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Monday, April 25, 2016

World Traveling and World Building: Interview with Fantasy Author R.J. Vickers

R.J. Vickers is a fantasy author, photographer, and traveler who says with a laugh that she enjoys juggling multiple projects at once. She’s currently hard at work on a New Zealand adventure travel guide, the second and third books in her YA fantasy Natural Order series, and an epic fantasy novel set in a new world she’s been developing for almost ten years now. She’s here today to talk about Beauty’s Songbook, which, like Awash in Talent, is being published by Kindle Press. 

Author R.J. Vickers 
JK: What is Beauty’s Songbook about? 

RJV: It’s a fairy tale with nods to Beauty and the Beast and Into the Woods. I’ve always been a huge fan of fairy tales, especially retellings in the mode of Ella Enchanted (Gail Carson Levine) and Goose Girl (Shannon Hale), so this was my chance to take a stab at the genre.

JK: Have you written many fantasy books?

RJV: Well, I’ve written seven fantasy novels in all, but only two (The Natural Order and Beauty’s Songbook) have been published. Three more of those are in various stages of revision, and the last two will never see the light of day! 

I love writing novels during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) every November, and I see most of these as experiments where I try something I wouldn’t ordinarily write in order to hone my craft. I’ve written a psychological thriller, a futuristic dystopian novel, a contemporary romance, and a pirate story within the confines of NaNoWriMo—and not a single one of them will ever be published.

JK: How do you draw readers into your fantasy world?

RJV: One of my favorite parts of writing is creating a world and bringing it to life.  I love weaving all sorts of sensory details into my writing, and adding those quirky details that really give a world character. For Beauty’s Songbook, I wrote a whole set of songs common in the region, and added a set of folk legends to give the world flavor. 

JK: What are your main inspirations?

RJV: As I mentioned, I’m a huge traveler, and I love taking bits of the world that inspire me and incorporating them into my stories. The setting of Beauty’s Songbook is modeled on Finland, where I happened to begin writing the story, and another recent novel is set in a landscape resembling the fiords of New Zealand. That particular idea came to me while hiking through those exact fiords, and upon returning to the same trail, I was so inspired I had to write the book.

JK: What nonfiction do you write?

RJV: I’m sure you’ll be surprised to know that most of my nonfiction relates to travel. My first nonfiction book was College Can Wait, a gap-year guidebook for reluctant students with a huge emphasis on travel. And, of course, I’m hard at work on the New Zealand travel guide. If that’s successful, I’ll follow it up with more travel guides to all of my favorite places.

JK: What is it like publishing Beauty’s Songbook with Kindle Press? 

RJV: When I originally submitted Beauty’s Songbook for the Kindle Scout nomination process, I didn’t actually expect to be selected. I was very curious, though. Kindle Scout is one of the newest entries to the publishing scene, a model that combines the best parts of self-publishing and traditional publishing. I’ve been blogging about the whole Kindle Scout publishing process here

You get complete control over your cover (though the quality control kicks in during the nomination process—you won’t get many votes with a bad cover), and Kindle Press does a very thorough edit of your book—for content and conventions—before publication. You get an advance, but you also get to keep a much larger percentage of your royalties than you would in a traditional publishing deal (50% compared to around 12%). You don’t get to decide on your book’s pricing, but Kindle Press will drop your price for promotions and submit your book to a number of promotion deals, circumventing the need for the author to pay for these. 

As traditional publishers have had a very hard time competing in the ebook market, due to bad pricing choices and a lack of marketing, models like Kindle Press are starting to look very desirable.

Anyway, Beauty’s Songbook just came out on April 19 (you can check it out here), so I have yet to see whether it performs better or worse than my three previous titles. But it’s been exciting to learn more about Kindle Scout and Kindle Press along the way! 

JK: Exciting is an apt word for this whirlwind process. Thanks so much for being here today, and best of luck with Beauty’s Songbook.

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