Author Interview, Darren R. Pearce, The Monarchs of Christmas

Author Darren R. Pearce originally wrote The Monarchs of Christmas as a short story that he read to his family every year during the holiday season. Now it's a recently published novel that will hopefully be just the beginning of his writing career. Check out his full author interview below!

1. List the titles of your published books (include publisher and year published) plus your author website/Facebook page links.

The Monarchs of Christmas

Peach Creek Publishing, 2017

2. When did you start writing your first book? Where did the idea come from? Include the synopsis.

The Monarchs of Christmas had its origins in a piece of artwork in an outdoor adventure magazine. I saw that image and thought it would make a great surprise ending to a story. And so it did—the rest, however, didn’t always come that easy. I’ve always loved period pieces, the books of Alexandar Dumas, British period stories, old classic westerns. I knew the story had to be set in time, so I choose the turn-of-the-last-century; a transitional period from the old west. Once that was decided, the location came easy—the rugged Eastern Sierras of California had to be it. I have fly-fished and backpacked all over that area and considered it part of my backyard. I knew it well and wanted it to be part of the story.

The Monarchs of Christmas was originally a short story I wrote to my family as a Christmas gift back in 1999. I was working production in Hollywood at the time and as with most employed there aspired to write, So ‘Monarchs’ became a teleplay that got shopped around with some interest, but without representation, got little traction.

The Monarchs of Christmas synopsis:

In this inspirational family tale set in turn-of-the-century California, we are reminded that faith is the most precious gift we can give to those we love.

It’s nearly Christmas, but it hardly feels that way. Though fortune has smiled on the nearby township of Bishop Creek, the Walker family must make do with what they have: secondhand clothes with mismatched buttons and an old, rickety buckboard capture the depth of their desperation.

Sarah Walker is a young girl living in the harsh, scenic world of the Eastern Sierras. After the loss of her mother, Sarah has taken the responsibility of nurturing her two younger sisters upon herself. Her father, Will, is doing his best, but there’s not much in the way of steady work.

Sarah is desperate to regain some sense of control over her life—control that the immeasurable grief and sorrow that follow the death of a parent have stolen from her. More than that, she wishes for peace.

Determined to find the serenity she seeks, Sarah draws on the memory of her mother to resurrect her faith. She soon finds that miracles are waiting in the wings; all she has to do is .

3. What was the hardest part about writing your first book? What hurdles did you have to overcome?

​Life. Life can get in the way. Like I said, ‘Monarchs’ first started out as a short story back in 1999, then a teleplay, and then it sat. The production life in Hollywood can be that of gypsy, always traveling on location for months at a time, and as much as that industry satisfied both sides of my nature—production nuts & bolts and the creative—after twelve years I was burnt out and needed a change. It came in the way of an entirely new career which I did for fourteen years and then yet another career. I would always write a little, mostly children’s stories, but couldn’t find the time to go back and tackle ‘Monarchs’ and give it the attention it deserved. As a family, we would have a reading of it each Christmas season and finally my wife and I decided that we needed to make time and flush out the story and turn it into the book it has become.

4. Once your manuscript was finished, what did you do?

I found what I thought was a good editor, but really did no serious background checking on her services, got the manuscript formatted and put it out on Amazon as an e-book. It had some sales, but people started to notice the grammar and punctuation errors.

5. What did you expect from the editing process? How was the experience?

I was recommended to my current Editor by another writer, did my due-diligence this time and had her comb through the manuscript. What an eye-opener a real professional can bring to the editorial experience. I loved it. She made it better, smoother, and even caught the “head hopping” I sometimes drifted into between characters.

6. Describe what re-writing involves and how it makes you feel. How is it different than the initial writing?

I like it. It’s not unusual for me to have several manuscript drafts bound together with brads, the revision dates written on their spines, sitting on my desk. In the early stages of a re-write, I’ll print out the draft, sit back in my recliner with pen in hand and make notes throughout the manuscript. Later, as the story becomes more refined, I’ll make any changes on the computer. I imagine, as with most writers, it’s hard to finally put it down and say enough, let’s publish this thing.

7. Did you have non-editors read your book for feedback (Alpha/Beta Readers)? What did you get out of that?

I did. Initially, for the e-book, it was family and friends. However, for the paperback novella I had some Beta readers go through it. I had taken a workshop from a New York Times Best Selling Author who read it and suggested I make the manuscript available to some of his readers. That was my target audience and a great fit for my story, so that’s what we did. He put it out there and got about fifty responses. It was amazing, a lot of great complementary and constructive comments. He has been very generous with his time, talents and resources. I am very appreciative to him and his readers in helping make The Monarchs of Christmas a better story.

8. Who designed your cover? How much input did you have? How important is the cover design?

Heidi Adkins was the cover artist. She exhibits in Salt Lake City and I’ve known her for years. I wanted the cover to give a sense of the story, but not reveal too much, to reflect an older period of time. I think the brush strokes of an oil painting does that—more reflective of that turn-of-the-century era. Cover art today is so slick and just wouldn’t give the impression of warmth and timelessness that Heidi’s work conveys.

9. How did you go forward with publishing? Why? How was that experience?

I knew I wanted to self publish on Create Space. I already had a version of the story up on Amazon’s KDP and had good sales from the previous Christmas season. I just couldn’t see shopping the manuscript around, waiting for someone to bite. Royalties are so much better on both platforms than traditional publishing, and as an Author, you are going to be doing the lion’s share of the social media marketing anyhow.

I created Peach Creek Publishing LLC to help publish the book and for future works. Plus, tax benefits and business write-offs tie in nicely.

As I stated earlier, there are two sides to my personality—the nuts and bolts and the creative. Publishing, marketing and social media, the minutia of it all satisfy’s both.

10. How have you marketed your first book?

I started with a Facebook fan page where I networked people, pages and groups. Then, the website and blog. From there, I’ll branch out into Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

The Social media aspect is about creating a larger brand that I can leverage into additional relatively passive income streams.

I also think the right categories and keywords are huge when it comes to Amazon. If you have zoned in on your target audience and really identified the proper keywords, the Amazon algorithms can do a lot of the heavy lifting for you. Sometimes people don’t know exactly what they are looking for or even know you as an author, that’s when your keyword research pays off. Let them do some of the heavy lifting.

11. How was the initial feedback from readers?

Good, everyone has been most complementary.

12. How have sales been on your first book? Did they go as expected? What helps you the most to sell books?

The print copy came out a couple of weeks ago and both are starting to climb. Being a Christmas / Holiday book I have a short window every year to grab readers’ attentions. But, that’s what I like about this book, every year I can improve my social reach and marketability for new readers.

13. Talk about print vs ebook. Do you get more sales with one than the other?

Right now, the e-book is leading print, however, print is starting to climb. When the holidays are all said and done, it will be interesting to see how it shakes out. If the e-book wins out, then maybe I’ll focus more marketing on e-book reading groups and outlets.

14. Did you set the prices of your print and ebooks? How do you decide how to price them?

I did. $0.99 for the initial e-book promotion, then up to $3.99. The print comes in at $7.95. I did quite a bit of research on pricing promotions and other marketing campaigns of like titles.

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 love the process. Most of my fictional stories come by way of an initial impression from something I see or hear, and think, that would make a great book. There are two sequels in the works for the character, Sarah Walker, from The Monarchs of Christmas. Like ‘Monarchs,” they revolve her overcoming challenges through the memories and teachings of her late mother. Right now, they won’t be “Christmas” books, but would focus on two niche target audiences I have identified and want to write for.

16. Anything different in the publishing process for your other books?

I have written two children’s picture books. Again, I’d like to self / indie publish the books and will start looking for artists. They are two very different subjects and will need two different art styles. It’s going to be interesting, but I love getting into it and figuring it all out.

17. When did you consider yourself a "writer"?

That’s a tough one. It’s kind of like saying I’m athletic, but I’m no athlete. I write, but until what, I can earn a living at it. . . I reach critical acclaim? I’m just happy I can say I’m a published author and people are buying my book.

18. When do you write? What motivates you to write?

There’s that pesky life thing again. Job, wife, kids, life. I tend to write in the mornings when it’s quite. I research and market at night when, again, it’s quite. If I did any writing at night, I’d never shut my brain down.

Motivation comes from the story and its’ characters. It’s amazing to me that there are things, situations, places, times, plots, characters, etc., all sitting in the recesses of my mind somewhere. Sometimes you have to ferret them out, and sometimes they just come spilling them out.

19. What do aspiring authors ask you?

Haven’t had the pleasure yet.

20. What advice can you offer for aspiring authors about writing, editing, publishing, and marketing?

Do you want to do it? Then do it? I know that’s not as easy as it sounds, but I’ve always been something of a self starter. Join a writing group, you need support. Talk to writers, publishers, editors, artists, bloggers, and make connections with them. Learn what others are doing and find or create your fit. Read, read, read. Write, write, write. Edit, edit, edit.

Life coach, Dan Sullivan said it perfectly, “Create a future bigger than your past.”

Or, as the great koala showman, Buster Moon encouraged Meena as she walked, terrified out onto the stage, “Sing.”

“Well. . .write!” We know the rest of the story, she brought down the house.

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