This lady has gone from strength to strength and provides the best advice for other writers. Her name is Ashley R Carlson author of The Charismatics. I am excited to read this book, it is sitting in my ipad just waiting for me! It has won many awards which you will see below and if you want to know more about self publishing from a self published author you will enjoy this interview. I hope that you will download this chapter and support this debut author in her long career to come.
Why don’t you first tell us a little about yourself?
Well … I’m 26, single and ready to mingle! (Just kidding. No I’m not.)
Besides writing, I am also a freelance editor and head editor for Midnight Publishing, so if you ever want ME to edit YOUR book … then email me. ;)
I have a borderline-crazy obsession with Jennifer Lawrence, and am essentially convinced that one day we will become the best of friends.
Did you always possess a passion for writing? When did you have the epiphany that you actually wanted to publish your work?
Haha. I used to “try” to write poems or stories and would lose interest so quickly. It wasn’t until I was 25 and did NaNoWriMo 2013 that I really buckled down and got serious about it, and really enjoyed myself. I guess I wasn’t mature or diligent enough until that point.
What draws you to write fantasy? Do you dabble in any other genres?
I have always loved fantasy. Like, LOVED it, as in I believed mermaids actually existed and would STARE at the ocean desperately when we went to California on vacation. I was sort of a freak. Now I know mermaids don’t actually exist (or do they?!), but I get to live in fantasy worlds in my head, which is almost as good.
I do write in other genres. I am about to publish a contemporary novella right now called “Misery and Marlene,” about a girl who wants to be an actress and hates her life in Missouri, which she calls “misery.” Unfortunately she keeps getting in her own way regarding her career, and she’s sort of an “anti-hero”—I had fun writing a character who I wasn’t sure I wanted the readers to “like,” a la Gillian Flynn.
You have so many pets! Do they give you inspiration or have a character based on them in your works?
I LOVE animals. Love them. So much. I want all the animals. Yes, Roan was definitely inspired by my love and companionship with animals. I’ve always just craved that connection, and thought it was a great way to have a close bond with an animal, with the added piece that he can talk/think like a human.
What are your aspirations for your writing career?
Well, originally it was to self-publish all of my work, and just keep producing great content as my readership grows that way. However, after attending Phoenix Comicon and talking at length with a personal hero of mine, Chuck Wendig, I’m not sure anymore. I’m thinking hybrid author—being published both ways.
Such a hard question to answer, honestly. It’s about a lot of things—a girl in an unhappy marriage, finding strength within oneself, fighting for those who cannot. “Great power means great responsibility,” and that whole she-bang. Plus a sexy romance, a fun fantasy steampunk universe, a corrupt government with a ton of secrets, and a talking animal companion!
Where did you the inspiration for this come from?
It was from “Real Housewives of Orange County.” Yeah, I’m not afraid to admit it. Basically one of the wives was in a terrible, unfulfilling marriage, and I thought, “I wonder what that would be like for someone.” The protagonist of Ambrose Killaher was born from there, and everything blossomed pretty quickly. I wrote the first draft in two months, and barely outlined any further than the scene I was writing that day. It was really an out-of-body, magical experience. So whoever says magic doesn’t exist is LYING! J
What kind of research did you do for your novel?
Haha. Research is hard work, no thanks. The only stuff I looked up were cool names for places and people. Other than that, my novel is set in a completely different universe, during a completely different time frame (not the future, nor the past), with cool steampunk machinery that I just designed in my head.
I like the idea of her invisible friend Roan. How did he come about?
One of my favorite book series’, “The Golden Compass” by Philip Pullman, had children with their “daemons,” or animal companions that represented their soul outside of their body. I always loved that concept, and sort of wanted to play off of it. Roan is much different than Pullman’s daemons however; he isn’t “part of” Ambrose, but more a counterpart or “gift” she has (but I can’t give too much away!).
How did you go about writing your book? What is your planning process (if you have one)
As I mentioned, I just wrote by the seat of my pants, literally. It was the first novel I ever wrote, so I really had no clue what I was doing. I just wrote stuff that excited me, and would outline on my white board the next scene. Sometimes I would get stumped and stare at the board for a few hours, but then I knew that the story wasn’t working the way I had originally planned. Unless I was EXCITED by the storyline and couldn’t wait to write it, I wouldn’t go in that direction. I hate boring books, and I hate slow storylines. I made sure that “The Charismatics” had a lot of action, and secret reveals, that sort of thing. Not sure how I made it happen without outlining, but I did. That’s the magic I was talking about.
How do you go about creating deep characterisation in your book?
First draft means I have no idea what they’re like, honestly. I don’t plan them, I just see what comes out of the characters I create. Sometimes they’re mean, sometimes they’re bitchy, sometimes cruel. I let the characters go where they want. Then in the subsequent drafts I see what “themes” were common in that character, and tease them out that much more. For instance, I had never planned on my protagonist, Ambrose, to be such a “compassionate” person. I didn’t realize that was her “gift,” or “strength.” But as I reread and rewrote I saw the things she did, and they made sense. They followed a pattern.
Who do you think would like your story and what kind of readership are you aiming for?
I think that my book is definitely going to appeal to readers of popular fantasy YA like “The Hunger Games,” and others. However, the protagonist is a bit older (she’s 18 at the beginning of the novel), and she is in an arranged marriage. There are some older themes in the book, certainly, and definitely some violence. So upper teenager to adult is the aimed age group, though I think it’s flexible. And obviously lovers of deep questions, like sacrifice, courage, corruption, poor vs. rich, etc. I tried to explore all of these important life issues in the book, and amidst all the fantasy fun I want to probe and inspire readers with things that plague us all as humans.
Anyway, when I unearthed my first attempt at a novel for NaNoWriMo 2013 (the spark that lit the fire for me to pursue this as a career), I barely knew anything about self-publishing, or publishing in general. That was when I found Ksenia Anske’s blog, and read her posts from beginning to end—discussing her process, how she was able to get her work to the world without needing a publisher’s go-ahead, and—perhaps what most impressed me about the whole thing—her personal relationship with readers. I am a very social person by nature, and loved the idea of connecting with people on such a level; readers finding me and my work because they feel I’m a friend of sorts. That’s what prompts me to read others’ work; writers I admire and find funny/endearing/kind. Not to mention the fact that I didn’t want to query an agent, then query a manuscript, then wait two years for it to be published. I want to write, and I want my work to get out there NOW.
-Deciding to go the self-publishing route was not really a struggle for me—I think I debating the traditional route for a whole two hours of my life. Personally, I think that self-publishing allows you more creative freedom and direction. That isn’t to say you shouldn’t take others’ feedback into account—editors and beta-readers and cover designers are vital to a successful end product—but the fact is, with online retailers and print-on-demand, it is SO easy to get your writing out into the world. Why beg agents and publishers to give you a chance when you can go STRAIGHT to the readers? What publishers used to offer—editing, cover design, and perhaps the most important facet, marketing, can now be outsourced to freelancers or done yourself—and YOU keep all the rights, as well as a larger cut of the profits.
What qualities do you think are the most important to have as a writer to ensure that you find success (whatever that may be) in self-publishing?
-Firstly, the way I define success in self-publishing—my personal goal regarding it—is when you can support yourself financially with your writing. I’m not there yet, since I’ve only released a short story thus far that I give for free to subscribers of my newsletter. But based on research I’ve done and my personal experiences preparing to self-publish my first novel, I think these qualities are necessary:
-Determination. Writing a book takes a lot of time, and as a self-publisher you wear a lot of hats: writer, editor, possible cover designer (or at least discussing ideas with someone you’ve hired), marketing/social media outreach, accountant. I think that to be successful regarding MY definition of it (making enough money to pay your bills), you need to be willing and able to devote time and energy to perfecting all facets of this—it is essentially running a business.
-Perfectionism. The main issue still plaguing self-publishing is the stigma—albeit justified, at times—that it is a lesser product. I still come across many self-published books with typos, poor formatting, and unattractive covers that I don’t feel deserve my time or hard-earned money. So in order to impress readers and convince them to BUY your product, there should be no discrepancy between your self-published book and a traditionally published one. Work with beta-readers to fix plot holes, hire an editor and formatter (or be a stickler about perfecting the formatting if you’re doing it yourself), and if you can, a cover designer. It doesn’t have to cost a lot, and it shouldn’t. For instance, I interned for my book’s editor, Lauren Wise with Midnight Publishing, in exchange for a copy-edit for “The Charismatics.” The only place I’m spending a substantial sum is for my cover design from M.S. Corley (who has designed covers for Hugh Howey), because I LOVE his work and a book’s cover is one of the most important investments to make in your book.
-Likeability. I think Ksenia Anske, as mentioned before, nailed this from the beginning. Don’t muck up people’s Twitter feeds with hashtags about your book, don’t follow people solely to be followed back, don’t be rude/condescending/argumentative online. Be nice. Be kind. Be funny. BE YOURSELF. Don’t expect a huge following from the beginning; it’s not going to happen. But you will have a few fantastic people who comment on your posts, and read your chapter excerpts, and show support. THAT is what you want, and if you continue being a nice person and churning out great work, it’s only a matter of time before you’re paying your bills with money earned from your dream job. J
What do you think are the pros to self-publishing? The cons?
-Pros: freedom, ability to produce work quickly and into the readers’ hands, building close relationships with fellow writers and readers. There’s such a supportive community out there, and when you self-publish you can really link into that and champion one another.
-Cons: it IS a lot of work, and must be maintained. In order to make money, you need to build your backlist (so writing consistently and quickly; Ksenia Anske states that to be financially secure you should be publishing four books a year), market what is already available, and maintain your social media presence.
Would you ever consider finding a literary agent and publishing the "old-fashioned" way?
-Not right now. Honestly, the only reason I would consider getting an agent would be if my self-published book was offered a traditional deal from a publisher and I needed an agent’s expertise.
Do you think that, especially with the way that the writing industry is these days, that every aspiring author should give self-publishing a shot?
-YES. Yes. Yes. Did I say yes?
Sorry, I just get really excited about self-publishing. I think it’s evened the playing field for authors in so many ways, given us creative liberties, and has allowed tons of people to make enough money with their writing to support themselves. Hugh Howey is a great resource regarding self-publishing, as is my friend and fellow steampunk writer, S.C. Barrus.
But it all depends on your preferences; what you want out of writing. Do you want to do a lot of work and front the costs in the beginning? Self-publish. Are you impatient about releasing your work? Self-publish. Are you creative about marketing and love to interact with readers/writers? Self-publish.
Do you want to see your books on Barnes & Noble’s shelves? Traditionally publish. Don’t want to deal with the marketing end of things (even though these days you still have to market your book, even with a publisher)? Traditional. Want a professional team perfecting your end product? Traditional. Want an advance? Traditional.
Research shows that the highest-paid authors currently are “hybrids;” utilizing both methods to publish their work. I think this is definitely something to consider as well—but if you are writing something that is in a very “niche” market, or want the ability to hold your printed book in your hands two days after ordering it through CreateSpace … then self-publish!
Thank you Ashley, this has been a great interview! You have such a great mind and your insight into self publishing is very encouraging and I know that you have convinced a few out there to follow your example! I wish you the best of luck in your writing career and I hope to see so much more from you very soon.
Ashely's The Charismatics has won the Grand Prize and First Prize in Fiction Awards for Self-Publishing Review's 2015 Awards. Congratulations, you should feel so proud of yourself. If you want to know more and see if your book qualifies to enter into these competitions check out these websites:
- Bragmedallion website
- bragmedallion review of The Charismatics
- Interview with Grand Prize winner Ashely Carlson
If you want to hear more from Ashley and watch her dominate the publishing world you can follow her on her other accounts:
· Website: https://www.ashleyrcarlson.com
· Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
· Twitter: @AshleyRCarlson1
· Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/AshleyRCarlson
· Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ashleyrcarlson1.1
· Instagram: http://instagram.com/ashleyrcarlson1
· Google+: http://google.com/+AshleyRCarlson
· YouTube: Ashley R Carlson Fantasy Author Page
· Amazon: The Charismatics