Today our blog puts the Spotlight on Author Angela Stevens. She writes steamy romance novels and Contemporary Fantasy including the Thrill Of The Chase and Hockey Punk Series.
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Angela is British born but moved to the United States a decade ago. Always a keen traveler, she has enjoyed spending time living outside of her native country. She is an ex-teacher and the mother of two children. When empty nest syndrome threatened, Angela turned to writing novels to fill her growing free time. As her hobby grew she found storytelling began to fill her waking hours.
Her debut novel, Changing On The Fly grew out of her voracious appetite for reading. After one particularly momentous year, where she consumed over one hundred paper backs, Angela Stevens decided to attempt her own. The story is set in her local town and the setting for her love story was partly inspired by her passion for ice hockey. "I discovered ice hockey when I first moved to America. We went first to see an Anaheim Ducks game when I was visiting L.A. We all loved it so much when we came home we went to watch our local team. Now I'm a rabid Washington Capitals fan, and can often be found 'rocking the red' at the Verizon center supporting the Washington Capitals."
In Angela's stories, you will always find a hero to fall in love with and a heroine who will be worthy of his love. Her characters are three dimensional and down to earth. She writes with a strong voice and in a gritty style weaving tension and suspense throughout her narrative. Her characters come to life and whisk you away, whether into a romantic or fantasy setting. Which ever you chose, be prepared to laugh out loud, cry and fall in love.
SPOTLIGHT Questions and Answers with the Author
Congratulations on your book: Nolan’s Resolution. What do you have on the drawing board next? Rumor has it that you have another book on the horizon called Catching Adam. Can you tell us the timeline for its release and give us a little tease?
Ah, the rumors are correct. Catching Adam is the last book in my Thrill Of The Chase series and will be live on April 30th. The series is set around a group of six siblings from New England and it follows five brothers and one sister as they find love.
Adam’s story is one I am biting my fingernails over. I am known for writing emotional and authentic love stories, always with a happy ever after. Adam’s story is no different in that respect, but it is also very different from anything I have written before. In my romance stories, I often tackle contentious social issues. For example, in the Hockey Punk series, Changing on the Fly deals with domestic abuse, and Dump and Chase looks at domestic violence against men. The Chase sibling books also have their fair share of social issues, Catching Gabe takes a look inside a religious cult, and Catching Noah explores the relationship between an older man and a younger woman. But Adam’s story is a little different. Those who have read through the series so far will have already guessed that Adam Chase is bisexual, but his journey to a happy ever after is complicated when he enters a polyamorous relationship.
I must admit, I am really nervous about this book’s release. I wanted to stay true to my brand. I do not write erotica (all though I love reading it!) and did not want Adam’s story to be seen in this light. From the moment, I breathed life into Adam, I knew his story was going to be special and I wanted to make sure I did justice to it. Everyone deserves a Happy Ever After, and Adam most definitely gets his–even if it doesn’t look like your typical relationship. So far, only a couple of people have read this, but my editor thinks it is the best of the series, and my proof Reader sent me this note after she read it, which I admit brought me to tears.
“I have to tell you, I have LOVED Jodi Picoult’s books for years, mostly because of the many contentious social issues she has dealt with. And now, with this book, I realize you are like her in that way. I have to tell you, I am so impressed with you for doing like she does, and facing the social issues. I am so proud of you, and so proud to call you my friend! Great job, Angela!
I love the book, and I have to tell you that the very first page had me literally laughing out loud. What a hoot!” – Maggie Truelove
Still, despite their words of encouragement, I will be holding my breath on release day, and hoping that my readers love Adam as much as I do.
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?
To be honest, I am hopeless at social media, and especially don’t understand the attraction of twitter. I am embarrassed to say, I rarely use the twitter platform as I just have not figured it out. My preferred platform is Facebook, but again I struggle, like a lot of authors do, to be consistent. I honestly have not found what sells my books, lol. Sometimes I put a ton of work into social media and hear crickets then other times I do nothing and a veritable buying spree happens spontaneously. Working with the Hot Hunk Authors has helped a lot. I am beginning to see that for authors there is a lot to be said about finding ‘your tribe’ and moving around in a pack. Pooling your resources, ideas, and sharing each other’s work, is definitely one of the more practical and successful ways of navigating social media.
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?
I haven’t taken part in any live events and don’t have any planned in the foreseeable future but readers can find out more about my books on my website, www.AngelaStevens.net
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?
Why thank you James, actually I make all the covers myself. In fact, I run a little side business making covers for other authors too, under my company the Cat’s Pyjamas. I first got into making my own because I was struggling to find what I was looking for. I couldn’t afford to commission images for my original Vargr Clan Trilogy. In the end, I worked with my daughter to create them. I have always been creative and have an eye for design. I am also very good a researching what types of covers work for different genres, but what I was lacking was a knowledge in Adobe Photoshop. Lucky for me, my daughter was at Art School at the time, and she was patient enough to teach me the basics. We worked on the Trilogy covers together–I created the pictures and she turned them into vectors, then she gave me a crash course in some basic design principles, and how to translate them with the software. She was being very smart, as she knew I would be hammering on her door every five minutes if she didn’t help me get enough skills to make my own covers in the future.
From then on, I researched cover design theory and typology, and took countless tutorials to build up my Photoshop skills. In the beginning, I learned a lot by copying successful designs, learning from trial and error how to achieve similar results, until I was confident enough to begin my own designs. Now, four years on, it’s my favorite part of the publishing process.
As you pointed out branding is important, especially as I write a lot of series. Readers need to tell at a glance which book belongs to which set. At the start of my process, I do a lot of searching through Amazon, other online retailers, and even hunt around bricks and mortar bookshops. It’s important to get a feel for what is trending in the genre, and even sub genres–there can be subtle differences between the different romance genres for instance.
Once I have gathered some inspiration, I usually decide on a color theme, and put together a loose idea in my head. Then it is off to search for suitable images. The typology is very important and in the end, it will do most of the work to tie a series brand together. It can take twice as long to choose the right fonts–especially if you have a slight addiction to collecting them! Most of the time, if I get book 1 right, the other books almost make themselves.
I sometimes will ask for feedback from my newsletter subscribers, but it is usually if I am undecided between two concepts. Generally designing by committee is not helpful, as everyone will have a different idea.
What writer support groups do you belong to? Do they help with the writing, marketing and the publishing process?
I have belonged to many writing groups as my career has progressed. I cut my writing teeth on Wattpad and was an active member with a group of adults on there (There are a lot of teens on wattpad and at the time, the adults cowered together in remote corners) I received a huge amount of amazing advice from those people, and a lot of us are still in touch. When wattpad lost its instant messages and restructured a little, many of us created groups on facebook and moved over there.
Facebook has some excellent groups that are helpful with marketing. BooksGoSocial, and Mark Dawsons SPF are the two I probably frequent the most, but I’m a bit of a lurker most of the time. They are great for keeping up with helpful author tools, marketing, publishing processes, the rumor mill, and general best practices. On the writing skills side of things, I have made private friendships through FB with other authors, and we all help each other out. But I also read a lot of craft books. Some of my favorite go-to ones are… Save The Cat by Blake Snyder, Take off Your Pants by Libbie Hawker, and 20 Master Plots And How To Build Them by Ronald B. Tobias.
What is your primary genre? What has been your best marketing approach to this group?
When I started out writing it was fifty-fifty between the romance and fantasy, I literally alternated between the two. However, in the last eighteen months or so, I have almost exclusively written contemporary romance. The primary reason for this is that I found I had very little crossover between my Fantasy stories (which were not romance based) and my romance novels. I suppose, I leaned towards the romance works because that is where I felt I had a better handle on who my readers were there. They have always been my biggest sellers–even though I am convinced my fantasy stories were, in my earlier days, superior writing.
Since making the choice to put most of my effort into the romance genre, I have tried to be more methodical about planning my series. By that I mean, I have begun looking at the genre expectations readers have before I start a new series. I am trying to plot more and stop pantsing. For me, half the battle of marketing is knowing who will want to buy your books, so making sure that you conform to the reader expectations for the genre really helps, and if you can really get a handle on that and bear it in mind before you write… well theoretically, it should help your book become successful. That said, no one of sane mind would come to me for marketing advice, but if I ever find out the secret I’ll be sure to let you know!
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 a love hate relationship with ‘FREE’. For several years I had book 1 of the Hockey Punk Series–then called Lemon Drops And Love–on permafree and over 25,000 copies were given away. Honestly, it didn’t seem to lead to sales on the other books. I think at the time that was down to a lot of mistakes on my side. I’m ashamed to say, the first edition of the book was badly edited and had an identity crises. After rebranding the series, giving it a professional edit, new covers, new names, new blurbs and setting the series brand clearly in the sports romance genre, I have found more success by offering book 1 for free for very short periods of time. My books are in KU and I make book 1 free and reduce the others, sometimes as low as 99c, then I make sure I advertise. I have seen a lot of buy through this way, and what is more surprising, a lot of page reads come after a free promo on book 1. But mainly, I use the free promos to breathe life back into a series that has maybe stagnated in the charts a little. The thrust up the ranking during the free period seems to have a rejuvenating effect after the offer is over. One thing I did learn the hard way is, that you cannot just put up a book for free and expect tons of downloads. You have to advertise, if you don’t, the effects of going free are very limited.
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?
Reader lists are not working very well for me. I have a small number of subscribers and honestly, when I send out newsletters, I usually hear crickets or the sound of people unsubbing. If anyone knows the big secret out there, I am all ears!
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?
I have tried a number of ways of canvassing reviews, and all of them are really hard. Despite what people say, garnering organic reviews is almost impossible. I hear of many authors getting success through NetGalley but, to be honest, the prices for this service are astronomical. I used to use my reader list, but gradually found people were happy to take the books, and less happy to review. After a disappointing launch where I gave out around one hundred ARCs, and received less than five reviews, I almost gave up with ARCs altogether. But before I launched the Thrill Of The Chase Series, I discovered Booksprout, and I can honestly say this has been the best arc distribution service I have tried. Now, this might be down to the genre I write in, as I have been told the Booksprout readers do favor contemporary romance, but I am getting upwards of 80% success rate. The Booksprout site has three levels. At the free level, you can send out up to 20 ARCs for each book. The first tiered paid level is a very reasonable $10 a month and you can stop and start it when you want to coincide with your releases. This allows you up to fifty ARCs and gives some extra protection and control over who gets your book. Honestly, I can’t recommend this ARC service highly enough.
You are a part of the multiple authors’ set: After Hurricane Nina – a Hot Hunks-Steamy Romance Collection
The Collection is written by eight outstanding authors. All the novels follow a basic story line. Eight Strangers. Eight Unique Stories. All Stand-alone Novels.
On November 30, 2016, Hurricane Nina hit Bali, Indonesia. In the aftermath of death and destruction, eight strong sexy men will realize it’s time for a change in their lives. A resolution of sorts. A contractor, personal trainer, a millionaire, a stuntman, a rock star, a thrill-seeker, an army veteran, and a trust fund prodigal will all find a way to conquer their loss and learn to love.
What was your main objective in bundling your works with other authors? What blogging, newsletter and social media promotions have you done to promote the collection?
Writing Nolan’s story for this was a whole lot of fun. I touched on this earlier, and it was what I meant by ‘pooling resources’. It has always been my belief that authors are not competing against each other, instead we are all in this together. There are plenty of readers out there and most of them don’t just buy one book in their lifetime. Banding together with people who write in a similar style and genre can help you widen your net of readers. I know that many of my reader followers have read several or all of the Hot Hunks books–initially they came for mine but then they tried the other authors too, and liking their books they have added that author to their reading lists. It definitely worked that way for me. I have gained readers from Natalie Ann’s followers, Tamara Fergusson’s, and each of the other talented ladies in our group.
When I was originally invited to join I was incredibly flattered. I had read Tamara’s, Suzanne’s and Natilie’s books before, and I have to say I was a little nervous that my own would stand up to such amazing writers. But they have all been wonderful and the group we formed has a very diverse set of skills and experiences, but we all had stuff to contribute to the pot.
Hot Hunks allowed us to produce a full series of eight books in a very short time. Effectively we were all pretty much writing the stories at the same time. For romance readers that is like Christmas come early. They love series and they want to read them from start to finish. They are keen to grab the next book as soon as it is out. Because we were able to publish them so quickly after each other, we were all able to add to the momentum and we were able to pool our readership.
Honestly, I had the best ever pre-order with this series and managed to reach International Bestselling New Release, and later, International Best Seller, something I had never done before. It was all down to our shared efforts. We all targeted our newsletters and social-media on a weekly basis from the time book 1 went up for pre-order, and of course, we shared each other’s work during release weeks. When Tamara Fergusson’s book (the last in the series) came out on April 6th, we did a huge push. We reduced all the books to 99c and took out both paid and free advertising across as many advertising platforms as possible. This was perhaps not as successful as I hoped, we may have to consider a different strategy on this next time.
But for me, I have gained a lot from working with these talented ladies. Authoring can be a little lonely sometimes, and struggling on your own isn’t always fun. However, getting together with like-minded individuals, and learning from each other, as you produce an amazing series is something I really recommend. The way in which this series was produced also allowed for all the authors to keep ownership of their work. We each published our own books through our own Amazon accounts so it pays for us to all promote, because we all receive the income from our own book directly.
And lastly, on a personal level, the idea of a co-authored series rather than a boxed set of short stories loosely put together under a theme, gives the readers so much more. It allows the individual authors to fully showcase their talents and gives the reader what they love–an almost instant series that has depth and heart.
Author's Book List
After Hurricane Nina, Nolan's Resolution
- (Hot Hunks-Steamy Romance Collection Book 2
Resolution: Give up Tinder for a year… 6 months… Month… week and get the hell over Lenny.
After the tragedy of losing his best friend, Nolan Carmichael submerged himself in work and found that his inability to commit to women reached a whole new level. Two years on, Nolan is a Tinder addict that has put his life on hold while he supports Lenny’s widow.
Olivia, devastated at losing the only man she ever loved is gradually learning to live without Lenny but, despite putting her toe in the water and dating another guy, she still can’t bring herself to sleep with anyone else. After spending the anniversary of Lenny’s death together, Nolan hatches a plan to turn them both around– Nolan will give up meaningless sex until Olivia has some.
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- Thrill Of The Chase Book 5
Noah Chase loves being the lead guitarist in a viral-band but when Call Out’s lead singer is found dead in his dressing room, all evidence points to a deranged fan, and now Noah and the other band members fear for their lives.
Marcus Richards is a respected cop, much loved friend to the Chase family, and Lowri’s ex-husband. When he is called in to protect Noah and the guys from Call Out, Noah and him are thrown together on his Texan ranch. Twelve years her senior, Marcus has always kept his relationship with Noah platonic, but now that she is in his care, Marcus finds he has developed feelings that what be prudent to keep to himself.
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- Thrill Of The Chase Book 4
When Luke Chase’s relationship with Stephanie comes unexpectedly to an end, his brother, Adam, agrees to go with him to their ski cabin to take his mind off things. But a week’s snowboarding with his gregarious brother isn’t exactly what Luke planned to do with his vacation time and he does not appreciate Adam’s attempts to make him forget his ’nearly’ fiancée.
When bad weather blows in and conditions on the mountain turn dicey, Luke heads back down the slope to find shelter. On the way, he witnesses a snowboarder blindly heading onto a closed backwoods slope. Recognizing the snowboarder as the inexperienced pretty girl from next door, Luke races after Hayley Burnett to try to warn her. But, by the time he catches up with her, the weather is too sever to descend the double black diamond run and Luke Chase finds himself unexpectedly stranded in a remote cabin in a blizzard with a sweet Canadian girl.
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- Thrill Of The Chase Book 3
Only one woman ever stole Nate Chase’s heart–it’s just a shame she is off limits.
Biker and owner of Hard Core Hogs, Nate Chase, can take women or leave them–and he usually does both. But then there is a reason that Nate has never committed to any woman and that reason is his business partner’s sister, Maxine Gordon.
But here lies the problem...
With a shady past and an intimidating reputation, Jack Gordon has vowed to protect his sister from all men–and he certainly isn’t going to make an exception for Nate Chase.
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- Thrill Of The Chase Book 2
Gabe Chase is bored of being a romance writer’s muse and tired of their sexual encounters being used as the basis for her steamy novels.
After breaking off their affair, Gabe is coerced into doing a photoshoot as a favor to his brother and encounters January James, a beautiful waitress that comes with a whole heap of baggage.
January is everything that Gabe is not looking for—a young, unmarried mother with a complicated family history and a sinister connection to a religious fanatical group. Shy, a financial mess, and a brunette, January James is not at all Gabe’s type, but the more he gets pulled into January James’ drama, the more Gabe can’t help playing the white knight.
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- Thrill Of The Chase Book 1
Saul Chase has no secrets from Lowri Connor...
...it's a shame the same can't be said about her.
When Saul's fiancée dumps him a month before the wedding, his best friend, Lowri, brings the tequila and a shoulder to cry on. After 17 years, they have supported each other through countless break-ups and shared EVERYTHING--except sex. The first rule of having a girl as a best friend, is never, NEVER date her.
But after arguing with his ex-girlfriend, Saul gets drunk and questions their only rule. Why hadn't he thought of this before? After all, she is the perfect combo of sexy and fun.
However, plans to sweep Lowri off her feet go awry when an unexpected visitor turns things upside down and Saul realizes Lowri has been hiding not one, but three secrets for many years.
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Home Ice Advantage
- Hockey Punk Series Book 5
With the Hockey Punk team still reeling from the recent tragedy, Rick Stamford steps in to help.
With emotions running high, Simon and Finn are determined to find justice for their friends while Jude and Maya struggle with the reality that their worst nightmare has returned. While Rick wrestles with friendships that are crumbling and as he tries to shield those he loves, an unexpected ally is added to the emotional mix.
Amidst all this drama, love finds a way into Rick’s heart once more. But will having home ice advantage stand for anything when the team around him is falling apart?
Home Ice Advantage is book five in the hot and steamy newly branded Hockey Punk Series and the dramatic conclusion to not only Rick's rollercoaster story but the final whistle on the Hockey Punk Series.
Weaving contemporary, happy-ever-after romance around sometimes harrowing tales, Angela Stevens’ characters are raw and sensual. They speak as they play—hard and sometimes dirty—and they wear their hearts on their sleeves. But when any of the Hockey Punk guys fall for a girl, sparks are guaranteed to fly.
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- Hockey Punk Series Book 4
When Rick Stamford lost his wife to breast cancer, it left his life and emotions scattered at his feet like a yard sale.
One year on, Rick still hasn’t picked up all the pieces and his life feels like one long uncomfortable seat in the penalty box. Then when an old flame turns up out of the blue and days later Hockey Punk make him an offer he can’t refuse, Rick Stamford feels ready to get off the sidelines.
But in the shadows lurks an unwelcome visitor who threatens to destroy everything that Rick and the rest of the close-knit Hockey Punk community hold dear.
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Dump And Chase
- Hockey Punk Series Book 3
Finn’s tactics on the ice was the same as his attitude to women— Dump and chase—and just hope you are faster than your opponent!
A different girl in his bed every other night is fun and exciting, but when a one night stand turns into something more, Finn is more than ready to play better tactics to make sure he wins her heart.
Julia Royston is everything Finn desires. Blonde, sexy, and naughty in bed and has him caught in her headlights. But winning at love isn’t just a series of x’s and o’s. While Finn puts his past behind him, Julia’s rears its ugly head and before the final score is tallied, Finn’s carefree life takes a turn for the worst.
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- Hockey Punk Series Book 2
As a net minder, Ash Cooper can spot all the dekes and fakes a player tries on the ice and no one gets a puck past him!
When the talented London Sinclair joins the Hockey Punk team, takes up residence in his house, and challenges Ash to one-hell-of-a hockey fight he has to stay on his toes. But, before he has shored up his net, London has pulled a spin-o-rama on him and now Ash is the one trying to deke his way into her heart.
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Changing On The Fly
- Hockey Punk Series Book 1
As a hockey player, Jude Holland is used to changing on the fly but when his longterm friend and secret crush, Maya Jenkins, needs his help the sudden change in their dynamics takes him by surprise.
But lousy timing is not the only thing he has to worry about. Maya’s abusive boyfriend, Carl Frasier, is a dirty player and he is not willing to let Maya go so easily.
Changing On the Fly is book one in the hot and steamy newly branded Hockey Punk Series where the men are hot hockey stick wielding guys and the women are not what they seem.
Weaving contemporary happy-ever-after romance around sometimes harrowing tales, Angela Stevens’ characters are raw and sensual. They speak as they play—hard and sometimes dirty, and they wear their hearts on their sleeves. But when any of the Hockey Punk guys fall for a girl, sparks are guaranteed to fly.
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Light The Lamp
- Hockey Punk Series Book 6
When ace center, Johnny Brooks scores the game winning goal for his new college team, he is invited to a local bar to celebrate. After being introduced to the shy Roxy Holland, Johnny makes it his mission to win her heart.
But after Roxy is humiliated by an ex boyfriend, Johnny needs patience and a whole lot of sweet talking if he is going to light the lamp with this girl.
Light The Lamp is a short companion novella to the hot and steamy Hockey Punk Series. As a fun look back prequel, the novella gives the reader a glimpse of Maya, Jude, Johnny, Roxy, and Rick in their college days.
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