Today our blog puts the Spotlight on Author Francine Thomas Howard. She is the author of historical fiction novels.
Meet Francine Thomas Howard
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Francine Thomas Howard resides with her family in the San Francisco Bay Area. Originally from Illinois, she has lived in the Bay Area since childhood. Howard left a rewarding career in pediatric occupational therapy to pursue her first love, writing.
SPOTLIGHT Questions and Answers with the Author
Let’s start with what’s next. Can you tell us the timeline for its release and give us a little tease?
I am working on a five-book series covering three-hundred years and two continents. The saga follows the adventures of three sisters of noble heritage kidnapped in 1706 from Timbuktu, marched to Goree Island in Senegal, transported across the Atlantic, and finally sold separately into slavery in New Orleans. On their last day together, the sisters promise that some day, they or their descendants will return to Timbuktu.
Books Two through Four follow the various identities the descendants assume--Cherokee, Creole, Caucasian, Spanish--through various periods of American history. Through the wonders of the Internet and the magic of DNA, the sisters' descendants are reunited in modern America. Books One and Five--I wrote the last book first, because I had to be certain my girls would be all right after the travails of their ancestresses--are now in the hands of my editor at AmazonEncore.
I like these stories because I don't believe the travails of the Middle Passage have ever been told from the female perspective. Precise release date to be determined.
Since you started before the social media buzz, what impact has social media relationships had on your current success? How much has it changed your book launch process?
Though I am not very skilled in social media, I've had wonderful friends who played a major part in launching my first novel, Page from a Tennessee Journal into the social stratosphere. I owe a great deal to GoodReads, and to a number of blogs that mentioned my novel. My greatest exposure, of course, has been through all the avenues available to Amazon authors on their various sites. On September 24, 2011, Page, was the number 1 Kindle download in the US. It repeated that record in September 2012 in Germany.
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've done a number of interviews: podcast, newspaper, personal appearances. My personal appearances have ranged from local bookstores like Marcus Books in San Francisco to a spectacular appearance at Fisk University (sponsored by Meherry Medical College). I currently have no personal appearances/interviews scheduled but I promise to keep everyone posted on both my wordpress site
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?
Thanks. I love my covers, too. I have a great editor. He reads my work and offers me cover choices. I make suggestions for changes and he follows through. The Amazon team actually designs the final product. Again, I've been most pleased with the entire process.
What writer support groups do you belong too? Do they help with the writing, marketing and the publishing process?
I consider myself most fortunate to have discovered the Jack-London founded, Berkeley Branch of the California Writers' Club. I came to writing late in life. When I wrote my first novel in 2003, I really had no idea of the craft of writing. The CWC-BB five-page critique group taught me so well that my novel, Page, became a top ten finalist in the 2003 Maui Writers contest after only four months of feed-back.
I will always feel a tremendous debt of gratitude to that group of caring writers. Because my publisher is Amazon, my writing cohorts have not been involved in the publishing process. The vast majority of my marketing is done by Amazon but I was honored to be a featured speaker at a CWC-BB meeting.
Has the advent of ebooks changed anything in your writing, your marketing and the relationship with your readers and fans?
I still love the feel of a hardcover in my hands, but I must admit the Kindle is running a close race for my affections. My ebook sales vastly outnumber my other imprints--hardcover, softcover, audio. While all are selling, my ebook sales have been close to phenomenal.
No, my writing style has not changed because of ebooks. As a writer, I feel more the secretary as the characters in my novels demand that I tell the world their stories. They are unconcerned if the final product is hard cover or ebook as long as I get their stories right!
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 have given books to local libraries supported by the CWC and, of course, I've donated books as raffle prizes to non-profit groups. That feels good. No, I've run into no obstacles.
How important has Audio Books been to your success? Do you recommend new authors going this route to get more exposure?
Yes, I do have audio books but that decision was in the hands of my publisher. I received a very nice email from the narrator of my two Amazon books, Page and Paris Noire. She thanked me for allowing her to play such interesting characters--especially the African-American chanteuse in 1944 Paris--Paris Noire.
I'm afraid I can give little advice to other writers on this medium. Again, my ebooks are far outselling all my other imprints.
Tell us about your experiences with Amazon Encore? Do you plan on publishing with them again?
Fabulous! I've already expressed my good fortune at having discovered the California Writers' Club-Berkeley Branch. Because of their timely critique of my query letter/entry requirement for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest in 2009, I was among the first writers of original manuscripts to be signed by the newly (2009) announced entry of Amazon.com into the big bad world of real publishing. I did not win the contest--I only advanced to Round Two on the strength of that query letter, but somehow my work was noticed by Amazon's Senior Acquisition Editor. He loves my work. Amazon has been fantastic in handling my career. I have been a major beneficiary of their marketing might. And, yes, they are now looking at my two latest novels.
I strongly recommend that any novelist with a completed work, enter the ABNA contest. Fabulous things can happen even if you don't win--in my case, ESPECIALLY because I didn't win!
Author's Book List
Paris, 1944: the city steams in the summer heat, bristling with anticipation of its impending liberation. It marks the beginning of the end of a devastating war…and the beginning of a year like no other for Marie-Therese Brillard and her children, Colette and Christophe. They first came to Paris from Martinique in 1928, among the immigrants of color who flocked to France in the 1920s and 30s. They settled in Montmartre, a vibrant neighborhood teeming with musicians, writers, and artists, and began the arduous task of building a new life in a new land. The rigors of World War II only added to the adversity beneath which Marie-Therese struggled. Its culmination should offer her relief, and yet…
When Colette and Christophe are swept up in the jubilation following the Nazis’ departure, each embarks upon a passionate love affair that Marie-Therese fears will cost them their dreams—or their lives. Twenty-year-old Colette begins a dalliance with a white Frenchman, a romance forbidden for the quadroon child of an immigrant. Her older brother Christophe becomes the lover of the beautiful wife of a French freedom fighter, a relationship Marie-Therese suspects can only end in heartache and bloodshed. Adding yet another complication is the man she calls Monsieur Lieutenant, the handsome black soldier whose mere presence intrigues Marie-Therese as no man has before.
Order the Book From: Amazon
- Barnes and Noble
The Sisterhood Hyphen
Three women embark on the trip of a lifetime.
Three men learn what it means to love.
Shy Elle Lytle, proper Leigh Hartwell and brash Olivia Baskins are traveling the world. A stop in Sengal challenges the women to not only rethink their identities, but their heritage as they spar and parry with the African born men they are attracted to.
Richard Smythe-Phillips, Charles Dawud-Phillips and Abdou Dhanka understand what is both sad and great about Africa. As they pursue the women they are coming to love, they provide understanding into what makes Africa unique and beautiful.
From the wilds of Africa to the exotic splendor of India and Hong Kong, the three couples struggle to understand their feelings and the bonds growing between them before realizing that some things are just mean to be.
Order the Book From: Amazon
- Barnes and Noble
Page from a Tennessee Journal
A family secret is the inspiration for Francine Thomas Howard's remarkable debut novel, set in 1913, that focuses on a white couple who own a rural Tennessee farm and an African-American husband and wife, sharecroppers who work their land.
In the novel, Annalaura Welles is forced to become the mistress of landowner Alex McNaughton after her husband, John, abandons her and her children. But trouble ensues when McNaughton develops genuine feelings for her. A sexual relationship is culturally acceptable, but love is not.
When John returns, Annalaura must make decisions that will preserve the lives of the main characters and a baby who's on the way. It's a story as suspenseful as it is rich in detail about the evolving relationships between blacks and whites and men and women in the rural south.
Page From a Tennessee Journal is also of note because it's one of the first books to be offered by AmazonEncore, a publishing program from Amazon that includes books that may not catch the eye of traditional publishers. -- Carol Memmott, USA TODAY
Order the Book From: Amazon
- Barnes and Noble
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