Interview with Jennifer Becton

Author Jennifer Becton

Today I am interviewing Jennifer Becton, hot new author, whose latest book, Absolute Liability, is now in the top 100 in sales on Amazon’s Kindle Store.

Carey:   Jennifer, I know you have also published a Jane Austen sequel about Charlotte Collins, what else have you written?

Jennifer:  Until I published Charlotte Collins, I had written primarily nonfiction articles for various regional publications. These articles fell into one of two categories: Southern lifestyle or equestrian. So writing an Austen sequel was a big departure from my other published work. In addition to Charlotte, I have also attempted one piece of literary fiction, which is in dire need of major rewrites or perhaps dynamite, and I have completed two other novels: Absolute Liability (A Southern Fraud Thriller) and Caroline Bingley, another Austen sequel that will be out in early September 2011. I also have one short story available: “Maria Lucas.”

Carey: Dynamite, now that’s something I have never tried when my plot was struggling!  Tell me, why did you start your own publishing company?

Charlotte Collins, 2010

Jennifer:  I have worked for thirteen years in the traditional publishing industry as a proofreader and editor, so when I decided to pursue publication of Charlotte Collins, I went the traditional route: querying agents and publishers. One publisher liked the book, but said she thought the market for Austen’s minor characters was too small. I disagreed, of course, and she said that if I could prove there was a market by selling 1,000 copies, she would reconsider. So I began my own publishing company—Whiteley Press—and published my own book using the traditional methods I’d learned through my work. Charlotte sold the required number of copies in slightly more than four months, but the publisher still declined on the basis of market size. This rejection turned out to be a great benefit to me because I loved publishing so much that I decided to continue with Whiteley Press and have since sold more than 10,000 books, and in the future, I plan to add anthologies and nonfiction to my self-published catalogue.

Carey:   You are the goddess of internet promotion. How much time do you spend online everyday promoting your books?

Jennifer:  Goddess of internet promotion? I don’t know about that, but depending on my writing schedule, I devote between two and eight hours each day to marketing. This includes social media, interviews, website creation, and blogging. My techniques don’t resemble traditional marketing. I do not use any print ads, bookmarks, or commercials; I do buy ad space at pertinent websites occasionally. Most of my marketing is done simply by making friends through social media, like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. I don’t get out there and sell, sell, sell; I talk to people and hope they become interested in my books.

Absolute Liability, 2011

Carey:   Why did you set Absolute Liability in the area of insurance fraud?  Do you have experience in the insurance industry that you were able to use?

Jennifer:  Insurance fraud is not exactly a popular topic, is it? But when I contemplated writing a mystery, I neither wanted to write a cozy, in which a non-police person has to solve a crime, nor a police procedural, in which I was required to follow law enforcement protocols to the letter. My main character had to be a professional law enforcement official, but not one of the usual type; I wanted her to be unique. In addition, I wanted to incorporate funny criminals with my more dangerous ones. And in my research, some of the most ridiculous crimes were insurance-fraud related. I do not have professional insurance experience, but my in-laws do run an independent insurance agency, so I have sources to consult on the minutia of the industry.

Carey:  That’s a clever idea- it is hard to reinvent the wheel when it comes to mystery/suspense books.  What other types of books are you interested in writing?

Jennifer:  I’ve always wanted to write a spy novel, and I’m in the research phases now. And of course that’s a difficulty in itself. How does one learn about secret organizations? I’m spying on spies.

Carey:  Hope we are not going to be seeing you on CNN for stalking CIA agents…What do you like to read?

Jennifer:  I go through phases. For a while, I read a lot of Regency novels, especially Jane Austen. Then, I read vampire novels and comedic mysteries, but I’ve moved on and am currently reading The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. I may try sci-fi or fantasy next.

Carey:  That’s quite an eclectic mix!  Do you prefer to read paper or electronic books?

Maria Lucas, 2011

Jennifer:  I enjoy both. I own a Kindle and love it more than I expected. The e-ink screen is non-reflective and easy on the eyes, and the device is convenient and effortless to hold. I still buy paperbacks and enjoy those too. I’ve never been a fan of hardcover books because they are so difficult to keep open, hold, and transport, so I’d probably buy an e-book over a hardback, but it’s a toss-up between paperbacks and e-books for me.

Carey:  That sounds exactly like my feelings about my Kindle- I like it more than I expect.  I never thought I would be and electronic reader, but it is easy on the eyes…and when you get to be my age mass market paperbacks have print that is way too small!    Any advice for those promoting their own books?

Jennifer:   Make friends. That’s the best advice I can give on the subject of social media marketing. A great deal of what I do online looks like I’m wasting time and chatting with people. I am chatting, but it’s not a waste of time. It’s marketing. Social media marketing is about developing relationships, not putting the hard-sell on people. I try to make 80 percent of my social media posts personal and only 20 percent direct marketing. This results in the cultivation of a passionate group of friends and fans who will tell their friends about your books and whose books (or products) you will want to promote in return. And it’s just plain fun.

Carey:  Sounds like great advice, Jennifer.  Thanks for coming and sharing your insights with us, and I hope Absolute Liability keeps going to number 1!

You can find out more about Jennifer Becton at her blog,   or at Austen Authors.   She is also on Twitter, Facebook, and Google +

Teamwork: Part II

Today I welcome back Erica McFarland and Jennifer DeWoody, better known to Twitter followers as “Regency Ladies.”

Carey:   Let’s go into some of your inspirations for your writing…Are you fans of Jane Austen?  Georgette Heyer? Other Regency historical fiction?

Erica: My Jane Austen addiction started in ninth grade, on a summer vacation to Florida (my current residence).  I found Emma in a bookstore, and from there on, I was hooked.  I’ve slowly made my way through almost all her works, with only Mansfield Park still outstanding.  For me, Austen has come to mean a quiet, comfortable place, almost like home.  I know that when I read her books, there will not be graphic details, that the stories will be poignant and romantic.  There’s something about the simplicity of her writing that really resonates with me.

Inspired by Austen, I studied British literature when getting my undergrad in writing.  I read Eliot, Collins, Dickens, and then studied the Romantic poets with avidity.  I started to read Georgette Heyer when I embarked on my first regency writing project.  She had come up in so many of my reference materials as the undisputed “Queen of Regency.”  I’ve only read about six of her novels so far, but I’m absolutely in love.  She has definitely been formative for me in my writing of regency.

Jenny:Yes, yes and yes.  I am an Anglophile at heart.  I have recently finished Regency Buck by Georgette Heyer, an author that Erica actually introduced me to, encouraging me to read several of her works.  I find that I really enjoy immersing myself in Heyer’s style and wit.  She has a way of setting a scene that paints it so vividly in the reader’s mind that it almost feels as if you are in the room with her characters.  Her attention to detail, I think is something that Erica and I are really striving to emulate in our own writing.

As for Jane Austen, she is and always will be one of my favorites.  Pride and Prejudice is the novel I credit with introducing me to my love of reading and for that reason alone it will always hold a position of great import in my heart.  Austen’s style, like Heyer’s after her, is very entrenching, and I think her characters and the way she portrayed societal interactions is something any self-respecting lover of the genre and the historical era would cherish.

Carey:   Do you have a timeline for your current collaboration?

Jenny: I think we have bandied about the idea of trying to get a working draft, that is a fully functioning, readable draft completed in a year and considering the progress we’ve made in just a few short months I think even this goal may prove to be conservative.

Erica: While this is not my first attempt at historical fiction, it’s the first time I’ve really embarked on a project of this magnitude.  My first novel attempt was simply that, an attempt.  We both come from a freewriting background with historical fiction, so this has been a learning experience for us to try and formalize our thoughts in a coherent book.

We are about half-way through our first draft now.  We’ve gotten to the point now where we’ve become so familiar with these characters that they are second nature, and I think that’s starting to really show in our prose.  Chapters are becoming longer, and we’re tweaking our basic outline as we continue to find new ways to make the story more effective.  We hope that by next July we would be able to have a marketable product, either to send to agents in hopes of going the traditional route, or for self-publishing.

Carey:   What other writing have each of you done?

Erica: Since about the fourth grade, I’ve known that I wanted to be a writer.  I went to school for writing, so during that time I wrote for the University of Tampa’s newspaper and their literary journal.  Post-graduation, I’ve been a prize winner in a few local writing contests for fiction.  My most recent foray into journalism has been with a magazine in my town called Pulse, which focuses on creative nonfiction with an upbeat take.  Most of my experience outside of fiction comes from opinion pieces, so this new brush with magazine writing has been interesting.  I also run a blog called Hello Writer, and do some freelancing.

Jenny: I am still somewhat of a novice when it comes to writing.  For the past two years or so I have been heavily involved in a play-by-post, Victorian Era game called Era of Elegance.  Most of my writing has been done within the construct of that game, as it has been a great exercise in the creation and development of characters, which for me are always the heart of every story.

Carey:  What do you do in “real life” and how long have you known each other?

Erica: For the past three years, I have been employed as a secretary for a Trust Department.  I take down dictation and format business correspondence, while dabbling in basic graphic design for our marketing materials.  I’ve learned a lot about technical writing through this job, and I do appreciate the opportunities it presents to refine my style.  But I consider myself to be most importantly, a writer. Jenny and I have known each other since about April of 2011, but it feels like much longer.

Jenny: In real life I am a barista at Caribou Coffee, where I have worked for almost a year now and before that I worked as a bookseller and barista for Books-A-Million.  I have only recently begun to identify myself as a writer and this new way of thinking has lent me a great purpose to my life, for which I am eternally indebted to Erica as she is the one that really made me realize that being a writer is something that I very seriously wanted to pursue.

Carey:   So, Jenny, I assume that your writing is fueled by coffee!  Diet Mountain Dew is my stimulant of choice.  Where can we see more of you? Facebook? Twitter? Blog? Website?

Jenny: Together, we have a twitter account: we are Erica and Jenny @Regencyladies.  We also have just started a blog which can be found at: http://hellowriter.org/rl/.

Erica: I can also be reached through Facebook at http://facebook.com/HelloWriterCo and through my website of hellowriter.org, which features my personal blog as well. Jenny and I are in constant contact, so we send any information we receive to each other.

Thanks Ladies!  I think I would be more productive if I had a writing partner waiting for me to finish my part, although it would be important to find the right (write?) person.  Best of luck, Regency Ladies!

Teamwork: an interview with Regency Ladies, Part I

Today I am interviewing Erica McFarland and Jennifer DeWoody, a pair of writers who have joined forces to write their first Regency novel, styling themselves “Regency Ladies” on Twitter.  Although they have not yet published together, I think their story is interesting for writers (and wannabe writers).

Carey: How long have the two of you been Regency Ladies?

Erica: We have been writing together since about mid-April, when I finally relented and joined a friend’s historical game.  I liked Jenny’s writing style, so I hunted her down on the game and from there, we started to develop different storylines.  When we started to develop the plotline for the characters used now in our novel, I realized that it had a lot of potential and could become something more.  I petitioned Jenny and asked if she’d want to start this project with me, terribly hopeful of course that she’d say yes.  She did, and the rest as they say, is history.

Jenny: I believe the Regency Ladies moniker got its start as early as the beginning of July when we opened up our joint twitter account, which Erica then promptly ran away with, but in our hearts I believe we have always been Regency Ladies, or if not with the capital letters at the very least, Regency ladies.

Carey:    What made you decide to write together?

Jenny: I think, at the heart of the matter is our shared love of the history of the era, our love of reading the works produced both in that era and of that era.  It also helps that we met on a Victorian Era role playing game and hit it off famously from the start, I believe. We found, through the process of plotting and writing in that game that our styles complimented each other nicely and that we worked well together, our temperaments suiting in such a way that it almost seemed destined that we embark on such a journey together.

Erica: As Jenny said, we bounce off each other very well. She’s pretty mellow, while I’m an extrovert with a tendency toward sap.  We’ve managed to achieve a balance in our working relationship that really helps us to keep up the fast pace we’ve set for this first draft.  I think one of the most important things in doing a project like this with someone else is that there is an element of trust.  With Jenny, I know that I can always count on her; not only to carry through with the writing in a timely manner, but to support me as a person and give me her honest opinion.  It’s that faith we have in each other, I think, that makes us such good partners.

Carey:   Why did you pick the Regency Era?

Jenny: I think a large part of why we picked the Regency Era is that it is a time period so rich in culture and beauty and decadence as well as intrigue and politics that there is a wealth of topics that as a writer it is fun to explore.  The way the people related to each other and the strict societal paradigms that were constructed have always been fascinating to me. And it has always been a point of interest to me to analyze and pick apart the way people interacted with each other whether it be member of the ton at a grand society ball or the interaction between a nobleman and a servant, as a surveyor of human nature in general the era lends itself to some very interesting as well as entertaining and thought provoking study.  Plus, Erica had already done an obscene amount of research on the era and is a veritable history buff when it comes to all things Regency.  That, and as Erica will attest, the dresses were pretty.

Erica: The dresses are pretty, indeed!  I am a self-confessed fashion addict, and so I gravitated toward the regency era because of the real elegance to the costumes and just the entire style of being.  The concept of dandies and debutantes fascinates me, and I love the idea of being able to make those kinds of characters come to live for a generation of readers entrenched in the twenty-first century.  Like Jenny, I enjoy dissecting the different interactions between the  social spectrums; we cover this a lot in our novel, as our hero is a commoner and our heroine the daughter of a Baroness.  While my fondness for this era stemmed from my love for Jane Austen, I’ve found that I truly enjoy researching all the different aspects of life.  I think the constrictions of the period help to give me structure in writing, in contrast to my previous work in science fiction and fantasy where the world was entirely of my creation.  The dialogue of this era has always felt very rich to me, and as a writer I aim to mimic that.

Carey:  Besides, you don’t have to wear a corset in the Regency…always a plus!  Thanks Jennifer and Erica and we will see the rest of the interview tomorrow!