of Smoke book release have a great week.

A Book and A Dream Episode 57

 

Megan: [00:00:01] I'm not a therapist, I didn't write a book to help teens with their emotional issues. Bryant has emotional issues. He's not a character who should be leading anyone's therapy session. This is a bad idea.

A Book and A Dream Episode 57

 

Megan: [00:00:01] I'm not a therapist, I didn't write a book to help teens with their emotional issues. Bryant has emotional issues. He's not a character who should be leading anyone's therapy session. This is a bad idea.

 

Announcement: [00:00:16] Welcome to A Book and A Dream with Megan O'Russell: an author's adventure in writing, reading, and being an epic fangirl.

 

Megan: [00:00:27] Hello, my name is Megan O'Russell and welcome to Episode 57 of A Book and A Dream. I want to tell you a little love story. It's a love triangle between Amazon categories, authors, and readers.

 

Megan: [00:00:41] Now, if you're a reader and you have no idea what an Amazon category is, bear with me for a minute. Trust me, by the end of this, you will understand how very important these categories are.

 

Megan: [00:00:52] So, an Amazon category is basically the little niche that you're trying to get your book into. So, you're an author, you've written a book, you have survived writing the blurb and edits and a synopsis. You have barreled through it all. It is time to upload your beauty and then you get to the little tab on your author page where it says, "What category do you want to put your book in?" And then you have a nervous breakdown, or maybe you don't because you haven't realized why you should.

 

Megan: [00:01:22] So, Amazon categories are very difficult. It looks like you can only have two. You can actually have 10. You have to send them an email or like call a dude. It's a very strange process. I don't know. It's weird. There are hidden categories. You can buy a program to help you find the hidden categories. There is an entire industry built around finding hidden Amazon categories, and for very good reason. So, if you decide to delve into the world of Amazon categories as an author, you will soon realize why stabbing an icepick in your own eye would be less painful than this, because if you look on the Amazon page, it looks like there are some very basic choices and it should be obvious, like young adult, young adult sci-fi and fantasy, young adult sci-fi and fantasy dystopian.

 

Megan: [00:02:07] It's not that easy because there is a huge difference between post-apocalyptic and dystopian, and making the wrong choice in those categories can tank your book.

 

Megan: [00:02:18] There are also some categories that you wouldn't think of existing, like young adult, young adult literature and fiction, young adult literature and fiction divorce. I mean, I don't know a lot of teenagers who are getting divorced. I guess teenagers with divorced parents, but that seems like a tiny niche, which it really is. So when you're choosing your categories as an author, not only do you have to consider where your book is going to fit, but where your book can rank, because you see, Amazon has this lovely top 100 program for each of its categories that actually has books in it. There are some categories that only have like four books in them, which is crazy because it's Amazon and there's millions of books, but they exist.

 

Megan: [00:02:58] So when you're choosing your categories, you know, young adult literature and fiction, self-esteem and self-reliance, whatever it is you're going for, you want to make sure that you're choosing a category that is big enough to have competition. So you don't want to be in that category that only has the two books in it, because that is often like the nether realms of the interweb where no one goes. No one goes to that corner of the digital store. So you don't really want to shelve your book there because nobody is going to see it. Nobody's going to click there. It does you no good other than sometimes getting a cool little orange tag that you are in the top seller in your category of two...so not really helpful. So you want to be in one where you can rank in the top 100, but you have to compete for it.

 

Megan: [00:03:42] So if you're kind of lazy and you just, as an author, choose young adult sci-fi fantasy, fantasy, unless you're Harry Potter or The Selection, you're not going to rank well ever. So you have to dive deeper and do young adult fantasy, fantasy, paranormal romance. But then there's also paranormal, not romance. But then you can't really rank in romance. And so it becomes this huge tangled web of trying to figure out how you want to go. And even when you figure out, "OK, like this is where my book fits, I did lots of math," which most authors hate math. Not all authors. Some authors love figuring out mathematical things.

 

Megan: [00:04:22] Some authors make their husbands do all the calculating to figure out how many book sales a day you would need to rank in a certain category and how many categories you want to have easy and how many categories you want to work hard for. And that's why I love my husband. He's great. I'll keep him.

 

Megan: [00:04:39] But you figured it all out. But then even once you think you know where you want to be, you have to really look at the other books in the category. Aside from the numbers and the algorithms, because let's say you're like, OK, I really fit in post-apocalyptic instead of dystopian. Have you looked at the post-apocalyptic versus dystopian covers? You want to blend into the category that you are there for, so you want to make sure that you fit with the reader's expectations, but you want to stand out so that they notice you, but you really have to fit in or they'll be like "you don't belong here," but don't blend in too much or they won't notice you, but stick out, but not... It's...it'll drive you crazy in some cases like post-apocalyptic versus dystopian. If you want to click over there on Amazon just for fun, it's easy to tell which category you should be in.

 

Megan: [00:05:30] Post-apocalyptic covers are generally, like, some girl with a machine gun. Dystopian covers are more Hunger Games-style with, like, a symbol or even [The] Selection where it's like a girl in a fluffy dress, which doesn't seem dystopian. And you're like, "Irony. I like it. It's the end of the world. Great." And so maybe you want to be like dystopian romance because you have a pretty girl on your cover. It's all so many judgment calls and so much stress. And then Amazon will kick you out of the categories you wanted anyway.

 

Megan: [00:05:57] And hopefully, hopefully you've chosen good categories. You've asked the Amazon elves to make it work for you. You've landed in the top one hundred in your categories. Things should go well. Now there are road bumps that can come up. Sometimes the Amazon elves get it wrong. Bryant Adams - How I Magically Messed Up My Life in Four Freakin' Days was in "teen counseling."

 

Megan: [00:06:21] I'm not a therapist, I didn't write a book to help teens with their emotional issues. Bryant has emotional issues. He's not a character who should be leading anyone's therapy session. This is a bad idea. And so you have to go and fix it.

 

Megan: [00:06:35] Or sometimes, I don't know, things go really, really, really badly because Animal Farm is in the category for children's pig books. So read Animal Farm to your children at night, folks. It'll be a joy for the whole family. Yeah. So we all get there, we hope we're in the right place, and that's when it comes to the readers who hopefully will know enough to not read Animal Farm to their four-year-old. Otherwise, you're going to need one of those teen counseling books, and don't count on How I Magically Messed Up My Life in Four Freakin' Days to fix your teen's emotional problems. Bring them joy, sure. Fix emotional problems? Probably not.

 

Megan: [00:07:17] So as a reader, how do these categories affect you? The answer is way more than you'd think, kind of a creepy amount if you get down to it.

 

Megan: [00:07:28] So, good ways that these categories can affect you. Let's say you just finished your new favorite book, and you are dying to read more books like it. Maybe it's The Selection. Maybe it's Ember and Stone. Whatever your jam is, you want more books like that? Cool. So, if you are a Kindle person or an Amazon shopper, all you have to do is go to that book's page on Amazon.

 

Megan: [00:07:50] You scroll down, scroll down, scroll down. And in product description, it'll have its ranking in the whole store and then it'll have its ranking in usually three categories. That could change with the next two hours...within the next two hours. Amazon really likes to do that to us. So, if you click on those categories, if everything went well, you can find books that are just like your favorite books in the top 100. So, lots of people have bought them and liked them, and there's this whole list of one hundred books in the same category as your same favorite. It's amazing. All the shopping opportunities. Go Amazon! Way the...way to do product placement well.

 

Megan: [00:08:24] Now, you do have to be a little careful because there are some books like Red Queen, which is randomly in mysteries and thrillers, which is weird because it's like a dystopian fantasy romance, but it's in mysteries and thrillers. So do your due diligence. It's fine. Victoria Aveyard can put her books whenever she....wherever she wants. Obviously, she's doing well, but look through it, read the blurbs, make sure it's what you think you're getting and you can buy that. You can also, on the lefthand side of your Amazon screen, I'm not going to walk you through doing it because it's different on all the devices, there is a way to click down through categories without going to a book. So, you can, like, tick boxes to be like "young adult fantasy, witches and wizards" and it'll probably all just take you to Harry Potter, but that's fine. From there you can find other things.

 

Megan: [00:09:07] So if you're an Amazon shopper, it influences you because you can get to books that you choose by clicking on buttons. It also influences you because if you type in something like "fantasy romance with paranormal," I don't know why you'd type that in. That's a horrible search term phrase. But it'll pull from those categories. There's also keywords, but that's a whole different thing. So, it uses that information to display books to you. It is handing you a platter of books based on what authors have inputted in those categories, which is why as an author, it's so stressful because you want to make sure you're getting on the right serving trays so that you can be one of the popular hors d'oeuvres instead of one of the sad hors d'oeuvres that gets put in the trash.

 

Megan: [00:09:48] So, people who buy books tend to want to talk about books, whether it's emailing their great aunt, posting a review on Goodreads, posting about it on Twitter, on Bookstagram, whatever it is, word of mouth sells a lot of books. And so many readers buy books through Kindle and through the Amazon store that you're going to get a lot of books that are recommended based on Amazon purchases even if you're not buying off of Amazon. Amazon numbers of ratings can also affect things like what promos books are available for, so if you've ever bought a book off a BookBub promo, BookBub looks at those Amazon reviews. So, getting a proper category placement on Amazon reffect, err, affects reviews on Amazon, which affects promo opportunities for books.

 

Megan: [00:10:35] It's also a thing where Google will place books higher. If they're pinging really well on Amazon, that's getting lots and lots of traffic. If you Google a book, it's going to rate higher. And because all of those things affect how buyers buy books, that translates into other stores. So, if people are hearing about all these great books that were purchased on Amazon and they're in the Kobo store, things are going to rank differently on Kobo because people are buying them based off what they heard from Amazon shoppers. So that all trickles down into the other bookstores.

 

Megan: [00:11:07] It even trickles down into your local bookstore, because once buzz starts about a book, that's how local bookstores purchase things, because they've heard good things about the books, which start with Amazon purchases. Why? Because it's taken over the world. We all know it. It's just taken over everything.

 

Megan: [00:11:28] Now, there are other ways to do categories on other sites. It's a little bit less stressful in most cases. For things like Kobo, you get three categories on iBooks (Apple Books) you get two categories, on Draft2Digital, which is an aggregator service, you get, like, five categories, but there is no, like, secret back door shifty categories buying a program to find them from a dude who like kind of knows because he has backed the program. And yeah, there's like an entire market for authors to figure out these categories. It's absolutely absurd. But it's because it makes such a huge difference in how people buy books. And those decisions come down to how authors choose to place them.

 

Megan: [00:12:11] Now, hopefully, eventually, things will level out. And it won't just be Amazon being the big player, and there will be other methods for people to tell you what their book is and for them to get placement. There are still, like, library things and stuff like that, but that comes down to a lot of different categories. And that's a different story that we're not going to get into on this podcast/video 'cause trust me, you don't want to go there. It'll make your eyes bleed. And not from an icepick. They'll just bleed naturally. But those categories and key words are going to affect everything. So, yeah. It matters so much.

 

Megan: [00:12:47] So, if you are an Amazon person, next time you're clicking around trying to find a book, check out that product details, the categories, see what else you can find. See what authors got it super right and got their books in a great place. See if you can find any more animal Animal Farm-type situations where, you know, just causing childhood trauma, one misplaced category at a time, and appreciate the work that authors put into pulling their hair out trying to get their books into the right place.

 

Megan: [00:13:17] If you're an author...just keep going, man. You're going to figure out those categories eventually. And don't forget to put those greater than less than symbols in when you email 'em to Amazon or they'll reject everything. It's amazing how little things like those decisions can affect what goes viral, what we read, how we read. But in a digital world where authors are having more and more control over how they place and market their books, it's become a free-for-all where those tiny little stepping stones are what can lead an author to success. So, think about the categories of your favorite books. Don't be afraid to dive into those categories to see what your new favorite read might be.

 

Megan: [00:13:55] And, uh, yeah. Bezos rules the world, man. He rules the world.

 

Megan: [00:14:05] So I will see you next time. And, uh, good luck. And...may the Amazon be ever in your favor.

A Book and A Dream Episode 56

 

Megan: [00:00:00] But if you do figure out that you have actually offended members of some community, members of your own community perhaps, then don't be [bleep]. Take it out of your book. It's not that hard.

A Book and A Dream Episode 56

 

Megan: [00:00:00] But if you do figure out that you have actually offended members of some community, members of your own community perhaps, then don't be [bleep]. Take it out of your book. It's not that hard.

 

Announcement: [00:00:16] Welcome to A Book and a Dream with Megan O'Russell and Authors', adventure and writing, reading and being an epic fangirl.

 

Megan: [00:00:26] Hello, my name is Megan O'Russell and welcome to Episode 56 of A Book and A Dream. When you write a book, there is this feeling that you're...you're pouring your whole  heart and soul into this creation. And, you know, some people, I'm sure, get everything completely right. And it's great. And it's perfect. And there is this artistic masterpiece that no one would ever dare tamper with.

 

Megan: [00:00:53] But for us mere mortals, you get to the end of the writing process and it's time to edit, which is great. Edits and rewrites and drafts and all those fancy things are great. That's how a book goes from something that you have hidden on your computer to something that you want other people to see. But it can be hard because in that process, sometimes you have to cut some of those things that you poured your whole heart and soul into. Now, hopefully you are very lucky and it's like some lines, some words on the page, maybe some unnecessary dialogue in a scene or the last couple lines in a chapter to make the ending stronger.

 

Megan: [00:01:35] But sometimes it's bigger things that you have to cut, like side plots, scenes, characters, themes, all kinds of things that you may have to cut. So how do you know when you should cut these things and when it is time to stand your ground?

 

Megan: [00:01:52] Well, here is my list of advice on how to decide whether you should dig in your heels or just murder those darlings so your book can go out into the world.

 

Megan: [00:02:01] First of all, who is this advice coming from? Who's telling you to take things out of your book? Is it a beta reader? Is it a paid beta reader, or is it a beta reader that is a highly successful published author who has been around for 20 years? Is it an editor? Is it your agent, or is it someone who is offering you a Hollywood deal? If someone is telling you to change things about your story, you have to consider not only their experience level and how much they know about the industry, your genre, how much financial risk you're willing to take by publishing something that may not fit in the market. You kind of have to consider all of that and then also consider what the potential gains are.

 

Megan: [00:02:43] For example, if you are just working with a beta reader and they're like, "I don't like this"... It's your book, they're your beta, they're there for advice. And a lot of times, you should take it. But if you don't agree, there are basically no stakes. If it's your agent telling you to cut something, are they not going to submit the book or are they not going to send it out to these editors at these publishing houses?

 

Megan: [00:03:04] Is it someone from Hollywood who's like, "Hey, if you're willing to cut these three characters from your book, I'll make it into a Netflix series"? There's a lot of different levels of consideration. If someone's offering you two-hundred thousand dollars to cut three characters from your book, you're probably a lot more likely to do it than if your beta reader tells you to.

 

Megan: [00:03:26] You also have to consider if it fits in your book.

 

Megan: [00:03:29] Now, there could be some brilliant content that you came up with and no one's ever done it before. It's completely unique, which never really happens. But it is. You finally managed it. But do zombie unicorns really fit in your cozy mystery? Like sure, that could be a great and brilliant concept, but if it's really about a small town detective who's trying to work their way back into society after trauma, do zombie real...unicorns really work with that? So sometimes you have to separate the concepts.

 

Megan: [00:04:00] Maybe you've tried to put too many things into this book, which isn't necessarily a bad thing when you take it out. Leaving it in would probably a bad thing, but...be a bad thing, but you do you. Like, there could be a niche for that. There's, like, a whole bunch of weird niches out there. So maybe that is your calling. But if you do take it out, it's not a failure. It is not a loss because you can use zombie unicorns in a different book. So cut them out of your cozy mystery. And then once that cozy mystery is written, become the zombie unicorn-writing king or queen or whoever you want to be and grab that.

 

Megan: [00:04:36] And now you have two books that you have in your back pocket that you can write. That's a pretty big win.

 

Megan: [00:04:43] Is there a good reason that you need this in the book now? It may not be evident to your beta, your editor or agent, the movie people, but is there a reason that you put it in there? Maybe you have a scene in the book about this woman's shoes. Shoes are always fun, and it's this woman's obsession with stilettos and how she refuses to never wear stilettos. Like, she...she must do it all the time. It is her theme, and you have, like, a three-page scene about her shoes.

 

Megan: [00:05:13] And people are like, "Cut the shoe bit. We don't need it in there. Get rid of it." But in the back of your head, you're like, "No. I need this a little bit because in the next book she's going to die because she wouldn't take off her stilettos, and someone killed her because she was not fast at running." Like, it could be that. So you really need that in your next book. And, you know, if you're working with an editor, an agent, a Hollywood producer, then tell them. Be like, "I really need this scene, because she is going to die terribly, and people are going to be like, 'wait a second. I never knew that she was that attached to her footwear' if you don't have this in book one."

 

Megan: [00:05:49] So, know what seeds you've planted so you can grow something for your readers later, because you can't just toss some things in at the last minute. You have to plant the seeds before it seems logical. So know what is a seed that you're going to grow and what is some random side thing that you can slash out because readers lose interest and a lot of people never finish the books they pick up.

 

Megan: [00:06:12] So if you don't need that scene about the stilettos, cut it out. If you need the stilettos so that you can kill her later, keep it in.

 

Megan: [00:06:20] Another important thing to consider in the short run is do the readers need the information in order to move on in that immediate scene? So let's say that you have built this entire government, and there's like chancellors and then there's elected people and then there's the soldiers.

 

Megan: [00:06:40] But the soldiers are elected, which would be really bad for soldiers because then what if they're bad at soldiering, but maybe in your world it works, whatever. But you have this whole series of things about how the military works, and we're about to go into the military compound and meet these people for the first time. So, it can be really tempting to create an info dump. And what that means is you have a three-page scene. I keep going back to three pages. I don't know why. Let's call it a twelve-page scene. Let's up the stakes.

 

Megan: [00:07:07] There's a twelve page scene where you go through the entire military system and how people are given their positions and how they rank under one another. And what happens if someone in the military does something wrong?

 

Megan: [00:07:19] Yeah, that's great that you have that whole system. But do they need to know all that information right now?

 

Megan: [00:07:25] You could, instead of having a twelve-page scene about the entire system, let's say they do elect soldiers, which again, would probably be a really bad idea, but someone on the way into the complex is like, "Yes, and he won the election and he is a terrible soldier and we may all die."

 

Megan: [00:07:42] That's really all you need in that moment. So sometimes when people are telling you to cut out information, it's not that they want to cut it out of their world. It's just that you don't need it all right there. So you can say, "Oh, yes, elected soldier bad." And then when you meet the elected soldier, be like, "Yes, but he wants to be the chancellor because once you've been an elected soldier, the head one is the chancellor." And then you move on and they're like, "Don't do that bad thing. If you soldier do that bad thing, you will have grave punishment," and you can spread it out throughout the book.

 

Megan: [00:08:10] So sometimes when people are saying cut information, they're not saying cut it. They're saying redistribute it. Because if you give it all to me right now, first of all, it's a boring info dump and nobody likes that. But second of all, I don't need that information right now. I'm probably not going to remember it in 200 pages when it becomes important. So sometimes redistribution is all you need.

 

Megan: [00:08:33] Another thing to consider, which is very hard when you're on, like, the bad end of that one, is are you being accidentally offensive?

 

Megan: [00:08:41] Have you put something into your book that is hurtful to a certain section of our general world community, and that hopefully, if this happens, it's by accident? You didn't mean to use a word, a phrase, a concept that is damaging to a certain section of our world community and it can be hard to keep up with it. The world is changing. The world is evolving. If you're talking about people of color or the LGBTQ+ community, the...the terms that people want to be called and what is offensive, they do evolve over time. So if you read some books that were written by very enlightened and, you know, community-oriented people fifteen years ago, you read it now and you're like, "Woah! You should not be using that word. That is horrible." Because things have changed.

 

Megan: [00:09:28] So if someone comes to you and they say, "Hey, this is super offensive," don't take it out right away. Honestly, do some research. You can do research online. You can go to other members of that community and say, "Hey, did I do something wrong here?" For instance, there was recently a whole kerfuffle where there was one reader who told fantasy authors that they could no longer have fairies in their book because having fairies in their books was offensive to the LGBT community.

 

Megan: [00:09:59] And I'm not talking, like, anything like LGBT-oriented, like actual magical wings, wands, Tinkerbell, that kind of thing, fairies. And after talking to members of the community and doing research, that author figured out that, no, that's not actually offensive. There was just one person who was unhappy with that. And it sucks that that person was unhappy with it. But it's not actually an offensive thing. It's probably personal trauma. She probably was called bad, nasty things. And so to her, that word hurts, and that's awful.

 

Megan: [00:10:33] But it can't change the entire fantasy genre. So don't automatically just go through with a red pen and be like, "I did bad things! I did bad things!" Do a little bit of research. But if you do figure out that you have actually offended members of some community, members of your own community, perhaps then don't be a [bleep].

 

Megan: [00:10:53] Take it out of your book. It's not that hard. Just take whatever word, phrase, take it out of your book, because that is the way to start moving forward and making sure that we are a more inclusive and responsible profession as authors.

 

Megan: [00:11:10] So just cut it out. Edit. Republish. It's not that hard. And, you know, if you really piss people off, just say, I'm sorry, I was trying to be an ally, and I got it wrong. Make a nice tweet. Say you're genuinely sorry.  Do better in the future. But don't be a [bleep]. Take it out.

 

Megan: [00:11:28] And finally, most importantly, aside from don't be [bleep], because rule number one in life is don't be a [bleep], you'll get pretty far, is what I like to call the Eragon conundrum.

 

Megan: [00:11:40] So, let's say you've written this epic coming of age adventure. It's all about learning and growing and discovering who you are while you're doing harrowing things. And then someone offers you a contract for a Hollywood movie. They are going to make your coming of age book into this feature film and cut out all the coming of age aspects. There is literally going to be a flash of light in the sky, and then it's going to be "all grown up" time, let's go on an adventure. So it's not really your book anymore. Also, it makes no sense. Also, it's bad.

 

Megan: [00:12:15] So what do you really need for the heart of your story, for the core? What message are you trying to give? What are those little tiny bits at the center of it all that without it you're like, "This is not my book anymore"?

 

Megan: [00:12:29] Is it the romance? Is it the bond between the heroes? Is it the struggle to survive? What is that one little core piece that, without it, everything else falls apart? Is it that your hero's learning? Is it that they are becoming a hero out of their villainous past? What is it? What is that one centerpiece, the keystone of it all that if you don't have it, audience members sit in the movie theater and go, "Oh, no. Oh, no, oh, no, no"?

 

Megan: [00:13:07] So don't do that. Don't let agents, editors, beta readers, your mother, try and pull that keystone out of your story, because once it's gone, the whole thing's going to fall apart tragically, or, depending on how much money they're offering you, maybe let them pull it out. Because the Eragon movie was bad, but Christopher Palani took that check to the bank where he got to comfort himself with a lot of money.

 

Megan: [00:13:39] So, you know, maybe it is worth letting them destroy everything if you get lots of money and the fame of you having lots of money keeps you on Barnes and Noble shelves for years. That's a personal judgment call. Maybe judge, like, the paycheck with how much you want to preserve the integrity of your story because, you know, millions of dollars, integrity. Billions of dollars, integrity.

 

Megan: [00:14:03] It would be a personal choice at that point. But make sure you know what you can't lose without losing what your book is supposed to be.

 

Megan: [00:14:12] Now, there are lots of other problems that you're going to come across with people asking you to take things out of your book.

 

Megan: [00:14:17] Maybe they're saying you can't have any LGBTQ+ characters in your book. Maybe they're saying you can't use any "isms." Maybe they're saying absolutely no adverbs or any other words that end in "ly" even if they're not an adverb, who knows? It could be that they don't want characters to ever do anything dirty, even behind closed doors, and you thought you were writing erotica. Who knows what they could be asking you to cut? But understand that you as the author do have control. It is your book.

 

Megan: [00:14:51] Now, when you sign on with an agent and you sign in with an editor, you are giving away bits of that control as you go. So when you get a contract, that is something to think about. That's one of the perks of being an indie author. At the end, you control it all. Win, lose, whatever, it's all on your shoulders. So giving that up, you do have to sort of bend to your agent's and editor's and whatever as well.

 

Megan: [00:15:16] But know where you want to take a stand. If they say that no girls can wear pink in the whole book, does it matter? Can you cut the pink? If they say that girls are never allowed to be in a powerful position, then probably walk away and tweet about it and make sure that no one ever works with them ever again. But you have to know where the lines are drawn. So, consider that.

 

Megan: [00:15:43] And understand that writing a story is such a powerful thing and that you have power in your characters, you have power in the world that you have created, and it is a great and mighty treasure. And when someone asks you to gift them a little bit of that treasure, you are not begging them to take it from you. They are kindly requesting, and you can choose to grant the request or not at your own will, because you are in charge, and you are the artist, and artists are powerful.

 

Megan: [00:16:13] Until next time, may we all have a placid and uneventful week. Yep. I'll see you all next time.

A Book and A Dream Episode 55

 

Megan: [00:00:00] I'm going to have a glass of wine.

 

Chris: [00:00:02] Mmmhmm.

 

Megan: [00:00:02] It is evening as I record this, so don't worry-

 

Chris: [00:00:05] [Laughs.]

 

Megan: [00:00:05] -that is socially acceptable.

 

Chris: [00:00:07] This isn't like 2020 "I'm having a glass of wine because it's 2020."

 

Megan: [00:00:11] No, it's twenty 2021.

 

Chris: [00:00:13] Yes.

 

Megan: [00:00:13] We now try and be socially acceptable.

A Book and A Dream Episode 55

 

Megan: [00:00:00] I'm going to have a glass of wine.

 

Chris: [00:00:02] Mmmhmm.

 

Megan: [00:00:02] It is evening as I record this, so don't worry-

 

Chris: [00:00:05] [Laughs.]

 

Megan: [00:00:05] -that is socially acceptable.

 

Chris: [00:00:07] This isn't like 2020 "I'm having a glass of wine because it's 2020."

 

Megan: [00:00:11] No, it's twenty 2021.

 

Chris: [00:00:13] Yes.

 

Megan: [00:00:13] We now try and be socially acceptable.

 

[00:00:16] Welcome to A Book and A Dream with Megan O'Russell: an author's adventure in writing, reading, and being an epic fangirl.

 

Megan: [00:00:27] Hello, my name is Megan O'Russell, and welcome to Episode 55 of A Book and A Dream.

 

Megan: [00:00:33] Now, today I have a very special guest, live and in person, my very own husband, Christopher Russell. Now, he's not just here because he can't escape me. He's actually here because he's going to be very useful for this episode. So, Chris, other than being my loving husband, who makes sure that I have food because I don't know how to feed myself, it's not something capable of.

 

Chris: [00:00:59] She's not actually allowed in the kitchen.

 

Megan: [00:01:02] No, there's a lot of fires when that happens, actually.

 

Chris: [00:01:04] She started a kitchen fire by boiling water.

 

Megan: [00:01:07] I don't need your sass.

 

Chris: [00:01:09] [Laughs.] You shouldn't have brought me on.

 

Megan: [00:01:11] But it's true. So other than that and mocking me, he's actually, uh, the, sort of, front line editor for all my books. So he reads them before anyone else reads them, not only to make me feel like I'm not crazy, but also to put commas where they're supposed to go, so my agent thinks I'm smart. True story like the burning things by boiling water.

 

Megan: [00:01:34] He also helps with taking pictures for all my social media. He usually edits the podcast for me. Today, he's going to be on the podcast/video and edit it for me. So yay for me. Umm, he also does, like, my website things. He wrote the music for this podcast. So he does lots of things with my literary business. And he also has been around since my very first book was being written.

 

Chris: [00:02:00] Since before that.

 

Megan: [00:02:01] Since before that. I figured out when I was upstairs putting on, like, mascara so I could feel good about myself being on camera, that we have been together since we were minors. So everything that happened once we were legally adults, you've been there.

 

Chris: [00:02:19] Oh, I see. I was like, "We were eighteen." But yeah.

 

Megan: [00:02:21] Yeah, but you've been there. Like, if I am legally culpable as an adult for it...

 

Chris: [00:02:27] [Laughs.]

 

Megan: [00:02:27] You've been there for it! So that's that's overwhelming. But nothing to do with this episode.

 

Chris: [00:02:31] This year, actually, we will have been together for half our lives. [Pause.] Ok, that was supposed to be a happy "yay!"

 

Megan: [00:02:41] It's OK, we have wine. Anyway...

 

Chris: [00:02:43] [Laughs.]

 

Megan: [00:02:44] So the reason that he's here is because I... Last week, I took a week off for Christmas? I don't remember anymore. The week between Christmas and New Year's has no meaning. So who's to say?

 

Chris: [00:02:54] I don't think any of the dates from March like 15th of 2020 on really had...

 

Megan: [00:02:59] We're just on March 627.

 

Chris: [00:03:01] [Sigh.]

 

Megan: [00:03:01] So I have no idea. But last time, uh, I was talking about, you know what...what I had gotten done in 2020 and planning and moving ahead. And I am unrealistic in my expectations of myself and of the world. It is, it is a thing that I do. And so I wanted Chris to be here with me for this because I wanted to talk today about my plans for 2021 and how I want to move forward in books and in audio and all those things. And it felt unfair to do that without anyone calling me on when my plans are utter B.S. that are not going to happen because-

 

Chris: [00:03:40] They're just overly optimistic, that's all.

 

Megan: [00:03:42] Yeah, 'cause I made them...I put things in planner...in my planner in pen. Like, I already did that. I already was like, "I'm going to get this many words done this week. And I color coded things and if 2020 taught me anything, which I already talked to you about. I said it on camera. There was like a microphone involved. Don't write things in your planner in pen unless it's going to get you killed if you don't do it. And I went ahead and did it. I just was like, no, I can handle it. And that's a lie.

 

Megan: [00:04:08] So that's why Chris is here, to keep me from lying to you. And I have a clipboard. So clearly, clearly, I am on top of my life.

 

Chris: [00:04:14] Very official. Yep...

 

Megan: [00:04:16] I'm trying. I have a clipboard. OK, so way back in the day when I wrote The Tethering, it took me forever, months and months to write. I also wrote it out by hand.

 

Chris: [00:04:31] MmmHmm.

 

Megan: [00:04:32] And he transcribed it for me and it wasn't in order, so he had to help me put the scenes back in order.

 

Chris: [00:04:40] Oh, no, I forgot about that.

 

Megan: [00:04:42] Yeah, I love you.

 

Chris: [00:04:44] I love you, too.

 

Megan: [00:04:45] So I don't do that anymore. Which is good 'cause it's probably helped the fact that we're still married. But that was a nightmare because I handwrote everything into a notebook and then I was like, yeah. And then Chris was like, it should be a book. And I was like, I can't. It's on paper, and he was like, "*Sigh* ok, I'll type it out." Thankfully, he's good at typing, so that one took forever, and we've sort of advanced since then at the turnaround time significantly.

 

Chris: [00:05:09] Well, what, 20 some odd books later? I...I hope so.

 

Megan: [00:05:13] Yeah, that would be really sad. Uh, so, we have advanced significantly on how we manage our time frame. So in 2020...now, keep in mind, 2020 was a big old mother effer. Am I allowed to say it and then you can just bleep it out?

 

Chris: [00:05:29] Well, I think effer's fine.

 

Megan: [00:05:32] But can I say it for real?

 

Chris: [00:05:34] Now if you had said [bleep], then we would have been in...

 

Megan: [00:05:35] It was a big ol mother [bleep].

 

Chris: [00:05:38] Now I'm going to have to bleep it out.

 

Megan: [00:05:39] Well, you said it already. So you're going have to bleep twice.

 

Chris: [00:05:43] [Sigh] All right.

 

Megan: [00:05:43] [Bleep] It's fine.

 

Chris: [00:05:44] [Laughs.]

 

Megan: [00:05:45] Just a whole series of bleeps. So it was not great. But in 2020, if you count everything that I got done, there were because I had three Ena of Ilbrea books released, one Guilds of Ilbrea book released, two Bryant Adams books released.

 

Chris: [00:06:07] Yep.

 

Megan: [00:06:07] 8.5 audiobooks released because Chris refuses to count Wrath and Wing as a full audiobook.

 

Chris: [00:06:13] It's like twenty thousand words.

 

Megan: [00:06:15] It's a novella. It's a novella.

 

Chris: [00:06:15] Yeah, I mean, it's still, it was an undertaking. It was an undertaking.

 

Megan: [00:06:18] But it counts as point five (.5).

 

Chris: [00:06:20] Davinder, if you listen to this or watch this, thank you. You're amazing.

 

Megan: [00:06:22] Our audio engineer is amazing. So that's six books, and eight point five audio books in one year. Now, considering the fact that it was 2020. So emotional turmoil for everyone.

 

Chris: [00:06:35] Yeah.

 

Megan: [00:06:35] And two sick cats and, you know, my own little medical dramas, that made me kind of incoherent for a couple of weeks. Fun times.

 

Chris: [00:06:43] Yeah.

 

Megan: [00:06:44] Yeah.

 

Chris: [00:06:44] Yeah.

 

Megan: [00:06:44] Yeah. Don't worry, everything's fine. But it took a lot of time. So I feel like six books and eight point five audiobooks is actually a pretty good ratio.

 

Chris: [00:06:56] Yeah, it is not what you were planning you.

 

Megan: [00:06:59] No, but we don't want to talk about what I was planning.

 

Chris: [00:07:01] No. Well...but honestly, yeah. No, I think that it ended up being maybe a little bit better than we were anticipating because we were going to do the full Ena of Ilbrea on audio. But then we realized we...that was too much to do. And so we did the we farmed out the other books.

 

Megan: [00:07:21] Yeah. But I was supposed to have three other written books release.

 

Chris: [00:07:24] Oh yeah.

 

Megan: [00:07:25] So that didn't happen.

 

Chris: [00:07:26] Yeah, that's true.

 

Megan: [00:07:27] But that's still like a good amount.

 

Chris: [00:07:29] Yeah.

 

Megan: [00:07:29] Like, a good amount happened. For 2020, I'm impressed with us.

 

Chris: [00:07:32] Yes.

 

Megan: [00:07:32] Go team. High five. [High five] OK, umm...

 

Chris: [00:07:34] Soft high five for the mic.

 

Megan: [00:07:36] Yeah. Don't want to pop the mic. So goals for 2021.

 

Chris: [00:07:41] Sure...

 

Megan: [00:07:41] I love you.

 

Chris: [00:07:43] [Sigh]

 

Megan: [00:07:43] And you're stuck with me forever. It's all community property, so you can't leave me.

 

Chris: [00:07:50] [Frantic breathing]

 

Megan: [00:07:50] [Laughs] OK, so first goal...writer goal for 2021.

 

Chris: [00:07:55] Mmmhmm.

 

Megan: [00:07:55] And we're just talking publisher goals.

 

Chris: [00:07:56] OK.

 

Megan: [00:07:57] We're not talking like business...

 

Chris: [00:08:02] Mmmhmm.

 

Megan: [00:08:02] Advertising.

 

Chris: [00:08:02] Right, right right.

 

Megan: [00:08:02] That kind of thing goals. We're just talking about just just publishing. Just publishing.

 

Chris: [00:08:07] I understand. Write...writing the book and getting the book out there.

 

Megan: [00:08:08] Yes.

 

Chris: [00:08:09] Got it, ok.

 

Megan: [00:08:09] Well, and audio.

 

Chris: [00:08:12] [Pause] Right.

 

Megan: [00:08:12] Yes. OK. Don't cry. I love you. OK, so my first goal for 2021, and this is already going really well. So the first book in the Heart of Smoke series, which is Lanni's series, is coming out at the end of this month.

 

Megan: [00:08:28] It is already like with editors. I have a cover, I have a blurb. It is up for preorder on Amazon and a bunch of other sites.

 

Chris: [00:08:38] Kobo, Barnes & Noble.

 

Megan: [00:08:40] Agh, maybe not Kobo.

 

Chris: [00:08:42] Yeah, it's on Kobo.

 

Megan: [00:08:44] It is?!

 

Chris: [00:08:44] Yeah, it's up for preorder on Kobo.

 

Megan: [00:08:45] Glad I did that.

 

Chris: [00:08:46] Yeah.

 

Megan: [00:08:47] So that's great.

 

Chris: [00:08:49] Don't...don't hate me if I'm wrong. I'm pretty sure that's right.

 

Megan: [00:08:51] Well, it's up on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

 

Chris: [00:08:52] You keep talking. I'm gonna check [thump]...

 

Megan: [00:08:53] Oop. Dropping things. So...

 

Chris: [00:08:57] Everything's fine.

 

Megan: [00:08:57] That's good. That book is like, we got that. So then I want to finish the other three books in Lanni's series. So there will be four books. Oh, it is up for preorder on Kobo. Good to know. Good to know. Umm...so that's good. I feel like we got that one

 

Chris: [00:09:15] Yeah, it's going well

 

Megan: [00:09:16] knock on weird IKEA wood in the bag. So I want to finish the other three books in her series, Heart of Smoke.

 

Chris: [00:09:22] Wait, it's not a...it's not going to be a trilogy?

 

Megan: [00:09:24] I don't need your sass. I did originally book the cover artist for a trilogy. I have already accepted that I am incapable of writing a trilogy and it will be a four-book series. So...and Lanni is...her series is based in the same world of Girl of Glass, but it is, umm, a completely different place, it is different characters. So the...the revisiting the world building while expanding the world building while not leaving audience...readers. Audience members? I...I'm a theater person. Umm, out of the knowledge if they haven't read the Girl of Glass series has been quite a delicate and time consuming process.

 

Megan: [00:10:03] But now that book one is finished, it's going to be a lot faster because that's sort of where you need to give the info about, like, vampires are chemically induced and you know, you have to give them an injection in the heart. Also, the Incorporation: Bad. People die. So, you know, once you get those sorts of things established, that's...you can sort of move on with that particular story and not have to worry about finding ways to bring people up to speed without being like, "And here's a five-page rant about the history of the domes and why they're the bad guys. World's ending, kids." So after that, that should go fairly smoothly. So I definitely want that whole series released.

 

Chris: [00:10:44] Yes, I think that yeah, I. Don't hold me to this, I feel like we can aim for

 

Megan: [00:10:50] Summer.

 

Chris: [00:10:50] Summer.

 

Megan: [00:10:51] I feel like we can do it?

 

Chris: [00:10:51] I think it'll be fine. I think it'll be fine.

 

Megan: [00:10:53] I was hoping you'd say that.

 

Chris: [00:10:54] And with how you write and like, once you really get into a groove.

 

Megan: [00:10:56] Yeah.

 

Chris: [00:10:57] Yeah.

 

Megan: [00:10:57] Yeah.

 

Chris: [00:10:58] Yeah.

 

Megan: [00:10:58] I feel like that'll happen.

 

Chris: [00:11:00] Yeah.

 

Megan: [00:11:00] OK, so we are both in agreement. If it doesn't happen, this one agreed with me that the full Heart of Smoke series should be released by the end of summer and that is a realistic goal. I am not crazy here.

 

Chris: [00:11:13] No, I think it's realistic.

 

Megan: [00:11:15] Obviously, this summer, book two in the Guilds of Ilbrea series has to be released.

 

Chris: [00:11:19] Yes.

 

Megan: [00:11:20] But I'm already working on it.

 

Chris: [00:11:21] No, I know. Yeah.

 

Megan: [00:11:21] It's already happening.

 

Chris: [00:11:23] It's...it's intense.

 

Megan: [00:11:24] It is an intense series.

 

Chris: [00:11:25] That world is intense.

 

Megan: [00:11:25] It is. Every single thing has to be chosen so carefully because it's such a big world and an expansive series in a...

 

Chris: [00:11:34] It's...it's my favorite.

 

Megan: [00:11:35] Aww, thanks, babe.

 

Chris: [00:11:35] I know you're not supposed to play favorites with your kids, which I feel like your books are like our children, but

 

Megan: [00:11:41] Yeah. Them and the cats, that's what we have.

 

Chris: [00:11:43] Them and the cats, but yeah. That's my favorite. Ena's, like, my favorite character ever. And Finn. I love Finn.

 

Megan: [00:11:47] Oh, thanks.

 

Chris: [00:11:49] Yeah.

 

Megan: [00:11:49] I'm glad you like them.

 

Chris: [00:11:51] Yeah.

 

Megan: [00:11:51] But, so Myth and Storm has to come out this summer.

 

Chris: [00:11:54] Yes.

 

Megan: [00:11:55] Because the preorder's up.

 

Chris: [00:11:57] Yes.

 

Megan: [00:11:57] And the cover is designed.

 

Chris: [00:11:58] Love the cover.

 

Megan: [00:11:58] So that's obviously happening.

 

Chris: [00:12:02] Yeah. [Pause]. Yes.

 

Megan: [00:12:02] So this is when, so that's yes.

 

Chris: [00:12:04] Yes, that is a yes.

 

Megan: [00:12:04] Five books have gotten a yes.

 

Chris: [00:12:06] Yes, and remember we...we did six last year, so we're to summer and have five. So now go go on.

 

Megan: [00:12:14] I feel like we can do it while you do it. OK, so do you want me to skip over to audio or do you want me to keep with books?

 

Chris: [00:12:21] There're. Yeah. There are more books?

 

Megan: [00:12:23] Yeah there are more.

 

Chris: [00:12:25] OK.

 

Megan: [00:12:26] Ok, so books or audio, you pick.

 

Chris: [00:12:28] I... Let's switch it up, let's go to audio.

 

Megan: [00:12:30] OK, so for audio...for audio, clearly we have to finish the Ena of Ilbrea.

 

Chris: [00:12:37] Yes, yes.

 

Megan: [00:12:39] Which is really cool for me because it's visiting Ena's story in a different sort of way and it's reaching a different audience. And I, I also love Ena's series and I am very particular about how I want her story to be told.

 

Chris: [00:12:55] Yes.

 

Megan: [00:12:55] So recording it myself keeps me from being an actor's nightmare.

 

Chris: [00:12:59] Yes.

 

Megan: [00:12:59] So...but it is such a time-consuming process.

 

Chris: [00:13:02] Yes.

 

Megan: [00:13:03] To narrate and splice and send to audio engineer and proof and rerecord and proof. And those books are long.

 

Chris: [00:13:13] Yes.

 

Megan: [00:13:13] They are lengthy.

 

Megan: [00:13:14] They are. So that is an undertaking.

 

Chris: [00:13:18] They're not as long as the Guilds of Ilbrea series.

 

Megan: [00:13:20] It is not.

 

Chris: [00:13:20] So, at least we're not we're not doing that.

 

Megan: [00:13:22] No. That will be hired out.

 

Chris: [00:13:23] Thank you, whoever you are who ends up reading that, if you're watching this in the future.

 

Megan: [00:13:27] It's...yep. That one's being hired out.

 

Chris: [00:13:29] It's a lot. It's amazing, but it's a lot.

 

Megan: [00:13:31] I look forward to auditioning narrators for it. And by "look forward to" I mean, that's a very stressful process because people are emailing you and they're like, "You're so fancy, won't you hire me to act for you?" And I'm like, ooh, the imposter syndrome is strong, but we're not going to do that. We're not doing next year.

 

Chris: [00:13:46] No, no, no, no. That is that's going to be down the road.

 

Megan: [00:13:51] Yes. Because one of the things about hiring narrators is that you really want to stick with the same narrator throughout the entire series, and since Guilds of Ilbrea will be a long series. I don't want to take the chance of hiring a narrator and have them stop narrating and then having to switch it up and then maybe having to switch it up again because narrators keep coming in and out of the business. And I, I don't really want to count on anyone making a long term career decision to be an audiobook narrator during the middle of the mess that is the world. I think that it's unfair to be like, hey, you're auditioning for me. Are you going to be available for the next four to five years as an audio book narrator. And like no one knows where they're going to be four months from now. So that's not a fair thing to ask.

 

Chris: [00:14:28] Well, especially because the two narrators that we had are stage actors like like us. That's that's yeah. I was about to say, that's our other gig. But that's that's...

 

Megan: [00:14:39] That's our gig.

 

Chris: [00:14:39] That's our gig. Yeah.

 

Megan: [00:14:42] OK, so we agree and it's getting done.

 

Chris: [00:14:44] Yes. Ena is getting done.

 

Megan: [00:14:46] OK, so that is for that is five books and four audio books we've agreed on. OK.

 

Chris: [00:14:52] Uh-huh.

 

Megan: [00:14:52] OK. It's going to be fine. I'm going to five and four: I got a tally. So also because The Tale of Bryant Adams, he's starting to panic. You can see it, he's turning a little red.

 

Chris: [00:15:03] Nah, it's fine.

 

Megan: [00:15:04] So The Tale of Bryant Adams is...I love Bryant. He's fun. He's like...

 

Chris: [00:15:10] Yeah.

 

Megan: [00:15:10] He's one of my most popular series and he needs audiobooks.

 

Chris: [00:15:14] Yes.

 

Megan: [00:15:15] So, are we going to are we going to get through Bryant this year?

 

Chris: [00:15:20] Y-y-yes? Yeah.

 

Megan: [00:15:21] Yeah?

 

Chris: [00:15:22] Yeah.

 

Megan: [00:15:22] Yeah. So that is...

 

Chris: [00:15:23] Yeah, that's eight.

 

Megan: [00:15:24] That's eight

 

Chris: [00:15:25] Audiobooks.

 

Megan: [00:15:25] So we're up to...five books and eight audio books. That leaves us one book and point five audio books below our 2020 total. Just breathe. It's better if you breathe. Don't panic. Don't let the panic set in. I'll give you wine. It's OK. But that's not all the books that we need to do. Also, I kind of am thinking of maybe putting Lanni's series into audio.

 

Chris: [00:15:50] I think that's a good idea, yeah.

 

Megan: [00:15:52] So we're going to put those four books as a maybe. So eight, possibly twelve audio books.

 

Chris: [00:15:56] We're...'Cause we're not doing Lanni's series.

 

Megan: [00:15:58] Probably twelve. No, I'm not narrating it. I don't have time.

 

Chris: [00:16:00] No, no.

 

Megan: [00:16:01] We'll hire that out. So that's probably twelve audiobooks.

 

Chris: [00:16:03] Well, because that'll probably in the summer and theater...theoretically, we'll be back on stage.

 

Megan: [00:16:06] Yeah, I'm going to be a vase.

 

Chris: [00:16:09] [Laughter]

 

Megan: [00:16:09] In Beauty and the Beast. It's real. I'll put some pictures up on social media that happened. So then.

 

Chris: [00:16:17] It was built specifically for her so that if she fell over, it wouldn't hurt too bad, right? Am I saying that right?

 

Megan: [00:16:25] Sometimes I fall down and go boom. So then there are two other projects that I could start out in the fall for writing.

 

Chris: [00:16:37] Full proj...? Oh, yeah. No, I know one of them is.

 

Megan: [00:16:40] So, it could be either the Sorcerers of Ilbrea series.

 

Chris: [00:16:44] Yes.

 

Megan: [00:16:46] Which would be starting a whole new Ilbrean spoke of the wheel, which is...that's a big one.

 

Chris: [00:16:51] Which, we'll put the, umm, there's a page on her website that I'll make sure gets into the notes where you can see the whole wheel.

 

Megan: [00:16:59] Yeah!

 

Chris: [00:16:59] It's a...it's six series surrounding the Guilds of Ilbrea series. So it's going to be a total of seven series is what she has planned, because my wife is insane.

 

Megan: [00:17:07] But you love me, and you can't leave me because I'd starve to death.

 

Chris: [00:17:07] But I love her so much because I...I know. It is my responsibility to keep her alive.

 

Megan: [00:17:13] Yeah. That's what wedding vows mean. And so then it could either be the Sorcerers of Ilbrea series, or we could co-write

 

Chris: [00:17:22] Oh.

 

Megan: [00:17:22] the series that we've been planning.

 

Chris: [00:17:23] I was like, wait, what? Oh yes. Yes that's right. We talked about that.

 

Megan: [00:17:26] Yeah, umm, so we've been discussing co-writing a series.

 

Chris: [00:17:30] Yeah.

 

Megan: [00:17:30] Because Chris is a great idea man.

 

Chris: [00:17:32] I'm a good idea man. I'll hold that. We don't know about the writer part, but we'll find out.

 

Megan: [00:17:37] Well, I don't...and I feel like this this should be another...another chat some other time where

 

Chris: [00:17:44] Ok.

 

Megan: [00:17:45] because you have been with me through creating all of these series, I don't know if that's going to...help you, because there's...there's like the old thing of like your first book should never be published, which honestly I did write really...Wait, we already have bleeps in this episode, right?

 

Chris: [00:18:06] We do. Yeah.

 

Megan: [00:18:06] I wrote a really [long bleep] book before The Tethering.

 

Chris: [00:18:10] It wasn't [bleep].

 

Megan: [00:18:10] Yes, it was.

 

Chris: [00:18:10] You were like, what, sixteen?

 

Megan: [00:18:12] Yeah, so that was where I sort of got like my first book thing out. That was never really a book.

 

Chris: [00:18:16] I mean, it wasn't Eragon, no offense. Christopher Paolini did kind of put out a really awesome book, but.

 

Megan: [00:18:23] Yeah, well, prodigies.

 

Chris: [00:18:23] It was still...it was still good, though.

 

Megan: [00:18:24] Yeah.

 

Chris: [00:18:25] It was good.

 

Megan: [00:18:26] I mean, not good enough, so I don't really consider that my first book because it was never really a book.

 

Chris: [00:18:31] We should revisit it though.

 

Megan: [00:18:33] Hahaha no.

 

Chris: [00:18:34] Ok, never mind.

 

Megan: [00:18:34] Yeah. We'll put that on the schedule. I have a clipboard, it'll be fine.

 

Chris: [00:18:38] 2023. [Pause] (Twenty-twenty)Four? [Pause] Just go on.

 

Megan: [00:18:39] Someday, my estate will sell it and people can laugh at me. Yeah, so that was sort of where I did like my first book, "Oh, this is badness." So I don't know if because you've been with me through all the books either it's going to you're going to have the standard first book, "Oh no!"

 

Chris: [00:19:03] Right.

 

Megan: [00:19:04] Or else you're going to have gotten through that already because you've been through it with me.

 

Chris: [00:19:08] Well, I think it's going to be hard to gauge because we're coauthoring it. So wherever I fail, you'll be able to, theoretically, come in and pick up. But I do fully plan on helping plot it more than I've helped you with other series at the very least. And I do want to try writing, but we'll we'll see. So wish me luck.

 

Megan: [00:19:30] So we will...we will see how the coauthoring goes.

 

Chris: [00:19:33] Yeah.

 

Megan: [00:19:33] It'll be an experiment. Like, do you just plot chapters and I write it, or do you write it and I jooj it?

 

Chris: [00:19:40] Yeah.

 

Megan: [00:19:40] Or, do we...

 

Chris: [00:19:43] I don't know.

 

Megan: [00:19:44] I don't know. Do you sleep on the couch? I don't...we'll see how it goes.

 

Chris: [00:19:46] I mean, we've written two musicals together, I feel like...

 

Megan: [00:19:49] I feel like it'll be OK.

 

Chris: [00:19:49] We'll figure it out.

 

Megan: [00:19:50] So maybe that will happen in the fall. Maybe I'll be writing about sorcerers, err, sorcerers of Ilbrea. So at this point we are up to nine books.

 

Chris: [00:19:59] Yeah. Oh, real quick. I don't know if I'm allowed to share this, so I'll cut it out if I'm not, uh, but the Sorcerers of Ilbrea when we get there, those of you who have read Wrath and Wing, you've already met the main character. Am I allowed to say that?

 

Megan: [00:20:13] Sure.

 

Chris: [00:20:13] Yeah.

 

Megan: [00:20:14] [Melodramatic music] Bwuh-nuh-nuh-nuh.

 

Chris: [00:20:14] I'm...I'm excited. He or she [pause]. I won't give that much away. Is...is awesome. I'm excited.

 

Megan: [00:20:22] Ok, so I love planting people in random places. It brings me joy. So that is nine books, eight-to-twelve audio books. That you've agreed to.

 

Chris: [00:20:37] ...yeah.

 

Megan: [00:20:37] You think that this is realistic.

 

Chris: [00:20:40] Yes.

 

Megan: [00:20:41] OK, now here's where we get a little sketchy. If travel is allowed. So if I can figure out where I want to stage it.

 

Chris: [00:20:47] Yeah.

 

Megan: [00:20:47] Maggie Trent.

 

Chris: [00:20:49] Well, I... That one to me, if we are allowed to travel just because you do have like... Honestly, it's... So, Maggie is a really fun book that takes place, uh, in a world that is seen in The Tethering series, uh, and your fan base for that one love that series. I feel like we owe it to them to get that out soon. But we do have to be able to travel.

 

Megan: [00:21:13] Yeah, sorry.

 

Chris: [00:21:14] Because it comes out of our, our actual travels in real life. The worlds that she visits. So yeah, we...

 

Megan: [00:21:20] Yeah.

 

Chris: [00:21:20] We have to travel.

 

Megan: [00:21:21] Right now, she could go to the kitchen.

 

Chris: [00:21:24] And the grocery store, maybe?

 

Megan: [00:21:27] The vet's clinic.

 

Chris: [00:21:29] The vet's clinic.

 

Megan: [00:21:31] Oh I'm going to the optometrist. Maggie could go to the optometrist. What a thrilling time.

 

Chris: [00:21:36] And that, that's dangerous.

 

Megan: [00:21:37] Yeah.

 

Chris: [00:21:38] Yeah.

 

Megan: [00:21:38] She could go get her nose swabbed.

 

Chris: [00:21:40] Yeah, I, oof.

 

Megan: [00:21:40] Maggie and the Nose-Swabbing Adventure. Umm, anyway... So that's about, we're looking at about ten books this year.

 

Chris: [00:21:49] OK, yeah. Mmmhmm.

 

Megan: [00:21:52] He's just thinking. He's just sinking down in his chair.

 

Chris: [00:21:55] No, i-i-it's fine, it's just once we get to the end of May, if things progress the way they should...

 

Megan: [00:22:03] Shh. It'll be OK.

 

Chris: [00:22:04] It's fine.

 

Megan: [00:22:04] It'll be ok.

 

Chris: [00:22:04] I get wine, right?

 

Megan: [00:22:05] And ice cream?

 

Chris: [00:22:07] I'm out of ice cream.

 

Megan: [00:22:08] I'll buy you more.

 

Chris: [00:22:09] OK.

 

Megan: [00:22:10] It'll be fine. Umm, there's like some service that can drop them off, I think. Uh, OK, so that's ten books, eight-to-twelve audio books that you have agreed to.

 

Chris: [00:22:21] Hey, four of those twelve audio books I will have almost nothing to do with.

 

Megan: [00:22:24] That's true. That's true. So really, you're agreeing to ten books, eight audio books and listening to a bunch of auditions with me and dealing with me having a nervous breakdown 'cause people think I'm fancy and are begging to audition for my books.

 

Chris: [00:22:35] Yes.

 

Megan: [00:22:37] Cool.

 

Chris: [00:22:37] Imposter syndrome.

 

Megan: [00:22:39] It's so... Oh, God, it burns so hard.

 

Chris: [00:22:42] I don't. I don't get it. She's amazing. I don't understand.

 

Megan: [00:22:43] Aww thanks. I like you. And you're also agreeing to coauthor a book with me.

 

Chris: [00:22:49] Mmmhmm.

 

Megan: [00:22:51] A series.

 

Chris: [00:22:53] [Pause] Mmmhmm.

 

Megan: [00:22:54] So that's great.

 

Chris: [00:22:55] Yeah.

 

Megan: [00:22:56] So this...let this serve as a record for when we get to the end of 2121, and maybe we'll do some check-ins.

 

Chris: [00:23:04] [Laughs] You just said 2121.

 

Megan: [00:23:05] 2021? [Laughs] It'll be done by 2121, people. I mean, that's what it feels like sometimes. But let this serve as a record...

 

Chris: [00:23:14] Last year was a decade long.

 

Megan: [00:23:15] Argh, it was like twelve decades long. It's been eighty-four years. Or is it eighty-seven? Anyway, back to the topic at hand. So you have agreed that this is a mostly realistic schedule that you think we can stick to, and I'm not a crazy person.

 

Chris: [00:23:34] ...y-yes?

 

Megan: [00:23:35] So, this is coming from someone who is not me that this should happen.

 

Chris: [00:23:39] Yeah. [Sigh] Again, once we hit the summer, it's gonna... Up until then, we should... [Sigh] Yeah, no, you know what? Yeah. Yeah, it's gonna happen. It's gonna happen.

 

Megan: [00:23:53] OK. So we'll check in again later with when book releases are scheduled and how audiobooks are going and how coauthoring is going. It's going to be a really great project. I'm very excited about it.

 

Chris: [00:24:05] Yeah, I am too.

 

Megan: [00:24:05] The concept is on point.

 

Chris: [00:24:06] It's great.

 

Megan: [00:24:06] And we'll see if, ya know, my agent needs anything from me.

 

Chris: [00:24:10] Mmmhmm.

 

Megan: [00:24:12] That could throw things off.

 

Chris: [00:24:12] Yes.

 

Megan: [00:24:12] But... So that is my, not really a resolution, but that is my goals sheet. And I don't I don't ever want to promise any of my readers that any books will come out before I post the preorder. Like, once the preorder is there, Amazon has said it must happen, so therefore it will happen. So I don't want to be like, yes, I swear to you, there will be a Sorcerers of Ilbrea series or yep, by the end of June, all four Lanni books will be out in the world. I don't want to promise that because I wrote it in pen, but 2020 has taught me that it doesn't matter. But this is...this is my plan that has been certified by a mostly sane human who understands my process and is in on the behind the scenes things.

 

Chris: [00:24:57] Yes.

 

Megan: [00:24:58] So this is my my goals and resolutions for 2020[sic] of what's going to happen.

 

Chris: [00:25:05] Yeah. I like it. I feel good about it.

 

Megan: [00:25:09] I feel...I mean, I feel...

 

Chris: [00:25:11] I do. It's...slightly overwhelming.

 

Megan: [00:25:12] I don't know if there is enough coffee in the world to make it happen, but.

 

Chris: [00:25:17] Yeah. Lots of coffee.

 

Megan: [00:25:18] Yeah. Yeah. So there you go. And this is my plan. And I love you. And thank you for...

 

Chris: [00:25:27] Yeah.

 

Megan: [00:25:28] Bringing me cappucinos.

 

Chris: [00:25:29] You...you got it.

 

Megan: [00:25:30] And, you know, managing my website and reading all my books and putting commas in so that people think I'm smart.

 

Chris: [00:25:35] Thank you for being a good writer. If I had to sit through almost 30 bad novels, I'd be very upset.

 

Megan: [00:25:42] I love you.

 

Chris: [00:25:43] I love you, too.

 

Megan: [00:25:45] Yeah, so next time I do a video or a podcast, depending on what your medium is, I want to talk a little bit about when it is worth fighting for scenes, characters, concepts within your books and when it's better to just be like, you know what, it's fine. It's not necessary. And talking about figuring out how to maintain the integrity of the tale while giving some concessions to agents, editors, readers, society at large, you know, whatever it is that you have to change in order to, you know, make your story, be out there and reach a large enough audience to be worth it. Umm, yeah, we are in for a very exciting and productive year.

 

Chris: [00:26:30] Yeah.

 

Megan: [00:26:31] So I'm going to have a glass of wine.

 

Chris: [00:26:34] Mmmhmm.

 

Megan: [00:26:35] It is evening as I record this, so don't worry.

 

Chris: [00:26:37] [Laughs.]

 

Megan: [00:26:37] That is socially acceptable.

 

Chris: [00:26:39] This isn't like 2020, "I'm having a glass of wine because it's...2020.

 

Megan: [00:26:43] No, it's 2021.

 

Chris: [00:26:45] Yes.

 

Megan: [00:26:46] We now try and be socially acceptable.

 

Chris: [00:26:48] We do.

 

Megan: [00:26:48] We are preparing ourselves to reenter society.

 

Chris: [00:26:51] Yes.

 

Megan: [00:26:52] Uh, so yeah. That thanks for thanks for coming on, babe.

 

Chris: [00:26:55] Yeah. You're welcome. Usually I'm over there.

 

Megan: [00:26:59] Yeah.

 

Chris: [00:26:59] With headphones on.

 

Megan: [00:26:59] Doin' a little sound thing.

 

Chris: [00:27:01] Yeah, it's true.

 

Megan: [00:27:01] So, uh, I will see you all next time.

A Book and A Dream Episode 54

Megan: [00:00:00] So, my whole planner for 2020 is just a mass of, like, angrily erased things, so, you know, only write things in pen if they really have to happen to keep you alive.

A Book and A Dream Episode 54

Megan: [00:00:00] So, my whole planner for 2020 is just a mass of, like, angrily erased things, so, you know, only write things in pen if they really have to happen to keep you alive.

 

Announcement: [00:00:16] Welcome to A Book and A Dream with Megan O'Russell: an author's adventure in writing, reading, and being an epic fangirl.

 

Megan: [00:00:28] Hello, my name is Megan O'Russell and welcome to episode fifty-four of A Book and A Dream. 2020 is not the year that any of us thought we were going to have going into it, not by a long shot. So since it has been a year of adapting and learning how to figure things out on the fly, I wanted to share with you the top five lessons that I learned from, as an author, from the dumpster fire that has been twenty twenty.

 

Megan: [00:01:00] Lesson number one: never write it in pen, specifically in your planner, specifically anything that's not going to get anyone killed if it doesn't happen. As I look back at what I thought I was going to get done as an author, as my writing goals at the end of 2019 vs. what actually happened, there are two very different pictures.

 

Megan: [00:01:23] There were going to be other books and more books and a lot less audio was supposed to get done, but all of that kind of went flying out the window. And some of that is because of amazing opportunities that happened, like hiring awesome actors to narrate two of my series. And some of that is just because...dumpster fire. Dumpster fires happen.

 

Megan: [00:01:48] So my whole plan are for 2020 is just a mass of, like, angrily erased things so, you know, only write things in pen if they really have to happen to keep you alive. Everything else, write lightly in pencil so that you can erase it really easily and there's not going to be, like, rage whiteout all over the place because rage whiteout just makes it even worse when you finally flip to that page three months later and you're like, all right, there is no book release day today because that book never got written.

 

Megan: [00:02:22] Number two: be flexible and be willing to adapt. Now, this comes in a lot of forms for me. A lot of it came with audio. In my head...originally, the entire Ena of Ilbrea series was going to be released on audio by the end of the year. Obviously, that didn't happen. Hopefully, Ember and Stone will be available soon. Wrath and Wing is already out there, but there are three more books in the series that have yet to be finished, even in the recording booth. So there's a lot more work left to be done on that. And a lot of that is simple things. Like, sometimes you're living in a condo where the AC unit is just too noisy so you can't record. And you have to be flexible and put that on hold and, you know, hire narrators to do things for you. A lot of that is also being flexible with my writing time once I had found the narrators, because proofing audio books takes way, way longer than you think it would if you want to actually proof what you're paying someone to record for you.

 

Megan: [00:03:26] That's actually super time-consuming. That takes, like, four times longer than I thought it would when I was, like, making out my writing plans. No, no, it takes forever. Proofing audio takes forever. I now understand why you can hire people to do it on Fivver. Not that I would ever do that because I don't want to sell a product to my readers/listeners that I've never heard for myself because that feels super skeezy and wrong to ask you to invest your time and dollars into. But I understand why some people are like, no, I'm not proofing this audio. I'm paying someone to do it for me.

 

Megan: [00:04:00] And some of it is also not, you know, being flexible with our schedules, it's learning to adapt to change. It's learning to adapt to not being in the theater for nine shows a week. It's learning to adapt to being back out of the theater. It's learning to adapt to new technologies that suddenly become super popular. Hello, Zoom meetings for everything. Or in my case. TikTok. TikTok has so many options. It gives me menu anxiety and you open the app and it starts playing music at you, which is very overwhelming for me. But you know what? It's where the youths are. So I'm going to learn to use and love TikTok because that is one of the adaptations 2020 has asked me to make.

 

Megan: [00:04:42] And, you know, you don't want to have to be super flexible and give up your entire schedule. You don't want to have to adapt to a social media platform that plays songs at you and it's a new song every 15 seconds and it makes you panic inside. But sometimes that's what the dumpster fire requires you to do, and you have to accept it and move on so you can grow and be prosperous when the world reopens into its new and reimagined form.

 

Megan: [00:05:14] Number three: take chances and don't be afraid to gamble. So, just because people tell you that something can't be done, it doesn't necessarily mean that it can't be done. It means they haven't figured out a way to make it happen. So that could be something like, I don't know, having a bunch of interlocking series in Ilbrea where you can choose to start with the Ena of Ilbrea series or choose to start with Inker and Crown and you won't actually be missing a lot.

 

Megan: [00:05:41] A lot of people said that it couldn't be done. And you know what? It took a lot of charting, but it happened, people. It happened. Now, there are some times when people tell you things aren't possible and maybe they were right, like, I don't know, hiring out having to run Facebook ads. That one did not end so well.

 

Megan: [00:06:02] So, you should be willing to take chances and go against other people's advice because maybe you can really make it work for you. But the addendum to this lesson from 2020: don't gamble with money you can't afford to lose, because if those Facebook ads go badly, you need to be able to walk away with a smile and just like have a glass of wine on your way out and not freak out about losing the money. So, if you can't afford to get editors and covers and everything for Inker and Crown, when people are saying that it'll never work after the Ena of Ilbrea series, then maybe wait and gamble later. But if you can afford the covers and you can afford the editors, try it because you are creating your own art, whether it is books or theater or music or a new meal for your family or whatever it is, try things, take chances, keep an eye on your budget so you don't have to panic if things blow up in your face.

 

Megan: [00:06:56] Number four: don't chase trends. This can be with anything. It is particularly, particularly important to authors. And I think a huge chunk of the author community learned that this year. And there is this whole ecosystem within the author world where there is like the people who write their art and it's what's in their heart. And then the people who are like, no, you have to write to market. You have to write things that people want to read. So if you want to write a thriller, you have to have a guy with, like, a vague past and some alcoholism issues. And don't forget to blow things up, or nobody's going to want to buy it. It's not necessarily selling out. It's just picking what tropes are popular and then writing to that niche so that you have a ready-made audience instead of having to, you know, mine through Moria in order to find your audience. It does make sense. However, some people take that a little too far, and they start chasing trends.

 

Megan: [00:07:52] So, you know, let's say you were wanting to write a dystopian novel and in late 2019 viral, pandemic dystopian novels were the big seller. So if you had decided to hop on that train when it was already pretty far out of the station, you'd be a very sad author right now, because not many people want to read about a pandemic at the moment, so you've got to balance it.

 

Megan: [00:08:19] You want to be like in the now and writing things that are relevant and that have an audience, but don't chase every trend, because that virus that leads to the end of the world is not going to be a topseller in 2021.

 

Megan: [00:08:38] And last but definitely not least, number five: kindness and compassion starts with yourself. So, everybody's been put through the ringer this year. Even people like me who are really super fortunate considering the dumpster fire. Like, came out with some scorch marks on my hair and like maybe I'm missing half an eyebrow and maybe I have, like, a little limp as I run away, but like, really pretty fortunate...the whole thing considered. But even people who haven't had their entire lives lost, err, turned upside down, who haven't lost loved ones, ended up at the hospital, all those horrible things. It's still not been a great year. There's stress and there's panic and there's unknowns. And there's Zoom meetings and people are home schooling children, even though they never planned on homeschooling children, but they had children, but they didn't want to spend time with them necessarily all the time. I don't know. This is why I have two cats. I have no idea.

 

Megan: [00:09:36] So there's been a lot of hardship for everyone, and there's been a lot of change. And as an author, you can control a lot of your environment. You can control what you're writing on the page, what your characters do, all those things. You are the director, the choreographer, the actors. You have your little world, and you can make it go how you want. And so it often feels like you should be able to to do more, to write more words...there's nothing stopping you but you. But you also need to look at that word count that's not quite happening. That book that didn't get finished, that schedule where you were going to write three more books than you accomplished, with kindness for yourself. We all have to understand that we have been through a hell of a year.

 

Megan: [00:10:21] It's been awful. And you know what? If you didn't manage to write anything, that's OK.

 

Megan: [00:10:30] If you managed to write something, and it's not very good, that's OK. If you wrote seven books and you never want to look at them again and you're not going to edit them, you're going to put them in a drawer for the next 20 years. Cool. Whatever you have to do. We all need to dig deep right now and find compassion for the people around us. Everyone is stressed, everyone is off their schedule. Everyone is basically a three-year-old that hasn't had a nap in days. And if we're trying so hard to find that compassion for the people around us, whether it's friends or families or strangers who are not being good drivers...at all...then we have to find that same compassion for ourselves. We have to give ourselves that same leeway to work through all of this, however we can manage it. And if that means reading 12 books in a day, do it. If that means bingeing Netflix or wearing your new Pluto cardigan to record a video, then you know what? Live your life and find that joy and peace in accepting that, even if you are on the struggle bus, you are still doing the best that you can and that is OK.

 

Megan: [00:11:37] And if that is the only lesson that we come out of 2020 with other than your nose is attached to your lungs and handwashing is important at all times, then allowing ourselves grace in times of stress and trauma is the lesson that I would love for us to all come out with. Because we need that. We all need that. We've been so caught up in productivity and, you know, making things happen, and it all has to be now because technology will overtake us and...yeah. Capitalism, man, it's hard, but you've got to give yourself a chance to breathe or the dumpster fire will get you, it'll get you.

 

Megan: [00:12:20] So, take a moment as we approach the new year and give yourself some grace as you write down your New Year's resolutions. You know? Don't...don't hate yourself for those five pounds you gained, or 50, you know, whatever. Live your life. And we are going to come out of this on the other side, scorched, singed, limping, but it's going to be OK. So I'll see you in the new year.

A Book and A Dream Episode 53

Megan: [00:00:01] I'm not someone who usually deals with writer's block, knock on fake IKEA painted wood shelf. I don't think there's any real wood in there, but we'll count it. It's good. It's good.

A Book and A Dream Episode 53

Megan: [00:00:01] I'm not someone who usually deals with writer's block, knock on fake IKEA painted wood shelf. I don't think there's any real wood in there, but we'll count it. It's good. It's good.

 

Announcement: [00:00:16] Welcome to A Book and A Dream with Megan O'Russell: an author's adventure in writing, reading, and being an epic fangirl.

 

Megan: [00:00:27] Hello, my name is Megan O'Russell and welcome to Episode 53 of A Book and A Dream. Sometimes, it's better to accept defeat. I know, that sounds awful and unexpected from me, but sometimes it is. I'm not someone who usually deals with writer's block, knock on fake IKEA painted wood shelf. I don't think there's any real wood in there, but we'll count it. It's good. It's good. I don't really do writer's block. If I am ever confused about a story, then a nice long walk through the woods where I come out with my legs aching and probably mud somewhere on my face usually takes care of it.

 

Megan: [00:01:08] For me, it's just not something that I've ever had to, like, hold up on working on a story because I don't know what to do with my life. Maybe that comes from spending my entire life on stage and in the theater where the show must go on and you push through no matter what. Or maybe that's just not how my brain works. Either way you cut it, I'm just not used to being like, oh, I can't write this. It just won't come to me. It's not a thing that I do. Now is sort of the time when I've had to look at things and be like, hmm, maybe it would be better to just not actually write that right now. And this is really all about Maggie Trent, so The Chronicles of Maggie Trent, book one of which is The Girl Without Magic. I had promised readers that the fourth book in the series would be coming out in late '20 early 2021.

 

Megan: [00:02:01] And I really thought it was going to happen. And all through this year, I've been like Maggie's book's gonna happen. Maggie's book's gonna happen. And I've had some readers asking like, where's the preordering, where is the book? And I finally had to start admitting that, no, Maggie is not going to have a fourth book in the next little bit of time. And it's not that, you know, I don't love Maggie and I don't love Bertrand or anything dire like that. It's just...I don't have anything to give them right now. Maggie is built around adventure.

 

Megan: [00:02:36] So, if you haven't read the series yet, book one, The Girl Without Magic, as of December 2020 is currently free on all major ebook retailer platforms. So go check it out. But they're all about jumping through other worlds. So think of it as like Chronicles of Narnia meets Doctor Who. Every book, they travel to a new world. They have this grand adventure, and they travel out of the Siren's Realm. The Siren's Realm itself has bits of Venice in it and beautiful beaches and wonderful tent cities. The fancy kind, not the really sad "we should help poor people more" kind. And all of that is very fanciful, and then in each book, they go to a secondary location. In the first book...it's really based on Thailand, and the second book, there's a lot of Ireland in it in a steampunk kind of way. And the third book, there's a lot of Savannah, Georgia, in a ghostly, soul-eating everyone might die kind of way, but you know what I mean? Like, they're not really set there, but it is all inspired by those locations.

 

Megan: [00:03:36] And I thought I was going to be able to choose another location for their last book. But then 2020 happened, and there was no travel. There was no chance to go on a grand adventure to find inspiration for a grand adventure for Bertrand and Maggie. If I were to write them a fourth book right now, the options would be like them traveling to the kitchen, then adopting two kittens who turn out to be little demons, which, you know, could be interesting. It could be fun to lock them in a house and be like, now escape. Get out, get out. That could be entertaining, but that's not Maggie and Bertrand's story. They deserve more than that. My readers deserve more than that.

 

Megan: [00:04:19] And right now, I can't provide that. So, I have made the decision to not meet that deadline that I gave my readers, I'm so sorry, umm, and wait until the world goes back to normal, and adventures outside of your kitchen are possible again so that I can give them the best fourth book that I can write. Umm, and that's not to say that I'm putting off all of my books. I mean, yes, Myth and Storm is in the world of Ilbrea. There is, because it is a Guilds of Ilbrea book, there are lots of different settings. And there's adventure and there's mountains and ice caves and regular caves and sea travel and like all kinds of amazing, fantastical locations.

 

Megan: [00:05:04] And it's super fun to write. I love writing that, but it...it feels different somehow. Even though there are a lot of fantasy settings, those fantasy settings are different than the way I construct Maggie and Bertrand's settings for them. The world that they visit is like 20 characters' worth of being in the book. It's the same with, you know, the Heart of Smoke series. Book one of that is coming out in January. The books are ready to go. It's, you know, been written during the year that has been 2020. And there has been a lot of worldbuilding in that because it takes place in the same world as Girl of Glass, but from the other end of the spectrum. So twisting everything on its head has taken a lot more worldbuilding than you'd think would go into writing something else in a world that you already wrote. But that's fine. It's fine.

 

Megan: [00:05:54] So, those things are still happening, and there's still audio coming. And I have another series planned, and there are lots of things going on. But Maggie and Bertrand...to do them justice...are just going to have to wait. In terms of what exciting things I do have coming up, because I swear I am not just giving up on publishing things, like things are happening, just not that. The Siren's Realm audio is now available on all retail platforms, which is amazing. I have a cat trying to destroy things right next to me, which feels so standard for my life because I really did adopt two demons by accident.

 

Megan: [00:06:28] One of their front legs has stopped growing on one of the kittens. It's great. She has this weird little limp. It's so 2020 I...like, it's perfect. It's so on brand. We're just going to go with it. I do have the Heart of Smoke series, book one is coming out in January. The other books will be rolling out soon after. Myth and Storm is underway. The final book in the Girl of Glass series Audio is going to be out as soon as Audible and ACX release it, which I've been promised by the representatives will be very soon. So there is all sorts of content to explore.

 

Megan: [00:06:59] And as I said, as of December 2020, the first book in the Maggie Trent series, The Girl Without Magic, is free. There's lots of excitement coming, lots of adventure that does not involve my kitchen or cats, but for now that is going to be on hold. So here's to 2021, where hopefully we will be able to have adventures and travel and do all sorts of wonderful things again. But in the meantime, I am going to leave Maggie and Bertrand hunkered down in the Siren's Realm until it is safe for them to go on adventures again. I'm really sorry if you've been waiting for the fourth book, I know a lot of people are going to be mad about this, but I appreciate you all. Thank you so much for reading.

 

Megan: [00:07:46] And stay safe. Stay inside, and I will see you next time. Bye bye.

A Book and A Dream Episode 52

Megan: [00:00:02] How does the government...

 

Mo the Cat: [00:00:03] *Mewing and Meowing*

 

Megan: [00:00:10] Should I take it from the beginning of that?

A Book and A Dream Episode 52

Megan: [00:00:02] How does the government...

 

Mo the Cat: [00:00:03] *Mewing and Meowing*

 

Megan: [00:00:10] Should I take it from the beginning of that?

 

Announcement: [00:00:16] Welcome to A Book and A Dream with Megan O'Russell: an author's adventure in writing, reading, and being an epic fangirl.

 

Megan: [00:00:27] Hello, my name is Megan O'Russell and welcome to episode fifty-two of A Book and A Dream. For those of you who are super observant, you might have noticed that there was no recording released last week.

 

Megan: [00:00:40] I could lie and say I was really busy with edits for my agent for something he wants to submit and also proofing the audiobook for The Dragon Unbound, which is now available on all non-Amazon/Audible retailers. Or that I'm working on a new project, and all of those things would actually, technically be true.

 

Megan: [00:00:59] But the honest truth as to why there was no recording out last week is because I had bronchitis that turned into a 10-day long asthma attack because there had to be COVID tests. And I'm fine now. But honestly, it got to the time when I should record a podcast and video for last week. And my husband was like, are you going to do that?

 

Megan: [00:01:16] And I was like, no.

 

Megan: [00:01:19] No, I'm actually not, because sometimes self-care looks like saying no, and I try to be honest with you all, and it would be really wrong of me to be like, "and I was really fancy and important." No, I wasn't. No, I wasn't. I was refusing to put on real clothes because I didn't feel good. And honestly, even today, I almost recorded this lying on the floor. In fact, if we had been able to figure out how to place a mic in such a way that wouldn't have risked chipping my teeth if it fell, I would have. I would have just laid on the floor to record this. But I didn't want to risk chipping my teeth, so here I am.

 

Megan: [00:01:55] And the truth is, I have been super busy and very productive. And it's 2020, and if you are still breathing, you're doing a great job. Like, to anyone out there who's like, "I'm a failure. I accomplished nothing in 2020." No, if you're surviving, that's like every other year's equivalent of thriving. Like that's, that's the bar, that's the standard right now. But I have gotten some things done, a lot of things done. Many muchin things have been done. I've been working on the first book in a new series, the series currently called Heart of Smoke, and I ended up changing the series title. But the first book is definitely called Heart of Smoke. It's actually already available for preorder on most major retailers. Kobo won't let me do that sort of thing. But it's there.

 

Megan: [00:02:39] And I'm really excited about this new series because it is very challenging and it takes place in the world of Girl of Glass. And I know, like most authors, you like write one book in the world and then you move on.

 

Megan: [00:02:53] But I don't want to do that. I'm also terrified of becoming like the Family Guy version of that Star Wars band where they're like "Play that same song again. Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo." But I don't want to do that.

 

Megan: [00:03:05] I don't want my readers to be like, "And you're writing another book in the same world. Good for you." And the whole point of building the world of Ilbrea was to create a lot of different series that fleshed out this whole massive world. So it's this huge thing. By the end, when I wrote Girl of Glass, I was not intending on ever writing another series in the same world.

 

Megan: [00:03:26] I created that series because I specifically wanted to look at a dystopian environment from the point of view of the upper one percent who has been chosen to survive. And that's great. And I love the Girl of Glass series. I'm very proud of it.

 

Megan: [00:03:39] But it got to the point where I really wanted to explore another point of view in that world. It may be the actor in me. When you're an ensemble member, you see everything from, like, six points of view per show. So I can see like, "oh, hey, you're a good guy in this scene and oh, hey, I'm going to murder you in the scene." You know, it's...you want to explore things from different angles because that's what I've done for my entire adult acting career. So that's how it feels normal to me. And sometimes it doesn't feel worth it.

 

Megan: [00:04:12] I'm like, I don't need to do this. Like in my head, it's cool, but not worth writing a whole book about.

 

Megan: [00:04:18] But with Girl of Class, it seemed like it was worth it because it is a big world. And there is so much to explore and we haven't really seen the apocalypse happening from the point of view of someone who's hungry. Who is thirsty, who is dying because, you know, lots of people are trying to stab them because, you know, evil men try to kill people, it's just like a thing.

 

Megan: [00:04:45] So I decided that I really wanted to write another series in the world of Girl of Glass, which is where Heart of Smoke comes into play. And it does not interfere with the Girl of Glass series. There are many different sets of domes within that world. It was established that they existed early on in the Girl of Glass series before I ever really thought I'd write another set of books in that world. But it's...it's separate. It's not going to mess with the Girl of Glass canon. I've been very careful about that, but I wanted to see the end of the world from a different part of the world. And that is where one story comes into play.

 

Megan: [00:05:21] Now, there are some really great things about going back into a world that you already know so well because the world is built, and when you're writing a new series, a lot of the time that comes into writing that book one is just building the rules of the world.

 

Megan: [00:05:39] It's is there a government?

 

Megan: [00:05:42] How does the government...

 

Mo the Cat: [00:05:43] *Mewing and Meowing*

 

Megan: [00:05:50] Should I take it from the beginning of that?

 

Megan: [00:05:54] Let's try that again. One of the really great things about revisiting a place that you've already been in a book is that the world is already there.

 

Megan: [00:06:02] The world has been built. A lot of the time that goes into writing a book, one when it's not like a contemporary fantasy where, you know, we know how the government here works and then you kinda twist it a little.

 

Megan: [00:06:14] But if it's in a...a different world, then building the rules of that world. So how does the government work? Like how do they enforce their laws? What weapons do they have to enforce their laws? How does their class system work? All of those things take a lot of time. So when you're revisiting worlds, all of that work is really done for you. All of that governmental, structural building is there. The other nice thing is that you already have some readers in place. There are people who already read Girl of Glass who have been actively asking me for another series. So there is sort of that comforting nature of, oh, I'm writing a book with a built in audience. That's a great idea I've had.

 

Megan: [00:06:59] There are some...drawbacks to writing another book in the same world that you've already finished a series in. One of the biggest problems is to not screw with the canon of what you've already done. You can't be like, "oh, and the people in the old series didn't know that the people in the new series had already killed all the bad guys. And there was really no problem the whole time." Like, well, I mean, you could. You could do that. It would kind of suck for you to do it, but you could. So really you have to be very careful about not messing with the things you've already done.

 

Megan: [00:07:39] You also have to be very careful about introducing information. So the Heart of Smoke series is different from the Girl of Glass series. You should not have had to read Girl of Glass to read Heart of Smoke. Cool. In concept, that's very easy. It's...it's easy to be like, oh yeah, two different things. However, introducing information has to happen in a very specific way. So if you'd never read the Girl of Glass series, which for those of you haven't, it takes place...well, it starts in a set of domes, which think like biodome, greenhouses. That's where they live. They're built as like an ark to protect people at the end of the world. So people who have read the Girl of Glass series, if I was like, yeah, the people who live behind glass in Heart of Smoke would be like, "Oh, she means the domers."

 

Megan: [00:08:31] But if I just say the people who live behind glass in Heart of Smoke, they're going to be like, wait a second, there are terrariums? No, no, it's like an isolation ward. Wait a second. Those people have really big windows in their houses? Hmm.

 

Megan: [00:08:46] It's not going to be clear, but I also can't be like, "oh, and here's how this entire system works to make sure you are entirely caught up in one scene. So here is these five pages for the sixth time about the rules of Quidditch."

 

Megan: [00:09:04] Yeah, nobody wants to read that, so you have to pepper things in, and it's really hard to make sure that you're getting all of the information that people need to the people as they need it. It is a very tricky thing that will make you go, "...I may, in fact, record this podcast from the floor today."

 

Megan: [00:09:23] And while you're maintaining the framework of the world and making sure that the new readers actually understand the world, you have to figure out how to fit a new story into that existing framework. So we know how the government works. We know how the bad guys can be defeated. We know how the good guys all end up dead. We know how this goes. So how do you write a new story that fits into that frame? How can you paint a completely different picture with a cat chewing on your microphone as you record...that is going to be interesting to readers? Because you can't just be like, "OK, well, in this world, I know that these things will kill the bad guys. So we're going to have somebody do this thing again."

 

Megan: [00:10:11] Well, yes, we've proven that if you do this thing, these people die. We know that. But you have to come up with a new concept that fits within the world you have built. It has to fit on the map, in the frame, in sort of the box. I mean, I hate boxes. Nobody wants to write inside the box, but you know what I mean. It has to fit the packaging that the world will allow. But at the same time, it also has to be worthy of your readers' time.

 

Megan: [00:10:39] You don't want to rehash the same story. You don't want it to be the same old thing but I gave them different names and hair colors so that I can sell another book. No, it has to be a different story. It has to create a different experience that is worth your readers' investment of their time and money.

 

Megan: [00:10:55] And so that can be really difficult because when you've built things so that there is a battle and the only way to end the battle is this, and these are the sacrifices we must make. Well, you can't use that again. If you use that again, why why would people want to read that same book? It's the same book.

 

Megan: [00:11:15] So it takes a lot of work to build a new plot line that will allow new loopholes for your characters to exploit so that they can be triumphant or at least die in a hopefully meaningful way. And a final lesson out there that's really only applicable to authors, for readers who are just trying to like, look at their authors, their favorite author's series and be like, "wait a second, you've used this trope in every book." I'm really sorry if I've ruined anything for you. I'm really sorry, because there are some people who will reuse the same world and the same trope. And once you know it's the same world and the same trope, you know who's going to end up married and who's going to end up dead within the first 10 pages.

 

Megan: [00:12:00] But, you know, sometimes we need comfort, so that's totally legit.

 

Megan: [00:12:04] And if that's that author's brand, go with it. That's not how I do things.

 

Megan: [00:12:07] But something that is only specifically for the authors: if you have a series and you're writing a new series and you pick out the perfect way to title your series, you check through Amazon, you make sure no one has those titles, you check through Goodreads, you make sure no one has the titles, you check all the Amazon or all the Google CEO and you make sure that it is going to fit well and work. And it's on Brand. Post all the preorders right away.

 

Megan: [00:12:36] Because if you don't, you're going to get halfway through the process of working for...with your cover designer on book one and realize that someone's posted a preorder for another series with your title for book two.

 

Megan: [00:12:49] So you have to go back and rename everything. Which is another reason you want to record a podcast from the floor. So just, you know, like snag that right away, just grab it, grab that title before anyone else can get it, because they named their series that, too, so you really can't use it because that would be a bad, mean thing to do to a new author who doesn't have very many reviews. And you'd screw them over by doing it. And you're a good person.

 

Megan: [00:13:20] You are. You're a good person, and you're not going to do that to them, so, yeah, that's really where I am right now. Halfway to the floor. Most of a book written, some edits for my agent, some more audiobooks, lots of exciting things to come.

 

Megan: [00:13:38] And some, uh, wiggling in a pre-built world to create a new and magnificent story for you all so that you can enjoy Lanni's journey through the world of the domes with an entirely different take on the world and the Incorporation and the domes and how the vampires in her world work and all of those different things so that it is a new escape for all of you when we all need something new and fantastical to distract us this year.

 

Megan: [00:14:09] So thank you for sticking with me when I did not record last week. I will be back next week, barring disaster.

 

Megan: [00:14:17] Yeah, I'm going to be back next week with another video for you or podcast, whichever way you are absorbing this content. And yes, stay safe. If you have a moment to read a good book, take it. Take a breath. This time of year is stressful for everyone in the best of years. And love yourself. Be kind.

 

Megan: [00:14:37] And if what you need to do is lay on the floor and just not for a while, go with it, because if you're surviving, you are thriving.

 

Megan: [00:14:47] Happy 2020, y'all.

A Book and A Dream Episode 51

Megan: [00:00:02] I did stuff. Look at me doing stuff. I guess I've accomplished something with my life. I don't know, like it, it feels weird to feel accomplished.

A Book and A Dream Episode 51

Megan: [00:00:02] I did stuff. Look at me doing stuff. I guess I've accomplished something with my life. I don't know, like it, it feels weird to feel accomplished.

 

Announcement: [00:00:16] Welcome to A Book and a Dream with Megan O'Russell: an author's adventure in writing, reading, and being an epic fangirl.

 

Megan: [00:00:27] Hello, my name is Megan O'Russell and welcome to episode fifty-one of A Book and a Dream. And no, I'm not changing the normal day of A Book and a Dream back to Thursday, but I wanted to save the episode this week for today because it is release day for Five Spellbinding Laws for International Larceny, which is the fourth and final book in The Tale of Bryant Adams series. Yay!

 

Megan: [00:00:50] I am super excited to have this fourth and final installment out in the world. It's been a crazy ride trying to get everything done in time with, you know, the world being what it is. But I'm really happy with the final book in the series, and it's kind of crazy because there's something super bittersweet about ending any series. This one is more on the sweet side than the bitter side. There are some series where you end them and you're like, I hope people don't hate me, but this is how the story goes. And then there are some series like Bryant where you're like, oh, I'm going to miss playing with him.

 

Megan: [00:01:26] He's my friend. But yay, here's these last little laughs with him that I get to put out in the world.

 

Megan: [00:01:31] I mean, it's very much one of those, but I'm going to miss working on Bryant because there...there's something super fun about the way that his series is structured and working in his world because Bryant is a first person. A little bit tongue in cheek, not really snarky, but very modern, very humorous, does not take everything that's happening super seriously even when there are life and death consequences. So, you know, very much like me.

 

Megan: [00:02:02] And so there's not a lot of series where I have the flexibility to do things like make musical theater references or Dungeons and Dragons references or have random demon cats and Jello prisons. Like, you can't do that in every series. It's just not going to work. But because of the world building and the way that Bryant's series has evolved, I did have the ability to sort of do whatever I wanted. There weren't a lot of rules I couldn't break other than no on-page naughty time and keep the cursing to a minimum. Like that...those were the rules I set for myself. Everything else was fair game.

 

Megan: [00:02:39] So, yeah, I'm going to miss having that freedom and that ability to...to bleed into the modern world. But I'm so happy to have his last book out there. It's also crazy because the release of Five Spellbinding Laws is also marking my 20th book release as an indie author. And that's...that's pretty huge. That's kind of monumental. Umm, for the authors out there, there's that whole, like 20 books to 50k thing where you're like, as soon as I hit 20, I'm going to be big and important, and I don't feel big and important. I think I could have 100 books out. I'm fairly certain I could have a theme park based after one of my books, and I still wouldn't feel big and important. I don't think I'm capable of it, but it is kind of cool to know that I, I have 20 books out there now. Eventually I'm going to have to like take a picture of me with all my 20 books. Probably not this week, but I'm going to do it. It's going to happen.

 

Megan: [00:03:38] Umm, yeah. It also is my fourth full series now because I have The Tethering series, which is complete, the Girl of Glass series, which is complete, the Ena of Ilbrea series is complete, and now The Tale of Bryant Adams is complete. So that's crazy. And other exciting things that are happening right now is Ena of Ilbrea is getting a complete collection, or a four book saga. Nice little one-volume set. So that's super exciting. I'll make sure that there are links with the video and the podcast to go with that. So that's kind of another crazy, huge deal. Which, funny story about that. Did you know that if you're an indie author and you print with Amazon, they have a very specific page count, and if you write a series as long as Ena of Ilbrea, getting that to fit under Amazon guidelines is pretty tough.

 

Megan: [00:04:35] So there is something super gratifying about trying to get a project put into one volume, and Amazon's like, I don't think it can fit. So that's really cool. That's another like little author accomplishment. I wrote so many words Amazon's like, are you sure about that? So, go me that's a lot of words.

 

Megan: [00:04:58] Umm, I also just proved the the audio for the Son of Sun audiobook, so that means I'm going to have a complete collection of audio for Girl of Glass. So that's wrapping up a big project, too. So it's it's sort of been a crazy few weeks of like putting little bows on all these things like hmm, Bryant Adams series, doop, shove that under the Christmas tree. Ena of Ilbrea of the Four Book Saga, boop. Look at that pretty cover art. Girl of Glass finishing that audio off big old checkmark, shove her under the Christmas tree. It's just been kind of crazy and, as like a business woman, I'm like, look at me checking off all these boxes and as a human, I'm like.

 

Megan: [00:05:41] I did stuff. Look at me doing stuff.

 

Megan: [00:05:45] I guess I've accomplished something with my life, I don't know, like it...it feels weird to feel accomplished, but I think what I'm supposed to be feeling at this point is accomplished.

 

Megan: [00:05:57] And next week, I'll do a really great podcast that I'll have like bulleted points about. Here are the top seven lessons I learned in publishing my first 20 indie books because preorder's going up on the first book in a new series like tomorrow.

 

Megan: [00:06:14] So we're not done with 20.

 

Megan: [00:06:16] Like I said, it's been kind of a crazy week. I don't sleep anymore. I just believe in coffee and wine. That's all I have. And cats, that helps. But it's insane that there are so many books.

 

Megan: [00:06:33] And I think...I think maybe this...maybe this emotion is shell shock, maybe I feel shell shocked, like looking at the actual tally of what I've done. But I'm going to formulate a lot of super useful information like why Vellum saved my marriage, and lessons I've learned from working with a cover artist for 20 different projects and, you know, tropes that are going to get you panned by reviewers every time.

 

Megan: [00:07:02] And how to answer angry Facebook messages for people who are really pissed you killed off that character. But right now, I think the only thing that I can offer is that writing 20 books seems like a really absurd thing from halfway through book one. But from this side of it, it sort of feels like...but was it really that special that I accomplished it? So it is totally doable. And it takes a lot of work, and you're probably going to cry a few times. And you may get an ulcer from drinking so much coffee, but like, whatever, there's medicine for that. But it's totally doable. The...the community, the author community, especially on Facebook, probably also has an ulc...an ulcer from drinking too much coffee, so when you're like, I can't do this anymore and I there are too many words and I will never be able to edit them, I am lost in the words, and there is no way out there...there are other authors that will be like, aha, you're in the editing soup. Don't worry, here's a lifeline. I'll pull you out. Do you have any wine on hand? So there are people there to help you.

 

Megan: [00:08:17] And it is an adventure and I think if you start looking at writing as purely a formula and I'm going to get to 20 books and then I'm going to feel fancy, it's going to be harder to do it, but if you take it into one book, one storyline, finishing one character arc at a time, it is easier to get there. So if you are at the beginning of your journey, just look at it as one little rainbow of a character arc. Get over that next arc, finish that next story. And it is very much an accomplishment.

 

Megan: [00:08:56] I guess I don't feel accomplished, but I'm going to tell you you're accomplished when you do it. And if you are a reader who's like, wow, people write books, that's fancy, take a moment and leave an author a review on Amazon or Goodreads or comment on their Instagram or their Twitter because, even 20 books in, it still feels like maybe I'm lying and I haven't even written a book. I know it's weird, it's weird, so like console your favorite author or congratulate, one or the other, and be like, hey, I read your book and I'm a human and good job on you for staring at words for long periods of time while creating characters. Look at you go. Because there are a lot of us who get a little lost in oh, yeah, 20 books is a lot, so, you know, tell 'em good job, because that's helpful.

 

Megan: [00:09:58] Yeah, so, yeah, check out Five Spellbinding Laws of International Larceny, check out the link that has the gorgeous cover for the Ena of Ilbrega...the Ena of Ilbrea. I wrote the series. I know how to say the title clearly, Four Book...Four Book Saga.... Twenty books is so much. And yeah, Son of Sun audio will be posted soon, and then there will be like a Girl of Glass audio complete collection. So that's a lot of pressure.

 

Megan: [00:10:27] But, yeah, reach out to an author, tell them that you've read their words and that writing words is good and important. And if you're an author, hang in there and remember, eat, like, some bread with your coffee. Nutritionism is important. Nutrition? Nutrition.

 

Chris (At Recording Booth): [00:10:45] Nutritishishish.

 

Megan: [00:10:48] I don't know anymore, man. Nutrition is important. I did it.

 

Chris (At Recording Booth): [00:10:59] Is that how we're ending it?

 

Megan: [00:11:04] Sure...(laughter) I have nothing left in my brain.

A Book and A Dream Episode 50

Megan: [00:00:01] Because as an author, you don't know, ever, when something, one statement, one quote, one paragraph, a character, is going to become so important to a reader that they are going to start interpreting the events in their life through that lens.

A Book and A Dream Episode 50

 

Megan: [00:00:01] Because as an author, you don't know, ever, when something, one statement, one quote, one paragraph, a character, is going to become so important to a reader that they are going to start interpreting the events in their life through that lens.

 

Announcement: [00:00:16] Welcome to A Book and a Dream with Megan O'Russell: an author's adventure in writing, reading, and being an epic fangirl.

 

Megan: [00:00:28] Hello, my name is Megan O'Russell and welcome to Episode 50 of A Book and a Dream. Now, first of all, thank you for sticking around for 50 episodes. A lot of podcasts don't even make it to 20. So look at us go. Woop woop. Here's to the next 50 episodes. I wanted to talk to you a little bit today about politics.

 

Megan: [00:00:48] I know we haven't had enough of it, right?

 

Megan: [00:00:52] No, but seriously, there is so much political content within YA books that we don't even notice or that we notice and we try to interpret it. Maybe we're like super off. But who's to say? Most authors will never tell you. But I think it's something that's really important to touch on, because as we are in this current political climate and as we're talking about YA books, it's really sort of an unavoidable topic. And I didn't want to talk about it before the election because that was just too much. But now that we're sort of on the calmer side of things, I do think it's a very important thing to touch on.

 

Megan: [00:01:27] Now, I try not to be super political in my books. If you know me on a personal level, you know that I'm a very political person, but I try and temper that a little bit in my books. Part of it is because I'm not some super important political-constitutional scholar, so I don't know why people would base their political beliefs on what I have to say. Also, because if you were to name it, like, instead of just Girl of Glass, Girl of Glass: Because when the world ends, the rich are going to last longer because they've been hoarding all the supplies that the rest of us need to survive, a lot of parents would never buy that book for their kids. So you just kind of have to put your beliefs into your characters and then let it go. And hopefully if people choose to interpret it as a political statement, they're going to interpret it the way that you meant it.

 

Megan: [00:02:22] Sometimes it's not going to happen. We'll get to that. But you really can't push it farther than that, especially in the YA genre, because even though a huge amount of the YA audience is adults, there are enough teens and younger kids, sometimes too young to be reading the books they are, that you do have to be conscious of keeping things that their parents will allow them to read. So you can't be blatant about it.

 

Megan: [00:02:49] Now, unfortunately, to start this conversation, we we do have to bring up the book that dare not be named, because before J.K. Rowling sort of, for lack of a better phrase, screwed the pooch, the Harry Potter books were a very important political statement to an entire generation of readers. And there have actually been some really interesting studies based on how many times people read through the Harry Potter series and what their trust of politicians were, what their trust of mainstream media was. And if you really look at Harry Potter, there are some very important, very blatant political statements. The easiest one to pick out, honestly, is Dolores Umbridge: that the government should not interfere with education, that teachers should be in charge of teaching, and that when we start using schools as a way of indoctrination, that it's not going to work out so well, that they need to be separate and we need to let our students learn.

 

Megan: [00:03:46] It also has things like, you know, oppressing people is wrong and that you can't just sort of shunt a group off to the side because you decide that they're not as good as you. It also very blatantly teaches us that youth is important, that just because you're young doesn't mean you don't have anything to say politically. That some of the youngest voices are the ones that are the people we need to listen to. Because even though the adults are the ones who are creating the systems, the problem that they create within those systems are going to be inherited by the youth. So, if we really screw up, it's not going to be us who deals with the consequences. It's going to be the next generation. So we...we have to allow that generation to become involved.

 

Megan: [00:04:31] We have to have our Harrys and our Hermiones because they're going to be the ones who have to deal with the consequences. They're going to be the ones who live with the fallout. And it is very tragic how badly things went with Rowling because there were so many people who felt like they were a part of that young political movement who learned to be socially involved from Harry Potter, who felt like outcasts and found a community within Harry Potter. And Rowling did an incredible amount of damage to a very vulnerable community. And I hate mentioning the books now because everyone needs to sort of deal with the ramifications of her statements in their own way.

 

Megan: [00:05:14] But if you're going to have a political conversation about YA, you kind of have to put Harry Potter in. So, I'm very sorry, and know, anyone who was hurt by her statements, you are loved and you are important and you are valuable as you are. And you are members of society, and we all believe you when you say who you are. Well, not all of us, because Rowling's a jerk, but the good people believe you. And that's the important thing. We'll take care of the jerks together.

 

Megan: [00:05:38] So moving on, because we don't want to linger on her. You can even see political statements in more current contemporary novels. And it's easier to see in dystopian just because, you know, when the government falls and the world ends, you kind of get a lot of government in your books, so you can look at something like the Red Queen. There is a huge amount of political content in that book, and a lot of it is fairly blatant. Now, this does get into the territory of our readers misinterpreting the author's intent. So I'm going to do this as spoiler-free as I can.

 

Megan: [00:06:16] For those of you who haven't read the books, there are the silver bloods who are like the royal ruling class. They're basically mutants and very important. And then there are the red bloods, and they are the poor, plebeian class. And no one cares about them and they shall punish them and use them to fight in their wars and they can all die.

 

Megan: [00:06:33] You're right, a fascist class system. Not political. Cool, whatever. And then, like some people become more important and then they have powers, then it's like, "No, you can't have powers. We're going to stay in charge forever. We're going to lie about your value because no one but the upper class can be important."

 

Megan: [00:06:50] And then they're like, "Screw you guys. We're going to have an uprising."

 

Megan: [00:06:54] And if you look at that, it's sort of like, oh, we if we decide that only old white men should ever have a voice because they're the only ones who should ever be in charge, there's going to be a political uprising. It's going to happen.

 

Megan: [00:07:07] And so looking at that book, and looking at the...the people who are backing the establishment, the people who are saying, "No, this is the way the system has always been. No, we should keep it just upper class. No, we can't have faces in here that don't look like other faces we've ever had." It gets super reminiscent of current politics. And so there is the statement of it is the voices who haven't been heard that are going to rise the loudest in the end because they are the ones who are the strongest, have from...having come up from these horrible places. So Red Queen, super important things.

 

Megan: [00:07:41] You can even get some that are, like, maybe not as political as Red Queen, but in the dystopian field, they still have political statements to be made. You can look at The Lunar Chronicles because, you know, there's the young king who's really trying hard to save his people, and then there's all the people around him, more like, :"ou could just like let them die instead. Like, you don't have to save everybody." And so in that, looking at what it takes to be a good king, what the obligations are of a ruler to protect his vulnerable people, what is worth risking in order to protect those people?

 

Megan: [00:08:18] What to do when you have, I don't know, some other government coming in and threatening everyone and you're just trying to appease them. So what do you sacrifice? Those things are very political statements. Not quite as blatantly applicable to the current vibe, but you can't read it in a nonpolitical way.

 

Megan: [00:08:38] And then sort of the the biggest. The, the one that you can't deny. The one that you can't have a conversation about, "Oh, no. This might start a revolution." Hunger Games. Oooof. And this is where part of me as an author gets even more hesitant about, like being blatantly political in my books, because Hunger Games is actually interpreted a few very different ways, which is odd to me. But, you know, sometimes the curtains are green just because they are, and sometimes the curtains are green because they represent life, and sometimes the curtains are green because they represent envy, and unless you're going to put Cliff Notes and be like, "This is based on this uprising in 1950," then you're not you're not going to ever make sure that everyone's interpreting it correctly.

 

Megan: [00:09:29] And it would be horrible if an author's, like, legacy was a misinterpreted political statement that led people in the wrong direction, especially youth, because they are the next generation. So we sort of have to count on them. But within the Hunger Games...I'm assuming pretty much everyone is at least a little bit familiar with The Hunger Games. Basically, it's an authoritarian, fascist regime. The rich people live in the Capitol and they have all the money and all the wealth, and then they make the poor little working class people in the districts work really hard for nothing. So there you go, that's a good starting off point. And so they reward the poor people when they take their children away and make them fight to the death as payment for past political crimes.

 

Megan: [00:10:20] And by past political crimes, they mean having an uprising. Because the Capitol kept all the money and let people starve, and the starving people said, "We don't want to starve anymore." Which doesn't seem like a bad uprising to have really, when you think about it. Hungry people being, like...feed us, but whatever. Anyway.

 

Megan: [00:10:42] So then Katniss comes and she's like, "No, we're going to have a rebellion." And there really isn't, in my opinion, there really isn't a way to look at the Capitol and say, "Oh, this is justifiable."

 

Megan: [00:10:58] And I think that is one of the coolest things that she did, is there are individual characters within the Capitol, like Snow, who can sit there and say, you know, I'm just trying to protect my people. This horrible system is in place to protect my people, but there's no way to actually defend the Capitol as a whole. There's no way to look at this class of people who have hoarded so much wealth--everyone else is starving--and see them as the good guys or the victims or anything else. The only person who can sort of sympathize with out of these oppressive oppressors is Snow.

 

Megan: [00:11:34] And then whether you interpret the uprising from Katniss and everyone else as, you know, a political reckoning against big government, or if you look at it as a class war and an uprising against a fascist regime like it can be interpreted different ways.

 

Megan: [00:11:52] But really, you can't say, "Oh, the Capitol is made of good people who are just trying to hold on to what they have."

 

Megan: [00:12:00] No.

 

Megan: [00:12:02] It is a, er, a political state with a government with a multitude of interpretations, but what makes it more important and more fascinating to really look at is that she doubled down recently.

 

Megan: [00:12:17] This year, she released The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. Now, I was a little hesitant. I'm not a huge like I'm going to go back in and just like pop out this origin story, which I know was really funny coming from me, but generally speaking, once I have a character's full arc, I don't need to go back. And there were some things that I didn't necessarily enjoy about Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. I was not super fond of how much, umm, ittle origin nuggets she was placing, so like, "This is how this began, and this is how this began, and all that" thing. "Here it is!" Like, there was a little bit too much of that for me, even as a Hunger Games fan. So...but what I really appreciated was that she doubled down on her theory of class problems, really.

 

Megan: [00:13:10] So the book takes place pretty soon after the war that began The Hunger Games. It's focused on Snow, which you can tell from the back cover. So that's not a spoiler. And it looks at the early Hunger Games and the pain of the Capitol.

 

Megan: [00:13:24] And even then, there really isn't a way to justify what they're doing from the beginning. There really isn't a way to say, "Oh, and these random kids should totally die because of this. Oh, it's our right to watch their suffering." Like, there is no moment in the book where you're like, "Oh, yeah, those kids should totally die. Yeah. We should punish younger generations for the crimes of the past. That's a great idea." There never is that moment, and it really goes down with the interpretation of...how do we look at the people who have so much who are abusing the people who have so little, and do we get to continue the abuse of the people who are literally asking for food? For the ability to care for their children, for their right to live a peaceful life, do we get to punish them because we don't like how they're asking for it?

 

Megan: [00:14:28] And it's really amazing, the complete and utter definitive "no" that she gives. No, we do not get to oppress people because it's convenient for us. No, you don't get to decide that you want to hurt people because you don't like the fact that they want their kids to survive. No, you don't get to decide that some people don't deserve human rights because they don't act or look like you. It's so definitive. And I've never gotten to have a conversation with Suzanne Collins. She's very fancy, and I'm sure she's very important and busy.

 

Megan: [00:15:02] But it's amazing that there is this whole trilogy with four movies that some people are like, "No, it means this. "No, it means this." And then there's just this book slapped on the table that's like, "No, it means being an authoritarian that kills kids is wrong. And there is no origin story that can justify it. It's just wrong. And they're psychopaths and they're murderers. Have some Tea." And I think that that is so admirable, especially in the YA genre. And honestly, I think a lot of authors could not have gotten away with that as The Hunger Games had not been so successful.

 

Megan: [00:15:40] Well, first of all, it wouldn't have had so many conflicting interpretations. And, you know, there wouldn't have been young kids walking around with guns being like, "But it's like The Hunger Games. I'm going to go out and defend myself," and people being like, "Actually, no, that's illegal. You don't you don't get to do that."

 

Megan: [00:15:56] But anyway, because it got so important, she had the ability to say, "This is the statement." Otherwise, people wouldn't have been listening. But because she had a four-movie franchise and, you know, she's Suzanne Collins, she can smack that book on the table and say, like, "Oppression is wrong, authoritarian regimes are wrong, fascism is wrong, and there is no correct interpretation where fascism is correct. No, it's always bad," and just slide that book across the table, and I think that that's amazing and I think it's great and a little weird that so many people look at all these YA books from Harry Potter to Hunger Games to Red Queen, you can even look at Narnia and there are political statements hidden in each of those books.

 

Megan: [00:16:47] And yes, sometimes they are tiny, and sometimes they are small, and sometimes they are just like, "Is the cost of war worth it?" Or sometimes they are massive, like, "Just because someone's a figurehead, if they're are talking mouthpiece and have no brain behind it, that doesn't make them a ruler." So, it depends on how big the author's willing to go. But my challenge to you, and this is a dangerous one, is to think through your favorite YA books and see what what statement could the author be making. And it is dangerous, because it can be misinterpreted. As someone who has gotten messages from people, and I'm like, "No-wha-what? How did...how did you get that? That's not what I meant. But thank you for reading my book and I need to go now." It's happened to me several times, in fact, and it's a little scary because I'm like, "I don't want to. Oh, that is not the legacy I want to leave. But thank you for reading."

 

Megan: [00:17:41] But go back and look at those books and look at what you believe the author's interpretation was. If you want extra credit, Google it, see what other people have thought and find where art is trying to make the casual political statement, the subtle political statement, the statement that really focuses more on what is our place as humans within this system as not politicians, not freedom fighters, as human beings who are trying to survive in this world and hopefully leave it a better, kinder, more livable place for those poor kids who are coming after us, who have no control over what we're doing right now, but are going to have to clean up our mess.

 

Megan: [00:18:25] What is the author saying to you about that? What can you take from the text that will create a better, kinder world going forward? And for the authors out there, what legacy are you leaving? What statements are you making? Because, yes, YA, a lot of our readers are adults, but for those kids, when they are going to have a moment in time when they can choose to interpret their next action in kindness or in self-profit, which, which action are they going to take if the thing that flashes through their mind in that moment is, is your book? What, what is the path that they are going to choose based on what they have absorbed from your book?

 

Megan: [00:19:09] Because as an author, you don't know ever when something, one statement, one quote, one paragraph, a character is going to become so important to a reader that they are going to start interpreting the events in their life through that lens. And I think the more we look at art not as a teaching moment, but as a an avenue for growing our humanity, hopefully in a better way to create a more hopeful future, the the better we will be as readers, as authors, as storytellers. So look at it. Take a moment, take five minutes while you're waiting for your coffee while you're stuck in traffic, while, I don't know, your Internet cuts out and you have to scream at your computer for 30 seconds, instead of screaming at your computer because your Internet cut out, you know, think about the depth and meaning of a book and how it affects you as a human being, because we are at a place right now where we can choose different paths.

 

Megan: [00:20:08] We have options available to us as a species, as a country, if you're here in the US, and every choice that we take, er, make, every action that we take toward our our fellow humans can have a monumental difference. And I hope that by learning about humanity, by experiencing other people's lives, through reading that, we will choose the kind path that invites our fellows to come along with us to a prosperous place and step away from oppression and pain and bigotry and loathing of those who are different. So take a moment, choose a book and actively choose, I hope you'll get from the books that you read because that's really the most the most common message, but actively choose to raise your fellow man up with you instead of grinding them into the dirt so we create a new Hunger Games.

 

Megan: [00:21:11] So until next time, love the people around you, no matter what they look like. Love them, raise them up, or if they're trying to, umm, grind people into the dirt, be Indiana Jones, just punch a Nazi, you know, whatever you have to do. But for the people who need help, help pick them up because it's been a hard time and they need a little love. Until next time.

A Book and A Dream Episode 49

Megan: [00:00:01] You got a YA book so you could listen to it in the car with your teenagers and you get ten minutes in and you're like, wow, that is a very graphic description of some genitalia.

A Book and A Dream Episode 49

Megan: [00:00:01] You got a YA book so you could listen to it in the car with your teenagers and you get ten minutes in and you're like, wow, that is a very graphic description of some genitalia.

 

Announcement: [00:00:16] Welcome to A Book and a Dream with Megan O'Russell: an author's adventure in writing, reading, and being an epic fangirl.

 

Megan: [00:00:26] Hello, my name is Megan O'Russell and welcome to Episode forty-nine of A Book and a Dream. There are some huge things going on between audiobooks and the indie author community, and I wanted to take some time to explain to you what the problems are, because if you're not super familiar with the way audiobooks and indie authors work, you may not understand what the problem is.

 

Megan: [00:00:50] Now, I want to start off by saying that I love my readers. I love the people who listen to this podcast or view the videos. And I thoroughly believe that you would never willingly participate in any part of this.

 

Megan: [00:01:03] If you are listening to this podcast, watching the videos, if you're reading the transcript on my website, clearly you care about books and authors, clearly you respect it as a storytelling art form. And I'm sure you respect the narrators for audiobooks, too. Unfortunately, there has been some bad information going around, so you might not understand what's happening. Yeah.

 

Megan: [00:01:24] I also believe that about eighty-two percent of people would really never screw someone over on purpose. So if you are another indie author who is listening to this and you feel like maybe the world is stacked against you, most people are genuinely good. They they don't want to hurt you. And it can feel like it sometimes. But don't worry. Have hope.

 

Megan: [00:01:45] Now on to the problem. There are two things that Amazon/Audible have that are programs that look kind of similar from the outside. And those are Audible, which is a monthly subscription where you get book credits, and that's Kindle Unlimited, which is a monthly subscription where you get to read lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of books a month. You could read 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and you're never going to run out of books. Both are great programs. They are good values for the readers or listeners, whichever you choose. But there are some fundamental differences.

 

Megan: [00:02:19] Now, the big differences come, as an author, in how we get paid. So, for Kindle Unlimited, if you are a Kindle Unlimited author, you have your books in what we call KU, then there is a big pile of money, a giant puddle, ocean of money at the end of every month. And what Amazon does is they divvy that up to all the authors, depending on page reads. So if you had millions and millions of page reads, you're going to get paid the same amount per page as someone who had two hundred pages. So if you read ten pages of a book and hand it back and then read 50 pages of a book and hand it back, the authors are going to get paid for those pages. They are getting their fair slice of the pie. No matter how much of their book you read, things are very different with Audible.

 

Megan: [00:03:06] So, the way the Audible works is you subscribe and you get a credit for that month. Now, the author who you don't...you download their book with your credit...so let's say you have your Audible credit, you download the tethering that I get paid out from your credit. That sounds like a great system. It is a great system. It's actually a pretty good deal for listeners. Not the best deal, but we'll get to that later.

 

Megan: [00:03:30] The problem with that is with that model is that Audible has an easy return program, no questions asked. They call it an exchange, which is good customer service: if you're not satisfied with a product, exchange it. But the way it's phrased, and the way it's been presented by some bloggers, it starts to sound more like Kindle Unlimited. But it's not like Kindle Unlimited, because let's say you listen to my book and you exchange it. You listen to someone else's book, and you exchange it. You listen to a third book and you exchange it and you're doing it all on that one credit. The first two authors don't get paid out anything. There's not a big pool of it. Only the last author's book you didn't exchange would see any credit for that at all.

 

Megan: [00:04:20] Now, I'm not saying that you should never exchange a book. There are some times when you absolutely should exchange a book. It's totally necessary to exchange a book, and no decent author is going to judge you for that at all. Let's say that you listen to the sample on the site and you're like, oh, this makes me feel like I'm at grandma's house. How comforting. And you get like an hour into the book and you realize that the reason it made you feel like you were at grandma's house is because the narrator actually sounds like your aunt, who used to call you fat and say mean things to you, so now you can't eat your snack while reading the audiobook because it's making you paranoid. Exchange it. Absolutely exchange it.

 

Megan: [00:04:58] You got a YA book so you could listen to it in the car with your teenagers and you get ten minutes in and you're like, wow, that is a very graphic description of some genitalia. Exchange it. That is totally legitimate. There is no reason not to exchange it. That's what the program is genuinely there for.

 

Megan: [00:05:17] So if you get a book and you're not happy with it, you can get a new one. That's perfect. That's what you should do. Authors don't want you to be unhappy while experiencing their books. It's not good for us, it's not good for you. The problem comes when people listen to the whole book, or worse, listen to the whole book and enjoy it and then exchange it for a new book. That's the problem that we're really talking about. And like I said, I don't think that you are knowingly, that, really, eighty-two percent of people would knowingly do this.

 

Megan: [00:05:49] But there are some bloggers, some financial advisers, and some really important people who are taking the Audible exchange program and presenting it to their blog readers, to their radio listeners, as a life hack, as a rental program. But it's not a rental program, because if it were a rental program, like Kindle Unlimited, there would be a big pool of money and all the authors would just get paid out, and that'd be totally fine. But that's not how it works, because if you treat it like a rental program and you go through one, two, three, four, seven books a month, remember, the only author who gets paid out for that one credit you got for the month is the final author.

 

Megan: [00:06:30] Now, maybe you're like, "But does it really matter? I mean, somebody is getting paid and they're letting me do it." It really does matter because audiobooks are super expensive to produce, especially for indie authors, because quite often, they are putting the money out there from their own pocket.

 

Megan: [00:06:50] So by the time you get to producing an audiobook, you've already written the book, edited the book, re-edited the book, gotten a cover for the book, done a blog tour for the book, cried a couple of times about trying to get publicity for the book, and after all that, you decide you want an audiobook. Now, production costs for an audiobook range from about twelve hundred dollars to, the most expensive I've heard of from an indie author is, eight thousand dollars.

 

Megan: [00:07:18] Yeah, eight thousand dollars out of their own pocket to produce this audiobook, so when they see sales and then people are returning them, which we can see on our dashboards, and it's taking money out of what they need, not to necessarily make a profit, but just to earn back their initial investment. That's heartbreaking for these authors. And authors do count on the income from audiobooks, ebooks, paperbacks as their income. So to have it show up on your dashboard as a sale and then to have all that money taken away because people are exchanging your book so they can get another one, even though they may be loved your book and left you really good reviews. That's awful. And the way that it affects readers is: people are going to stop producing audiobooks.

 

Megan: [00:08:04] If this keeps happening, indie authors aren't going to put their books into audio anymore because it becomes financially unstable situation. So you have a book that you love, that people love, that you're really sure you can sell in audio, but then people keep returning it because they tear through it before the end of the month? Then you're never going to make your initial investment back.

 

Megan: [00:08:27] And not to get too technical in how the audiobook production thing works, there's also royalty splits with authors and narrators. So say you didn't have the eight thousand dollars just sitting around in your pocket to produce this audiobook. You can pay narrators a little bit up front and then you split the royalties with them going forward.

 

Megan: [00:08:45] So that means that narrators are having active income taken away from them, too, with these exchanges. So, yeah, it may seem like it's not harming anyone, but it's actually costing authors a lot of money, and it's harming the future of the audiobook industry because a lot of that work just isn't going to be put out in that medium. There are some ways, if you are an epic audiobook listener, and you're like, well, first of all, "I didn't know I was doing anything bad. I read a financial blog and they said that it was a life hack." It's OK. Don't worry about it. Not knowing what's happening behind the scenes is totally fine. You're not in the author chat rooms. It's cool.

 

Megan: [00:09:25] But if you're an epic audiobook listener, and you're panicking now because you can't afford six audible credits a month, there are ways around this. First of all, your local library is a great resource. They have a lot of audiobooks, and the way that authors get paid out of library books are different. Either the library can pay us once and pay us more money than we'd sell a normal audiobook for. Or we get a little rental fee, which is kind of like the Kindle Unlimited "I have a pool and here's some money for you and here's some money for you." It's not much, but authors do get paid out of that.

 

Megan: [00:09:56] So renting audiobooks from the local library is a great idea. If you don't have a library card, maybe you don't have a local library and maybe you had a spat with your local librarian at a potluck. I don't know. Whatever it is, if you're not willing to use your local library or can't, you can also look at Chirp Audiobooks (Chirpbooks.com). It's a great program. It's like a book club. If you're not familiar with that, it's a program where they'll email you every day with things in your genre and they're super discounted. Sometimes you can get audiobooks for like a dollar ninety-nine. And again authors, and therefore, their narrators that they hire are being paid out from those funds. So that's a great way to support authors and narrators while saving yourself some money.

 

Megan: [00:10:35] You can also look at Kobo audio books. There's Nook audiobooks. There's all kinds of other places where you're probably going to get the same audio books for a little less money. Some are Audible exclusive, and you can only get them there. But a lot more audiobooks are moving wide.

 

Megan: [00:10:51] So what can you do? Don't return books to Audible if you've enjoyed them, especially if you've enjoyed them and finished them. Use that credit one and done. That's it. Also, if you're feeling super bold, maybe tell people who present renting audiobooks from Audible that it's not a life hack. It's actually hurting authors and narrators and the future of the audiobook industry. Because remember, if authors don't get paid, they're not going to produce those audiobooks, and they're not going to be there for you to listen to.

 

Megan: [00:11:23] Now, for the authors, it can feel a little more dire. But I'm here to tell you that you are not alone. There's a lot a lot of authors who are having this problem right now. And there are resources outside of ACX and Audible. You can look at Findaway Voices. They have other platforms that you can be a part of: Chirp, Kobo, iBooks, all kinds of things. So take a look at Findaway. I did produce my audiobooks through ACX because that's where it was easiest for me to find narrators. But I am also uploaded on Findaway, which allows me to be in those wonderful library systems. So look at that.

 

Megan: [00:11:56] Also, there are a bunch of Facebook groups out there. I'm not going to go through naming all of them here because there's too many. But there are some wonderful Facebook groups that have popped up to help support authors and help try and figure out how we're going to work our way out of this, because authors need a fair deal and narrators need a fair deal, and it's not necessarily Audible's fault, it's a lot of misinformation being spread by bloggers and by people who are, you know, abusing authors in order to create a life hack. So you are not in this alone. Come find those people. They are working together. There are things that will be happening. So be a part of that.

 

Megan: [00:12:37] In non-audiobook drama related news, there are some very exciting things coming up for me as an author, and some of those are about audiobooks. But I will announce that when they are finally approved on Audible. Another fun Audible thing, they can hold your books for months and release them in the wrong order. Yeah, but that's OK. They're going to get out there, and I'll let you know when they do. I also have the last book in The Tale of Bryant Adams series coming out very soon. And also there will be no episode or video for A Book and a Dream next week. I think next Tuesday we're all going to be a little bit busy to listen to podcasts and watch videos about books.

 

Megan: [00:13:21] Maybe, maybe you really need that relief, but I think I'm going to be such a stressed out ball of nerves that I won't be able to record anything productive. So there will be no episode next week. I will be back the week after that. Hopefully, there will be joy and love and light for all. So that is it for me this week. Keep an eye on the social media because I should have a very, very nice cover reveal coming soon.

 

Megan: [00:13:47] Actually, two very nice cover reveals. We got some epic covers coming out.

 

Megan: [00:13:51] There's going to be a blurb for a new series coming up. We have a book coming out in November. We have two more complete collections coming out in November and December.

 

Megan: [00:13:58] There is so much going on. But in the meantime, hold on to hope that eighty-two percent of people don't want to screw you.

 

Megan: [00:14:07] Over 80 percent of people love everyone around them. Eighty two percent of people probably know that I pulled that number out of the air, but it feels right in my soul. So we're going to go with it. Just count on eighty-two percent because it gives you hope.

 

Megan: [00:14:21] It's...it's good. So until next time, take a breath. Try and stay calm. We got this.

A Book and A Dream Episode 48

Megan: [00:00:01] I get to choose who lives, who dies, what they say on their way to death. Do I want to make my audience cry or do I want to be kind to them for once? And that's so liberating.

A Book and A Dream Episode 48

Megan: [00:00:01] I get to choose who lives, who dies, what they say on their way to death. Do I want to make my audience cry or do I want to be kind to them for once? And that's so liberating.

 

Announcement: [00:00:16] Welcome to A Book and a Dream with Megan O'Russell: an author's adventure in writing, reading, and being an epic fangirl.

 

Megan: [00:00:27] Hello, my name is Megan O'Russell and welcome to Episode 48 of A Book and a Dream. Before we dive into today's episode, I did want to make a quick note of the fact that we will now be posting these episodes on Tuesday for the foreseeable future. I am about to dive back into the theater world with a Christmas production and it's a crazy schedule. So to avoid last-minute stress before my day off of Monday, because that's how theaters roll, I'm going to be posting on Tuesday.

 

Megan: [00:00:58] There are some weird similarities between acting and authoring. Most of them come from the fact that they are both storytelling professions. Your goal is to give your audience/readers a story experience that...it could transform them, it could teach them something. It could just bring them some joy. You know, whatever your vibe is with the storytelling, sometimes we do hairspray, sometimes we do Les Mis. You know, it's all there in the spectrum. But they are both storytelling arts. And they have a lot more similarities that go deeper if you're familiar enough with theater to understand.

 

Megan: [00:01:38] So, when you're doing a production, theoretically, you're not doing a One-Man show that you're like, running the lights yourself and doing the sound yourself on stage. I'm sure someone's tried it. They probably went crazy. But if you're doing a standard production, there are a lot of people working on that production with you. So, you have your casting director, your producer, your stage manager, your lighting designer, your set designer, your costume designer, your wig designer, your dressers, your wardrobe people, your builders, your...it goes on and on and on. I missed a lot. You know, theater is actually a really big business. We should all appreciate how many people it takes to put on a show. But anyway, when you're writing, all of those things get funneled into just the author.

 

Megan: [00:02:22] And I didn't really think about how applicable it is until I heard a story from someone that I was actually doing an interview because I'm going to be on their podcast. And they told me that they know one author who loves writing dialogue, but they have to go back and write in the rest of the scene: the descriptions of the people, the places, what they're touching, how they're moving.

 

Megan: [00:02:44] And I thought to myself, well, that's just set design and directing, like, that's just another part of it.

 

Megan: [00:02:52] Why would you...why would you not like that more than the dialogue, because to me, they all fit together so well, because when you are an author, you are the set designer, you are the casting director, you are the producer. So when you're setting a scene in a book, you're really designing the set. So you're choosing your color palette, you're choosing are you using sliders? Is it a turntable theater? Are you going to have roll drops or is it going to be minimalistic? And you have to make some palette choices right away.

 

Megan: [00:03:23] So let's say that you're doing a show where almost everything is gray or dark, muted colors, and it has like this angsty vibe. But then all of a sudden there's something important. And so you see it and it's in red. So when you're writing a book, you choose what you're going to describe in every scene, like is this book really into colors? You're always going to know what colors they're surrounded by. Or maybe it's the smells. Maybe your, your primary character is very into how things smell or they're very wary. So is it any sound sets them off? And so if you're used to giving them all of those things in every scene, then when they notice something out of the ordinary or when that description that's always been subtle about like there's a hum in the air, there's this in the air. Oh, I hear murmurs. Oh, I hear. And then all of a sudden you hear a bang and it's like, oh, they've been waiting for that moment that this character was afraid is going to arrive has come so you can set it up because you are designing the scene in which they live and you design their costumes to when you decide, you know, is this a world where women are still restricted by corsets? Are girls allowed to have pockets? Those things make a big difference.

 

Megan: [00:04:33] And you have to put them in because you're the costume designer, you're also the casting director. You have to decide who's your protagonist, what are their strengths, who do you want to pick from all the people in your head to fill this role in your book? Who's the comedic relief? Who's the love interest? You put all those things down, and then you also get to be the playwright because you have to actually write the thing. And then you're the actors, too, because you have to put all the emotion into it.

 

Megan: [00:04:59] So, it's a lot. It's a lot. You are creating a full production in your head, but all of those artistic elements, even lighting design, kind of go in there to like, is it a dark, gritty feel? Are shadows always there? What do you want them to see? Is it bright light? Is it always, like, harsh, or is it nice and sunshiny and happy? You put all of those things in when you're writing a book.

 

Megan: [00:05:25] Now, if you're an Indie author, it goes even further, because you become the box office, you're handling the transactions, you become the publicity person, you are HR and payroll and everything else. Really the only things that you're outsourcing are like graphic design, because cover art is important, man. Covers sell books. It is so true. Shout out to Sleepy Fox Designs, because I'd be pretty darn screwed without 'em.

 

Megan: [00:05:55] But all of those jobs funnel into one person. And that's what I love so much about being an actor and an author is that I get to do this storytelling, and I love being an author because I do get to make all the decisions myself. I get to set the scene, I get to choose who lives, who dies, what they say on their way to death. Do I want to make my audience cry or do I want to be kind to them for once? And that's so liberating.

 

Megan: [00:06:24] But I love being on stage because I don't have to make all the decisions. I'm not responsible if there's an extra couch in the scene for...I don't know how they got there, but please, someone make it leave. It's not my fault if that happens on stage. OK, so it could be my fault, but theoretically that wouldn't be my fault. That would be like somebody else's fault. And that's great, too, because it's it's very freeing to be able to be on stage and just do one job. You show up, you do what the director told you to do, and you go home. It's great. It's fantastic. You never get to do that as an author because you're alone. You're alone with words.

 

Megan: [00:07:07] And hopefully they come out to a book, and hopefully people read it. But during the whole writing thing, yeah. It's just you. I'm lucky. I have a very indulgent husband who I make read everything. I'm working on a new project. I made him read the first thousand words. Help me decide if I wanted to write it in third person or first person. Check out last week's video/episode.

 

Megan: [00:07:34] But a lot of it's alone.

 

Megan: [00:07:37] So when you go to the theater next time when theaters are open or when you watch a video of theater or whatever it may be, appreciate how many people go into making that story make it to stage. It's so many people and like don't just read the program with the actors, like actually check all the little bylines and then imagine, like the box office people and all those people that you add to it, and appreciate how much work goes into creating that art and putting that art in front of an audience. And next time you pick up a book, realize that one person sat down and put all of that together. They are two beautiful mediums that both tell stories in such a similar way, but with such a different process.

 

Megan: [00:08:26] So appreciate them both. And don't forget to give a little extra love to the theater folks in your life, because it is an enormously difficult time for our industry. And don't forget to give love to the authors in your life, because in this time of isolation, they are alone with the characters in their heads even more than usual. So, you know, make sure they've had some water, slept, you know, basically treat them like a small child or a houseplant.

 

Megan: [00:08:58] That'll work. Until next time, you all stay safe. Bye-bye.

A Book and A Dream Episode 47

Megan: [00:00:02] The cat is back, if you hear any weird mic thumping, she's trying to bite the mic. She's biting the mic. This is my life. Yep, that's happening.

A Book and A Dream Episode 47

Megan: [00:00:02] The cat is back, if you hear any weird mic thumping, she's trying to bite the mic. She's biting the mic. This is my life. Yep, that's happening.

 

Announcement: [00:00:16] Welcome to A Book and a Dream with Megan O'Russell: an author's adventure in writing, reading, and being an epic fangirl.

 

Megan: [00:00:27] Hello, my name is Megan O'Russell and welcome to Episode forty-seven of A Book and a Dream. She or I: two little words that can make a huge difference. Lately, I have been working on my new dystopian series. I'm really, really excited about it. Theoretically, it will be out in December of 2020. I have learned through the process of 2020 not to promise such things.

 

Megan: [00:00:53] Now, it's a little weird for me to be starting on a whole new series without really knowing exactly where I want it to go. The last series that I started from the beginning was the Ena of Ilbrea series, and because I wrote Guilds of Ilbrea first, I knew exactly where I wanted that series to go. I knew what what Ena's voice was, the whole plot of the story starting out.

 

Megan: [00:01:13] Now, for this new series, I do know where I want it to go, but there are a lot of options open to me because these are characters that I've never used before. So I can really take the time to build the series from the ground up. And one of the ways that I really wanted to build that series...I'm sorry I'm laughing. There's a cat on my microphone. The way that I really wanted to build that series was by figuring out who my protagonist is going to sound like.

 

Megan: [00:01:38] What is her voice? The cat is pushing the microphone around. This is amazing. She just needs love. Now, one of the decisions that I had to make trying to figure out how I wanted my protagonist to appear to my readers is to decide do I want it to be a first person story, or do I want it to be a third person story? And the easiest way to put that is do I want to use I or she?

 

Megan: [00:02:03] Now, there are huge benefits to working in first person and in third person. First person is great because you really get a very deep look at the character. You're in their head, you're seeing everything as they see it. You're feeling exactly what they feel. The drawbacks to working like that is that sometimes you are very limited as to what you can give your audience.

 

Megan: [00:02:26] So, for example, since we're working in a dystopian world, the characters are going to be focused on things like food survival. Are there enemies around the corner? What disaster is coming next? Which is great to have that visceral reality of needing to figure out where your next meal is coming from is an excellent way to engage the reader. But it also limits you a little bit, because in order to set them up so that they can, for lack of a better phrase, stop and smell the roses, they have to be in a comfortable enough position where they have the brain calories to spare to notice roses.

 

Megan: [00:02:59] And they're also from a certain area of this world. There are things that they're not going to have words for. So, for example, if they've never seen a helicopter, they've never heard of a helicopter, then in order to explain that to your audience, you have to use a lot more words than just saying "the big helicopter." You have to say "the flying machine with the rotating blades on top" or something like that. I would do better if I wrote that in a book. I promise, they would be more eloquent. But that's the sort of thing you have to do. So if they don't know what a painted portrait is, if they don't know what a fainting couch is, if they've never seen a pumpkin before, you have to find ways to describe that within that character's vocabulary. And that can be a little bit exhausting for the author. And, if you don't do it well, exhausting for your reader, too.

 

Megan: [00:03:50] Now, third person is great because you can use the word "pumpkin," you can use the word "helicopter," you can use words that the character wouldn't know because you are outside the story.

 

Megan: [00:04:01] Your narrator is coming from outside and looking in from above. So they have a much bigger map. It's not all knowledge that your characters would have. Now, granted, usually it should be something within the character's reference. So unless you're, like, doing an aside scene or a flashback or a dream sequence, it should all be things that are reasonably in the vicinity of your protagonist. Or if you're doing a multiple point of view, third person story, then protagonists. You really shouldn't just, you know, jump off into a weird room unless you're setting it up that way for your reader. You've got to, like, use it somehow. You can't just, like, jump out for no reason.

 

Megan: [00:04:41] But it is possible and you can use different words. You can expand the world. You...it's easier to have more characters if you're doing third person. So it gives you a lot of leeway for an author as to where you want the story to go. I was looking at doing third person for the new dystopian series, and I was looking at doing first person for the new dystopian series because Girl of Glass is in the third person. But I really enjoyed writing Ena in the first person.

 

Megan: [00:05:08] So I actually went in and I wrote the first chapter in third person and I was really happy with the sequence of events. It's engaging, and there's a little bit of mystery, but you kind of get what's going on. So it's enough to snag the reader and draw them on. And all of it relates to the worldbuilding and what's going to happen next. And it was fun, but I didn't know if first person could be better. So I went in and I actually rewrote the entire first chapter from the first person perspective. And I had my lovely husband, who is the most tolerant human in the world, read both versions to see which one he liked better. And we both agreed that, like, well, first person is a little bit more engaging because, you know, you're in it and there's there's more depth and it's a little bit more visceral and there's more fear. But the third person gives you more options.

 

Megan: [00:05:57] And so I didn't really know which to pick. So I went to the good old author standby of checking on Amazon, yep, that's right. Went on Amazon and looked at the top dystopian series to check through them and see how many were written in first person and how many were written in third person. Because if you can't make the decision for yourself, let the market choose for you. And I wasn't too surprised to find that most of the top-seller, well-known dystopian novels are actually written in first person, which makes sense because when there is a lot of death and hopelessness and fear, getting really into the character's head allows your readers to feel those emotions without having to try as hard as they do when it's written in third person.

 

Megan: [00:06:42] So the new dystopian series will, in fact, be in first person. So the third person version of that first chapter is just going to sit on my laptop for posterity's sake. I'm really excited to dive further into this world in the first person, and because I am writing in first person, it creates a lot of interesting decisions for me as sort of the stage manager, set designer, and casting director of the series. The cat is back. If you hear any weird mic thumping, she's trying to bite the mic.

 

Megan: [00:07:14] She's biting the mic. This is my life.

 

Megan: [00:07:18] Yeah, that's happening. Anyway, so if you are interested in how writing a story and creating a narrator is a lot like being a set designer and casting director for a show, make sure you tune in next time, because it's exciting. It's interesting. And we love linking art forms. In the meantime, stay safe. Don't forget to register to vote if you haven't done it. Make sure you vote early and make your plan to vote. And I'll see you next time.

A Book and A Dream Episode 46

Megan: [00:00:02] We really want to do this hike. We've heard it's epic, are the trails clear and the park ranger said yes, but the park ranger was a liar.

A Book and A Dream Episode 46

Megan: [00:00:02] We really want to do this hike. We've heard it's epic, are the trails clear and the park ranger said yes, but the park ranger was a liar.

 

Announcement: [00:00:16] Welcome to A Book and a Dream with Megan O'Russell: an author's adventure in writing, reading, and being an epic fangirl.

 

Megan: [00:00:28] Hello, my name is Megan O'Russell and welcome to Episode 46 of A Book and a Dream.

 

Megan: [00:00:35] Lately, I've been getting the question a lot: how do you come up with the ideas for your series? And the honest answer is it's very different depending on the book. It can be anything from, with The Tethering, the idea of this boy who's waiting in a window and what is he waiting for and when is it going to come back? To Girl of Glass, wondering about, you know, in a dystopian environment, what does it look like from the upper one percent who's been chosen to live in luxury? But because the fourth and final book in the Bryant Adams series is due out next month, I wanted to take a moment and tell you the origin story for the tale of Bryant Adams.

 

Megan: [00:01:13] Now, it's going to sound like I'm getting really off topic for a second, but I swear we are going to loop back around now. Several years ago, I was living and working up in Alaska with my husband in Denali National Park. So we were only going to be there for like a month. We've been there four different times, but the first time, we were only there for a very short period of time and it was at the very beginning of the season.

 

Megan: [00:01:35] So in like May, when there's still a lot of snow in Alaska, but I love hiking and I was so scared that there was still going to be snow on the ground when we had to leave. And so I desperately wanted to get as many hikes in as we could, and who cares how bad the weather is? So there was what was supposed to be a seven-and-a-half mile long hike. That was a lie. It was not seven-and-a-half miles long. They even updated the trail signs the next year. But we talked to the Rangers and we were like, hey, we really want to do this hike. We've heard it's epic. Are the trails clear? And the park ranger said yes, but the park ranger was a liar.

 

Megan: [00:02:13] So we get what we think is halfway into the hike, but it's not halfway into the hike because they lied about how long it was, and there's snow like up to our knees. But at this point, we're like, well, we're halfway done, we should just keep going because, you know, home's on the other side of this trek, it was one way. And then we were going to walk the two miles back to town.

 

Megan: [00:02:32] So we're like, well, we...we have to go that way because that's home. So we'll just keep going through the snow.

 

Megan: [00:02:37] But the snow kept going, and the trail kept going because the length of the trail was wrong. And because I have really bad circulation―thanks, autoimmune―I started getting frostbite, so we had to stop our hike and build a little emergency fire on the side of the mountain and warm my feet back up so that I didn't lose any toes. And then I also had to, like, shove my little frozen feet up the back of my husband's coat because he's wonderful and loves me anyway. And that's how you know someone really adores you.

 

Megan: [00:03:05] But anyway, it was like awful. So much snow. And we had to, like, call two of our friends to be like, you know those two miles we were going to walk back home? Yeah. We're not going to make it. Can you pick us up? And then they ended up like hiking out to find us, which was really good, because otherwise we would have fallen in a frozen river. But the frozen river doesn't have much to do with Bryant Adams.

 

Megan: [00:03:25] So it was like this very sort of traumatic adventure. It ended in pizza and beer, though, so it was like, fine. So fast forward to the next year. We're back in Alaska. We're doing the hike again and we find the remnants of our emergency fire.

 

Megan: [00:03:44] Now, we were there for like five months that summer, so as the vegetation grew, we eventually lost where our emergency fire had been and we'd be hiking. We'd be like, was it there? I think it was there. Was it there? I don't know. The trail seemed a lot longer when it was covered in two feet of snow because park rangers are liars. Totally different story, though, keeping with the fire thing.

 

Megan: [00:04:05] And so it sort of became this running theme of like, going out on the trail, hope we don't have to build an emergency fire. And one of those times we were hiking and we were like, you know, building an emergency fire is fine, you know, you hike with matches, you got to be safe. It's Alaska. But wouldn't it be easier if there was an app on your cell phone where you could just, like, start a fire? Because cell phones have compass apps, there should be a fire app. And it was like, well, yeah, but that's not a thing. Your phone can't actually do that...it's a phone. But what if it could?

 

Megan: [00:04:36] And so we spent the next 9.6 Miles, because that's how long the trail is, not 7.5, which is a big difference, we spent the rest of the time wondering, like, what other really cool things could a phone do? What would you pack into a phone?

 

Megan: [00:04:51] And so it sort of became this idea of if you had a cell phone that could do anything, what would it do and how would you work that into a story? Which is how we came up with the magical cell phone library that is at the heart of Bryant Adams. And in figuring that out, it was very cool because now that we're like, OK, you're going to have an iPhone that can do magical things, although the book never says iPhone because, you know, branding. What else can you put into that story? Because if you're putting that at the heart of the premise, then you kind of have to accept the absurd. You sort of have to be like, yeah, we're...we're doing this. This is...this is where we're going. And we're just...just go with me, because everything is allowed at this point.

 

Megan: [00:05:38] And so that's what made writing Bryant Adams so fun for me, because from the beginning, you can accept the absurd so you can decide you're going to have a theme restaurant that has a floor that combines Star Wars and Star Trek in a weird, nondescript way so that you don't get in trouble with any Disney corporations or Gene Roddenberry or whatever. You can do that because it is all absurd and because I chose to write it in the first person. Bryant's stream of consciousness is very like mine. Like, if you want to know what the inside of my brain looks like, just read Bryant Adams. It's all there.

 

Megan: [00:06:16] And so that, that is where he came from. Was, well, we might as well accept the absurd, which came out of a kind of scary hike with frostbite and possible drowning in a frozen river. But that is Bryant Adams's origin story. Now, the fourth and final book is due out in a month, which is both terrifying and amazing because it's great to have the series finished that readers can have The Complete Tale of Bryant Adams. But it's also really sad to let him go because, you know, he is so much like my inner monologue. It is so fun to write him because it is so freeing. And I can, you know, mention the fact that the technical term for a group of cats is a clowder. Crowder What other series could you work that into? When else can you have that many musical theater references and have it absolutely make sense? When else can you say "stinky cat ass" and have people not be like "this is literary hackery," but it works for Bryant, so I'm really going to miss playing in his world.

 

Megan: [00:07:19] I am very grateful that he came out of the disastrous hike, along with all my toe is still attached to my feet, and I am very much looking forward to sharing his final story with all of you.

 

Megan: [00:07:35] So, uh, if you haven't read Bryant Adams yet, the e-book is available on all wide platforms. It is also available in paperback. So check that out. You can ask for it to be ordered at your local bookstore or ask your librarian to get you an e-book copy that you can borrow from the library. Yeah.

 

Megan: [00:07:50] So cheers to Bryan to Adams and his many wacky and absurd magical adventures. And until next time, have a great week.

A Book and A Dream Episode 45

Megan: [00:00:00] Hello, and welcome to episode forty-five of A Book and a Dream. Now, just a few days ago, I had the opportunity to interview Suzanne van Rooyen, who is the author of I Heart Robot, Obscura Burning, Scardust, and The Other Me.

A Book and A Dream Episode 45

Megan: [00:00:00] Hello, and welcome to episode forty-five of A Book and a Dream. Now, just a few days ago, I had the opportunity to interview Suzanne van Rooyen, who is the author of I Heart Robot, Obscura Burning, Scardust, and The Other Me.

 

Megan: [00:00:16] Now, I got to talk to Suzanne about her journey in writing, the difference between short stories and novels from an author standpoint, and, of course, representation for our LGBTQ+ genderqueer and trans characters. Now, it was a very interesting conversation and some of the best things that we got to talk about were how the representation has changed over the years, how the market is looking now, and most importantly, how you as a reader can support the LGBTQ+ genderqueer and trans community.

 

Megan: [00:00:49] And it involves reading some really great books. So that's awesome. You'll see some links with this. Make sure that you check them out before you just go buying all the books on the list, which I know you're going to want to do because some of them are marked as not YA. Now, that doesn't mean that they're necessarily like erotica or anything like that. But, you know, maybe read the blurb really carefully before you hand them to your favorite 13-year-old, that kind of thing. So make sure you check out all the links.

 

Megan: [00:01:15] On a personal author's note, I am thrilled to announce that preorder for the...book two in the Guilds of Ilbrea a series Myth and Storm is now available. You will also find that link with this. Now, before I send you into the interview, I do have a quick word from our friends over at Prince Fan Pod.

 

Commercial: [00:01:39] Hi, I'm Bethany Finger, the host of Prince Kai Fan Pod, a Marissa Meyer Book Club podcast. Join me every week during my read-along journey through all of the books by author Marissa Meyer. One chapter at a time, spoiler free. Each episode will feature a different guest, new fan art, and laughter and joy through reading. You can find Prince Kai Fan Pod on Apple podcast, Spotify, Google podcasts and all other listening platforms. And now back to the show.

 

Megan: [00:02:13] But yeah, I spent a lot of time near the Into the Wild bus. That's...

 

Suzanne: [00:02:18] Oh my goodness. I'm envious. I'd love to go there. Just as a...this monument to this paradigm shift.

 

Announcement: [00:02:28] Welcome to A Book and a Dream with Megan O'Russell: an author's adventure in writing, reading, and being an epic fangirl.

 

Megan: [00:02:40] Hello, Suzanne, and thank you so much for joining me on today's episode of A Book and a Dream.

 

Suzanne: [00:02:45] Thank you so much for having me.

 

Megan: [00:02:47] Now, where are you exactly where we're recording this?

 

Suzanne: [00:02:52] I'm living in Helsinki. In Finland.

 

Megan: [00:02:55] That is amazing. You were actually my first non-North American guest to have had an A Book and a Dream. So this is very cool for me. I've only been to the Helsinki Airport was my only trip there. So that's amazing. It was a beautiful country to fly over. So thank you for making the time differences work so you could chat.

 

Megan: [00:03:16] So...now, we've sort of been in the same author-sphere for a while because you are also a YA author and I know the blurbs of your books and I know sort of your genre. But what got you interested in becoming a published author and becoming a published author?

 

Suzanne: [00:03:42] That's a tricky one. It's...I didn't really have that aspiration. I didn't grow up wanting to be an author at all, and then a friend of mine sort of got me into NaNoWriMo. And I had no idea what this was. And up until that point, I'd only ever written short stories. And then, kind of at his encouragement and urging, I attempted to write a novel and failed dismally. But it kind of sparked something in me that this was something that anybody could actually do.

 

Suzanne: [00:04:17] This wasn't preserved for some special sect of ultra intelligent, untouchable people. Like, you can write and you can put words together and create a story. And it was through that experience of NaNoWriMo that I started exploring what it would actually take to get published or how to be published and what that kind of meant. And I think as...as many people do, I started in the world of publishing through short stories and getting a few short stories published before I ever had a novel published.

 

Megan: [00:04:51] What was the biggest challenge in transitioning from short stories to novel writing?

 

Megan: [00:04:58] It's always so interesting to me because I never wrote short stories. Writing short stories is like pulling my hair out. I can't figure out how to make everything fit. So what is it like going the other direction?

 

Suzanne: [00:05:14] One of the...one of the hardest things in going from short stories to novels, I think is just the level of world building required, particularly when you're writing science fiction and fantasy. In a short story, it's just this snapshots and you don't really, well, things should work and they should be logical, but you don't really have to figure out everything. And if if it doesn't quite...or if you don't really know how your whole world comes together and all the ins and outs, it's not really that important to the short story because it's so confined. I mean, especially like I'm talking short stories under ten thousand words, under five thousand words, you know? And having to really delve into world building and understanding politics and economics and like how to actually construct these worlds, that was probably the most intimidating thing between transitioning from short story to novel and then also just plotting. Like I, I used to "pants," and that's fine for a short story. But when you start pantsing fifty, seventy, ninety thousand words, it can, you know, you can lose your way, you can lose your way pretty easily, and I used to do that and now...Well, actually for the last few years, I didn't really write short stories. I had a bit of a short story hiatus from around 2015. And I was only writing novels and I kind of refined my process for writing novels. And it was only at the beginning of this year that I was like, you know what? I'm going to write short stories again. And I had to transition back into writing short stories.

 

Suzanne: [00:06:52] And it was so hard.

 

Megan: [00:06:53] (Laughs)

 

Suzanne: [00:06:55] I have to I have to make everything smaller again. And I would have these ideas where I would just start expanding and expanding, and I was like, no, it's not a novel. It's not a novel. Like, it's just five thousand words, even less. Umm, and I found that's been kind of the reverse challenge for me this year, is getting rid of all of the excessive worldbuilding and character development because I'm so used to that, right?

 

Megan: [00:07:19] Yeah, I...I love worldbuilding, so that's probably actually my problem. And I just never realized that it just won't go in the hole. But it's so hard.

 

Megan: [00:07:29] So we are both Y.A. authors and I. I love the young adult genre. It is, it is my favorite place to be. What drew you to the the teen and young adult demographic?

 

Suzanne: [00:07:48] I think because I've always been drawn to very dark literature, there was...there was something that was sort of refreshing in Y.A. when I started to read it, that I was like, oh, you don't have to be so cynical or jaded or nihilistic in your world views, because I was reading, like, pretty heavy and grim science fiction and fantasy for the most part. So that was just something inherently hopeful or positive that these stories ended kind of on more uplifting notes, which was kind of good for my psyche at the time when I, when I discovered YA. And then also just just to be able to kind of see the world through fresh eyes. Like, for teens particularly starting to figure out the world, figuring out who they are, and you get to kind of live vicariously through that in a way of if...if I knew now or if I'd known then what I know now. Right? Like, how would I have made different choices or what might my choices be?

 

Megan: [00:08:59] It would be so different!

 

Suzanne: [00:08:59] Yeah.

 

Megan: [00:08:59] I'm not even that old. I'm in the thirties and I'm like, oh, what about so different 15 years ago if I had known this.

 

Suzanne: [00:09:07] Oh yeah. For sure. For sure.

 

Suzanne: [00:09:10] I had a pretty sheltered upbringing, so I did not really get to explore the world until I got into university, into college. I was at a Catholic, all girls school, extremely protected life growing up in South Africa. So yeah, getting to just sort of live vicariously through through my characters and see the world differently and explore these "what ifs" almost like traveling back in time for myself and exploring these different what ifs. That's kind of what I what I really like about it.

 

Megan: [00:09:46] That's and that is a very cool way to put it. I don't think I've ever had someone answer the question with the what ifs for themselves. That's very cool. And do you find with your...your YA books...I mean, I'm not sure how much you know about your audience demographic, but do you find most of them are teens, or do you have a lot of adult readers?

 

Suzanne: [00:10:09] Oh. I have interacted with mix, so I've definitely had interactions with teens, generally older teens, because, again, I do tend to write dark as well. I'm not sure if I can actually answer that, because a lot of the people who give me the feedback tend to be adults, because they're people within my...my writing/reading circles who read my work, or critique partners, things like this who I tend to interact with. But then I have initially, you know, I was reading Goodreads reviews and those--

 

Megan: [00:10:49] Oh, that's dangerous.

 

Suzanne: [00:10:50] Yeah, that was terrible. But I think I think they're like a probably slightly younger demographic than others that I've had some feedback like messages from from older teens, maybe like 18, 19 year olds, which I guess is kind of. The the upper the upper teenage read is readers is who I've of for, so that makes sense.

 

Suzanne: [00:11:18] But then I've also, 'cause I'm a teacher, and in in the school that I was teaching in Sweden, I was the school found out that I had written a book and it was my YA book I Heart Robots. And the next thing is that I saw that it was making the rounds with the grade five students.

 

Megan: [00:11:35] Oh, no!

 

Suzanne: [00:11:36] No! You're 10 and 11. I'm I'm not sure this book is aimed at you all about like a rebellion for like campaigning for human rights for androids. But it's very much like a trans allegory. And there are trans characters, and it's like fight for basic human rights, essentially, and equality. But it's kind of dark. It can get pretty grim. And then there were these 10, 11 year olds reading my book and enjoying it...presumably because that's what they said, and I don't know whether they were just trying to make their teacher happy or enjoying it, but yeah, so I guess some some surprisingly younger readers also.

 

Megan: [00:12:19] It is always a little scary when you see readers who are below what you aimed for and you're like, oh, I mean, I don't know, outside of the U.S., if it's as big a problem with parent censorship, I don't know if that's just a special thing we do here.

 

Megan: [00:12:36] But I always have this terror of, like the parent leaving me a horrible review or the parent, like contacting me on Facebook and me being like I marked it as 14 and up and you gave it to your nine-year-old! I don't know what to tell you, but I that is such a real fear for me.

 

Suzanne: [00:12:54] It is scary. I mean, in in Europe in general, there's a lot more of a relaxed attitude towards sexual content, but a more strict censorship when it comes to violence. So the the issue parents may have is probably not if there's teen sex scenes, but if there's, like, really graphic violence or like cruel violence in a book that's aimed at younger readers.

 

Megan: [00:13:21] That, I mean, that system makes so much more sense to me because one is, you know, an inevitable part of life and the other is something we can really hope we always avoid.

 

Megan: [00:13:31] But--

 

Suzanne: [00:13:31] Exactly.

 

Megan: [00:13:31] --that's that's a problem with writing, you know, for the YA market. I know for me, most of my readers are adults, which is, you know, pretty standard for my niche of YA, but it's...it always makes me feel better until I see, like, a little tween holding my book on an Instagram. And I'm like, oh, no, I'm so sorry. Please don't tell your parents I'm sorry. But yeah. And just a real quick note for listeners on Goodreads. Goodreads can be terrifying, but just know that we have all been in the Goodreads Hole where you want to, like, curl up because people have said some nasty things.

 

Megan: [00:14:13] So just, you know, scroll them if you must, but never let Goodreads ruin your publishing dreams. Just move on. It can be pretty harsh there. So just, you know, don't be terrified.

 

Suzanne: [00:14:25] And there's an audience there as well. You know, most people are more likely to be vocal and very vocal about things that they hate than things that that they like. You know, just just OK, right? So you're always going to skew towards either the really hateful stuff or the super positive.

 

Megan: [00:14:42] Yeah, that's...I love looking at BookBub reviews are actually my favorite because they usually won't even bother if they didn't like it. And then sometimes they'll just click like...it has the options like "I liked the action," "I liked the romance." And so they don't have to say anything. So you get a five star review that's like "good action, good romance, compelling," and then it's. That's just it.

 

Megan: [00:15:05] So you can be proud of yourself without having to worry. So it's always a nice little ego boost to look at those.

 

Megan: [00:15:12] So--

 

Suzanne: [00:15:12] I like that.

 

Megan: [00:15:13] Yeah, it's it's great. So you mentioned in I Heart Robot that you have a...a positive message about the transgender community, and I asked you to come chat with me before, you know, the the world sort of blew up with the controversy, which is should never be a controversy. But I guess some people just have to be cruel. So most of... Is it most of your books(?) Have LGBT plus and trans themes. Is it just I Heart Robot.

 

Suzanne: [00:15:51] I would say most of them have definitely have LGBT plus characters and I guess LGBT plus themes because it's hard to separate one from the other. I mean, The Other Me is a trans story. It's about a trans teen realizing that they're trans and what that is, which is very much drawing from my own personal experience growing up in South Africa, where that sort of vocabulary just didn't really exist at all. I didn't really understand what what transgender was until I was into my university years. And, yeah, I Heart Robot definitely has that undercurrent, as I said. It's not really a trans allegory. I think people who read it understand that it's a story about human rights, basic civil rights in general,umm, but there are comparisons made between this...this call for giving human rights to androids that have become very sophisticated AIs and what does it take to make us human? And the parallel that's made between the fight for rights with transgender individuals in the world.

 

Megan: [00:17:12] And I...so, and this could be me. Living as, you know, a cisgender, heterosexual woman who lives in, you know, that that very privileged set to the side and just like living with, you know, some chauvinism but doing pretty good, it could just be my naiveté, but I feel like there aren't a huge number of books in the YA genre when compared to like all the other niches that we're pushing towards that really have that message or if not, message undercurrent pulling towards that direction.

 

Megan: [00:17:55] What has that been like for you as an author to to reach out into that realm that desperately needs more books, that needs more representation?

 

Suzanne: [00:18:08] Yeah, I mean, I think it's it's something that's always well, not always, but it's something that's been there a very long time on the indie circuit. So indie publishers have been doing incredible work, publishing diverse voices for almost 10 years. And that was where my books initially found a home was with indie publishers, I even had agents just tell me categorically they had no idea how to sell this, my, my book, The Other Me, at that time. I just don't know how to sell it. This transgender story, and it's set in South Africa. What do I do? It just it wasn't a thing that they believed could sell to traditional, you know, the big, big five houses then. But there's definitely been a shift. And this year has seen so much fantastic literature bursting onto the YA scene. Just recently, Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas, who's a trans writer made The New York Times best seller list.

 

Megan: [00:19:09] That's amazing.

 

Suzanne: [00:19:10] Yeah, like, really that was absolutely epic. And is Felix Ever After, which was written by is written by Kacen Callender and Kacen Callender has written other books before, but hasn't really been noticed the same way that this book, Felix Ever After, put Kacen Callender on the map. And that is a...that is a trans story. And there's some diva and. Oh, gosh, just like so many and Anna-Marie McLemore, who wrote When the Moon was Ours and The Weight of Feathers, recently came out as non-binary. So all of their books, which have always had these themes of genderqueer, gender fluid. It's just I think they're there, but they maybe haven't received as much mainstream attention until perhaps given the shift in paradigm with black lives matters, with all this Rowling nonsense that's come about, it's like it's shifted the spotlight onto these books. And that's fantastic because we are getting more and the Big Five publishers are realizing that there's an audience and that these books sell well. It's not necessarily just the trans group of readers who are reading them, but it's actually got a big market for these books because they're fantastic.

 

Megan: [00:20:40] I...I, I mean, obviously, like what Rowling has done is completely abominable and, you know, damaging and it's a betrayal, but it is kind of nice to hear you say that at least this, this bright spot of getting the the trans-positive books more out into the world and gaining them more attention. At least, though I'm sure it was not her intention, at least it is having that positive impact, so that...that adds a little brightness to the world, even though, you know, it's coming from a bad place.

 

Megan: [00:21:15] And so as a writer within this community, how have you ever had any interactions with your readers that have made you feel...I hate to say important, because obviously you're important, you're a human being, but that have made you feel like, you know, this is this is making a difference. This is this is worth it. Have you ever had any of those sort of grand moments that make the toil go?

 

Suzanne: [00:21:50] I mean, yeah, I've had a couple moments like that, I've had some some really personal feedback from from some readers for whom my books have meant a lot and have kind of they've had some aha moments maybe reading my books. But I think every every artist who creates authentically is going to get that reaction from the people who consume their art, because there's a there's an honesty to if there's a vulnerability in it and that resonates with people. So it doesn't necessarily make me feel important. It's certainly validating and it makes me feel good and it makes me think, OK, I keep going because people are enjoying what you're creating. Yeah, I think I think anybody can have that, and I think it's important for people to realize that even if they're creating something that feels really strange, like, I don't know, banana skin memes just something completely [inaudible] tiny percentage of the population is going to be into, you're still going to be able to reach your audience and people are going to resonate with that and love it and be your fan and want more. And it's going to be meaningful to them, really deep and meaningful to them. They're going to be other people who just completely hate it or not, even hatred, which is worse. It's just like be ambivalent and they're just not going to care about it either way.

 

Suzanne: [00:23:27] But yeah, I mean, it is nice when you get positive feedback from from people who've read your stories and say, uh, you know, thank you for putting into words what I couldn't, or you made me realize this thing about my life or you just just had some sort of positive effect in the world because there's so much negativity that if you can bring like this tiny little spark of goodness to other people's lives, I think that makes you feel really good at that.

 

Megan: [00:23:53] That is always a very nice feeling. And I. For me, in like my author journey, it's it's always a little bit strange because I... I mean, yes, like every person has their own unique perspective, but I don't have a unique perspective, really. I, I'm really like middle class, college educated. There you go. Like standard. Got it. But it is always nice when someone says, you know, oh, this is something I haven't seen before. Oh, this is something I hadn't realized. And that is great. Now, I have from you and the pre-interview list that I said I have just to let the listeners know a full list that she created of books that she would recommend for people who want to give more financial backing to authors who work in the genderqueer and transgender books.

 

Megan: [00:24:50] And so I have, it's a great list, and I am going to put all of that in the show notes and on the social media posts, because in recognizing that we need more of these books because, you know, it is a human experience and it should be represented in fiction the way it's represented everywhere else. If you want to support that writing community and support publishers putting more of those books on end caps Barnes and Noble and giving them good placement so that more people can find them then, you know, invest in these authors and purchase some of their books, because that is one of the ways we can help get this out there is by proving that it is commercially viable.

 

Megan: [00:25:33] Now on an author sort of slant. And I'll give you a little backstory as to why I'm asking this early. This is 10 years ago, which is sort of when, you know, the publishers are telling you that there is not really a place for transgender storylines. There was a lot of you should not put LGBTQ+ characters in your book, unless that is specifically what your book is about, was what I was told through like five of my different publishers, was that that was just not allowed. And so my way of dealing with it was always knowing in my notes that, you know, well, you know, he's gay, she's gay, like I have it. It's implied, but never going to say it because otherwise they're just going to edit it out on me anyway. And so as we have lost those sort of restrictions and were able to include them in books because people have realized that that's ridiculous, it doesn't need to be the theme in order to have representation. What advice would you give to authors who are not necessarily writing transgender, genderqueer, queer-focused books, but want to include these characters? How would you recommend they go about writing it in an honest and inclusive way?

 

Suzanne: [00:26:51] I think it's I think it is tricky, especially if if those authors are not part of the LGBTQ+ community themselves. So if they are cishet authors wanting to include these characters to include diversity in their books, it would be similar to how white authors don't want to create token characters of color in their stories. And a good rule of thumb seems to be that if you're not writing a story that you or a character that you share an identity with is maybe better not to choose them as the point of view character, and I think I don't know any authors, particularly white authors, who haven't made that mistake in their career at some point with really good intentions, but I think we know better now and we can do better now. So perhaps just like the first rule of thumb is you don't have to make the transgender character your point of view character and try to write them as your main focus of the story if you don't share that identity, because chances are you're going to get things wrong, even if you do all your research, even if you have trans friends and sensitivity readers, it's maybe just not your story to tell as a cisgender person, but that that leaves the door wide open for all of your secondary characters.

 

Megan: [00:28:14] We should absolutely populate your world realistically with a diverse cast of characters, but then you do need to be sensitive and you need to be self aware of how much you know, how much you can you can write authentically from a from a place of personal knowledge, like maybe you have trans friends or trans family members you can check in with to make sure that you're using appropriate language, considering different perspectives and the way that you approach certain material in your story, and then just make sure that you get sensitivity readers from outside of your sphere as well. Because if you give it to a family member or a close friend, they might not say what needs to be said, umm, in terms of if you if you get something wrong or maybe they just share such a similar worldview, they might not even pick up on something that somebody comes from different socioeconomic backgrounds or different ethnic cultural background might see potential harm in. And that's also, it's, it is tough. And I think authors these days have the responsibility to do better when they write characters outside of their lane, but at the same time shouldn't be discouraged and shouldn't then like whitewash or straight wash their stories out of fear of getting something wrong, but rather try to do your best. And if you don't get something right, listen to that criticism and learn and then do better next time.

 

Megan: [00:29:48] I think that straight washing is something that at least in the the United States book community is something that we face so often. And I I know that it has been very damaging to to some of my friends in the LGBTQ+ community of all of their favorite books growing up. They didn't there wasn't even like someone you meet at the grocery store for three lines, like there was no one. And so I think that that is something that, you know, we as authors, we need to do better. And it's it is going to be a process. But I, you know, challenge all of the authors out there to to take the steps and do better because, you know, that is not only our obligation, but it should be a challenge that we lovingly take on to to help and protect the next generation, find representation in, you know, whatever the next Harry Potter is. There should there should be more inclusion so that we don't ever face this disappointment again.

 

Suzanne: [00:30:53] Absolutely.

 

Megan: [00:30:53] So on that same note, people who are just starting off, they have not even gotten to populating their worlds with any kinds of characters yet, what would you give to, what advice would you give to an author who is just beginning their writing journey?

 

Suzanne: [00:31:12] Oh wow, don't don't rush to have patience because the industry is convoluted and complicated and there are so many different paths you can take towards publication, and they're all just as valid as they are different. And I think there's so many resources now online that help you understand exactly what each of those paths looks like, what each of those paths take, and what the what the outcome is likely to be. And you really have to be honest with yourself about what you want and how much work you're prepared to put in, because trying to get into traditional publishing is a very different game, almost lottery kind of situation.

 

Megan: [00:32:04] Yep.

 

Suzanne: [00:32:05] Yeah, and I think that's that's hard. Like this is a bitter pill to swallow for many of us because it doesn't always matter how good your book is, if it's the wrong timing or if it's something that's too similar to what an editor has already on their list, or there are just so many so many reasons why a good book might not sell. But then if you're going to go into indie publishing and find a small press, you have to be so aware of reputation and what what are the hallmarks of a good press and a reputable press and responsible press, because you can sign away your rights and end up with nothing for it, and it can be a complete soul destroying experience if you end up signing with a press that just takes advantage of you.

 

Suzanne: [00:32:52] And then with self publishing, you have all the control. And so it's a wonderful feeling to be in control of your artistic creations. But it takes so much work and there's so much business acumen that requires to really excel in self publishing. So there are lots of different avenues. And my my advice to anybody who's starting out is do your research into what these look like, what. Yeah. And how to navigate it and ask for help. As I said, there's so many resources online now. When I started out, I didn't know much of anything, and I was just happy to sign any contract that was going to make me published. That was the important part. And I made some some pretty awful mistakes early on that I wish I wish I could go back and fix. But, you know, there it is.

 

Megan: [00:33:49] Yeah. That the earlier mistake fear is, err, experience is is so real. It's it's hard. And, you know, there are, if you're interested in indie publishing, make sure you check out Joanna Penn creative. Yeah. Joanna Penn, The Creative Penn podcast. If you're interested in submitting, there are entire textbooks on how to get that done.

 

Megan: [00:34:12] But there are a lot of great resources. And the basic one of my favorite things about the author community is how open they are to sharing their knowledge.

 

Megan: [00:34:25] There's really not a lot of like this is my little chunk of knowledge and you shall never take it from me.

 

Megan: [00:34:30] People are very open to say, oh, don't do this. Oh, like this is maybe not the best way to query. Oh, you should go about this. Have you read this book? Go to this blog. Join this Facebook group. And so I think in a lot of other artistic industries it can get very competitive and people don't want to share their their golden chunks of knowledge. But in...in the author community, you may not always get an answer, but never be afraid to ask the question, because chances are someone's going to lovingly guide you in the right way, even if they're only sending you a hyperlink. So that is, you know, it's great.

 

Megan: [00:35:05] So for the final four questions, if you could only recommend one book, which would you choose?

 

Suzanne: [00:35:13] Yeah, you know, I saw this question and I've been thinking about it, and I'm no closer to finding an answer. I was like weeks ago when this question was posed to me because there's so many different reasons to recommend different books, you know, like if you just want pure escapism or if you want something that's thought provoking. But I will say, and this is kind of strange to maybe recognize it as fiction. This is a nonfiction book, one of the books that dramatically changed my life and really kind of made me take stock and do a hard reset on a lot of my my views and goals in life was Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild. And it's been made into a movie, which is fantastic. The movie is really great, beautiful film, but somehow reading the book, it just yeah, that that really sort of shook up my my view at the time, like the definition of success or how we judge ourselves based on these sort of very strange societal constructs. That aren't really real. So, yeah, that's maybe one book that really changed my life.

 

Megan: [00:36:32] Funny story. I spent four summers 20 miles from that bus.

 

Suzanne: [00:36:38] Oh, wow.

 

Megan: [00:36:39] Yeah. So some people would hike out to it, but it's a very dangerous, people have to get life lifted out of there all the time, hike. But yeah, I spent a lot of time near the into the wild bus.

 

Megan: [00:36:50] It's

 

Suzanne: [00:36:50] Oh my goodness

 

Megan: [00:36:50] Yeah

 

Suzanne: [00:36:51] I'm envious. I'd love to go there. Just as a...this monument to this paradigm shift.

 

Megan: [00:36:57] They actually recently this summer, I believe, airlifted the bus out.

 

Suzanne: [00:37:02] Oh right.

 

Megan: [00:37:03] They moved it because so many people had gotten hurt and had to be rescued. And I think a couple even died trying to get to the bus. So they finally, they airlifted it to somewhere people could visit it more safely. And that's wise.

 

Suzanne: [00:37:17] But at the same time, a little bit sad it's gone.

 

Megan: [00:37:20] It is. But it's they had a perfect replica of it at the local brewery so people could take a picture if they didn't want to hike.

 

Suzanne: [00:37:31] That's definitely safer.

 

Megan: [00:37:31] Yes, it was great. You could have a beer in your hand and visit the into the wild bus. It was the one from the movie.

 

Suzanne: [00:37:37] Ok.

 

Megan: [00:37:38] So what song can you count on to pump you up and lift your spirits?

 

Suzanne: [00:37:45] My goodness. like music is such a huge part of my life that I have very specific playlists for how I want to feel, very specific songs for how I want to feel and, I think...Hmm...Well, you know what? Imagine Dragons is always kind of guaranteed to make me feel happy, and even Spotify realizes this, like if I'm having a day where I just keep skipping tracks, I don't know what I want to listen to, Spotify will start spinning Imagine Dragons close to me. And it works because I'm like, oh, listen to that. So, yeah, Imagine Dragons, which is not the most unique or interesting band maybe, but I really like them. And Dan Reynolds, the lead singer, does fantastic work for LGBT+ youth.

 

Megan: [00:38:32] Oh, nice. I didn't know that.

 

Suzanne: [00:38:34] He's a really positive force there and a huge activist for LGBT+ youth. So extra bonus points for supporting Imagine Dragons. And of course Linkin Park. That's just such a solid favorite from my formative years, early teenage years growing up. So that's.

 

Megan: [00:38:53] I love that. I love Imagine Dragons. It's...they're, they're great. So what do you want the tagline of your life to be?

 

Suzanne: [00:39:03] So there's this band called Explosions in the Sky, which is this sort of post rock, shoegaze-y, kind of ambient strange music, which I love, and I always include them in my writing playlist. And they have the song called Remember Me as a Time of Day. And I've always just been completely enthralled and enchanted by that, like, yeah. So I always thought like if I had to have a memoir or if they were going to like chisel something into my gravestone, which they wouldn't because I want to be buried in one of those like seedpods so that I could get into a tree.

 

Megan: [00:39:42] Nice. That's a good that is one of my top three options for what I want. So that's cool.

 

Suzanne: [00:39:48] But if I was ever going to have this epitaph or whatever, then I would have this "remember me as a time of day," because I think it's just kind of whimsical and poignant without being sad or...and it says a lot without saying much. I don't know. I just like that.

 

Megan: [00:40:05] You know, that's great. I think it's it's beautiful and it works. So what is the most inspiring thing anyone has ever said to you?

 

Suzanne: [00:40:16] So it's actually fairly recently, that's...well, this is like, inspiring specifically for writing. Not like...life in general, but specifically for writing, was that I read an interview with this Australian writer called Holden Shepherd who wrote a really good YA book, Invisible Boys, which I forgot to put on my list. He's a gay author, and he wrote this book about these four gay boys, and in this interview he was talking about how his writing mentor had told him the problem he was having with one of his manuscripts that just wasn't working was because he had written from too-recent trauma. And this mentor told him and and he was relating the story that you should write from the scar tissue, not from the wound. And it took me a little while to unpack that, and I think that's amazing, write from the scar tissue, not from the wound, because if you're still you're still bleeding, if you're still raw after a life experience, you're not going to have the distance and the perspective to be able to write well about that thing.

 

Suzanne: [00:41:26] You're still dealing with it if you're still in it yourself. So that was a really big like aha for me, with writing.

 

Megan: [00:41:36] That's that is an amazing piece of advice. I've never actually heard that, but it makes so much sense.

 

Suzanne: [00:41:45] Yeah. I just love the way that it was worded. And it definitely makes sense because we do tend to write from our life experiences. And sometimes I definitely try to write about things where it's just it isn't working. And suddenly this clicked for me. Yeah, because it's too soon, it's too soon to try to put this into into fiction when I'm still dealing with it myself.

 

Megan: [00:42:08] Yeah. That those are very wise words. Now, before I let you go, where can listeners find you, your books, your social media, all those wonderful things?

 

Suzanne: [00:42:22] Yeah. So my books are mostly available wherever you find books. So definitely on Amazon, across all the Amazons, wherever you are in the World. Book Depository. And then I think some of the titles, at least Scardust, which is published with Entangled, that should definitely be available in most of the North American stores or at least be able to be ordered. Umm, uh yeah, I think the others should be available generally around. I Heart Robot because that was that was published by the indie press and then I got the rights back and have since self-published that. That might be the only one that is not as widely available, but that's definitely on Amazon as an e-book. And all my books are available as ebooks and paperbacks and a couple are available as hardcovers as well.

 

Megan: [00:43:15] Oh, fancy.

 

Suzanne: [00:43:18] And I Heart Robot is also in Chinese. So if you can read Chinese and want to read, I hope not in Chinese that's available too.

 

Megan: [00:43:27] You know what? I'm having a Skype meeting with some students from China on Monday. So perfect.

 

Suzanne: [00:43:33] Oh. Brilliant! Brilliant. I can send you some links for that if you want.

 

Megan: [00:43:35] Sure.

 

Suzanne: [00:43:37] Yeah, and then to find me, I'm most active on Twitter and on Instagram. And my my handle is the same on both of those. It's @Suzanne_Writer.

 

Megan: [00:43:48] Perfect. So I will send people I will also put those links in the show notes for everyone to make sure that it is easy for everyone to find. And thank you so much for joining us today. This was wonderful and, you know, very educational and informative, too, which is great. So thank you so much for coming on A Book and a Dream.

 

Suzanne: [00:44:08] Absolute pleasure. Thank you for having me.

A Book and A Dream Episode 44

Megan: [00:00:02] In her honor, we are going to talk about women in fiction and in a very special way because, you know, women belong in every room where decisions are being made.

A Book and A Dream Episode 44

Megan: [00:00:02] In her honor, we are going to talk about women in fiction and in a very special way because, you know, women belong in every room where decisions are being made.

 

Announcement: [00:00:16] Welcome to A Book and a Dream with Megan O'Russell: an author's adventure and writing, reading and being an epic fangirl.

 

Megan: [00:00:27] Hello, and welcome to episode forty four of A Book and a Dream. Now, the United States lost an amazing woman this week. If you're not from the United States or you just don't know what I'm talking about. Take a moment and look up the notorious R.B.G. Now, this is not a political podcast. I'm not going to go there. But in her honor, we are going to talk about women in fiction and in a very special way, because, you know, women belong in every room where decisions are being made. So let's take a look at that with the Bechdel test.

 

Megan: [00:00:57] Now, if you don't know what the Bechdel test is, don't feel bad. I didn't even know what the test was until I was already down my road towards publication and being an author. Now, what the test is, it was created by Alison Bechdel in a comic strip that I will not name, but there is a link to it. I'm not going to say the name because technically I could get pinged for hate speech by Google. I didn't name it. Don't get mad at me if you don't like the name, but there is a link to it.

 

Megan: [00:01:23] Read the comic. It's great. Now, Alison Bechdel is a famous American cartoonist who also is the writer of her graphic memoir Fun Home, which became an award winning Broadway show, fun fact. Now the Bechdel test cartoon is talking about two women going to the movies and what movies they can see that also have two women in them. The Bechdel test is pretty simple, but the first time I heard about it was when I was talking about one of my many publishers that shut down along the way. When I was talking about submitting to them, I was told by someone, they're really great, but they're only going to take books that pass the Bechdel test. And so I really quick put the name into Google, and I was like a feminism test? There is no way The Tethering can pass a feminism test. It's a young adult fantasy novel. It's a boy and a girl. There's like evil men and there's good women. And women are strong, but not like feminism strong. There is no way.

 

Megan: [00:02:19] Until I actually looked at the Bechdel test. Do you want to know what's required? It's three things. It's very easy. There must be two female characters. In some versions, the characters are supposed to have names. The two female characters must have a conversation. And three, the conversation must not be about a man. Now, you look at those three easy rules and you're like, well, clearly, like, every book passes the Bechdel test, every movie passes the Bechdel test. No, they don't. It's actually amazing how many books and movies don't pass the Bechdel test. And it's not necessarily that people don't want to have women in their books. It's just the situations that we cast them in. We cast them as the love interest.

 

Megan: [00:03:06] Well, if their whole point of being in the book is to be the love interest, then, yeah, they're going to spend their time talking about men. So it's where we position women in the books before we put them in a conversation.

 

Megan: [00:03:19] So I was looking at The Tethering and technically it does pass the Bechdel test because of a scene that our female protagonist isn't actually in, but it passes. So I managed to get the publication contract, which didn't end well. But that's a different story. But it's amazing how hard it can be if you're like, I'm going to take the Bechdel test seriously, you can't start with putting in a random conversation.

 

Megan: [00:03:42] Let's say that you are writing a book and you're like, I'm going to make sure that this really passes the Bechdel test. It's going to be super feminist. Well, you can't stop the plot to have a conversation about bagels because you want to make sure you have two females having a conversation. You can't have two random women walking down the hall and be like, "hi, Lisa." "Hi, Sue." "Wow. Did you get enough coffee? It's great to see you" and move on, because as an author, that's not your job. Everything has to propel the plot forward, which means we need to put women in power positions, which is how The Tethering accidentally passed the Bechdel test.

 

Megan: [00:04:21] So how are you going to put women into positions of power? How are you going to make sure that you station the point of view of your book so that women have those opportunities to have the conversations? In The Tale of Bryant Adams, it was hard for me, because it all comes from Bryant's point of view. So since we're only seeing things where Bryant is actively in the room, positioning things so that there is a conversation between two women that doesn't refer to him but he's just so happened to be there hanging out on the wall, I really had to think about how I wanted to station my females in the cast and how I wanted to have him come into that conversations that it wasn't about bagels just so I could pass the Bechdel test. Now, as I've gotten farther along my author journey and realized more and more how to position my female chess pieces so that they can naturally have these conversations without having to have men eavesdrop or do other weird and creepy things, I've gotten better at doing it and also better at realizing that, you know, people like sex workers can be super empowered.

 

Megan: [00:05:24] Hashtag Ena of Ilbrea. Important people in important positions, so it's my challenge to all of you authors out there to look at your books, look at where you're putting your women in power positions. They belong in the rooms where decisions are being made. So let's put them there. It may be a fantasy in some places, but it doesn't have to be a fantasy in your book. Put them in the room. And for my readers, look at your favorite book. Does it pass the Bechdel test? Does your favorite author have any books that pass the Bechdel test? Why?

 

Megan: [00:05:58] Is it because you're reading, you know, the fiction where it's always the men who are having important conversations, and the women's job is just to rehash what the men have already done or clean up their messes? What is their position in that world? And then maybe take a look around at some authors who do pass the test, because one of the ways that we can influence the next generation to have women in positionS of power who are there to make sure that the next generation does even better and even better and even better until, you know, there are nine women in an important room that encourage those authors by investing in their work and by reading their books. And that is my completely nonpolitical statement on the passing of the Notorious R.B.G. See you next time.

A Book and A Dream Episode 43

Megan: [00:00:02] None of us knows what's coming tomorrow anymore, who it could be, aliens, you know, the Loch Ness Monster could have bonded with Godzilla and they're going to come and kill us all. Who knows?

A Book and A Dream Episode 43

Megan: [00:00:02] None of us knows what's coming tomorrow anymore, who it could be, aliens, you know, the Loch Ness Monster could have bonded with Godzilla and they're going to come and kill us all. Who knows?

 

Announcement: [00:00:16] Welcome to A Book and a Dream with Megan O'Russell: An Author's Adventure in Writing, Reading, and Being an Epic Fangirl.

 

Megan: [00:00:28] Hello, my name is Megan O'Russell, and welcome to Episode 43 of A Book and a Dream. Have you ever suffered from reader's fatigue? That's the feeling when, you know, you just can't read anymore. It's kind of a weird thing to admit as an author who, you know, makes books for a living, that I am going through a reading drought. And I wanted to talk about this today because I wanted people to understand sort of what goes into a reader's drought and why that's really OK.

 

Megan: [00:01:00] So a reader's drought can be anything. Sometimes for me, it's I'm in the middle of a really long book and I just can't make myself finish it, but I'm too obstinate to give up. So it'll take me like six months to finish reading a book and I won't read anything else in the meantime. That's the super annoying kind of reader's drought where, like, you really would read something, but those chapters are just too long and you can't emotionally handle a 40-page chapter right now. So you just don't. Right now, the reader's drought is just I want to know what's happening on the next page. I don't want to dive into a book where I don't know what's coming next, which is really, that's such a weird thing for an author to say. That's like, you know, a musician being like, I never want to hear music again right now, which is unfortunate because that's what you do for a living, but that's just where I am.

 

Megan: [00:01:47] And I did a little research cause I was like, why? Like, what's going on? Why am I crazy? And it's a thing it's actually a social phenomenon. So because it feels like the world is on fire and in some cases, some places, literally the world is on fire right now. Our brains don't want to have to wonder how the story circle is going to complete, which is why there's a lot of like binge watching old favorites happening right now. Like if you've spent quarantine rewatching all of Friends six times, you're not alone, nor are you weird because your brain knows how the story is going to end and it's clinging to that sense of known closure. So you know how the story's going to end. You don't have to have any anxiety about it. You don't have to worry about it. And it makes a lot of sense with something like, you know, sitcoms or rom coms or whatever it is. For me, my standard binge is serial killer shows, which is sort of weird that I take comfort in it. But it's true. I find an odd amount of comfort in watching shows about serial killers and crime, not like actual documentaries. No no, those freak me out.

 

Megan: [00:02:56] But, like, Criminal Minds is my big go to binge, because no matter how bad my day is going, at least I'm not up on the board with Spencer Reid trying to solve my murder. So, like, really, I'm doing pretty good.

 

Megan: [00:03:09] And there is an extreme amount of comfort to me in sitting down when I'm tired and exhausted from writing, which thank you all for reading my books and not being on a reading drought. I really appreciate that you're super helpful, but there's something comforting to me and knowing how the episodes are going to end, because I I've seen all of them at least three times at this point.

 

Megan: [00:03:27] It's kind of a problem, but not a problem, because apparently this is a real phenomenon that people have studied. When you're anxious, you want something that you know, and it's gotten to the point with me where I will watch the beginning of the next episode in my Netflix binge before I go to bed so I know how something ends the next day.

 

Megan: [00:03:47] Because, you know, it's 2020, none of us knows what's coming tomorrow anymore, who? It could be aliens, you know. The Loch Ness Monster could have bonded with Godzilla and they're going to come and kill us all. Who knows?

 

Megan: [00:04:01] So there is that sense of finality, normality, peace in knowing what's coming next.

 

Megan: [00:04:09] So, if you're feeling like "I just...I can't read. I don't want to watch any new TV shows," know that you're not alone. If you're having problems picking up a book and sticking to it. It may not be that you don't want to read. Maybe. I mean, for me, a lot of it's, like, I just I don't want to look at any more words. I wrote so many words today, and no more words. But maybe go back to a childhood favorite. And I think that that could be a very good idea for most people that I know personally right now is go back to something that you know, something that comforts you, something how you know, how the story line. And so maybe you're going to reread The Chronicles of Narnia or maybe you're like, I really want to reread The Hunger Games because at least I'm not as bad off as Katniss.

 

Megan: [00:04:53] Like, we're all doing pretty good compared to her. So find something that brings you comfort and you're not weird in how you find that comfort in your entertainment and, you know, we'll make it out of this eventually. Unless, of course, my Godzilla theory is[n't] weird.

 

Megan: [00:05:10] In which case, it's been a pleasure writing for all of you, because if we all get squashed by a monster, then I guess e-books and printing books aren't going to be a thing anymore. But, you know, a lot of my books are already in paperback all over the world. So there will be some remnants of my work for whoever survives, you know, the stomping by Godzilla, but it will end eventually. So if you need to go back into your comfort mode at this stage of 2020, wherever we are in the cycle, hopefully nearing the end, then go for it. And know that you are not alone in needing to know how the story is going to end, because that is something you can control and that's great.

 

Megan: [00:05:48] Take control of what you are using for your entertainment and hold on to that valuable asset that you can give your brain a break. Now, I'm going to go give my brain a break, because you know what? I know how the next episode of Criminal Minds ends, so I'm golden.

A Book and A Dream Episode 42

Megan: [00:00:02] I have gotten people from point A to point B where it's utterly impossible, I have figured out how to actually round off a love triangle in a way that makes sense.

A Book and A Dream Episode 42

Megan: [00:00:02] I have gotten people from point A to point B where it's utterly impossible, I have figured out how to actually round off a love triangle in a way that makes sense.

 

Announcement: [00:00:16] Welcome to A Book and a Dream with Megan O'Russell: an Author's Adventure in Writing, Reading, and Being an Epic Fangirl.

 

Megan: [00:00:27] Hello, my name is Megan O'Russell, and welcome to Episode 42 of A Book and a Dream. If you're hearing a little rumble right now, no, there is nothing wrong with the sound quality. Right now, I have a little purring kitten in my arms and he has not been feeling well lately. So he's just going to sit here and be cuddled as we record.

 

Megan: [00:00:45] Now, one of the cool things about being an author is that you kind of develop some weird skills along the way. Now, those can be pretty extreme. If you are someone like a crime fiction writer, like, you probably know how to break out of a trunk by now or put someone in a trunk. Weird things. There are people who write historical fiction who could totally build you an old fashioned frontier dwelling or, you know, I don't know, trek across Siberia because they've done all the research for their books. Now, I haven't gone quite that extreme, but I do want to share with you the top four authors skills that served me in real life.

 

Megan: [00:01:25] Look at this little guy. He doesn't feel good, but he just wants to cuddle. So here he is now.

 

Megan: [00:01:31] My first author skill is being alone. Like, you can leave me alone in a room for a long period of time, or just like, you know, ditch me at the front of a grocery store and I can keep myself busy for hours. I can plot stories, I can come up with names, I can come up with political systems. Honestly, a lot of my books were started on little bits of Micros paper while I was serving and had absolutely nothing to do. I have stacks of Micros paper written with early book notes because it's how I keep myself entertained. So downtime, I'm totally good with it.

 

Megan: [00:02:06] I'm basically a mobile houseplant. Just, you know, give me some nutrition, some water, make sure I see sunlight every so often and I'm good. That's really all I need from you.

 

Megan: [00:02:16] I'm also very good at travel planning. Now, I think part of that just has to do with who I am as a person. But a lot of it does come as an author skill. Like, I can get two teenagers from Rhode Island to Maine. I can move people all around the country because I have looked up the bus maps and the train maps and the plane schedules and all those different things.

 

Megan: [00:02:40] Oh, honey, that was a sneeze. Oh, he's so sweet. I have looked up all those different things. I've also looked up, you know, how long it takes horses and carts to go and also hiked mountains to see how hard they would [be to] get up. So I'm really good at estimating how long it's going to take to get somewhere and how unpleasant the journey is going to be. Because I have spent so much time researching those things.

 

Megan: [00:03:04] Author skill number three: I am very good at writing emails. Like, I can email you so hard you won't even know what's coming, which is super useful when you know you don't actually want to talk to people face to face, which may also be an author skill, but knowing how to write powerful dialogue, knowing how to set a scene and then best utilize your words to play out that scene: really helpful when you're trying to get your point across digitally. I can set the scene in an email, explain to you exactly what I want done and close out the scene nicely so that, you know, it's a complete experience for the email receivee.

 

Megan: [00:03:45] The fourth and most important one―especially to this sweet little guy who I think might be asleep in my arms at this point. I can't quite tell. No, he's still awake―is that I am not one to take no for an answer. Here's the thing. You can't tell me that there isn't a solution to a problem. I have toppled kingdoms in my books. I have gotten people from point A to point B where it's utterly impossible. I have figured out how to actually round off a love triangle in a way that makes sense. Don't tell me that anything's impossible.

 

Megan: [00:04:17] If you can get through a love triangle, you can get through just about anything. So, recently, they told me that this little guy was not going to make it because he's sick. He's my little kitten, Mo. He's one of the two kittens we adopted. We planned on one. This one came, you know, as a bonus prize. And they told me he wasn't going to make it. And first of all, I got very sad and very upset because, you know, you don't want your little kitten to go. But then I realized I don't believe you.

 

Megan: [00:04:43] I don't believe you at all.

 

Megan: [00:04:45] This is isn't Eragón. I'm not backed into a corner where I have to deal with, like, quantum mechanics in order to save a fantasy storyline. No, there's a way out of this. And you know what? There was. So sometimes you have to use your author skills and decide, no, I will not take "this is impossible" from you. I will figure it out.

 

Megan: [00:05:05] And we have figured it out. So if anyone. Oh, hi. Hi, little guy.

 

Megan: [00:05:09] If anyone ever tells you that there is no hope for a kitten with FIP or Fip, shoot me an email. Also, if your health insurance ever says that, they're not going to pay for your medical tests. There's a lovely little thing called MDSave. This is my week of not taking no for an answer, of telling people I will find alternate resources if you don't want to help me.

 

Megan: [00:05:30] So, for medical needs, look up MDSave, of GoodRx if you're in America because, you know, sometimes our healthcare system leaves things to be desired. And if you're having a problem with your pet, reach out on social media. There are things that veterinarians won't tell you because they are protecting themselves. So it took other skills and a lot of digging into weird things to figure out how to help this little dude. But now he is here sleeping in my arms because of those other skills.

 

Megan: [00:05:59] So it's easy to take jobs like being a writer, being a performer, or being in any field in the arts and be like, but I have no practical skills for all the work in the arts I've done. It's not true. Being a performer teaches you to work as a team. It teaches you to think outside the box. It teaches you to communicate, which is a huge thing that a lot of people can't do.

 

Megan: [00:06:21] Being an author teaches you so many skills, new skills with every book you read. Being an artist, I don't actually understand how visual arts works. I, like...mad respect to anyone who can do it. My poor cover artist knows I'm just like, "colors are nice." I don't...I'm sure there are big lessons that you take out into the world, but I understand none of it. So good for you. You're doing a great job. But in this crazy world where it feels like the arts are unappreciated and there's a lot of people who think they may never get to go back to their art. Yes, you will. We're going to fight our way back out of this. It's going to happen.

 

Megan: [00:06:56] Oh, kitty, you want to go down? Are you just flipping? He's flipping. But in the meantime, in the meantime...I can't stop laughing at him. He's so cute. In the meantime, you have amazing skills that people outside the arts do not possess. You have created your own skill set, and continue to appreciate them and use them as we survive until this intermission is over. It's going to be amazing.

 

Megan: [00:07:21] I know. My kitten Mo says so. And in going in line with, you know, things are going to be different for a while, but we will get things back, The Tethering audiobook is now available. It was recorded by a wonderful stage actor, and I am so excited to share it with all of you. So keep watching the video. It will pop up in just a second with a sneak peek at The Tethering. Or you can click the link above or below depending on your platform. And it will take you to a website where you can listen to a bit more of the audio files. I am super excited to share this story with you. It's all going to work out.

 

Megan: [00:07:56] We're going to find a way back one step at a time. Until next time I would have Mo wave goodbye, but, uh, he's passed out. He's completely passed out. Yeah.

 

The Tethering Audiobook Sample: [00:08:10] *Audiobook sample. Visit https://www.meganorussell.com/audio-books to hear more!

A Book and A Dream Episode 41

Victoria: [00:00:02] Well, I always tell people that I refuse to answer this on the grounds that my head might explode.

 

Megan: [00:00:07] And that is a perfectly logical answer, except that.

A Book and A Dream Episode 41

Victoria: [00:00:02] Well, I always tell people that I refuse to answer this on the grounds that my head might explode.

 

Megan: [00:00:07] And that is a perfectly logical answer, except that.

 

Announcement: [00:00:16] Welcome to A Book and a Dream with Megan O'Russell: an Author's Adventure in Writing, Reading, and Being an Epic Fangirl.

 

Megan: [00:00:27] Thank you for joining me for this special episode of A Book and a Dream. Today, we have the wonderful author Victoria Gilbert with us. Thank you so much for joining us, Victoria.

 

Victoria: [00:00:37] Thank you.

 

Megan: [00:00:40] Now, I was really interested to talk to you, and we'll...we'll hop back to your books in just a minute, but one of the most fascinating things that I've seen about your publishing career is how quickly you managed to change directions from being a YA author to being a mystery author. So that is going to be some fun things to chat about for our readers. But first of all, you...you started as a young adult author, correct?

 

Victoria: [00:01:08] That's right.

 

Megan: [00:01:09] Now, what inspired you to hop into YA as the first genre that you wanted to write in?

 

Victoria: [00:01:19] When I first started writing, I was writing in fantasy and sci-fi and I just enjoyed some of the YA books that were in that genre. And so I thought it would be fun to write one. And I had written an adult sci-fi that didn't sell or, you know, get anywhere. So I thought, well, let me try writing a YA fantasy? And so that's how I really managed to get into it. That got me my first agent. So that was.

 

Megan: [00:01:55] That's...Now, was writing a lifelong goal for you or was it something that you decided like as life went on, you wanted to become an author, or did you start on that journey when when you were a kid, were you really into, like, journals and writing? Or how how did you decide that writing a book was something you needed to do in your life?

 

Victoria: [00:02:16] Well, I always loved writing. I...I loved reading. As soon as I learned how to read, I look, I realized all those words make a story I was reading all the time and I read so much that people were just like, you know, worried about me sometimes because I read so much. But I am a speed reader. So it made it even easier to read a lot. And so I always wanted to write a book, and for some strange reason I wrote a lot of poetry and I wrote some short stories and various things. And I'd start all these ideas for stories even when I was a kid.

 

Victoria: [00:02:59] But as far as novels, I just never got around to finishing one or two, actually writing one. And the life sort of came along. And I was I was a theater major in college and I was mainly in costume design.

 

Megan: [00:03:16] Oh, wow.

 

Victoria: [00:03:18] Yeah. And I did that for a little while and then I went back to school to get a graduate degree in library science, mainly because at the time I was married to a musician and I thought, you know, two artists, one family, sometimes that doesn't work.

 

Megan: [00:03:36] That's true. Theatre is not the most stable. As professional musical theatre actor, that is not all the stability you could want in life.

 

Victoria: [00:03:44] Right. So I decided to to use my background. And the interesting thing was when I went to library school at Indiana, they had never had a theater person, I mean, a real theater person, not just theater history who went to their school, to library school. So they were really interested in that. And I got a good deal to go to library school free tuition, which was a really good deal.

 

Megan: [00:04:11] Wow.

 

Victoria: [00:04:11] And so I got my library degree thinking that I wouldn't be working in the arts anymore. I would be doing library work, which was fine because I love books and reading and so forth. But then every job I've ever had in the library world was related to the performing and visual arts because my background in and I was unique in that aspect.

 

Megan: [00:04:36] That's...that's amazing that you got to work that the two passions together like that.

 

Victoria: [00:04:41] Yeah, I worked at Lincoln Center Library for the Performing Arts.

 

Megan: [00:04:46] That's amazing.

 

Victoria: [00:04:49] Yeah, I worked and then I moved to the museum from television and radio, which was now the Paley Center in New York City. And I was doing reference and research.

 

Megan: [00:05:05] Wow, that's I knew what about none of this before you to do that so cool.

 

Victoria: [00:05:13] I learned a lot, both of those jobs. You know, I have a background in theater, music, art, but I didn't have a background in some other fields that I learned a lot more about, which included dance and film and TV. So it was very helpful, you know, to be more rounded in the arts because I got that background. And then a job came up to be the director of a library at the university, which is Performing Arts University. Performing and Visual Arts University in North Carolina. And so I took that job and I worked there for twenty-five years.

 

Megan: [00:05:52] Wow. That's and so in all of this, you you still wanted to write a book that's I, I mean, I would just like be in a corner with, like, videos of Balanchine, living my best life. That's so cool.

 

Victoria: [00:06:10] Yeah. I still wanted to do something creative though. I mean, I love my job. I love libraries. And it was really exciting because I got to work with artists and I got to work with performing artists. And so, you know, at one point it was like, I mean, this is the truth is that I was in my mid 50s and I was still being working as a library director. And I decided, you know, I should just write a book to prove to myself that I can finish a novel. And that was really the goal at first. So I sat down and wrote this adult sci fi, which I then wrote a sequel to, and neither one of them sold, so, you know, that was that. But but I've gotten so. Involved with it, then I decided to keep trying.

 

Victoria: [00:07:03] And I wrote a young adult fantasy called Crown of Ice, which is a refilling of the snow queen by H.C. Andersen, and that actually got me an agent and then a deal with a small publishing company. So I started thinking, well, this is what I'm going to be doing. And I actually had the contracts for the second book in the Crown of Ice series and some more books. Other books. I had a young adult sci fi published. And then things kind of fell out with the with the publishing company, I won't go into detail, but I had to pull my rights on all the books.

 

Megan: [00:07:49] Yeah.

 

Victoria: [00:07:49] And that's a very traumatic experience.

 

Megan: [00:07:54] And it is I have been I've been through it. And, you know, I, I will say, because I, I have gone...I still have an agent...I have gone more the indie route because when I, I pulled all my rights, it just made the most sense to not try and reshape them out because they'd already been like tainted with publication. But that was the time that I was most grateful for having an agent was getting my rights back.

 

Megan: [00:08:22] I don't know how I would have done it myself. And a lot of people have said, you know, you're an indie. Why do you need an agent? And it's like, well, for him to shop things out, but also because if you have to pull your contract, you really need someone on your side.

 

Victoria: [00:08:37] Exactly. Yeah. That's how I was really lucky because my first agent. She...it was it's a small boutique agency, so there's an owner and a couple of agents, and my first agent, she decided to leave the business. And so I was thinking, oh, I'm going to have to go through this again to find an agent. But fortunately, her boss, who owns the agency, took me on and she's now my agent. And it was actually the best thing that ever happened to me because Fran Black, who is now my agent for Literary Council, is really great...it's been great for my career.

 

Victoria: [00:09:17] And so that change at first it seemed scary, but it was really good. It really worked out for the best. And Fran was the person who, when we pulled all my rights and I was very depressed. I mean, I'll admit it, you know, I was down. I didn't know what to do here. I lost contracts and everything. She said, well, maybe, you know, you need to write something different. And I said, well, I'm not sure what, and she was like, well, what do you like to read? Of course, that's the best question to ask. So I said I liked mysteries. One of the things I really liked was mysteries. And she suggested I write one.

 

Megan: [00:09:55] That's amazing. I love that it worked out so well for you because you hear so many horror stories about people going through like three, four and five agents before they really like land that book deal.

 

Victoria: [00:10:11] Yeah, Fran has been wonderful and she said, you know, write a mystery. And I said, well, you know, I don't know if I can. And she says, well, you know, just try. So I wrote a cozy mystery. That was A Murder for the Books. And it features a librarian as the protagonist, which, you know, I was writing what I know and I thought it would be useful to write about something I knew something about.

 

Megan: [00:10:41] Absolutely.

 

Victoria: [00:10:41] Umm and that's the first book in the Blue Ridge Library Mystery series, which is also set in a place I know well, which is where I grew up in Northern Virginia at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. So I was pulling all those things together to make it authentic, you know, and feel real.

 

Victoria: [00:11:05] And as it turned out, it apparently, you know, it was funny because I always expected you to go on some mission and you're waiting and you're waiting. And we sent it out for and sent out the book and pitch and everything. And within a week, we had two or three offers. So it was like, you know, we suddenly realized, yes, this is the genre you should be writing.

 

Megan: [00:11:31] That's like a Cinderella story right there.

 

Victoria: [00:11:36] Yeah. Yeah.

 

Megan: [00:11:38] That's amazing. Now, how much did you have to refigure how you write the books, how you interact with your readers, other authors? How much of your general writing life did you have to rebuild by switching genres like that?

 

Victoria: [00:11:56] Well, the biggest thing was I changed to a pen name, which is Victoria Gilbert. I was originally writing under my real name. And so, you know, with social media, all of a sudden you have to create it again because you're under a new name. Fortunately for me. Well, maybe not so fortunately, but I didn't have a huge following under my real name, so it wasn't a big loss. I started it up again under Victoria Gilbert. And I've got a pretty good following on social media with that. Writing wise, it's just a different. I mean, I'm with a publisher who's more of a mid range mid Crooked Lane Books, they're not the big five, but they're more...they're not a small publisher either. So there's much more support than I was getting before.

 

Megan: [00:12:55] That's excellent. Now, with your mystery series, you have a contract for several books at a time, correct?

 

Victoria: [00:13:03] Yes.

 

Megan: [00:13:03] And what's it...what's it like working with that kind of time frame laid out in front of you? Because you know that you often hear about that as sort of the the author's dream of like, I want to have, like, all these books under contract. But what...what is it like once you're actually in that position of having all these deadlines?

 

Victoria: [00:13:28] Yeah, that's a little different. It's interesting to me to see sometimes when people, and, you know, I don't look down on anybody who is writing, but it's funny because I see people saying, well, I'm writing my first book and they don't have deals yet. And, you know, I spend five years on it and whatever. And I'm sorry to say that unless you're George R.R. Martin or somebody, you don't get five years.

 

Megan: [00:13:52] No one wants to wait that long.

 

Victoria: [00:13:55] I thought I was getting less than seven months and we renegotiated to give me seven months between books. So, you know, it's doable for me, but you can't dilly dally. You have to just go for one to the next and really stick with it.

 

Victoria: [00:14:17] One of the reasons I retired from my library director job early is because I just found I couldn't do both things. Well, it was too much to try to keep up with writing, to meet the deadlines and do that job. So a couple of years ago, I retired and now I'm writing full time.

 

Megan: [00:14:44] That's that's amazing. What, how...how do you structure your writing day that now that you are full time. Do you have like a certain word count that you want to get to every day, or do you write as fast as you can and then spend a lot of time polishing?

 

Victoria: [00:15:01] I actually, well, I do a lot of outlining and chapter outlines because with the mystery I've found, I've always been a planner rather than a pantser, or, you know, a plotter, but especially with the mysteries, I've discovered that for me I have to have really detailed outlines. I have to have that for putting in the red herrings and the clues and leading properly to the end. And so I usually base it more on writing X number of pages a day or a chapter a day, or however I am in the process. As I get closer to the deadline, I have to write more, of course, but I tend to... In the beginning, I'm writing maybe three hours a day, five days a week, and then as it gets close to the deadline, I'm writing however many hours it takes.

 

Megan: [00:16:08] That...that feels about right. Now for newer authors who are having issues with, you know, it's daunting when you see how long a novel is and you're like, I have to write, you know, at least 60 to 80 thousand words, how am I going to do that? What what advice do you have for people who get overwhelmed by the size of actually writing a novel?

 

Victoria: [00:16:36] Yeah, what I've discovered is my books are supposed to be around eighty thousand words, that's the average. And if you really break it down, it's not as daunting if you think about it in terms of I mean, I use the example with some other writers that if you only wrote one page a day for a year. Three hundred sixty-five days, that's three hundred sixty-five pages, that's a book that's basically 80,000 words or so. So I mean, I think people look at and go, oh, so much. But it really isn't if you start thinking about it more in terms of breaking it into whatever units work for you, you know, every day I'm going to write so many words or and just think about that rather than I'll never get to the end because you will get to the end if you just break it down and say, you know, if I can write this much in a week or a month or however works for the person no differently. But breaking it into smaller bits really helps.

 

Megan: [00:17:47] And it's so true. It's and it's one of those things where I, I have I'm a workout person. I'm a workout person all the way.

 

Megan: [00:17:56] I have, like, you know, I'm going to do like twenty five hundred words today and people because I do publish five to six bucks a year look at me and are like that's too much. I can't do what I told them so many times, like start with 500 words which is basically like a page.

 

Megan: [00:18:12] Just do that, like you'll be OK. It'll be great. And it's, it's a marathon, not a sprint. And it's so easy to burn out. Now―

 

Victoria: [00:18:20] Yeah.

 

Megan: [00:18:20] ―going back to because, you know, this is a lot of YA with A Book and a Dream. Now, uh, Crown of Ice is currently available, correct?

 

Victoria: [00:18:35] Yes, it is. Ice and its sequels, Scepter of Fire with my author co-op Snowy Wings Publishing. So they are both out right now.

 

Megan: [00:18:48] Perfect. And for our...our, YA fans of this podcast? What what would you tell them? Are like the comp titles for it?

 

Victoria: [00:18:59] You mean comparison or...

 

Megan: [00:19:05] Yes, like what if you like this, you'll love Crown of Ice.

 

Victoria: [00:19:08] Oh gosh, that's hard because...

 

Megan: [00:19:10] I know it's the worst question.

 

Victoria: [00:19:12] I think it's a little different. I mean, it's. I would just say that it's it's really not like a lot. And maybe that's why, you know, it's not doing a great sales. It's not as much like a lot of YA that's real popular right now. It's got, uh, characters who are more like ordinary people who do extraordinary things. That's what I like to say.

 

Megan: [00:19:40] I love that. That's great.

 

Victoria: [00:19:43] And it's you know, it's a more, smaller scale. It's not an epic fantasy, but it's character driven and it really deals with characters...and there's magic involved, of course, and other fun things, but a lot of it is about the character growth and Crown of Ice in particular is about a young woman who the main theme really is "can someone who's extremely damaged from life learn to love again?" And that's that's really the theme of the book.

 

Megan: [00:20:20] That's amazing. I think that's a great theme. It's a tough topic.

 

Victoria: [00:20:24] And a fire which actually has a different protagonist, the other, the characters appear down from Crown of Ice appear again and Scepter of Fire, but the protagonist is different and the protagonist and scepter fire is a ugly duckling, so to speak. She's not an attractive person and she's hung up on this, even though she's a great healer and she has all these other skills.

 

Victoria: [00:20:48] And basically it's her learning through the course of the book, her own value. And that's not based on looks and. You know, her her courage and her compassion is what's really important.

 

Megan: [00:21:05] That's very cool, you know, and I have found in talking to a lot of other authors that there is a shocking amount of crossover between theater people, actors and authors and all of the the theater-turned-author people that I've spoken to, it's always so much character driven storytelling. And I feel like that's it's so natural for us because, you know, that's what you do on stage. It's character driven storytelling.

 

Megan: [00:21:34] And I think that's such a cool crossover. Now, if you could go back in time. So I guess before Crown of Ice, this would be before you wrote your first sci fi. What advice would you give you before you started writing your first full-length novel?

 

Victoria: [00:21:53] One of the things I've learned that I think surprised me was that umm.. I don't know why this is true. It shouldn't have surprised me because...I'll go back to an acting theater issue. I learned when I was studying acting although I wasn't an actress per se, but I studied it, that sometimes the roles you thought you would be perfect for, you're not good at, and the roles that you don't seem like you would fit, you do better.

 

Victoria: [00:22:19] And umm so when I learned...I've learned with writing that sometimes, even though we love a particular genre or we personally might say, I really want to read just fantasy or sci-fi, that perhaps our skills, our writing style, our tone and everything about it is not the best match for that particular genre. And so I always tell people if they don't stop, you know, like say you've been writing, publishing, whether it's indie or traditional or whatever, and you're not having a lot of success. Try something else, because you never know. I never thought I could write a mystery. And I've had much more success writing the mysteries. I just realized that the way that I write the tone of my writing, the style of my writing fits that genre. And so that's just something I would tell myself.

 

Victoria: [00:23:19] Just look at yourself, look at your at what really fits, not just what you like. And I mean, I've always liked mysteries, too, but it just. It's it's something I see people struggling with because they love something, I want to be a fantasy author and maybe their skills are better for rom com or something else. You know, it's it's just a it's an experiment that you can try and say, you know.

 

Megan: [00:23:50] That's that's such valuable advice, because so often what I hear from people is, you know, pick your niche and stick to it and don't disappoint your readers by taking any chances. So even you know, I know a lot of YA authors who are like, I will only write retellings. That's all people want. And it's so true where they could have this awesome gift for writing in a different genre. And they've just, you know, trapped themselves in a little box. So that. Thank you. That is some very valuable advice.

 

Victoria: [00:24:21] Thanks. Yeah, I mean, I learned it the hard way.

 

Megan: [00:24:25] You know, and I appreciate you sharing what you got from that struggle because losing a publisher and having contracts cancelled is, you know, it's just it deflates you. It really just like rips your insides out and you just, like, walk around like a weird little husk for awhile until you figure out what to do with your life.

 

Victoria: [00:24:45] It's true, yeah. I've seen so many people this has happened to and it's the sad thing is in publishing to not to be discouraging to people, but you really have to to be flexible because, umm, trends change and all these things change. But also publishers go under. You know, even people, I mean, publishers you thought were really strong. I've seen friends of mine who were with publishers and their books have been winning awards. And all these things have been great. And all of a sudden the publisher closes its doors. And, you know, it's you have to have the long game. That's what I always say. It's the long game. You know, I've written, umm, well, I've written 12 books now, not all out right now, but and what I've one thing I've learned is that over time, especially with the mysteries, is that even now people are still discovering the first book in my Blue Ridge series and the fifth book is coming out in December. So, you know, there's a long game aspect to it where you're building the people will, you'll see a review and they'll say, oh, I like this book, but I'm going to go back and read the first four. That's part of it. Who is continuing to write and whether you're indie or traditional is just keep at it.

 

Megan: [00:26:11] Yes, you you have to invest in having those books so you can build your backlist, a backlist is so valuable, but it's so hard to, like, sort of hang on by your teeth while you create the backlist. That...that's a struggle.

 

Megan: [00:26:27] But it's it's worth having those four books for people to go back and read after they discovered they looked they liked book five, as I mean monetarily is a huge difference. But also as far as building your your fan base, that's when you turn people from casual readers to devoted fans. And that's what we're all aiming for.

 

Victoria: [00:26:48] Yeah, I agree. I mean, I know you do indie publishing, but you have to have that, that number of books out there. People say, oh, I know her, I know herr books, I know what she writes. And then they're going to instantly buy the next one. And it takes a while to get to that point sometimes.

 

Megan: [00:27:07] It does. And, you know, it's it's totally doable. And everyone who is listening, it's totally doable. You can do it. Just, you know, gird your loins, it's going to be a long ride.

 

Victoria: [00:27:16] Just don't expect, the first book doesn't, you know, do fantastically. Is not a point to give up, I guess is what I'm trying to say.

 

Megan: [00:27:24] Yeah. Just keep keep plugging away. If you love it, it's it's worth it. And there, there is a business side of it that you can succeed at if you keep going.

 

Victoria: [00:27:34] Yes.

 

Megan: [00:27:35] Now before I let you go, could you tell our listeners where they can find you on social media?

 

Victoria: [00:27:44] Umm...yes. And actually the easiest thing to do is to go to my website, which is VictoriaGilbertMysteries.com. And that's all one word, Victoria Gilbert Mysteries dot com. And if they go there, they'll not only find out all the information on my books and news about events and my links to podcasts and links to videos, but also I link all of my social media accounts and I keep up to date so that people can just go in and click through.

 

Victoria: [00:28:19] You can find me on Twitter. You can find me on Facebook. I have an author page on Facebook. But I think it's just easier sometimes if if you go to the website and down at the bottom you'll see the click where, you know, Facebook or whatever. That way you don't have to remember all the different handles that you were forced to create.

 

Megan: [00:28:38] Yeah. When you're oussellauthor on some and meganorussell on another and you really want to know who the other orussellauthor is, who are they? Why did someone claim that?

 

Victoria: [00:28:46] Yeah.

 

Megan: [00:28:46] Now, the final thing, we are going to go through the Final Four questions with you. So if you could only recommend one book, which would you choose?

 

Victoria: [00:29:03] Ah...umm. Well, I always tell people that I refuse to answer this on the grounds that my head might explode.

 

Megan: [00:29:07] And that is a perfectly logical answer, I accept that.

 

Victoria: [00:29:15] I mean, as a librarian and a longtime reader is just impossible for me to pick one. I just can't do it.

 

Megan: [00:29:22] I just think that that answer is amazing, just absolutely like my brain is going to explode and I refuse. So this second question, what song can you count on to pump you up and lift your spirits?

 

Victoria: [00:29:35] Oh, I've been listening to, umm...I'm really eclectic with music. I studied classical music when I was younger. I sang. But I love classical music, but I also love a lot of contemporary music. I love jazz. So one song right now I've been listening to a lot is a Delta Goodrem, who's from Australia and she has a song called Enough. And I encourage you to listen to it, because if you're writing and you're fighting the fight against what the market wants, what everybody wants, what everybody's asking you for. I just feel like the song encapsulates my feeling about that. But you're enough and that you're good enough and you don't have to prove to everybody that you're good enough. But you are.

 

Megan: [00:30:27] I am very excited to listen to the song, and Victoria actually already sent me a link to it. So with Victoria's website and social media links, I will link that that YouTube in the show notes as well. All right. Question number three, what do you want the tagline of your life to be?

 

Victoria: [00:30:43] Well, it's funny. The thing I have on my Facebook page, on my personal Facebook page is a quote from Disney's live action Cinderella, which I like that movie. But, you know, I'm not a huge, huge fan of such things, but I love to this line. There's a line that says that, you know, have courage and be kind. And so I would like people to say she had courage and she was kind because I think those two things show what I feel is important is that you do have to be strong and have courage and try things and experiment and put yourself out there. But also, you have to be kind to others and yourself.

 

Megan: [00:31:28] That especially, you know, with the world how it is right now, that is very valuable advice. And the final question, what is the most inspiring thing anyone has ever said to you?

 

Victoria: [00:31:46] With writing it's when readers say that my books have in some way touched them, made their lives better, how you've given them an escape or just, you know, really meant something to them. And that's why we're writing. We're writing to communicate. We're writing to reach out to people and to convey thoughts and feelings. And so when you get that validation, that, to me, is the most wonderful thing.

 

Megan: [00:32:21] That...that is amazing and valuable. And I think I think that is part of what draws so many theatre people to writing is that, you know, there isn't the the instant gratification of being on stage and hearing people clap, but it is still that human-to-human communication. So I love that. That is great. Well, thank you so much for coming on to join us for A Book and a Dream. I am excited to check out your mystery series and. Yeah, thank you so much.

 

Victoria: [00:32:53] Well, thank you very much. And I always like to thank all the readers in the world because writers would be nothing without readers.

A Book and A Dream Episode 40

Megan: [00:00:01] You're going to have to have two different sets of social media accounts and newsletters, and you should have two different pen names if they're going to be that different, because you don't want some mom giving them the dirty book to the little kid, like...

A Book and A Dream Episode 40

Megan: [00:00:01] You're going to have to have two different sets of social media accounts and newsletters, and you should have two different pen names if they're going to be that different, because you don't want some mom giving them the dirty book to the little kid, like...

 

Announcement: [00:00:16] Welcome to A Book and a Dream with Megan O'Russell: an author's adventure in writing, reading, and being an epic fangirl.

 

Megan: [00:00:28] Hello, my name is Megan O'Russell, and welcome to Episode 40 of A Book and a Dream. Now, today, I wanted to talk to you about some of the biggest pieces of contradictory writing advice that I hear over and over again.

 

Megan: [00:00:43] And, you know, sometimes they come from amazing, wonderful, epic resources, but the other side of the aisle is just as amazing and epic and successful.

 

Megan: [00:00:53] So it gets really confusing and the advice gets overwhelming. Let's start with something simple.

 

Megan: [00:00:58] The most simple, probably one of the most controversial, using the word "said" when you write like, you know, "she said," "he said," "I said," depending on what tense you're writing in, that seems easy.

 

Megan: [00:01:13] And a lot of the advice that I've gotten is just always stick to "said." Never put in "murmured, whispered, shouted..." No, don't do it. Just "said," because the theory is that our brain sort of just starts glossing over this. And I get that it totally works. You stop really saying it with your eyes, you just see like the name and you move on with your life. Then the other side of that comes in with, "Well, cut every 'said' you possibly can. No saidisms." So basically you're adding an action to most lines of dialogue. There's some times where you can skip having either because it's a conversation between two people and it's like real clear which one is which.

 

Megan: [00:01:49] And I get that too, because then you're getting more dynamic in the scene. You're adding movement. You're not just having, like, weird talking heads having dialogue and like ten pages later, you realize like, oh, they're in a kitchen and she's been chopping things this whole time. Like, that's weird and awkward and it gets a little boring.

 

Megan: [00:02:07] The problem with that, though, is that you... Then it's like bad acting where it's like, "I'm going to move my arms when I say the line." And that's really frustrating to now to cycle back around to what I said is sometimes not a good idea either.

 

Megan: [00:02:21] It gets real weird in audiobooks. If everyone said then there's like these little dialogue tags, that drop in the middle of everything, which, to a point, you kind of have to do. But then do you go with the action tags instead? Because then you're breaking up everything everyone's saying.

 

Megan: [00:02:36] My method for dealing with this, take it for what you will, is to use "said" if you're just trying to drop in real quickly, get it in and get it out, establishes they're dropping the nugget, keep moving, use action, whenever you can.

 

Megan: [00:02:51] So if they are actively doing something, if there is something happening and you can cut out the dialogue tag and have an action without like, you know, "and then she chopped another carrot, then do that. But if it's going to make it worse to try and take out the said, leave the said. If you can improve it by removing the "said," do that. But yeah, you kind of have to blend the two, or things get really weird.

 

Megan: [00:03:16] My second piece of advice that I love getting from both sides of the aisle because it's hysterical and people get so vehement about it. Imaginary words. There are some people who say, like, unless you are a linguist, you should not make up words, which, to a point, I get.

 

Megan: [00:03:32] But then there's the other side that's like, "in order to do fantasy, you have to do deep worldbuilding."

 

Megan: [00:03:39] And sometimes you hear them from the same people, so they want deep world building in a fantasy world you've created, but with only real words.

 

Megan: [00:03:49] Yeah, let that one sink in for a minute, like.

 

Megan: [00:03:53] Narnia. Muggle.

 

Megan: [00:03:57] Everything Tolkien ever wrote.

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