Monday, November 21, 2011

An Interview with Shana Norris!

Hi Everyone!

I'm back! It's been a crazy week/weekend, and I'm trying *so* hard to stay caught up with everything. I did manage to squeeze in some writing time yesterday, though. If I owe you an email, I'm apologizing in advance. Hopefully I can clear out the inbox over the holiday.

I also want to thank you *so much* for your support and votes in the Goodreads Choice Awards. Cross My Heart didn't make it to the final round, but I'm *so* honored that it was even nominated. I swear I have the best readers ever!

In the meantime, I asked Shana Norris to stop by to tell us about her newest ebook, Surfacing.


Sixteen-year-old Mara Westray has just lost her mother, and now, being shipped off to live with the father she doesn’t know is not how she imagined grieving. She’s already counting down the days until she turns eighteen and can leave the tiny island of Swans Landing.

But from the moment she steps off the ferry, nothing is as ordinary as it looks. Whispers of a haunting song on the wind make her see impossible things, and she isn’t sure she can trust her judgment about what is real and what isn’t anymore. Maybe she can’t even trust her judgment about quiet Josh Canavan, whose way of speaking in riddles and half-truths only confuses her more, luring her deeper into the secrets hidden beneath the ocean’s surface.

As she tries to unravel the events that led to her mom fleeing the island sixteen years ago, Mara finds that the biggest secret of all is only the beginning.

I think Shana offers a unique perspective because she's balancing both traditional deals and releases some of her work on her own. Diversify! I think this will be my mantra for 2012. Also: Shana designed her own cover. Isn't it amazing? *Gorgeous*

So, without further ado:

Tell me about Surfacing

Surfacing is probably the hardest book I've ever written. It's a new genre for me (paranormal YA), but also the storyline is so involved and is twisted up in secrets. I had to really get into the mindset of every character and figure out what secrets they're keeping and why. And the biggest question: What happened sixteen years before the story starts that made these events of today play out? Some parts of that I still didn't figure out until my final rounds of revisions. I continued to discover new things about the characters every time I worked on the book.

But I'm really excited about it. It takes place on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, which is one of my absolute favorite places in the entire world. It's near the end of a lonely winter, and I tried hard to make the story have a quiet, isolated tone just like the islands have during the off season. The Husband and I visited the Outer Banks in March one year and I loved how quiet and empty it was. I started to imagine all the secret things that the residents did only when the tourists were gone, and how they kept themselves busy during the off season. While I was writing the book, I found blogs written by Outer Banks residents and studied their winter posts to get a better feel for life on the islands.

I don't mention it in the summary, but you can probably guess what kind of paranormal creatures are involved just based on the fact that it takes place along the ocean. ;)

Why did you choose to go the "Indie" route for this particular book?

I really wanted to get this book out there to readers. It made the rounds among publishers and it came close, but in the end, there were no offers on it. (Should I admit that? I feel like such a failure, LOL!) I couldn't bear the thought of this book sitting unread in my files because I really loved it and was proud of the work I'd done. It received great feedback from the people who read it. Since I had already been through the indie route with one book, I decided to go ahead and dive back in again. At least that way, it would have a chance of reaching readers, which was the most important thing to me.

No! You're not a failure! I *love* that traditionally published writers are releasing work that might have been "rejected" by New York. The gatekeepers aren't always right!

You published your first indie novel (The Boyfriend Thief) this past summer. Is there anything you learned from that experience that helped prepare you for this second release?

I learned that self-publishing a book and traditionally publishing a book are similar in some ways, but so very different in others. I learned that I'm not really a fan of doing the marketing side of indie publishing, but I know it's a necessary thing. I'm very introverted, and even through email I get nervous about approaching people (reviewers) and telling them about my book. My publisher for my first two books approached the reviewers for me, so it was a new experience figuring out how to do it on my own. I'd like to think that I've learned some things about the marketing process from going through it with The Boyfriend Thief, but really, I'm still very nervous about asking for reviews!

Also, I learned not to have any expectations. There will be bad days and good days and you can't predict any of it!

Oh. My. Gosh. YES! You can't predict anything in this marketplace, and it will drive you to a slow, dark insanity if you try. What advice would you give writers who are interested in self-publishing?

Take your time! This is my number one advice. I know it's exciting to think about publishing your book and having people read it, and you get the urge to go ahead and put it out there. But really, take your time. Read through it one more time to check for errors or inconsistencies. Find a critique partner who will give you honest feedback on your plot and character development. Treat this as professionally as you would if you were working with a New York publisher. You get one chance to make a good impression on your potential readers, so do everything you can to make sure you present a professional, polished product.

Also, don't be afraid of working with an editor. There are plenty of people now who do freelance editing for self-published authors. It can be scary to have someone read your book and tell you what you need to change, but it's SO worth it. They can pick up on things that are confusing to readers because they aren't explained well or on situations that just don't work within the story. Be open to other opinions and different ideas.

And finally, don't get hung up on the numbers. It's both a blessing and a curse to have immediate access to sales information. You can't make people buy your book or make them like it. The only thing you can do is present the best work you're capable of producing. Reach out to reviewers who will take your genre and will review self-published work, take advantage of every marketing opportunity that comes your way, but at the end of the day, just keep working on your next book and try not to focus on the sales figures for the previous one too much. I know, it's really, REALLY hard! But the more stories you write, the better your chances of finding an audience.

Awesome advice! I couldn't have said it better myself! What other projects can we look forward to from you?

Right now, I'm in the middle of NaNoWriMo and so I'm working on the sequel to Surfacing. When I first started writing Surfacing, I didn't really have a plan for a sequel. But with the way it ends, I realized that there needed to be more to the story and also that I really wanted to write more about these people and their world. I hope to have the sequel out by mid-2012. I'm also working on a sequel novella to my second traditionally published book, Troy High, and I plan for that to be released in ebook in early 2012. And then there are lots of other things that I'm planning, including a companion book to The Boyfriend Thief. I need more hours in the day to write!

Holy cow! You're so busy! Thank you for taking the time to stop by, though!

Readers: Shana's latest release is Surfacing, and it's priced at $3.99. You can buy it for Kindle and Nook.

Sounds to me like the perfect read for the trip to Grandma's house this week!