Interview with author Becca Patterson

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Hi Becca, thanks for joining me this month. I heard a rumor that you do not just sit at a desk and type up fabulous stories, but that you also risk life and limb in the name of research. Is it true that you once narrowly escaped a bull moose by floating UNDER it in a canoe?

True. Also true: my cats protect me from the wild and woolly strings around the house.

Sounds like you always have plenty of material to work with. 
Getting down to brass tacks: any tips on what to do and what not to do when writing?

Do what works for you.

Don’t do what doesn’t work for you.

Finish your draft.

Every writer is different, so what works for each writer is going to be different. The sooner you figure that out, the sooner you’ll start hearing writing advice for what it is: suggestions. Give everything a try, but feel free to reject the stuff that just doesn’t work. The only thing that I’ve found to be universal is that you can’t really know what your first chapter is supposed to be until you’ve written your last chapter. I know one writer who starts her draft with the last chapter and works backward. I tried that once. I know several who write out of order, and frequently they are halfway through the draft when they get to the final chapter. For me, I have to write in order, so I rush through the story to the end, then I can go back and fix things.

What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing?

Advantages: You have control over everything.

Disadvantages: You have to control everything.

Traditional publishing takes care of things like cover design, formatting and getting your book into catalogs and things like that. However that means you have almost no control over what your book is going to look like. It used to take care of the marketing, too. Not so much any more. Especially for new and midlist writers, about the only marketing you’ll get in your contract is inclusion in the company catalog and maybe your cover, along with a bunch of others, in a “new releases” blurb in a trade magazine. If you want to earn out your advance (the key to getting another contract) you’ll have to push your own book.

daughter-of-the-queen-coverIndie publishing means you get to take on the role of the publisher. It’s up to you to find or create an effective cover design. You’ll have to hire a copy editor (because after months of editing you aren’t going to notice your typos, homonym errors or all those commas). Formatting your book is tedious, but not as hard as people make it out to be. Then it’s up to you to do all of the marketing, but you were going to do most of it with trad publishing anyway. You won’t be included in any company’s catalog, That is proving to be less and less of an advantage anyway.

The really big difference is in the royalty rates. On the low end you’ll be getting 20% of a book’s sales price for each copy sold when you publish yourself. In a traditional contract you’re lucky to pull 5% royalty for each unit sold. Meaning you have to sell a lot fewer copies to still make a decent profit independently. Which is only fair because basically you took on a whole bunch of jobs that the traditional company paid for.

The biggest advantage to Indie Publishing is the back list. In digital and on-demand publishing, your book never has to go “out of print”. So you can earn on a single title for the rest of your life. Not much, but that’s why you keep writing. Get a large enough catalog of your backlist out there, and you’ll be pulling in a decent paycheck even if your titles never sell more than 5 copies a month.

Great advice. Back to those moose and ferocious attack cats: How much research do you do?daughter-of-the-revolution-cover

The easy answer is: “it depends”. It depends on the needs of the story. It depends on what I know about the tech or science needed to make the story real. It depends on how close to Earth real my story needs to be. It depends on whether you consider daydreaming about another world to get the rules all straightened out research.

For Daughter of the Revolution I spent a lot of time researching genetics. Specifically mutation rates on the Y chromosome. I also looked into what we knew about the gender based genetics of alligators. Did you know that gender in an alligator is determined by the temperature of the nest where the egg gestates? Also frogs because many species of frog can switch gender if the population becomes unbalanced. I needed all that information to explain how my twins could be identical genetically, but one female and one male – which is a key factor in the plot.

I spent almost as much time in my head imagining life on Jupiter. Or rather in Jupiter. There isn’t much to research for life in Jupiter. I mean I could look at the chemical composition of the gasses (which I did) and a whole bunch of scientists laughing at the very idea of life in Jupiter. While they are perfectly willing to look for life on chilly, nearly atmosphere-less Mars, the idea that the relatively warm and dense atmosphere of Jupiter could support life seems ridiculous.

Intriguing! What cultural value do you place on storytelling?

heros-call-coverStorytelling is the basis of culture. It doesn’t have to be formal, just the conversations around holiday meals or when we’re out with friends. Growing up, we listen to our parents when they are telling us stories, and learn what we are supposed to do. We also listen to our parents when they aren’t talking to us and learn the real rules. When we get older, it’s the same when we chat with friends. I know what’s important by what stories you tell.

Formal storytelling, in the forms of novels, movies and TV, are just as powerful as the old stories told around the winter fires. We know who’s important by who gets to be the lead characters. We know what’s important by what the lead characters do. This is a very powerful tool. One that we have the power and responsibility to wield

Any hobbies besides writing?

I crochet… sometimes… when I can convince the cats not to help.

Belly dance is my preferred form of exercise, but I also perform as an amature.

Then there are the role playing games that I love with my husband.

I wish there were more time in my day for doing hobbies, but between two jobs, plus writing and keeping up with the TV shows we watch together (I can’t bring myself to call watching TV a hobby), there just isn’t much left.

Thanks for taking the time to meet with me, Becca. 

catfaceavatar32_400x400More about Becca:

Sci-Fi and Fantasy are just two of Becca Patterson’s preferred genres. An author hailing from Minnesota, she has been writing for as long as she can remember, and takes much of her inspiration from the teenagers she works with. In her spare time, Becca enjoys making her husband laugh, and playing string with her three cats. You can follow her on her website at http://becca.mreauowpublishing.com/ , on Twitter @mreauow or on Amazon.

 

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