READERS: Stephanie lives in Wales and shares her horror novel with us. She talks about reading horror and how she likes the build up to the horrific parts. She has only been publishing for about eight years, but feels her folk horror story Reborn is great horror and is a sequel to The Five Turns to the Wheel.
AUTHORS: We talk about rejection and how authors can deal with it. Everyone deals with rejection, and even authors that have written more than one book get rejected.
Find Roland at https://indestructibleauthor.com
Our topics today are:
- Bookshop.org will start selling ebooks, plus start publishing their own new books!
- Despite what ‘they’ keep saying ebooks and Indie books are selling strong
- Indie author Hugh Howey’s Silo (aka Wool) coming to AppleTV+
All right, so today on Discovered Wordsmiths, I want to welcome Stephanie Ellis. Good morning or afternoon, Stephanie.
How are you? I’m fine.
Stephanie: It’s actually good evening now. It’s nearly six o’clock and it’s if I open the curtains, it’d be dark outside and it’s very cold. I think it’s about five degrees
Stephen: and going. Okay. Yeah. So why don’t you tell everybody a little bit about yourself, where you live because of the big time difference and what you like to do besides.
Stephanie: Okay I’m currently living in Rexton in North Wales with my family. We did live in the south of England for about 30 odd years and then came back up to this area because I’ve got family in Shopha just over the border. My husband’s Welsh and we are trying to find a place to, to live after Covid d cuz that made us ch rethink our lives basically.
So we found a place in Rexton, which is gathering a little bit of. On the viewing platforms because of a certain football team which we can hear when they’re at home because they’re 10 minutes that way. So if they’re if it’s their plane at home, open the windows and you can hear everybody.
It’s a lovely part of the world, a lot of countryside around to do a lot of walking. And we can visit elderly parents as well quite easily. So when I’m not writing, I read and I. And I read . But I do walk. I do walk. I like forests. My husband likes hill climbing and mountains. Yes. And I think we’re in the right part of the world to combine the two.
I go to the gym, so I get up from a desk or get up from a chair and put a book down. That’s important. . Yeah, and I try and do some drawing, which I used to do a lot of, but I let that go. But I’ve tried to pick it up again recently and my one ambition is to learn old English. I’ve got a book, I keep starting it.
I get about six chapters. and then something else happens and I leave it for months, then I have to go back to the beginning. I’ve done the same chapters several times now, . Wow,
Stephen: interesting. Wow. There, there’s several things. First of all, I wanna make sure I’m clear when you say football, it’s not American football.
It is the
Stephanie: original British football. The round shape or not? What looks like rugby to us. Your football looks like rugby to us. Rugby shoulder pads, . And Rex, I believe my son was really big in the Crypted community. And I think Rexo has a history of the forest there being a big UFO sighting At one point, I think I, I haven’t years ago, maybe I’m wrong.
Stephanie: haven’t heard that, but I have joined a local writer’s group and one of the writers there is publishing a book about Rex some and the little quirky tales associated with it. So I will ask him
Stephen: about that. Yeah, that’d be cool. I think that’s it. I could be wrong. My son was much more into it. . Alright.
So why did you wanna write to get started writing and get a book out and all?
Stephanie: Writing was never something that I’d considered growing up. I was of the generation where you were told you had to have a career and you do your A levels, you go to college, you do various things. The creative arts didn’t get a looking, but after having kids, then a bit of a career break, I went back to work, but I got my job as a part-time librarian in a junior school, and then I moved up to senior school and I started to.
What was in the libraries there and I was thinking, I can do this. And when you’re in a secondary school, because that is your 1116 year olds, it can go up to 18. You were getting in the more adult fiction as well. You would introduce them to adult fiction at that level. And I was reading it. I thought, yeah, I’d quite like to have a go at this.
I started to write, It was initially versed as well in my day job as a techn author tech. Three years ago, I would write verse just to poke fun at people quietly, I should say . But on the story side, I found I enjoyed it and I wanted to continue it now, and. When I say I need to read each day, or reading is part of my life, writing has become the same.
I have to keep doing it. I dunno whether you are the same. You have, there’s this urge you haven’t picked up a book and you need to read. Yeah, you haven’t picked up your pen. You need to write.
Stephen: Yeah. Yeah. And I do get the draggy part. It’s ugh, I don’t know if I feel like writing or I don’t whatever.
But then you sit down and suddenly it’s oh, look, I got 1500 words, . It’s just you get so into it. A part like you said, a part of you. I agree. Yeah. I will say that when I, the writing the publishing side, that only happened about eight years ago. I’m 58 now. I’ll be 59 this year. I don’t make any secret of that.
Stephanie: And the lines on my face will give it away. . But I know that a lot of writers out there sometimes think they’re a bit too old or they’ve left it too late to write and to do this sort of thing. And I’m, I just keep mentioning my age cause I’ll say no it’s never too late. Just cuz everybody else’s profile picture looks as though they’re in their twenties or when you get to my age, you look about 10 show your face just
Stephen: right . Yeah. If it makes you feel any better, you go look back at some past episodes. I’ve got all age. I know I had one man who was a lawyer his whole career, and then at 74 he decided to write a book. There’s plenty of people on the podcast that are 50 and above probably even more so than below 50.
So that is good to hear. Yes. And I’ve their numbers . So you’ve only been publishing for eight years, but you’re still. Newish. And what’s your current book that we’re gonna talk about? Tell us what it’s called and a little bit about it. Okay.
Stephanie: It is reborn, it is a folk horror sort slash dark fantasy, and it’s the sequel to the five Turns to the Wheel.
Both of these were published by Bridget Scape Press, and although it is a sequel, I would say I’ve written it in such a way that it is a standalone. So as you read through it you are fed the little bits of information you need to follow the thread of this particular story. Before I talk about reborn itself, I’ll set the scene a little bit because it is very much a world I’ve created.
So it’s a little corner of rural England that I’ve named the. And there are six villages there. You’ve got a village in the center and the other five around them. So it’s like a wheel. And alongside this very rural little area of England, you’ve got a supernatural world called Umbra. It’s under the rule of somebody called Quail who is the son of Mother Nature.
Now, these people in this supernatural world, which I, it is just outta sight, just beyond the value. You can’t quite see them, but they can come into the real world and. For this world to survive, they need the blood sacrifice of the people in the world. And the contract is that if they sacrifice, then the brothers survive and the villages prosper.
So it’s supposed to be a two-way thing. In the five turns of the wheel, you had the main character, Megan, who is also main character reborn, and she was one of the villages who wanted to put a stop to the rituals that happened there. And. She did this, but there’s one bit I’ve forgotten here, . There are three characters in Umbra, Tommy, Betty, and Fiddler, who are the sort of bridge between the worlds.
They come out into the villages and they lead the rituals, and I’ve set them up as a sort of parody of a mama’s troop. The little groups that would go round the villages performing plays over the centuries. And so you’ve got Tommy, who’s the master of ceremonies, you got Fiddler who does the music, and then Betty is the comedic character who dresses up as a woman.
Supposed to be comedic, but mine is a bit of a monster. Anyway, she stops all these rituals, but when she thinks she stopped it all, the mother Nature sends her into Umbra to lessen the cruelty of the people who live there. So she’s put in charge of everybody, but in doing so she’s made a rod for her own back.
She is tormented by Tommy, Betty and Fiddler are there. They don’t want to be there with her doing this. She says cuz Tommy is actually Megan’s real dad. And then who she thought she had destroyed. She’d destroyed the body, but she hadn’t destroyed his spirit. And so he has actually sort of implanted himself inside her mind a bit.
And she is stuck with his voice. She’s stuck in this world with all these creatures that she doesn’t wanna be a part of, cuz of their cruelty and what have they, what they’ve done to her life before. So at the start of reborn, she’s in a. She’s miserable, she’s haunted by this parasite in her mind as you’ve got Tommy, Betty, and Fiddler, who are equally feeling, ugh, because they are weakening.
They haven’t had any blood sacrifices or anything like that. So the story of reborn is Tommy, Betty and Fiddler Sneak out of Umbra. They want to seek their mother’s forgiveness and be allowed to hunt and to have the blood sacrifices against her. They go off to, to find. Megan too. She leaves this world to seek the mother because she’s been told that the mother can free her from Wales’s voice and can restore her husband live.
So she goes off on a quest. It is very much a quest sort of book. And then there was a third thread, and this is a new introduction. The mother had, her husband was the horned god suno, and centuries before he had. Banished cuz he overstepped the mark bit. The mother is in charge here, I will say
So he’d overstep the mark, but he is allowed to return. So it’s his return. So you’ve got three strands. You’ve got Megan on her journey, you’ve got Tommy, Betty, and Fiddler on theirs, and then you’ve got Suno on his and they’re all converging to the one place to face the mother, gain her forgiveness and to be reborn in various.
Whether they achieve that aim, whether Meghan frees herself, whether the three regain their strength, whether the horn God has allowed his position at her side. Again, whether it all starts again, you won’t know unless you read it, but that’s basically the story. But underlying that is a, a. Fourth strand, but it’s about the character Betty, because when I was writing these characters in the five turns of the wheel, I really enjoyed them.
They are monstrous. They’re grotesque, but they’re such great fun. But Betty being this animalistic creature, I wanted to see where he came from. What made him like his, or why did the mother make him like he was? And so you, throughout you find out what his real name. Why his behavior is like, is why he does what he does.
And so basically that’s the story. So it’s very much a quest with some rituals in there. Not as much as five turns, but the rituals at the end of rebirth or whoever achieves it or whoever gets that far.
Stephen: Nice. Okay. So you said it’s a folk horror, it sounds very fantasy ish, like Epic quest but it doesn’t sound like a middle grade or young adult necessarily.
did considering you said you’re a librarian for kids why’d you choose to write in horror genre?
Stephanie: I was a librarian for kids. I like to read very widely, and when I first started writing it was via short stories and flash fiction and that. It tended towards the dark side, and when I found a submission call for a, i, it was a horror anthology, and they wanted them on the theme of potatoes.
And I’ve written a story called Death is Not a Potato, and I sent it in. I thought it was dark. I’d never done a horror story before. And they said, no, it’s not quite what we want. . It was set in the siege of Latin grad and there was death and rats and things, but it wasn’t quite what they wanted. I still like the story by the way.
It’s not been published yet, but she said this was Teresa Darwin at night Watch Press at the time, and she said, send other stories for other calls in future. And I did. And she started publishing them and I found I enjoyed them so much. The horror side is where I write. When I read widely.
I do read horror but I also read a lot of dark fiction as in. Yeah. Classics. But the darker side I I grew up loving Dickens and then I went through a Russian face , and they’re very grim with old classics and so I’ve read all that. I was never one for the lighthearted or the overtly lighthearted I would say.
So it’s always been the horror that’s called to me, though I do try other genres, but with the darkness in. I can’t quite write light stuff. People occasionally say, can you write us a story with a happy ending or hopeful ending? And I’m there and I’m, I like, I just can’t some, something always goes amiss.
And in, in this children’s, in the school libraries, there’s a lot of There was light fiction there, but when I left, I was actually starting a horror shelf. They didn’t really have too much horror in there, so I created a horror section and I was building that up quite nicely with the indie as well, because you find.
A lot of librarians when they get books in for kids, they’ll be sent box of book boxes of books from various people like Scholastic and things, and they’ll buy them and just put them on the shelves. And I thought, no, I love buying books. I want the kids to choose the books themselves. So they tell me what they wanted.
I’d have a look and see what I think is Ginger. That’s the horror. It’s a brilliant website and it has they do young adult. Fiction on there. So I’ll be seeing what was there and what I’d like to read , so that I’d spend the school budget or that was given the library for these books and build it up that way so you got something more personal.
So I would get all thoughts in just because you read. Kids’ fiction, you don’t have to write children’s fiction. I do there’s a lot of really good young adult stuff out there. Not necessarily horror, but more day-to-day realistic stuff. Stuff that where they focus on issues that kids face today.
Whether it’s race or gender or anything. Like that. So there’s a lot of really good writing out there, but I’m, as I say, I’m not your light fiction and I’m not quite a children’s picture book writer. I’d like to have a go, but it would probably be subverted .
Stephen: Got it. I love that though, because you discovered what you write and enjoy writing.
I know a lot of authors think, oh, I read this particular genre, so I should write that, and they fall into the tramp of forcing themselves to do and it doesn’t come out right and it doesn’t feel good. I was lucky enough a local author friend of mine and a couple authors actually I talked to, helped me realize I wasn’t an adult writer.
I wasn’t a thriller writer. I was a kid’s fantasy writer, and once that clicked with me, the writing became so much easier. So I think that’s an important lesson for any authors listening. Sometimes what don’t force your writing. Be honest and write and see what it is. Yeah, sometimes that’s much better.
Stephanie: Yeah, I would say write what you enjoy. And I do remember writing a bit of five turns and it was leading up to the end. And these creatures I created were rampaging around the countryside and destroying everything. And I can remember actually sitting there with a grin on. And I thought it just shows that you’re really enjoying it.
Although I was enjoying it so much that it was going to end in a certain way that I suddenly realized I didn’t want it to, because otherwise there’d be no more five turns books. So I slammed the brakes on, but that was one of the few books a few stories, you just sit there and if you’re smiling as you’re writing, you know that you know it’s working for.
hate, I’d hate to be forcing myself, .
Stephen: Yeah. And you said you’re published through Bridgets Gate Press, which I’ve had several authors on for. Yeah. So is your book available wide that people can get it in? Pretty much all the stores?
Stephanie: It’s on Amazon at the moment. I know Bridgets Gate they’re relatively new press and they’re starting to get their books out into stores, I believe this year.
That’s their reign. They’ve been going for. A year in a bit. I know that books can be got from Barnes and Noble and all sorts of places online, so I’m not sure about the store side of it over there, but there is something they are building up at the moment.
Stephen: But it’s available in the online stores?
Staphanie: Yeah. And it’ll have all the links in the places actually on their website, which is bridgets gate press.com. So if people go there, they’ll find all their books. I would say they, they are a very good press and they’ve been putting out some really good work lately that I’ve enjoyed reading, cause I’ve been formatting some of the
nice. Ok. I guess you have a . Nice. Good. That’s always fun. Do you have a website yourself?
Stephanie: I do. It’s stephanie ellis.org. It’s all no spaces in there.
Stephen: Okay. That’s good to know. And the book what is the feedback you’re getting from reader?
Stephanie: They’ve enjoyed it. Most of them have read five turns.
One or two have read it. I looked at one on net galley. I try not to read reviews too much. Occasionally I would’ve a look and there was one who said that they, this, they hadn’t read five turns, but they’d read this one, and they were able to make sense of it and they really enjoyed it. People seem to like the world I’ve created and I like that world I’ve created and I keep expanding it.
So I’m actually gonna, I’m at, I have started a third one. I’ve only done about half the first chapter, but I’m going back there and I’m gonna spread it out a bit more across the country and bringing a few more rituals and have a bit of fun with it.
Stephen: Okay, great. And if you were given a choice.
Someone asked you, would you rather turn your books these two particular into a movie or a TV show?
Stephanie: For these, I would love to see them as movies. I think there’s enough in them for you to just sit. And watch on a big screen. I think folk horror is very good on the big screen. Yeah, it is very atmospheric and it can just pull you in.
So yeah movie for mine for those. Anyway, I did put some, do a little collection, short stories set in the same world. They could be a TV series, so I can have
Stephen: both. There you go. Thank you. Either one, right? Yeah. And you mentioned a third book. So what are your plans for your next book? This
Stephanie: one. I would love it to finish it this year.
I dunno whether I would considering everything else I’ve got to do, but we had some snow recently and it was really cold and the ice surrounding it was a skating rink. When you down south in England, you don’t get much snow. Go into Wales and it all comes back. So I’m getting used to the cold weather again.
But I thought I would really like to write a book that’s set in the deep mid-winter, bring in some old Yu traditions. There’s the tradition of Mother’s Night as well at the start. So I’m going to set a story when it’s cold, when it’s Yule, and when the three certain characters come back and.
They just decide to have Christmas their way . How that would be, I don’t, I dunno, what’ll appear I don’t know, let’s just say the snow might not be very white for very long .
Stephen: Okay, got it. I, that’s more of a krampus type Christmas story.
Stephanie: Yeah. Yeah. I just thought it’d be one to have fun with at that time of year.
Stephen: It’s an old tradition that we don’t really do anymore, but people used to tell ghost stories on Christmas Eve. They’d sit around the campfire and tell ghost stories. Yeah. And that was an old tradition. I have a whole stack of Victorian ghost story books set at Christmas time, and it’s just something that people don’t think about.
But I, man, when it just, one day I. Oh my gosh. Dickens Scrooge is a Christmas Carol. It’s a ghost story. It just never clicked in my mind to frame it as a ghost story, even though it absolutely is a ghost story. And I became fascinated with that idea of the ghost story at Christmas, and I think that’s a great thing to do.
Steaphanie: They still do it on the B BBC over here. Or at Christmas they’ll put out a ghost store and it’s usually an Mr. James or something like that. And I like that because it takes you away from all the material or the commercialization of the season and it brings you back. Into that sense of, oh, it’s cold out there, it’s a bit wintry, and it makes you feel, yeah, it is Christmas.
It’s just this strange little link. It just seems and I think they actually have been putting that out on a podcast cuz I ran across one. where every December 24th, it’s a new ghost story, Christmas ghost story. Yeah. You, like you said, Mr. James or some of the other ones that are already out there.
Stephen: It’s not a new story. So yeah, I think that’s cool that they do that. So Stephanie what are some of your favorite books and authors? How
Stephanie: long you got ? My favorite book, I would say my favorite book is Something Wicked This Way comes by Ray Bradbury. Ray Bradbury, his language, it’s poetic, it’s dark, and it is just perfect writing.
He is somebody I would love to have written but I never. So I like his works. I like Shirley Jackson. I’ve got a collection of hers. Of course. It’s very good writer. Grady Hendrix. There’s a horror writer cause he blends in humor. He’s brilliant. I called him a Chilean last. Last year and actually met him and I didn’t know what to say, so it was but he’s brilliant.
He is you he’ll talk and his presentations, he’s wonderful. On the sort of indie scene, there’s a couple of writers I really like POI Hall. He does folk horror. He’s done a western recently. . And then there’s TC Park and she does thrillers and she’s done horror as well. She’s her recent book.
Hummingbird is very good. And I would say people often look down on the indie, indie writers or self-published writers. These two have been published with small press and also I know that Nat TC Parker self-published, but the quality of their writing and the presentation is so if you find a small press, if you find someone self-published, don’t look down on them just because they’re not one of the big five or however many there are these days.
Give them a chance. Yeah. Occasionally you find something that shouldn’t have been published because it’s just someone taking the mickey a little bit. I think I’ve found a reprint of, I think it was a Conan Doyle story or something. I was looking for it for the school library and I didn’t really see who published.
And it came through and it was all double spaced and the font was awful. And then I looked and it was create space back in the day and I thought, I can’t justify that for a formal setting. I’m not in the library anymore. I’m working I’m writing full-time or trying to, so I’m working from home since we moved.
but I am a little bit wary, but I do like to buy and read Indie where I can. Nice. And I’ve got hundreds of books, yeah.
Stephen: Yeah. Who doesn’t? . Have you read the Halloween Tree? Yes.
Steaphanie: I actually bought that in for the school library just before I left. Nice. Good. And I really enjoyed that. And as I say, he’s got a very poet.
Way of speaking. I got dandy lime wine. I brought that about a year ago. I hadn’t read it before. And people kept talking about it. Yeah, and it’s the same in there. It’s the way he uses language. It’s just, I dunno, the imagery, it’s just brilliant.
Stephen: Yeah, I’ve talked about Halloween Tree on my website recommending it because it’s lesser known, but it’s a great book for kids because like you said, one the way he writes in his use of language is different.
So I think that’s good because the kids have to maybe work a little harder to read it and understand it. So it’s not a bad thing. And yeah, there’s,
Stephanie: sorry. I was just gonna say there’s a sort of magical element to it as well. Yes. That feeds.
Stephen: Yeah. And the whole history of Halloween that he weaves into there with this kind of adventure mystery type story yeah, I thought was good.
I, it was something I was trying to push and recommend for other librarians to put into their schools for kids. Yeah. That’s great. I love that. So do you, now that you’ve moved and have so many books, this is important. Have you found a local bookstore that you like to.
Stephanie: At the minute, there’s only Waterstones.
I haven’t found any other little bookshops in Reham. If anyone from Reham who listens to this, let me know. , you’ve got your usual shelves in the charity shops and I’ve made sure that I’ve joined the library. So I’m back in there as well, but at the minute it’s Waterstones cuz the one that I used to go to in South Hampton had a cafe with it.
And I used to love going in there, buying a book and having a drink. And that was my treat for myself, . Nice. I would love a place in Rexton to have a little cafe in bookshop together, but I haven’t found anything like that. So at the minute it is only Waterstones. .
Stephen: Yeah. Maybe you’ll find one in the next town over sometime.
That’d be good. Yeah. Okay. So before we talk about some author stuff let me ask you one more question about your writing and your book. You’re new to the town, so I could imagine somebody saying, Hey Stephanie, I heard you wrote a book. Why should I get your book and read it? What would you tell ’em?
Stephanie: Ah, I was trying to work out the answer to that before. I would just say to give something different, a go don’t stay. The familiar all the time. What I write is a little bit different, but it’s fun. So I would say if you haven’t really read horror, folk horror is a good way to go because it brings in the familiar, the sort of environment that people are aware of and then introduces all these other little elements.
But they might be a bit creepy, but they’re fun at the same time. And that’s the way I. This particular sort of section of my horror ride in the folk horror as a way to explore the countryside, get a taste of the English countryside the traditions, and just have a bit of fun with some rather grotesque characters.
Stephen: That’s great. I love that. Thank you. Thanks for sharing that and your book. It sounds great. I’ll make sure we have links in the show notes to everything. So let’s move on to some author stuff. Always exciting to move to that aspect. You’ve written, you said you’ve been published about eight years.
You’ve written a little more longer than that. So what are some things you’ve learned between in that time that you’re doing different now or that’s good advice to pass on to others?
Stephanie: One of the things I’ve learned, and it’s something I’ve referenced a couple times recently, When you get, you have beta readers, I believe you say beta readers over there.
Yeah. Yeah. So beta readers, I didn’t really start off with those. I just plowed my own way on. But then as I got to know people and other writers, they would offer to read some of my work, and it became a bit of an exchange and that helped, it pointed out things. But when I joined a group where we do a sort of rotational critique, , there were a number of writers reading my work and then offering feedback.
And I remember one story that I’d really enjoyed writing and I really had a lot of faith in. I thought it was quite a strong story. And there were a few people commenting on it, and I think it might have been about four people. And they all had different ideas. They were saying, you should do this, you should do that, you should do the other.
And by the, when I’d read all those comments, I thought this dance has over my. They’ve pulled it to breezes. It’s not going anywhere, but I liked it. So I sent it away and flame, it’s the flame tree press and they accepted it. And I think that was pretty much my first pro sale or one of my first pro sales.
So I think the thing I’ve learned is you need people to read your work before you send it. It does help in terms of. , but don’t let too many read your work because otherwise you lose confidence in your writing. You lose sight of your story. So it depends how strongly you feel about your story. But to keep that self-belief, I would say keep to your own, stick to your guns if you really like it.
Don’t worry too much about what others say. And I’ll also say, when it comes to other people reading my. The short stories I used to get a lot of people reading and looking at it these days, I don’t bother so much. If somebody says they want to read it, I’ll send it to them and I’ll come back and comment on it.
But I think you get to a certain point with shorts that after a while, you know whether it’s any good or not. You’ve learned a lot. and then it gives you the confidence to send it out. You might get rejected. I still get rejected as we’ll talk about it in a bit. . Yeah, we’re talking about that.
That’s a yeah. But yeah, so that’s one of the main things I’ve learned. I still try and find someone to read the novels or the longer work because you can have little plot holes that you’re not aware of. You can be too close. So for a bigger piece of work, I am more inclined to ask somebody if they would kindly be to read and just give me a sense of the story.
As when it comes to critiquing. Yeah, just be careful how many you invite to look at your work, .
Stephen: Got it. So when you’re writing, what software and services do you like to use?
Stephanie: I write in Word. If I’m self-publishing, I will pull that into something called Scribers, which is a free, I’m very much about freebies, by the way.
This is open source software, desktop publishing software, which is, which offers you all the things that Adobe’s in design does. Basical. , there are things, obviously it won’t do, but it will allow you to produce a quite a good quality PDF file. I use Collibra to produce UBS convert books into different formats.
And so that’s very much what I use. I know Bridget’s Gate, they provide editorials that they get the editors in and the formats and the covers for the books. But when it comes to self-publishing, yeah, I use Word to create the document for upload to Kindle Collibra to. Do the eub and as I say, scribe us to do the pdf Oh.
And something called gimp for unfortunate name for a cover graphics and things. And I go to Pixel Bay or Unsplash for free, copyright free images. So that is in a nutshell how to do a book on no
Stephen: budgets. got it. And Gimp has the lin. Moniker of naming where GIMP stands for Gimp Image Manipulation program, I believe.
Yeah. Typical pre open source software. Naming convention. Yeah. Yeah. And what are you doing to market your books? I know you go through Bridget’s Gate Press and obviously you do podcasts. What else are you doing in the market?
Stephanie: I would say that Bridges Gate Press, they have been brilliant cuz they’ve hired a publicist and he finds all sorts of contact.
But what they’ve also said is that we don’t have to necessarily stick to the work we’ve have published through them. We can also reference our other work. So I’ve been able to bring in a few other things that I’ve done but apart from that, I’ll go to social media, which I’m rubbish at. should improve.
I am found over at Hory. There’s a website called hory.com, which hosts submission calls on behalf of publishers. And it does all sorts of things there. And what I do every week on a Friday, I create indie bookshelf releases, posts. So if you’ve got something, it’s called Hory, but it can be speculative fiction.
It can be younger it could be work aimed at younger folk as well. And I’ll put up books on the shelves for. If you’ve got a book cover and a link, I’ll put it up. So you’ve got January’s books that have been out. I’ve got February’s books up. I’ve even got books up through to maybe July, possibly.
But it gives you a bit of free promo. So somebody clicks on that post, they’ll just see rows of book covers and they can just click on it and go to find out for information or a pre-order link or something like that. So there’s little things like that. I do for my own work, but I also do for other authors.
And I think if you share other people’s work, they will also help you share yours. People say writing is a lonely business or an isolated business. It can be. But if you build up a network, you’ll find that if you put in the time and the effort to help others, then they will help you to Nice. All right.
Stephen: So our topic of discussion to get to that, that you suggested was rejection. And there were two aspects of this that I thought of. That one, the obvious one people think of is, oh, I submitted my book to a publisher and they rejected it, or I submitted my short story for this anthology and they rejected it.
But the other aspect of it is two you mentioned is just having people read it and not like it, not enjoy it, say bad things, one star reviews and that thing. I think those two things together cripple a lot of authors. They’re afraid to do anything, tell us why you wanted to talk about rejection and some of your experience with rejection.
Stephanie: I think I wanted to talk about rejection because I want people to see that I am the same as anybody else. I still think of myself as a new writer, although I’ve achieved a certain amount now, but, I’m still writing and I’m still getting rejected for short stories and various other things. But there’s one thing I noticed when I look at other writers, whose careers have developed in parallel, a number of them will share their rejection stories, but there are some who don’t.
And you look at them and you get this distorted view and you keep thinking they’re successful all the time. How did they manage it? And you start to judge yourself and you compare yourself to them and you. , you must be lacking in some way. But so the first thing is that I’ve learned is that not all writers actually tell, talk about their rejections, but I decided that I would be quite open with mine.
Not necessarily saying what I was rejected from all the time, but just to show that I’m like anybody else that I can, yeah, I can get a book out, but I’ll still get her a short story rejection, which I actually. It was either this morning or yesterday. So there is that. But I think because writing is such a long-term career, if you want to write and if you want to get your work out there, you are gonna have to face rejection day, not day in, day out, cuz that would be dire on a very regular basis.
And if you are not prepared for that, then you are going to. Your mental health will it’ll damage your confidence, it’ll damage your self-esteem, and you can go into a downward spiral and that will affect your writing. So you’ve got to look at it a little bit dispassionately and learn a little bit about the publishing industry and talking about short stories.
I remember looking up a website a while ago, and I’ve got note here. It’s Aaron Ruel. He’s got a blog site called rejector nancy.com. and he did a post a while ago. And it did a breakdown of acceptance percentages for some magazines. So I think it was Apex Magazine was not 0.35% acceptance rate, where Pseudopod was 3.33.
This was back in 2017. So immediately you learn that acceptance rates are very low. So yeah, you got rejected, but they’re not gonna accept lots and lots of people. Then it may be that what you’ve written for a submission call might have had thousands of. Stories sent in. I believe lockdown actually contributed to this.
During Covid, everybody started to write, so when I sent a story into Samantha calls, the editors were saying, oh, we’ve got a thousand submissions. So again, your chances are going to be reduced somewhat. So there are those things that are part of the practicalities of it, and if you learn that tempers it a little bit, you.
I’ve got a chance, but with all this against me, I can’t necessarily expect it. So if you learn that little aspect of it. And then there’s also the fact that when you send a story in, if it’s for an anthology, it may be that they’ve already taken on a story similar to yours. Or it may be that they’ve chosen several stories and yours doesn’t quite fit what they’ve chosen so far.
It may be the same with a, a novel or a novella. They might have decided on a certain theme, but yours doesn’t quite fit. It might be perfect in terms of writing, but it doesn’t actually quite fit what they’ve asked for. So again, when you learn that, that can still keep you. Going along keep you sane, basically, right?
You learn it’s not all about you and your writing. Some people do get rejected by not following submission guidelines. I was over at Hory, I was their co-editor for a Trembling with Fear, which is their weekly flash scene and it’s flash fiction. And we will get people sending in stories of 5,000 words plus or a novella That’s automatic rejection again, so learn what the acceptance rates are or be aware of them, I would say, so that tempers things a little bit.
Make sure that you followed all the guidelines and then that will keep you same, but you do have to keep at ease. It’s not going to be. An immediate success. Some people are lucky. They might strike lucky first off but for most of us, it is a long slog and you’ll suddenly get an acceptance, and then you’re down in the pits again of the right of
And I think some of the problem authors do to themselves because I know and this is a common thing, I’ve gone through it. I’m sure you may have, and lots of people do that. You write that book, you spend so much time in life and pour into that one book, and then you’re like, oh I’m, this is the best thing ever because you’re very close to it.
It’s hard to tell and I just, everyone’s gonna love it and I. Now I can chuckle a little bit. When you have the author, when I talk to ’em, I’m like, so who’s this book for? Oh, it’s for everybody. Never True. And every time I hear that, I know they’re new and don’t have a whole lot of experience. I’m not saying they’re bad and wrong, it’s just the thinking.
Yeah. You have at the beginning and the, like you said, when you get rejected, it’s not oh my God, your writing sucks. Your writing might suck. But that’s a whole nother problem. . But it like you. When you’re so close to your book, you think everybody should read it and everybody’s gonna love it.
And then when you get that one no, people are like, oh, this isn’t horrible. There’s thousands of places to submit to. There’s thousands of readers. But I joke and I’ve told other people, a friend of mine has done military sci-fi, has 33 years, 35 years of military sci-fi that he’s written. His books have space ships that are shooting at each other, unlike every.
And he got a one star review that said this wasn’t a romance book. I hated it. No, it wasn’t a romance book. It didn’t look like a romance book. So that’s rejection, but that’s not his fault necessarily. And I think everybody takes that way too personal, which I understand why. But we’ve gotta, like you said, remove ourselves from that.
If we were the publisher editor, we didn’t write any of the books, we would say, oh, that. Goes to this place and that one goes to this place. But when you don’t know that you submit to all of ’em, if it’s not the right one, they’re gonna reject you. And again, keep going because somebody’s going to like it somewhere for something.
You gotta look at
Stephanie: it. Yeah. You were just talking about one star reviews and things, and I I know when you read one, I’ve had the occasion one . I’ve even had a dnf, believe it or not, . Yeah. Believe it. You take it to heart and then you have remember yourself as a reader and the books that you don’t like, right?
And I’ve never got past the first page of James Joyce’s Ulysses. And there’s other books that people rave at their classics and no, I don’t like them. And so if you remember how subjective you are as a reader, you can remember that other people are the same. When they come to read your book, at least they’ve given you a chance.
At least they’ve had a. . And it may be that the same person might reread the book or the short story on another day and have a totally different opinion, right? It’s human nature. There’s stories that I’ve read, first off, and I think, no, I’m not too keen on that. and then some months down the line I’ll read again and say, oh yeah, this is really good.
So it, it depends. You’ve just got to remember the subjectivity of it.
Stephen: A and there’s, like you said, there’s a lot of books that people love and and fantasy, which is my main genre of reading or horror, which is my other main genre. And I’m like, yeah, I can’t really stand it. I don’t like the author.
I don’t like their writing. I don’t like, A classic example for me, which by the way, you were talking about school librarian for 11 year olds and reading the when I was 11, I’d already read the Shining by Stephen King and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy . I a lot of us that loved to read started early and read way outside of our age group, but I ha I, when I read Lord of the Rings, I got done with it and I’m like, I must have missed something because I did not enjoy.
And so at some point in the future, I read it a second time and I’m like, Nope. Still didn’t really care for it. Fellowship of the Rings I like, but Return of the King, the third book, I’ve read it three times now. I still cannot tell you what happens in that book. Now. There’s millions of people that love talking and think he’s the greatest and have read the books to tat.
I’ll probably never touch him again in my life because I really didn’t enjoy him. But that’s I don’t think he’d be too bothered by my one person rejecting his book, what, as popular as his stuff is. But the point is that one person isn’t your whole reading audience. Find out why they didn’t like it, what they normally read, and don’t target that type of person.
Make sure you know that’s not the type of person you want. Learn from it is what I. Yeah. Yeah.
Stephanie: You talk about books. I, with Dickens I read a lot of Dickens early on. I had his Christmas books given me for Christmas when I was about 11, and then I started reading all his books and I read PWI papers back then and everyone had said, oh, it’s this funny book.
And I read it and I thought, nah. And then I’ve read it. I dunno, it must be about 10 years ago now. I remember chuckling away all through it because I finally understood. I think I read. Of what you were supposed to read. People encourage you to read the classics at the wrong age but then you come back to it later and.
It’s good. I will say I’m never gonna reread Ernest Hemingway’s the Old Man in the Sea again, because I had to study that at school for two years, which on a little novella is terrible. It is Ug , so I will never look at that again. But other books I’ll probably give another try. ,
Stephen: A good example to me is the old TV show.
Maybe you’ve seen the Archie Bunk. TV show that we had here in America. It’s from the seventies. He was a racist, a bigot, opinionated. But it was a comedy and we were supposed to be laughing at him. And I know a lot of people, oh, I love Archie Bunker, but when I watched it as a kid, I didn’t get it.
But when I watched it as a young adult suddenly clicked and I got it. And I understood they were pointing out the problems in society by using Archie Bunker, and I got it more. . I rejected it the first time and then after that I enjoyed it. So sometimes it does take more than one. Of course, if you’re ascending to a publisher, you don’t get a second chance
Which is a whole nother point. I feel unfortunate that so many people then concentrate on that first, like five pages. That has to be so super and blockbuster and action oriented. Get the conflict out and the mood and all of that in those first five pages, or it’s not gonna see the light of day.
And I find that unfortunate because some of my favorite books have a slow burn, a slow build for the first 50, 75 pages before the action really kicks in. But they’re such good books. We tend to, oh, it’s gotta be, we gotta see the dead body on page. And that for horror, I think for horror, that doesn’t work so well.
It ruins the horror a lot of time. Yeah.
Steaphanie: I like a slow build. Yeah, I like that. Yeah. But I picked up comic McCarthy’s new on the passenger from the library yesterday and it’s, you’ve gotta read it in a week cause it’s only allowed, you’re only allowed it for a week. And I started reading it and I’m struggling.
I’m about halfway through and there’s a lot of quantum physics in there. There’s no explanation of the
Stephen: What’s the name of it? I need to get this book. It’s the Passenger . Ok, I got it. I love the Road and Blood Meridian. I’ve read those. All the pretty horses didn’t quite do it for me, but I saw the passenger and it was, the blurb sort of portrayed it as a thriller almost.
Steaphanie: I started reading and the first bit of writing is. Hallucination episode that a girl is having pretty much, and that’s all in italics. And that breaks up throughout the story. And I’m trying to see where it’s going, and I’m not quite with it yet, but I was thinking if that was one of my , I’m not there. But if that was me writing and sending into a publisher have been rejected because it’s right.
It’s not there on the page. But then again, if you’ve made your name and you’re that, They’ll give you the chance to build up to this point. And I did go to Good Reads and see what people said, and some was were raving about it and how brilliant. And I was thinking, yeah. And then there were others who were struggling a little bit like me.
I’m not stupid. I’ve got a certain amount of scientific background, but the level of science in there and what he would veer off into, I was thinking, oh no.
Stephen: The, that’s a super good point on a couple levels. So you mentioned the road. There’s a book that if it had not been Cormack, McCarthy would not have got published.
That I could not send that book written the way it is into a publisher and get it published. They would want to edit the heck out of it. Capital letters and punctuation. Because that book totally blows the convent. and I know a lot of authors that say, oh, I wanna write my art. I wanna do what I wanna do.
That’s fine. And that’s what Indie self-publishing is great for. But then don’t turn around and say I don’t know why no one’s buying my book. It’s revolutionary. You gotta be on a level of people know your name and trust your name before you can hit ’em upside the head with something that’s revolutionary and blows ’em outta the water.
I know I have a author friend who wrote something. His quote to me was, yeah, I didn’t get an editor cuz I don’t think any editor would quite understand what I’m trying to do and and it’s the first book he ever r wrote and it didn’t go anywhere. So that to me said, yeah, that’s not the time to do it.
Once you have the experience, maybe. So maybe the rejection is because you were trying to be too crazy and revolutionary, you need to get something to get your name out there first.
Stephanie: Yeah. Publishers they, and I’m trying to get an agent for something I’ve written cuz I thought it’s slightly different.
It’s dark historical fiction. And at the minute the rejections are all coming in, but I know that they will only, and it is the same with some of the small presses and the publishers, they will only take you on if they can think. They can build up a platform for you if they’ve if there’s more to you.
So I think they’d want to get you known in your work accepted before they take on a more experimental
Stephen: idea. Or at the least. Because the world of hybrid publishing is a little more prevalent now, and I don’t, a lot of times an agent publisher won’t reject you because you wanna do that. You can have in your contract I’ll give you this book, or I’ll have three books in this series that’s yours.
but I have this other thing I’m working on. I’m keeping that myself and publishing it. And a lot of times now, not always check, but that’s a little more acceptable than it was even five years ago. They understand that this is what you’re promising, but this experimental one, and if it does do well, they might turn around and say, Hey, we wanna publish that.
Let’s come to some agreement. Write something else like that and we will publish it. You I think with the right mindset, you got the best of everything, the best of both worlds in the publishing. You can choose to do anything you want. Indie, just understand if nobody’s buying it, it’s not necessarily rejecting you, maybe it’s just not right for today’s world at this time.
Stephanie: Yeah. And there’s a lot of, there’s a lot of competition out there, so they might not have found you either.
Stephen: True. People not finding you doesn’t mean rejection necessarily. Yeah. That’s part of our job is making sure we get found . It’s not the reader’s job to find you, it’s your job to be found, I think.
Stephanie: Yeah. That’s the other thing with marketing. Cause of push your work out there and then I, it is a very, I dunno whether it’s a British thing, but you don’t want to put yourself, push yourself in people’s faces too much. But if you don’t do that, they’re not gonna see you work.
Stephen: I would agree that does sound a little more British, but it.
Sounds a lot like introverted authors in America, . Cause I know a lot of authors with that same type of thinking, and I have many a time, especially as I’m watching Dr. Who or something, then I’m like, man, I should have been British. I was born in the wrong country. . But if you want to, you can be an author all you want.
and have your friends and family read it and have your books published by yourself. If you’re not wanting to have huge following and hundreds and thousands of people reading it, great, fine. But you can’t not get yourself out there. And then also say nobody reads me. It’s one or the other.
You gotta do something to get yourself out there and you will have people. No there’s a seven point something billion people, so you’re not gonna have 7 billion people like your book, but all you need is that couple hundred, couple thousand that do. That’s just gotta find them.
Stephanie: Yeah I was gonna say that’s how, or being a, being an author I think has changed in recent times.
In the past, if you were published, all the marketing and everything else fell on the people who are publishing you. But now, even if you are part of a publish, Even the main, you know the bigger names, you have to do a lot more promo yourself. Yeah. Whereas really, as you say, we’d rather be hiding in a corner of the house with our books and ignoring the rest of the
Okay. I love the discussion. Nobody has wanted to talk about rejection. So that was a great topic choice, Stephanie. Thank you. Before we go though do you have any last minute advice for authors that you would offer? Do it. Don’t wait around thinking, oh, maybe I’ll do it one day.
Stephanie: If you’ve got, I know it is hard and that life gets in the way a lot, but I was writing on a corner of the sofa in the front room and learning to tune everything else out around me. So to get on and do it, but I would say if you’re going to write, read. Read, widely read in your genre. I do know some writers who don’t actually read that much and they don’t read the books and the genre that they want to write.
So familiarize yourself with that. And if you can build up relationships with other writers, whether it’s online you might get to meet them in real life. I’ve been lucky with a few and they’ve become really good friends and they will form your support network as you go. So you can offload to them in private and have a little rant about acceptances and rejections and everything else and what somebody might have said online.
So you’ve got, you build up this little private world as well, and you don’t feel so isolated. So build up your network. Read widely, enjoy your writing, and don’t do it before it’s too late. or do it. I agree. I
Stephen: could say. Yep. It’s never too late until it is. But you can do it now. I agree.
I love that. All right. Stephanie, thank you for being on. It was great talking to you. I appreciate all the great advice you gave and your book sounds wonderful. I wish you luck.
Stephanie: Oh, thank you very much for having me. It’s been fun. Great.