Tell us a little about Kings & Queens. What inspired you to write it?
Um, it’s kind of weird, okay, a lot weird, but my first spark came from the movie Drive Me Crazy with Melissa Joan Hart. The two romantic leads lived next door to each other and I thought that was cool. So my ever-cranking mind introduced me to this tomboyish type girl, Majesty, a manager of her high school’s baseball team. She had two guy best friends, Derek and the other one was Smart Aleck as a placeholder, so he ended up being Alec.
Derek was the one she lived next to and crushed on and I had this love triangle in mind, but I’m not a romance writer, I need plot. So that buzzed around aimlessly until I dreamt I went running in the woods and overheard these guys planning a church massacre. I escaped them in this town. Boom. There was the seedling for my plot as well as the setting. And then, it grew bigger and bigger from there.
Incidentally, she doesn’t end up living next to Derek. They landed on different sides of the river, which are different worlds really. Majesty is not poor, but she’s not rich either, and those in the rich section are of a completely different mindset, with a sense of self-importance and prominence. The demented direction the story takes sprang right from my characters as I wrote it. And the whole royal thing that emerges took me by surprise, and though it seems precious that my MC is Majesty, nothing else fit. Having a weird name actually gave her strength, since she had to defend herself every day, and that factors in when she overhears the plot.
How long have you been writing? What influenced you to start?
I’ve always loved writing, from little stories to poetry. Many women have these crying jags where they weep out their pent-up emotion, but I’m not much of a crier. I cry if someone dies or is sick or there’s otherwise like bad news, or I cry in the moment if someone hurts my feelings, if I’m in extreme pain or watch a sad movie, but crying is not my go-to release. Writing and physical exertion have always been my outlets. I have some friends who can spend hours in bed with tissues, and I think they believe I’m emotionless, but I just exude frustration differently.
Even though I’ve always written, I’d never thought about writing a novel until my husband took a creative writing class with the Stafford Institute. He received these books on craft, I read them and they sparked my mind. My first effort was cute but not that great. It needs a major overhaul to be publishable. The second novel I wrote was Kings & Queens and now we’re here.
Tell us a little about your road to publication. Was it a long one? Do you have an agent? In your opinion are they even necessary?
The longest part of my journey was the editing. I am super picky with my writing, and although I wrote this book in 2005, I put it through two critique circles and several editing rounds. I intended on finding an agent, so I hacked 106,000 words down to 88,000, closer to YA range. I never intended for Kings & Queens to be YA, but everyone who read it, saw it as YA. I’m sure a big publisher would have too. So I made it more YA in tone and style, but its depth and intricacy still give it strong crossover appeal. I queried for over a year, and got a little bit of interest, but my concept wasn’t really resonating. It’s a good book but the fun is in the surprises not in some ooo-factor, and agents are looking for that MUST-READ pitch. I am so glad no one signed me. It gave me the opportunity to evaluate what I really wanted, and, surprising to even myself, traditional publishing was not it. Not for this book anyway.
There was Sapphire Reign, the sequel, to consider which opens ten years later. Although it has an eleven-year-old’s POV and a fifteen-year-old’s, it also has three adult POV’s and it’s so not YA. It’s darker and grittier. It’s way too good to stuff in a drawer forever. No big house would ever let me split genres. If they offer you a two or three book deal for a series, it’s for one imprint, one genre, one market. Always. You find a market for Book One and you keep on building from there. I wanted more control over the series than traditional publishing would allow. I wanted to be able to call the shots and put out two or three books if I wanted to. Screw the market. My child character Crystal in SR deserves to dance in ink. She’s just too inspirational to never get that chance. And Kings & Queens was too skeletal at that shrunken size. So I decided to pull out of the rat race and go with a small indie company instead.
Now, with Little Prince Publishing, I’m publishing my works the way I want. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best fit for my quirky works. K&Q is at a much-needed 96,000 words and I couldn’t be happier with it. It’s hard to let go and be done, but I’m proud of it. I don’t get an advance but I get to keep all my royalties. I’ll make a little over $6 on every paperback sold and about $3 on eBooks. There are minimal fees with LPP, but I only had to pay setup for Lightning Source. I’m going to buy my own Advanced Read Copies when I need them and run my own giveaways and blog tours. An LPP designed cover is $150, but I’ve designed covers already, so I just did my own and saved myself that cost.
As far as agents go, I think they’re great, but they’re quickly becoming obsolete. If you really want your book in a big house, having one is the only way to get in. But many agents are now retooling their roles because of the rapid changes in the industry, as more writers are now finding the backing of a big house unnecessary. Even some big-name writers are going off on their own so they can call their own shots.
How much of the marketing do you do?
I’m going to do the bulk of it. LPP writers will cross promote each other also.
Anything you’ve found to be particularly helpful in marketing your book(s)?
My eBook just came out, so I have nothing to say about sales numbers yet. But I think blog tours can be very successful because nothing beats word-of-mouth advertising. I did a tour with Teen Book Scene. They set everything up for FREE and ran it for four weeks.
I did a giveaway at Goodreads for FREE, well, just the cost of the ARCs. Now 1,000 people know about my book that didn’t before. I’m going to send out press releases to newspapers in my area. I’m hoping to find a local bookstore to stock signed copies of my book, so I’ll have a place to send people to buy them. I’m offering 50 free eBooks at Librarything. I’m also going to post the first five chapters of my book on every post-it site I can find. You never know where you’ll find potential readers. It costs me nothing and can’t hurt. I’m also going to wrap up another YA and offer the E-version for FREE. If people like that maybe they’ll buy my other books. I was also a part of a Kindle giveaway with other indie writers.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing your books?
That my work is not my own. My characters usually know the best direction for the story, so I let them drive it wherever. It’s so bazaar how beings you created can be so powerful and real-seeming, but with good development, they almost come alive, and through your diligence, they actually do.
What are you working on right now? Tell us a little about it.
Hmm. Well, I’m working on two more YAs. I’m three-quarters done with my giveaway book, StarStruck, to try to boost sales for Kings & Queens. It’s about an eighteen-year-old starlet on the run from a stalker who finds herself in deeper hell when her nightmares start popping into reality while she’s awake. She’s one of the few people in the world with special dreams that act as a gateway between realms and her dreams pop when beings traverse from their realm into ours. Gypsies are always seen as dregs of society, but I thought what if they’re just misunderstood, and intentionally so? It would be cool to make Irish Travellers unsung heroes that really work to save the world. So, I gave them this family tradition that rids the world of dreamweavers in order to reduce catastrophes. But the Traveller charged to kill the young movie star falls in love with her and is then faced with a moral dilemma.
And my other YA, Dropping Like Flies, is about a teen who mysteriously receives this list of names after waking up from a coma. She tries to shrug it off at first, until the people on it start dying and the list keeps showing up everywhere, in mirrors, in sneaker tread, in blood smears. The guy she loves is at number nine, so she works even more fervently to find a way to end the curse. I’m half done with it.
And I also need to finish editing SR.
I always like weirdness in my books. Can you tell???
Where can readers find you?
My site: www.courtneyvail.comBook site: www.kingsandqueensnovel.com
My blog: www.cvwriter.wordpress.com
I also have an author page, but it’s new. I haven’t really worked to get it noticed, but it’s http://www.facebook.com/pages/Courtney-Vail/150177971709091
Are your books available as eBooks? If so what was your experience of that process?
My eBook is available at Smashwords, Amazon and Barnes & Nobel. I had my eBook set up weeks ago but my PC got zapped in a tornado storm so I had to redo it. Once I got that done, uploading was super easy. For Kindle, I used a program called Mobipocket Creator. It generates the .mobi/Kindle file for you. And the other sites were easy too. Much less troublesome than I anticipated.
Where can readers purchase a copy of Kings & Queens?
My paperback will be out in August and available from Amazon and Barnes & Nobel.
Thanks so much or having me and for asking such excellent questions! Sorry for all that gabbing … but I am a writer after all.
Thank you Courtney. I very much appreciate your taking the time to stop by for a chat. Very cool cover art by the way!