In my year-plus in the writing ‘industry’, I’ve been privileged enough to have met some fantastic people, including countless authors and authors-to-be. In today’s day and age, the opportunities for an author have never been better or more accessible. But there are still, it seems, two camps – the traditionally published (or working on being traditionally published), and the self-published. Those of you who know me are well aware of which side of the fence I fall on, but I have many friends in either yard (is that enough clichés for an opening paragraph yet?)
Honestly I don’t care which camp an author is in, as at the end of the day the goal is to get a story into the hands of a reader by any means necessary. And I have no animosity towards the “other side” whatsoever (it still bugs me that such animosity is still out there). I have several friends who have dipped their toes into both waters (damn, another lousy cliché), one of whom is Karen Victoria Smith. I am happy to say Karen stopped by Paginations to tell a little of her story, both about her new release Dark Dealings, and her experience on both sides of the fence.
S: Karen, welcome – I appreciate your time in answering a few interview questions. I know it’s a busy time for you, as Dark Dealings has just been released. Before I ask a bit about your publishing experience, can you tell us about the book itself? Feel free to go past 140 characters…plenty of space here.
KVS: In short… Murder. Monsters, Magic and Money.
Dark Dealings was born of my Irish heritage, love of the paranormal and years on Wall Street. It is the beginning of Micaela O’Brien’s journey. At 13, she had a vision of her parents’ death which she dismissed. After it really happened, she spent her time running from her metaphysical gifts and the Irish Druid community she was raised in. Years later, she has built an extremely successful life as a Wall Street investment banker. That is until she becomes involved in an international deal with some very unusual clients…ones with fangs and claws. The story also takes us from the Massachusetts to New York to Brussels and Ireland. It will give a whole new meaning to power play.
S: I was one of your original beta readers way back when, and really enjoyed the settings, intrigue, and perhaps most of all the characters. I love a character-driven story. Besides the main protagonist Micaela, who was the most fun or interesting to write?
KVS: Wow, that’s a tough one. I’m a character-driven writer. I like writing bad guys and women. Kat, the shapeshifter assistant to the main protagonist has gathered more than a few among the early readers fans for her sultry bad-girl style. Of course, like Micaela, I’m conflicted over Liam, the hot Irish Druid and Ethan, the moody Boston Brahmin with a secret.
The best part of writing is getting to hear each character’s distinct voice in my head. Before you say anything Steve, I have I never done anything the voices tell me to…well maybe once. But seriously, the international cast was fun with so many accents rattleing around in my brain and trying to get that on the page.But sometimes it can be a secondary character that grabs your attention. In fact, while I work on a first draft of the next Micaela story, I am editing a novel based on Aine, Devlin and Nora of Ogham Court, a fictitious street in Tribeca. They are minor players in Dark Dealings, but Nora started whispering to me that there was more to her story. Besides, Nora is a Jersey girl.
S: Speaking of way back when, let’s jump into the experiences you had and decisions you made when Dark Dealings was “complete.” I, along with several other authors, were with you at Readercon in July when you received word of a potential book contract for your story. Tell us about your submission process and time frame leading up to that.
KVS: Wow that was a crazy night!
I started studying the craft of writing over three years ago with an amazing teacher/mentor, Barbara Rogan. In fact, Dark Dealings is dedicated to her because it began as my homework/project. The world of publishing was a different place three or four years ago. So, I honed by skills, went to conferences (which I still do) and worked up the nerve to pitch to agents and editors. I had lots of nibbles but no bites—pun intended. On that fateful night in the pub with lots of my writer friends knocking back a few, I received an email from a small press house wanting to publish Dark Dealings. I was wisely advised to close loops with any agents or publishers with which I had outstanding queries. I was offered representation by an agent to manage the offer and my future.
S: Not long after, you made a decision to self-publish Dark Dealings. Why was that?
KVS: Let’s just say that my agent and I had different opinions about what representing my best interests were. I came to realize that the ball had been dropped when the publishing house approached me about where things stood because they had not heard from my representative. The time seemingly wasted actually worked to my advantage. The publishing world was evolving so rapidly that I realized I could not see, or get the traditional gatekeepers to explain to me, what they brought to the table that warranted me turning over the majority of my revenue. Now that said, there are many agents and publishers who can make a difference in an authors career, the problem is they do think they have to sell themselves to the author. It is about transparency.
I worked on Wall Street for nearly a decade and despite the glamour and the money, I expected to prove to every potential client why I was worth the fees they would pay me and then deliver on that or there would be no second deal.
S: What was it about self-publishing that drew you in that direction?
KVS: Besides being a control freak? Truth in humor.
For me, I think that in a changing environment I like the idea of being able to be light on my feet. On top of the “value-added” question I had about the traditional structure, I was leery of giving away control of my work to another party for years when none of us can know what the world would look like in 6-12 months. I would not be adverse to working partnership with the right agent or publisher under the right conditions and environment.
S: What was it originally about traditional publishing that prompted you to submit Dark Dealings to agents/publishers?
KVS: When I started my writing journey, it was just the way things were done. Back in the Dark Ages before Kindle and Nook, I went to an all-girl Catholic high school. There girls with “careers” became teachers and nurses. They didn’t go to Ivy League schools and get MBAs and become Vice Presidents on Wall Street. In fact my high school guidance counselor told me not to waste my time and money applying to the University of Pennsylvania, because after all it was an Ivy League school. Bachelors and Master—Class of 19xx.
But, (my contribution to clichés) the only thing certain is change and the times they are a changin’.
QUICK TIP: DON’T EVER TELL ME I CAN’T SO SOMETHING.
S: Any regrets about not going traditional? Anything you feel like you may miss out on by self-publishing?
KVS: Sometimes I wish I had someone to handle some of the promotion, marketing and operational stuff, so I could just write, especially since there is that day job thing., At midnight, when I an reviewing book formats or cover art galleys, and a plot solution comes to me, I have to choose how to spend my time in the wee hours. It would be nice to be able to delegate more. I suppose my some of my family and friends might have an opinion on that, too.
Also, like it or not, the bulk of the reader market is still lodged in print. So how to reach them, especially as the big book chain disappear or re-tool. One of the frontiers for Indie Publishers to conquer is the print market. I know your opinion on the future of print, but for the foreseeable future print is still a large part of the market. The beauty of Indie Publishing is that it is a marathon. We get to build a base one bookstore, one reader at a time without the pressure of the quick trip to the bargain bin.
S: What has been the most difficult or challenging part of self-publishing for you?
KVS: That there are only 24 hours in a day and I have to go to the day job and get at least a few hours of sleep. Time management.
S: Dark Dealings left off with strong potential for more stories in the same settings with many of the same characters. Do you have plans for a sequel or spinoff? And if so, will you self-publish or submit traditionally?
KVS: There are so many interesting and fun characters in Dark Dealings, I can go on forever. They are also rather vocal characters and have already started demanding more page time. I told them to have their people call my people. As to setting, I love the fact that I can travel anywhere in the world and, if I use that as a setting, it might be tax deductible. Hey, Steve, any recommendations on travel agents?
My current plan is to publish Ogham Court, a Dark Dealings paraquel, later this year and an official, as-yet untitled, sequel to Dark Dealings in early 2013. As to how I will proceed, I plan on publishing on my own, but history has taught me that all doors to the future must remain open.
S: I know it’s very early in the process and there’s a long road ahead with many ups and downs self-publishing-wise, but how has your experience been so far? Is it something you think is worthwhile and will continue to do?
KVS: I’m loving it.
Of course, I hope that everyone will go to their favorite e-reader site (print coming soon on Amazon) buy Dark Dealings and enjoy it. If they enjoy it, I hope thye will “like” , review and tag it. Most of all I hope they tell friends.
I have lived my life taking on new challenges and, as those who know can tell you, I don’t do boredom well. In addition to my own work, I want to expand on my work with other authors in the editing and publishing process. I hope to expand my infant publishing company, Three Worlds Productions, to a full-fledged company for indie authors who want to leverage the power of a large bookshelf.
I want say how much I appreciate the great questions and the trip down memory lane, Steve. Most especially, I want to thank you for the chance to meet your fans and share Dark Dealings with them.
S: Karen, thanks so much for sharing. Always nice to see perspective from both camps, positive and negative. Best of luck with the release and future stories!
I’m not a paranormal reader by any stretch, but Dark Dealings had an excellent writing style, well drawn characters, and excellent business intrigue, and I really enjoyed the story. If you’re looking for reading material, take a look.