Give me magic, gadgets, monsters, zombies, everything that seems impossible, and throw in some tough chicks with swords. That's the stuff.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Guest Post: Why I wrote a book. . .

Sarah Wynde is here today discussing some of her experiences writing a book. I first met Sarah on Stellar Four during a discussion on eBooks. I've also read her first book, A Gift of Ghosts and enjoyed it (review to come soon, but I'll quickly say it is a fun paranormal romance). Today she is here discussing why she wrote her book and what it's like starting the next one: 

In January 2011, a line of dialog popped into my head. “Chemists think sex is all about chemistry. Hormones and pheromones. Some peptides, a little oxytocin, and that’s the whole story. But what do they know? Really, sex is all about physics.” I could almost hear the breathless, slightly nervous voice of the woman who was saying it.

I wrote it down, of course, but it didn’t fit with anything I was working on. After about a decade of not writing except for work or school, I’d rediscovered the joy of writing fiction through fan fiction and was writing long, complicated, episode-like stories set in the world of the television show Eureka. Adding an original love interest in fan fiction? Not cool. So I put the idea away. Still, it lingered, just a little. Every so often, when I wasn’t immersed in some crazy Eureka plot (robot bats, human-plant chimeras, evil twins – so much fun!), I’d pull out the file and learn a little more about my heroine.

Then summer rolled around and the writers of Eureka started screwing with my favorite characters. I don’t mind bad things happening to the characters I love – that’s the nature of drama – but the writers were turning them into different people. The strong, kickass heroine I adored was becoming a wishy-washy emo princess. I was not pleased. When Syfy added insult to injury and cancelled the show, I was frustrated and angry and really, really sad. I decided it was time to write in a world that I could control. 

It wasn’t the first time I’d tried writing original fiction. In fact, I still had a novel with many, many, many revisions stored on my hard drive from a decade earlier. But I’m a perfectionist (thus the revisions) with a background in publishing. Nothing I wrote ever felt good enough to me.

Writing fan fiction, though, had taught me the pleasure of simply trying to tell an entertaining story, without striving for professional perfection. If I was going to write original fiction again, I wanted to do it with a fan fiction sensibility. I wanted to write to amuse myself and share what I wrote with other people in the hope that they’d be amused, too. So I opened the story with the main character looking in the mirror. As I wrote, every time I fell into self-doubt and anxiety (alas, my default positions), I reminded myself that my opening line was a cliché and no agent or editor would ever read past it and I was just writing for fun.

I finished on Halloween.

I really liked what I’d written.

Can I tell you how weird it is for me to think that, much less say it out loud? Before I quit my job and went back to school, I spent many years as a professional editor. I’m critical of everything, my own writing most of all. But Ghosts was fun and sweet and quirky and romantic and incredibly geeky – Akira’s seduction of Zane still makes me laugh, even after reading it the multiple times needed to revise and edit and proof. And I adored Zane. He’s not your typical alpha romantic hero but he’s a normal guy and I like normal guys. (Well, okay, not quite normal. There’s that psychic gift that’s a little like magic…)

But I’d worked in book publishing for over a decade and I knew that Ghosts was much too weird to find a home in traditional publishing. Readers don’t usually have to worry about these things, but in today’s world, the important question for publishers isn’t whether readers will like a book: it’s whether the B&N employee who chooses which books get the ever-dwindling space on the shelf will like it. And the B&N book buyers like books that fit into neat categories. The romance buyer wants alpha heroes and sexy heroines. The fantasy buyer likes tough characters out to save the world. The young adult buyer (and wouldn’t that be the best job ever?) must think love triangles are key. A Gift of Ghosts doesn’t fit into a neat category. The chance that it would sell to a traditional publisher (even if I revised the opening lines) seemed remote.

But I wanted readers. I’d learned from fan fiction that half the fun of writing (maybe more) is having other people enjoy what you’ve written. Knowing that my words made someone smile or laugh or stay up too late was part of what made the work of writing them worthwhile. And while I’d posted chapters on as I wrote them, reading an entire book online is uncomfortable for most people.

So I decide to publish A Gift of Ghosts myself. And I did. And yeah, it was about that easy. I distinctly remember pushing the button on the Kindle Direct Publishing page and thinking, wow, that’s it? It’s almost scary how simple Amazon has made the process of book publishing.

I priced it at $3.50 and told my friends and family to buy me a cup of coffee. When I’d sold 14 copies – whee! – I used Amazon’s KDP Select program to set the price to free for a day and for that day, I told not just close friends, but everyone – my Facebook friends, my WoW guild, my fan fiction community, my mom’s group, the nice folks at Critique Circle who’d read the first few chapters.

Four months later, I’m hard at work (or I should be) on the sequel, A Gift of Thought. If Ghosts is a quirky little book, Thought is quirky squared. About a third of it is told from the viewpoint of a fifteen-year old ghost who’s decided that his parents really ought to be together and is willing to do whatever it takes to make it so. The other two thirds is from the perspective of his confused mother who left behind a boy and a baby twenty years ago and isn’t quite sure how and why they’ve shown up in her life again. A good acquisition editor would point out all the ways in which my heroine is unsympathetic, starting with the fact that she abandoned her baby. But I love her and indie publishing means that I can hope that some other people will, too. (My sister thinks she’s great, but my sister is a little biased.) I think I’ll be calling it romantic suspense because there are serial killers, Mexican drug cartels, police encounters and a death or two, but at its heart, it’s still just a story about family.

I hope to have it finished in another three weeks and posted to Amazon by June 15th. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Thanks for stopping by, Sarah!

To learn more about Sarah Wynde, check out her blog.

A Gift of Ghosts is available for 99 cents through May 7, so hop on over to Amazon to get it!


  1. I've read it too and enjoyed it! Right now it's on my blog listed under the 99 cent bargains. Thanks for letting me know the price will change. I'll move it to bargains under 5 dollars.

    It was a fun and fast read. Good beach read.

  2. I've read this one too--it's on my blog under good 99 bargain reads! (I'll have to move it to the 'under 5' bargain in a few days!)

    I enjoyed it--light and fun! A good beach read!

    1. Thank you! I do change prices a lot -- I figure the best time to be experimenting is when I don't really have many readers. I'm hoping by the time I write a fourth or fifth book that I'll have some ideas based on my own experiences about what I think works and doesn't work. So far, somewhat ironically, $4.99 is by far my most successful price point. I sold about half of the total books I've sold in the three weeks that it was at that price. And I say ironic because one of the reasons I like self-publishing is because it lets books be less expensive!

  3. Thanks for sharing this Sarah! It's very encouraging! :)
    It's an interesting point you make about fanfiction. I started out writing fanfiction too, and there was a lot less fear attached to it. It's good to remember that feeling when it comes to my own work. So, thank you :) x

  4. Thanks, JC! Writing fan fiction is so much fun -- I try to remember that and cultivate it in my original writing, too, but it's not always easy.

  5. I have a Kobo, so until recently I couldn't read this (Kindle book) unless I was cuddled up with my laptop. Bit of an oxymoron. So, I LOVE my new smartphone with the Kobo *and* Kindle reading apps. My first Kindle purchase was "A Gift of Ghosts". I just finished it over my lunch break and can now say that I also adore your book. The romance is sweet, the characters are (to use your word) quirky, and the ghosts are fun. I'm looking forward to the sequel.