As promised, I'm very excited to present you to the amazing and talented T.S. Welti who has graciously accepted my request to poke around her brain (non-invasive, I promise) and tell us more about herself and her journey alongside Parker Chance, her protagonist for The Fifth Specter.
Barbara Walters? Um, no. More
like Rita Skeeter. ;)
Time to don the specs, adjust the suit (with the shoulder pads), and test the microphone.
Ahem. Here we go, Barbara Walters-style (in purple, 'cause I lurves purple).
How did you come up with the concept for The Fifth Specter? What was your inspiration and was there a specific one in mind?
The idea for The Fifth Specter came to me gradually. Parker's story and that of his parents came to me on August, 2, 2005. (Yes, I'm a nerd. I remember the exact date.) Within two weeks of the initial idea, I had already decided this would be a five-book series that would center around the Law of Fives. It grew exponentially and in all directions from there. Unfortunately, being a single working mom, the plot for the series was too intricate to weave in my off time. When I was laid off in November of last year, I had an Oprah "Aha!" moment and realized this would probably be my only opportunity to finish The Fifth Specter. That's when the concept of the Law of Fives and Parker's story finally gained lift-off.
You remembered the exact date? Sheesh. I can't even remember what today is. :)
Why MG? Most MG books have a certain tone and voice to them. It's not always easy to portray the voice of a young MC. How did you prepare yourself to write Middle Grade?
I didn't consciously choose middle-grade. In the beginning (2005/2006), I just wrote without any real plan. I was a true newbie. In 2008, as the story developed and got a little darker, I questioned whether it should be classified as young adult. I even switched point of view three times as I toyed with Parker's voice. But, even though Parker is thirteen and he's gone through some tough experiences, the sheltered life he lived with the Rooney's gives him a very innocent and, at times, naive voice. I sometimes wish I had written a young adult series, just because they're so popular. But I didn't write the book (and continue writing it after five years) because of what was popular. I love the characters too much to give up on them. <--That's always a good thing! ;D
Are there certain books or movies that helped influence the world of Stonyford Hollow and Knobhouse Academy?
There are many books and movies that have influenced The Fifth Specter. When I began writing the book in August 2005, the original story was more like the TV show Heroes. Unfortunately, the TV show came out a few months after I began writing the book and it was so spectacular I knew I had to take The Fifth Specter down a slightly different route. After that, the story was influenced by many movies and books, particularly X-Men, Harry Potter, The Giver, Illusions, and Chronicles of Narnia. Of course, my writing is influenced by just about every book I've read and every experience I've had. For instance, I wanted Parker to play a sport, but the only sport I had ever played was soccer. When I began writing the book, my daughter had been playing goalkeeper for three years. From those experiences spent playing and watching soccer games, Cosmic Ball was born. You'll also notice the "flashes of color" inspired by The Giver. Though I'm not religious, I am fascinated by biblical tales. There are many nods to those stories in The Fifth Specter as well as a nod to Macbeth and another favorite of mine, Jane Eyre.
I have not read the Giver but I am going to now.
I know you went the route of indie publishing. How did you come to this decision? And why not traditional publishing?
When The Fifth Specter was finished, I sent out only two query letters; and that was after my mind was 95% made up about going indie. I read a lot about the indie publishing industry as I wrote The Fifth Specter (six years is a long time). When it came time to decide whether I would go indie or traditional, I didn't wanted to wait another 18-24 months to find an agent, go through revisions, submit to publishers, go through contract negotiations, and then probably end up with a book and artwork I was not entirely pleased with. Not to mention that, as a new author, I would not have had enough clout to negotiate my ebook rights. The process just didn't seem appealing to me. I wanted to get my book out quickly and retain all my publishing rights. Now, the problem with indie publishing is, of course, reach. There are still more people without ereaders than there are with. A traditional publisher is great for reaching that audience. If I were to ever go traditional, I would want to make sure I had enough power to retain ebook rights. The fact of the matter is, indie publishing has been around for more than a century, but the publishing industry has placed a stigma on it. I think we are starting to see that stigma being lifted. Indie entertainment (books, music, film), is the way of the future and I'd rather be running with the pack than trying to catch up.
Since Parker starts out at 13, does this mean it's going to eventually cross over as a YA book as he gets older in the series?
As the series plays out, it will definitely get more intense and it will feature more difficult scientific concepts, but I think it will still be suitable for tweens and up.
Are you worried about it being compared to, say, Harry Potter? There are a few similarities after all (i.e. Parker is an orphan who didn't know he had powers until he discovered the super world), which is understandable as you have mentioned being influenced by Harry Potter.
I don't really worry about the Harry Potter similarities since there are so many books with that "ordinary hero discovers he's extraordinary" storyline (namely Star Wars, X-Men, Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia, etc.). Of course, there will always be people who don't like a book because of it's similarities to another book and there are some who will love it for just the same reason. I try not to think about that and just write the series as I envisioned it. As far as Parker being an orphan, you may be in for a surprise. *evil laugh*
Oh boy. A twist! Me loves twisty-twists!
What has been your experience with your indie publishing journey? Care to enlighten us clueless ones a bit?
My experience (which is really only five weeks) has been great. It's definitely hard work (just ask my Circadian Rhythms), but I had no idea there was a world of authors and readers who are so willing to help authors succeed. I've had fourteen book bloggers agree to review The Fifth Specter. Fourteen! I've also gotten amazing feedback from readers and authors who've read the book; and who doesn't like a good ego stroking. If I hadn't gone the indie route, I wouldn't have all this feedback to buoy me as I write the second book. But I try to remain objective and I'm constantly trying to be a better writer. I still read books on writing and publishing and I follow a ton of great blogs (including yours). It's hard work, but there are so many resources available to indie authors. I'm definitely enjoying the process.
Have you been building your audience through social media before the book's publication? Has it helped at all with getting your name and your work out there?
I probably should have gotten serious about trying to build my platform a long time ago. Now that I am a bit more active in the social media universe, I find that it is somewhat helpful (in terms of book sales), though not as helpful as one would think. I suspect about 80% of my book sales have come from readers stumbling upon my book. That's probably not a very encouraging number because, as an indie author, how do you get readers to stumble upon your book? Well, I suspect word-of-mouth is still probably the best way to get your book recognized. And everyone knows word-of-mouth in the publishing industry comes from writing something that resonates with the reader. Above all, when it comes to social media, I try to remember Nathan Bransford's famous words, "Social media is social." I don't mind tooting my own horn if I accomplish something, but I'm not on Twitter or Facebook to sell books. I get a genuine rush from the social interactions.
I agree. I first met you through Twitter and we've been friends since! Hooray for Twitter!
Anything you regret doing, in terms of publishing? Or has it been a wild ride for you?
ME: This is the finished cover. Isn't it cool? I think you did a helluva job despite the time constraints, T.S.!
I regret not starting on the cover art for The Fifth Specter much earlier. My illustrator and I began working on it just a few weeks before it was published and we ended up having to scrap the first design and start over. The original cover had Parker, Lucas, and Norah with Rochester sitting on Parker's shoulder. It looked pretentious. Putting the cover together was such a nerve-wracking process because I had promised the book would be published by a certain date and I had people asking me, "Is it done yet?".... "Where can I buy it?" I wanted to deliver the book on time and, unfortunately, the book cover wasn't exactly what we had envisioned due to time constraints. Other than that, no, I have no regrets. I had nearly six years to wash away those regrets with many bottles of wine. ;)
Any writing quirks or routines you follow?
I recently posted a blog post about my writing process. I have been diagnosed with ADD once as a child and once as an adult, so I deal with that when I'm organizing my writing. You don't want to see my desk! I try to keep my writing process organized, but my writing routine varies depending on my schedule. I usually wake up and sit down at my computer for four to five hours. I check email, write, and engage in a little social media. Then I take a break and sit back down about 9PM and write for another three to four hours. It allows me to spend time with my daughter and get things done outside of my home during daylight hours.
What do you do when you're stumped?
I get up and do something or I write through it. The odd thing about keeping your mind and body moving is that your brain subconsciously continues to work on previous problems. Most of the time, though, I write through the block. I've realized that not every single word I write has to be inspired by something or perfectly figured out. If I'm writing a scene and I can't figure out how I'm going to get my character from point A to point B, the path usually reveals itself as I write. Some people call this being inspired by the muse, some call it the characters guiding the writer; I think it's just doing the work.
What's your writing muse like?
My writing muse is a dark and fickle mistress. She's been known to abandon me for long periods of time... or so I thought. I recently realized that when the writing got tough (mainly in 2007-2008 for me), it was I who had been fleeing from my muse. She was always there waiting to share a glass of a wine and good tale. I just had to sit my butt down and listen to what she had to say.
That is great advice! I've never really even thought of it that way--me fleeing the muse instead of the other way around. Will have to try this out--minus the wine--with chocolate and a good writing pad. Thanks, TS!
Do you have a favorite author or book that you go back to time and again? Just one, as in your ultimate love, and if the apocalypse was here and you could only take one book, this would be it? ;)
Oh, gosh, this is tough. I absolutely love The Giver and The Book Thief, but it would be so hard to choose between them. Can I bring the first half of The Giver and the second half of The Book Thief? I have a thing for dystopian (or utopian gone awry, as it is in The Giver), but I cried for nearly an hour at the end of The Book Thief. I'm such a sap.
I cried through The Book Thief too, so you're not the only sap around here. *grin*
I love your answers. You just confirmed how much of a superwoman you are. Speaking of which, if you were a super in Parker Chance's world, what superpower would you like to possess?
This is going to sound evil, but I would really want to be a Writer. As you know, Writers are superhumans with the ability to "write" counterfeit thoughts in another person's mind. The idea of placing thoughts of peace and kindness in everyone's mind is irresistible to me. See... I only have the purest of intentions.
We are the opposite! I wanted to be a Reader. :) So I can figure out what my kids want and avoid temperamental fits.
When can we expect book 2 of the series?
Book 2 is scheduled for release December 2011. I can't reveal the name of the book yet, but I can say that the name of book 2 is mentioned in book 1.
And lastly, what secret talent (other than writing) have you been keeping from us?
My not-so-secret talent is baking. As Lucas's father reminds us in The Fifth Specter, all good baking is good chemistry. I have always had a knack for the science of baking. I bake at least twice a week and I even keep my own sourdough starter. I post recipes on the blog once in a while, as well.
Yes, T.S. made this! And it look sooo YUM! Click on the pic for a link to the recipe.
Thank you, Ms. Welti, for visiting us today! We wish you success on your publishing journey.
For more on T.S. Welti, check out her blog where she hangs out to talk about writing, books, and her love for the perfect cookies.
I'm a YA writer who loves to read. Also a mom of 3. My life is crazy but always fun. :)
Represented by the lovely Julia A. Weber of J. A. Weber Literaturagentur GmbH.
Thanks for stopping by!