Friday, November 16, 2012

Welcome Lionel Snodgrass

I’d like to welcome to my blog Paul Hewlett, a self-published children’s author.  Lionel Snodgrass is the main character in his newest release Lionel's Christmas Adventure: Lionel Learns the True Meaning of Christmas. 

Paul, tell us what inspired you to become an author.
I've always had a vivid imagination and I love to people watch. I may see someone in a crowd dressed in something outlandish and in my mind, I create a background or story explaining it. That kind of morphed into putting things down on paper. At that point no matter what I wrote it came out best suited as a children's book.

You self-publish your books, which to me has SCARY written all over it. Why did you self-publish. and tell us a little bit about the process?
Ha, I decided to self-publish in large part to the ever growing mountain of rejection letters I was accumulating. I began to look into it and decided it was indeed a viable option. Well, the process is very daunting. I owe a great deal of thanks to Melissa Foster and her WLC website. She is certainly there for the aspiring or even established author. In self-publishing there is so much to learn and it changes all the time. I owe so much to all the wonderful folks that I have come in contact with and who have helped me. 
There's so much to self-publishing that I'll just sum up the essentials. First, have a great story. You can ensure that it is up to par by having beta readers and critique groups read it. Second, have a professional cover. Third, professional editing. Those are key, don't skip any of those, or the other things you don won't matter.

What was the hardest part of self-publishing?
To me, it's reaching my target audience. That is a constant challenge. There is a lot to be said for the exposure one gets via social media, but for me, are children looking at that? Probably not. You have to research and identify your target audience and then find ways to reach them. 

What’s the most fun in self-publishing?
I think it's the fact that you are promoting and marketing your product. The return is all yours. You're not out trying to sell shower curtain rings (my apologies to all the shower curtain ring salesman out there, I know you  have a difficult job). It's your product, your baby, and that makes it all the more motivating and fun to work to put it in people's hands. 

I love your covers, who did the artwork and how did you find them?
Pat Sauber illustrated Lionel and did the first two covers. For Lionel's Christmas Adventure, Pat illustrated Lionel and I had LLPix Photography do the cover itself. Pat is an friend of a co-worker of mine and Laura, I found through my social media connections. 

Tell us about Lionel, your main character. He has some quirks which make him instantly relatable and likable.
I love Lionel. He is a lot of fun to write. Everyone has known a Lionel at some point in their life. He is the underdog and no matter how hard one may try it is very difficult not to root for him. 

How did you pick your setting?
I set the books in the late 1960's. I wanted to focus on the characters and their interactions. I felt by using that era that I could realistically strip away a good number of distractions that kids have today. Some of the things that Lionel does, he may not be doing if the books were set in modern day. He might be busy playing xbox or something. 

Tell us a little about writing a series?  The ups and downs?
The up is the fact that you don't have to spend a lot of time coming up with the characters and background for each book. Those are established. The down is trying to keep each book interesting and not just like the previous ones.  Each book is written to be able to stand on its own. That is also a major challenge. You don't want to bore returning readers with all the same background information, but you have to make sure that the first time reader understands what is going on and why. 

Does Lionel have another adventure coming up?
I have an idea for another book, but I might try something that I did with Lionel's Christmas Adventure. I asked my fans on Lionel's Grand Adventure Facebook page for some ideas for the Christmas book and they responded with some terrific ideas.  

I’ve been following the discussions on book trailers, and by the way I love the trailer you created for Lionel’s Christmas Adventure.  I’m not sure if it the snappy Christmas music you used but it is one of my FAVORITE BOOK TRAILERS. Have you found them to be beneficial to your sales?
The book trailer for Lionel's Christmas Adventure is the first one that I have done. I had mixed feelings about them, but had some very specific ideas for this one. I also felt that if I could keep it under one minute long it would be better (it's about 1:20). I've seen some that are 2:30-3:00 minutes long and I think that's too long to keep people's attention. I just released it Wednesday & the book isn't available yet, so I really don't have any data to support it one way or the other. I will be tracking it though.

Because I’m always curious about writers’ process tell me are you a plotter or pantster?
I've tried both. Up until Lionel's Christmas Adventure I had been a pantster. For the new book I tried a different approach. I outlined each chapter prior to writing it. I did find outlining the chapters beneficial. It gave me a little more guidance as to where I wanted to go with the story and kept me focused. I'm still a bit of a pantster though, since I do not sit down and plot the whole story through and through prior to writing.  

What is the most difficult part of the writing process?  How do you prevail?
For me, it's getting the whole story down on paper. I don't have much trouble coming up with ideas, but filling in the blanks between the ideas and making it a book is the toughest part. I prevail by writing, and I mean writing--longhand. I write the rough draft on paper. It enables me to keep my mind flowing, no distractions. 

What comes easiest?
Rewriting or revising. That's my favorite part. Once I have written the rough draft, I turn it over to my critique group and beta readers and let them pick it apart. I love taking that feedback and revising. That, to me is not only the easiest part, but also the most enjoyable. 

Any advise for aspiring authors?
Once you decide that it's what you want to do. Write, write, and write some more. It is the very best way to improve your craft. And remember, you have only failed if you give up. 

I read you are a dog lover.  So here’s a photo of Paul’s dog JoJo.
Yes, I am a huge dog lover. We adopted him from the local shelter a couple of years ago and he is the best dog. I am a firm believer in adopting pets, but that is for another interview.

Thanks so much for stopping by my blog.  Be sure to check out any of Lionel’s Adventures on 
Amazon or on Facebook

As always feel free to comment or ask questions of Paul.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Halfway Point - NaNoWriMo

I hope your NaNoWriMo words are spilling forth.

Mine are not spilling, they’re dribbling. I’m not quite at the word count I should be. Halfway today I should be at 25,000 words, but I’m not too far off just over 22,000. I blame football, my craft shows, and not enough coffee, not necessarily in that order.
And now I’ve been tagged by my good friend and multi-published author Jillian Chantal in a game called Zig-zag you can read about it here
I’m supposed to find in my WIP the word look and post the surrounding text. Pretty scary stuff, since this is a fast first draft, without revision - think vomiting on the page. But I’ve always been a good sport, so I’ll play along and tag five more writers.
Here’s a peek into my vomit on the page middle grade contemporary with a working title that's supposed to keep me focused on the main character's goal--Can Hertz Survive a Screenless Summer?
Pops sits and whacks my back so hard I almost fall off the stool. “I had to bring Hert in to try your pancake sundae. First day of his summer vacation.”  He points at a framed certificate to the right of the chalkboard. “Look up there. What did I tell you. Best Pancake Sundae in Arizona.” 

Pete steps in with a pot of coffee. “You probably figured out this is the only place in the state you can get a pancake sundae.” He edges closer to me and lowers his voice. “Word of advise. Never teach your mom photoshop. The first certificate she printed up had a life-sized photo of my face on it.”
Pops chuckles and turns over a cup resting upside down in a saucer in front of him. “You never showed me that certificate.”
“I didn’t show it to anyone.”

Five of you’ve been tagged

For all of you participating in NaNoWriMo
May your words flow steadily for the rest of the month and provide an endless lake of possibility at the end.

As always feel free to comment.