Tuesday, February 24, 2015

M.L. Stoughton: Interview with the new Indie author

Recently, I had the opportunity to interview the talented, new Indie-author M.L. Stoughton.

M.L. STOUGHTON is the author of the Young Adult Fantasy, Pleasantwick.
She has been an ice-cream scooper, a wedding DJ, a balloon-toting clown, a travel agent and a dental assistant. Now she adds author to that list. She lives in New York with her husband and two daughters, and loves all things paranormal – especially when there’s kissing.
Can you tell us a little bit more about yourself?
I can be indecisive. Ask my favorite anything, and I have a really hard time answering.

 I’ve been married twenty-four years and have two daughters. Only one is still living at home, my youngest, who’s seventeen. We also took in an eighteen-year-old boy, who’s been with us for a year and a half. 

I love animals, and rescue whatever/whenever I can: cats, kittens, squirrels, birds, bunnies, and even a cooper’s hawk. I’ve worked with a greyhound rescue, from which I adopted two. I’ve also worked with a rat rescue, fostering. And I practically got myself arrested rescuing a baby turtle from imminent death in a classroom.

To learn more about Stoughton, visit her at:
M.L. Stoughton's recently released debut book, Pleasantwick, can be found at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00SXFJXRA 
Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/pleasantwick-ml-stoughton/1121151101?ean=9781507796252
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24891645-pleasantwick

Pleasantwick is a wonderful read and has received great reviews.

5 stars: This was such a fun read, kept me up late at night more than once. One of those fun to read books that pulls you right into the story. Hoping to see a sequel or maybe a series!

5 stars: Great book. I loved every second. Awesome characters with a great story!!

I had the awesome opportunity to read and review Pleasantwick before it was released:
5 stars: Pleasantwick is a wonderful read. Think Charmed meets Pleasantville. If you're interested in witches, magical spells, hidden worlds, first-time love and the evil that tries to destroy it, then Pleasantwick is for you. The storyline is interesting and unique...

On with the interview:
What do you do when you're not writing?

I like to read and do crafty things, especially paint. I have a love/hate relationship with my sewing machine.

When did you first start writing, and when did you finish your book?

I first started writing as a teenager, mostly poems. Then after having two children, I tried my hand at picture books, illustrating them as well. (Only a handful of people have ever seen them.) It wasn’t until I turned forty and started reading young adult books (yes, I said forty) that I realized my passion. I started writing what would be my first book, in the fall of 2008. It went through many transformations: including plot and switching from first to third person. I finished in May of 2010.

Where do you get your ideas?

I write what interests me. I love paranormal and supernatural stuff.

Is there any author or book that influenced you, either as a child or adult?

I’d have to say the Twilight series had some influence as an introduction to the genre.
You decided to self-publish your book. Why did you choose that route?
Short answer: I decided I was tired of waiting around — FOR YEARS — for someone else to make my dream come true, when I could take my writing career into my own hands. 

Now for the unabridged version: Not long ago I had an editor with a pub house interested in my manuscript, but she couldn't get it past a senior editor, because "they didn't want to take on anymore paranormal at this time." I was seeing this a lot when I was searching for agents to query. Basically, the door was shutting in my face before I even had a chance to knock.
 Publishing is slow and frustrating, right from the start with the querying process. There is a lot of waiting, sometimes months before you get a response. If you’re lucky and the agent wants to see your manuscript the waiting starts again, and it’s usually longer for this round.

Sadly, I've seen writers acquire an agent and then get dropped after years of not getting picked up by a publisher. I think the final thing that pushed me towards self-publishing was when I saw another writer’s excited announcement that she got a publisher and her book would be released in 2016. That was still two years away. Two years!

I was always so sure I wanted an agent, and a traditional publisher. But after talking to some self-pubbers, and seeing the benefits and how easy and acceptable it is nowadays, I decided to go for it. I also realized that one of the things I was afraid of was marketing and it turns out that even if you get a publisher it's pretty much all on the author anyway.
How long did you query agents/publishers before you decided to self-publish?
I sent my first query in the summer of 2010. I started querying way too early — such a newbie mistake. I’m sure it happens a lot too. I was so passionate and excited about my book that I rushed to get it out there. I queried on and off for four years, revising my manuscript and honing my craft along the way.
Can you give us an idea of the steps involved in self-publishing?
Here are the very basics:
First, and most important, hire an editor. You want to be professional about the product you put out.
Second, equally important, hire a cover artist.
You’ll need to learn some formatting or hire a formatter before uploading your book onto the different sites: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, CreateSpace, etc…
And you’ll need to do your own marketing.
Is there anything in your book based on real life experience, or is all imagination?

Other than little things, like maybe a personality quirk, this book is completely made-up.

How did you come up with the title?
I wanted the title to give the feel of fantasy. After four different titles, I decided something as simple as the name of my magical world, PLEASANTWICK, would be perfect.

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author?
Once an agent told me I should try changing my book from third person to first. I found that so frustrating, because she’d only read the first ten pages. How could she make that kind of judgment, and put an author through a complete rewrite after ten pages. If she’d read the entire manuscript, then maybe I’d understand.

What has been the best compliment?
The best compliment, honestly, came from my family. First, from my oldest daughter (about 18 at the time) who hadn’t read this genre for a while, and was compelled by the story. She’s a very tough critic and I knew her excitement was genuine. Then my youngest daughter read it. She ONLY liked YA contemporary romance, and she loved the story.

What inspired you to write Pleasantwick?
I’d always wanted to write a book, but it wasn’t until I had to leave work for medical reasons that I finally had the time. I found that writing was like therapy, and helped me get through the difficult transition.

What book are you reading now?

I’m reading Never Never by Colleen Hoover.

Who is your favorite author, and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

Remember what I said about favorites? I can’t pick just one. I like Suzanne Collins, Cassandra Clare, John Green, Kimberly Derting, Maggie Stiefvater, Stephenie Meyer, Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl... This question is too hard.

What were the most surprising things you learned while writing your book?

How hard it is to get published. Writing the book was the easy part.

What was your favorite part to write?

My favorite part to write was the kissing scenes!

What was the hardest part to write?

The hardest part was definitely the beginning. I’ve tweaked and rewritten it so many times. You’ve got a very limited amount of time to interest the reader. There’s a fine balance between giving too much information “info dump” and enough information to entice the reader and care about your character.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Don’t worry too much about your first draft. Just get the words down. You can flesh out the details later.

Don’t send your manuscript out until it’s been edited and polished to the best of your ability.

Do you have anything specific you'd like to say to your readers?

Thank you for choosing my book.

Thank you M.L. Stoughton, and congratulation on the release of PLEASANTWICK!