I had a chance to sit down with my good friend and fellow writer Jessica Prado, whose new novel, Silver Awakening, released in 2015 in paperback and eBook. She had some great ideas to share on how to write a debut novel as a busy mom and how to navigate the world of e-commerce once the writing is done.
ESH: You have a novel out now. When did you start writing it, and did it start out as something else?
JP: It started as a short story back when I was in college. I think that the idea started at that point, however it evolved a lot from what it was originally. I really only had a few passages written originally.
ESH: What kinds of things did you learn in school that helped you write your first novel?
JP: English wasn't my major—I was actually an art major. I've loved to write, and when I was in grade school I wrote this little book called Winter Is Fun. That was my first book that I ever wrote. Of course it’s not published or anything, but it was bound in construction paper. I’ve always known I enjoyed writing, so in college I tried to take classes that geared toward my interests in creative writing. I think what I learned there was how to edit things down and cut things out. I’m pretty good about not getting so attached to something that I can’t cut it out, and I think that helps me with pacing in a story.
ESH: You've mentioned before that you're a big reader. What kinds of influences do you have? Which writers do you like, and what have you learned from them?
JP: I’m more interested in story than in individual writers. If a story appeals to me, then I’ll read it, but at the end of the book, I want to feel good. I’ve read a lot of fantasy and young adult fiction. Obviously Harry Potter is one of my favorites because there’s just so much fantasy in it, and it’s clean and it’s fun and it makes you feel so good when you read it. I’ve read a lot of the Other World series, and right now I’m reading the Miss Peregrine’s series. I was a photography major, so I love the photos in that one along with the style and the fantasy elements. I don’t read a lot of romance novels, but I love books that have romance in them. I liked Twilight, even though there were some things about it that I would have done differently if I had written it. [laughs]
ESH: You mentioned before that you had some friends read your manuscript early on. Did you ever take your book to a workshop setting to get feedback that way?
JP: I started a group that I called my Secret Readers' Club. It started as a Facebook group that was just my friends and a few family members who love to read. I got a lot of feedback on the early parts when I was developing the story. They helped me with organizing the book. An example of this is when I wrote the first chapter. I started out with all of Noah’s perspective and then all of Silver’s, and then after workshop I went back and added transitions instead.
A lot of what I struggled with, that I think the Secret Readers’ Club helped a lot with, was the love scene. Love scenes are such a sensitive subject, and I had to be really careful about making sure the characters were still likable afterward. I think I tested it out three or four different ways with the group, and I could not have written that part of the book without them.
ESH: Can you tell me a little bit about what it’s been like in terms of getting something sold online as a paperback and an eBook?
JP: That’s actually really hard, and it’s still new for me. Where I’m at with it right now is, I kind of feel like I’d like to conclude the series before I start marketing it. When I talk to other authors who self-publish, they’ve shared their experiences about marketing pressure and not worrying too much about the first book. A lot of times people want to buy a book once the series is finished, so I’ve just been doing my own little promotions here and there until the rest of the series is ready. I’ve done a few Facebook ads and promoted my book on different blogs and things as well, and I’ve followed a lot of marketing advice I’ve found on the web.
ESH: If someone came to you (maybe someone reading this conversation) wondering where to start when writing a novel, what would you suggest?
I started with kind of a bulleted outline in Word showing the general story of the novel. It did change when I ended up writing the story, but at least having that simple nutshell helped get it going. It also helped in writing the chapters, with what needed to happen in each one. I kept a lot of notes, especially because I was working with fantasy, and I used Track Changes comments in Word to keep track of things that I wanted to do as I was editing. Now that I’m doing my second novel, I have all the comments from the first one in its own document. I can go back and use it, especially when I’m keeping track of time divergence. That has helped me a lot.