As an author of contemporary fiction, I always jump at the chance to ask questions of historical fiction authors. To me, the research process seems laborious and daunting—but to them, it drives the story and fuels their creativity. Today, author Linda Pennell shares with us a little of her inspiration, method, and how she combines her love of the past with the social media frenzy of today. I also love her attitude toward the scuttlebutt surrounding the women’s fiction label.
Please welcome Linda Pennell to Women’s Fiction Writers.
Author Linda Pennell Writes History Fiction, Embraces Social Media, And Laughs At Those Who Belittle Women’s Fiction
Linda: Having studied history, I always knew that a few defeated Confederates chose to immigrate to Central and South America rather than live under Reconstruction. When I learned through a magazine article that their descendants can still be found in Americana, Brazil wearing Confederate gray uniforms and antebellum ball gowns and flying the Stars and Bars on festival days, I became fascinated by their story. I read the few published academic monographs on the subject and the information they contained set my imagination churning.
Amy: Can you tell us a little about your research and writing process and how the two were intertwined?
Linda: I have been in love with the past for as long as I can remember, so for me, the research comes first. When a topic, event, subject, historical figure, etc. piques my interest, I start with a Google search for books, magazine articles, and internet sites that provide accurate information. With Confederado do Norte, I found three academic monographs on the subject, two of which contained long quoted passages from primary sources such as diaries and journals kept by the real Confederados during their years in Brazil. I also found websites where additional primary material was presented. At some point during my research, the premise of a novel will form, sometimes popping into my head almost fully formed. Once the research is completed and the premise is formed, it’s just a matter of creating characters to tell the story. I consider myself a plotter with pantser tendencies because I do a rough, general outline of the whole story and maybe make some notes for important scenes, but everything else is created as I write. I love the spontaneity of the creative process!
Amy: With so many publishing options for authors today, what drew you to seek a small e-publisher like Soul Mate?
Linda: I met Debby Gilbert, Soul Mate founder and editor-in-chief, at a conference and we just clicked. Our backgrounds are very similar and we have so much in common. It just felt right. I wanted the support of a publisher rather than going it alone, so when the time came, Debby was the logical choice for my debut work of historical fiction, Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel. The Soul Mate family is one of the most supportive groups in my life. We help each other and cheer each other on. It’s a tough world out there. Who wouldn’t want that kind of experience?
Amy: What have you found the most effective social media or marketing tools? What are the least effective?
Linda: There are several ways to define effectiveness when it comes to social media, but I am going to assume that most of our readers are interested in what produces an uptick in sales. I can’t speak for everyone, but I have found that letting my Facebook friends and my circle of personal friends know about a release gets the ball rolling. My friends span many years and many types of activities including high school, college, volunteer groups, church, and my work colleagues. They have spread the word among their friends. I have gotten quite a few speaking engagements with book clubs this way. Speaking to book clubs is a joy and so much fun!
Another way to connect is via Twitter, but I cannot recommend it for marketing per se. Twitter is good simply to get your name out there. Eventually, it may pay off in sales, but I simply enjoy connecting with people with similar interests. I’m addicted to words of wisdom and great quotes about a variety of topics.
Finally, whether one has a blog of one’s own or makes guest appearances, blogging gets your name out, advertises your work, and puts your writing and personality on display. Not an opportunity to be missed! Whether to pay for a blog tour must be each author’s personal decision. I have seen just as much action from the guest spots I’ve done on friends’ blogs as I have from a paid tour.
Since time is a factor, I have not tried other social media. I’ve chosen what I can manage and have decided not to worry about the rest. After all, writing the next book needs to be an author’s first priority.
Amy: What’s your best advice for aspiring authors of women’s fiction?
Linda: Rejection is a painful, but necessary part of getting published. Do not be discouraged. Learn all you can about your craft, edit until your eyes cross and fingers bleed, join a reliable critique group, and write the book you would want to read. Presently, there is a debate in the industry about whether there should be a category labeled women’s fiction. There is concern that women are again being marginalized by an industry that historically favors male writers. That may be the case, but women are having the last laugh. We read more, buy more books, and support more literary causes. Be proud to call yourself an author of women’s fiction.
Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel now available from Soul Mate Publishing
Confederado do Norte coming from Soul Mate in 2014
Buy Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel: http://amzn.to/16qq3k5