Tag Archives: Readers

A Downton Abbey Special: Wendy Wax on Writing about Downton Fans

Posted by January 2nd, 2014

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The New Year is bringing us a new Downton Abbey season starting on January 5th. And while we’re stocking up on pop corn and squeeing with excitement about the Sunday premiere, we also thought we needed to do something special on the blog to celebrate the return of Downton to our screens.

Last year, we talked about the controversial and tragic Season 3 finale. Now we’re gearing for the new season with a guest post from author Wendy Wax, whose novel WHILE WE WERE WATCHING DOWNTON ABBEY has riveted many a Downton fan. Here she’s talking about how writing with a Downton Abbey backdrop has changed the way she thinks about her readers. 

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I try not to think about my readers too much while I’m writing. Not because I don’t care about or appreciate them—I do!—but because worrying about how a reader might react to a character, scene or even a bit of dialogue can—and has!—caused my word flow to screech to a halt.

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Member Spotlight: Meet Writer Atthys Gage

Posted by May 20th, 2013

Book Country Member Spotlight Q&A

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The light is dim sometimes, and you can only see a little bit of the path ahead.  –Atthys Gage

Atthys Gage has been writing novels for the last seven years while living on the North Coast of California amid dogs, kids, redwood trees, and one long-suffering wife. He’s been a member of Book Country for about two years. The current tally is four and a half novels, a memoir about adopting a child from China, and a handful of shorter works.  

Nevena: Thanks for chatting with me, Atthys. When did you start writing? What inspires you to carry on?

Atthys: Seven years ago I decided to try writing a book.  It was an out of the blue “I wonder if I can do it?” kind of challenge. It turned out I could. I wrote it all in long hand in a couple of spiral-bound notebooks before I even touched the word processor. Since then, I’ve had the bug.

Nevena: Is fitting writing into your life a juggling act?

Atthys: My wife works full-time (and then some), so I’ve got a house to run and three teenage kids to mismanage. But I get a few hours to myself nearly every day. Unfortunately, I’m a hopeless procrastinator, so most of that time gets wasted on a lot of nonsense, but I have no one to blame for that but myself. And the Internet.

Nevena: Haha, don’t we all… What’s your writing process like? Do you plot extensively or let the characters lead the way?

Atthys: I need to have a pretty good outline, but I’m always open to change. The light is dim sometimes, and you can only see a little bit of the path ahead. Once in a while, a character you thought was just a walk-on will force her way center stage and start grabbing all the good lines. When that happens, I try to get out of her way.

Nevena: The muse takes over! You’ve posted three fantasy books on Book Country. What is it about the genre’s tropes and conventions that speaks to you as a story-teller?

Atthys: Actually, I’m not all that fond of traditional fantasy. I am attracted to books where extraordinary or unexplained things happen. I like the tension, the way the various layers of reality rub against each other. Everyday life, of course, can be just as weird, just as beautiful, just as fantastic as the wildest otherworldly fantasy. It’s all about the writing. And those impossible, unexplainable elements, I try to write them just the same, always anchoring the magical in pure, vivid realism.

Nevena: What’s your “pet” project at the moment?

Atthys: I guess the book I’m most passionate and hopeful about at the moment is The Flight of the Wren.  It’s the story of a sixteen-year-old girl who is given a flying carpet. Yeah. That’s the nutshell version. My formal pitch is a lot more exciting than that, but ultimately I think I lose a lot of readers with the words ‘flying carpet.’ Probably they are expecting something like a Magic Treehouse adventure and a lot of mucking around with Aladdin and his monkey.

Of course, it’s nothing like that. The protagonist is painfully ordinary—disaffected, disconnected, utterly disinterested in school, family, even friends. She is, in short, a typical teenage mess. She has no special powers, no special insights, not even a belief in herself. Because I am a benevolent (if inscrutable) god, I toss her a lifeline. A gift. An impossible gift: a magic carpet. But there are strings attached. With it comes both a community (other members of her flock) and a purpose, a mission.

Love, of course, also waits in the wind. Love is what drives everything that happens in the second half of the book. A flying carpet, once you get past the absurdity, really is a heck of a gift.  It represents two extremely valuable things for a young person: freedom and independence. For Renny, it also comes to represent two things she thought she didn’t want but which turn out to be a lot more important than flying: connection and responsibility. In other words, people she cares about.

Nevena: Which part of that book was the most challenging to write, and how did you handle it?

Atthys: Not to downplay the agony of creation, but the hardest part has been trying to get the book read and published, though I guess I have myself to blame for that one too.  All of the most cherished and repeated advice from agents and marketing people—make your book high-concept, write to a target audience, know your genre—I’ve failed at all of those things! My books don’t sit comfortably in any particular genre. I can’t even identify an appropriate age group.  I call my stuff YA because it concerns younger people as characters, but I don’t tailor my writing to that audience. Understand, I’m not saying I won’t. I’m saying I can’t. I admire the discipline that would be needed to write well within the constraints of a traditional genre, but I don’t seem to possess it.

Nevena: You’ve reviewed quite a few books on the site. How do you switch gears from writing fiction to reviewing it? Does reviewing change the way you see your own writing?

Atthys: I love reviewing, partly because I love the editing process. The whole process of vetting and re-vetting every combination of words appeals to my obsessive compulsive nature. I’m afraid it makes me a pushy sort of reviewer, but I find rewriting a lot easier than trying to explain in abstract terms why something isn’t working for me. I don’t know if it helps the original writer, but I think going through that process makes me a better writer. Of course there are lots of terrific writers on Book Country who need no help from anyone, and reading good writing is the best learning experience of all.

Nevena: So why are you on Book Country?

Atthys: Colleen and I go way back. We worked at the same brick-and-mortar bookstore back when such things were common. Fast forward twenty years. I’m querying agents for my first book and I see her name. We reconnect. She almost represents my book, then chickens out.

Needless to say, I’ve never quite forgiven her for that, but we stayed connected. When she started posting about this site, I decided to check it out.

Nevena: Haha. Is there anything else you want to share with the Book Country peeps?

Atthys: Eat well. Get plenty of rest. Go outside once in a while. You’re all welcome take my advice because I’m not using it.

Nevena: You’re a funny one. Hope Renny finds a home soon!

Connect with Atthys on Book Country and give Flight of the Wren a read. Follow him on Twitter at @AtthysGage.

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What Makes a Mystery So “Cozy”?

Posted by November 23rd, 2011

Book Country Twitter Chat (November 17, 2011)

Delve into the cozy mystery subgenre–what it is, what’s expected, how to write it–with editor Faith Black and author Gayle Trent

 twitter_newbird_boxed_blueonwhiteFor some, cozy mysteries are quite the enigma. They’ve gotten more and more popular over the past several years, wrangling readers of all kinds, but many still think: but what is a cozy mystery exactly? How is it different from a general mystery? What makes it so “cozy”? Don’t most books inspire that curl-up-with-a-good-book feeling of warmth and wonder? Hmmm….curious…


The Book Country Genre Map defines cozies as “a subgenre of mystery set in a small town or village. Cozies are characterized by their lack of explicit sex and violence. The protagonist is usually a likable female sleuth who is often viewed as an annoyance by the local police. Well-known cozy writers include Donna Andrews and M.C. Beaton.”

But there’s much more to it, which is why we brought in the experts–Faith Black (@FaithBlackGirl) and Gayle Trent (@GayleTrent)–to tell us how it really is.

Editor Faith Black acquires mysteries for Berkley’s Prime Crime imprint (and much more, of course). Her vast experience in genre fiction and love of cozies is clear after even a brief chat with this awesome lady!

Gayle Trentis the bestselling author of Murder Takes the Cake, the first novel in her Daphne Martin Cake Decorating series, currently with Gallery Books. She also writes fun embroidery cozies for Berkley Books under the name Amanda Lee–The Quick and the Thread is the first in the series.

Take a look at these helpful excerpts from our chat:

 

@GayleTrent: I define cozy mystery as Desperate Housewives meets Mayberry RFD. Everyone knows everyone, but someone has a deep, dark secret!

@FaithBlackGirl: The protags [in cozies] tend to be mostly female but I would actually love to read more cozies with male protagonists.

@peachereader: We like the hobby cozy because it gives us one more thing we can relate to. Hence reading a cozy is always like coming home.

@GayleTrent: When you’ve absolutely GOT to tell someone what weird,  hilarious thing someone just did, you put it in a book with a secondary character.

@FaithBlackGirl: Some [police procedural] knowledge is definitely useful but you don’t need to go all CSI. More Miss Marple, less David Caruso.

@Chumplet: The feeling of familiary in the setting and characters make cozy mysteries easy to love.

If you missed the chat or want to remind yourself, we’ve posted the entire transcript as a PDF document here. The PDF will open in your browser and you’ll be able to save it to your computer if you like. You can also get to know your fellow genre fiction lovers by clicking directly on their Twitter handles.

Please note that the chat appears from newest to oldest tweets, so start at the bottom and work your way up.

Thanks to all who made this chat such a great success!

REMEMBER: Book Country Twitter chats occur every other Thursday night from 9-10 pm EST. Just use the hashtag #bookcountry to participate or follow along. Topics are announced in advance in the Book Country Discussion forums, so be sure to take a look!

 

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The Importance of Connecting with Readers

Posted by September 14th, 2011

Book Country Twitter Chat (August 25, 2011)

Crime fiction author Lawrence Block and publicity maven Erin Mitchell chat about why–and how!–writers should interact with their fans. 

twitter_newbird_boxed_blueonwhiteGiveaways. Email. Book signings. Twitter. Newsletters. Facebook. Skype.


There are myriad ways for writers to connect with readers these days, but some tactics seem to work better than others. But no matter what track you take, one thing is for sure: interacting with your readers is key. When writers are genuinely involved, when they interact with fans, readers’ dedication always seems to grow.

So what can you do to reach your audience? How can you interact most effectively? On August 25th, we asked experts Erin Mitchell(@ErinFaye) and Lawrence Block (@LawrenceBlock) to enlighten us.

Erin Mitchell has worked as a book publicity specialist for 25 years, helping authors connect to their readers. She also connects on a personal level through her own blog, as well as participating in the group mystery blog, “Hey, There’s a Dead Guy in the Living Room.” She also takes part in the growing #FridayReads trend on Twitter.

Lawrence Block is the bestselling crime fiction author of the beloved Matthew Scudder series. His most recent release, A Drop of the Hard Stuff, hit shelves in May 2011. Lawrence has taken to Twitter and e-mail like a fish to water, building his relationships with readers through social media and other online venues.

Here are some of our favorite quotes from the chat:

@ErinFaye: Remember why people subscribe to newsletters: because they love your writing. And want insight into characters, too

@LawrenceBlock: Point to remember: what matters is the writing. if the other gets in the way, maybe it’s not such a Good Idea.

@BrendaCopeland: Readers are the best advocates for authors. Much better than marketing departments. And it all starts with what’s on the page.

@lilysea: I’ve been known to sneakily reposition a twitter acquaintance’s book at the bookstore for better exposure. Feel it’s a “friend”

@ErinFaye: Start with one venue, whether that’s twitter, fb or a blog. Trying to do all at once can be overwhelming

@LawrenceBlock: I answer every email, unless its from a certified PITA.

@zbarnes: I liked how @swierczy wrote post cards to reader who won a contest. Great way to connect!

@Chumplet: My one bookstore signing garnered sales & great conversation. Not easy to set up but I loved it!

If you missed the chat, you can view or download the entire transcript as a PDF here. It will open in your browser and you’ll be able to save it to your computer if you like. You can also get to know your fellow genre fiction lovers by clicking directly on their Twitter handles.

Please note that the chat appears from newest to oldest tweets, so start reading on the last page and work your way up to the first page.

Thanks to all who took the time to share their experiences and ask questions.

REMEMBER: Book Country Twitter chats occur every other Thursday night from 9-10 pm EST. Just use the hashtag #bookcountry to participate or follow along. Topics are announced in advance in the Book Country Discussion forums, so be sure to take a look!

Follow us on Twitter for more: @Book_Country

 

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