Hope you all enjoyed the holidays and had a great New Year! The Author Interview Series continues with Alicia LaFontaine, who has several published books on the market. She shared her writing and publishing insights with me. Check out what she had to say below!
1) Describe your most recently published book and/or your current work in progress.
Most recently, I re-published Books One and Two of my Brookstone Series. They’re historical romance novels, each set around the point of view of a different main female character in the series as they all react to the events which led up to the entire cast of characters becoming one big family in a fictitious, Regency-era England.
The reader is introduced to most of the characters in Jocelyn. Then, the cast of characters split up to separate settings for Books Two and Three, and then all come back together for Book Four, Eve.
Currently, I’m working on the first draft for Book Three which is titled Annabella. I’m very excited to give this character her own book. Also, this book runs concurrently, time-wise, with the second book Jane, so it’s important in answering a lot of the questions readers may have had at the conclusion of the first novel, Jocelyn, and that it lines up with the same time-span, so the story can pick up immediately with Book Four.
It also poses an interesting writing challenge. It’s written in the third-person limited perspective, so we’re only privy to Annabella’s thoughts and feelings throughout, and I don’t switch character perspectives, nor is it third-person omniscient where you get insight into other character’s minds. So, how do I let the reader in on how Jocelyn and Charles are doing after the fallout of events concluding the first novel when I’m not writing from either of their perspectives? It must all be done through dialogue. It helps that Annabella is also a very keen, sharp observer.
2) Which do you prefer: self-publishing or traditional publishing? What factors made you choose one over the other?
Since I have no experience with traditional publishing, I would hate to say with complete certainty that I prefer self-publishing. However, from what I’ve gleaned from others’ experiences, I agree with other self-published authors when they say retaining complete control over their work is what they enjoy best about self-publishing. I can choose how much to let others see, review, and edit my work and have the final say on all of it. Although, it poses its own challenges when it comes to cover design and the huge learning curve with the actual publishing specifications (bleed vs. no bleed, trim size, margins, formatting, etc.) Still, I think I’d rather be involved in every aspect of my book’s journey and I think I will always feel that way.
3) Are there any books, movies, music, etc. that influenced your writing?
For my Brookstone Series, I was very influenced by Pride and Prejudice. I was reading a lot of P&P variations when the idea first popped into my head. (By the way, if you’re interested in checking those out, there’s a massive community of “Austen Authors,” as they are sometimes called, with hundreds of Austen-related variations out there. My personal favorite is Sharon Lathan. She wrote what she thinks would’ve followed P&P with just the right amount of steamy romance. Her books, I remember thinking when I first read them, were exactly what I would have written myself. Isn’t that just the best compliment you could give a writer?)
Anyways, reading so much about that time period got me thinking about what would’ve been considered truly scandalous back then. The story just grew from there, and I knew I had to write it.
Stephen King’s On Writing is, I think, one of the best writing books out there. It has so many specific tips and I know it’s made a positive difference in my writing.
4) Which is your favorite genre(s) to write in? Which genre have you never written in but would love to try someday?
Contrary to what you may think, historical romance is not my favorite genre to write. It’s so draining and sluggish most of the time because I have to be so careful of historical references, dialogue, etc., and I’m constantly researching the most random details.
I really love the second series I’ve started, my In the Elements Series. They’re contemporary murder mysteries, also with quite a bit of steaminess. (I guess romance, in general, is one thing I enjoy writing. I enjoy that element with the books I read, but only if it fits the story and is tasteful. Those scenes are entertaining but they don’t ever contain such vital information to the story that my readers wouldn’t be able to skip those more intimate paragraphs, if they wish, without missing something important to understanding the story.) Anything contemporary is so much easier to write simply because the dialogue flows much faster. I don’t have to remain conscious of time-period references, only that if I do reference something topical or modern, it’s enough for readers to pick out the reference.
5) Do you prefer reading on an e-reader or actual books? Which do you think is better from a publishing point of view?
I prefer reading actual books. There’s something so satisfying about turning the page, literally. Plus, I’m a big believer that your bookshelf says a lot about you, so I like to be able to showcase the books that mean something to me and let people who visit my house browse them. You can’t do that very conveniently with an e-reader.
However, I know that the eBook market is crucial to the success of an indie author, so it cannot be ignored when it comes time to publish. I’m eternally grateful to Microsoft Word for their new Kindle add-on feature. It’s made my eBooks look so much more professional. Even if readers know an eBook is by an indie author, I still think they judge the quality of the eBook and pay attention to things like formatting.
6) How has the online writing community affected your writing career?
Instagram has made all the difference for me. It’s a source of endless inspiration, encouragement, and allows me the chance to reach out to my ideal audience in such an easy way. Considering I’m very much an introvert and talking with new people gives me anxiety, Instagram has helped me reach new readers and fellow indie authors, which I doubt I would have otherwise.
7) Describe your typical writing routine.
I don’t think I have a writing routine. Depending on the day, I may or may not write. I have a 9:45-6:15 full-time day job which takes me out of the house. So, sometimes I write before work, sometimes after. I try to spend at least a few hours on my writing on my days off, but that doesn’t always happen. And, sometimes I’m getting up in the middle of the night because I can’t get back to sleep and know that getting some writing done will help.
8) What is your ultimate goal in terms of writing?
The ultimate goal would be to make enough money from my writing regularly that I could write full-time. Whether that means eventually going the traditional publishing route or doing it all on my own, being an author has always been “what I want to be when I grow up.”
9) What has been your biggest writing struggle? What is your greatest strength?
I guess my biggest struggle is just getting myself to write. The more time in between writing sessions, the harder it is. It becomes this ever-daunting project and I lose my confidence in my ability to do it the longer I go without writing.
My greatest strength has been, probably, being such an avid reader my whole life. I’m not saying I have a perfect grasp of the English language, but I know reading prolifically has helped tremendously when it comes time to edit.
10) Is there anything about the publishing world that has been very difficult? Has anything been easier than you expected? If you aren’t published yet, what do you anticipate being easy or difficult?
Formatting my books has been so difficult. It was easier for the Brookstone books because those are 6 x 9” and they uploaded fine. My In the Elements books are 5 x 8” and that change in trim size changed everything when it was time to upload on Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing.) Suddenly, things were all over the place. Chapter titles didn’t line up at the top of pages. All the formatting on my documents went bonkers. It took an entire day, each, to edit my original file of the first two book so that when I uploaded to KDP, everything was where it should be. That left the original files looking so wonky. It was crazy.
Publishing the third book in that series was way easier. Seriously, I cannot stress enough the ease with publishing I’ve had with the Kindle add-on feature for Microsoft Word. It lets you identify key aspects in your file, like chapter titles, so when you upload the file, those elements remain where they should, regardless of your trim size. If you’re an indie author using Microsoft Word, you’ve got to get the Kindle add-on feature from KDP. It’s free and it’s like a gift from the gods.
11) What is your favorite way to market your book and yourself as an author?
That’s a really interesting question. I don’t think I have a favorite method for marketing. I know that it’s not my forte. I try to just be myself and to be honest. On my Instagram account, I try to give some insight into my daily life because I know that’s what I’m interested in seeing from other authors.
12) Have you taken any writing classes? If yes, would you recommend them? If no, do you want to?
I haven’t. I don’t know that I would want to. I am very much in love with this vein of thought I’ve heard passed around a lot lately, something to the effect that you are you and that’s your power. Your writing is your own. It’s unique to you. And, you shouldn’t compare your writing to another writer’s, even of the same genre. So, I guess I’m in a place right now where I’m doing my best not to get too much into my head when I write and analyze what I’m doing too much. I think taking a class would open up that analytical part of my brain and I worry it would run so rampant, I would never get anywhere with my drafts.
13) Is writing your full-time job? If yes, what was your last profession? If no, do you want it to be and what do you do now?
Sadly, no. I would love to write full-time! Right now, I have a full-time job at the retail store for a craft supply company, Herrschners, Inc. So, I spend my day helping customers find craft projects. I’ve taught myself to knit and crochet to better help customers, and they’re both hobbies I spend a fair amount of my down time on. (I have ideas swirling in my head for ways to connect those with my writing. Nothing concrete yet, but stay tuned!)
14) What do you think the future will hold for the publishing industry?
I have no idea, but that’s kind of exciting. There are so many resources available to indie authors now that weren’t even available three years ago when I self-published my first book. It makes you wonder if there will be major shifts in traditional publishing within the next ten or twenty years.
15) What advice would you give to someone who has just started writing?
Don’t give up.
Write as often as you can because it does feel easier when you write more consistently.
Use simpler words whenever you can.
The only way to figure out what you’re doing is to do it, so just keep going. One of the best parts about being an indie author is you can go back and make changes whenever you want, so published doesn’t mean set in stone forever. You’ve got to get it published first, though, so go write!
Keep up with Alicia's writing endeavors on Instagram!
Check out Alicia's published books on Amazon!