Blogs by L.T. Suzuki
7/16/2011 9:45:49 PM
Paranormal fiction author Deborah Riley-Magnus discusses her debut novel and the writing life!
LTS: Ready for a different take on the vampire genre? Then get ready to meet today’s guest blogger, author Deborah Riley-Magnus. I’d like to begin by having you share a little information about yourself with our readers, Deborah. You are a self-proclaimed ‘writeaholic’, but what do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing?
DRM: Probably the best answer is “think about writing” but in reality, life just doesn’t work that way. I’m a retired chef and I absolutely love to cook and entertain. I recently moved back to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania from Los Angeles, California and that changes a lot. Now that I’m near family and friends and grandchildren again, I find it’s best to spend time with them, then do my writing and “thinking about writing” when they’re gone off to their own lives.
LTS: You’ve dedicated a good twenty years to writing. Am I wrong to assume that becoming a published author has been a life long dream for you?
DRM: Yes it has, but most of all, having finally gotten published, I find that not only writing, but everything pertaining to being a successful selling author will be a life-long career for me! Having spent over 27 years (before becoming a chef – yes, I’m OLD - in marketing, public relations and advertising, it’s strange how one’s past lives creep up and attached to the current life.
LTS: I noticed your debut novel ‘Cold in California’ has been garnering great reviews since its release last month. What was the inspiration behind this story and can you tell us a little bit about your protagonist, ‘twice-baked’ vampire Gabriel Strickland?
DRM: The story behind “Cold in California” is actually kind of funny. I’d been writing women’s fiction and far more literary pieces in hopes of finding publication for years, but the truth of the matter is that with the economy and difficulties within the industry, it’s harder than ever to break in with those kinds of works. What’s a writer to do? Look at the market. What are people buying and reading and am I suited for writing it? Writing a vampire story was never on my mental agenda, but one day I was in West Hollywood. This part of Los Angeles is very unique and surprisingly strange for a simple Pittsburgh native like me and I always found West Hollywood fascinating. As I walked to my car after a meeting with a client, I was stopped by a lovely Hindu gentleman. We talked briefly then he walked away, his bright orange robe glowing in the sunshine. Glancing across the street I spied a dwarf opening the door to what appeared to be an empty warehouse. He looked right and left very suspiciously then slipped into the darkness and my mind started to spark. Was that a troll? What’s he doing in there? Who else is in there? Other supernaturals? Vampires? What if they’re all dead? What if they stay there while they await final judgment for heaven or hell? “Cold in California” was born!
The protagonist is Gabriel Strickland, a wary 80-year vampire who finds a rather humorous final death at a Chicago Cubs game and wakes to discover he must spend an undefined amount of purgatory time living in a West Hollywood warehouse with several other dead supernaturals. Of course, all of them are trying to earn brownie points and a ticket through the pearly gates … against their natures.
LTS: Without giving away too much, can you reveal what’s in store for the readers when they crack open ‘Cold in California’?
DRM: A whole new vampire mythology awaits the reader. There’s adventure, there’s love, there’s supernatural political intrigue and of course, there’s humor.
LTS: The road to publication is difficult at the best of times. Was it difficult for you to land an agent? Do you have any advice you’d like to share with the author struggling to find representation with a literary agent?
DRM: That’s an interesting question because (like you) I’ve discovered that finding and having a literary agent is not always the road to publication. For me, I’d collected more rejection letters than I’d like to count, but after the first few pitches for “Cold in California”, I was snapped up by an agent. He was a nice guy, a knowledgeable guy, but over nearly a year, he wasn’t able to sell the book and I wasn’t willing to risk taking so much time on a cyclical genre like urban fantasy, vampire persuasion. We parted ways.
In the meantime, I had also written a non-fiction entitled “The Author Success Coach: Strategies for Author Success in a Turbulent Publishing Landscape”. The book had grown and developed based on the remarkable response to my ‘Writaholic’ blog and my live and online workshops. It was at the top of my mind when I approached Michelle Halket of ireadiwrite Publishing. She loved the book proposal but also wanted to contract the “Cold in California Twice Baked Vampire Series”.
“The Author Success Coach” will be released in late September of this year.
LTS: Can you share that moment when you sold your story to ireadiwrite publishing?
DRM: It was amazing, because I’d honestly thought no one wanted this book. I absolutely love my publisher. I respect what she’s building and think it’s fantastic how she looks at the industry and works with her authors. For an independent publisher, I’d honestly say I think she’s one of the best. Her attention is always on how to help her authors be seen more, sell more and create great branding. Michelle and I think alike.
LTS: I’m curious about your writing style. Are you one of those disciplined writers who must dedicate a certain time each day to producing so many words, or are you more relaxed and tend to write when it strikes your fancy?
DRM: Oh I try hard to meet daily writing goals, but I write so many different things in the course of any day, sometimes I have to really crack down on myself to focus on writing a book. I have Writaholic, a weekly blog dedicated to helping authors find successful sales for their books by teaching them marketing, publicity and promotions. Gabriel Strickland has a blog The Twice-Baked Vampire. I’ve created a new venue to help generate sales for Cold in California called Vampire Explored. I’m active on Facebook with the Author survey question of the day as well as other facebook and forums focused on exposing my books. Twitter too, that’s writing, even if it’s all in 140 characters a pop. I keep very busy. But when I hunker down to work on a book, it’s a total focus and I definitely shoot for meeting daily goals. Twice a month I also promote authors though one of my websites, Whispers of the Muse. Technically, my writing style is eclectic focused, I guess.
LTS: Still on the subject of writing styles, are you a plotter or pantser? The readers would like to know if you tend to plot out your story line in great detail or if your writing is more organic with the characters and events unfolding as you write.
DRM: I am definitely a plotter. A story concept may come to me like a bolt of lightning, but before I write a word, I find the key plot points – the beginning, the middle and the end. I never start a book without knowing exactly how it will end. The way I actually write is a little strange though. I don’t create elaborate outlines or color coded mind map boards or anything like that. I actually type out 26 or 27 lines. These lines represent what will happen in that chapter. Once that’s done, I’m off and writing the first draft.
LTS: Some authors meditate, others need to fuel up on coffee or listen to music. Do you have any rituals, ones that can be shared with the readers, that you must do before you hunker down for a writing session?
DRM: Chocolate. Coffee. Peace and quiet.
LTS: At one time or another, most writers hit the wall and their work stalls because of the dreaded writer’s block. What do you do to get around or over this mental wall to resume writing?
DRM: If I hit a wall, there are always other things to write. I don’t dwell on how terrible it is not to know what to write next, I move on to another project, another blog, another workshop to teach. While I do those things, the muse does her thing and clears the creative path, then I just get back to work. I honestly believe that anxiety is 90% of the problem where writer’s block is concerned.
LTS: Who is your favourite author and how has he/she inspired you to write or influenced your writing style or choice of genre?
DRM: Hands down, Barbara Kingsolver. Brilliant, eclectic, thought provoking. Everything about her writing from the beginning and “The Bean Trees” to her more recent works like “The Poisonwood Bible” and “The La Cuna” are amazing. She’s the reason I write any genre, the reason I would love to find publication with my literary and women’s fiction work, the reason I love to tell a story.
LTS: What is the most profound discovery you’ve made in terms of your writing and how it has touched the lives of others?
DRM: I can make people laugh and I can make people think. Who knew?
LTS: What is the most important lesson you’ve learned on the road to publication?
DRM: The absolute hardest lesson to learn was something I already knew and imagined I was wrong about. I imagined that the publishing industry would always be the same (NOT), that it would always support authors completely (NOT), that having an agent or publisher meant the project was out of my hands (NOT), and that the words I wrote would make or break me as an author (NOT, NOT, NOT). Everything is in our hands, we determine how successful we will be or how gloriously we will fail. Publication is just one small step in creating author success and if we, the authors, are not proactive in finding and attracting fans, exposing our work and keeping the visibility high … we’re letting the whole house of cards fall down. Never rely on someone else. Take ownership of your future success.
LTS: What are you reading now, and how did this particular book make it onto your to-read list?
DRM: This is going to shock and surprise you. I’m currently reading “Moneyball”, a nonfiction by Michael Louis. It’s the story of California Angels general manager, Billy Beene and his astonishing ability to use statistics to build a winning team on a shoestring budget. I’m a rabid baseball fan and have always been addicted to baseball stats. (Balance a checkbook? Can’t do it. Tell you Joel Hanrahan’s ERA, know it by heart.) Being back in Pittsburgh, I’m happily watching my Pittsburgh Pirates kick butt and reach the top of the standings. It seemed a good time to read “Moneyball”.
LTS: What do you foresee in your future over the next five years and do you hope to branch out from Paranormal/Urban Fantasy into other genres? Can your fans expect ‘Monkey Jump’, the sequel to ‘Cold in California’ in the near future?
DRM: “Monkey Jump” is in the works and I’m hoping to see it reach publication by November. I’m still working on one of my women’s fiction, “36 Full Moons”, the story of a cold, professional woman who mysteriously loses her ability to speak. The three year journey changes her whole life and brings her full circle into a new reality. With the release of “The Author Success Coach”, I’m already getting speaking engagement bookings all over the country over the next year. Five years? I see a future building a career based on writing, helping authors be successful and riding the vampire genre wave as long as it will have me.
LTS: Thank you so much for taking the time to discuss your debut novel and sharing in your writing wisdom, Deborah! I’ll catch you on Twitter!
For more information about Deborah and her novels, check out:
Author website: http://deborahriley-magnus.com/
Cold in California website: http://coldincalifornia.com/
Writaholic blog: http://rileymagnus.wordpress.com/
Follow Deborah on Twitter: .rileymagnus
Where to buy the book:
Barns & Noble Nook:
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