I recently read a fantastic post-apocalyptic trilogy by an indie author, Tricia Wentworth. We connected through a Facebook group when she posted about her success with "The Culling" trilogy, which she wrote while raising her two boys, giving birth to her third right before the final book in her trilogy released. I'm so glad she was willing to do this interview with me!
Also, be sure to enter our giveaway at the bottom of this post. You won't want to miss this incredible post-apocalyptic series!
"Being a stay-at-home mom to a four-year-old and two-year-old is insane. Writing books, monster-sized ones in my case, is insane. Doing both at the same time while being pregnant...there aren’t words. Writer-mom life is a special sort of madness, y’all. But the only thing I love more than writing is the three little boys that call me “Mommy”. I’m just crazy enough to think I can be a great mom and a great writer." - Tricia Wentworth
Bree Moore: Can you give us a brief summary of your publishing journey? How did you get where you are today?
Tricia Wentworth: It wasn’t until after graduating college the idea to write my own story came about. I was nannying a junior-high-aged girl around the time the Hunger Games movies came out. We got super excited and into the second movie release. I remember telling her I would’ve done something different with the plot in that movie/book, an alternate ending of sorts. Though I don’t remember how it was I would’ve changed it, I do remember what her reaction was. She said, “Maybe you should write a book.” To which I responded with something like, “That’s crazy, who does that?”
And here I am. Stilllll writing. From that point on, I began to learn about this art form we call writing. I wrote a very rough draft of the first book in a different series, but I just knew my writing skills were not where they needed to be to finish the other two books. Then I was sitting there one day, watching The Bachelorette on TV (it’s my guilty pleasure, don’t judge!), and I had this thought of “What if everyone died from something horrible and they had to date one another to find a partner to run the country!?”
Over 530,000 words later, that story evolved into my three published books today. Looking back, I should’ve known. I’ve always had a hyperactive imagination and I’ve always loved reading. How I wish I would’ve known sooner I wanted to write!
Bree Moore: Why did you choose self-publishing?
Tricia Wentworth: I started the process of sending out query letters to agents. I got lots of nos and one kind soul who said to keep trying and that my story sounded interesting but she didn’t have the opening in her schedule to take on another author. I felt like I was spending all my time researching and looking for an agent, and not just any agent, but an agent I felt was a good fit for me and my style. After a few months, it began to feel too much like online dating. With a swipe here and a swipe there. Here a swipe. There a swipe. Everywhere a swipe, swipe.
And call me a control freak, but with self-publishing, I loved the idea of having control over it all. Once I made the decision to go indie, there was no going back. I love that it gives the underdog a fighting chance.
Bree Moore: What has been your favorite part of self-publishing?
Tricia Wentworth: Interacting with my fans on my Facebook page and reading reviews of my published stuff. I have met some of the coolest people on this journey. It totally makes my day to get emails from parents too, telling me their child has been reading my books. Even though I am a measly three books into my author career, it is still just so surreal that people read my books. And though you can’t please everyone, some people actually LIKE them. Say whaaaaaaat?!
Bree Moore: How do you define having a successful author career?
Tricia Wentworth: As a writer-mom, if I manage to feed the children and hit my daily writing goal, that is success. Bonus points if I get a shower and a light application of makeup in that day! My ultimate goal has always been to replace my teaching income, and spoiler alert... teachers do not make thaaaaat much money. So I am working toward that goal. I want to be able to write full time once my three boys are all in school.
Bree Moore: Where did you get your idea for The Culling series?
Tricia Wentworth: Like I said before, it was a random idea I had that spiraled into what it is today. I will add onto that to say I had been wanting to read and looking for something post-apocalyptic. And not just post-apocalyptic, as in immediately after the end of the world, but post-post-apocalyptic. I had been wanting to read something that happened a hundred or so years after the end of the world, how it all worked out, how they grew the population back, etc. I wasn’t finding it in what I had been reading, so I wrote it. In my case the “write the book you want to read” saying definitely happened. I did exactly that in a genre near and dear to my heart.
Bree Moore: Do you have any marketing tips for authors you'd like to share?
Tricia Wentworth: Do your best to figure out AMS ads, specifically your blurb for the ad. Be ready to fail a few times while you get it figured out, but advertising is super important to us indie authors. It was a total game changer for me so I cannot say it enough! AMS, peeps. AMS!
Bree Moore: As a parent-author, what challenges do you face in making time to write, publish, and market your books?
Tricia Wentworth: I am a stay-at-home-mom to a newborn baby, born five days before my third book went live, an almost three-year-old, and a five-year-old. All boys. My house is filled to the brim with scooters and nerf guns and all things chaos. I aim for an hour of writing/editing time at naptime, or I did before the new babe came along since I’m on maternity leave from writing at the moment. Most of my writing time has to be from 8-11 pm, after bedtime, because it’s all I have. And it is hard to find the time and stay motivated. Mommyhood is exhausting, but I’ve found I need to write to feel like “me”. It’s my me time; it keeps me sane. It’s hard work and doubly exhausting trying to be a good mom and a good writer, so tons of grace is required. Some days I cannot and will not be able to do it all. I have to know that and remind myself of it daily. I also keep reminding myself that someday they will go to school. Of course then I will be a glorified taxi service too! So it will always be a struggle and take balance. And guts. Tons of guts.
Bree Moore: What advice do you have for other parent-authors?
Tricia Wentworth: Goals! I am super goal oriented. Every month I get out my calendar and make a big goal for the month, weekly goals, and daily goals. Annnnd, I schedule in time off, which in my case is Sundays to spend with my family. I work harder during the week knowing that day off is coming up and then I use those days off to regroup and relax. At this point, after making goals this way for going on three years, I am addicted to meeting my goals. Daily, weekly, and monthly. It feels good to keep accomplishing and slowly checking off the to-do list on the way to pub-day!
Bree Moore: Do you have any new releases coming in 2019? Or, what are you currently working on?
Tricia Wentworth: I have a cozy Christmas romance manuscript that is actually normal sized. I’m debating whether I can get it spruced up and ready to go for this fall. If not, for sure next fall. And then I’ll be starting on my spin-off series to the Culling series. After all this editing in getting my most recent book out, I am beyond excited for a blank word document and that blinking cursor. My fingers are itching to write!
Bree Moore: Lastly, what's your favorite kind of chocolate?
Tricia Wentworth: Allllll the chocolate. Except mint chocolate. I mean, why would you ruin something as sacred as chocolate with mintiness?! Save that crap for toothpaste.
Tricia Wentworth began writing at a young age but didn't realize it was her jam until after college. She is originally from small-town Nebraska. She currently resides in Texas with her husband, two sons, and English bulldog. When not reading, writing, or momming, she can be found squeezing in a run or feeding her sugar addiction by baking something ridiculously delicious.
Win an ebook copy of "The Culling"!
After years of querying, when I finally got my first book contract, I heard something shocking: books are more work after you sign the contract than before.
I assumed they meant editing. Turns out, they meant promotion.
Wait, what did I even need a publisher for if not to take care of all the business and marketing? I wrote the next great American novel, so shouldn’t they earn their share of the royalties by doing all the sales?
The book market has changed dramatically. The days of passive authors showing up for the odd signing while the checks roll in are over… if they ever existed. Amazon and the Internet have forever changed publishing. Whether it’s better or worse now is entirely another matter. More authors get their books out, but fewer authors can live off their book sales. Whatever your opinion, the reality now is that readers are inundated with the constant white noise of book ads. The only way for a new author to make any sales is by doing it one book at a time.
That sounds harsh, but it’s just the nature of the modern publishing game. It’s not much different than if you were at a bookstore with a pile of paperbacks sitting in the middle of shelves full of books. Few if any of the patrons came in to buy your book. But some of them may have come in willing to discover a new world. And if you reach out and connect with them, it will probably be yours. E-book sales are no different. If you make a connection, readers will be willing to give your novel a try. If you just blast cover graphics and blurbs all over social media, few if any of those who actually see it will even give it a second thought.
How many random authors’ books you saw ads for online do you seek out and buy?
Here at Writing Through Brambles, we believe that parent writers are basically superheros. Often times being a writer means that you're juggling raising a family, perhaps a full time job, and a passion project. Holli Anderson is a model example of this. She has a degree in nursing, is the Chief Editor at Immortal Works, an amazing mama, and writes paranormal and urban fantasy. Her newest novel, Myrikal, is being released on February 12, and I was excited to sit down with her to discuss it's release!
Rachel Huffmire: In your dystopian world, Myrikal is born during a time when pregnancies are rare. Not only is Myri's existence improbable, but her life is granted unique powers. What inspired you to give Myrikal the powers she has?
Holli Anderson: The inspiration for the whole story came from a video I watched on Facebook, believe it or not. It was a young woman testifying before Congress about being an abortion survivor. She survived a saline abortion attempt and was born 2 months early with chemical burns all over her skin. She was placed in foster care and ended up growing up to be this amazing woman. Her name is Gianna Jesson, I believe. This is also what inspired me to make her most obvious power invulnerability, her skin is impenetrable. The other powers sort of showed themselves as she grew and as the right opportunities presented themselves.
Rachel: From the moment the book starts, we are plunged into a pretty harsh reality. Not only the world Myrikal lives in, but her very parents are shockingly severe. It definitely sets the naturally compassionate Myrikal apart from the world around her once she arrives. Was this inspired by anything?
Holli: I think it stems from my belief that we can choose who we want to be no matter our circumstances. We can choose good even when surrounded by bad.
Rachel: Is there a quality in the real world that you think brings hope to any circumstance?
Holli: Yes – our innate desire to help others. Whenever there’s a disaster anywhere in the world you see normal, everyday people clambering to help in anyway they can. From donations to actually jumping into the disaster area with both feet. I love Mr. Rogers’ quote about helpers, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” No matter your political, religious, cultural beliefs—there are always people who will help in dire circumstances.
Rachel: What was your favorite part about developing Myrikal's character?
Holli: My favorite part was her friendship with Branch. That’s when she really started to believe that her dad was wrong about there not being any “good” people in the world. She saw the good in Branch and was then able to see the good in others, too.
Mothers are some of the most powerful people on the planet. They carry children within their own bodies for nine months and bring them into the world. They receive children they didn’t conceive into their homes and hearts with just as much love. They sacrifice. They teach by word and example, greatly influencing those in their care.
But mothers don’t often take a significant role in fiction. They sit on the sidelines, cheering on their children, and that’s only if they’re present in the first place. It’s as though society believes that once one becomes a parent they can no longer have adventures of their own, and no end goal to achieve. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Beyond Instinct is a collection of five short stories that show how mothers still have lessons to learn and stories to tell.
Each of the authors in the anthology included aspects they have seen in mothers in their own lives, or have experienced themselves. Read their responses below!
If you want something, it’s up to you to figure out how to get it.
This idea sounds overly simple, and yet, it took a mini life crisis at thirty for me to consider it. Up to that point, I’d been waiting for two specific things to happen before I dared even think about my dream of authoring a book. Those two things? Permission and ideal timing.
Let’s back up a bit. I grew up in a home full of expectations. Some were exerted by my family, some I created on my own. Those expectations included such things as being a good daughter, a good student and a good employee. After I got married, the idea that certain expectations must be upheld pushed me into pouring all my energy into being a good mom, spouse, and housekeeper. None of these expectations were well defined. I had no way of knowing if I was doing it “good” enough. I exhausted myself with worry, thinking I’d never get it right.
A week before my thirtieth birthday I was struck with the significance of another decade of my life slipping by. My dream of becoming an author hadn’t amounted to anything. The reality I had created for myself as a parent didn’t include me in it anywhere. I had invented this expectation that motherhood was an endless cycle of caring for everyone else first and my dreams could wait until the timing was better, until my first baby slept through the night, until the next baby slept through the night, until they napped at the same time, until they started school, until, until, until.
Cover design by Ashley Literski
The cover for Shattered Snow has finally arrived! Last week, I held a facebook live event on my facebook author page revealing this beautiful piece of art by Ashley Literski. I can't believe that in just a few short weeks I'll be able to hold this book in my hands! Everything comes at me so quickly these days, (pre-sale starts this week) and the learning curve is steeper than ever. Immortal Works has been an amazing publisher, and I've appreciated every step of this journey with them.
Handing over the concept to a graphic designer and seeing her visually interpret my story is amazing. Ashley asked about my characters, common visual themes, preferences, etc. She took everything I gave her and compiled it into this beautiful cover that subtly represents all three of my POV characters. It's the kind of thing I expect people to turn back after the story and go "ooooh! It's even more meaningful now!". She did a wonderful job.
Next, I am working with the illustrator for interior art that is absolutely breathtaking. While I can't show you it yet---I can show you some of her concept art...
It is no secret that self publishing is the go to route for Authors who have a creative vision not worth compromising and an unwavering determination. It requires the most hands on involvement as you are in charge of finding and paying for everything from your copy editor to your cover artist. You make the words on the page look as good as they read, and you make sure it gets into the hands of the right audience. The Greek Titan Atlas has nothing on the weight a Self Publisher carries on their shoulders.
In 2016 self published titles and Amazon published titles were responsible for bringing in %25 of the gross income for the book industry. That same year 786,935 books were published by authors who knew that their visions could be best accomplished themselves, and %27 of the titles on Amazon's Best Sellers List belong to those authors.
Our very own Bree Moore joined their ranks in 2017 when she published her novel Woven. Inspired by Arthurian legend and Lord Alfred Tennyson's ballad, "The Lady of Shalott", Woven is an intricately told story of two women who find themselves faced with two very different curses. Elaina fights a curse that traps her forever weaving a beautiful tapestry high in a tower. Guinevere must keep from succumbing to her splintered personalities in order to circumvent the plan to kill her love, King Arthur.
Now, Woven is out for your listening pleasure on Audible, and I had the chance to chat with Bree Moore about her book, her life, and the publishing process itself.
The Life, the Universe and Everything Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy Conference is a local (to Utah) conference I always clear my calendar for. Not only is it my birthday present every year (February, anyone else?), but it’s an incredibly good value. Registration is only $50 for all three days (only $15 for students!), and you can always expect to have a wide range of artists present. From newbies and fans to published professionals, LTUE has something for everyone who loves the fantastic. Artists, Writers and Authors, Publishers, Editors and Agents, Graphic Designers and even Screen Writers. I’ve been attending LTUE for seven years. This year was my first year there since I published my fantasy novel Woven, and I got to attend the multi-author book signing next to big-wigs like Brandon Mull and Charlie Holmberg. Even Brandon Sanderson was there! It was a totally surreal experience, and I look forward to hopefully presenting on a panel in 2019.
My favorite class this year was the first on I attended on the second day. Maxwell Alexander Drake is an award-winning Science Fiction/Fantasy author and Graphic Novelist. He’s a blunt and unabashed presenter, whose main goal, besides delivering mind-blowing information about how to craft an incredible novel, is to offend at least half the people present. Apparently, writers are a pretty sensitive lot when it comes to the “right way” to write a book. He made it clear: his way is the right way, but it’s only one way. If you want to do it another way, disregard everything he says. But his way is the best way, of course. He managed to boil a three hour presentation into a fantastic 45 minute one. What follows are a few gems from his class, and if you want more, go buy his book (or read it on Kindle Unlimited!) “Dynamic Story Creation.”
The first thing he said that caught my attention is that we should always be asking, “What does this do for my story?” Sometimes, that means “killing our darlings” (Not babies. Never babies). If a scene or character doesn’t DO anything, it’s irrelevant and should be eliminated for the good of your story.
READ THE BOOK:
I'm excited to spotlight this sci-fi book that's coming out February 6th, 2018! I was lucky enough to be a beta reader for Colonial Prime and I loved it. Then, I read it again as an advance reader and loved it even more! Pre-orders for the Kindle are going on right now, so check it out!
Here is the pitch from Kevin's website:
“Captain Amara Corrin, hero of the late Solar Wars, commands the first colonial fleet. Full of hopeful dreamers looking for a new home, world-weary ex-soldiers, and those just seeking escape, five ships set out from Earth with the hopes of humanity behind them. But Amara soon finds herself with more trouble than she can handle. The Council, Earth’s new governing body, has saddled her with their political rivals, exiling them to a place where they could do them no harm.
Struggling to find balance, Amara appoints a fresh-faced first officer with a hidden past, Nathan Esquina, and tries to figure out a way to keep her son, Jaelyn, free of the political machinations of those aboard the ship trying to destroy the rocky peace upon which they stand. When a message from Earth lets them know that the Council has fallen, Amara, Nathan, and Jaelyn land themselves in a pitched battle where a single mistake could end not only their own lives, but those of every person aboard their colonial mission.
MEET THE CHARACTERS:
Though Amara has been hardened by war, she’s never ruthless or antagonizing. She’s exactly the kind of person I would want in charge of colonizing a new planet. Her competence in her professional life however, doesn’t always transfer to her personal relationships. As tensions on board the ship climb, those very relationships she struggles with could become the only thing that will help her survive.
13 year old Jaelyn doesn't like attention. Unfortunately, as son of the ship's captain it's hard to lay low. He spends his time hiding away in the gardens, but this ship is too small to truly escape getting sucked into the forefront of the adult's problems.
Nathan volunteered to join the colonial fleet to get away from his father. He needs a fresh start, where no one has heard of his reputation so he can figure out who he is, and what why he has such a mysterious gift for mechanics. As the distance between Earth grows, his father's problems haunt him, infecting his new haven with the exact same problems he wanted to escape from.
We're all writers, we're all moms, writing our way through the "brambles" of life and our stories.