Monday, June 9, 2014

Laurel A. Rockefeller - An Author Interview in the HBS Author's Spotlight

Today our blog puts the Spotlight on Author Laurel A. Rockefeller. She is the author of the Peers of Beinan medieval science fiction series.

Author Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery

Website: The Peers of Beinan Series
Blog: IAN - Author Page
Twitter: @laurelworlds
Goodreads: Check Out Goodreads
Google+: Check Out Google+
Facebook: Check Out Facebook
Pinterest: Check Out Pinterest

Author Description:
Laurel A. Rockefeller was born and raised in Lincoln, Nebraska where she received her bachelor of arts from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.

In August, 2012 Laurel launched the Peers of Beinan medieval science fiction Series with book one, "The Great Succession Crisis," book one of the Anlei's Legacy trilogy. In March, 2014 in honor of Women's History Month, she launched the Legendary Women of World History Series of biographical novellas for children, teens, and adults. She is also a regular contributor to Yahoo Voices.

Laurel currently lives in Pennsylvania where she is working on book three, "Princess Anyu Returns."

Laurel donates 10% of her earnings as an author to environmental charities focusing on planting trees, conserving wildlife, and ending animal abuse.

SPOTLIGHT Questions and Answers with the Author

Congratulations on your novella: The Poisoned Ground. What do you have on the drawing board next? Rumor has it that you’re working on "Catherine de Valois" which is the second novella in the Legendary Women of World History Series. Can you tell us the timeline for its release and give us a little tease?

Thank you kindly, I would be more than happy to! The rumors are correct and I am working on the story of Catherine de Valois, a biography that will challenge everything you think you know about the French princess, queen of England, and Tudor matriarch, especially if you are a devote, as I am, of Shakespeare.

Following about six weeks of research and three weeks of writing, I am looking at a release date either in the last week of June or the first week of July and hope to begin an audio production before the end of the year. Currently highly respected UK actor Richard Mann is narrating book one, "Boudicca: Britain's Queen of the Iceni" (estimated audio release date by mid-September). If all goes well, I hope Mr. Mann will decide to narrate on Catherine as well.

If that is not incentive enough to be really excited about Catherine de Valois, here is part of a climactic scene from the end of chapter one between Catherine de Valois, her mother Queen Isabeau of Bavaria, and Henry V.

“Must we do this, Mother?” asked Catherine, pacing furiously.

“What choice do we have, Catherine? The blood of the women and children of Rouen cry out for action. We must meet with King Henry this day or risk further slaughter,” conceded Queen Isabeau, her heart equally furious and grieved at the same time at Henry’s atrocities in Rouen.

“I do not want to meet him! I hate him! I have never heard of any living man being so vile and disgusting to me.”

“It is said that he is otherwise to his own English people, that he governs them kindly and with great skill.”

“But what about the Welsh, Mother? Was he kind to them when he slaughtered them while his father reigned?” countered Catherine. “I know it is my duty as your daughter – but you know how I hate violence, especially against the innocent. How are the Welsh any different than us? All they wanted was to not be slaves to this conqueror. We of all people understand this!”

Before Isabeau could respond, the door opened. Jacques de Reilly entered with a bow, “Your Majesty, Your Highness may I introduce you to Henry, by God’s grace King of England.”

As Montjoie stepped aside to take his traditional place one pace behind the queen, King Henry emerged into the room, his eyes immediately fixing themselves on the beautiful Catherine in her embroidered cotehardie and fur-edged side-less surcoat that was so fashionable in Paris, the royal fleur-de-lys glistening in gold thread on her gown. For a moment, Henry found himself so moved by Catherine’s beauty that he could not speak. Finally after two minutes, the king took a chivalrous bow, “Good ladies, we meet at last!”

Coolly, Catherine curtsied politely, “Your Majesty.”

Henry, normally so confident and proud stammered, “Y-y-you are more beautiful than I ever dreamed! Truly a vision of all that flowers in France.”

“If you value the beauty of the flowers of France, perhaps you should not have killed so many along the way,” countered Catherine, her rage flaming from her eyes.

Chided, Henry turned to Queen Isabeau, “Your Majesty, you permit your daughter to speak to me like this?”

“Catherine speaks her mind. In that, she is quite her mother’s daughter – and a Bavarian,” smirked Isabeau proudly. “That you slaughtered our people, we concede. That we wish to end this war, we fully declare. But do not think you can force the mind and heart of my daughter in any matter. Though you may, through the brutality that brings us here together, compel a measure of outward obedience, if it is affection of the mind or heart you desire, you would be well to put aside all savage warrior ways and behave yourself like a gentleman.”

You have a good following on twitter. How important have your social media relationships been? How did you build your following in your niche? Did you use forums, newsletters and methods like that?

Excellent question. Like most authors, I use a combination of social media platforms. Across 2013, I focused on GoodReads. But after giving away about 100 copies of my books and receiving only a handful of reviews in return, I found that GoodReads was not the best fit for me -- though certainly my books are there -- usually with outdated covers.

In 2014 I discovered that Twitter gives me the best possible chance to talk to readers and network with other professionals. I know a lot of people prefer facebook for that, but I love how twitter gives me instant engagement without getting bogged down and buried like these other methods you mention. That is especially important to me because I am sight-impaired and find many of these other platforms difficult to use. When I read, it is usually audio books, not print, if that gives you any idea there.

As for how I built my twitter following, I would say a good 30% of my followers have come through follow for follow programs such as Gunner Angel Lawrence runs on facebook from time to time. If you are unfamiliar with those, it basically involves networking events where people share their twitter ids and everyone follows everyone else attending the event.

Once my following reached about three thousand followers, I found that twitter organically brought the rest to me. Whenever I can, I will do follow for follow -- unless the other person posts certain objectionable content (graphic sex, graphic violence, profanity, religious material). So follow me at @laurelworlds and there is a good chance you will get a follow back!

Do you do any 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?

The online UK technology news radio program, TechBytes (produced by Tim Sparrow) will be featuring an interview with me in its next episode (see We will be recording that in the next seven days and it will be live a few days after that. In the broadcast, you will hear a sample of Boudicca as narrated by Richard Mann and we will discuss the role of emerging technology on the publishing business, so please tune in, it's going to be a fun time.

Starting in July and for the rest of the year, I have no further interviews or appearances scheduled unless I am able to make it to one of the larger UK book fairs off in Worchester, Worchestershire in central England this November. With Thanksgiving and with winter weather coming, though my plans are to stay state-side, at least until the spring. That said, I am happy to talk to anyone who is interested. Just send me an email or a tweet and we will see what we can arrange.

In terms of keeping up with me, the best way is to like each series' facebook pages ( and and also to follow me on twitter where I tend to respond to @ tweets very quickly -- usually within an hour if I am online. I also post information to my series' websites, and so be sure to follow those as well.

You have great covers. They carry a theme and your brand with them. 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?

I do all my own artwork with my mentor, Tammie Clarke Gibbs, usually giving me feedback on my work before I release a new cover or book. I am completely self-taught on Photoshop (starting with version 1.0) and have used it since 1996 to create and administer over three dozen websites over the last 18 years. Generally I start by licensing one or more images from a major site like BigStockPhoto and work from there. From 2004 to 2009 I worked as a commercial industrial photographer, graphic artist, and website administrator (the only woman in the IT department) which gave me a wealth of experience I use on my covers.

A great piece of advice I found from some top graphic designers was to never be too literal with your artwork. In the original version of my cover for "Ghosts of the Past" I was being very literal -- hence the castle in ruins to convey the terrorist bombings and murders. After seeing that advice, I switched to the burning house background you see and switched to a different photo of Princess Anyu. The difference is absolutely amazing.

You have several great book trailers. (See links below.) They look very professional. Do you know how much impact they have had on your book’s success? Tell us about the process that you used to create your trailers? Do you use the trailer in your character development? Are the pictures and background the way you see your characters and scenes?

I actually do not know the impact of the trailers -- except that the music in them (that's me singing on every single one) is very well received. People love that they can hear a song that is part of the actual book or novella, especially in my own lovely soprano.

The four trailers up as of this date were all created with Windows Movie Maker (Windows 7 version). I am looking for a different program to do the next trailer as I do not find the Windows 8 version particularly user-friendly.

As for the content, I try to find images that match what I have in my head. I created heraldry for all the major noble houses in Beinarian society, so those feature heavily in the trailers. But as for the character images -- they are mostly accurate in terms of costuming. That said, I think the best visual match for the villain, Lord Yelu would be Star Trek's Garrett Wang (great guy). UK actor Richard Mann looks exactly the way I imagined Lord Knight Elendir as an adult.

You have written several short stories and novellas. Can you tell us if they had an impact on the sales of your novels? Are shorty’s one of your styles of writing or are they created to give readers a sample of your work?

The Peers of Beinan Series is structured as a series of trilogies, the first trilogy (in process) being "The Legacy of Princess Anlei." Peers of Beinan novellas feature stories that either do not fit into a given trilogy's timeline (but might in the next trilogy) or cover a time that is skipped over for the purposes of pacing -- much like a deleted scene in a movie. As such, they stand separately, but involve the same world building and usually characters mentioned within the trilogies.

For example, "The Poisoned Ground" focuses on Lady Abbess Cara of house Ten-Ar who largely discovered brown eye syndrome, the genetic disease caused by exposure to argene (thorium 232). She's mentioned in Ghosts of the Past, but because she lived several generations between book one, The Great Succession Crisis, you never meet her until Poisoned Ground.

Those are the rules for the Peers of Beinan. The Legendary Women of World History Series works very differently. LWWH is a series just of novellas, short biographies of women who have changed our past, present, and future. So every single book in that series (digital, paperback, audio) is fairly short. I do this because the novellas are designed to be enjoyed by children, teens, and adults equally. Once upon a time, we used to have a lot of literature that was friendly to a broad age range -- Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" is a great example of that. I think the business has lost that. We segment to "children" or "adults" with the writing niched by age.

But history should not be that way. LWWH novellas BARELY qualify as fiction at all; they are more like dramatized history. The stories and details are as factual as I can get (understanding that the overwhelming majority concern women born at least three hundred years ago). They bring back the "story" to history and the fun parts that made me fall in love with history as a child. Every digital and paperback edition is interactive using QR codes or hypertext links and includes a detailed "suggested reading" list of sources I consulted so you can keep learning and exploring.

As for sales, the LWWH novellas actually outsell the Peers of Beinan Series novels. This could be that history is easier for broader audiences to enjoy and appreciate, but it could also be that at 99 cents per kindle copy, people are more willing to take a chance and download them.

I like the idea of bundling a series of novels and short stories. You have put together a set of your works called The Lost Tales of the Anlei's Legacy Trilogy. What was the impact on your other sales? What was your main objective in bundling your short stories?

Lost Tales is a great companion book to the trilogy. It is filled with stories, deleted chapters, and songs that did not make it into the series in their purest, uncensored and unedited forms. Since it does not directly interlace, but shows more of an "alternate reality" side, I have not really seen impact on sales on the other books. Of course this is probably due to it being a new release; people just do not know about it yet.

As for the objective, I think it comes from my passion for movies and especially the extended editions and director's cut versions of my favorite movies. I listen to commentaries. I want to see how a shot was developed. I want to see the scenes that were edited out. This book is of that nature -- it's the cutting room floor material that really gives you a behind-the-scenes look at the stories and how they took shape. It's a lot of fun stuff. I look forward to when more readers check it out and enjoy the material for what it is.

In 2015 I hope to have enough LWWH Series novellas out to begin bundling the stories. I would love to put one out just about Tudor dynasty women in 2015. I see a lot of fascination with the period and certainly am a big fan myself -- as long as whatever I'm watching, listening to, or reading is high quality and true to history.

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?

In 2013 I gave away over 100 paperback copies of The Great Succession Crisis and Ghosts of the Past through Goodreads with very few reviews to show for the investment, so I cannot say I am particularly happy with the rate of return. By contrast, my free book days and individual gifts for reviews have resulted in far more reviews -- but far fewer than I hoped for. So I cannot say that book giveaways have really achieved much for me.

By far, my greatest success with free books has come from bloggers with whom I've spoken to directly and who have each been kind enough to post reviews to their blogs and the Amazon websites.

I noticed in my research that you publish your data files. How do you manage your plots, characters and timelines to keep your stories going? Do you use any software to keep track of your books and story lines?

My data files are all done in MS Word, actually. These were all created to be internal documents to help me keep track of my meticulous world building -- so I would know, for example, that arnile is the Beinarian term for "hydrogen" and that there are 197.26 beinors (Beinarian days) in a yen-ar (Beinarian year).

The master of these in terms of plots and characters is my timeline -- which you see in the published version. Complete Data Files is up to date to the point where I am in the trilogy -- so there is still book three material waiting to go into it as I write the third book, "Princess Anyu Returns." Some of the delay is because much of my time this year is centered on the history novellas (which outsell the Peers of Beinan series books), but a good measure of that is also do to the twists and turns of the third book. The Ghosts of the Past (book two) is an epic murder-mystery spanning three generations which very few of the characters survive. These twists and turns get even more complex, especially as the action shifts to Princess Anyu's exile and you start meeting non-Beinarian species.

So to some degree, I am taking my time with the third book so I can make those twists as perfect and intense dramatically as possible. I do have a lovely scene in there that I am proud of where you get to see a Beinarian use telekinesis, something only hinted at before.

We have had several of our author guests donate some or all of the proceeds from the sale of their works to worthy causes. Being a supporter of Nebraska-based Arbor Day Foundation, Indonesian-based Health in Harmony, and Massachusetts-based Foster Parrots Ltd parrot rescue, besides buying one of the Peers of Beinan books, how can our readers get involved in these groups?

The easiest way to get involved is to follow each of these wonderful organizations on twitter: @HinH05 for Health in Harmony, @FosterParrots for Foster Parrots, and @arborday. Each of these will take you to their respective websites where you can donate money if you are so inclined.

But you can also get involved through your own everyday lifestyle choices. Simply by replacing your lawns (or a greater percentage therein) with trees and garden plants will do a lot -- and you will reap the benefits of being able to harvest your own fruits, nuts, and vegetables. Grass uses a lot of petrochemicals to properly maintain -- a lot more than the alternatives I suggest here. You are also adding to oxygen production this way.

Finally, a lot of environmental decisions are made every day in our local, regional, and federal governments. Signing petitions, voting for candidates, and contacting elected representatives does a lot to shape policies that help, not harm, the environment.

This includes helping parrots. As many people know, several states are home to wild parrot populations, including New Jersey and Connecticut where the government actively kills wild quaker parakeets. Parrot rescues like Foster Parrots often try to rescue these wild quakers and offer them as close to a wild home as possible, but this is still taking wild animals out of the wild because someone considers them inconvenient.

You can help repeal these laws and put pressure on the businesses who support and profit from them. Remember that all parrots are wild animals. Instead of killing them, we need to be fostering their habitats (plant trees!) and appreciating them in the wild.

Author's Book List
The Poisoned Ground - The Peers of Beinan
Tyranny and plague! When a sudden plague of mysterious cancers strikes the southwestern city of Nan-li, it falls to Lady Abbess Cara of house Ten-Ar to investigate, entangling her in a royal trap that may cost her life. A Peers of Beinan Series novella.

Interactive: click on hypertext links to discover more about planet Beinan and Beinarian society.

social issues: rape culture, government corruption, pollution, domestic violence, abuse of power, corporate greed, environment, poverty, re-forestation.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
Boudicca: Britain's Queen of the Iceni - The Legendary Women of World History
In 43 CE Roman conquest of Britannia seems all but certain -- until a chance meeting between King Prasutagus of the Iceni and a runaway slave of royal decent from the Aedui tribe in Gaul changes the fate of the British islands forever.

Based on the accounts of Roman historian Tacitus and supplemented with archaeology presented by the BBC.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
The Lost Tales of the Anlei's Legacy Trilogy
Deleted and forgotten stories, songs, and tales from the Anlei's Legacy Trilogy, books one through three of the Peers of Beinan series: The Great Succession Crisis, the Ghosts of the Past, and Princess Anyu Returns. Presented uncut and unedited in their original forms, these stories not only entertain, but offer a unique window into the world building process. Social issues: rape culture, government corruption, domestic violence, abuse of power, corporate greed, environment, poverty.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
The Ghosts of the Past - The Peers of Beinan Book 2
Terror across Beinan!

Three generations after The Great Succession Crisis, terror ravages Beinarian cities as healing centers planet-wide fall to unseen assailants. Orphaned by two separate terrorist attacks, it falls to Lord Knight Elendir of house Ten-Ar to find the truth and stop the terrorists before they kill everyone he loves and the Gurun dynasty falls.

Book two of the Anlei's Legacy Trilogy.

For teens and adults.

Book Trailer: The Ghosts of the Past

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
The Great Succession Crisis - Extended Edition - The Peers of Beinan Book 1
Power play!

Dangerous enemies threaten to destroy the Gurun dynasty when Princess Anlei is suddenly forced into the heart of a game of thrones. Will love -- or politics -- shape Anlei's fate in this classic coming-of-age tale?

For teens and adults age 13 and up.

Interactive: hypertext linked to multi-media content including graphics, videos, and integrated data file entries.

Book one of the Peers of Beinan series. Part one of the Anlei's Legacy Trilogy.

Book Trailer: The Great Succession Crisis

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
Author Recommended by: HBSystems Publications
Publisher of ebooks, writing industry blogger and the sponsor of the following blogs:
eBook Author’s Corner and
HBS Mystery Reader’s Circle

No comments:

Post a Comment