Today, our interview with Christian suspense author Brandilyn Collins continues. However, before I forget, as I nearly did yesterday, I have two copies of Violet Dawn to award as prizes. One will be a drawing from those who leave a comment this week.
The other will be offered to the person who answers correctly some question … about Brandilyn or Violet Dawn or Scenes and Beans. If more than one correct answer comes in, I’ll do a drawing to decide on the winner.
Back to the interview:
RLM: On your blog, you’ve elicited feedback on covers and first lines, suggestions for characters, promotional ideas, writers for Scenes and Beans, title ideas, etc. How important would you say your blog has become to your writing and to your promotional efforts?
BC: Very important. I have to admit, when my editors suggested during a marketing meeting in January 2005 that I start a blog, I groaned. “Like I need more to write.” Marketing-minded as I am, I knew if I did it, it would have to be done up right. Within a few weeks I took the plunge and created Forensics and Faith. The site has a look similar to my Web site, incorporating my “Seatbelt Suspense” logo. Almost right away, I started telling the story of my journey toward publication in fiction. Which took awhile. The journey, I mean. Which means the story took awhile. It came to affectionately be called the Never Ending Saga, or NES. I kinda laid it out there for all the world to see—how hard it was for me to get published. When that story finally ended around the beginning of June, I started posting about all kinds of things. Fiction-writing techniques. Publishing industry news. Humorous stories from my own life. Spiritual thoughts sometimes. Over time it’s become quite the eclectic mix.
RLM: You’re posting regularly, with few exceptions. That must become quite a chore.
BC: Yes, there are times I groan about having to write another post. I post Monday through Friday, so it’s like having a daily newspaper column. But, as your question intimates, look at all it’s done for me. It’s become a place where people visit every day. It’s given me a daily voice in front of these folks (called the BGs, or Bloggees). Not all of the BGs read my fiction. In fact, a great many don’t. Either they’re a member of the BHCC (Big Honkin’ Chickens’ Club) or they simply prefer not to read suspense. But that’s OK. In fact, I think it’s great. Forensics and Faith allows me to have my voice heard by these folks, when I normally wouldn’t. So when they think of Christian suspense, whether they read me or not, they’re likely to think of my name. And they’ll recommend my work to friends and family members who do read suspense.
But this doesn’t just happen—that is, attracting regular readers to a blog. As with Scenes and Beans, the whole idea has to be focused outward. Not “What’s in it for me?” but “What’s in it for them?” That’s the question behind good marketing. People have to benefit somehow. It can be the simple benefit of enjoying entertainment, the benefit of learning something about craft or the business, or the benefit of being urged to think about some issue. I try to give the BGs a little of each.
Plus, they speak back to me, as you mentioned. So when I need suggestions for a book title, a character quirk, etc.—there’s my audience. Or when I wanted to elicit auditioners for Scenes and Beans—there’s my audience. BTW, the acknowledgments in Violet Dawn list the BGs who suggested character quirks for the Java Joint folks. Probably the most known quirk—curmudgeon Wilbur Hucks’ constant showing to the world of his heart surgery scar—came from a BG. (I can’t remember who, or I’d tell you. Hey, Scar BG, if you’re out there, speak up.)
RLM: Recently you posted on your blog about the launch party you held in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Are launch parties just for fun, or do they really generate publicity and excitement for a new release?
BC: Sure it’s fun, but a launch party is a major signing event. It takes lots of planning, and somebody’s gotta pay for the thing. (Fortunately, that was my publisher, Zondervan.) Like any booksigning, the event isn’t an end unto itself. It’s the publicity around the event that counts just as much. The releases in the paper, the three-by-four-foot poster of my book cover in the store window, the flyer in the Chamber of Commerce publication, the mention of the party on many blogs—all of this goes to promote Violet Dawn. It was also great to have the party at Simple Pleasures. The real store in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, is so beautiful, and the owners, Marilyn and Terri Cooper, really had the place spiffed out. Simple Pleasures was able to reap the proceeds of sales and enjoy publicity (including national publicity it never would normally have), and I was able to have a great venue for the party. The attendance of two Zondervan editors and my agent made it all look official.
RLM: How different is it writing a series set in a town based so closely on the one with which you are so familiar, and what reactions have you received from your neighbors?
BC: Bottom line, it’s a lot of fun. Although Kanner Lake, Idaho, and Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, are quite different. I guess you could say Kanner Lake is a scaled-down version of Cd’A. Coeur d’Alene is up to probably 40,000+ now (last census showed 35,000), while Kanner Lake is only 1700. That’s quite a smaller venue.
I consider this the best of both worlds. I can borrow what I like from Coeur d’Alene—the tourists, the town built at the north end of the lake of the same name, the tourist shops on Main Street (although it’s Sherman Avenue in Cd’A), and I can make up whatever I want. It’s just easier killing off people in a fictional town, know what I mean? A real town may not appreciate it too much.
RLM: Special thanks, Brandilyn, for taking the time for these questions. You rock, lady—as a writer, as a teacher. (Plus, you make me laugh. A lot!) 😉
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Next time, my review of Violet Dawn.