IAI - Indie Author Interviews

IAI – Caught Between Worlds with Author Margo Bond Collins

IAIWe tend to speak of authors belonging to one of two realms. There are the traditional published and then there are the self-published. There is, however, a growing middle ground and depending on whom one speaks to, these authors can find themselves working both sides of the room. They are the writers of small press publications. In my observations and research, I feel that aside from the kudos of getting at least a small advance (sometimes) and some support, the small press folks belong more to the SPA world than the traditional publishing world. A long way to get to my point that I believe they fit nicely into a series dedicated to Indie Authors.

Joining us today is author Margo Bond Collins. In addition to authorship and motherhood, Margo also teaches English so I not only have to watch my language (Cuz moms hate when you curse), but also my grammar. Besides writing well, Margo also does something else that I find both honorable and impressive – she provides more than her fair share of support to other authors. Her blog platform is evidence of the time and effort that she dedicates to make someone else’s dream a step closer to reality. So without further delay and  ranting, let’s meet Margo.

WIDW: Hi Margo and thank you for joining us today. I appreciate you taking time away from reading my series to join us (I’m kidding; Margo is not reading my series). Before we get to a discussion of your novels, give us the 4-1-1 on why you write?

MBC: Sure! But before we start, I just need to point out that there’s a good chance I might start cursing. 🙂 And second, I am too reading your series. I just got it. I love, love, LOVE zombie tales and am excited about the Creeper Saga!

Okay. Now that that’s out of the way, I can talk about why I write. Margo Bond Collins

I write because if I didn’t, I might wither and die. In some ways, it hardly matters if other people read my books—I write them because I love getting lost in the story, in other people’s worlds and thoughts and dreams and problems and successes. If other people like what I write, it’s an exciting bonus.

 WIDW: If you asked me “why” I write horror, I would turn not to a book but the Twilight Zone series as inspiration. I don’t know if I’d have a passion for any writing other than horror. To date, your novels are supernatural in nature and your debut was a paranormal mystery. Did you always think in terms of a genre you’d write in?

MBC: Not necessarily. I have a Ph.D. in eighteenth-century British literature and read all different kinds of books for entertainment, from genre romance to high literary art. Most of the books I love best have some supernatural or fantastic element to them, so it’s perhaps no surprise that I would start there. However, I will soon have some exciting news to share about a contemporary romance piece I’ve written (and it’s killing me not to be able to tell yet, so I’m just going to hint broadly here!) and I write academic articles all the time, so I am used to changing voices and styles as necessary and as the mood hits me.

 WIDW: I’m surprised by how many children (and college students) are turned off by the thought or the process of English class. In between the must-do’s of teaching and the potential passion a teacher can bring to the subject, where do you think teachers go wrong in inspiring the kind of love authors feel for the written word?

MBC: I think that’s a bigger issue than teachers’ responsibilities. I think that a love of reading and writing begins at home, and that we live in a culture that doesn’t value the imagination or intellect quite as much as it should. Students are often anxious about trying to think critically about the books they love because the implication is that doing so will somehow ruin the enjoyment of those books; they don’t recognize the pleasure that can one can derive from analyzing how a book does what it does.

That said, I also think that teachers sometimes fail to meet students where they are—for example, a professor who is disdainful of the Twilight series might not be able to engage those students who love the series, whereas a professor who can discuss the things his or her students loves without denigrating them can often help students learn to love a broader range of works. I’ve always tried to be the latter kind of teacher, though I’m sure I’ve often failed. But one of my best moments recently was when a former student tagged me on Facebook in a “books that have touched me” post and mentioned that several of the books were ones that she had read in my classes and might not have read otherwise.

WIDW:  Well I think you deserve a special award for being the first person to use the Twilight Series in a positive manner LOL. Speaking of Brit Lit — One of my favorite books is Jude the Obscure, I read it in high school and again as an adult. One theme in the book is choosing the person who would be “best” for us or choosing the person who “excites” us but who isn’t really “good” for us. I can’t think of a more relevant or real life topic for even a modern teen – do you think educators could bring more value to classics by pointing  them into modern context for children? Things they can relate to?

MBC: Absolutely! I think that the very best literature instructors show students how the literature both connects to their own lives and illustrates the world in which it was originally written. The big challenge, of course, is to help students figure out how to make those connections on their own–the end goal of teaching is, after all, students who can do on their own what they were expected to do in class. And that brings it all back around to teaching those critical thinking and analysis skills.

WIDW: You do devote a lot of blog space, if not time, to promoting other authors. Many authors define interactions as “an opportunity to promote me.” Why do you give of your resources and what do you see as the benefit for other authors to do the same?

MBC: Honestly, I started my blog as a means of promoting my own books. It didn’t take long, however, to realize that if I wanted to promote my books, I was going to need help from other bloggers—and if I planned to ask for that kind of help, it seemed only appropriate to offer it, as well. So I began hosting other authors as a means to gaining some kind of “promotional karma”—and then I ended up loving it! I’ve met some great authors and found some amazing books in the process.

WIDW: Now assuming your uncle, aunt, sister, don’t work at Solstice Publishing or World Weaver Press, your publishers (lie to us if they do), how did you land a deal with them and was it difficult?

MBC: That’s a tough question. I actually turned down a deal from one of the Big Six publishers. (Take a moment to gasp in horror, if you like.) It was a bad deal. It was for a comparatively small amount of money, no royalties, and no foreign rights. The editor who offered it was dismissive and rude. I’m far from being a prima donna about my writing (ask the editors I work with!), but I decided I valued my work more than that.

But it took some time to decide to go with small presses, instead. The publishing world is in flux, and I originally very much wanted the traditional book deal. So I waited. And while I waited, the small publishers started gaining more and more traction.

But once I’d decided to submit to smaller presses, it was fairly easy. I had several novels written by then, so I submitted two of them to different places—and they were accepted in the same month!

 {Upon hearing that Margo turned down a big 6 publisher and received two offers in the same month, the interviewer pauses to remind himself that envy is an ugly trait, that Margo is a very nice person who deserves such fortune, and that sticking pins in a voodoo doll of her likeness may be momentarily satisfying but isn’t the path to good Karma.}

 WIDW: Many SPA believe, “well if I got a contract deal, I’d be rich and could write all day.” Whether or not you believed that yourself, what are the biggest benefits to working with small press and how much marketing responsibility still is on your shoulders?

MBC: By far the biggest advantage to working with small presses is the individualized attention my books and I get. I have access to the owner of the company if I need it and can get advice from a number of sources within the company at any stage of the process. Also, there’s a strong sense of community among the authors of these publishers, and we trade ideas and experiences and marketing strategies.

The idea that getting a deal with a big publisher means that the author doesn’t have to do any publicity work is nonsense. I have several friends who have published with big houses, but because they are early-career authors, most of the promotional work still falls on them. So I suspect I wouldn’t be doing very much less if I had taken that original (terrible!) offer—and I very well might still be right here, publishing with small presses.

WIDW: Desert Island Question (a staple for these interviews) – if you could bring three books with you and my series was all sold out, which three would you bring and why?

MBC: I would totally cheat and bring anthologies: the Norton Anthology of British Literature, a science fiction anthology, and a fantasy anthology. And I would still get tired of them because I read voraciously. So I would again turn to making up my own stories.

 WIDW: As of the writing of this interview I have not had a chance to read Waking Up Dead in its entirety. However, you nailed the “keep them interested in the first five pages” requirement. Do you consider Waking Up Dead to be first a paranormal story with mystery or a mystery story with paranormal elements?

MBC: Ooh. Good question. I guess I think of it primarily as a mystery that happens to have some paranormal elements. Then again, the ghost-in-the-wrong-place idea showed up first; I didn’t even know I was writing a mystery until I had written several chapters, so from that perspective, I could argue that it was primarily a paranormal story from the beginning. (How’s that for a non-answer?)

WIDW: I think that was an excellent non-answer.  Why was using the perspective of the ghost, Callie, important for what you wanted to say in the story?

MBC: When I was working on Waking Up Dead, someone asked me why I would want to limit my protagonist by making her a ghost, unable to easily interact with the world around her.

I didn’t have a good answer then, but I’ve thought about it a lot since.

And here’s the deal: I love writing about Callie and her limitations. Because ultimately, that’s what many books are about, right? The limitations we face when interacting with the world around us. Callie’s limitations are just more immediate and obvious. She has to really work to have an impact on the world, and that’s something we can all sympathize with. Who hasn’t had days when getting anything done felt like swimming through peanut butter? When, try as we might, we can’t seem to communicate with the people surrounding us. When our attempts to move people or things fall flat and we have to start working on new ways to try to be seen and heard.

For Callie, these obstacles are instantly recognizable, but her attempts to make connections echo the attempts in our own lives. So why would I want to limit my protagonist by making her a ghost? Because sometimes, we’re all ghosts. But if we keep at it, we can overcome that little problem.

WIDW: Perhaps it is not on them, but often readers seem to disregard how much effort and time goes into a novel. Reviewers will often point to something as bad that another points to as great. You have a few of those reviews though nothing major; how do you handle the criticism and do you take anything away from less than positive remarks?

MBC: First of all, I always try to remember that not everyone is going to like every book. I love Virginia Woolf’s essays, for example, but her fiction bores me. I took a Woolf class in graduate school and it was miserable. But I can recognize why other people might like it. So when I get a bad review, my first thought is that my style doesn’t mesh with that reader’s preferences. Fine. If the review really bugs me, I go look at the bad reviews of some of my favorite authors (I find it comforting that Neil Gaiman, Connie Willis, and even Jane Austen have gotten 1-star reviews!). And in one case, I went to check out the reviewer’s other reviews and was relieved to discover that the reviewer had given several of my favorite books 1-star reviews—a clear indication that we have wildly different tastes.

Once I get past the initial emotional reaction to a negative review, I try to see if there’s anything useful in it. I’ve gotten two reviews recently—one negative, one mixed—that had brilliant insights, and I’m planning to incorporate those into my next Callie Taylor book.

WIDW: I wrote my series as an homage to my children (dumping them in an apocalyptic world may appear as punishment, but it’s not). When you approached your story line and character development, did the fact that the book would at some time be read by your daughter impact the message?

MBC: When I wrote the first drafts of Waking Up Dead and Legally Undead, my daughter wasn’t yet born. But I like to think that any underlying messages of gender and racial equality will appeal to her.

 WIDW: Your main character/ghost Callie is a witty spit-fire; is she reflective of who you are or more so who you’d like to be? – of course you can opt for none of the above but do explain how Callie came to life (or in this case death).

MBC: Waking Up Dead was inspired by a single moment when I lived in Alabama for a few years. I remember driving to work one morning and seeing just a wisp of fog move across the statue in the middle of the town square. The statue was of some Civil War figure, and I remember thinking that it looked oddly ghostly. In between teaching classes that day, I started writing Callie’s story. It took me less than six weeks to finish that first draft—her voice was just incredibly strong.

Callie is in some ways the snarky part of me that I’m too socialized to let out; she says a lot of things that I would think but never say.  But she’s also very much her own person—for example, she represses a lot of things that I would probably find a way to express (and that she will need to work out in later books!).

 WIDW: I read that you are tackling a vampire series next. Vampires are a tough market to sell into, which is why my own Crimson Night is sitting in the “do you really want to go this route?” pile. I did pen a piece called Don’t Write That so I’m in favor of keeping our monsters alive. A long way to get to my question of why go down the vampire path and risk the scorn of critics?

MBC: I actually wrote Legally Undead before the Twilight series came out—and before there was quite so much vampiric competition. But I decided to go ahead and submit it for publication because in my narrator Elle Dupree’s world, vampires are not sexy. They’re frightening and deadly—and they’re the kinds of vampires I want to read about.

 WIDW: Writing is easy, publishing is hard and selling is crazy frustrating. Twenty years from now would Margo Bond Collins still be pumping out books if she only sells a few a year?

MBC: I was writing books twenty years ago, long before I ever sold any. See my answer to question #1: I would wither and die if I didn’t write. So yes, I think I’ll be writing for the rest of my life, no matter what.

WIDW: Where can readers find and follow you – on line, I don’t mean at the grocery store cuz that’s just creepy and the police told me I have to stop-

MBC: Yes. Please pay attention to any restraining orders. 🙂

Here are my links:

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/margobondcollins

Email: MargoBondCollins@gmail.com

Website: http://www.MargoBondCollins.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MargoBondCollin  @MargoBondCollin

Google+: https://plus.google.com/116484555448104519902

Goodreads Author Page: http://www.goodreads.com/vampirarchy

Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/MargoBondCollins

Facebook Novel Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Waking-Up-Dead/502076076537575

Tumblr: http://vampirarchybooks.tumblr.com/

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/mbondcollins/

Be sure to add Waking Up Dead to your Goodreads bookshelves: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18428064-waking-up-dead

Book Trailers for Waking Up Dead:

 WIDW: Again thank you much for stopping by and a big thanks for all of your efforts to support Indie Authors and I hope that my readers will do the same for you.

MBC: Thanks so much for having me! This was great fun!

 

About Waking Up Dead

 

Kindle and Paperback: 226 pages

Publisher: Solstice Shadows Publishing (October 8, 2013)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1493750461

ISBN-13: 978-1493750467

ASIN: B00FOXWLM8

 

When Dallas resident Callie Taylor died young, she expected to go to Heaven, or maybe Hell. Instead, when she met her fate early thanks to a creep with a knife and a mommy complex, she went to Alabama. Now she’s witnessed another murder, and she’s not about to let this one go. She’s determined to help solve it before an innocent man goes to prison. And to answer the biggest question of all: why the hell did she wake up dead in Alabama?

 

About the Author

Margo Bond Collins lives in Texas with her husband, their daughter, several spoiled cats, and a ridiculous turtle. She teaches college-level English courses online, though writing fiction is her first love. She enjoys reading urban fantasy and paranormal fiction of any genre and spends most of her free time daydreaming about vampires, ghosts, zombies, werewolves, and other monsters. Waking Up Dead is her first published novel. Her second novel, Legally Undead, is an urban fantasy forthcoming in 2014 from World Weaver Press.

 

 

 

3 replies »

Keep it sane

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s