It has been radio silence over here for a couple of weeks and I'm sorry about that. December has been a little nuts – I'm knitting all my Christmas gifts (if you're a family member, do not click that link) – and although I've been reading a tonne, I haven't had any time to write about it. I am super looking forward to lots of book writing (that is, writing about books) in the New Year, but in the meantime, how about we turn things around a little.
I met Melissa Leong when we sat two desks away from each other in the National Post Arts & Life section a year and a half ago. We've both since moved (she to Financial Post and I to news), but let me tell you, she's an excellent writer. When I heard that she'd self-published a YA novel, I was both impressed and not surprised – Melissa always comes across as one of those amazingly energetic people, and that she'd want to branch out from journalism seemed natural. Anyway, What Kills Me was released earlier this year (under the pseudonym Wynne Channing) and tells the story of a 17-year-old exchange student who accidentally becomes a vampire and then has to fight for her life when the vampires think she is embodiment of an ancient prophecy and destined to kill them all.
If you're thinking that doesn't sound like normal Books Under Skin fodder, well, you're right, but I always have time for good writing, and something different. To that end, Melissa and I did a little Q&A about her book, the process of self publishing, and how she found time to write a novel while also working full time. If you have a vampier fan on your Christmas list (and these days, who doesn't), I can't recommend What Kills Me highly enough – not only will you be buying a well-written, fun novel, but you'll be supporting a great author. How can you go wrong?
Q There are a lot of vampire novels out there and it would be easy to think the market was saturated – what prompted you to write your novel? Did you think there was something lacking in the genre (are vampires even a genre)?
A I was told that that the market was saturated with vamps; but this was the story that lived in my head and the story that I wanted to tell. I didn’t write it in response to Twilight or to push new boundaries. I wrote the novel as if there was no comparison.
Q Okay, that was three questions in one, sorry. During the day, you work as a reporter – did you find it hard to slip off that writing style for fiction?
A No worries. I’m a reporter. I love questions. I don’t find it hard to put my author hat on. Storytelling is storytelling. But being a young adult author is starting to affect my day job: I talk a lot with my fans via Twitter, Facebook, and emoticons and exclamation marks are creeping into my work emails. (Hi Mr. Cabinet Minister, I’d LOVE to interview you about the budget :-P TTYL!)
Q As a full-time reporter and a dance instructor, when did you find time to write a novel?
A I have no clue. Seriously. No clue. Someone needs to tell me how I did this so I can do it again and finish the sequel. I think I mostly kept the hours of a, uh, vampire and wrote in the middle of the night.
Q In your National Post article about self-publishing, you give a really good primer of sorts on what to think about then going that route. What surprised you most about the process?
A did not anticipate two things: Promoting your novel is a full-time job (see earlier comment about vampire hours). Second, indie authors are freakishly friendly. They rally around you with advice and support. I’ve never experienced anything like it. And I’ve totally drank the juice — I’ve got the “welcome” sign on my chest for newbies and I’m happy to lend a hand.
Q You mention in the article that you have a second novel as well. Now that you know the ropes, do you think you'll continue to self-publish?
A Right now, I enjoy being an indie author. You have total control of everything: price, timelines, the cover, etc. And I’m really excited to put out the sequel next year. Now that I know what I’m doing, the entire journey will be that much more awesome.
Q Speaking of second novels, all the reviews I've read about What Kills Me end with the reviewers' eagerness for book two. Is this destined to become a series?
A I wrote it as a three-part series. The reason for the delay is that I wanted to gauge reader reaction before I continued with Book Two. You never know what people will like, right?
Q Officially, What Kills Me is by Wynne Channing, which is obviously not your name. I always thought pen names were to distance an author from a novel, but you've shown no signs of that. Why did you choose to use one?
A Since I was writing about my experience for the National Post, I wanted to choose a neutral name, one that had no attachment to my journalist self. I wanted to see if I could make a run at this publishing thing all on my own. And my journalist self might want to write non-fiction one day so this leaves all doors open.
Q Not that I think of you as especially scandalous, but has engaging with a younger, YA audience made you think differently about the way you present yourself in public (social media, and whatnot)?
A I’m not scandalous but I swear. A lot. I work in a newsroom. We use profanity as much as we use punctuation. That, I’ve had to cut down on via Facebook and Twitter. Not that I think the YA crowd can’t handle it, it’s just not nice.
Q That age group tends to be very good at fandom – do you hear from your readers?
A Several times a week! It’s my favourite thing in the universe: fan mail. And it comes so readily through social media.
Q Where can people find your book? I know What Kills Me is available for the Kindle, but if you don't have an ereader, is there a way to buy hardcopies?
A Yes! It comes in digital form, and in paperback for traditionalists.
Click here for more about What Kills Me.