Today our blog puts the Spotlight on Author Natalie Wright. She is the author of The Akasha Chronicles series and the new The Deep Beneath series.
Science Fiction & Fantasy, Young Adult, Science Fiction
Natalie Wright, Author
NatWritesYA (at) gmail (dot) com
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Natalie is the author of H.A.L.F., a young adult science fiction series, and The Akasha Chronicles, a young adult fantasy trilogy. She lives in the high desert of Tucson, Arizona with her husband, tween daughter, and two young cats.
Natalie spends her time writing, reading, gaming, geeking out over nerd culture and cool science, hanging out on social media, and meeting readers and fans at festivals and comic cons throughout the western United States. She likes to walk in the desert, snorkel in warm waters, travel, and share excellent food and conversation with awesome people. She was raised an Ohio farm girl, lives in the desert Southwest, and dreams of living in a big city high rise.
SPOTLIGHT Questions and Answers with the Author
Congratulations on your book: H.A.L.F.: The Deep Beneath. Do you have another book on the horizon? Can you tell us the timeline for its release and give us a little tease?
Yes, I’m working on The Makers (Book 2 of the H.A.L.F. series). It’s due out late Spring, 2016. Here’s a little teaser from my first draft of the first chapter:
Erika’s eyes were open but she saw nothing. She closed her eyes in an effort to shut out the unnatural black void around her.
But it was no good. The black void in her mind was no better than the darkness of the ship she presumed she was in.
Erika tried not to panic. Maybe they immoblize us for our own safety while traveling in space. Since humans had never achieved interstellar travel, there was no reference point for how it was done. Don’t panic. She remembered Jack’s words. “Cowboy up,” he’d said. Erika wasn’t sure she was cowboy enough for space travel.
As much as she tried to talk herself out of abject terror, fear wound itself into every fold of her grey matter. She could not shake the feeling, roiling away in her gut like a bubbling cauldron, that she had made a big mistake. And she’d pulled Ian along with her into an abyss of the dark unknown.
You have a good following on twitter. How important have your social media relationships been? How did you build your following in your niche? Do you see a carry over to your writing success?
I think I’m still trying to find a way to build a following in my “niche”! Truly, it’s difficult. But, I’ve learned a few things over the years since I began building my social media platform in early 2011.
First, you need to be yourself. I know that sounds cliche, but it’s true.
Second, in order to be yourself, you need to figure out who you are. Obvious, but most times I don’t think people think about what they want to say before they start saying it. I know I didn’t. If you’re new to building a social media platform (or if you want to revamp yours), spend the time to think about what you stand for. What is important to you? What is your “brand?” Think about what you want to say and think about who you want to say it to. That will help you to narrow your field so you’re not splattering yourself all over the place.
And IMO, people think that they’re going to build this great social media platform will a gazillion followers and that they’ll then automatically sell a gazillion books (or widgets or whatever). It doesn’t work that way. Social media is not a great way to SELL things. An email list is a much better sales tool (and the one place authors should concentrate their efforts). Social media is great for staying in touch with fans you’ve already made, but it is not the best way to sell things.
Bottom line on author platform for me (and different perhaps than what you may hear from others): Blog consistently and smartly and build and interact (again consistently and smartly) with your email list. If you do these two things, it will go much farther to help you build your author platform than anything else.
My two cents ;-)
You do a lot of book signings, interviews, speaking and personal appearances? When and where is the next place that your readers can see you? Where can they keep up with your personal contacts online?
My next appearance will be on the Donna Seebo radio show (you can find it here) on August 14 live at 9:00 am (PST). My next live appearance will be at Rose City Comic Con in Portland, OR Sept. 19 & 20; Salt Lake City Comic Con Sept. 24-26; Santa Fe Comic Con October 23-25; and my last appearance this year will be Tucson Comic Con (yay Tucson!), Nov. 6-8.
Readers can see my entire appearance calendar
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? I have to ask this. Since Emily is a redhead, is she modeled after anyone we know?
Thank you for your kind words about my covers. The covers for The Akasha Chronicles series books (Emily’s House, Emily’s Trial and Emily’s Heart) represent the combined efforts of several very talented women. I had a general idea of what I wanted to see on the cover - the feeling, mostly, was what I told the artist. The cover art was created by Claudia McKinney at PhatPuppy Art. The cover model for Emily’s Trial and Emily’s Heart is model Ashley Phillips. We found her through a casting call. The photographer is Theresa Yeh.
Emily isn’t modeled after anyone I know exactly. My daughter and I both have red hair, so I thought it would be cool to have my main character in my first series to have red hair too. At the time, I hadn’t seen a lot of main characters with redhair (though I’m seeing it more frequently now).
For H.A.L.F., I went a different direction. The cover art and cover design is by Dane at eBook Launch. I had come up with the design of the symbol (it’s the symbol for the Makers) and I wanted it to have a sci fi feel since the series is sci fi. I really love covers that are symbolic (think Hunger Games and Twilight) rather than literal so that’s what Dane had to work with - a drawing of a symbol I had scratched on a piece of paper and my preference for symbolic covers. I think he did a great job. I can’t wait to see what he does for the next cover!
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?
Again, thank you for your kind words about the trailers. I created the trailers for Emily’s Trial, Emily’s Heart and The Deep Beneath. I have an art background and love playing with iMovie, so it’s a fun process. Generally, I begin working on the trailer after I have the first draft written. It is a helpful process. In order to do a 30-60 second min-movie, you need to hone in on the essential elements of your story.
The trailer creation process starts with finding the right music. I have to use music to which I can buy rights (you can’t just use your favorite tune downloaded from iTunes), so I generally spend a fair amount of time searching for the perfect song that I can afford!
I lay down the music track first then I brainstorm words that fit the story and the mood I’m trying to create. Then I go on photo sites and search for pictures and videos. Again, a LOT of time. Many evenings with my laptop. I’ll download things I like to my “lightbox” and I generally see a theme emerge. I play with it, laying pics and videos down on top of the music. Work with the timing. Deciding if I want to put some words in here and there and writing out the “script” of what I want to say. Once I’ve got it down, I buy the rights to what I need and clean it all up.
The process is LONG! But I really enjoy doing it and it does help me with story creation. After I’ve narrowed my entire story down to a 30 second movie, it is much easier to write a book description or tagline.
I have no idea if the trailers help sell books! But I enjoy doing it and I know some fans enjoy them, so I’ll keep doing it whether it helps sell books or not.
I like the idea of bundling a series of novels. You have put together a set of your novels called Akasha Chronicles Trilogy Boxed Set. What was the impact on your other sales? What was your main objective in bundling your novels?
I decided to bundle the novels so that I could offer the boxed set to readers at a better price than what they’d pay to buy each individually. Also, I have the boxed set in the Amazon KDP Select program so it can be borrowed by Prime and KU members (and I can run countdown deals too). Since I launched the boxed set last year, most of my sales in that series are the boxed set (the individual books are rarely purchased now, at least on Amazon).
In general, I think it’s a good idea to try to get as many products out for consumers are you can. So H.A.L.F.: The Deep Beneath, for example is available in paperback, hardcover, ebook and audiobook. I’ll do that for each book and when the entire series is finished, I’ll create a digital boxed set. This gives readers more options and helps you capture sales. Some people, for example, only listen to audio books so if you don’t have an audio book out, you’re missing that potential reader. I think this is true for all of the types of books. And some people really like boxed sets so they can go seamlessly from book to book in a series without having to stop. Voracious readers love that! So give readers what they want and you’ll see your sales expand.
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?
Wow, lots to say on this topic and perhaps too long a story for here! My bottom line on this is that after much trial and error with various things, I no longer do “free days” on Amazon. I have done (and will continue to do) sales where one of my books goes to 99 cents (and these are quite successful), but IMO, free days are a waste. Readers snap up all these free books and many never read them. In my experience, I have had much more success with a 99 cent sale (i.e. not only sales, but readers leaving reviews).
Having said that, I give away a fair number of books in giveaways that I participate in on blog tours, on my own Facebook page/blog, and when I go to events. I also donate books to libraries and hospitals and such. I actually prefer giving away a paperback in a giveaway because I feel it’s more probable that the winner will actually read it. My advice on giveaways is to always give away a book from your backlist, not the book you’re currently promoting. Again, learned that the hard way.
Giveaways and donations are a great way to build goodwill with readers. It’s a way to be generous and that is always a good thing. Like other things we’ve talked about here, think of what you’re trying to accomplish with your giveaway and focus on that.
Do you maintain a reader list? What are the methods you use to find your readers and create the list and the relationship? Do you use social media, forums, newsletters and/or support groups to build your list?
I use Mail Chimp to manage my email lists. I actually have a couple of different lists I manage. One, for example, is a list of people who have signed up for my list at the Tucson Festival of Books. I have another list just for comic con folks and a list people sign up for from my blog or other places on the web. Having different lists helps me to tailor my message at times. For example, before the TFOB, I’ll send just that list an email telling them where my booth is, etc.
I go to a number of well-attended events each year (events generally between 25,000-150,000 in attendance), so I always make sure I have an email signup sheet with me. I chat with readers and ask them to sign up if they buy a book so we can stay in touch. This is a great way to build your list. I also build my list via Rafflecopter giveaways in various places (on my own blog and blog tours, etc.). I always have signing up to my email list as one way to enter the giveaway. I also have a pop-up I recently installed on my website/blog, and that is (surprisingly) helping me grow my list.
You provide a Beta reader service. Can you explain how that works and how can authors obtain your services?
I began my beta readers service last year and I really enjoy it. I provide more of a mini content edit more than a mere “beta read”, but I didn’t know what else to call it. Maybe I should call it a “Beta Read Plus.”
My purpose with the beta reader service is to give writers a reasonably priced way to get early feedback on their entire manuscript. I read through the whole manuscript and make in-line comments in the margins that deal with the content. Things such as inconsistencies, sentences that need reworked for clarity and the like. I also get into character development. I let the writer know my feelings about the characters. I point out plot holes and dropped threads. I also point out things I enjoy as well so that the writer can see places where he or she is doing a great job of pulling me in (and then of course letting them know places where they’re losing me).
If a writer is interested in my services, I suggest they look first at the page on my website dedicated to this (
here to see prices and more details. If they want to set up a service, they can email me at NatWritesYA (at) gmail (dot) com to get started.
This year’s Tucson Festival of Books was a great event, enjoyed by thousands. A Book festival is a unique selling situation. How did you prepare for the festival? Did it meet your goals? If you had to do something different next year, what would that be?
Wow, the TFOB seems so long ago now! Generally, I have loved doing the TFOB event. In past years, I got to meet lots of young readers and of course sell loads of books. The first two years, the TFOB was my single biggest sales weekend the entire year.
I approach TFOB as I approach comic cons or any other such events attended by large numbers. My goal is to interact with people. Make conversation. Talk story. That way, even if you’re not selling books, you’re having a good time (and if you engage people in conversation, they just may buy a book).
This year (2015) was my third year at the TFOB and it was my worst. :-( I just did not see the traffic I have seen in the past and I didn’t see hardly any folks in my target age group (ages 12-18). My booth was in a pretty rotten place (as it was the year before too), so I don’t know if that had an effect or if the TFOB is losing momentum. There just weren’t people coming by to even chat with and I didn’t see my “regular” customers. It was a disappointment (and my booth was so pretty!). I am strongly considering taking a break from TFOB in 2016 and attending as a patron only. We’ll see.
Author's Book List
- The Deep Beneath
H.A.L.F. 9 has taken his first breath of desert air and his first steps in the human world. Created to be a weapon, he proved too powerful for his makers, hidden from humans and sedated. But H.A.L.F. 9 has escaped the underground lab he called home, and the sedation has worn off. He has never been more alive. More powerful. Or more deadly.
Erika Holt longs to ride her motorcycle east until pavement gives way to shore. She bides her time until graduation when she’ll escape the trailer she shares with her alcoholic mother and memories of her dead father. But a typical night in the desert with friends thrusts Erika into a situation more dangerous than she ever imagined.
Circumstances push the two together, and each must make a fateful choice. Will Erika help H.A.L.F. 9 despite her “don’t get involved” rule? And will H.A.L.F. 9 let Erika live even though he was trained to kill?
The two may need to forget their rules and training if either is to survive the dangers of the deep beneath them.
Order the Book From:
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- The Akasha Chronicles Book 3
Seventeen-year-old Emily Adams unintentionally unleashed a shadow god's dark energy power into the world and started an Apocalypse. But Emily is also the only one that can end the dark god's reign. Though the powerful faerie magic of the golden torc is still coiled around her arm, self-doubt threatens to undo her. Emily wants nothing more than to feel the soft kiss of her one true love, but he won't even speak to her. Her first crush is still quite dead and her best friend remains a prisoner in the dark god's house of nightmares. A growing legion of black-eyed shadow people, devoid of conscience, roam the streets. Emily needs help now more than ever, but redemption seems far off indeed as she faces the expanding darkness alone.
Emily will need an army of her own if she is to save the world from being taken over by pure evil. But will a small band of Lucent geeks and freaks be enough to send the dark god packing?
Amidst chaos and ruin, will love blossom in Emily's Heart?
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- Akasha Chronicles Book 2
Two years ago, Emily journeyed to Ireland and became a modern Celtic Priestess. Emily was entrusted with the powerful magic of the ancient golden torc, forged by faerie hands and fused to her soul.
But even a Priestess can know desire, feel temptation, and yearn for love. Will passion entice Emily to use the sacred magic in a forbidden way? Can new love take root in a world of nightmares? And will her friendships survive Emily's Trial?
The Journey Continues . .
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- The Akasha Chronicles Book 1
Fourteen-year-old Emily Adams has special powers she doesn’t want, a spiteful aunt she can’t escape, and a primeval legacy she knows nothing about. But when an otherworldly being materializes, Emily discovers the true purpose of her magical blood and of the danger that threatens to annihilate her world.
Dormant for over a thousand years, an ancient evil has arisen. This time, it will destroy anyone – or anything – that stands in its way.
With her two best friends by her side, Emily risks everything and embarks on a dangerous journey to Ireland and beyond. As the hour of world annihilation draws near, the fate of her friends, her family and her world lies in her hands.
Can a teenage girl without hero credentials save the world? And will Emily find the courage to face her true self in Emily’s House?
Join the Journey . . .
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