She agreed to answer a few questions about writing, the transition from working with a publisher to being self-published and about her new journey of writing a book through her blog where readers can be part of the process.
Karen: TAKEN BY STORM seemed to have a fitting, if not bittersweet end but you said Michael and Leesie wouldn’t leave each other alone, or leave you alone. Was TAKEN BY STORM meant to be a stand-alone novel or did you always have a series in mind?
Angela: TAKEN BY STORM was my first novel. I had no idea where I was going with it. The ending came relatively early in the creative process, but most of the time I didn't have anything in mind for the next chapter--let alone the next volume. It was a voyage of discovery. It took me almost four years to sell it, so I'd lived with the story and Michael and Leesie for a long time. I began developing ideas for the sequel--jotting down scenes and ideas as they came to me--long before I signed with Penguin. When they surprised me with a two-book deal, I said, "Great. I'm working on a sequel." They put that in my contract. Once TAKEN BY STORM was off to the presses, I pitched my ideas for Book 2. They loved it. But they were worried if TAKEN BY STORM didn't do well, my second book would be doomed before it even went to print. My editor's boss, Razorbill's publisher, told her to have me write the same story for new characters. A second stand-alone book. I refused. That was Leesie's story, and no way could I give it to strangers. That led to me going back to my idea file and pitching SING ME TO SLEEP.
Karen: Penguin turned down the sequel, UNBROKEN CONNECTION but you released it independently instead. What struggles did you encounter taking that route? Were you able to stay truer to your vision without the publishers/editors input? Did you face any difficulties not having a publishers/editors support?
Angela: The best thing about releasing independently was the freedom. It's all my vision! (Any mistakes are my fault, too!) On the one hand, it's nice to have the support, on the other it's nice not to have to fight with anyone over the cover, cutting my favorite scenes, or adding steaminess. I took a big risk going ahead and writing UNBROKEN CONNECTION. I had to submit a complete novel to Penguin to fulfill the option clause in my contract. My agent submitted a proposal that was met with silence. My readers were excited about a second book and I was haunted by it, so I went ahead and wrote it. I wrote it as Book 2 that would need Book 3 in hopes we'd sign another two book contract. But my editor left and that effectively ended my relationship with Razorbill. If you don't have an editor there to do the work and champion your books, it's impossible. Even SING ME TO SLEEP has suffered because of that.
My books were stranded. My agent dumped me. My readers rallied around, so I decided to go ahead and jump off the cliff into independent publishing. My son did all the design work. He's very talented and did a professional job. Releasing the eBook was a bit technical. The CreateSpace POD version, once the pages were designed, was surprisingly easy to get printed.
The biggest difficulty, of course, is marketing it. It's not listed a gigantic mega-company's catalog. Only a handful of my most loyal bloggers have run reviews. A lot of the big ones--who I wrote blog posts and interviews for and sponsored contests when SING ME TO SLEEP released--have remained silent. I didn't organize a blog tour for it. I probably will when CAYMAN SUMMER comes out and promote both the books.
Karen: I know there is often a stigma involved with self-publishing but there was no need to worry in the case of UNBROKEN CONNECTION. In fact I feel this book is even stronger than the first since Angela was able to keep her vision for Michael and Leesie's story in tact. She also has a neat series on her website called The Art of the Cut where she discusses some of the scenes that were cut from TAKEN BY STORM and why. Very interesting if you're a fan of the series or an aspiring writer.
Karen: You are taking the same path in publishing the third and final novel in Michael and Lessie’s story – CAYMAN SUMMER but also making it more interactive for the fans that have supported you and the series. Could you explain more about what you’re doing?
Angela: I've invited my readers to be my critique partners and editors! I launched a blog, http://caymansummer.com/ , where I'm posting CAYMAN SUMMER as I write it. I explain my process, ask questions, and seek input. The comments are so helpful. And I love the cheerleading. All the posts are first draft stuff and will be revised later. This is the most amazing creative journey I've ever been on. I would like to keep writing books like this forever. It's intense, though. I'm getting worn out. I hope my fans aren't.
Karen: Anglea is at about the halfway point of CAYMAN SUMMER. I for one love reading her notes about what inspired a particular scene but I can see why it would be exhausting. She post a scene almost everyday!!
Karen: Have you changed anything in the story based on comments left by readers?
Angela: Oh, yeah. Of course. I'm not revising yet, but I'm going to take into account every comment when I do. And some comments on one scene have shaped a future scene. I let them name the new characters, too. That was fun. Feedback like this is incredibly valuable. It's like having a captive critique group who cheer you on every single day. I'm grateful and hope they are getting as much out of the journey as I am. I try to share the how's of my writing process in a short discussion before each post. If any of your followers are aspiring writers, they might enjoy the blog.
Karen: Could you tell us a little about CAYMAN SUMMER and where you see Michael and Leesie headed? They have come so far since TAKEN BY STORM, particularly Michael. Feel free to tell us how it all ends! (OK – I know you won’t answer but I had to slip that one in there…the wait is torture!)
Karen: It was a noble effort - I had to try!!!
Karen: You also wrote the inspiring novel SING ME TO SLEEP which was named a 2010 Goodreads Choice Nominee for YA Fiction. What an honor! Has having such a supportive fan base helped keep you going through the ups and downs of the publishing world?
Angela: That is the only thing that keeps me going. Well, I'm incredibly cranky if I don't write, so the need to be sane keeps me going, too. But after this year, I'd be very tempted to go all Emily Dickinson if it weren't for my amazing, amazing readers.
This nomination is a huge honor. An absolute miracle. I'm still in shock. SING ME TO SLEEP is up against NYT bestsellers, award winners, and industry insiders. Nominees are chosen by reader ratings and numbers of reviews and adds. We're there because hundreds cared enough to review and rate it. Thousands added it. Not tens of thousands like some of the competition, but we made it!
The publishing world is a tough, tough place. You have to have thick skin to stick it out through all the rejection to finally land a contract. And then, it's a good thing your skin is so tough because a giant publisher will make you feel like the jam between their toes more often than not. Even with this nomination, Penguin won't even post online about SING ME TO SLEEP. I asked--and they said, "Oh sure. We already did that." My PR rep sent me a link to a tweet mentioning "lots" of Penguin nominees and two bestsellers by name.
SING was inspired by a young man who sang through life despite his cystic fibrosis, so I feel a keen sense of responsibility to make the most of this opportunity my incredibly wonderful readers have given me to further promote awareness of this devastating disease.
Thank you, Karen, for helping me spread the word. I hope you'll all vote, too. To celebrate SING's nomination, I'm hosting a giveaway on Goodreads. If you vote, please stop by my blog and let me know. As a small thank you, I'm giving extra entries to my huge COMMENT CONTEST to all who vote and help spread the word.
Angela's Blog: HERE
You can enter the Goodread's giveaway HERE
Vote for this book!
I'll also be chatting live on Twitter @liv2writ. The chat is Tuesday, December 21, 4-4:30 PM MST and 9:00-9:30 PM. Bring your own eggnog and lots of questions. To join the chat, follow me and add #liv2writ to each Tweet you post so we can all see it. I'm ready to celebrate!! Join me.
Karen: Thank you Angela for joining us today! Best wishes with your Goodreads nomination and I’ll be following Michael and Leesie’s journey till the end. *Read my review of Taken by Storm and Unbroken Connection>