My interview today is with Carolyn Ridder Aspenson author of the Amazon and Barnes & Noble bestseller Unfinished Business (paranormal, contemporary women's fiction, 4.6 stars, 73 reviews) and the second book in the series, Unbreakable Bonds, (paranormal, contemporary women's fiction, 4.8 stars, 14 reviews).
Before we start the interview, let's find out a bit about Unfinished Business and Unbreakable Bonds.
One minute Angela's a typical stay at home mom, and the next, she's a psychic psychologist to the dead.
Ghosts aren't real. At least that's what Angela Panther believed right up until the moment her late mother popped in for a chat. Her mother's reappearance, just hours after the hearse drove off with her corpse, opens the door to the other side, and suddenly Angela's life is jam-packed with dead people. Between keeping tabs on her mother's ghostly mishaps, watching out for her drama-prone teenage daughter, and helping a son who shares her psychic gift, the reluctant medium isn't sure she's capable of tackling the unfinished business of the dead. Not that they care.
Although humorous and full of sarcastic wit, this story about relationships will hit home with anyone who's lost a loved one and wished to speak with them, even if only one more time.
AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH CAROLYN RIDDER ASPENSON
Carolyn Ridder Aspenson couples heart-wrenching emotions with laugh out loud humor in her bestselling Angela Panther book Unfinished Business. Compared to Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series, Unfinished Business and the second in the series, Unbreakable Bonds, both published through Booktrope Editions, are available in print and e-ebook through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iTunes. Enjoy listening to Unfinished Business as an audio book as well through Amazon and Audible.com.
1. What drew you to the paranormal genre when writing the Angela Panther novels?
I'm not really sure I chose it. I think it chose me. I wanted to write about my mother, as a way to honor her and remember her after she passed away in 2009 so the character in my books, Fran Richter is very much my mother. I wrote the character as a ghost because at that point, that's kind of how I viewed my mom. No, I didn't actually 'see' her spirit but honestly, I wish I could! I originally thought the book would be a 'chick lit' story, which it very much is (woman goes through life-changing event that changes who she is) but since there's a ghost in the story, it's more of a paranormal book.
2. Where do you get your ideas?
Unfinished Business started out as a depressing as heck story. I went back and read what I'd written and thought, "Goodness, this sucks! It's more depressing than losing my mom!" So I decided it needed a re-do. I wanted the story to show the true character of my mom, not the depressing grief I was experiencing so I went back and re-wrote the story. I made it more about what my mom would do if she were to come back as a ghost. I also took the first few months after her death and used parts of that in the book. For example, when my mom way dying, she told me she wanted to be cremated and buried with her parents. She didn't want a stone, didn't want the cemetery involved. Just take her remains and dig a hole in the ground. I intended to honor that but in my research to do it, found it would be hard to do without a lot of expense and permission from the cemetery. My brother called me to discuss it because he was concerned and before I knew it, I lied. I told him I'd already checked and got approval from the cemetery, which I hadn't. He didn't know that until he read the book. Whoops. But seriously, I had no intention of not doing what my mother wanted! So in that first book, there is a lot of true to life stuff going on. There's a backstory with the main character, Angela's daughter and it's a very real problem for teenagers these days so I wanted to touch on that, too. In the second book, it's more true fiction, though there are elements of truth to it. I was worried it wouldn't work but so far the reviews have been that it's better than the first so I'm cautiously optimistic and extremely grateful of the good reviews!
3. Do you ever experience writer’s block?
Oh boy. All of the time. I've found I have to walk away and just let go. When I come back to the story (I'm currently working on two books), it usually starts right back up and I'm all better. Knock on wood that continues to happen!
4. Do you work using an outline or just write what comes to mind?
I am super anal-retentive and organized and so you'd think I'd have a detailed out line but I don't. I've tried and it's been HORRIBLE! I don't follow it and then I get upset with myself and go back and change things to follow it and then I'm not happy so I finally said, screw it. I tossed the outline. For the first book I really didn't need an outline because it followed that time in my life. For the second there was no outline but I didn't think it needed one. I'm currently working on a mystery and it's been a struggle. I've tried to outline but realize it's just not how I write. It may take me longer to finish this book but I'd rather do it in a way that comes naturally for me instead of forcing change. I'm not good at forcing myself to do anything!
5. Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
Most definitely! I am a huge fan of the late Robert B. Parker. He's kind of known as the grandfather or inventor of the sleuth mystery series. He wrote the Spenser novels, which are my most favorite books. Parker could say more in fewer words than any author I've ever read. His writing was tight. If you look at his books, there is a lot of white space but the stories are strong and so much is said. I work hard to do that. He also wrote primarily in dialog. I didn't try to do that but the two editors I've worked with said it's my strength, that my stories are carried through dialog. I guess I took his example to heart! I cried when he died. I miss his writing and re-read his books still!
6. Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
Since I'm anal retentive, like I said, I researched the bejesus out of what I needed to do to self publish. Ideally I wanted an agent and had a few that were interested but because my book is somewhat unique in the genre—it's not a dark paranormal story at all—Unfinished Business was hard to find a home for. Ultimately I did self publish and it did well. A PR person I'd worked with submitted it to her publisher and it's now published through Booktrope. I'm happy with that decision, too.
7. If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?
I would have marketed it sooner than I did. You really need to start marketing your idea BEFORE the book is finished. It's the best way to create buzz and get the word out. With self publishing being so popular and easy, there's a lot of competition and the more buzz you can create, the better off you'll be.
8. How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
Gosh, that's stuff. There's not really one 'best' way to market. I try to stay active on my social media sites but really, I stink at that. I've sent them both out to hundreds of bloggers for features and reviews and that really helps (Thanks for doing this, by the way!) but so far I think the best marketing has been the readers. I've had several who've told me they've told their friends to get my books and that's really made a difference. I'm not opposed to standing on the corner and giving away copies either. It's not about the money for me. It's about the exposure. Eventually I hope to make money and make a living off of my writing but for now, I just want the books read!
9. Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published?
Can you tell us about your upcoming book?
I've got one book that's not finished but that's the only thing I've got that's not going to be published. Like I said, self publishing makes it easy to publish a book. Oh, wait. That's not entirely true. I've got five other books that aren't published. Right now I'm working on the third book in the Angela Panther series but Booktrope will be publishing that. I hope to have it out by the end of the year. I've also got a mystery, Death On A Deadline, which is the first in my Kelly Monroe mystery series and I hope that will be finished and published at the end of the year, too. Booktrope has also signed to publish that book. I then have two kids picture books and Booktrope initially signed for those books but is holding off on more picture books so I'm collaborating with an illustrator, Chris Marsh, author and illustrator of Zip Goes Wandering to self publish one of them. If all goes well, we'll try to work on the second one, too. I also have a nutrition book, a weight loss book called The Quick Start Weight Loss Program that Booktrope will be re-publishing, too. It's currently self published but is being revised and revamped. Thankfully!
10. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
I have one review that said the book Unfinished Business needed to ditch the main character because she was annoying. Whoops. She's sort of based (very loosely) on me. But my husband said I can be annoying at times so I decided not to take it too personally. The best compliment? I can't say. I've been utterly shocked at how well received the stories have been and at how much people have to say that's good and I can't pick just one thing. I think though, it validates me as a writer and I'm really excited that people think I can write! I've always considered myself a writer but heck, I always thought I could sing too and I can't. At all. So I'm told. Which, if you ask me, is wrong. I still think I sing very well in my head. Just not out loud for others to hear.
11. Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Yes! I'm not going to say that stuff about following your dream and all of that! I will say that until you're established (like I'm STILL NOT) and until you can make a living as a writer, if that's what you want, DO NOT quit your day job. You need to live and at the price of an e-book, you've got to write a lot of them to support yourself. Also, definitely invest in a good editor and proof reader, which are two very different things. Nothing says novice like a poorly proofed book.
12. Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
Really, I'm in awe of them! They've given me a chance to do what I love, and took a risk to read my stories and actually have nice things to say about them. I am grateful for that chance and so appreciative of them! I think it's funny to say I have 'fans' because that makes it sound like I'm some kind of celebrity, and that's really so far from the truth. But some of them actually like me and that's pretty darn awesome so thank you for allowing me the chance to impact your lives in the small way that my books do!