An interview with Carol Beth Anderson
Indie interview #6
Each week on an indie author, I publish an interview with a self-published “indie” author.
Find out more about the why behind the blog, over here.
You can connect with the interviewer, Jas Hothi, on Twitter.
Whether you’re a writer, avid reader, or both, I hope you enjoy this week’s interview with Carol Beth Anderson, who goes by ‘Beth’.
Hi Beth! Thank you for taking part in this. So, can we kick off by finding out which part of the world you grew up in? And, where do you live currently?
Hi, Jas! I grew up in the southwestern U.S., in Arizona. I now live in Texas, north of Austin.
At what point do you realise that you enjoyed writing? Do you remember ‘a moment’ that this happened, or is it a passion which has evolved over time?
I don’t remember ever not enjoying writing! My mom recently found a little “book” I made when I was five.
Speaking of which, can you recall the first piece of writing you did that is particularly memorable or otherwise feels significant?
The book I mentioned fits into that category, though I didn’t remember it until she gave it to me! I do remember a poem I wrote in second grade and had published in some little educational newsletter. It was called “Rain.”
Before we dive into your creative writing, you have a beautiful-looking blog. When did you first start the blog, and what made you do so?
Thanks! I started my author blog soon after I started writing my first novel, in mid-2017.
Has the blog changed much from when you started? If so, how?
Yes. I started by sharing updates on my writing. While I still do some of that, a majority of my posts are now resources for other authors, especially indie authors. I like coming up with systems to help me in my author business, and it’s fun to share those with others.
When do you get your best writing done? Are there any ‘ingredients’ which are conducive to you having a ‘good writing session’?
I’m learning that I get my best writing done in the morning as soon as my kids leave for school. I’m flexible with where I write; I just need my laptop and imagination...and enough self-control not to spend too much time on Twitter!
Do you have a writing schedule? What does this look like, if so? Do you set planned time aside for blog writing and creative writing?
I do most of my writing, revisions, audiobook recording/editing, and other publishing activities while my kids are at school. I squeeze in blog posts here and there.
Did you start writing novellas before novels? Tell us about the first novella you wrote.
No, I started with novels. I’ve written one novella, which is a prequel to my published trilogy. It takes place 1,000 years before the events of the trilogy.
When did you start writing novels? Please tell us about the trilogy you have written :) Was it always going to be ‘3 books’, or did it just turn out that way? Also, was the ‘prequel novella’ something you had always planned to write?
I started writing my first novel in April 2017. Very early on, I realized it would be the first of a trilogy. I love YA fantasy with coming-of-age themes, so I naturally gravitated toward that genre.
The Sun-Blessed Trilogy tells the story of Tavi Malin. She’s sun-blessed, the term for magical in her world. Unlike other sun-blessed individuals, who have magic in one or two parts of their bodies, her magic fills her whole body. Tavi doesn’t realize that in a distant city, a group has learned to create gray magic, which, unlike ordinary magic can be used for evil. This group wants to bring Tavi into their fold so that they can gain political power.
That’s the basic premise, but really, it’s a series about growing up as a girl, with all the accompanying insecurities and difficulties. It’s a series about friendship, families, loss, and love.
How long did it take to finish your 1st book, from start to finish? Please describe the process for us.
I wrote the first draft in a little under three months. I was obsessed and didn’t have very good life-writing balance at the time! I then revised it, got feedback, did more revisions, got more feedback, and eventually moved on to the second book.
I rapid-released my trilogy, releasing all three in the span of 22 days. The time between writing the first words of the first book, to releasing the series (including audiobooks that I narrated), was about 18 months. I’ll answer the second question first. I used a wonderful copy editor for my first series. Her name is Sonnet Fitzgerald. She helped make my books more professional and also helped me realize some areas where I needed to improve my writing and grammar.
For my next series, I’m not using a professional editor, as I’m trying to keep a closer eye on my budget, and I tend to write without a lot of errors. However, I use a large group of beta readers. I just finished the beta phase for my next book and ended up with beta feedback from 20 people, including a professional editor who happens to like volunteering as one of my betas. Feedback is a must, paid or not.
The number of drafts varies. Here’s how my writing process goes:
First draft + first edits
I draft a chapter and then read it, making some changes, then move on to the next chapter.
Sometimes if I realize I’ve gone the wrong direction in previous chat, I go back and make edits before I move on.
When I’ve finished about a quarter of the manuscript, I send it to my alpha readers (very early readers) for feedback.
I repeat these steps until the first draft is done and I have feedback on the entire thing from my alpha readers.
BIG revision based on my own notes and my alpha reader feedback. I make large changes (plot, characters, add chapters, delete stuff) and small changes (fixing grammar and typos, improving word choice).
I go through each chapter three times. I revise in depth, then let my computer read the chapter to me (and I make changes to things that sound off), then run the chapter through ProWritingAid proofreading software.
Once, I added an extra round of alpha reading and pre-beta revisions because I needed to make such big changes after drafting.
Send entire manuscript to beta readers.
More revisions based on beta feedback.
Twice, I’ve added an additional round of beta reading (a.k.a. “gamma reading”) because I needed to make such big changes after drafting.
Copy editor (if I’m using one)
Record audiobook and make small changes as I go. (I record and produce my own audiobooks.)
I’m introducing one more step for this series. I have a friend who pointed out some small errors to me in my first books after they were published. She’s agreed to do a final read-through before I click “publish.” I have some eagle-eyed betas who catch my errors, but I always introduce more errors as I revise!
Your ‘miniature stories’ inside The Curio Cabinet sound fascinating. Tell us about The Curio Cabinet, and how it came to be what it is :)
Thanks! I’m absolutely in love with writing microfiction on Twitter. Every day, I write at least one story (or, occasionally, a poem) that fits into a single Tweet (280 characters or less). I use prompts provided by others on Twitter, as part of “hashtag games” like #vss365 and #satsplat.
Once I’d written about 500 of these little stories, I decided to choose 150 of my favorites and put them in a book. Most of the stories are around 50 words long. It’s amazing what you can do with 50 words. (And it’s amazing how long some of these tiny stories take me to write! I’ve loved giving them new life in The Curio Cabinet.)
By the way, I’m @CBethAnderson on Twitter.
How have you balanced your career/day-job/other life commitments, with your writing?
I had a part-time job for my first year of writing, and I was very unbalanced, to be honest! Even when I decided to leave that job and focus on my writing, it tended to be all-consuming.
I have a husband and kids, and thanks to gentle (and at times not-so-gentle) prodding from them, I realized I had to make changes.
One of the changes I made was (temporarily) letting go of time-based goals. This was tough for me! I tend to set high goals and push myself to meet them. By giving myself a break from that strenuous life, I was able to start new habits that allowed me to focus on my family.
Now I do most of my work while the kids are at school, and in the summer, I try to take some time off, though I do still write. Balance will always be tough for me, because when I’m passionate about something, I want to put all my time into it. But in the long run, I know I’ll be glad I decided to prioritize my family.
I have some time-based goals again, since I just set the release date for my next book (January 28). However, these goals are more realistic than the old ones I used to set and will allow me to still spend time with the people who are most important to me.
You recently posted some fantastic writing resources on your blog. (Full piece: here). How long does it take you to put a piece like this together?
I wrote that piece when I took a short trip to visit my parents. I’m not sure how many hours it took, maybe six to eight. It was definitely a time-consuming blog post, and I’m glad most of the ones I write aren’t that long!
I also love your ‘new to Twitter #WritingCommunity’ post. I noticed that you use several social media channels. Which do you enjoy most? Which have you found to be most effective for your marketing?
Thanks! That post is super cool, since it utilizes advice from so many other Twitter writers. It’s hard for me to focus heavily on more than one social media channel at a time. These days, Twitter is my social media bestie! I still post some on Instagram and Facebook, but Twitter takes more of my time.
Twitter is most effective for marketing to people I haven’t known for a long time; Facebook is most effective for marketing to people I’ve been connected to for a long time.
I also use Facebook to keep in touch with my Street Team (people who read and review early copies of my books) and to communicate with my alpha readers (who read my books as I’m writing them and give me feedback through a private Facebook group).
Are there any specific tips you would share for writers who are hoping to get better at the whole ‘marketing thing’?
The best free resource for indie author marketing tips is a book on Facebook called 20Booksto50K. That group is a treasure trove of information, and it’s helped me in countless ways.
What advice do you have for your younger (writer) self?
The more you write, the more ideas you get. Don’t wait to start because you’re lacking ideas. Find just one idea and start writing. The rest will come (even though sometimes you have to fight to get it to come!)
Outside of your writing, what does your life look like? What do you spend your time doing, and what else is important in your life aside from your writing?
I spend a lot of time with my family (husband, 13-year-old daughter, 11-year-old son, 16-year-old female French exchange student, and dog). I teach middle-school-aged kids at my church. I love reading and cooking/baking.
Are there any other authors/stories (especially indies!) you enjoy who you’d like to give a shout-out to?
Oh, it’s hard for me to choose; there are so many! I’ll try to give recommendations from a variety of genres. I’ll give you the authors’ Twitter handles and link to their books on Amazon.
Psychological Thriller: Dawn Hosmer @DawnHosmer7 (Bits & Pieces)
Literary Fiction: Thomas J. Torrington @TJTorrington (Evergreen)
Fantasy Romance (with fae creatures): Rebecca F. Kenney @RebeccaFKenney1 (Korrigan and the other books in that series)
Fantasy: A.M. Manay @AMManay (Hexborn)
Where can we find you online (website & social media), & where can we purchase your books?