Thank goodness for eBooks! When the power went out at my apartment over a weekend earlier this winter, I’d luckily already downloaded a fantastic book onto my eReader–Book Country member Jessica Hawkins‘s COME UNDONE . The first in a trilogy called They Cityscape Series, COME UNDONE is the story of a young, happily married magazine journalist, Olivia, who finds herself inexplicably but overwhelmingly drawn to a successful, mysterious architect named David.
In fact, instead of me summarizing the book, why don’t I just have you watch the trailer. That’s what sent me straight to buying the book!
I know, right?! Now you see why I ended spending all weekend reading COME UNDONE by the backlight of my eReader! I didn’t even notice when the power came back on.
Anyway, I became an immediate fan of the Cityscape Series and of Jessica, and I wanted to interview her for our Author Spotlight this week because I just love what she’s doing: her books are riveting, and I love the way she’s promoting the books and connecting with fans.
LS: Tell us about the amazing Kickstarter campaign you did to support your writing of the Cityscape Series.
JH: Kickstarter ended up being about much more than just meeting a monetary goal. The amount of self-promoting I did was directly related to my success, which would also become true of being a self-published author. I never would’ve raised the money if not for friends and family, so it forced me to say, “Here’s what I’m doing with my life. I’m so committed to this that I’m asking you to bet on me.” Making that declaration was one of the most difficult things I did last year.
As far as the process itself, the best tip I can give, especially in publishing, is to utilize your network. Every dollar I raised came from friends, family or the network I’d been building through self-publishing. Even though I wrote a press release, even though I reached out to crowdfunding sites and my alma mater via e-mail and Twitter, I received hardly any attention outside my immediate network.
I also advise setting aside enough time to prepare, plan and promote your campaign before you launch. It took me about a month to construct a month-long campaign because I was continually revising my delivery and my rewards tiers. Don’t just slap something together and expect people to contribute because it means a lot to you. Show them why you’re worth their hard-earned money.
By the way, all the above advice also applies to self-publishing your books.
LS: Were you trained as a marketer or graphic designer? How did you develop your skills for making such great teasers for the books?
JH: Thank you! I didn’t realize when I began this how much it would become a business. Writing is only half of what I do. My degree is in International Business and Marketing, and that’s fortunate, because I love the business side of this as much as the creative side.
I have no training in graphic design, yet, like many, many other aspects of self-publishing, I’ve taught myself through things like tutorials and observation. My technical understanding is still very basic, but I love learning and experimenting with design. I create teasers because they’re a more visual, interactive way to connect with my readers, but it started with the covers. I designed those myself as well.
JH: I love being indie–probably too much. As I mentioned before, self-publishing is like owning my own business. I call all the shots, from covers and content to price and markdowns. I enjoy all the moving parts, but I’m fortunate that at the moment, I have the time and opportunity to do everything on my own.
Ask me about querying, agents or the Big Six and I’m completely clueless. For now, being my own boss holds a lot of appeal. That’s not to say I wouldn’t be intrigued if approached by a traditional publisher, but I’m not currently seeking anything out.
JH: That’s probably the most difficult question to answer! On Amazon and other platforms, I classify it as Contemporary Romance. It’s romance, but it’s not romance as the masses know it. There’s a definite storyline, and a complex one at that. If I have to label it, Adult Contemporary Fiction sounds better to me–it’s a fiction story that doesn’t ignore the sexual relationship between the two main characters. And the sex scenes are explicit, so there’s an element of erotica to it. One of the beauties of self-publishing is that there aren’t set rules.
LS: I know authors get asked this question all the time, but I really am curious: How did you get this idea for these books? Was it influenced by publishing trends or did it come to you out of the blue?
JH: I think this particular story was always in my head. I find adultery fascinating, and I wanted to explore the reasons behind it. It’s a crime against the heart–and that’s perhaps the worst offense a person can commit. So what drives people to do it? Adulterers are continually branded as villains, but is it that black and white? My goal here was to push boundaries. Confuse readers. Could they sympathize with the bad guy, understand her choices? Agree with them even?
Eye contact also inspires me. So much can be said with a look, and that’s essentially how this slippery slope in The Cityscape Series begins: with one charged look across a crowded room. The eyes tell more than words sometimes.
About publishing trends–the Twilight/Fifty Shades wave inspired me to get writing, but it didn’t necessarily influence this story. Adultery may very well be the last thing people want to read about in a romance novel, so, in that respect, I went against the current. But I wouldn’t have written the story any other way.
LS: How has writing and publishing the Cityscape Series changed your life?
JH: It’s still early to say. I spent a lot of my twenties flailing–grasping for my place in the world, both geographically and in my personal life. I’ve moved around a lot, and I’ve gotten stuck in jobs that were meant to be temporary. I wrote about a third of the first book before I decided to do this full-time. It was completely impulsive, and I’ve yet to see how far I can go with it. But it’s been the most incredible experience, and truthfully, writing and running my own business feels like what I’m meant to be doing. I can’t imagine it any other way now. It’s difficult to put into words how much it’s changed my life, which, unfortunately, doesn’t bode well. Ha! Things change every day though, and that’s part of what’s so magical about self-publishing. The industry is evolving and adapting, and I’m on the forefront of that. I can’t wait to see where it takes me.
Jessica Hawkins grew up between the purple mountains and under the endless sun of Palm Springs, California. She studied international business at Arizona State University and has also lived in Costa Rica and New York City. Some of her favorite things include traveling, her dog Kimo, Scrabble, driving aimlessly and creating Top Five lists. She is the helpless victim of an overactive imagination that finds inspiration in music and tranquility in writing. Currently she resides wherever her head lands, which lately is the unexpected (but warm) keyboard of her trusty MacBook. You can connect with Jessica on Book Country and read an excerpt of COME UNDONE. You can also connect with Jessica on Facebook, Twiitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, Kickstarter,and Instagram. You should also check out her website, where you can find the press release she mentioned sending out about her books (which is a great idea!).
You might also like: “In Defense of Erotica” by Olivia Glass.