Friday, December 5, 2014

Cara Brookins - An Author Interview in the HBS Author's Spotlight

Today our blog puts the Spotlight on Author Cara Brookins. She is an Author and Motivational Speaker. Cara is the author of the TimeShifters series.

Author Genre: Mystery & Thrillers, Children's Books, Humor

Website: Cara Brookins - Author & Motivational Speaker
Author's Blog: Cara Brookins
Twitter: @cmbrookins
Goodreads: Check Out Goodreads
Google+: Check Out Google+
Facebook: Check Out Facebook
Pinterest: Check Out Pinterest

Author Description:
I'm the girl with a book in her hand. If I'm not writing one, I'm reading or plotting one. I also love to build things with wood, concrete, clay, tile, and paper mache. I even built my own house from the ground up with my children. My day job is developing new computer software systems as a programmer analyst. I also love to scuba dive, hoop, swim, ride my bike, listen to music, garden, and spend time in the mountains. I like a little bit of everything and writing allows me to express that.

SPOTLIGHT Questions and Answers with the Author

Congratulations on your book: Mark of the Spider. Rumor has it that you have another book on the horizon called Little Boy Blu (see description below). Can you tell us the timeline for its release and give us a little tease?

Little Boy Blu is one of my most exciting releases because it’s my first thriller for adults! The paperback is available now, and the ebook can be preordered at Amazon and Kobo with my publisher pushing the full release on December 29th 2014. This is a dark tale about a family in the Appalachian Mountains. The oldest child learns that his mother intentionally had children with a genetic abnormality in order to secure a reality television show. He is the only child without this mutation, and someone in the family is trying to kill him. Everything in the story is completely possible since I use a real genetic abnormality that originated in this area of the country. I loved exploring how far someone would go for fame, and the blurred lines of how right or wrong that may be. Prejudice is also a looming theme in the novel, though the colors are different than you may expect.

You have a great following on twitter. Since you started before the social media buzz, what impact has social media relationships had on your current success? How did you build your following in your niche? How much has it changed your book launch process?

Over the past year, social media has become a huge part of my life and business plan. I wasn’t happy with the follower limits on most platforms, so in July of 2013 I started playing with a Twitter account that I’d never learned how to use. I quickly developed a strict agenda for how I would use Twitter and followed people who were interested in reading and writing. The first rule was that I had to be my authentic self and I had to enjoy it as part of my everyday life. In 18 months I have generated 100k followers, so I think it’s working!

Social media changes everything about marketing, but in a different way than I first planned. The truth is, I almost never mention my books. I only advertise when I have a new release or a sale. Otherwise people have to ask me about them to get a link. I talk a lot about my writing process because it’s part of my daily life. My Twitter friends become part of each book process which makes them interested in a more organic way. I feel the same way about other writers’ books when they tweet about late night editing or difficult scenes and characters. The feeling that we are all in this book writing and researching process together is more fun than continual advertisements.

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 listen to a lot of podcasts and many entrepreneurs discuss keeping a database of email addresses for a newsletter. I can see the huge value of this because it is in your full control as the website owner rather than in the hands of FaceBook, Google, or Twitter. It’s a delicate balance though because people can quickly be annoyed by newsletter spam. I currently have a list of email addresses of blog followers and people who have emailed me from my website. I don’t create a newsletter yet, but I can see that happening in the future. I admire authors who are organized enough to do this quarterly.

You do a lot of book signings, interviews, speaking and personal appearances? When and where is the next place where your readers can see you? Where can they keep up with your personal contacts online?

I maintain an appearance page on my website with virtual as well as physical appearances. Things are usually scheduled in advance, though they occasionally get added at the last minute. I just returned from Bouchercon, the World Mystery Convention in Long Beach followed by a trip to New Mexico. In January I’ll have a large cocktail release party in Little Rock for Little Boy Blu that will be open to the public and announced in the next couple of weeks. I’m trying to arrange a trip to Left Coast Crime in March, and I’ll definitely be at the Oklahoma Writers’ Federation Conference in May and the Arkansas Writers’ Conference in June as well as Thrillerfest in New York City in July.

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 was really fortunate to have a publisher with great vision for the Timeshifters series. I rejected their first idea and they came back with these amazing tribal images for each of the novels and I was thrilled with them. I should mention they helped select the name for that trilogy as well. My middle grade novels happened the same way, with great ideas from the publisher. Little Boy Blu was a different process, with both of my daughters developing part of the cover and the graphic artist with the publisher putting it all together into a spectacular cover. I’m really thrilled with all of them even though I can’t claim much credit! If I were to self-publish a series (which I’m considering) it would be fun to ask my social media friends to help design and select the cover art.

You have written several short stories. 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?

I’m a terrible short story writer. All of my ideas come as full novels and it’s always been that way. In order to write a short story I have to trick myself into thinking of it as a first chapter or a middle scene in a novel. Writing the short story Treasure Quest was actually part of my contract with Buzz Books USA, the publisher for Timeshifters. I had fun writing it because I imagined an entire treasure hunting novel spinning off from it. (I still may write that someday!) Buzz Books used it as a marketing tool by frequently offering it for free download and including the first three chapters of Timeshifters along with it. I love the idea, and I think more authors should offer free short story samples like this. I prefer not to see full novels offered for free though, I believe this devalues the time and work and prevents authors from making a living by writing novels. Free short stories and joining with boxed sets is a great way to increase sales.

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 love Goodreads giveaways of ARCs and newly released novels. Many people use these giveaways as a way to gather email addresses for their newsletters and future promotion, which I also think is a good idea as long as it’s clear this is what you’re doing. I also love product giveaways like T-shirt and playing cards, etc. printed with a book cover. These are fun for readers and the author.

The goal of giveaways should always be two fold, first to increase brand (author) loyalty in a fun and personal way. The author should have a big vocal part in the giveaway rather than merely presenting a sterile sign up form. The secondary goal is to increase sales of the individual novel in the promotion. The creation and support of the author as a brand is the ultimate goal and the only way to run a successful writing business.

You have a great blog. You do a great job keeping readers informed, marketing your books and providing useful information to other writers. What is your primary goal? And where in the world do you find the time to create great novels, take care of the social media and maintain your blog?

I have so many ideas for directions with my blog that focus is my biggest problem. Well, unless you consider an actual blog schedule necessary, then that is a bigger problem! I write for the blog as I find time, and we never have enough of that. I am also a staff writer for a fun company called where I write the playful lists and quizzes people share across social media.

My long term goal is to incorporate more of what I write for Riddle into my blog. I also have plans to create a social media workshop through my blog to teach more writers to use social media to their advantage. Clearly the one thing not in my long term plan is more sleep.

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?

Reviews are such a tricky thing with a new novel. It could probably be said that we all suffer with review anxiety. Even great friends and other authors are terrible about taking time to post them. I’ve been guilty of taking a long time to post reviews too, so I make mine shorter now. Most authors are happy with any note and some stars, they aren’t expecting a full synopsis to prove you read their novel. I tend to ask friends to post the first reviews, especially if I’ve had early readers. After that, when my Twitter or Facebook friends mention they have read/bought the book I mention that I’d love to have their review on Amazon. While it would be great to have reviews in more places, I tend to focus on Amazon. If getting one review is tough, I can’t imagine the shutout rate if I listed five or six review sites I’d love them to drop by. I’ve never used a professional review site or paid for reviews, but I can see how this would be useful in some cases.

Book blurbs are also important, though I didn’t fully understand that until the most recent novel. (Blurbs are on the cover or interior page and are short quotes from noteworthy authors who recommend your novel.) For Little Boy Blu I was thrilled to have four amazing blurbs from bestselling authors. All of these authors are friends from writers’ conferences—which are an essential business expense for ALL writers.

Tell us about your Motivational Speaking and how that connects with your writing?

This year I’ve presented several motivational lectures. At Bouchercon I spoke about social media relations and encouraged authors to team up to support and promote one another across social media. If we think of one another as coworkers rather than competition, we can achieve really great things.

My primary motivational lecture focuses on a story from my own life. My four kids and I left a domestic violence situation several years ago, and in order to rebuild our family and our life we built our home with our own hands. It was an enormous task to begin with no experience and YouTube as our instructor and end with a 3500 square foot home with five bedrooms, a three car garage, a huge shop and a two-story tree house—all built with our own hands.

I illustrate my lecture with this process of dreaming big and then digging deep to make sure your effort matches your dream. My next novel is a memoir about the experience of building the house with my kids. As you can imagine, it’s everything from tragedy to comedy rolled together. The working title is Rise. Writing about my own life, including mistakes and the most difficult things I’ve experienced, is proving to be the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. I have no doubt it will also be one of my proudest moments--after which I’ll happily get back to writing fiction! I have a women’s comedy series about voodoo and divorce to finish and an adult dystopian that is haunting me and begging to be written.

Author's Book List
Little Boy Blu
Blu Tracey grew up isolated in the Appalachian Mountains and is the only child in his family without a genetic abnormality that causes blue skin. But when he discovers his mother intentionally had abnormal children for a reality television show, he becomes the target of a killer. If Blu doesn’t expose someone in his own family as a suspect, his siblings will be exploited for their rare, genetic mutation, and worse they could be the next targets in the killer’s pursuit of fame.

Order the Book From: Amazon - KOBO
Mark of the Spider - TimeShifters Book 3
Jordan Booker has finally traveled to the ancient city where the creators of his time capsule wait. The teen has the artifacts they promised would save the human race from an ancient war, but he suspects they were lying all along about both the past and the future. Their ancient steampunk city is a challenge to navigate and even a more of a challenge to survive. In order to save his sister, Jordan must decide if the Time Ranger or a team of rebels is telling the truth. One wrong move could destroy the human race.

Travel back in time to the first two journeys with Mark of the Centipede and Mark of the Serpent. Action-packed adventure with dazzling creatures and bravery for sci-fi fans of all ages.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
Mark of the Serpent - Timeshifters Book 2
Time is running out. Teen Jordan Booker makes another journey to a past so ancient it predates our fossil record. Only this time, he accidentally brings a stranger along for the ride. Not only does he have to collect artifacts to save the future Earth and avoid the Time Ranger who wants him dead, he must also watch over the clumsy tag-along who may be an enemy in disguise. Jordan befriends an elf-like family, a tribe of miniature furry humans, and is held captive in a steampunk city while trying to return to his little sister. If he doesn’t make it back to the time capsule, humans will be the next extinct species. More fast-paced, creative sci-fi action from an author who knows how to give readers a thrill ride to the ancient past. This second Timeshifters novel is sure to please sci-fi fantasy readers of all ages.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
Mark of the Centipede - Timeshifters Book 1
Fifteen-year-old Jordan Booker is launched to an ancient past unlike anything the history books describe. Now Jordan must find and deliver a collection of artifacts to the guardians to save future Earth...if Time Ranger doesn’t kill him first.

A fascinating, fast-paced journey back in time with a male hero that male and female readers will root for.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
Treasure Quest - A Short Story
Fifteen-year-old Cooper would rather spend the summer playing the latest Zombie Civil War Style video game than with his ailing great grandfather, Orson. But when Orson’s Civil War stories reveal a treasure buried near his home in Pea Ridge Arkansas, Cooper not only pays attention--he gets involved.

An ancient map and journal lead Cooper to the same spot in the forest where dozens of people have searched for the legendary treasure. Cooper is trapped by a ferocious dog and forced to fight for his life while he tries to uncover the mystery and locate the treasure that is unlike anything he ever imagined.

In this young adult adventure story, Brookins gives readers a treasure that's the perfect length for busy tweens and teens.

Order the Book From: Amazon
A Harvest of Friends - Doris Free Book 2
Life on a Wisconsin farm in the 1930s isn’t easy. Doris Free and her family are struggling because of the Depression, and the whole town is on edge as they work to survive. When a new family moves to Tomah to manage the general store, everyone is curious. And when the new family introduces Cole, the first black man most of the town’s people have ever seen, conflicts begin to build. Doris is determined to help Cole fit in with the people of Tomah.

But how can a ten-year-old girl change the way a town believes? Can she help Cole before it’s too late? As the summer cools down, tempers heat up, and the situation grows dangerous. Doris brings together the people who believe in equality, and together they fight for unity. They learn that sometimes a small action, or a small girl, can bring about the biggest change.

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

Check out the index of other Spotlight authors. Spotlight Index.

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