December 2012 Posts

Promoting Your Book {Part 2}

Last week we introduced you to our Public Relations team, which helps to promote our authors and their newly released books. There was so much great information to share, but we couldn’t fit it all into one blog post. So here is part two of our book publicity tips for current and aspiring authors.

How does an author keep his/her name out there as much as possible between books? (Question from our author, Pam Hillman, who wrote Claiming Mariah)
Todd:
The author needs to pick a topic or two in which s/he can become an expert so that they can present themselves to media in that manner. Ideally they’d become a go-to person on a particular topic. I think this becomes more difficult for a fiction authors. I think for fiction authors, the most important way to “keep their name out there” is to find ways to continually engage with their readers and to do so in a one-on-one manner as often on possible. If they are on Twitter and have a decent following, Twitter and/or Facebook Q&As, are a good way to engage and doesn’t always have to be top-down. Asking a “What do you think about this question” and getting feedback from readers about any topic can help reader/author relationships.

Christy: Avoid building your online presence around just your book. Your website, your social media accounts, etc. should all be focused on your brand as an author. This is especially important if you want to write more than one book. Like Todd said, you need to be an expert in your field or at least have a niche topic that you generally write about and want to be known for (i.e. leadership, marriage, motherhood, writing, etc.). It could be helpful to see what search words people are typing when they find your website or blog. You want your readers to come to you for information on that particular topic because they know you’ll have something good to say. Engage with people about these topics on Facebook, Twitter, and through blog posts. It’s also good to avoid making all your social media posts about your book. That ends up looking like a big advertisement and people are turned off by that.

What advice would you give an author looking to promote his/her book?
Todd: Authors have to take ownership in promoting their books and they have to begin far in advance of the book launch. I know it’s cliché but an author’s platform is important. Even more importantly, if an author wants to sell books he or she can’t stop promoting after the initial launch; book selling is a long-term proposition. It’s rare that a book has huge sales out of the gate. The books that ultimately sell well are those that authors take great ownership in and don’t let die just because the initial publicity window has passed. If you want a great example of this, research Rob Mitchell’s book, Castaway Kid, which has sold more than 100,000 copies and is in its 13th printing because the author simply won’t let the book die.

Erin: Engage your fans and potential fans early! Social media and self-promotion are huge, although you don’t want to overdose your followers with updates. Diversify your presence to keep it interesting and discuss a variety of topics that will genuinely interest readers. Starting far ahead of release date will give you an opportunity to build a fan base and form relationships that are ready and waiting by the time your book releases.

After a book is released, what can an author do to keep the momentum going?
Todd: Authors, even if they aren’t comfortable doing it, have to be willing to speak. These don’t have to be large engagements; local churches, Rotary and Kiwanis clubs, libraries, and book stores are important. Emerging authors shouldn’t expect to do a book signing and have more than friends and family show up at the store. Well-established, high-profile authors aren’t even a guarantee to have large book signings these days. Create a blog and write about your book topics but don’t think that you can just start writing without promoting your blog. You need to be on Twitter and Facebook and link your blog to those platforms, your writing needs to be creative and updated often, and you have to write about what people want to read. I’d also encourage authors to start doing podcasts as well. I’d also consider hiring a freelance publicist. It isn’t always the big-name publicists that are the best either. Find someone or a group who you have determined truly has the time to adequately promote your book. Don’t forget that publicists at a publisher are promoting a number of books at the same time as yours. We get spread very thinly, especially now that marketing budgets have shrunk throughout the industry.

Andrea: The key is to keep talking about the book and look for ways to stay in front of consumers.  Look for ways to tie your book to news stories if possible.   Meet with book groups and talk about your book- in person and virtually through Skype or Google+.  Offer your book to bloggers for review.  Continue to talk about your book on Facebook and other social media channels.

Erin: Maintain up your online platform, speaking schedule, etc.! Keep your presence alive in between projects, and always be open to new ways of getting your name out there, be it through podcasts, a new website with a fresh focus, etc.

What are some challenges you face in PR?
Todd: The biggest challenge is a highly fragmented media landscape. Even if you have a high-profile author who can land a number of high-profile media interviews it doesn’t guarantee sales if the messaging about the book isn’t compelling. The days of an author landing one Today show interview and selling all kinds of books isn’t grounded in reality these days. Gen-X-and-older authors have to realign their thinking on what outlets may sell books. While it may be an ego boost or resume-padder, an interview with David Letterman for a conservative non-fiction author probably isn’t going to sell as many books as a compelling interview with Newsmax or World Net Daily. That can be hard to accept for many authors but it’s today’s reality.

Maggie: It’s a crowded marketplace out there, and a very noisy one. Media personnel often transition rapidly into other positions, so maintaining literally hundreds of relationships with editors, reviewers, hosts and producers is a full-time job.

What gets the media interested in a book? 
Andrea: There has to be an interesting hook to grab their attention. They don’t care about the fact that there is a new book out.  That sounds harsh, but that’s reality.  More than likely it will be the topic and something unique about that topic that will catch their eye.

Maggie: Positive reviews and print and broadcast interviews are a good start, but it also makes a difference when a book’s content is newsworthy or has intrinsic media “hooks.”

If a writer doesn’t have a book contract (yet), what can s/he do to start building a platform? Andrea: Don’t be afraid to self-promote! Start building your social media platform today!  Start with a web page, a Facebook page, get a Twitter handle, and start blogging.  Keep it current and interesting.

Do you have any other questions about book publicity, doing media interviews, or what publicists do? Leave us a comment and we’ll respond!

 

Upcoming Ebooks for Fans of Compelling Fiction

With the holidays just a few days away, here’s one last look at three great ebooks coming this January 2013!

Mind of Her Own

Who knew making dinner could change your life? Louisa Copeland certainly didn’t. But when the George Foreman grill fell out of the pantry onto her head, resulting in a bump and a mighty case of amnesia, Louisa’s life takes a turn for the unexpected. Who was this Collin fellow, claiming she was his wife? And whose kids are those? Her name couldn’t be Louisa. Why, she was the renowned romance writer Jazz Sweet, not a Midwestern mom of three. Struggling to put the pieces together of the life she’s told she had, Louisa/Jazz may realize that some memories are better left alone.

Click here to read the first chapter of Mind of Her Own.

Where Treasure Hides

Artist Alison Schuyler spends her time working in her family’s renowned art gallery, determined to avoid the curse that has followed the Schuyler clan from the Netherlands to America and back again. She’s certain that true love will only lead to tragedy—that is, until a chance meeting at Waterloo station brings Ian Devlin into her life. Drawn to the bold and compassionate British Army captain, Alison begins to question her fear of love as World War II breaks out, separating the two and drawing them into their own battles. While Ian fights for freedom on the battlefield, Alison works with the Dutch Underground to find a safe haven for Jewish children and priceless pieces of art alike. But safety is a luxury war does not allow. As time, war, and human will struggle to keep them apart, will Alison and Ian have the faith to fight for their love, or is it their fate to be separated forever?

Click here to read the first chapter of Where Treasure Hides.

Claiming Mariah

In light of her father’s death, Mariah Malone sends a letter that will forever alter the lives of her family. When Slade Donovan, strong willed and eager for vengeance, shows up on her front porch, Mariah is not ready to hear his truths: her father’s farm, the only home she’s ever known, was bought with stolen gold. With Slade ready to collect his father’s rightful claim and force Mariah and her family out on the streets, Mariah must turn to God for guidance. Though Mr. Frederick Cooper, a local landowner, promises to solve her financial woes if she agrees to be his bride, Mariah finds herself drawn instead to the angry young man demanding her home.

With the ranch now under Slade’s careful eye, he will unearth more than he ever imagined as a devious plot of thievery, betrayal, and murder threatens more than the well-being of the ranch, endangering the lives of those who hold it dear. With days dwindling until the rest of the Donovan clan arrive at the Lazy M Ranch, Mariah and Slade must rise above the resentment of their fathers and see their true feelings before greed alters their futures forever.

Click here to read the first chapter of Claiming Mariah.

Thanks to Diana, Johnnie and Pam for coming on the blog and sharing their thoughts on writing with us these past few weeks. Save those holiday gift cards and be on the lookout for their ebooks this January! Thanks for reading.

Meet the Tyndale Public Relations Team

A little over a year ago, Tyndale Public Relations said goodbye to our beloved corporate publicist, Mavis Sanders, as she retired after a long career in Christian publishing. Now we are fully staffed once again and we’re excited to introduce you to the people responsible for getting our books and authors out into the media and blogosphere.

From left to right: Katie, Joy, Andrea, Todd, Maggie, Christy, Erin

 

There’s a lot of text below, but we hope you’ll get to know our public relations team and maybe even come away with some helpful book publicity tips.

Todd Starowitz, Senior Public Relations Manager
How long have you worked at Tyndale?

Eight years

What have been some of your favorite Tyndale titles to promote?
With a media relations background in professional and collegiate athletics prior to arriving at Tyndale, I’ve been blessed to work on some extremely high-profile sports-related titles written by authors such as Tony Dungy, Drew Brees, and Emmitt Smith, among many others. To be on book tours in Indiana and New Orleans with Coach Dungy and Drew following their respective teams winning Super Bowls was an amazing experience. Those two men have made extraordinary contributions to those communities and are truly beloved. The fact that Coach Dungy’s Quiet Strength and Drew’s Coming Back Stronger reached No. 1 and No. 3 on the New York Times best sellers list (Tony’s was first NFL-related title to reach No. 1 and Drew reached No. 1 on Wall Street Journal list) just added to the excitement of those PR efforts.

What gets the media interested in a book?
Editors and producers couldn’t care less about promoting your book. Editors and producers want to create programming that is exciting and interesting for their viewers. If there’s a call-in element to their show, radio producers want to produce shows that will create lively discussions from their callers. If you are a fiction author, your bar is even higher. How often have you seen an author like Jodi Picoult on NBC’s Today or ABC’s Good Morning America? It doesn’t happen often.

If a writer doesn’t have a book contract (yet), what can s/he do to start building a platform?
Don’t limit yourself to one platform. Twitter followers aren’t secured overnight. Tweeting “buy my book” in 20 different ways isn’t what any consumer wants to read. Write content on multiple platforms that is compelling and thought-provoking. The end-user needs to take away something interesting from your tweets and Facebook posts. If you are early enough in the process, use these mediums to further research your product. If you are working on a book about parenting, survey your Facebook friends and Twitter followers about your topic. Ask questions and get them involved in your topic. When a new book that we are being asked to promote is brought to my desk one of the first places I go is to Twitter to find out how many followers an author maintains. As a publicist, it can be discouraging when that number is low.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I love spending time with my wife, Beth Bauer, and my three-year-old daughter, Emma. I stopped both when we adopted Emma last year but I was a gameday statistician for the Chicago Bulls and a high school fastpitch softball coach up until last year and I enjoyed both activities immensely.

Maggie Rowe, Senior Publicist
How long have you worked at Tyndale?

Six years

What have been some of your favorite Tyndale titles to promote? Why?
I have been involved with ministry to women on a regional and national level for over 20 years, so it’s been a great joy to work with authors like Beth Moore (So Long, Insecurity) whom I had met previously at conferences I’ve helped to organize. I’ve also been married to a pastor for over 30 years, so I enjoy working on any title that has ministry potential (and Tyndale doesn’t publish anything that doesn’t). Some of my favorite PR campaigns have been with Abby Johnson (UnPlanned), Becky Alonzo Nichols (The Devil in Pew Number Seven), Robert Rodgers (Into the Deep), and Lynn Eib (50 Days of Hope.) I also love promoting fiction titles like the novels of Maureen Lang and perhaps Tyndale’s most unusual novel ever published: As One Devil to Another.

What advice would you give an author looking to promote his/her book?
At the minimum, an author needs his or her own website. You don’t have to hire a designer. Find a web-savvy friend and ask them to help you use WordPress or another blog platform to create a free site that showcases your bio, the book cover and description, and a Q&A along with blog posts that provide value to readers or offer giveaways. You can add reviews as they come in. A recent op-ed piece in Publishers Weekly said that today websites are like business cards; it’s crucial to have one. Also, work your personal network!

If a writer doesn’t have a book contract (yet), what can s/he do to start building a platform?
Start where you are with what you’ve got in the place to which God calls you. Ultimately he is the one who provides his people with the megaphone they need to get the message out.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
In addition to working full-time at Tyndale, I’m also in my second year of a three-year grad program in biblical studies. I am heavily involved in ministry to women and college students at my church, and enjoy doing pastoral care and hosting church groups with my husband. I also travel  some evenings and many weekends to speak at women’s retreats and conferences or perform original one-woman dramas in ministry settings around the US. So to answer the question accurately: I have no free time!

Christy Stroud, Publicist
How long have you worked at Tyndale?
It will be five years in February.

What have been some of your favorite Tyndale titles to promote?
I loved working with Marilyn Hontz to promote her book, Shame Lifter. It was the first PR campaign I did here and Marilyn made that first project so much more enjoyable. I also enjoyed doing PR for Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson’s book, Winning Balance, earlier this year. Fun fact: Shawn and I are the same height so I actually got to stand in for her when we shot her book trailer so they could adjust the lighting.

What advice would you give an author looking to promote his/her book?
Be willing to get out there and promote your book. If an author is willing to do a lot of work promoting his or her book, it makes our job as publicists easier. This doesn’t mean you necessarily need to be contacting media outlets (that’s our job), but make yourself available for interviews, write blog posts related to your book topics for your site, be willing to write potential articles or be a guest blogger. Build your network of influencers before your book comes out and then use them to help promote your book when it releases. You also don’t need to be on every single social media site out there. If you prefer Facebook over Twitter, then just have an author page on Facebook, but be sure to update it and interact with your fans there. Do what you’re comfortable with on social media, but do it well. The worst thing to do is create an account but never update it. Remember, you’re building your brand as an author–not just promoting your book. Don’t make all your posts about your book, but instead share relevant information on topics where you can be an expert. This is especially important if you want to write more than one book.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I love spending time with my husband and visiting my parents’ pug (since I don’t have one of my own yet). I’m also a youth leader for my church’s youth group and serve on the worship team. You can also find me running and training for races. My next goal is to complete a sprint distance triathlon.

Andrea Martin, Publicist
How long have you worked at Tyndale?
6 ½ total

What have been some of your favorite Tyndale titles to promote? Why?
It’s hard to narrow it down.  I’ve been fortunate enough to work on a number of great titles over the years!  I like working on titles that seek to help a greater cause.  I worked on Matt Hammitt’s picture book, I Couldn’t Love You More, this past spring.  Matt is the lead singer of Sanctus Real.  Two years ago his son, Bowen, was born with Hypoplastic Left-Heart Syndrome.  This book is based on a song he wrote to Bowen (make sure you have a tissue nearby if you read it).  Some of the proceeds from the book will go to their foundation, Whole Hearts.  I really enjoyed working with Matt and it was good to know that this book was going to help other families of children with heart defects.

In January 2011 I worked on A Heart for Freedom, by Chai Ling.   Ling was the Commander-in-Chief of the Tiananmen Square uprising in China- she witnessed the massacre and was able to escape in a shipping container.  This book opened my eyes to what really happened at Tiananmen Sqaure and what life is like for a woman living in China.  Now she lives in the US and has established a non-profit company, All Girls Allowed.  Ling has an amazing story and is working tirelessly to abolish the one child policy in China.  A portion of her book sales go to All Girls Allowed.

What advice would you give an author looking to promote his/her book?
Build your connections.  If you haven’t done so already, several months before your book is published you should build your social media contacts.  Whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or other social media platforms, these contacts will be important when your book releases.  These are great places to post cover art, press releases, interviews, events, reviews and hold contests.  Building relationships is very important… the key is to start early.

What are some challenges you face in PR? 
I think the PR landscape has changed drastically over the 16 years or so that I’ve worked in PR.  There are a lot more outlets to keep up on now.   When I first started working in PR in 1994 (which was at the Jerry Springer Show- more on that another time) we dealt with print, radio and TV.  Now we still have those three, but also have added websites, social media and bloggers to the mix.  PR has always been fast-paced, but now it seems to move at warp-speed.  Media outlets change by the hour.  Just when you start to get to know a contact, they are gone and you have to start over.  So it’s a challenge to keep up with everything, but there are also more tools out there to help us do that, like Vocus and Cision.  The web also allows us to quickly research outlets.  In the past I actually went to the library to research a media project.  Now a big part of PR is a constant quest to discover and best utilize all the tools that are out there to promote our books.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time? 
I love cooking, hanging out with my husband and 3 kids (ages 4 and 8), traveling, running, reading and watching movies. Oh, if it involves chocolate or salted caramels, even better!

Erin Haft, Publicist
How long have you worked at Tyndale?
Almost a year and a half

What have been some of your favorite Tyndale titles to promote? Why?
I grew up on Adventures in Odyssey, and I’ve had the great privilege of working on several AIO products. It’s been a blast to work with the AIO team, and I even got to meet the actors who play Eugene and Connie, my childhood heroes! It‘s wonderful to work with a fan base as excited and loyal as that of AIO.

What gets the media interested in a book?
A specific, unique, and relevant topic. It’s tough to get the media excited about a vague Christian living concept or something that has been done a thousand times before. Topics that are tangible and applicable for a producer or editor’s audience get much more attention. The media is trying to appeal to their audience, not yours.

What are some challenges you face in PR?
Members of the media can receive hundreds of emails and pitches a day. They often don’t have the time to even open all their emails, let alone follow-up. Even if we think a book is a perfect fit for an outlet, it can be hard to get noticed. Additionally, the media landscape is changing daily, and often the most effective channels are not traditional outlets. We have to be constantly innovative to help our authors get the best exposure possible; especially when the traditional media that they would like to get is neither as feasible nor as helpful as they believe.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Being from Washington State originally, I love horseback riding and being in the mountains, although I rarely get the chance these days in Midwest suburbia. Perhaps it’s cliché for someone in publishing, but I absolutely love to read. Especially if there is a roaring fireplace and a comfy armchair handy.

Katie Dodillet, Publicist
How long have you worked at Tyndale?

I’ve been at Tyndale almost a year, after many years in advertising and marketing.

What have been some of your favorite Tyndale titles to promote?
I have truly enjoyed them all, but can honestly say that promoting Nicole Unice’s book, She’s Got Issues, was a particular joy given that I could so easily relate to her subject matter (yes, I have issues) and that Nicole is just one of the most marvelous and gifted women I’ve ever met.

What advice would you give an author looking to promote his/her book?
Keep your name “out there” as much as possible. Pay attention to your website, write your blog, garner endorsements, do guest blog posts, use social media to keep the conversation going about you and your book for as long as you can.

What gets the media interested in a book?
It always helps when a book can tie into a current story in the news. If there is some hook that can tie the author or the book back to what the media considers news, that is a huge bonus.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
With a dear husband, three teenagers, two 100 pound Golden Retrievers and a very busy household, free time is a bit elusive.  When free time does present itself- I love to garden, vacation on any beautiful beach, and hang out with my beloved family.

Joy Fabry, Publicity Assistant
How long have you worked at Tyndale?
Three months

What are your primary job responsibilities?
I manage the Tyndale Blog Network, coordinate giveaways, and assist the publicity team with a variety of administrative tasks.

What have you learned about publicity from your time on the team so far?
I have learned about the intricacy of the publishing process, the importance of appropriate media relations, and the significance of social media platforms.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Cook, craft, hike, and musical theater

We hope you learned a little more about book publicity and about the people who help promote our titles. We had so many great answers to these questions, so watch for part 2 with more book publicity tips next week.

You can connect with many of us on Twitter (click on our names to find us), and feel free to leave any additional questions you might have about book publicity in the comments below. We’ll try our best to answer them!

Author Thoughts on Ebook Publishing by Pam Hillman

Pam Hillman has published two ebook-only books with Tyndale House Publishers. With all the speculation on which is best a traditional publisher or self-publishing , Pam gives us her thoughts and opinions on her experience publishing ebooks with Tyndale. 

Tyndale’s Digital First Initiative launched in 2011, the first program of its nature in the CBA market. Tyndale wanted to get more great stories into readers’ hands, and the digital wave gave them the opportunity to do that. I was blessed and excited to be one of five debut authors chosen to launch the program.

When Stealing Jake released through Tyndale’s pilot program in 2011, an author friend emailed me and very sincerely asked me the following question, “I am wondering why you went through Tyndale to publish a Kindle e-book, when you could have gone directly to Amazon.”

My shocked response went something along these lines:

                        Are. You. Kidding? My publisher is Tyndale House!

But then I realized my friend asked a valid question given the current hot trend of self-publishing e-books. After picking her question apart, I began to wonder if she wasn’t really asking why e-book only and not e-book and print book if I was going with a traditional publisher. Still a very compelling question, and one that is easily explained. Digital First is just what it implies: E-book first with the potential to go to print as market conditions warrant.

Since my debut novel was through Tyndale’s Digital First program and my second one is too, I don’t have a yardstick to measure e-book only publishing against print book publishing. But from conversations with friends who have print books out, one of the biggest differences might be how quickly e-books can go from contract to available for purchase. Stealing Jake was available for purchase less than three months after we signed the deal; Claiming Mariah in just over four months. Traditional print books generally take 12-18 months to hit the shelves from when they’re contracted. E-books are a great way for publishers to partner with emerging authors without printing, warehousing, and distributing tens of thousands of print books that might languish in boxes. Once an author has developed a fan base, there is always room to expand into the print market as well, which is much more cost-effective for a traditional publisher than for an author to pursue on her own. And what author doesn’t want her books published in every media available?

I don’t see e-books and print books as competition, but as complimentary to each other. Granted, as a reader, I had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the e-book age, thinking an e-book just wouldn’t give me the same cozy experience as a print book. But I’ve found that a well-crafted book is just as enjoyable regardless of the medium. When a book sucks me in, I don’t care if I’m turning print pages or clicking a little button to go to the next screen. All I care about is finding out what’s going to happen next. As a matter of fact, a few weeks after I’ve finished a great book, I can’t even remember if I read it on my Kindle or in paperback. All I remember is the story.

But even if I didn’t have dreams of seeing my books in print as well as e-books, the benefits of going with a well-established traditional publisher far outweigh striking out on my own.

-My publisher is Tyndale House Publishers. Uh, have I mentioned that already?

-My books are edited by Tyndale editors. They are awesome! The entire process is as smooth as silk.

-My covers are designed by Tyndale’s amazing cover designers. Gorgeous and very professional!

-Tyndale does all the work to get my books on Amazon, CBD, B&N, and Mobipocket. I don’t even want to think about the time involved to accomplish that.

-My books are backed by Tyndale’s good name. Whoa!

-Tyndale has marketing and publicity power. That I don’t have.

How much are those bullet points worth to me? I can’t even begin to measure each one. My fan base is small, but growing. Sure, my friends and family would support me if I self-published, but it’s extremely doubtful I could reach the number of people I’m reaching as a Tyndale author. Not impossible, of course, but still iffy.

Eighteen months have passed since my friend posed that question, and my answers are still the same. Well, except for the fact that I have a second e-book releasing from Tyndale in January 2013. And if anything, I love the cover of Claiming Mariah even more than my Stealing Jake cover, the editing is still top-notch, and the publicity team at Tyndale has gone above and beyond to come alongside and show me the ropes of marketing.

It’s a win-win-win situation for Tyndale, the reader, and for me, and I’m over-the-moon excited to be partnering with one of the most respected publishing houses in the industry on another Digital First campaign.

Click image to go to product page

 

Thanks to Pam for coming on the blog this week!
Would you like to learn more about Pam and her writing?
Visit her at her website:
http://pamhillman.blogspot.com/
Take to her on Facebook at:
www.facebook.com/PamHillmanAuthor
Or follow her on Twitter
@PamHillman

Tomorrow 12/20, I’ll wrap up our feature on this Winter’s Digital First Authors. With the holidays coming up and gift cards always a hot commodity, what better time to hear about enjoyable reading! See you tomorrow, readers!

Author Interview: Pam Hillman speaks on her ebook, Claiming Mariah

Yesterday, Pam gave us the chance to get to know her as a writer. Today, we’ll learn more about Pam’s writing and, specifically, about the wonderful characters in her upcoming Jan 2013 ebook release Claiming Mariah.

As we begin this tale, we see Mariah, a young woman who has recently lost her father, battling with his past indiscretions and faced with the consequences of her father’s bad decisions. Where did the idea for Claiming Mariah come from?

Several years ago, I read a novel where a bank robber tosses a sack of stolen money in the back seat of a hand-to-mouth college student’s car. She kept the money and eventually started a very successful business. She justified her actions because she anonymously created a charity to help destitute young women get back on their feet. But, as the old saying goes, two wrongs don’t make a right, and that wasn’t quite right from a Christian’s perspective, was it? I based Claiming Mariah on the following question: “What would a Christian do if they found out their whole livelihood had been based on a lie?” Mariah does the right thing by writing to Slade’s father asking for forgiveness, but the consequences of her actions end up being way more than she bargained for.

You’ve written historical novels set in the West before. Why do you think you gravitate towards this genre and this setting? What is interesting and worth exploring, in your opinion?

I was born and raised on a farm, and from an early age I loved horses and all things western. I was a bit of a tomboy and cut my teeth on Louis L’Amour westerns. Our neighbor’s husband worked in the oil fields of Alaska and was gone months at a time. She’d invite my brother and me over to watch John Wayne movies on Friday nights. We’d have popcorn and soda, or she’d bake a butter cake (the smell of hot butter cake fresh from the oven still makes my mouth water!).

Writing from a Christian worldview, in the back of my mind, I’m always asking, ‘What would a Christian do?’ similar to the WWJD question, I suppose. In my debut novel, Stealing Jake, the men of the town are talking about the street kids and what they would do if they themselves were freezing and starving. Would it be okay to steal to provide food and shelter for their families? That innermost struggle of determining right and wrong makes me think and is worth exploring.

If your book was made into a movie, what actors would you cast?

I pictured a younger Gerard Butler, darker hair, and a day-old scruffy beard playing Slade. And Olivia Wilde would be a good fit for Mariah. Although I have to say I love the model on the cover of Claiming Mariah. Do you suppose she could play Mariah?

For someone debating reading your story, what would you say makes it worth the read? What sets it apart from other historical novels out there?

Some might say the hero doesn’t come across as very heroic to begin with, but he believes he has good reasons for his demands. He quickly softens toward the heroine and her family and eventually lets go of his bitterness. Also, I like readers to see part of the story from an unusual angle, a point of view that shines a light a little off center, and in Claiming Mariah, that light is on Red Harper, a secondary character who plays a pivotal role in the story.

While writing, do you find yourself using your life experiences as fodder for a more realistic novel? If so, describe a few times this takes place within Claiming Mariah.

The account of Yellow, the half-wild tomcat and his precarious beginnings after being born in the woods, is an almost exact retelling of a cat that I befriended several years ago. I had to work for that cat’s trust, just as Mariah earns the trust of both Slade and Yellow in Claiming Mariah.

The entire true-life account of Taming Yellow can be found here: http://calicotrails.blogspot.com/2012/11/taming-yellow.html

Do you find it difficult to write a novel, start to finish? Do you have any techniques you follow to ensure you finish?

Writing a novel reminds me of making mud pies as a little girl. You just get in there and have the best time ever playing in the mud, forming pies in the tin pie plates Mama let you borrow from her kitchen. Getting it all out there is fun and exciting. Cleaning it up can be a little daunting, but sticking with it yields great results, and then the final cleanup with my editors is even more thrilling. I use a spreadsheet to plot turning points, starting with the big picture, drilling down to each act, each chapter, then each scene. Then I layer in more texture in my second and third pass. By the time the final draft goes to my editor, I hope the novel has plenty of yummy goodness and not a trace of that mud pie remains!

In the larger sense, what do you hope readers learn from Claiming Mariah?

I hope readers can learn to let go of bitterness toward someone who has wronged them. But on the flip side, I pray that someone who has committed a wrong would have the courage to offer restitution if God lays it on their heart to do so.

Do you find yourself attached to the characters from Claiming Mariah: Mariah and Slade, in particular? Do you ever struggle to let go, wanting to continue your characters’ story long after the last page? Or do you think their tale has been told?

Once a literary couple has resolved their differences and it’s obvious that they’re going to get their happily-ever-after, I find it easy to close the book on a great big sigh of contentment. However, I’m not opposed to tucking in cameo appearances of happily married folks in subsequent books. Hopefully readers will get the chance to peek into Slade and Mariah’s lives in future books set in Wisdom.

What’s next for you? Do you plan to continue writing historical novels?

Historical romance is my first love, and I have plans to write more novels set in Wisdom, revisiting some of the characters introduced in Claiming Mariah. A couple of characters from Stealing Jake are also clamoring to have their story told, so looks like I’ll be making more mud pies soon.

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 Thanks to Pam for sharing more on Claiming Mariah with us!
Would you like to learn more about Pam and her writing?
Visit her at her website:
http://pamhillman.blogspot.com/
Take to her on Facebook at:
www.facebook.com/PamHillmanAuthor
Or follow her on Twitter
@PamHillman

Tomorrow 12/19, Pam will be back to talk about her second experience with e-book only publishing and her experience as a Digital First author with Tyndale House.