Indie-Pendence Blog Hop Day 2: Interview with Marie Loughin, author of Valknut the Binding

Welcome to Shaggin the Muse’s second entry for the Indie-Pendence Blog Hop Week. Our goal this week is to not only raise awareness of indie authors but also discuss things like the state of our industry, how we got to where we are (no matter what part of the path we might be on), and just what “indie” is, anyway.

But that’s not all! We’re also going to be giving away copies of loads of books for free. I’ve started to take a general stance against gimmicky giveaways – though I know some guest posts recently have featured them. I think that indie authors need to get back to their roots and give away the things that matter most: books. That’s why I was thrilled to learn that we were expected to give away books.

That said, let’s see what you stand to win this week:

-eBooks of the Corridors of the Dead (limit 5)
-eBooks of the Kayson Cycle (limit 5)
-eBooks of the Station (limit 5)
-Advance eBook of Room 3 when it releases (limit 2)
-eBooks of the Newfoundland Vampire (limit 3)
-eBooks of Marie Loughin’s Valknut the Binding (limit 5)

That’s 25 free books ready for folks to win. And all you have to do is comment. Once you’ve commented, you’ll go into the drawing spreadsheet. On Friday, I’ll draw your number from the hat (a random number generator), and notify you of what you’ve won. Your odds are really, really good, and I know the involved authors would love your comments on our posts. I’m hoping this will be fun for everybody and spur some discussion.

So, my talk with Marie Loughin. Marie is a “friend of the blog”, so to speak, as well as a member of our writers group, the Emissaries of Speculative Fiction; in fact, Marie is the founder of the group. I’ve spoken to Marie before, right before she released Valknut. I’ve also reviewed her fantastic novel Valknut the Binding (available on Amazon, hint hint). Now that she has some more experience under her belt and has worked through some of the difficulties involved with indie writing, she seemed like just the perfect writer to revisit in an interview.

Where did you get the original idea for Valknut: The Binding?

Most of my story ideas evolve from interesting settings. When I visit or hear about an unusual place, I can’t help but ponder the implications of living there. I’m the same way with subcultures and counter-cultures. I have a compulsion to try to understand people who live outside the norm (editors note: this might have something to do with our common views on fiction). When my writing mentor told stories about his days as a hobo during the Great Depression, I knew I’d found a perfect backdrop for a dark urban fantasy.

I still needed the fantasy element, though. When I began Valknut: The Binding, Celtic mythology and folklore dominated the urban fantasy scene. But train yards and diesel engines seemed to too grungy and metallic for the Green Man and the fae. Norse mythology was a more natural fit. The story of the binding of Fenrir provided a nice bit of unresolved tension. What if Fenrir somehow gets loose in modern times?

Tell us a little about the writing process – how did you get started, and were there any stops?

With the backdrop in place, I needed a protagonist with a problem. Enter Lennie Cook. She is an ordinary person who must enter this extraordinary world of diesel and darkness to find her missing father.

What better way to start the novel than to throw Lennie onto a moving train and rip her away from everything she knows?

As I began to write, major plot points came to me easily and remained unchanged as I progressed through the novel. I knew what I wanted from the story, so the path was clear. The writing process itself wasn’t easy, though. Each character needed his or her own story, and all stories had to be tied in some way to the overarching story of Fenrir. My first attempt to weave all the threads together was sometimes clumsy and, in some places, a little laughable. More than one random Scooby-doo chase scene between Lennie and random gangbangers was zapped into digital oblivion during revisions.

My progress on the novel was hampered by raising small children, coaching soccer, and working for a living. I stopped writing altogether several times when life interrupted, like when we made three international moves in two years. (Let me tell you, making international moves is a headache of red tape and frustration.) But the biggest hindrance came from within. The closer I came to the end, the more I began to worry about publication. I’m a statistician by trade; I understood the odds. I would have to convince an agent to represent my book instead of one of a thousand (probably more) others, and then I would have to wait for the agent to convince a publisher to buy it. And I knew that the criteria by which my book would be judged might have very little to do with quality.

It’s hard to write when you’re plagued by a strong sense of futility.

What did your drafting process look like? For example, did you have beta readers?

When I began writing Valknut, I was part of a strong writing group. Each week, we would read scenes to each other and receive feedback. This was a great reality check. (Approach writing groups with caution, though. If you don’t have a good one, then find a strong alpha reader—someone who will not hold back from pointing out flaws, no matter how much work they know they’re causing you.)

I’m a compulsive self-editor and edit constantly as I write, so the idea of a draft is almost meaningless to me. I went through two batches of beta readers. The first batch read the novel before I shopped it around to agents. The second batch read it after I decided to self-publish.

What were your touchstones for the self-publication process? Any links to share?

The Passive Voice (http://www.thepassivevoice.com/) convinced me to try self-publishing Valknut. The Passive Guy reposts excerpts from blogs of self-publication proponents, like Dean Wesley Smith, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and Joe Konrath.

When I built e-books for Valknut: The Binding and Rose in Winter, I leaned heavily on Guido Henkel (http://guidohenkel.com/2010/12/take-pride-in-your-ebook-formatting/). I would suggest that non-technical folks visit Jaye Manus’s blog (http://jwmanus.wordpress.com/ebook-formatting-resources/) for more user-friendly instructions.

Have you found the marketing process difficult? What is the greatest challenge?

In a word, yes. I hate every bit of it. I’d rather be writing.

Too many of the online marketing tools available to self-publishers are directed at other writers. Ever supportive, I’ve filled my Kindle with self-published books that I don’t have time to read. This is not a sustainable approach to marketing. The best marketing tool is to write a good book. Then write another. And another…

(I’ll add that marketing printed copies via book stores, conventions, and so forth may be effective. I haven’t tried that approach yet.)

What’s your take – what makes a writer “indie”? 

A writer is “indie” if she takes her writing career into her own hands. It does not mean that she does all the work herself, though some indie writers do just that. It means she performs, organizes, and/or approves every step towards readying her novel for publication.

Right now, when a writer publishes traditionally (whether it’s with a corporate or indie publisher), she has to give up most of her control. Her book essentially belongs to the publisher. Hopefully there will come a day when authors and publishers work together in partnership. When that day comes, perhaps the terms “traditional” and “indie” will become obsolete.

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Thanks to Marie! Now for you, the reader. I’d love to hear your comments and thoughts on what it means to be an indie writer in light of Marie’s own views – do you agree or disagree? Anything else to add? You can click on the image below to access the other blogs on our hop. I’ll see you folks tomorrow.

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11 Comments

  1. I agree with what Marie said about Indie publishing – that it does NOT mean that you “do it all” yourself.

    I hate moving, too, Marie…and I can’t imagine the chaos of making one international move, much less making THREE in two years!

    Thanks for the giveaway!
    darlenesbooknook at gmail dot com

  2. Thanks for your comments, Darlene. Three international moves sounds unusual, but there’s an explanation. We went on sabbatical in British Columbia. A few months after moving back home, my husband got a job offer where we’d spent our sabbatical. So we moved back to British Columbia.

    I sorta miss those cross-continental drives 🙂

  3. Hey, Marie, great interview. And Jonathan, I like that you put the random quotes in the boxes. Nice touch.

    Marie, I think I’d love to see those Scooby-Doo scenes 🙂

    “The closer I came to the end, the more I began to worry about publication.”- Interesting. I just read “The War of Art.” I think he would call this Resistance. Glad you didn’t give in to it.

    Paul

  4. I agree, writing a good book is one of the best marketing tools. Readers like me tend to go on and on about those reads that grab us and spread the word. Another really good tool in my mind is the social networking. I have bought more books from being able to follow different authors and getting to know their process; and I am talking about books that I just might have over looked otherwise 🙂 Thank you for taking the time to share with us today and for the fun giveaway opportunity.
    dz59001[at]gmail[dot]com

  5. Thank for sharing. I agree that an indie writer is one that is in charge of her career.

    bn100candg(at)hotmail(dot)com

  6. Jonathan, thanks for hosting another excellent interview. Of course I already know Marie, but I still learned a lot, especially about her writing process. I’ll echo Paul & say that you did a nice job with the offset quotes.

    Marie, I had no idea you were a revise as you go writer! When I read Valknut, I was impressed by the beauty of your phrasing. It felt that your sentences were organic wholes that must have just zapped down from the ether to you in exactly the right order.

    I’m a draft writer. I often don’t know what the story really is until I start writing. If I were revise-as-I-go, then I would end up with one perfect scene … flash fiction? 🙂

    Augh, I’ve been party to many international moves, but was never the organizing adult for one. I have moved half-way across the country, and that was a pain (and not cheap! wow!).

    Glad you decided to publish your book, Marie, and look forward to reading more!

    • Some sentences (and paragraphs) do come to me all nice and pretty. Others require work with a sledge hammer to get them into shape. My biggest issue is clarity. I have a hard time moving on if the the words don’t say exactly what I want them to say.

  7. Angel Jennifer

    I think its great that Indie writers are getting more exposure through the Web now,,i look forward to being able to explore new books,,,thx for the giveaway

  8. Pingback: Indie-Pendence Blog Hop Day 5: The Emissaries of Speculative Fiction | Shaggin the Muse

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