Writing Fiction – Interview with Jo Marshall Author of Twig Stories
Welcome to the Fantastic Book Blog, Jo….
Jo: Thanks, Susan. I’m delighted to know about your fun mysteries for middle-school readers, The Morrow Secrets, and to be hosted on your blog. We write for the same age group, and they are great fans, don’t you think?
Susan: They are fantastic and wonderful to write magical stories for!
Jo is an author of Twig Stories. The first book is Leaf & the Rushing Waters and the second is Leaf & the Sky of Fire. Her third book is due out this Thanksgiving, and that is Leaf & the Long Ice. Jo is an indie author with Createspace.
Q1. Have you always wanted to write? Tell us about your beginnings as a writer.
I wrote my first books when I was five years old about Siamese cats. I cut up little pieces of notebook paper, stapled them together, and drew all the pictures, too. It took me over 50 years to try doing that again. And I need a lot of very skilled people to help me do it now. But I always had it in the back of my mind to write and publish one day.
My daughter Ali Jo’s concern about wildlife vanishing in our region inspired me. She was in 4th grade, just learning about climate change, and worrying about it a great deal. To help her understand the reality of it, we made up stories about Twigs (stick creatures) fighting events like wildfires, bark beetles, and shrinking glaciers. We also wanted to find a way to help nonprofits struggling with wildlife protection and forest conservancy. It’s our pleasure to now share our royalties with organizations involved with those issues and climate change research.
Q3. Tell us about your books, what genre are they? Who makes up your target audience?
Twig Stories are ‘eco-literary’ similar to Beatrix Potter’s in that the characters are fantasy set in a natural world. Our world is the Pacific Northwest – volcanoes, rainforests, glaciers, and beautiful creatures. Usually kids from 4th to 7th grade find them fun to read. Adults like them, too, for the stories and conservation themes focused on a warming world and adaptation to it.
Q4. How did you come up with the plot lines and create the characters?
Oh, most of that is Ali Jo’s adventurous and funny mind at work. I took her wild ideas, and enlarged upon them. Of course, I added more drama and mystery, as I’m sure you did with The Morrow Secrets. I enjoy reading mysteries, and that ‘puzzle-working’ aspect is definitely a huge part of Twig Stories.
Q5. Did you take writing classes before you started? Tell us about your creative journey…
Actually, I was the Legal Assistant to two General Counsels for nonprofits at their national headquarters in Washington, D.C. for many years, so my writing was extremely disciplined. We fought injustices in the world through litigation, but in a dispassionate way with legal suits. But every night I sat with my daughter for an hour at bedtime, and read stories – funny ones and classic literature – so there was that influence, for sure. I also read stories 0ne-on-one with elementary school readers as a literacy tutor for about six years, so I learned what kids hated to read, and also loved to read.
Q6. What advice would you give to someone who wants to write fiction?
Do it. No, seriously, writers learn by re-writing over and over, and showing others what they wrote to gain better insights on what they are trying to say, and how they can best say it. Just do it.
Q7. What key lessons have you learned about the creative writing process that you can share with others? (Your Top tips)
Number one is to show your work to others, and don’t have a thin skin about their remarks. Go back to the drawing board, and start over, if you must. Second is to write in a routine, but take breaks. It’s during the breaks that the best ideas pop into your head. Third is to remind yourself why you are doing it. It helps when you feel defeated.
Q8. Tell us about the publishing route you have opted for? Did you go with a traditional publisher or did you self-publish?
Several agents and publishers were interested in Twig Stories. None could guarantee the stories would be in print within 3-4 years, or that I could choose the illustrator. After a few months of the same responses, I removed the manuscript from consideration, and researched the best indies out there. I wanted my daughter to actually see the books before she reached high school. Createspace was far above all others I discovered. They had the best royalties (which I share with nonprofits), and they set up the books for me not only as paperback, but also on Kindle. And they distribute worldwide.
Q9. What lessons did you learn from this experience that you can share with others? (Your Top Tips)
Use Preditors & Editors (P&E) as your best research tool to find a decent publisher. Find out if your book is a good fit for what they offer. For example, I’m a tech moron, so I have to depend on a design team to set up my books – cover and all. Also, find their limitations. Can they do color illustrations? If you narrow down your list, then do two things: buy a few of their books, and email their authors to ask about their experiences. One last piece of advice is to read every Community Forum (especially Createspace’s) before you decide. The best advice if given by other indies.
Q10. If you could change one thing to help indie-writers what would it be?
Be prepared for the fact that many stores will not pick up indies yet. So I’d change the mind-set of ‘book-buyers’ for these stores, and their market. I’d like them to set up a screening process to consider indies. Createspace offers distribution worldwide through the big distributors, Ingrams and Baker & Taylor, but whether or not the book buyers will look at an indie book is another matter altogether.
Susan: Thank you so much for being a great contributor Jo and every success with your books.
You can find Jo’s books here…….
Twig Stories website: www.twigstories.com
Jo Marshall email: email@example.com
Facebook Author page: http://facebook.com/twigstories
Facebook Book/Fan page: http://facebook.com/twigstoriesbooks
Amazon Author page: http://www.amazon.com/author/jo.marshall
Goodreads Author page: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/776363.Jo_Marshall