Monday, June 17, 2013

Thoughts from a Newbie

By Betsy Ashton

Yes, I'm a newbie to this group. I'm honored to be here and share my weird sense of the world with you all. Two seconds of commercial: I'm a published author of Mad Max Unintended Consequences. I'm involved in three writers groups. Two are critique groups, one at Smith Mountain Lake, the other in Roanoke. And I didn't duck when asked to be the president of the state-wide Virginia Writers Club. Commercial over.

I think about where we get ideas for stories all the time. Nothing new for those of us who write because we must. I must breathe. I must write. But, sometimes stories pop up where they're least expected.

I'm testing the best way to market my novel. Book signings. Social media. Book fairs. I don't know what works best yet, but I'm learning with each venue. Last weekend I went to a two-day book fair. I sold some books. I signed some books. I don't think this was my audience, though. Still, I was fascinated by the insularity of the people who came to the book fair.

Without telling you too much, the fair was part of a street festival in Appalachia. Most of the buyers were from the local area or the mountains of North and South Carolina. Many were transplants from the North. They were like me and were interested in my story. I didn't find much new material from them, though.

What was of interest were the stories from the locals. Most spoke about living on the mountain or down the mountain. Most lived within 50 miles (or less) of where they were born. High school teachers caught up with students who had books for sale. Lots of mountain music, with a dulcimer-and-banjo-playing couple who were joined by a writer who played fiddle. Lots of writers flat-footing in the open space between rows of tables. What got me to thinking was what would it be like to leave one of these insular communities, only to return later after having seen the world.

What would the escapee learn? Why would she return? What would she bring back to her community? Would she be an outcast? I used the windshield time coming home to think about how to weave this into a plot. Since I'm working on a serial killer piece in my spare time, many of the sounds and smells from the weekend can make their way into this WIP. Some of the phrases will, no doubt about it.

Will I return to the venue next year? I don't know. Maybe if I need validation for the WIP. Probably not with the idea of selling tons of books. Maybe to keep my name in front of potential readers. Probably not for both days, though. That was a huge investment of time.

My current book is about a socialite who returns to Richmond to care for her injured daughter and decide if she's going to help raise her grandchildren. Not Appalachian at all. Book two in that series takes the socialite and family to post-Katrina Mississippi. Not Appalachian at all. But the serial killer work might sell well. What do you think? Ideas, fellow Roses?


Jannine Gallant said...

Welcome to our blog, Betsy. I grew up in a small town (400 people small) on the other side of the country. I think your idea about an escapee returning is a good one. I feel those emotions when I go back just for a visit. And small towns are what I write about, so the allure is there. Great getting to know you better.

Vonnie Davis ~ Romance Author said...

Great post, Betsy. Adding a dash of local color and "wit-isms" flavors our writings. I plan on doing the same when we go to Paris and Berlin in September. My head will be on a swivel much as yours was at the book fair. Writers are sponges, after all. Welcome to Roses of Prose.

Alison Henderson said...

Thanks for such an interesting first post, Betsy! Serial killers usually sell well, but I love your idea for the small town character leaving and returning. Lots of story fodder there.

Margo Hoornstra said...

Betsy, thanks for all the interesting information. Sounds like you're a 'fish out of water' type of pantser writer. Great how you can take what sounded like a working week-end and turn it into research. Nice to have you here with the roses.

Maryann Miller said...

I loved you comments, I must breathe. I must write. I just Tweeted the quote. (smile)

I do a couple of select festivals a year, more for the exposure, and the fun, than for revenue. I am always energized after being around other creative folks, so I come home excited to get back to work. For that, the time investment is worth it.

Barbara Edwards said...

Welcome to the roses, Betsy. I haven't done a book signing in months. Maybe with my next release.

Mary Montague Sikes said...

Good luck with being out there trying so many different marketing venues. Interesting blog about the festival and those attending!

Alicia Dean said...

Sorry I'm late. Welcome from one newbie to another. Great post. I would love to go to the Appalachians. I bet it's beautiful there. Your series sounds interesting, but a serial killer story always gets my vote. :-) Best of luck with all of it. (And I've never had much luck at book signings of any kind)