How To Write Dystopian Books

Apocalyptic landscape

“Dystopian fiction offers a vision of the future. Dystopias are societies in cataclysmic decline, with characters who battle environmental ruin, technological control, and government oppression. Dystopian novels can challenge readers to think differently about current social and political climates, and in some instances, can even inspire action.”

Source: https://www.masterclass.com/articles/what-is-dystopian-fiction-learn-about-the-5-characteristics-of-dystopian-fiction-with-examples

Laws of Causality

So, anything goes because we can write whatever we want? Well, yes, and a huge NO. Creativity is a good thing when you dive into a bestselling genre with an original storyline. But we’re talking about twisting the course of history. And if you believe my professor, there are laws to obey.

You have to explain what went wrong before your book’s moment of now, but the chain of causality must be plausible. Some sub-branches of the dystopian genre-tree inch toward Sci-fi. If you want to sound the trumpet of doom about the dangers of gene manipulation, you’ve got heaps of research to do. 

What about totalitarian governments? Look at today’s political turmoil. That should be easy to write because so many movies and books have leveled the way. But think of Orwell’s 1984: George never skipped a lesson in political history. His book leads the moneymaker charts today because he wrote a detailed vision of the future. And we might already live in it. That’s how believable his theory is. And if you skipped the boring stuff of Winston Smith holding the secret book of the resistance, read those pages before you write another Hunger Games. I’m not ditching Suzanne Collins, to the contrary. She wrote a cruel twist: reality television.

World-building 

Writing the dystopian or post-apocalyptic genre requires ample world-building skills. What went wrong with humanity or the environment? Did the aliens destroy the earth? Your future must root itself in today’s politics. The causes of destruction convince the audience that your book can take place in the not so distant future. You also need to explain why a handful of people continue to survive.

The Author Interviews

Harper Maze and Sevannah Storm answered my in-depth author interview. These two brave souls have unique views on the causes of the Armageddon. Their answers reveal exciting aspects of the dystopian and post-apocalyptic genre. And they’re amazing writers. Read and learn.

Harper MazeSevannah Storm
1. Tell us about you. Who are you?
Harper Maze. I am from the UK, lived all over the country but currently on the coast in the South East along with my amazing wife and two adorable cats. As well as writing, I have a full-time job as an IT specialist in the Banking industry and include playing top level sports in my past too.Call me Sev. I’m a Christian writing romance, amongst other things. I tried for something less romance and more YA dystopian. Invasion is my first novel in this genre. I have another in mind. I’m finding it quite challenging not to amp the sexual tension.
2. What are you working on now?
I always have two projects on the go, so while a book is out for editing, for example, I can work on something unrelated and return to the other project fresh. I am currently working on my Dystopian Sci-Fi series “Heir of God” and an action-thriller series featuring a character called Savanna Steel too.I finished Invasion on the 20/02/2020. My next project is called Chrysalis. An impending asteroid collision with Earth has the world in a panic. Tara’s family is one of the chosen few to board the ship escaping the planet. This is her story.
3. Why do you write dystopian or post-apocalyptic stories?
Told well they can have impact on readers. There are many things that occur in society that we should pause and reflect on. Dystopian fiction gives us a platform to present possibilities, and the fantasy or Sci-Fi genres provide a good backdrop, at least for me. My hubs challenged me to write a different genre and so Chrysalis and Invasion came into being.
4. What do you love and hate most about the dystopian genre? Any cliches which infuriate you?
I love different approaches to the genre, especially the ones that challenge the status quo. There is a lot of Dystopian fiction about, so finding a new theme can be a challenge. Personally, I am not into Zombies or post-Nuclear war.I love: The high stakes. Life and death situations once more impact our lives. I feel we’ve become complacent. I also love the stretching of my imagination. Science Fiction and Dystopian = entertaining, mind-blowing imagery and concepts.
I hate: How only young adults survive. Gimme a few elders to guide them. Some follow the Lord-of-the-Flies approach; I wasn’t fond of that story.
5. Name your favorite dystopian movie. Why did you choose that one?
This is an easy one for me: Blade Runner. Aging myself, I watched this when it first came out and it was awe-inspiring. I read the novella (Philip K. Dick's ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’) not long after.Bladerunner. The legendary cinematography on it was ahead of its time. Even the soundtrack is breathtaking. Not to mention, it’s a unique premise that deals with human hatred towards synthetics.
6. Why is dystopian such a popular genre of literature?
I believe we live in troubled times, with Global Warming, a growing desperation for power sources as the natural resources become depleted, the threat of nuclear war. Dystopian fiction allows writers and their readers to ask the ‘what if?’ questions. We’re morbidly fascinated with our own demise. It’s also more plausible than a zombie apocalypse. Whether we bring about our destruction with global warming, nuclear war or nature tosses in her hand with solar flares or super volcanos, it could happen tomorrow. Deep inside us, we want to believe we’ll make it and dystopian stories have hope as the currency.
7. YA versus adult dystopian: what's the difference?
From speaking to people, I think that many adults like YA fiction. YA is not much different other than lack of sex and (often) swearing.Simplicity: YA is one or a group of individuals against the cause or corporation and through sheer will and enthusiasm, gain victory.
Adult dystopia has layers; emotional investment where we buy into the villain’s purpose and each aspect has a meaning; the décor, weather, fashion, technology and moral ambiguity the main characters work through.
8. What are the biggest misconceptions about this genre?
It’s not all zombies and nuclear war. There are other ways the planet is being damaged. That we can win against all odds. Independence Day/War of the Worlds: we gave the aliens a cold! Hunger Games: one woman defeats them all. Battlefield Earth (the novel): Jonny kills an entire species.
9. Name the best subgenres for dystopian literature. Which of them fascinates you particularly?
We tend to need to label everything 😊 Dystopian is also subgenre, but there are many themes based on the setting; fantasy, Sci-fi, urban, apocalyptic. My preference is those based on Earth or Earthlike planets. Ecotopian, Society, Environment, Politics, Religion, Totalitarianism. I prefer Ecotopian. I like to imagine a world where something not caused by us brings about our downfall…in the wrong place at the wrong time, whether from solar flares, asteroids or aliens.
10. Do you think that every writer should try writing a dystopian story at least once? Why: yes/no?
If they have a story, and a theme to tell in the genre, yes.Yes. Writing out of your comfort zone challenges the writer; whether it is poetry or historical fiction. The same applies to dystopian; broaden the stagnant neural pathways of our minds but in the end...just tell the story.
Harper MazeSevannah Storm
11. Who do you write to? To yourself, to the public? For fame or money?
I’ve always enjoyed writing and have written for myself and people close to me. However, I beleive I tell a good story and it’s been a dream of mine to have books available for people to read. I have never sought fame. I write for the day I can be free to do it full-time. I would love for all my stories to find publishing homes, for someone, be it agent, publisher or reader, to embrace my stories, to enjoy them.
12. How do you research your dystopian books (history, technology, politics)? Or is everything based on your imagination?
For Heir of God, I have researched because I am dealing with current issues. My setting is an earth in the grips of a volcanic winter after fracking causes the Yellowstone Caldera supervolcano to erupt. By design, fracking causes earthquakes to extract shale gas from the bedrock, and has caused earthquakes of over 5 on the Richter scale. Fracking is still done in some geologically unstable seismic regions.Based on my imagination up until I need information like what gas is airborn and can knock out people if sprayed on them, as an example.
13. How do you find the motivation to write?
I enjoy it and I have stories to tell.The muse is an unrelenting slave driver. You may think you are done with a story and the following day he taunts you with another. The stories need to be told, so I simply type them out. I often call him—my muse, a dictator. He dictates, I type.
14. How do you beat writer's block?
I have many ideas, if one isn’t speaking to me, I put it to one side and work on something else until I hear it again.I persevere, pushing through the slow days, trusting my fingers to know what I want to say even though I haven’t formed the sentences in my mind.
15. What advice would you give to a writer who wants to create a believable & grim future?
The world/setting must be right for the character. The world needs to have rules, such as physics and gravity, light and food and society should have a structure. You can break any rules, providing this is explained. For example, the planet is not like Earth, or the person who can fly is from another planet, or the hero time-traveled. What is important is that the story follows the hero or heroes, and all the characters, be they allies, opponents or people, as well as the setting, support the hero and the hero changing from their initial broken state to a changed and aware hero at the end. Or not if they chose to ignore it.Layers and details. Start with the basics, add layer upon layer…physical environment, emotional manipulation, cultural depth and then cut back. Just because you have this massive world in mind, you don’t hit your readers with it. Imagine yourself in that world Don’t spend paragraphs describing things because you wouldn’t do that in real life.
16. What went wrong in your book? Why did humanity fail?
Frackers 😊 Fracking set off a chain reaction of earthquakes in the Mid-West USA which caused Yellowstone to erupt. The last time it did was approximately 600,000 years ago.Aliens arrived and they weren’t friendly. They use human bodies as husks...carriers while their drillships mine Earth’s core.
17. How much of your books are based on your experiences in life?
Fracking causes earthquakes is a good theme. I have met people with traits like the characters in the book because my characters are human, a mix of strengths and flaws.None, well maybe Mel’s addiction to sugar and caffeine...scarce commodities. She also does what she must to survive.
18. Describe an excellent dystopian book cover. Why do you like it?
The Hunger Games covers, with the evolving Mockingjay pin on the front are very clever. They are instantly recognizable, and they follow the theme of the trilogy. However, this series has already made it, and likely won’t work for new writers. Divergent (Veronica Roth) shows a broken city, a few key landmarks in the background and the heroine as the focus.Divergent by Veronica Roth - because of the layers. It isn’t just a single item on a cover, there’s a broken city at the bottom. Layered covers are more intriguing. Every time you look at it, you see something you missed.
19. Who makes your book covers?
A very talented lady on Fiverr.com has made all my covers. I provide a concept and some basic images and Rebeca combines them over a series of reviews to the final product.
https://www.fiverr.com/rebecacovers
My publishing house does. I tell them what I like with examples and they see what they can create.
20. Describe your ideal reader.
Someone who will take the concepts and thoughts in the book and think about them in the context of what’s happening in reality.Loyal, passionate, greedy...a cheerleader.
Harper MazeSevannah Storm
21. What inspired you to write your latest book?
I had a few ideas, such as a mass-access simulation where a blind girl could see inside the simulation but not realworld. Added to this was a dystopian message about fracking and other destructive methods for fossil fuels. I combined them into the premise “Ready Player One meets Hunger Games meets Divergent, only different”. Since I completed the first version, the world is growing increasingly concerned about climate change, and fracking has been banned in the UK. However, companies still frack within a few miles of Yellowstone in Wyoming. I write many genres, so my latest two works-in-progress are science-fiction romances. What inspired me to write Invasion; I started with a woman in a pawn store in the middle of a nowhere-town. I had images of The Host in my mind, the strange alien creatures but other than that, it was my main character that determined the genre. A kick-ass, strong young engineering student forced to join the resistance when her father is taken.
22. How do you market your books?
When it’s launched – hopefully in April, I plan to use a mixture of Facebook, BookBub and Amazon as well as bloggers and reviewers. It should be exciting for sure, especially as I am hoping to get all five volumes out in a 12-month period.That’s a tough question. I dreamed of living in a lighthouse, punching out books and never seeing a book launch. Since then, I’ve learned I need many social media platforms, book reviews, blogs etc. Ask me this again when I’ve launched my three novels this year.
23. Who is your favorite writer? Why is he/she so good?
Currently, it’s Brandon Sanderson, who is a terrific world builder. His original Mistborn series (The Final Empire, The Well of Ascension and The Hero of Ages) is an example of what I aspire to create. The way he builds Vin as a character, using the world and opponents to help her grow, is an awesome read.Terry Pratchett – there’s always something new when I reread a story. His mind was something to admire; his concepts unique and well thought out.
24. Links to your web-page, social media accounts, and blog.
Website: www.harpermaze.com

FB: www.facebook.com/Harpermazeauthor/

Twitter:
https://twitter.com/harpermaze/

Instagram:

www.instagram.com/Harpermaze/
See: https://sevannahstorm.wixsite.com/website

Twitter: https://twitter.com/sevannah_storm
Wattpad: https://www.wattpad.com/user/Sevannah_Storm (sample pages only)
Website: https://sevannahstorm.wixsite.com/website (Please subscribe to my non-spamming newsletter)
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sevannah.storm
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sevannah.storm/ (So new on this, could use some support)
Tapas: https://tapas.io/sevannah_storm (sample pages only)
Tumblr: https://sevannahstorm.tumblr.com (never on here, still trying to figure it out)
Pinterest: https://za.pinterest.com/sevannahstorm/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/95639379-sevannah-storm
Advertise your book!
“Ready Player One meets Hunger Games meets Divergent, only different”
Heir God
No book links yet, launches will be throughout 2020.

How To Write Romance

Hades & Persephone: To the Underworld

The #1 most competitive category on Amazon Kindle is Contemporary Romance. Authors who write romance are bad-ass! Despite which genre your stories belong to, creating believable erotic scenes should be part of any writer’s ammo. Who are the romance writers? Read what three successful authors have to say about their craft and learn.

Joanne Fisher, Sevannah Storm, and Lynda Rees answered my in-depth interview questions about this bestselling genre.

Joanne FisherSevannah StormLynda Rees
1. Tell us about you. Who are you?
My name is Joanne Fisher and I am Canadian-Italian-American. I’ve been published now for just over 3 years and I have published a total of 8 books with genres ranging from steamy romance, historical fiction, murder mystery and travel guide.Call me Sev. I’m a Christian writing romance with a bit of Song of Solomon thrown in.

I love kick-butt strong, independent women who fall for alpha males.

I’m creative; studied art for seven years, lectured graphic design…that sort of thing.

For me, writing is a form of creativity release. I have a pug underfoot, two teenagers and a supportive husband.
I’m a multi-award winning author, part-Cherokee, a coal-miner’s daughter born in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky. After a corporate career in marketing and global transportation, I followed my dream to become published in fiction. I’m wife to my personal story hero, mother of two, grandmother of three human children, one feline child, four equestrian babes and a donkey.
2. Tell us your latest news as a writer. What are you working on?
At this moment, I’m working on my second historical fiction titled “Magnolia Blossom” which is a forbidden love story that takes place during the American Civil War.I have dates from my publisher for The Huntress and Xiaxan Fox. It makes it feel more real.

Now, I’m writing a genderswap witcher in outer space.

Across endless darkness, Mick kills or collects creatures for credits. Mutated in one of those attempts, she may be stronger, faster but loneliness eats at her soul. Tasked to confirm the existence of a dragon-like species, she joins forces with an old friend who thought her a boy. Can she survive what he has planned for her, the origin of the death threats and the revelation that her not-dead mother has assassins out to kidnap her? (M)
In December, The Thinking Tree published, sequal to my middle-grade children’s book, Freckle Face & Blondie.

Also in December, The Bourbon Tree, Book 10 of The Bloodline Series, a mystery series set in Kentucky horse country was launched in English, German, French, Italian and will come out in Spanish in February.Kentucky is famous for fast horses, beautiful women and amazing bourbon. Or is that fast women and beautiful horses?

Book 9 of The Bloodline Series, Real Money, detailing Chloe’s hazardous career as a real estate agent, was published in August in English and in audiobook in October. It came out in French, German, Italian in December, and is pubishing in February in Spanish.
3. Why do you write romance?
Yes, romance is my favorite genre to write.I write more than romance. Every story must touch on the basics; adventure, intrigue, action. But such a story without romance means it's missing that special something.

Also, I feel love conquers all. It's that one emotion we have yet to fully udnderstand and it's something everyone searches for... hence The One, Soulmate, Mr Right.

But, on a personal level, that moment when the MMC snatches my breath, makes me swoon... that's the feeling I chase when I write.
That’s tough, like asking why I breath. It’s part of me. If I failed to put my characters’ lives in writing, they’d never let me sleep. As it is, insistently invade my resting brain as I try to drift off. You could say, I write scenes in my head, before they end up in manuscripts.
4. Do you write other genres as well?
Yes. I write historical fiction and murder mystery as well.Not initially. My first book written and snatched up by a publisher was a sci-fi romance so it’s my go-to genre.

Since then I wrote a fantasy romance, paranormal romance and then, a historical fantasy. It was the hardest due to the research.
I mostly write cozy romantic mysteries, but have an award-winning historical conspiracy theory romance Gold Lust Conspiracy. My two middle-grade children’s mysteries published are co-authored with my granddaughter, Harley Nelson. Freckle Face & Blondie and The Thinking Tree, Book 2 Freckle Face & Blondie Series were published in January and December 2019.
5. Why is romance such a popular genre?
Because in today’s culture, chivalry and romance are dying. Romance books and movies are keeping the romance fire alive. With all the different types of romance genres, it is alive and doing very well.Everyone wants to feel loved, to relive moments of joy in our lives and share in others even if it’s fictional.I’m a fan as well as author of the genre. I love it because it takes me into other worlds and gives me experiences I’d never have otherwise.
6. Name one thing you love about romance.
Romance takes you to a world where a woman is not only loved but respected and cherished. The meet-cutes, the first kiss and the I-love-you.Reading romance provides a few tears, some laughs or suspense, and leaves me with a feel-good vacation experience without having to leave home, though I can take it with me anywhere.
7. What are the biggest misconceptions about the romantic/erotic genre?
The major misconception is that it is compared to porn but I assure you it’s far from that. Erotica sparks sensual sensations in a woman and develops it in a way that the reader will feel what the protagonist is feeling. The unintended consequences of this is an awakening of the reader’s sensuality and this is definitely a good thing.Romance is for bored housewives, for women with low esteem and without love in their lives.

A proper romance is a story with a little sex in it. Why is reading it different from watching it? The Titanic, The Kissing Booth, Crazy Stupid Love, The Notebook, to name a few.
I don’t write or normally read erotic romance, so am not be the best to comment. My opinion is erotic literature is misconstrued as trashy or unholy by many. Of course, it’s about sex, which is a touchy subject for some, though it’s what keeps this world going round.

That misconception could be true of romance in general. A man, in an elevator full of writers at an RWA convention, said he’d been having a lovely time in a hotel filled with dirty women. We laughted, but it was a clear example of what those who have never read romance may still believe.

Erotic romance is written with the main focus on sex. Other genres of romance may include sex, but romance is the primal focus. Romance can have several heat levels from zero to five. My books aren’t erotic, though they have sexual scenes in them, depending on the story’s need, ranging from level three to five. This of course, doesn’t include my children’s books.
8. Name the best subgenres. Which fascinates you?
I enjoy a good drama or political suspense that goes along with a murder mystery or a romance.Historical, Contemporary, Science-Fiction, Fantasy and Paranormal…because vampires and werewolves are sexy.

It’s not the blood or animal thing, it’s the unapologetic masculinity and strength they exude.
I love and write mystery and suspence. I adore romantic comedy, though it’s difficult for me to put to pen. I enjoy thrillers and U. S. historical and western romance. I’m a history buff and have woven Kentucky history into The Bloodline Series (Books 1-10), God Father’s Day and Madam Mom. My state has an intriquing past of settlers and a little-known history of mobsters, gambling and sin. Gold Lust Conspiracy spawned from my fascination with Alaska’s frontier days.
9. Do you think that every writer should try writing a romantic story at least once? Why: yes/no?
Of course! If not anything, it will awaken the writer’s sensuality along with the thrill romance gives you.No. A writer should stick to what they’re comfortable with, but for an added element of realism, there should be a little romance.Write what drives you, whatever is inside that needs to come out. Experimenting with genres may help you find your voice, but consistency and doing it every day makes you better. A writer must write, and write and write. When the voice finally sets in, you recognize it.
10. Who do you write to? To yourself, to the public? For fame or money?
I write for my fans. Obviously, I’d like to write for money but right now, it’s a hobby for me although, who knows, one day I may write that best seller that will make me famous. I am content to satisfy my readers right now.For myself. I tell the story circling my mind. Once it’s out, I’m at peace. If I could earn a little to do it full-time, then I’d be grateful. Making a living doing something you’re passionate about is the ultimate dream.I write what stirs my soul and hope it helps someone else, if only go give them an enjoyable experience. I love my characters. They’re real, living beings dear to my heart. I hope they’re unforgettable to readers.

I certainly don’t write for fame and money, though that would be nice. Most of my life, a corporate career made money and paid the bills. I’d love my books to be famous, though I don’t need that personally. Fans have written me the most incredible tributes, so I’m a success without my face on television or being a household name.
Joanne FisherSevannah StormLynda Rees
11. How do you find the motivation to write?
I have ideas for at least a dozen books. It’s quite funny how you write your first book (which took me ten years to write) and then the ideas come pouring out. Once I create a word document, with a title and a temporary cover, I’m committed to finishing it. I don’t struggle with punching out word count. The saggy middle is the hardest and I find, to persevere through that, keep to a daily word count.I am and always have been, self-motivated. Some authors are introverted and need the alone time. Though I’m an extrovert, I thrive on writing. At the computer, the room is filled with characters waiting their turn to speak. Jessie, Logan, Jason, Becky, Tisha, Sam, Lemon Sage, Wyatt, Levi, Riley, Corrie, Justin, Calvin, Rose, Chloe, Leo, Jaiden, Sam, Shae, Reggie, Dory, Chance, Zoe and Dex—they’re my motivation. I can’t shut them up.
12. How do you beat the writer's block?
Thank goodness, I haven’t had to deal with writer’s block yet.I push through. It’s easier to edit something written than a blank page.I’ve never experienced it. If I did, I’d take a walk in the woods, dance with my husband, have a cocktail and chat about the day with him or a good friend, play with my grandkids, feed the horses and donkey or go swimming or fishing.
13. What advice would you give to a writer who wants to create believable romantic/erotic scenes?
I would advise to read other writer’s work. This will allow you to be guided by their style and at the same time create your own style.Romantic: Be authentic and natural, place yourself in their shoes. How would YOU react in that moment?

Erotic: Be realistic. The elbow will poke him in the ribs. He will squash you with his weight and you will sweat. It's not pretty, don't make it a ballet dance choreographed to perfection.
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14. An action thriller needs an erotic scene. Any tips?
Again, I would read a few action thrillers that do have that type of scene in it and create your own style.It depends on the mood and pace at that moment. If it’s after the detective finds the first body, then it’s hard, fast and intense. If his partner’s killed, then in grief, it’s long and slow. If he cries afterward, even better.-
15. How much of your books are based on your experiences in life?
A few of my books are inspired by certain moments in my life but then the characters take on their own journeys.
There are a few that are completely made up or based on someone else’s experience but again, I try to give my characters their own personalities.
The intimate scenes; I had my husband describe what he felt in the moment. The fight scenes; I do Krav Maga for fun and some of those techniques slip into my novels.I write fiction. Characters, places and events derive from my imagination. A splattering of actual events or similarity to historical happenings sometimes play out the way I want them to, instead of how they might occurred. Characters are a mixture—partly me, a spash of folks I’ve met and a measure my fabrication. We all draw on life experiences in order to be who we are.
16. Which format you enjoy reading: e-book/audiobook or print? Why?
I enjoy e-books because they can be carried anywhere where paperbacks can’t go like the gym for example.E-book. Instant gratification. No leaving the house to get my next fix.Some of my books came out in audiobook the past year, and the rest will launch this year in audio; so I’ve experimented in the medium and am learning I like it. It’s great when you’re too busy to read, working, cooking, working out, walking, running, driving or doing housework. People who don’t have time to read, now have access to books. I prefer print, but am also hooked on reading ebooks on my iPad.
17. Describe an excellent romance book cover. Why do you like it?
I like to see a very sexy couple if the book is an erotica or a couple in a romantic position like a kiss or a hug for clean romances. These covers already give the potential reader a taste of they are about to embark on. See, for example, my book “Her Spanish Doll” or “Christmas in Venice”.I grew up with the damsel clasped in a bare-chested man’s arms. Those are classic. For me, I like covers in the middle of an action scene or layered like the epic Tarzan covers. It’s not just the main character. There are bats and a city skyline and a forest with wolves all on one cover.It depends on the genre, but the cover should first of all have stopping power. Secondly, it should be compelling, signify the genre and give a hint what the story is about.
18. Who makes your book covers?
She’s my best friend and we used to work together. When she was let go she ventured in starting her own business and she handles my website, all marketing items and my book covers.
Robin McDonald - MacRed Designs - https://www.robin-mcdonald.com/
I do, for now. I have three novels launching this year. I don’t know who the publishers use.-
19. Describe your ideal reader.
Anyone who has some romance in their hearts or who loves an “on the edge of your seat” type suspense story.Someone passionate, supportive…a squealer. “OMW, I can’t believe she said that…he did that!”He or she reads and is touched in some way by every book I write, and can’t wait for the next one to come out. They post a review at Amazon, Goodreads and/or BookBub; and contact me directly so we can build a personal relationship. I love chatting with readers.
20. What inspired you to write your latest book?
Not who but what, Venice! I lived in Italy for 18 years and I’ve visited a few times while there. Then in 2018, my husband and I visited Italy. It is one of those cities that are unforgettable and for me, it inspired the story that I wrote. “Christmas in Venice”. There are also authentic Venetian recipes at the back of both the e-book and the paperback. I love to cook and I will definitely be trying the most difficult recipies. You should too!I’ve read all of Andrzej Sapkowski’s novels and played The Witcher. But I didn’t want to mimic the concept and since sci-fi is my go-to, then that’s what I went with.Two things have driven my need to write Hart’s Girls. I live near the I75 corridor, heavily used by traffickers of all sorts. As a mother and grandmother, child abduction is a concern gotten worse now, with internet access. The Tri-State Area is #5 in top areas experiencing human trafficking. I took a writer’s class last year on the subject, and it has eaten at me ever since wanting to come out.

Secondly, my character, FBI Special Agent Reggie Casse, needs a love interest according to fans. It’s difficult with her career. I want Reggie and U. S. Marshal Shae Montgomery to help get the word out. Child abduction and human trafficking occurs under our noses in all neighborhoods, no matter what income level or social class. Our children are vulnerable.
Joanne FisherSevannah StormLynda Rees
21. How do you market your books?
I use social media a lot and I create my own memes. I use the different seasons to send different messages to my readers. I also have a very active website where you can view the book trailer for each one of my books, along with listening to the audio clip, you can read the teaser and you can buy it if you like what you see, hear and read. I also have a blog on Goodreads and I send out monthly newsletters with a surprise in each one.I thought it was via social media so I built those up. Now I know it’s through advertisements. At this point, I haven’t gone down this path. I’ll start closer to my first launch date.I’m an active member of professional organizations sharing among authors and readers and active on social media. I do news releases in papers; ads on Facebook, Amazon, Goodreads and occasionally BookBub. I blog on my website and share news from there about my work, as well as other authors, and publish a monthly newsletter to VIP’s. If anyone is interested in FREEBIES and PERKS of a VIP, they can sign up at this link:
http://eepurl.com/cTtS09
22. Who is your favorite writer? Why is he/she so good?
I love Wilbur Smith. His way of describing Africa is non comparable to any other writer that I’ve read. Oh! This is a tough one. Christine Feehan; the way she writes is inspirational.

Terry Pratchett; no matter how many times you read the same book, something new is revealed.

David Gemmell; the epic scale of his stories.
I love many authors. It’s difficult to say. If I can only pick one, I’d have to pick Janet Evanovich. She’s responsible for my embarrassment, laughing out loud on several air flights. I love her comedic mind. Also, I’d list Debbie MacComber, Andrea Rhodes, Thayne Rae, Robyn Carr, Jennifer Crusie and many more.
23. Links to your books and social media, please!
Website: https://joannesbooks.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ReadJoannesBooks
Twitter: https://twitter.com/JoannesBooks
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/joannes_books_2018/?hl=en
GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16797940.Joanne_Fisher?from_search=true
Email: joannes_books@outlook.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/sevannah_storm
Wattpad: https://www.wattpad.com/user/Sevannah_Storm (sample pages only)
Website: https://sevannahstorm.wixsite.com/website (Please subscribe to my non-spamming newsletter)
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sevannah.storm
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sevannah.storm/ (So new on this, could use some support)
Tapas: https://tapas.io/sevannah_storm (sample pages only)
Tumblr: https://sevannahstorm.tumblr.com (never on here, still trying to figure it out)
Pinterest: https://za.pinterest.com/sevannahstorm/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/95639379-sevannah-storm
http://eepurl.com/cTtS09 Become a VIP, get FREE reads, gifts and news.
http://www.lyndareesauthor.com Website
https://amazon.com/author/lyndarees Amazon
https://www.bookbub.com/profile/lynda-rees Bookbub
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17187400.Lynda_Rees Goodreads
http://eepurl.com/cTtS09 Become a VIP, get FREE gifts and latest news
https://twitter.com/LyndaReesauthor Twitter
https://www.facebook.com/lynda.rees.author/ Facebook
https://www.pinterest.com/lyndareesauthor/pins/ Pinterest
Beaches, sand, shells, lots of sunshine and books! Life is grand! Don’t you agree?
JoannesBooks.com or Amazon.com


#amreading #lovetoread #bookworm #books #murdermystery #romancestory #lovestory #JoannesBooks
No book links yet, launches will be throughout 2020.

See: https://sevannahstorm.wixsite.com/website
Love is a dangerous mystery. Enjoy the ride!- Lynda Rees

A Bundle Deal on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07JD5CSPL?ref_=dbs_r_series&storeType=ebooks


My latest publication:
https://lyndareesauthor.com/the-bourbon-trail/

 

About Rebecka Jäger:

Rebecka Jäger is a published author, blogger, and book cover designer. She lives in Finland and writes spy thrillers. She also co-authors with a U.S. – based novelist. The setting of Rebecka’s books ranges from supernatural to historical.
A group for writers on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/569574570248527/

Elements of Website Design For Authors

Web site design

The matter of website design; it all depends where you’re at. If you just started publishing short stories, a blog would be perfect for you and easy to create. Maybe you have ten best sellers out (congrats, you lucky bastard!). That means your author website must house different sales channels.

This article is only a superficial scratch on the fascinating theme of web page design, but I wrote it to guide you onto the path. Remember that you can always add features and scale your business.

Look At Your Competitors

As with book covers, a bit of industrial espionage pays. Check out your competition and write down the observations.

  • Visual content. What’s to like? Images, the free white space which lets the central elements rock? 
  • Commercial content and plugins: buying her book was super easy! I loved his blog.
  • Mechanisms of interaction: I subscribed to her newsletter with one click. I followed his social media accounts in an instant.
  • The fonts are gorgeous. I want that CSS! (stands for Cascading Style Sheets). https://skillcrush.com/2012/04/03/css/

Don’t worry if you don’t get CSS. Themes come with fonts, and you use them like in a text editor; by choosing titles and default text. Experiment.

Phases To Go Through

  1. Choose your platform (WordPressWix, etc.)
  2. Choose a domain name (no cryptic words, make it easy for people to find you!). Register the www- address.  How to get a domain name 
  3. Install the website builder of your choice. Best website builder software: https://www.thebest10websitebuilders.com/charts/2/best-website-builders
  4. Get familiar with the dashboard of the software. 
  5. Choose a theme: https://www.wpbeginner.com/glossary/responsive-theme/
  6. Create a header that consists of a headline and a theme image. Canva is great for making graphic elements. It’s free and offers multiple styles. Choose pictures and a theme that goes with your genre.
  7. Add your core pages. I suggest the following: front/home page, landing page (for offers), books for sale or upcoming books (presale marketing). Additional pages to your liking: short stories, author bio, guest authors (swap for publicity), blog, competitions, and whatever you like.

More information and detailed steps by The Write Practicehttps://thewritepractice.com/building-an-author-website/

Up-to-date Content

Yes, it’s a great idea to have a blog and a newsfeed and social media interaction on your page, but remember that you must keep up with the pulsating beat of updates.

Outdated content from the year 2017 won’t speak for you, to the contrary.

Images

Start with static elements and design them well. Please keep it simple but use high-quality photos. I’ve discussed how to buy commercial pictures in my previous blog post: https://rebeckajager.com/2019/12/11/how-to-design-a-book-cover/

The Main Message

“Authors often make the mistake of thinking that people visit their websites just to read their bio. Are you, the author, important? Sure, but your book is more important. Let people know they’re on an author’s website by making your product the star of the show.”

Source and more information: https://blog.reedsy.com/author-websites/

Tell the potential customers who you are as an author, and advertise your book. Always add a functioning link to Amazon or some other bookstore. Remember that each extra action causes your customers to fall out of the sales funnel. Make buying as easy as possible

Establishing a PayPal account and using the PayPal button has become rather easy nowadays. Remember to count printing, sending the book, and all other expenses so that you break at least even. If e-commerce becomes too complicated, just use the Amazon/Nook/Kobo/Play Books, etc. links with a buy now- button.

Remember to test. Everything on your page must work before you publish it!

An extra puzzle: what would make people come back to your site?

Plugins

A plugin is a mini-application that you can incorporate into your site. Most website builders offer a range of free plugins, but extra features demand a small monthly/yearly fee.

Examples:

Always test that the plugin works before you publish new content! 

Experiment, read DIY- articles and try again. If you fail, log into Fiverr and search for a skilled IT person.

For more information: https://www.makealivingwriting.com/12-essential-free-wordpress-plugins-for-your-writer-website/

Site Speed

If your header image is 15 Megabytes and takes twenty seconds to load, nobody cares if it’s incredible. Pack your images and lose the extra byte size. 

For more information on image formats: https://themeisle.com/blog/best-image-format/

Test your site speed with several different browsers and operating systems. Ask friends and family to experiment. Post a poll on social media and allow fans to voice their opinion.

Scalability

Scalability means that your website theme and the mechanics behind the visual facade adapt to different viewer devices and screen sizes. Open that mobile phone of yours and check your visuals. Ask friends to look at pages and click on the links. Request an honest opinion and have them answer a few questions. The process is similar to the beta reading of your book.

Remember that having no author site is the worst option. Having a 90s feel with everything blinking 100 mph is almost as bad as having no page. Boasting a smooth functioning website is your calling card as a professional writer. 

SEO- search-Engine Optimization

People must find you among a kazillion other writers and bloggers. If you don’t know what the infamous SEO means, check out my previous blog post on the subject: https://rebeckajager.com/2019/03/12/search-engine-optimization-for-writers/

Building An Author Brand

Branding means that you use consistent features throughout your virtual existence. Having the same account name everywhere and using a logo helps people recognize you wherever they stumble upon your content. 

A film-noir color scheme on your website? Great! (if you’re a mystery writer). Use the same header on your social media. After you get the hang of branding, a consistent effort soon becomes second nature.

But, a brand is much more than colors and visuals. You know what a writer’s voice is, don’t you? The brand is your voice when it comes to the web: instantly recognizable and consists of a thousand little things.

“Brand is everything people perceive you as. It’s your personality, every word you write, the fonts and colors you use, the way you make people feel when they read your books or visit your website. Many people wrongly equate brand to a logo or website colors and although these are brand elements, a brand is much more than just these graphic aspects.”

Source and more information on branding your writing career: https://www.thecreativepenn.com/2017/11/10/authentic-author-brand/

Remember that practice makes perfect. 

Landing Page

Start simple and add complicated elements after you master the basics. Create a landing page if you don’t know what else to do. Many website builders and emailing software offer articles and advice on how to create a simple landing page.

A landing page should:

  • House your writer bio (short) 
  • Show off your products = books
  • Engage the customer and keep the conversation going
  • Offer promo codes and discounts (IMPORTANT!)
  • Advertise an incentive to a selected group of customers (give them a VIP-feeling)
  • Gather those precious contact details

Source and more information: https://mailchimp.com/resources/landing-pages-design-tips/

TIP: Think like your customer. What do you value when you look for a book to buy?

Have fun, and ask me if you’re baffled. Request to join my Facebook group for writers to discuss the matter: https://www.facebook.com/groups/569574570248527

The Delicate Art of Taking Author Selfies

As a writer, you’re active on social media, right? For most of us, talking about our work comes naturally after a period of awkward shyness. When you gain confidence, advertising your book or short story becomes second nature. 

There’s an extra asset: you! Yes, your readers are dying to know who you are and what’s your writing process. Here, we enter the terrifying phase. For those who don’t take selfies daily, the first author photograph would be the image on the back of your book. The book cover artist will ask for the author’s portrait to accompany a passage on your writing career. 

Why should a customer pay for your book? Because you’re a hell of a writer, duh!

rebecka_selfies.png
Some examples or yours truly as the model.

The Dreaded Moment

For some of us, one extra photo among a mobile stream of selfies is no biggie. Just capture your profile using the best camera angle at the end of a selfie stick and open an image retouching app. Voila! The bravest of writers venture on dangerous soil: publish a bikini picture from the recent vacation.

For the rest of mankind, letting the world see our wrinkles, puffy eyes, and triple chins is a nightmare. If you have serious self-confidence issues, I suggest a visit to the professional photographer. He or she will create an atmosphere of a world-famous author and highlight your best features. This method also ensures the required quality pixel-wise.

The Gadgets

If you do half of your marketing by yourself (like me), learning to take selfies is a required skill. Discovering how to display your best side brings personal joy as well. Readers communicate with the author of their favorite book, especially if they know what you look like.

selfie_stick.jpg
Image source: https://besttopreviews.net/best-gopro-selfie-stick-remote-control-review-2017/

A selfie stick is used to take photographs or videos by positioning a digital camera device, typically a smartphone, beyond the normal range of the arm. This allows for shots to be taken at angles and distances that would not have been possible with the human arm by itself. A quality selfie stick can save your phone from being dropped into the Niagara Falls as you pose for the perfect photo!

The rods are typically extensible. Luxury models, which work via a wireless connection, have a remote shutter button. And that is an excellent feature if you want to show your followers the beauty of your homestead.

Camera Angle

Using the stick allows you to include the scenery. Also, the downward-facing camera angle makes your face look narrower and the eyes bigger. For me, this works as my puffy eyes disappear. Experiment, it’s fun. I’m forty-eight years old, but with some secret tricks, I look thirty.

  1. Look up toward the camera
  2. Extend your head away from your neck
  3. Relax your mouth, and exhale
  4. Instead of holding your phone in front of you, keep it to the side 
  5. Spin until you find your best light. Direct daylight and fluorescent tubes produce images that are worlds apart. Find which lighting suits you.
  6. Use props like hats, scarves, and sunglasses to hide flaws. As you become a better photographer, you won’t need them.

Source and more information: https://www.cosmopolitan.com/style-beauty/a12378/take-the-best-selfie/

An extra hack: try the camera’s portrait mode.

The Retouching Apps

Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom are professional image manipulation applications, and their price is compatibly high. I use both and will never go back. But you can search for free mobile apps from your app store. Most house advertisement which might distract use but offer pro versions for a few bucks.

To name some

  • AirBrush
  • FaceTune 2
  • Pixelmator
  • Photoshop Fix
  • Fotor
  • Visage
  • TouchRetouch
  • Parfait
  • YouCam Makeup
  • VSCO
  • And many more…

Source and more information: https://expertphotography.com/photo-retouching-apps/

Source and more information: https://www.dailydot.com/debug/best-selfie-apps-iphone-android/

The Beginner‘s Mistakes

If you write romance, why not exercise a 1980s soft filter? Most novice photo retouchers amplify each effect to the max, which will leave your face and background hazy. Every follower spots you overdid the editing.

Narrowing your face and enlargening your eyes will make your author selfie look like a Manga character. And that’s fine if you write manga, but a serious writer wouldn’t wear teddy bear ears and nose either, even if the app offered some.

The best selfies exhibit you in your natural habitat. If you run each morning, take a selfie in front of the sunrise. If cooking is your hobby, why not take a casual photo with the delicious result?

Maybe you bought a new dress? Share the end result of hairdressing and makeup. Most of us enjoy life’s simple joys. Whatever your interests are, some of your readers know in an instant what you mean. Your dad’s old SUV might work as a backdrop. We don’t need a tribe of Bedouins as extras for a full-blown Hollywood photoshoot in the Saharan desert. But if that’s your thing, I say go for it.

You rewrote your opening chapter twenty times, and the same goes for learning to edit. Retouching a photograph is like editing a book. As with everything else, practice makes perfect.

Check out my Instagram profile.

For more visual content, meet me on Pinterest.

Subscribe to The Writer’s Newsletter for more tips.

Do You Study Character Actors When You Plan Your Next Story? – You Should!

Glam retro diva

Do you struggle with creating characters that feel like real people? You’re not alone. The job becomes harder when you have multiple books up your sleeve. Variation is tough work, and as humans, we are tempted to repeat models which worked in the past. Beware of the cookie-cutter character!

Character or Plot-driven?

If your writing style is plot-driven, you develop the three acts and the key scenes first, and characters develop after that. Maybe the first thing you envision is the historical era or the fantasy setting with intricate maps and systems of magic?

If you’re character-driven like me, you see the characters in your dreams. You hear them talk and envision them in different scenarios. I speak the dialogue out loud and practice the expressions of my heroine in front of a mirror. I form the MC and the villain first. The conflict brewing between them becomes my main idea, and their backstories take form later on. But a character with little to do is… yawn. Many writers elevate the characterization over the plot, but if you don’t get on with the story… wham! That’s the sound your book makes when the reader tosses it to the corner and shall never pick it up. 

Which type of writer are you? Examine your preferences. 

 “It doesn’t matter how “interesting” the character is if you cannot create an antagonistic environment that chisels and defines that character. Even an awesome plot that takes the reader on the most mind-bending twists and turns will fall flat when depending on the strength of one-dimensional character. No matter how you approach storytelling, remember this: your story needs both character and plot.”

Source and more information: https://nybookeditors.com/2017/02/character-driven-vs-plot-driven-best/

Emotional Identification

Let us return to the process which actors and actresses go through as they layer their next Oscar- nominating role. Yes, they have their work cut out for them, like the screenwriters who wrote the part which snatches the attention of Anthony Hopkins or Angelina Jolie.

Method acting means a technique in which an actor aspires to complete emotional identification with a role. Method acting was developed by Elia Kazan and Lee Strasberg in particular and is associated with star actors such as Marlon Brando and Dustin Hoffman

“Method actors have this amazing ability to not only get into character but live through the character and bring an unsurpassable depth. What I love about Method Actors is that they don’t appear to be acting, they appear to be living; they know how to get into character so well that you believe they ARE the character. Lots of method actors are very humble about their work, but when you see them on stage or screen, it is electrifying, to say the least.” 

Source: http://www.standbymethod.com/how-to-get-into-character/

As a practice, compile a Pinterest moodboard of your favorite movie actors in their most bedazzling roles and compare them to their photos taken on the red carpet. The difference between the person and the character is striking! Great actors and actresses take their roles seriously. Whatever they do, whether on stage or screen, will be forever etched either onto film or in the minds of their audience. They move hearts and will live on in the souls of their fans. The mechanism of transferring emotional identification is your aim as a writer.

Watch a clip of Meryl Streep On Accessing The Characters Within:

https://youtu.be/phv85MERpLw

If you write from personal experience, you have an array of intimate emotions at your disposal, but you might struggle with transferring that emotion to the inexperienced reader. The actress uses her director as a mirror. Who do you use? Duh! Beta readers, of course. Remember to ask if they felt the emotional fireworks. This is important because the book lives or dies via Showing, Not Telling. The audience experiences what your Point-of-View character senses with his eyes, nose, ears, skin, and so forth.

Remember that the reader must also understand the villain on some human level, and you are responsible for making that happen. A character actor villain has what’s called a presence. When he steps on the stage, he rules the scene. How does that happen? You’ll feel the tingling on your skin and the chills down your spine.

Ruining Your Favorite Movie

Warning: using my method might ruin watching movies for you. Like when you started learning the craft of authorship, which spoiled the enjoyment of a great book. That’s because you know how the chassis works and cannot see the beauty of the Ferrari sportscar anymore.

Watch clips of great method actors in their star roles. Choose characters that resemble your own. The clips help you construct body-language and subtle expressions because method actors are rarely flamboyant—unless the role demands precisely that. Think of Joker in Batman: he’s a showman, which means he knows how to get the audience’s attention big time. Admire how Heath Ledger breathes life into the iconic villain.

The age of the internet has made extensive research more accessible than ever before. You have libraries of movie clips to watch. See how Anthony Hopkins or J. T. Walsh animates a bad guy. Who is your favorite hero? How has he aged and changed? Remember that the nature of characters is perpetual motion. Does blind idealism fill your favorite heroine, or does she come from between the-rock-and-a-hard place?

angelina

Do your characters age?

Image source: https://www.fashiongonerogue.com/photo-shoot/angelina-jolie-peter-lindbergh-wsj-2015-cover/

However, this method doesn’t allow copycatting. You shouldn’t copy a movie on paper; its a copyright infringement and punishable by law. Watching great actors at work can be compared to moodboarding: seeking material for inspiration.

Two Sides of The Same Coin

“The best and worst specimens of humanity are two sides of the same coin. Heroes and villains are not categories that are divided by the expansive sea of morality never to have their shores meet. On the contrary, both the most exalted heroism and diabolical villainy are manifestations of a human spirit that has become capable of great things. And great things need not be good things.”

Source: https://rightreason.typepad.com/right_reason/2013/04/good-evil-and-human-capability.html

What differentiates good from evil? Point-of-view. Yes, sin is relative, and you can use this in your writing because humans are a social species. Skillful actors mud their characters layer by layer, and they mirror themselves on other people. One of the best tricks you can throw at your readers is to let someone else reflect the bad guy. Describe how the military villain’s subordinates act when he enters the room. Show a conversation between the hero and his sidekick about the dark one. 

If you want to dig deeper into the depths which a character actor would use, show the villain’s first crime: when he wasn’t yet a developed killer. 

The sides of the coin are the reason why the same brilliant actor portrays heroes and villains with incredible authenticity.

More advice on designing your Villain/Antagonist: https://rebeckajager.com/2019/01/04/give-evil-the-central-stage-groundbreaking-villain-moments/