Monday, May 20, 2013

Karin Cox - HBS Author's Spotlight

Today our blog puts the Spotlight on Australian Author Karin Cox. She is the prolific author of more than 28 titles, from travel guides, to natural history, to illustrated children's storybooks.

Author Genre: Literature & Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry

Website: Meet Author Karin Cox
Author's Blog: Karincox's Blog
Blog: Indie Review Tracker
Twitter: @Authorandeditor
Goodreads: Check Out Goodreads
Facebook: Check Out Facebook
Pinterest: Check Out Pinterest

Author Description:
Karin Cox edits and writes in her "spare time" while being a fulltime mum to a toddler and to a black cat with the improbable name of "Ping Pong." She is the author of more than 30 trade-published natural history books, biographies, Australian social history books, children's picture storybooks, and travel guides, several of which have won awards. Karin has had poems and short stories published in anthologies worldwide and her ebooks CRUXIM, GROWTH, CAGE LIFE, HEY LITTLE SISTER and PANCAKES ON SUNDAY are available on Amazon. Thankfully, the busier she gets, the more creative she is (and the more likely to afford to hire a housekeeper). Karin and her partner live in sunny Queensland, Australia, where she writes from her back deck overlooking the pool, her study (overlooking her messy desk) or her couch (overlooking Dr Phil, who gives her a lot of inspiration).

SPOTLIGHT Questions and Answers with the Author

Let’s start with what’s next. Do you have another book on the horizon? Can you tell us the timeline for its release and give us a little tease?

Yes, at present I am working on a couple of new novels. Creche is the sequel to Cruxim and is much more high fantasy because it deals with my character Amedeo's past (which was unknown to him in the first book), as well as his present. I'm about 50,000 words in and still have a way to go until I finish, but I'm aiming for a July release.

I'm also working on a literary New Adult novel called What the Sea Takes, the heroine of which is a young girl living on Australia's east coast whose surf lifesaver boyfriend goes missing at sea. I'm hoping to have it out before the year's end. However, I'm having to set it aside as Creche is my priority and my fans are eagerly awaiting it, so I can't make them wait too long, but there is a lot of Cruxim lore to explore (it may even be that it leads to some spin off novellas) and a lot of twists and turns to figure out. Here's a little sampler from Creche.

As we crested the hill, I saw that it sloped away steeply into a glade studded with boulders. Below us, plains stretched out into a purple horizon, ringed by mountains. I followed her careful footfalls, noting how she glanced behind her to reassure herself we were not being followed. Soon, a cavern yawned at the intersection of the largest boulders. Without hesitation, she slipped through it into the inky coolness. Something prickled my skin, some fear or foreboding, but I heard her voice in my head: “Come, do not be afraid of this place. Silvenhall is home to me.”

So I followed.

When my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I noticed glimmering phosfhoresence in the rock, running like a vein toward sunlight in the distance. Ahead, I could I barely make out her shining hair as she moved, slender as a willow, in the darkness. When we finally reached daylight, the light of her skin and hair was blinding. Everything shone brighter than sunshine, and I saw at once that the illumination emanated from thousands of ethereal beings. Cruxims, each, all like myself. My guts tangled at the thought. My Maker had been right—I was never alone. Yet the way they all stopped their activity and turned to look at me made me feel more alone than ever. How had it been that I had not known about them, that I had wandered solitary for so long?

You have a good following twitter. How important have your social media relationships been? Do you see a carry over to your writing success?

For me, social media is as much about interacting and socialising as book-selling, and if wasn't that I have to carve out writing time, I'd hang out there a lot more. The life of an author is a lonely one, and my daily interactions and inspirations are often confined to my darling "twits" and Facebook friends, and my family, of course. So they're my people, you know? My crew. They keep me motivated and encourage me and I hope I do the same for them.

Do you do book signings, interviews, speaking and personal appearances? If so, when and where is the next place where your readers can see you? Where can they keep up with your personal contacts online?

I don't really. Living in Australia, where the indie publishing market is really not as developed, I just don't see it as being worth my time until I have several novels out to promote. Also, coming from a background in trade publishing, I have done a lot of book fairs and signings and the like in the past for publishers, and they can be exhausting for little reward. I'm content to chill out in my writer cave and sign books on for now, especially while I have a young child so travel isn't always practical. But … I'm sure there will come a day when I do a lot more face-to-face promotion.

You have great covers. How does your book cover creation process work? Do you hand over the basic theme or do you have more of a hands-on approach? Do you get your readers involved in its development?

Thank you! I suppose that really depends on the cover and the book. I have a lot of graphic designer friends who have helped me out along the way, and my cover artist for the Cruxim series, Eden Crane Designs, has done a fabulous job. I've also worked with Christine DeMaio-Rice for covers, and she is fantastic too. And Athanasios Galanis and Paul Beely, both of whom are excellent to work with. I would highly recommend all of them in a heartbeat. Of course, Sinan Acar and Gozde Berkay, my illustrators for the kids' books, put my children's book covers together, with my help, and it goes without saying that I love them to bits.

I was lucky enough to find just the right image for Cage Life myself. It was a photograph taken by an amateur Japanese photographer and she was thrilled to let me use it, so Cage Life came together very easily and I designed with tips from a designer friend. I also designed the cover for Growth. Having worked side-by-side with graphic artists and used InDesign and Photoshop a lot over my career certainly helps.

Cruxim, like a lot of my books, has had several cover incarnations. The reason for that is solely me. I'm a terrible judge of what should be represented on my own books! Paul Beely did a gorgeous, mythological-based cover for me to my exact specifications, and I absolutely loved it, but months later, I realised I had made it too gothic and specific to a single scene and that didn't suit my target market of paranormal romance.Then, I made the same mistake again with Christine, instructing her to go too girly this time. Eventually, I hit the nail on the head by getting Eden to do something in between those two covers that will still appeal to women but shows that this is a dark fantasy rather than a "sparkly" vampire book. For me, I am happy to work out the covers in this way, even if it costs me more, because covers are so important. Honestly, these people are professionals and sometimes you're better off just letting them do it with little input from you, because I do feel you're compromised by how close you are to the text. I certainly don't regret working with any of them. They've all been incredibly helpful and professional, and they're all very talented. So that was an important lesson for me: sometimes they know best and your vision isn't the reader's vision, you know.

Now, I stick to linking them to images of what my characters look like in my mind's eye, but not trying to strictly represent a single scene from the book, focussing more on a stylised approach. I've commissioned Sarah Hansen from Okay Creations to do a cover for What the Sea Takes, because I love her work too and she has worked with some really successful indies. Of course, the lovely Eden Crane will continue to create the covers for the Cruxim series and has just finished the cover for Creche, which I've revealed on I've chatted with fans a lot about that cover, and they've all helped shape the cover and the series, in some way.

Have you created a book trailer for any of your books to promote them online?

I created what I call a "book teaser." It's not a trailer because it is really a series of promotional stills I made for the book, set to music. So it uses quotes from the book to kind of give a sense of what the book is about, but isn't as cohesive as a traditional book trailer. One of these days, I might get around to digging up some footage and making a proper trailer. It's on the list of things to do. (The teaser can be seen by clicking link below.)

What kinds of writer support groups do you belong too? Do they help with the writing, marketing and the publishing process?

I belong to several fabulous online writer support groups (once again I am a hermit in real life! And I'm supposedly a people person?). Indie Writers Unite facebook group is an incredible place to seek answers to indie questions, with more than 1500 authors congregating there. I am part of an Australian and New Zealand authors and bloggers group (and they're very inspiring) and several other super-secret groups are my daily "go tos" for snark, chit chat and insider knowledge, and of course, there are my darling Indie Chicks—a super talented, super friendly bunch of women who really are wonderful encouragement for each other.

We have had several of the Indie Chicks in the Author’s Spotlight. What a group of outstanding people. What is the main thing that you get out of this association?

Camaraderie and encouragement. I'm a small fish in that big pond. Some of the women in there put the super in Superwoman, let me tell you. They've published many, many novels to great acclaim, yet they're more than willing to share their time and their tips with other women. The Indie Chicks come from a perspective of cooperation being a valuable tool. We've all read each other's work and we champion each other's efforts, and it's not just about writing, it is largely about life. We blog about our trials and tribulations on a day-to-day level. They support me when I'm feeling "mommy guilt" as much as when I'm struggling to get words on the page. Although I haven't met any of the Indie Chicks in real life, I feel like I've known some of them forever. Friendship and support is really what keeps us all in that online cafe, and what we offer visitors too, I think. It's like a hug from one writing woman to the next.

Has the advent of ebooks changed anything in your writing, your marketing and the relationship with your readers and fans?

Totally, and so has self-publishing. When you're on the other side of the desk, in trade publishing, you're always set apart from your audience. There is always the middleman of the publicist or the publisher. I adore being able to connect with my fans directly on twitter (@Authorandeditor or on my facebook page. I love that they post pics of my characters to my page or to pinterest and that they get so embroiled in my worlds, and I adore the intimacy and immediacy that ebook publishing affords. The fans are an integral part of the process now. They create a kind of hypertext around a book and a series and it means that they own it, in many ways, as much as the author does. That's a beautiful thing.

What has been your experience in giving your books away free? Have you been involved in any other type of giveaways and how did that work out? What was your main goal in doing this? Did you run into any obstacles?

I believe that there is certain audience you'll probably never reach with paid books, so giving your books away for free isn't really harming your brand or devaluing your work, it is reaching those who might otherwise never have shelled out for it. Once they have read it, they might recommend it to others who will pay for it. That's the plan, at least. Neil Gaiman speaks about how he asked readers at an author event how they had found the first book they read of their favourite author.

Overwhelmingly, they were lent it, borrowed it from the library or were given it as a gift. Very few actually bought that first book themselves, even if they went on to love that author and buy all of his or her subsequent books. I don't think "free" is new, per se. Books have always been available for free. But I do think it is a powerful tool that should be used wisely as part of an overall marketing strategy. Overuse it, and you could be attracting the wrong market (those who don't pay for much of anything at all), but as an occasional tool, I think it works well.

The challenge for me when it comes to giveaways is often geography. It can be expensive to have books shipped here from Create Space and then to sign them and post them elsewhere. But I regularly gift ebook copies via Amazon and I have recently given away three signed paperbook copies on my blog, as well as some angel and gothic-themed bling. It was so much fun that I'll probably try to do it several times a year, and even give away something bigger like an ereader next time as well.

You have published several different type of books from children, to paranormal romance, to non-fiction. Does changing hats create any problems? Any tricks you can share with us? Which genre did you enjoy writing the most? Does moving from one to the other give a change of pace?

Oh yes, changing hats creates HUGE problems. If I did it over, I would definitely keep my children's books under a different umbrella (probably with my non-fiction). As it is, I'm currently trying to decide whether to publish What the Sea Takes under my name, or to create a new imprint for New Adult and young adult works. However, the more nom de plumes, you have, the more marketing and brand-building you have to do.

Being a jack of all trades is difficult, and I couldn't tell you which genre I enjoy most. I love all my "book babies." They're all different. I still write non-fiction for New Holland Publishers Australia, mostly in social history, and it is really refreshing to stop and do that when I've been writing a lot of fiction, but fiction is really where my heart lies, and literary fiction and fantasy are the genres I read in the most. Having said that, I'm not a book snob, I've always read across many, many genres. If it's good, I'll read it. I suppose it is unsurprising that I take the same approach to writing. I love the variety, and I love the challenge of writing in a new genre. I'll never get bored, that's for sure.

Does living in Australia create any unique selling and marketing situations? Where is your biggest audience? Does marketing online help in this situation?

My biggest audience is still in the USA. Australia is under-developed when it comes to the ereader and ebook marketshare. I really think this will change dramatically in the coming three years and I expect to see ebooks mature quite quickly once people let go the idea that paper is necessary for a book to be tangible or for the experience of reading (and I used to be a staunch believer that I'd miss that book "smell" —I don't). Also, it is harder to make a living as an Australian author because we're still getting paid in paper cheques in US dollars from KDP, and they are costly to cash here. I think once Amazon starts up an Australian store, which I can see happening in future, and really pushes into this market, big changes will take place. I also think China will take off soon as well. When that happens, it will be worth my time to focus further on the home-grown aspect of my writing, but for now, I'm mostly picking up sales in the UK and the US now. Those who buy my books in Australia are those who I interact with or know professionally or personally. I also need to start looking at in-store distribution here. Another task on the list.

Finally, I have to ask. Does your black cat play a role in your writing? How was it bestowed the name ‘Ping Pong’?

The role Ping Pong plays is my little writing buddy, although he'll often try to curl up on the keyboard and interrupt me for pats. I love cats and he is the fourth black cat I've had the pleasure to live with in my life. Don't believe what you hear about black cats; they are sweet little things, and just a little bit magical.

Poor Ping Pong's name gradually developed. Initially, in keeping with being my writing partner, his name was Inki. Of course, my fiance (a little jealous of the cat's place in my heart) took to calling him Stinky Inki (when he was litter training as a kitten), which became "Stinki inki pinky" and then "Stinki inki pinky pong" and then Ping Pong, which really suits him perfectly as he's constantly bouncing around swatting things. It was probably his real name all along and it just had to find us! My daughter adores him. She rides him, brushes his fur with her toothbrush (we're all about hygiene, here!), tries to put him in her pram and feed him a bottle. As he is my first "baby," I thought he would resent her, but he is so super tolerant with her. It's awesome to watch.

Author's Book List
Cruxim: You Are Never Alone - (Paranormal Fallen Angels) (Volume 1)
What is Cruxim?

Amedeo is Cruxim, a mysterious, immortal fallen angel. Destined to seek redemption as a vampire hunter, he quenches his hunger on their blood. But when the object of his passion, the novice nun Joslyn, is turned into a vampire and enters a coven, Amedeo's worlds collide. Shattered by the loss of his beloved, he vows to rid the world of vampires once and for all, even if it means destroying Josyln in the process.

A Paranormal Game of Cat and Mouse

Joining Amedeo on his quest to rid the world of the undead is Sabine. Half-woman, half-lioness, she is a Sphinx, a guardian who has protected humans from vampires since the dawn of time. Yet Sabine comes to this fight pursued by her own enemies. Dr. Claus Gandler knows the secret of Sabine's mythological past and has vowed to torment her for eternity or destroy her forever. Captured by the evil doctor, Amedeo and Sabine are paraded as sideshow freaks in Gandler's Circus of Curiosities. Only vampire Joslyn has the power to intercede. Will she prove Amedeo's redemption, or his destruction?
Book Trailer: Cruxim: You Are Never Alone
Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - Amazon UK
Pancakes on Sunday
Hannah, Daniel, and Madeline just LOVE pancakes. They love them so much that they eat them every Sunday. Crazy curly ones, round ones, rabbit-shaped ones -- all sorts and all shapes of pancakes are on the menu. This simple rhyming picture book is both fun and engaging, and the bright illustrations are sure to raise a smile. Perfect for kids who love to read, and for parents who love to read with them.
Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - Amazon UK
Cage Life - (Literary Short Stories (Dark Themes)
What happens when life doesn't turn out as planned? This collection of two darkly evocative stories explores the choices and compromises we make in life and in love, and how they can trap or liberate us, depending on our mindset.

In "Cage Life," a young mother feels like a prisoner in her own home. Her decision to escape the perceived bonds of marriage and motherhood, just for a few hours, has unexpectedly tragic consequences that force her to a re-evaluate what it really means to be loved, to be married, to be a mother, and to be "free," and what truly matters in life.

In "The Usurper," unconditional love is explored within the boundaries of age and longing. Basil is in his eighties, with an illustrious career in law enforcement behind him, when he meets Carla: a beautiful, energetic and much younger mistress. But when Simon appears on the scene, can Basil keep her or does she, in fact, keep him? With a twist that makes reading all the way to the end imperative, The Usurper poses the question: "Are things ever really as they seem or is our reality filtered by perception?"

Note: These stories contain some drug use and explore the darker aspects of the human condition--irrational fault-finding, subconscious fears, guilt, grief, jealousy, and blame--but careful readers should find neither without hope of redemption, forgiveness, or character growth.
Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - Amazon UK
Ms. Adventures in Travel - Indie Chicks Anthology
Ready for an adventure? Travel along with sixteen women writers as they recount their journeys to locations as diverse as Italy, Africa, Ireland, Central America, North Cyprus, the beaches of Florida and California, the canyons of Arizona, and the mountains of the Colorado Rockies. You will laugh, cringe, nod in understanding, and maybe even wipe away a tear or two. Best of all, you won’t have to pack!

Stories from:
Heather Marie Adkins
Peg Brantley
Karin Cox
Patrice Fitzgerald
LK Gardner-Griffe
Christy Hayes
Sibel Hodge
Carol Davis Luce
Faith Mortimer
Cheryl Shireman
Melissa Smith
Louise Voss
Linda Welch
Elizabeth West
Sarah Woodbury
Georgina Young-Ellis
Order the Book From: Amazon - Amazon UK
Hey, Little Sister
Zac is very excited to be getting a new little sister. But how will she arrive exactly? And will he like her after all?

Designed for parents to help initiate conversation about pregnancy, birth and the arrival of a new sibling, this engaging, beautifully illustrated picture book by Australian author Karin Cox raises some likely questions from young children while still allowing parents to decide how to explain a new arrival in their own terms. Follow Zac and his family as they prepare for a little bundle of joy to arrive.
Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - Amazon UK
Author Recommended by: Cheryl Brashaw
Author Cheryl Bradshaw is a best-selling Author. She is the creator of the Sloane Monroe series and the founder of the hugely successful Indie Writers Unite group on Facebook. Click here to see Cheryl's Author Spotlight post.

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