When reality provides me with such interesting experiences, it’s hard to find a reason to reach too far outside the things I know.
Amy Rivers – 29 September 2016
The Back Flap
Val’s intentionally quiet life is disrupted when she decides to help her cousin Gwen win a contentious election. The stress of the campaign and personal attacks by the opposition, leave Val shaken. And as if that weren’t complicated enough, Val finds herself falling in love.
About the book
What is the book about?
Wallflower Blooming is the story of Val Shakely, a woman in her 30’s who runs her own public relations firm in Colorado. Val shies away from controversy, preferring to stay in the background, both personally and professionally. Her only close relative, her cousin Gwen Marsh, is the opposite. She’s involved in local politics and plans to run for mayor against the incumbent, a political bully named Roger Barton. Gwen convinces Val to help with her campaign, despite Val’s reservations. From the beginning, Val is confronted with things that make her wonder whether she’ll make it through the election, including the prospect of a new romance. At its heart, Wallflower Blooming is a story of Val’s growth as she navigates the waters of politics, friendship, family and true love.
When did you start writing the book?
I started the book in the fall of 2014. I had the idea and decided to use NaNoWriMo as a springboard for getting the first draft done.
How long did it take you to write it?
I finished the first draft in one month, writing full time. It took a lot longer to polish.
Where did you get the idea from?
For a few years, I ran an online news website in my hometown and we covered local elections and city commission meetings. I studied politics in college and have always been interested in the process. Working with the local politicians made me much more aware of how personalities and competing interests can effect elections and political policy. At the same time, I also became very passionate about women’s issues so the book was a natural progression from those experiences.
Were there any parts of the book where you struggled?
My original plan for the book was much darker than the finished product. I realized that my relationship with my characters was forcing me to make different decisions about the direction of the story. That took some getting used to.
What came easily?
Writing Val Shakely. She reminds me of so many people I know. She’s timid but also fierce given the right circumstances. She’s smart and sassy, but she struggles with her own set of demons: family, relationships, self-confidence. It was easy to write Val because to me she represents all the most wonderful things about women, even if those traits are sometimes a little confounding.
Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know?
I’m not sure I’m capable of writing an entirely fictitious character. My characters are amalgamations of a variety of people, both real and fictitious. They embody a lot of different traits from a variety of different sources. When reality provides me with such interesting experiences, it’s hard to find a reason to reach too far outside the things I know.
We all know how important it is for writers to read. Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write and, if so, how have they influenced you?
So, so many. I’ve been a huge reader since I was a child. Our library’s summer reading program was the major entertainment growing up and I loved to lose myself in books. I read a lot more fantasy and adventure books back then. As a teenager, I was more interested in realistic stories. And as an adult, I find myself drawn to characters that I can adore and agonize with. I want to be all tangled up emotionally with the characters I’m reading. I also love reading books by authors I know. It’s interesting to me to read their works in the context of what I know about their lives.
Do you have a target reader?
I write about women and I write primarily for women, though I’d like to think that my male readers will find things to love in my books.
Do you have a writing process? If so can you please describe it?
My writing process starts with brainstorming. I like to spend several hours over the course of a few days or weeks talking through the story as I see it and asking myself “why would they do that.” After I feel like I’ve got a good overall picture of the story, I start to write with the goal of getting it all on paper as quickly as possible.
Do you outline? If so, do you do so extensively or just chapter headings and a couple of sentences?
I do some minimal outlining, but I tend to change things as I go so I try to limit my physical outlining on a chapter-by-chapter basis. While I have an idea of the overall structure of the book, as my characters develop, things often go a different direction than I’d originally planned.
Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished?
I wait until the draft is complete before editing, and then my editing/revision process goes in phases with beta readers and editors built in at varying parts of the process.
Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, what gets the fingers tapping?
I am a Golden Girls fanatic, so most of the time I have reruns playing in the background as I write. From time to time, I switch to music. My tastes vary wildly based on my mood, so one day I might listen to Tracy Chapmen and the next to The Offspring.
Did you submit your work to Agents?
I spent about a year submitting my novel to agents. I received several manuscript requests but never an offer of representation. However, with only one exception, the feedback I received from agents was very specific and positive. Having come from a marketing background, and based on this positive feedback, I decided to self-publish.
What made you decide to go Indie, whether self-publishing or with an indie publisher? Was it a particular event or a gradual process?
Because I have experience in marketing and promotion, I wasn’t afraid to self-publish. I knew it would be a lot of hard work, but I went forward with the hope of building a readership. My efforts were recognized by a small publisher in my region, and my debut novel was picked up for re-release under their imprint. Now I’m working on the second book in the series with the same publisher.
Did you get your book cover professionally done or did you do it yourself?
I designed the cover myself and when I signed with my publisher, they revised it a bit but the basic design remained the same.
Do you have a marketing plan for the book or are you just winging it?
I have a marketing plan for my book that includes book sales, building a foundation for future books in the series and creating a fan base for my work. My plan relies largely on social media, but I have also done advertising and author events to promote the book. As a new author, my plan has evolved based on experience, time and budget. As with any other business, I think its important for authors to keep records on their marketing efforts so they can see which actions are effective and which are not.
Any advice that you would like to give to other newbies considering becoming Indie authors?
Know what you’re getting yourself into. Being an indie author is a lot of work, but there are some great payoffs including greater control over the promotion of your work. As much as we’d all just like to write without having to deal with the business side of things, indie authors just don’t have the luxury. So, know what you’re signing up for. If you’re self-publishing, make sure you understand the costs and time that will be involved in not only publishing the book but also promoting it. If you work with a small publisher, know what they will be responsible for and what you will be responsible for. It’s a partnership, so be prepared to be a fully committed participant, knowing all the in’s and out’s.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a small desert town in Southern New Mexico, where some of my favorite things include the smell of rain, thunderstorms, sunsets and green chili.
Where do you live now?
I recently moved to Colorado with my family. I live in the farmland of east Boulder County and it’s pretty much the perfect place to write. The landscape is beautiful and we’ve got great access to food, shopping and amazing programs and opportunities. Love it!
What would you like readers to know about you?
I am a voracious reader and I’m always looking for good book recommendations. I come from a musical family (my parents are folk musicians), so I love to sing and am teaching myself to play the ukulele. And, as previously mentioned, I adore the Golden Girls. I’m a mother, a wife, a volunteer, an activist, a writer, a singer, and a pretty darned good cook. I intend to continue living my life with passion and compassion.
What are you working on now?
I am working on the follow-up to Wallflower Blooming, which will center around the life and times of Val’s cousin Gwen Marsh, the new mayor of Cambria. I’m also starting research for a psychological thriller I’ll be writing. I’m also a regular contributor at ESME.com and Novelty Bride Magazine regularly.
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