This month’s featured genre is Fantasy and my guest is author Molly Neely. She is an avid reader of everything from history, theology, and politics, to vampires, ghosts, and romance. Her debut novel, The Sand Dweller, was published by Black Opal Books in 2016. She has an eclectic style and a wide range of tastes, including a passion for Pre-Code classic movies, pretty much anything with bacon in it, and of course preparing for the Zombie apocalypse. She lives in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley, Fresno California, with her husband, Lyle, and their Whippet, Devo.
Hello and thank you for your interest in being a part of this discussion in support of Indie Authors. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I don’t have a writing background. I am very much just an “average Jane” who loves to read. When you can’t find that one special story you’re dying to read, that’s when it’s time to put pen to paper…so that’s what I did.
Discuss your newest book.
My newest project is a children’s fairytale, Ima Jean Perry, the Strawberry Fairy. It’s a project that has been needling me for years. I wrote it as part of a book promotion at work. Kids could come into the store and design/write their own story book. I sat with the kids and did my own just for fun. Then I put it in a drawer and forgot about it for about 12 years. It wasn’t until I wrote The Sand Dweller, that I dug that story out and considered doing something with it. My youngest sister Nikki is a budding illustrator. Ima Jean will be her first illustration project.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Watching a movie (based on a book) on TV. I remember thinking, “I could write a book like this!” So I literally sat down the next day and began writing The Sand Dweller.
What are your current projects?
My children’s book, a follow up to The Sand Dweller, and a psychological thriller. I’m all over the place!
What books have most influenced your life?
I was that kid that loved Shakespeare & Edgar Allan Poe, but then would have no problem burying myself in a history book. I am mostly influenced by stories that are dark, full of intrigue and possible.
Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?
Malachi is half demon, but was raised by an old man from a Bedouin tribe in ancient Israel. He is cursed by association, but because of his upbringing, Malachi longs to gain god’s Grace. It becomes his sole agenda.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Patience. Everything happens when it’s supposed to. Stay the course and you can achieve anything.
What is the hardest thing about writing?
Finding the time.
What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?
The word count was a killer! Writing for adults is a breeze. You can write as much or as little as you want, in order to tell your story. But with young children, you have to have the hands of a surgeon when it comes to writing. You have to say a lot with very few words.
What is the easiest thing about writing?
When you get on a roll, and the words just flow out…that’s when writing is easy. You almost feel possessed, the story comes out and you’re just along for the ride. I love that!
What book are you reading now?
I’m really into history. Especially American history and medieval Europe. I’m picking through the federalist papers right now and a book on the Tudors is in my que.
What is one random thing about you?
I saw fairies when I was 4.
What does your writing process look like?
I start with a question. What if ___? (fill in the blank). My psychological thriller started with, “What if a teen wanted to get rid of her bully? What if she decided to frame a serial killer? What if that killer has chosen her for his next victim?” Before I knew it I had 40,000 words.
Do you have any strange writing habits (like standing on your head or writing in the shower)?
I have to have Wint-o-green life savers.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Word counts. I tend to get to the point. So I’m constantly needing to expand and enrich the story.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I’m a huge classic move fan. Especially pre-code films (1920s to 1934).
From where do you gain your inspiration?
Movies, other books. I have even had a few dreams that ended up becoming poems or short stories.
What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing against being published or the other way around?
Both have ups and downs. I published with a small independent press. I wanted very much to be published traditionally. It was a personal validation that I needed. I think my life is way too busy for self-publishing. I barely find time to promote now. There’s no way I could go the distance self-publishing requires. I do envy the freedom though, so maybe someday.
How do you market your books?
Facebook and Twitter posts. I have met several bloggers and reviewers through social media. I also spent three years (while collecting rejection letters) establishing contacts in local media. So I have been honored with airtime on radio and television, promoting The Sand Dweller.
Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books?
Establish good media contacts. Don’t be afraid to ask for airtime. Be bold when looking for book bloggers. What’s the worst they could say…no thanks? And be a good neighbor. Most bloggers I know are also writers who would love it if you posted an author interview, or a review on your website/social media.
What part of your writing time do you devote to marketing your book?
I work on marketing in the evenings. For example, I’m on the couch writing this while digesting my dinner and watching a Humphry Bogart flick. Multi-tasking is the key!
What do you do to get book reviews?
Beg! (lol) Getting reviews is a challenge, but I’m not afraid to ask. That’s really the secret. Be persistent.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
There really is a novel in everyone. Stop worrying about whether no not you can. Just write it.
How can readers discover more about you and you work?
On Facebook: m.Facebook.com/mollyneelywrit…
On Twitter: Molly Neely, Author (@mollyneely)