C.J. Roberts, whose books include Seduced in the Dark, talks about her approach to writing and her plans for the future.
Why do you write? Is it something you’ve always done, or always wanted to do?
I started, as most authors do, by keeping a journal from a young age. I think every author’s first idea for a book is an autobiography, lol. I’m glad I went with fiction though. It’s far more interesting than my real life.
Are there any authors who inspire you?
Absolutely! I am constantly inspired by a bevy of writers. Among my favorites: Anne Rice, Quentin Tarantino, Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, Karen M. Moning, Anthony Beal, and a host of others. More often than not, it’s a particular story I find inspiring. For example, whenever I watch True Romance, I wish I could have a hand in re-writing it. It’s amazing the way it is, but it just inspires me to think: How would I have written it?
Captive in the Dark is a very intense book. Was the writing process difficult?
Yes and no. I wrote CitD through inspiration alone, so I NEEDED to write it, if only so I could go back to sleep. SitD was more a little more difficult because I had a deadline, no ending, and the fans were going to eat me alive if I didn’t deliver something epic! Still, these two novels were like catching lightning in a bottle for me. The characters kind of wrote themselves and took me along for the ride. Just 8 weeks before the book was due – I still didn’t know how it was going to end. I think I was scared to let it, but ultimately, I just followed the characters where they demanded I go. I think it all worked out for the best.
Do you do a lot of research for your books?
OMG, yes! The research that goes into writing a book like this can take WEEKS! And sometimes, you still get it wrong. I did my homework though and studied the psychology of these characters in addition to my geography, languages, customs, laws, statistics, and a whole bunch of other boring crap no one wants to hear about. Still, at the end of the day, I am GLAD I did my research because when people say things like ‘this would never happen’, I can honestly tell them it does!
My next book will be about FBI Agent, Matthew Reed. I’m already dreading all the research I’m going to have to do. I did a lot of it for Seduced, but I will obviously have to dig deeper into the organizational structure and procedures of the FBI.
Did you approach a conventional publisher before you decided to self-publish?
I did. I summarily received about 25-30 rejection letters. At the time, I didn’t understand (they don’t provide feedback), but now I do. These books are outside the realm of mainstream literature. Additionally, absolutely no one knew who I was. Publishers want books they can sell and nothing similar to my work was out there for comparison. Coupled with the fact readers had no reason to take a chance on an unknown like me – it was easy for them to pass. The ones who showed interest wanted me to change my content and I JUST WON’T DO IT! However, as an independent, I had the freedom to publish what I wanted and build my brand.
I learned some lessons the hard way, but I wouldn’t take it back. Now that I’ve some a combined total of nearly 70,000 books, I’ve proven that books like mine CAN sell and it makes me a better prospect for traditional publishing. Truth be told, I am THRILLED it happened this way. If I had gotten published traditionally a year ago, I probably would have received a very small advance and the publisher probably wouldn’t have marketed the book as heavily as some others. I have a lot more options now than I did then.
How do you write? For example, do you make yourself write a certain number of words every day?
I wait for the dreams to start coming. I’m not the type of writer who can just sit at a computer and start pounding away. Typically, I wait for the inspiration to hit me – just one dream – one idea. After that, it won’t leave me alone. It will nag me before bed and prod me awake. Once that happens – I write.
However, I’m not ALWAYS in the mood. Sometimes I have to force myself to develop the idea. I have to sit at the computer and say, “How does he get from A to B?” Without exception, I have to write a minimum of 1,000 words a day. That isn’t a lot. However, on a good day, I can write as many as 10,000 words or more, but having a minimum is important. It keeps me focused on the days I’d rather be doing something else. WRITING IS A JOB! If it were easy – everyone would do it!
What goals have you set yourself? Do you want to sell a certain number of books in 2012? Is there some way you measure success, on your own terms?
I wouldn’t say I have a goal, because I have exceeded all my expectations which were – none. I never thought any of this would be happening because I’m a pessimist by nature. Still, I work harder than anyone around me and I dig deep to find every scrap of what I have to give. Whatever happens after that, I can be proud of myself for giving it everything. If I haven’t done my best, I deserve nothing.
Do you worry about Amazon gaining a monopoly in the ebook market?
Sometimes. I don’t think any monopoly is a good one (unless it’s the board game – I LOVE that game!). A monopoly is nothing more than absolute power, it is a dictatorship, and eventually all dictatorships become corrupted. That said, Amazon was / is the BIGGEST player in the Indie Revolution. Without Amazon, I wouldn’t be where I am today because 95% of my sales come through their site. It can be a double-edged sword, but I remain vigilant of which way it swings. I can only hope Amazon remains cognizant of their true business model.
What advice would you give to someone who’s just about to self-publish their first book?
Invest in your work or no one else will! This is one of those ‘hard lessons’ I had to learn. Get yourself an editor and pay them to look over your MS. Also, a great cover is a great investment. You want a cover that stands out as hundreds of others are around it and you’re scrolling through at a clip. More books are purchased based on their cover than you would like to know about.
What’s next? Are you working on anything at the moment? Do you have anything new coming out in 2012?
Well, Seduced in the Dark came out this year, so I’m taking a breather until NaNoWriMo kicks off in about a week. I hope to have another book out next year though.