I’m so thrilled to host award-winning author Nicole Evelina today. In this interview, she shares the inspiration behind her romantic comedy, Been Searching For You, and explains her reasons for self-publishing. I hope you’ll be inspired, as I have, by Nicole’s advice for aspiring writers and her candid assessment of the challenges we writers face.
What inspired you to write this story?
I never thought I’d write a romance; I’m primarily a historical fiction/historical fantasy author. I actually swore I’d never write romance because I really disliked romance books for a long time – until I realized what I really hated was certain types of romance. Others are pretty darn good.
But I still had one pet peeve: most heroines, especially in romantic comedies, are under 30. If there’s a wedding involved, it’s “OMG, I’m going to be 30 and not married!” As a 36-year-old single girl, allow me to smack you. So, what did I do? I went and wrote my own love story, one for those of us who are over 30 *gasp*, still single and still romantics at heart. I wrote it because I wanted to write the happily ever after I haven’t yet experienced.
The book came to life because of the Civil Wars songs “To Whom it May Concern” and “Dust to Dust,” both of which my best friend introduced me to. They seem to be bookends to a love story to me, so I swore I’d write a book that began with the words “To Whom it May Concern” and ended with the words “Dust to Dust.” And I did.
Describe your process for writing this particular book.
My friend introduced me to those songs in late November. By the first week of December, the plot popped into my head. Then came Annabeth, the main character, who was inspired by a British actress named Nadine Lewington, who I saw on an episode of Inspector Lewis. I started writing the next day. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. Every spare moment was taken up by getting this story down on paper. By the beginning of March, it was complete. I’ve never had a book come so quickly or so easily.
The first draft took me about three months. But then over the next two years, I continually refined the book through contest feedback and working with a few editors. Believe me, the story is much better for it.
How do you fit your writing into the rest of your life?
This is going to sound so boring, but writing is pretty much all I do outside of my day job. My job is a writer for a marketing department, so that often wears my brain out during the week, so I only write then if I’m on deadline or it’s during NaNoWriMo. But even then, during the week I’m researching, reading or marketing at night. I write on weekends, holidays and use my vacation days for one-person writing retreats. It’s what I have to do. I’m lucky that I’m single and don’t have children so I can focus all my time and efforts on writing. Sometimes that means letting the house get dirty or the leaving the laundry undone.
What keeps you going through the process?
I have to write; for me it’s like breathing. I have these characters in my head who insist on their stories being told, so I have to write in order satisfy myself and to get them to shut up. On the days it all gets to be too much, chats with my mom or best friend, a bottle of wine and chocolate see me through.
What made you decide to publish independently?
It was a combination of things, and a decision that I took a long time in coming to. One of the main factors was that it was time for me to get my work out there. It had been four and a half years – and six books – since I started querying agents. My work was just stacking up with no place to go, even though I had people telling me through my blog and social media that they wanted to read it. I wanted to be able to learn from it, which I can’t do unless others can read it. That, combined with wanting to have my historical fiction book Madame Presidentess published before the November 2016 Presidential election (which was by then impossible to do traditionally because of the time it takes to produce a book), and a desire to have more control over my career, led me to start my own publishing company. However, I am open to the possibility of traditional publishing in the future. I haven’t ruled anything out.
What’s the biggest challenge of publishing independently?
Marketing and gaining visibility in a crowded marketplace are the biggest challenges for me. Even though my background is in marketing, it’s still a challenge because there are so many books out there and without a big house behind you, it’s hard to get people’s attention. I’ve been doing everything myself up to this point, but for my next book I’ll be working with a publicist, so I’m hoping that will help.
What are the benefits of publishing independently?
For me, the biggest benefit is the control. I get to have full input on the cover, the blurb on the back of the book, how and when sales take place and am responsible for quality control. I get to pick my own audio book talent and give them direction based on how I’d like the book to be performed. Those are all things most traditional authors have little to no say in. The downside is that all of this takes time and money, valuable commodities for every author, and you don’t have anyone helping in that department.
What’s the process of getting the book ready for publication?
Once my beta readers have given me their edits and I’ve taken the book as far as I can without help, it goes to my editor, Cassie Cox. While she’s working her magic (if not before) Jenny Quinlan and I are trading emails about the cover. Then I get edits back from Cassie, incorporate them, and she sends that draft off to the proofreader. Once I make those edits, it goes to The Editorial Department for layout, which takes 8-10 weeks. During that time I supply Jenny with the back cover copy and any endorsements so she can finalize the cover. Once everything is done, I upload the files to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords and Kobo.
What has surprised you most about the process?
That it takes so long! For some reason I didn’t expect layout to take more than two months. If I would have known that, I would have spaced my releases out more. I also have to say that it was a pleasant surprise that as an indie you can create a product of equal quality to traditionally published books if you take the time and money to do things right.
What would you change if you could?
Other than having a patron that would take on the cost? I’d love to be doing this full-time, not only because it would mean that I’d be able to produce more books, but because I’d have more time to devote to marketing.
What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Write what you are passionate about, even if that isn’t where the market is going. If you care about it, chances are very good someone else will, too. You will thank yourself when you’ve read your book for the 12th or 15th time (I’m not kidding; it really can take that many re-reads) in the editing process and you are sick of it. At least if it’s a subject/plot/character you love, you’ll have the will to carry on.
Take whatever path to publication is best for you. If you want an agent and a major publisher, query your heart out. But know that it can be a long process filled with rejection. (Or not. My mentor’s first book sold overnight, two weeks after she got her agent.) If you decide to go indie, educate yourself (there are plenty of books and web sites that will help you) and please, please pay for professional editing and cover art. They will be worth every penny.
And no matter what, don’t ever give up. It is really true that the only sure way to fail is to give up. You started writing because you have a story to tell and you know what? Someone in the world needs to read that story. So when you have a rough day, think about that person. It might not take away all the frustration or sadness, but it will give you a renewed sense of purpose.
Annabeth is a hopeless romantic who believes in soul mates. In fact, she’s been writing to hers each year on her birthday since she was 16.
Now, at 34, she’s still holding out hope of finding Mr. Right even though he’d be fighting an uphill battle to gain her trust, thanks to a traumatic experience years before that’s left her unable to commit.
When Annabeth meets a handsome literature professor named Alex on her 34th birthday, she thinks her quest may finally be at an end. Things don’t quite go as planned, so Annabeth resolves to do everything she can over the next year to find the unknown recipient of her letters. But blind dates, Meetup events and online singles sites have nothing on what fate has in store for her when a co-worker unexpectedly quits and Annabeth finds herself working in close quarters with both Alex and her long ago ex, Nick. Fighting her attraction to one and loathing for the other, Annabeth is forced to face all of her old insecurities while keeping an eye on a scheming frienemy who may derail her hopes and dreams.
Written in the tradition of Bridget Jones’ Diary, Kim Gruenfelder’s A Total Waste of Makeup, and Melissa Pimental’s Love By The Book, this romantic comedy shows that love on the sweet side can exist for the modern girl, if only she’s willing to trust herself and search hard enough.
Been Searching for You was the winner of the 2015 Romance Writers of America Great Expectations and Golden Rose contests.
Nicole Evelina is an award-winning historical fiction and romantic comedy writer. Her latest novel, Been Searching for You (May 10), a romantic comedy, won the 2015 Romance Writers of America (RWA) Great Expectations and Golden Rose contests.
She also writes historical fiction. Her debut novel, Daughter of Destiny, the first book of an Arthurian legend trilogy that tells Guinevere’s life story from her point of view, was named Book of the Year by Chanticleer Reviews, took the Grand Prize in the 2015 Chatelaine Awards for Women’s Fiction/Romance, won a Gold Medal in the fantasy category in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards and was short-listed for the Chaucer Award for Historical Fiction. Later this year, she will release Madame Presidentess (July 25), a historical novel about Victoria Woodhull, America’s first female Presidential candidate, which was the first place winner in the Women’s US History category of the 2015 Chaucer Awards for Historical Fiction.
Nicole is one of only six authors who completed a week-long writing intensive taught by #1 New York Times bestselling author Deborah Harkness. Nicole has traveled to England twice to research the Guinevere’s Tale trilogy, where she consulted with internationally acclaimed author and historian Geoffrey Ashe, as well as Arthurian/Glastonbury expert Jaime George, the man who helped Marion Zimmer Bradley research The Mists of Avalon.
Nicole is a member of and book reviewer for The Historical Novel Society, and Sirens (a group supporting female fantasy authors), as well as a member of the Historical Writers of America, Women’s Fiction Writers Association, Romance Writers of America, the St. Louis Writer’s Guild, Women Writing the West, Broad Universe (promoting women in fantasy, science fiction and horror), Alliance of Independent Authors and the Independent Book Publishers Association.
Her website is http://nicoleevelina.com.