I’m delighted to host CJ Matthew today! This past fall, CJ self-published three complete novels for her Dophin Shore Shifter series. I feel like I have to keep reading that sentence over and over because I’m astounded at CJ’s work ethic and tenacity. While waiting for the first book to sell, she kept working on the others, and when she decided to self-publish, she had three books ready to go. Wow!
Read CJ’s inspiring interview. She not only provides helpful insights into the benefits and frustrations of self-publishing; she also gives great advice about keeping your writing going.
How long have you wanted to be a romance writer? When did you decide to write a book?
I’ve been an avid reader all my life, with the emphasis on fiction. My favorite genre was and still is romance. In 2008 I officially started writing a book. At the same time, I began taking classes and attending workshops to learn the craft. I finished writing my first book, a contemporary romance, that summer. But as I learned new and different techniques, I continued to edit and rewrite the manuscript. (I’m still working on it). Later that year, I was challenged to write a “different” paranormal story and I started Blood Tide.
What inspired you to write Blood Tide?
Blood Tide was inspired in part by the challenge to come up with a different paranormal shifter. Add my love for the Pacific Ocean and dolphins, and that’s the direction my research took. Recalling that a big part of the California Chumash’s origin legend was Hutash building a rainbow bridge to bring her people from a channel island to the mainland, I studied the story again. When some of the Chumash people fell into the channel, rather than allow them to die, Hutash turned them into dolphins. Basing my shape shifting dolphins in Santa Barbara, I gave them the capability to reverse the process and transform into human form.
How did you fit your writing into the rest of your life?
It wasn’t easy. Working full time and carving out additional time to write is a real challenge. Eventually, I negotiated with my employers to work 4 days a week and I wrote on three day weekends. But that schedule doesn’t leave much family time. It was a real joy to retire from work and be able to write full time.
Are you involved in a writer’s group? Who gave you feedback as you worked through writing the book?
Early in 2008, I joined Romance Writers of America, as well as my state chapter, Georgia Romance Writers. Both groups offer all sorts of workshops, seminars, and classes. For several years I attended as many as I could. At one memorable class I met my future critique partner.
At GRW’s annual conference, Moonlight & Magnolias 2008, I stumbled through my first agent and editor pitch. I also entered lots of critique raffles for terrific (often professional) feedback. Nationwide RWA chapter contests gave me critiques and when my pages “finaled”, the chance to get my work in front of NY literary agents and/or editors.
Currently, I attend RWA National conferences, join classes on line, and belong to several terrific forums like Kiss of Death, Sisters in Crime, and Marie Force’s self-publish information exchange.
For my WIP, I depend first on my critique partner, then my four beta readers, and finally my freelance editor who gives my manuscript a comprehensive developmental edit, followed by a copy edit, and when all those issues have been addressed by me, a last check.
What made you decide to publish independently?
My dream has always been to walk into a book store, Target, the grocery store, or Walmart, and discover my book on the shelves. So my path was to traditional publishing via a literary agent.
Meanwhile, my critique partner made her decision to self-publish a couple of years ago and since she made it look fairly painless, that option firmed up in the back of my mind.
Two years ago, I signed with a literary agent who wanted to submit Blood Tide to NY publishing. She tried her best but my book didn’t sell. So we parted ways and I started querying agents again.
Then last spring, 2015, I kept reading about the growing number of independent book stores agreeing to stock self-published books and offering authors book-signings. The time seemed right. Fall of 2015, with lots of help from my critique partner and my editor, I published all three completed Dolphin Shore Shifter books, a month apart.
What was the biggest challenge of publishing independently?
Honestly, I hate formatting. I want the e-book, as well as the trade paperback, to be neat and beautiful but I can’t make the software do what I have in mind. Next goal is to earn enough in royalty payments to pay for a formatter!
Also, I enjoy social media, I love promoting and marketing, but I love writing more. Even though I set my own writing schedule, I can so easily fall behind with all the social media temptations and marketing obligations.
What were the benefits of publishing independently?
I’m the primary decision maker. Once I decided my Dolphin Shore Shifters deserved a chance to be published and read, I chose my editor (she’s fabulous!).
I chose my cover designer and most of the elements and “feel” of the covers and my long-term branding.
I chose to publish direct with Amazon, Kobo, Nook, iBooks, Createspace, and IngramSparks.
I set the prices. I picked my part-time publicist.
Ongoing, I choose when to have a sale and for how little. I choose when to advertise and for how much.
What would you change if you could?
Not much in terms of my writing.
The years I spent querying agents, being rejected, querying editors, getting more rejections, then back to querying agents, I also spent developing new story ideas, learning so much about my craft, and writing books.
Maybe I could have self-published Blood Tide earlier, but I wasn’t fully committed to modifying my dream. Plus, I wrote two more Dolphin shifter books and a romantic suspense during that time.
What advice would you give aspiring writers?
My best advice to aspiring writers is to keep writing!
Query agents while you continue to write.
Learn from the rejections while you continue to write.
Celebrate the requests for partials or fulls, then go right back to your WIP.
Before you self-publish, invest in a professional editor. While she/he is editing, start the next book.
You’re serious about being an author? You can’t go wrong with writing!
The Santa Barbara Channel holds a closely guarded secret…
She had more than just her mission…
Sy’s rotation on land as a dolphin shifter couldn’t have come at a better time. With her best friend missing and no answers forthcoming, it was time to take matters into her own hands. And with the resources at the Save Blue Water organization, finding her friend would be a whole lot easier. Except …something sinister is going on inside SBW, something deadly, and Sy finds herself at the center of danger.
The last thing he needed was bullets and bombs…
Noah Nelson spent every minute trying to forget the war while fighting his PTSD, but jumping in front of a bullet was second nature. It had nothing to do with the fact the target was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. Or that she was naked. But suddenly he’s caught up in her world, protecting her from unforeseen threats, and falling in love … but Sy’s got a secret that may rip them apart. Forever.
CJ Matthew grew up in an Air Force family traveling and living all over the US and around the world. It proved to be the perfect experience for gathering ideas and material for future books. And for meeting real life heroes and heroines in uniforms and flight-suits. She spent her high school and university years living in California, which inspired her love of marine life, and the Pacific Ocean.
Her debut novel, Blood Tide, is the first book in her paranormal romantic suspense series titled Dolphin Shore Shifters. The series features a pod of dolphins living in the Santa Barbara, channel off the coast of California, capable of shifting to human form. While posing as real humans, the dolphins work through their oceanic conservation corporation, Save Blue Water, to protect their oceans at any cost.
CJ’s next series, The Paladin Group, launched with Deadly Reboot. The books are romantic suspense, set in a small southern town, and they star wounded air force veterans, men and women warriors turned civilian lawyers and investigators determined to continue their rescue work.
A member of Romance Writers of America (RWA), Georgia Romance Writers (GRW), and Kiss of Death, CJ lives and writes near a lake in the woods northeast of Atlanta. When she isn’t writing or reading romances, CJ spends time with her two grown children, their spouses, a brilliant grandson and a feisty cat named Max.
Schedule permitting, CJ loves to travel, to discover new favorite places as well as meeting new friends in both the US and around the world.
Max flatly refuses to travel.