Today I’d like to introduce my fellow CIR author, Jessica White.
Jessica, would you like to tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m a hobbit. I love nature, but don’t like venturing far from home. My office is filled with books, blue and green glass, and llamas. I’m a first-generation Texan married to a sixth-generation Texan, but we recently moved to Oklahoma City with our two daughters for my husband’s career. I have a degree in education, but my spiritual calling is to teach people how to create safe space for the hurting and lost and show them how to stand firm for equality, diversity, and justice.
That’s quite a noble career, but I’m guessing you also find time to write books! But before we hear about your books, I’ve got three questions for you. Firstly, what are three things you’d tell aspiring authors?
The three things I tell aspiring authors all the time are: To become an author you have to learn the craft, learn to finish, and never stop growing. Take your first few works and learn the basics of story structure, character arc, and point of view. Then learn to finish by starting with a strong premise and knowing where the story ends. Discipline in finishing is what makes a writer an author. Third, never stop growing. Writing is an art. You don’t want to be an apprentice your entire career. Study and learn from the masters, but find your own style, brand, and audience.
Great advice, Jessica. Now, next question, do you read the reviews that others leave for your books?
I love reading reviews, even the bad ones. Great reviews tell me how the story affected or changed them as a reader. Good reviews remind me that I have an audience. That gets me through the days when my word faucet dries up. Bad reviews often show me who my reader isn’t. For example, my historicals are very spiritually deep. So my friends who are less spiritual often left reviews that said, a little heavy handed. Bad reviews also tell you where you’re falling short on reader expectation. Sometimes a bad review is actually a great review. For example, for clean fiction, sometimes reviewers will say “great romance but I wish they’d been more physical”. Obviously they didn’t get what they expected, but as a clean fiction author your still being validated that your work is clean.
Yes, as gratifying as it is to get great reviews, I also try to learn from bad reviews–and sometimes it’s because we are reaching the wrong readers and need to change something in the book’s description. Now, one more question, are you indie published, traditionally published, or hybrid? And what are your thoughts on the whole indie vs. traditional topic?
I’m now officially a hybrid author. I started with Indie publishing because I knew my stories crossed the Catholic-Protestant lines in the traditional publishing world. Some characters convert, some lose their faith, while others are wholly devoted to their chosen path. While this fits my ideal reader in that I write for people of diverse backgrounds who believe that God calls different people to different walks, it does not work well in traditional markets that are niching their marketing to a specific audience.
But my critique group leader (who is multi-published) challenged me to write something contemporary. So I wrote what I love to read, a romantic suspense. I’d been reading through the Percy Jackson series and wished there was something with those iconic Greek myth personas for those of us who are now married mothers who love visceral real life stories. So I started plotting and praying and creating who I imagined the twelve Olympian gods and goddesses to be.
After writing Song in the Dark I knew the book had all the elements to be marketable. I took it to American Christian Fiction Writers’ Conference and decided to practice pitching to agents. I walked away with a request for a proposal and a month later had an agent contract. It took a year to sell the manuscript to a small but established publisher, and another year to get it out on the market.
Having experienced both sides, there are definitely perks to both. If you have strong business skills and can network and find your own editor who can challenge you to grow, a cover designer who knows the current market, a formatter that can put it all together professionally, and can afford to hire them, going Indie will allow you to make more money and have more freedom in what you put out and when. But if you don’t have the time to run a business, can’t afford that upfront cost, or just don’t have the connections, a traditional publishing path is better.
The biggest downside to being fully traditional is time. Most readers don’t want to wait a year for a book much less two or three if you change publishers or only get single book deals. Personally, I’ll probably stay hybrid to have the flexibility to put out books between my traditional books.
It’s great to hear of someone with hybrid experience. There’s a path for everyone who wants to write, they just have to find the path that works best for them so I’m glad you’ve found yours. Now, about your books.
I have a historical series set in the 1920’s called The Healing Seasons. The first two books are out and the third will be available this summer. The story centers around Abigail Morgan, heiress to a West Virginia coal fortune, and her struggle to honor her parents’ legacy to “do what is right no matter the cost” despite the injustices she experiences and witnesses. The ripple effects of her decisions bring her and her brother into the care of a rural doctor in Montana who is grieving the loss of his wife and failing at raising their son on his own. God brings these characters together to heal them and the communities they serve over the four book series. It’s available exclusively on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback as well as on Kindle Unlimited.
*The first book does have flashback scenes of physical abuse.
My latest book, Song in the Dark, is based on the Greek myth of Hades and Persephone. This book explores what it means to overcome our darkest struggles.
All of Jessica’s books can be found on Amazon, by clicking here.