Today our blog puts the Spotlight on Author Tori de Clare. She is the author of The Midnight Saga series.
Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
Tori de Clare
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Tori de Clare, born 1970, grew up in Greater Manchester. Having taught piano for 25 years in between being a full-time stay-at-home mum of four, she began writing six years ago. Her debut novel, Either Side of Midnight - the first book of a series - was intended for young adults, but has been widely accepted by an adult readership. She now lives in East Yorkshire, England, and continues to teach music and write books and finds time for little else beyond family.
Daughter of two pianists, it was hardly a surprise that music became Tori's career. Cursed fate!
Tori de Clare: 'My parents were good at two things, which they very kindly passed on: music and writing. I pursued both. My dad played the piano by ear and didn't need to read music; my mum was classically trained. Greedily, I quite fancied both talents, but followed my mum down the classical route. All this sounds very cultured, but the truth is I'm exceptionally down-to-earth and love nothing better than a good laugh. Un-funnily, my dad died when I was 18. In his spare time, he never had a book out of his hands and aspired to having a book published. Having never had the chance to realise his ambition, this book is dedicated to him and to my mum who taught me to play the piano.'
The final book in The Midnight Saga will be released in 2017. Watch this space . . .
SPOTLIGHT Questions and Answers with the Author
Let’s start with what’s next. Rumor has it that you have another book on the horizon in The Midnight Saga. Can you tell us the timeline for its release and give us a little tease?
Yes, I released Shadows to Ashes at the end of June. It had taken me 18 months to write and it felt like a very great relief to finally get it off my laptop and into readers’ hands. It wraps up The Midnight Saga and ties up all the loose ends. The Darkness Visible had ended on a cliff hanger, so fans of the saga were begging me for the next instalment. Writing it was a monumental task and I had not made things easy for myself. Fortunately, my hard work paid off and the finale has been very well received. The ratings are higher than anything I could have expected. The readers think it is the best of the three, which is exactly what I hoped and worked for. At the moment, I’m not even in the planning stages of my next book. I’m actually looking for a literary agent, which takes meticulous planning, research and work. And you can’t rush the process.
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?
Quite honestly, I’m not good with social media. If you’re not careful, it can sap all your time and not lead to many sales. Time is precious. You have to prioritise carefully. When I first published, I spent a lot more time on social media than I do now. That’s because I was ignorant. I’m not against social media, but eventually you do learn one very important lesson: if you want to make money by publishing books, you’d better write some books and publish them. Writing is difficult. It’s time-consuming and all-consuming. I’ve drastically cut down time spent on Twitter/Facebook/Goodreads and knuckled down to my art – writing. Distractions are deadly. I don’t attribute any writing success I’ve had to social media. Ultimately, it’s about writing good books which compete with the best books on the market in the genre – because you have to compete with them. My Twitter following has grown steadily and naturally over the last four years or so. I don’t ‘try’ to grow my following.
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
Thank you. I designed the covers myself, no reader involvement. Everything I do is a DIY job i.e. I trust no one to do anything for me. I’m not saying that this is for everyone or is a good idea, but I’m fairly confident about my ideas now. Originally, Either Side of Midnight had a different cover. I didn’t like it. I wrote my first book as a standalone, but it was successful enough that I decided to extend it into a trilogy. When The Darkness Visible was released, I changed the front cover of Either Side of Midnight and continued the ‘brand’ into the other two. My daughters are on the front covers. My best friend took the pictures. Either Side of Midnight is about a girl who is abducted and held in a deserted country cottage. I hope the image captures her sense of isolation. In book 2, she’s on her feet and the window is open. This is symbolic and hints at some possibilities and she’s looking out, unsure whether or not to venture. In book 3 we see her face on. The perspective now is from the outside looking in rather than the other way around. In this image, she looks a little like she’s behind bars. Prison scenes feature in book 3.
What writer support groups do you belong to? Do they help with the writing, marketing and the publishing process?
That’s a simple one. I don’t belong to any writer support groups and never have. I see writing as a solitary process best worked out through sweat and toil on my own. I’m speaking for myself, obviously. I don’t particularly want to get bogged down with the opinions of others regarding my story or my characters, nor do I have time to be side-tracked by their work. I would find that whole process very distracting and can’t imagine finding it therapeutic or helpful. Opinions are just that! They’re what people think. If five people are offering five different perspectives on MY work, I can’t imagine welcoming that. I have an instinct for what is working and not working while I’m writing. I’m brave enough to follow it, even if that means scrubbing out whole storylines. If I ever get an agent, I’m probably going to find the influence of another person difficult to adjust to. But at least I’ll know they’re highly skilled.
Between your book writing, music, marketing, family and all the other things that can get in your way, how do you manage your time? Do you have a set schedule or do you sort of play it by ear?
I play it by ear. a) I’m not a person who enjoys rigid structure very much. I’m impulsive and intuitive, so strict schedules are not really my thing. And b) if someone in the family needs my time and/or attention – and they often do – I drop everything for them. Family comes first. It always has and will.
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?
Giving books away for free has worked incredibly well for me, but less so now than a few years ago. Because I’ve written a trilogy, I can only ever put book 1 – Either Side of Midnight on offer for free. The books must be read in order. This poses an obvious problem for me – offering the same book over and over. Four years ago when ESoM was new, it used to get thousands of downloads whenever it went free and this has led to almost 3,000 reviews for the book across Amazon and Goodreads. By any standards, this is a lot of reviews and the ratings are very good. But what really launched the book was when I applied to Bookbub and got accepted for a promotion. This was December 2015. ESoM had 66,000 downloads over 5 days, which catapulted it to #1 position in the free charts all over the world. I subsequently sold thousands of books. Since then, I’ve done two more Bookbub promotions and have had the same result – reached the top of the free charts, though the number of downloads was never quite so impressive as the first time. In short, giving my first book away has worked incredibly well for me. The trouble with being accepted with Bookbub is that you ideally need a good number of reviews first. Your book needs to be good quality or they won’t accept it. Too many authors never get a foot in the door with Bookbub. I’ve been well blessed.
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
My methods? My aim is to write good books and draw readers to me. When they contact me to talk about my books, I always respond immediately. I’m accessible through Facebook, email, Twitter and my website, but I’ve never managed to get my website off the ground. I’ve never found the time to learn how to operate it, so it sits (like my daughter on the front cover of my first book) alone and doesn’t quite know what to do with itself. I’ll get to it one day. I probably should be ashamed to admit that I have no mailing list. Readers contact me to chat about the books and I respond. I don’t consider I have time to keep up with a blog.
Living in England creates a unique selling and marketing situation. Where is your biggest audience? Does marketing online help in this situation
My biggest audience is in the States. It’s always in America where my books are downloaded the most. It’s on .com that I have the most reviews, by quite a large margin. As already stated, this is thanks to Bookbub. They’re AMAZING!!
What is your method of getting reviews for your novels? Do you seek professional reviews, use social media or do you rely on your reading audience to supply them
To get reviews, I use the same tried and tested method – I aim to write cracking books that people want to review. I don’t like to beg people, but there is a note right at the end of my books appealing to readers to review the books. A small percentage will bother to do that, especially if they realise you’re independently published, which they don’t always realise unless you say so. I’ve never ‘swapped’ reviews with other authors and have never bought reviews as some do. If the reviews aren’t genuine, they’re not worth anything. I’m an honest person. I’ve worked ceaselessly for every review I’ve got – by telling a good story. In the end, it’s the only solid way of getting reviews.
You are both an author and a music teacher. How do those blend together? Do you write songs and music? Does one give you a break from the other?
Yes, I suppose that one gives me a break from the other, but I don’t blend them together. I’ve taught piano for thirty years and have written some music, but not recently. Most of my lessons are with children, so I can only teach them in the evening after school. 90% of my teaching is between 4 and 6 in the evening, which leaves the daytime for writing, when I have time. Music-making is just storytelling in sound form. Pieces have a beginning, middle, climax, end. The parallels are startling really. Performing music requires immense discipline.
Every single note matters – the weight and placement of them. Writing words feels this way. When you’re performing music, you’re giving something deeply personal of yourself. It must be given with integrity, or it will sound flat and unconvincing. The aim is to reach the audience in a personal way. This is best done by connecting with them on an emotional level. You can feel the vibes coming from them and this makes each performance unique. The aim is to take them on a journey and give them an experience they won’t forget. To offer a new perspective. The transition from musician to writer felt almost seamless for me.
Author's Book List
Shadows to Ashes
- The Midnight Saga Book 3
WHAT IF THE BEGINNING COULD ALSO MEAN THE END?
When a peaceful island in the Indian Ocean isn’t far enough away to escape danger, where do you go? With your wedding in ruins and your fiancé arrested, what do you do? It was supposed to be a new beginning, but it ended before it began. Naomi Hamilton knows why. Knows who’s responsible. Knows what he wants. The king, guarded by his faithful defence. One man who’ll stop at nothing. One girl who’s tired of hiding. Because maybe running isn’t the answer. So maybe there’s only one way to put an end to the game. To face it. Play it. Head to head.
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The Darkness Visible
- The Midnight Saga Book 2
WHAT IF YOUR WORST NIGHTMARE WAS ONLY THE BEGINNING?
Home safely after abduction and attempted murder, Naomi Hamilton’s worst nightmare should be over. But what if things are not all they appear to be? What if abduction and attempted murder was only the beginning? Naomi finds herself in a tangled web from which there is no real escape or freedom. When everything feels dark, she turns to the one person who’s saved her life and given her a future – the one person she can trust. Trust feels risky and dangerous. Threat is a constant presence. And one wrong move could cost her everything.
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Either Side of Midnight
- The Midnight Saga Book 1
WHAT IF THE BEST DAY OF YOUR LIFE TURNED INTO YOUR WORST NIGHTMARE?
When nineteen-year-old Naomi Stone is snatched from her husband at knifepoint on the night of their wedding and taken to a deserted cemetery, she knows her life is finished. Drugged and disorientated, she loses consciousness as she lies in an open grave with a gun to her head. But the following day, she mysteriously awakes to find herself unharmed and secured to a bed. She's in a beautiful bedroom in a secluded cottage in open countryside. Only one person knows she’s there – the man in the balaclava who’s holding her, feeding her, revealing nothing. Naomi senses the unfolding of a plan. She should be on honeymoon in the Caribbean. Instead, she’s trapped with an emotionless psycho with no hope of escape . . . And his voice is chillingly familiar.
Who is he? What does he want? What's happened to her husband? Where is she? Will anyone find her before it's too late?
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