Author Wendy C. Jorgensen feels writing is a calling."Words and stories relentlessly pester writers until they give in and release them." That said, writing a full-length novel isn't exactly easy. Read about how Wendy did just that... twice... in her Author Interview below.
1. List the titles of your published books (include publisher and year published) plus your author website/Facebook page links.
2. When did you start writing your first book? Where did the idea come from? Include the synopsis.
I began Scattering Stars in August of 2011. I had always planned to write a novel, but after reading the Twilight series that summer, I knew it was time to start my book. Young people deserve to have good, clean stories.
From the time I saw the movie, Escape to Witch Mountain, I’ve been fascinated by aliens. Not the creepy, lizard-looking aliens, but extraterrestrials who resembled humans and could live amongst Earth’s inhabitants, hiding in plain sight. Within a few years more science fiction movies followed: Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and Cocoon. I loved them all. When I decided to write my first novel, there was no question as to what I would write about.
Deep in the Colorado Mountains lie many secrets. One of them could change the world.
When sixteen-year-old Eve Hunter returns to her childhood home of Ridgway, Colorado, she discovers a tight-knit colony of scientists and their families led by her grandfather, Jarak. Ten years earlier, her mother drowned suspiciously in a nearby canyon, and Eve becomes convinced the townspeople are hiding something. By lineage, Eve belongs to the colony and despite her reservations, she feels drawn to the colonists—particularly one of them: Daniel Winter, an eerily familiar, intense boy whose determination to monitor her and all the colonists is more than a little disturbing.
After Jarak reveals her true heritage, Eve learns her return to Ridgway is not a coincidence. She’s a key piece in Jarak’s plan. As secrets are revealed, Eve becomes entangled in a deadly game—and time’s running out to master the rules. One wrong move could jeopardize the future of the planet.
3. What was the hardest part about writing your first book? What hurdles did you have to overcome?
The hardest part of writing Scattering Stars was staying focused. I’d writing diligently for a couple weeks, but then I wouldn’t write anything for the following couple weeks. I remember once being metaphorically stuck in the parking lot along with my characters. I just couldn’t seem to move the story forward.
In retrospect, instead of clinging to my pantser personality, I should’ve spent more time plotting and outlining. Even simple exercises like creating a twenty-sentence outline or jotting down ideas for upcoming paragraphs can help to keep the story moving.
The biggest hurdle I had was actually finishing the first book. I have to confess that I’m an obsessive editor. It’s not uncommon for me to work on a paragraph for an hour and then rewrite the same paragraph the next day. It’s unlikely I’ll ever ditch this habit, but thankfully, I am improving.
4. Once your manuscript was finished, what did you do?
I finished in January 2014, and immediately began revising—again! In November 2013, I purposely scheduled a pitch session for February of the following year (2014), giving myself a deadline when I absolutely had to be done. During the pitch session, I received a request for my manuscript followed by a rejection in June. I queried agents and small publishers for two years—a total of twenty-two. These queries resulted in fifteen rejections and seven no answers. Even though that’s not a significant number of queries, after two years I was no longer willing to wait. By January of 2016, I decided to self-publish.
5. What did you expect from the editing process? How was the experience?
Beta readers have helped me quite a bit with clarifying the confusing parts in my stories, as well as missing words and grammar. The woman who does my final edits is a dear friend, who is a retired high school English teacher. She’s a stickler for grammar and content. Our partnership has been wonderful.
6. Describe what re-writing involves and how it makes you feel. How is it different than the initial writing?
I actually enjoy editing—see earlier comments. Re-writing is a good time for me to expand and enrich my descriptions. The only time I struggle is when I receive a vague criticism like “there are plot holes.” If you ever tell someone their story has a plot hole, please be specific and tell the author why you think it is a plot hole and what information seems to be missing.
7. Did you have non-editors read your book for feedback (Alpha/Beta Readers)? What did you get out of that?
A couple of my Beta readers were actually Alpha readers. I’ve done this myself for several people, and it is a time-consuming process if you’re truly committed. These readers are gems!! It’s always good to get feedback, and hopefully, if you get it prior to publication, it will improve your book.
8. Who designed your cover? How much input did you have? How important is the cover design?
I asked for referrals online, then chose a cover designer after examining his previous cover designs. I told him specifically what I wanted on both covers—pictures, colors, fonts. Luckily, he was able to capture my vision exactly and also added some amazing personal touches. I would suggest finding a designer that does covers for your genre. I have a vision for all my covers, and I love having control over the final design. The importance of a good cover can’t be overemphasized.
9. How did you go forward with publishing? Why? How was that experience?
Self-publishing has been an incredible learning experience. I had no idea how much work went into publishing a book. The editing and revisions can be exhausting. I used the formatting services of Emily H. Bates for both of my books, and she’s been a lifesaver! Creating a website, setting up a blog, and expanding my social media presence were all new to me. Fortunately, I received a huge amount of instruction and encouragement from several ladies in the American Night Writers’ Association. Their support has helped me immeasurably.
10. How have you marketed your first book?
Loving the Book did a cover reveal and a book release for Scattering Stars. The ladies are easy to work with and inexpensive. My only reservation is that they have more of a romance-oriented following and I write science fiction. I’ve also had Lord of the Books do a book review and feature me for a month. That was wonderful. I cannot say enough about the tireless efforts of Lord of the Books. Other friends have also blogged about my book. There are many people who have been willing to blog or share my posts or just recommend my book to friends.
11. How was the initial feedback from readers?
Most of the feedback I’ve received has been good. At least I haven’t received any horrible comments. I have been surprised at how many middle-aged men like my first book, particularly since I write YA! I think the elements in the story with regard to faith and fulfilling our life’s mission have resonated with others.
12. How have sales been on your first book? Did they go as expected? What helps you the most to sell books?
My expectations were high—too high in retrospect—but I had no idea what I should expect. After Scattering Stars was published, I read that the average book sells five hundred copies. This figure supposedly averages all books together, including the huge New York Times best sellers. Amazon is the eight hundred pound gorilla, and it has made all the difference. I’ve had my books in two bookstores and sales were dismal. What promotion works the best? Running 99 cent ebook sales on Amazon!
13. Talk about print vs ebook. Do you get more sales with one than the other?
Ebooks definitely sell better than print copies. Price point is obviously an issue. I also think most people are like me: they buy tons of books for their kindle and read maybe half of them.
14. Did you set the prices of your print and ebooks? How do you decide how to price them?
I set the prices of both. I researched books similar to mine and picked an average figure for my ebook. Amazon set a minimum price for my print book based on printing costs for number of pages, etc., so I worked around that figure. The print copy price fluctuates on Amazon based on what the book is selling for on other sites.
15. What made you decide to write more books? How were those experiences (writing/editing) compared with your first book? Did you do anything differently?
I started my second book, Acceleration, for NaNoWriMo in November of 2014. Scattering Stars had been finished for nearly a year, and I was somewhat on the fence about writing the trilogy that I’d originally planned. Acceleration was inspired by the movie Limitless with Bradley Cooper. I resumed writing Acceleration after Scattering Stars came out. For some reason, I thought I could write substantially faster than before. That was not the case. It took me about nine months to finish it. After my first book, I evolved into more of a pantser/plotter, as I learned that having a basic framework speeds up the writing process. However, I continued to edit extensively as I wrote, sometimes spending an hour of my daily writing on revisions.
16. Anything different in the publishing process for your other books?
Again, I decided to self-publish my second book. Although Lord of the Books did my cover reveal for Acceleration, I didn’t do a huge book release event or a blog tour. I hope to connect with other authors and bloggers to review my new book in the next few months.
17. When did you consider yourself a "writer"?
Somewhere in the process of finishing Scattering Stars—when the end was in sight—I began to consider myself a writer. I needed to see a project through to completion before I considered myself an actual writer.
18. When do you write? What motivates you to write?
I almost always write between three and six in the afternoon. I like to run, take my dog to the park, and do errands earlier in the day, and spend my afternoons on the computer. I usually get up before six, so I have zero motivation to write after dinner. Like everyone else, I get distracted, but my children are grown so at least I don’t have little people clamoring for my attention. Just a golden retriever!
People that write generally feel like they have something to say. Words and stories relentlessly pester writers until they give in and release them. I feel that way about my books and my blog. Writing is something I am compelled to do, and like many others have said, I feel like it’s a calling. I have never needed to seek out story ideas. For me, the problem is trying to stop the constant flow of potential stories that fill my mind.
19. What do aspiring authors ask you?
Several people have told me they’ve started a book but haven’t been able to finish. I agree that finishing can be the most difficult part.
20. What advice can you offer for aspiring authors about writing, editing, publishing, and marketing?
First, if you feel compelled to write you should write. That being said, it’s wise to keep your expectations for fame and fortune low. I like to compare novelists to popular singers or movie stars. There are many talented people out there, but only a small number are able to support themselves from their craft.
The second piece of advice I have is that writing, publishing, and marketing are hard work. Being an author takes a great deal of effort. In addition to the time I spend writing, I have hundreds of hours into marketing, primarily social media, but also blogging, answering emails, seeking promotional opportunities, etc.
Third, surround yourselves with good people who will support your goals. ANWA and Storymakers are great organizations with many writers who are willing to teach you what you need to succeed. Take advantage of them and find ways to help your fellow writers in return.