Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Author Interview: Samantha Bryant + An International Giveaway!

Happy Wednesday!

I know the monthly Writing Desk Blog interviews are usually posted on Fridays, but this month I've had to shuffle a few things around.

Joining me today is author Samantha Bryant. We'll be talking about her Menopausal Superheroes series and how she balances working full-time as a teacher with her writing career, among other topics.

Not only that, but Samantha and I have teamed up to bring you the first ever INTERNATIONAL Writing Desk Blog Giveaway! That's right! We'll be giving away a copy of the first book in the Menopausal Superheroes series, Going Through the Change, to one lucky winner! (A physical copy if the winner lives in the United States, and a digital copy if the winner is lives outside the US.)

Full details on how to enter the giveaway will be listed after the interview. 

Enjoy!

Photo provided by: Samantha Bryant

Keep Up with Samantha:

Official Website: http://samanthabryant.com
Amazon: Author Page
Facebook: Author Samantha Bryant
Twitter: @mirymom1
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/mirymom
Youtube: Samantha Dunaway Bryant


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Writing Desk Blog: Hi Samantha! Thank you for agreeing to this blog interview with me! I know you have several books and short stories published (which I'll link on the blog), but the series I want to talk about today is Menopausal Superheroes. For those who are unfamiliar with the series, if you could describe Menopausal Superheroes in one sentence, what would it be?
 
Samantha Bryant: What if your mother or grandmother got superpowers? 

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WDB: I'm sure you get this question often, what inspired you to take the "change of life" and turn it into a literal superpower change for your characters?

SB: My husband and I had just watched a superhero movie, which one I don’t actually remember now, but probably an X-men or Spiderman movie because I was feeling irritated by yet another “teenager gets powers” storyline. We were out walking the dog and talking because the best way to get to talk to each other in a house with two children is to leave the house. As we walked, I was joking that the message of the movie had been that puberty causes superpowers. I said something like, “If hormones cause superpowers, then menopausal women ought to have the corner on that market.” My husband laughed and told me I should write that down. So, I did. 

As I wrote, I found that I had a lot to say within these stories and that superhero fiction was an excellent playground to explore issues of sexism and ageism in a lighter way, and get to write about fun stuff like throwing fire and flying.

*** 

WDB: The title (and the covers!) of this series immediately got my attention! Were there other title contenders for this series, or did you already have this theme in mind?

SB: Thanks! I love my covers, too. The first two were created by Polina Sapershteyn and the third and the one for the collection of short stories by Ricky Gunawan, imitating Polina’s style to keep a cohesive look after she became unavailable to take on the additional cover work. I can’t take credit for the idea for the covers. Though the publisher did ask for my input, the cover Polina came up with does not use anything out of my original idea. I don’t mind though, because her idea was so much better! Guess that’s why I’m a novelist and not a graphic artist. 

Going Through the Change was really the only titled that I ever considered for the first book. Then, I liked the idea of continuing with “Change” phrases in Change of Life and Face the Change. I don’t know yet what I’ll call the fourth and fifth ones when I get them written and out there, but I know I’ll continue using “Change” in all the titles. 

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WDB: I know you also work full-time as a teacher, in addition to your writing career. This balancing act of full-time job and writing is one I know many authors can struggle with. What tips would you recommend to a new author trying to integrate their writing schedule with their other obligations?    

SB: It’s definitely not easy. There are only twenty-four hours in each day no matter what you do, so you really have to look hard at how you spend your time and figure out what you can give up to carve out an opening for writing. I trained myself to “leave work at work” (which is HARD when you teach for a living), and took a position teaching middle school Spanish instead of high school English to make that a little easier to manage. The lesson planning load is just as onerous, but the feedback and assessment piece takes less time for me this way. 

As for the home front, I called a family meeting and talked about how much writing meant to me and how I really wanted to be able to carve out time from our busy family life to finish my projects and start getting them published. Luckily for me, my husband and children were supportive and have continued to be so as my writing life has expanded. 

At first, I didn’t write at home because it was too easy for me to get pulled out of the zone if someone in my family “needed” something. So, we’d just schedule me an hour or so to go the library or a coffee shop or something each day and write. Later, we just established some protocols for ascertaining whether mom is at her computer writing, or just surfing social media right now. Once I actually had produced a book and seen it published, their support only grew. I’m very lucky that way.

So, my tips are:
  • Look hard at how you spend your free hours each day and decide what you can cut out in order to make time to write. For me, it was giving up most television and getting the rest of my family to step up and handle closer to a fair share of the housework.
  • Look for ways to write “in the edges” of your life, to minimize the impact on your day job and family responsibilities. Get up early, stay up late, write during your lunch break, or on the mom couch at your kid’s krav maga class. (I seriously wrote most of my second novel on the mom couch at various lessons).
  • Train yourself to focus hard in short bursts. When you sit down to write, write! Don’t check your email, make a grocery list, or check in on social media. Especially if you can only get thirty or so minutes a day, you really have to make them count.
  • Build your stamina. The more often you write, the better you’ll get at it and the more productive you can make each session. Pay attention to what works for you (self-bribery, word count goals, carrot-and-stick systems, having a writing buddy, etc.), then give yourself more of that!

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WDB: Has your experience as an author been primarily with traditional publishing, self-publishing, or a mixture of both? If the answer is both, is there one avenue of publishing you prefer over the other?

SB: My novels and collection of short stories are all with the same small publisher, Curiosity Quills. My work included in multi-author collections has been with a few different small publishers: Local Hero Press, the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, HDWP Books, and Mad Scientist Journal. Twice, I was involved with indie projects involving a group of writers who decided to put out a collection together. 

Each of these experiences has taught me different things about the business of writing, and brought me into contact with a range of creative people. I don’t think there’s any right or wrong way to go about this, just different paths. I haven’t completely self-published anything yet because I don’t want to take the time to learn some of the things I’d need to know to do that well (book layout, cover design, SEO keywords, etc.), though I am considering self-publishing the novel I’m working on right now, so we’ll see. 

Now I know that I can hire some of the work that I lack expertise in, so it becomes a numbers game for me as to whether I can afford to do that and still make my car payment. I definitely believe in putting out the best product I can and that means finding quality editing, talented cover artists, and great layout specialists. That can get pricey, but putting out a shoddy product can put a reader off your work forever, so I wouldn’t do it if I couldn’t do it right. 

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WDB: What is your favorite method for connecting with readers and other writers? Social media, conferences, meet-ups, or a combination?   

SB: I’ve had some really positive connections in all those venues, but I think my favorites are in-person. One of the best parts of building my writing life has been participating as a guest author at area fan conventions. I’ve been to: Illogicon, Mysticon, Ravencon, ConCarolinas, ConGregate, and Atomacon. The quality of the interactions there is higher because we’ve all set aside the time to be at the convention and have come with my hearts open, hoping for inspiration and connection. 

I love talking with other authors on panels and over lunch about our projects, our marketing efforts, and the trials and travails of a writing life. I learn so much from other professionals in my field and through Broad Universe, the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, the Pen and Cape Society, and less formal groups, I’ve found a set of colleagues, peers, and mentors that are invaluable to me.
While it made me a nervous wreck at first, I’ve also really come to love hand-selling my books to readers, and having that moment where we talk about it together. Now that there are multiple books in the series, I get to talk with people who read and loved the first book and are coming to see me to get more. Knowing your words connected with readers is an amazing feeling, probably the closest I’ll ever come to knowing what it’s like for my character Jessica “Flygirl” Roark when she takes to the sky. 

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WDB: These next questions are ones I like to ask in each Writing Desk Blog interview, it’s so interesting to see the range of responses I get!

Where do you typically work from? (Home, office, coffee shop, etc.) Is there any place you find you're more productive than others?

SB: I work wherever I can! Mostly, this is at home. I take my laptop to wherever in the house I can find peace and space: the dining room table, the sofa, standing in the kitchen, sitting on my bed, etc. I’ve learned to control my focus despite any chaos in the environment around me (something I probably learned in my teaching life), so I don’t require special circumstances to write. Of course, when I can get a longer stretch of hours in a block, I love it, but that’s not always possible.
One of my frustrations has been not having a wall I can dedicate to my writing projects. As a teacher, I benefit from having the giant whiteboards in my classroom. Not only do I use them to teach from, but I also use them to organize my lesson plans. 

I get a lot of benefit from visual organizers for my writing, too. Things like time lines, plot maps, character sketches, etc. I’m really looking forward to getting that office so I can have a designated space for that and not have to pack it all back into a crate every time I stop writing for the evening. I suspect that will save me a lot of set up and take down time. 

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WDB: If you are able to tell us, what’s next for you? Will we be seeing another installment in the Menopausal Superheroes series or something different?  

SB: In the space of three years, I’ve published three novels, a collection of short stories, a novella, and four short stories in multi-author anthologies, all  in the Menopausal Superhero series. I was getting a little burnt out from this laser focus all in one universe and on one set of characters and decided that I would spend 2018 writing something else entirely. So I’m balancing my writing time this year between writing some short stories in a variety of genres, and writing a new novel (working title Thursday’s Children, a young adult, dystopian romance). 

I’m not done telling the Menopausal Superheroes stories yet, but I believe that taking a break to pursue some of my other writing ideas will bring me back to them refreshed and re-engaged and will make the remaining novels (I think there will be two) that much better. 

*** 

WDB: Best piece(s) of writing advice?

SB: Writing, like any creative endeavor, is a highly individual process, so no matter what advice I give, your mileage may vary. 

That said, the thing that made the difference for me was committing to a daily writing habit. Every single day for the past four years, I have written. I set a minimum of 250 words, and every day, no matter what, come hell or high water, I write at least that. 

Besides the commitment factor, what it meant for me is that I no longer wasted half my writing session trying to recapture my idea and fall back into the groove. If I’ve just written on that story yesterday, it’s much easier to fall into again and make a little progress. And now that I’ve been doing this for four years, I can write 250 words in fifteen minutes or so, even on a day when it’s difficult. 250 words a day is slow progress, but it still adds up to a novel’s worth of words about once a year. 

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WDB: Something about you that people may be surprised to know?

SB: People are usually surprised to find out that I’m a former Alaskan. I guess I just don’t come off as the adventurous sort. But ever since one of my elementary school teachers shared slides from her trip with our class, I had wanted to go to the Great Land. 

For some reason, my parents wouldn’t move. So, when I graduated college, I loaded up my truck and drove the Alcan to Alaska. I stayed for about ten years, and, in my heart, I’ve never really left. There are things I’ve loved about everywhere I have lived, but Alaska is the only place I ever really felt like I belonged. 

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International Giveaway Information: 

There are multiple options available for entering this giveaway. They are broken down by platform: 

Instagram: 
  • FOLLOW me (@ccwriter_). Samantha currently does not have an Instagram page.
  • LIKE the corresponding Giveaway post.
  • For a BONUS entry, SUBSCRIBE to Samantha's email mailing list: SAMANTHA'S WORDS.
Twitter:
The Writing Desk Blog:
  • SUBSCRIBE to Samantha's email mailing list: SAMANTHA'S WORDS.
  • For a BONUS entry, COMMENT on the blog post and tell me, if you could have any super power what would you choose? 

Open Internationally:
  • Prize for US residents - (1) Physical copy of Going Through the Change.
  • Prize for non-US residents - (1) Digital copy of Going Through the Change.
Entries will be accepted until Wednesday,  June 6, 2018 at 11:00pm EST.

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