Welcome To Author Talk. Today I have the pleasure of interviewing author S. M. Spencer
Please tell us a little about yourself and your background
I’m originally from California, but now live in the outskirts of Melbourne with my husband, horses, cats and dogs.
I’ve always loved to write, and consider myself extremely fortunate to be in a position to dedicate the time needed to make it happen.
I’ve also always had a soft spot for all things paranormal. And while I certainly maintain a healthy scepticism about many aspects of the unknown, I also know there are lots of things that science can’t currently, and may never be able to, explain.
Thank you S.M. You sound like my kind of person. Now let’s jump in and learn more About You as a Writer
- What are your ambitions for your writing career?
I enjoy reading many different genres and look forward to trying my hand at a variety of them.
- How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing off and on for many years, but have taken it much more seriously over the past five years.
- Which writers inspire you?
There are many writers who have inspired me … Daphne du Maurier, Ray Bradbury, J R R Tolkien … the list goes on and on with examples from a wide variety of genres.
- Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book?
I suspect if my trilogy were to be made into movies, the actors would be new actors. I would love to see the series picked up by a boutique Australian film company
- What is the easiest thing about writing?
Letting my imagination run wild.
- How long on average does it take you to write a book?
The first draft doesn’t take too long—perhaps three to six months—maybe less. But it is the editing and fine tuning that takes more time. Rereading the story to make sure every sentence says what it should and that all aspects of the story remain consistent throughout. Absent Shadows was my first serious book, and I’ve learned a great deal through the process so I suspect each new book will be a little bit easier.
- Do you ever get writer’s block? If so, any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block?
I don’t think I get writer’s block in the traditional sense of that expression. I sometimes lose interest in writing due to other things I’m interested in, but I don’t consider that writer’s block. When I’m in the mood to write, I write, and when I’m not I simply don’t beat myself up about it.
- Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors.
I go through various genre moods. I devoured Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia (didn’t everyone?) but also enjoy finding an author with a continuing series, like Patricia Cornwell, John Lescroart and Janet Evanovich. I particularly enjoy a good mystery/thriller with a romantic element. At this very moment I’m reading fellow indie authors, from both the Rave Reviews Book Club (RRBC) and indieBRAG Medallion website.
- For your own reading, do you prefer e-books or traditional paper/hard back books?
Now that I’ve gotten used to them, I really do prefer e-books. Paperbacks would be next for me. I think hard backs look great on the book shelf, but I read in bed a lot and find them too heavy.
- What & whose book/s are you reading at present?
Right now I’m reading a book called Dear Maude by a fellow indie author named Denise Liebig. I’m trying to mostly support other indie authors, from both the Rave Reviews Book Club (RRBC), and indieBRAG.
- Do you proofread/edit all your own books or do you get someone to do that for you?
I have friends read them and that helps a great deal, but then I edit and re-edit them myself.
- Do you let the book stew – leave it for a month and then come back to it to edit?
Definitely. Probably a bit longer than that in actual fact—the longer the better.
- When did you decide to become a writer?
I think the desire to be a writer started in my teens. I read a lot and would often get caught up in the characters, living their stories long after I’d finished the books. I had a great deal of respect for authors that could do that, and I wanted to be like them.
- Why do you write?
Because I love doing it!
- Do you write full-time or part-time? Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?
I write when the mood strikes me—generally during the day, but sometimes I get inspiration at night and have to write for a time. There is certainly nothing structured or disciplined in the way I write.
- Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day? How successful are you at achieving that goal?
No—I might write five thousand one day, then nothing for the next two or three or whatever.
- Do you write on a typewriter, computer, dictate or longhand? Do you use a special writing program, or just type away?
I write on my lap-top, but I also write on scraps of paper or a notebook if I just have a few ideas I want to jot down.
- Where do your ideas come from?
For the Absent Shadows trilogy, I was working around the corner from Melbourne’s Queen Victoria Markets, up near the Flagstaff Gardens. Walking around at lunchtime, I started sensing that I was smack dab in the middle of the perfect setting for ghosts and vampires—and the story just developed from there. Of course, the late night ghost tour I’d done in the area, where I’d learned the history of the cemetery under the market’s carpark, really helped. And like many, I was caught up in the resurgence in popularity of vampires.
- Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?
I do a bit of both—I have a general plot in mind, but am not afraid to let the characters take me in other directions either.
- How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
I have found that the more I write, the more I notice the subtle things happening around me. Ever since I decided to take my writing more seriously, I’ve seen possible scenes in everyday happenings—the lady at the post office, the girl behind the counter at the chemist, the couple walking down the street—I just view things from a different perspective now.
- What is the hardest thing about writing?
Nothing. I don’t find it hard, because I enjoy it so much.
- What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book? Waiting to hear back from the agents/publishers that I’d contacted.
- How do you market your books? Why did you choose this route? So far, it has been through word of mouth, Facebook, book blogs like yours, Sandy, and taking advantage of the promotions that Amazon offers.
- Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books?
I’m just learning myself so I guess the only advice is to be open to new ideas.
- How do you relax?
I think riding my horse is my favourite way to relax—that’s when I feel in touch with nature. And of course, reading a good book is always a great way to relax.
- What is your favourite motivational phrase?
Every cloud has a silver lining.
- What is your favourite book and why?
One of my favourites is Peter Straub’s Floating Dragon. That book was so scary—I remember thinking I could see things moving just on the edge of my peripheral vision. Scary stuff! But there are many, many more that I would call favourites.
- What is your favourite quote?
“That is something up with which they will not put.” Unfortunately, I can’t recall who said it (and Google isn’t helping me), but I doubt I’ll ever forget that sentence!
- What is your favourite movie and why?
There are lots that I would call favourites, like Avatar, Lord of the Rings, and anything with Sandra Bullock in it—but if I had to pick one it might be Gladiator. A lot of the reason Gladiator is up there is the music—it is a wonderful story, but Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack and the beautiful tones of Lisa Gerrard, really made the movie special for me.
- Where can you see yourself in 5 years’ time?
Helping the aforementioned boutique Australian film company turn my books into movies. [Symbol]
- What advice would you give to your younger self?
Trust your intuition.
Thank you S. M. I love your favourite quote. It rather sounds like a Churchill quote to me. he was a great lover of language as well as an author in his own right.
Now, to read About Your Books
What genre are your books?
The Absent Shadows Trilogy is a paranormal romance. I call it YA because it has no overt sex or violence and the main character is only nineteen.
What draws you to this genre?
I grew up watching the eerie television shows of the 60’s: Dark Shadows, The Twilight Zone, The Invaders and Outer Limits being among those I remember best. What imaginations those writers had! So science fiction, fantasy and mystery stories have generally been my favourite. Throw in a romantic element, and you have the perfect story!
How much research do you do?
Enough to be sure anything purporting to be a fact is correct, but that’s the beauty of fiction—most of it comes from the imagination.
What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing against being published or the other way around?
The major advantage of self-publishing is being in complete control, and the only deadlines are those that are self-imposed. But the disadvantage is you don’t have a publishing house’s marketing teams and expertise to help you make a big splash. Some self-published books have made it to the big time, but I have no doubt that there are many really great self-published books that will never go far simply because the authors don’t have the time, experience or inclination to push them along.
What do you do to get book reviews? How successful has your quest for reviews been so far?
I’m just getting started with this, so check back in twelve months and I’ll give you an answer.
What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?
I’d rather have a bad review than no review, but of course all authors like the good ones!
Did you make any marketing mistakes or is there anything you would avoid in future?
I didn’t do any sort of pre-launch and that seems to be something that works for others. This is something I might consider next time I’m ready to launch a new book.
Do you think that giving books away free works and why?
Yes, to some extent. Word of mouth can be a big tool, and no better way to get this than to have lots of readers talking about your book.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Firstly, ignore the negative commentary about there being too many books out there. If you have a story to tell, and you believe in it, tell it. There will be people who will be glad you did. But having said that, before you submit it anywhere, make sure your book is the best you can make it. Read books or articles about self-editing. When you think your story is as good as you can get it, set it aside, then sometime later re-read it and edit it again.
Where do you see publishing going in the future?
I think there is a fantastic future for well-written self-published books, particularly with the help of organisations such as indieBRAG (which, if you’re not familiar with it stands for indie, or independent author, Book Readers Appreciation Group and can be found at www.bragmedallion.com ). These organisations rate self-published books to help give readers confidence that the books they are buying are well written, and worth purchasing.
Thank you S. M. I really appreciate your detailed answers. I am looking forward to hearing something About Your Current Book
Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?
Lili is a typical nineteen year old girl who wants to make a difference with her life, but isn’t sure how she’s going to do it. When Lili is given a wonderful opportunity to visit her aunt in Australia, the land where her father was born, she discovers what she wants to do with her life. Sounds pretty simple, right? But then again, can anything to do with vampires and ghosts really be simple?
What are you working on at the minute?
Right now I’m in the midst of a rural romance.
Is this book part of a series? What are your thoughts on writing a book series.
I’m hoping to make it a series, but given I haven’t finished the first book yet, I’m not entirely sure where the rest of the series will head.
Did you format your own book? In what formats is your book available?
At this time, the Absent Shadows Trilogy is only available as Kindle books, on Amazon.
How are you publishing this book and why?
I’m an indie author. I canvassed a number of agents and a couple of e-book publishers and got responses that varied from cold to lukewarm. The main message coming through was that the genre was very crowded, so I figured I was wasting my time trying to get a publisher to put their money into the series. But with encouragement from friends and family I decided to simply bite the bullet and do it myself.
How can readers discover more about you and you work?
Follow me on Facebook—and don’t be afraid to ask questions if you have any!
Please list all of your published books here.
Book Title: Absent Shadows Trilogy: Destiny—Book One, Sacrifice—Book Two & Deception—Book Three
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance
Lastly, I would just like to thank you, Sandy, for this wonderful opportunity to share a little about me, and my books, with your readers.
You’re very welcome S.M. I look forward to following your books, and your Facebook Page. Thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview.