Interview with authors Shelly Burrows & Michael Stewart

The Writing Piazza:
Hello, hello, hello, my fabulous readers! This week’s author interview is a little different. I have the honor of interviewing not one but two writers! They are co-authors on a novel series and I thought it would be an interesting perspective to hear about here on The Writing Piazza. I am beyond excited so let’s jump right in shall we?

If you could start by telling us all a little bit about yourselves.

Shelly & Michael:
I’m Shelly Burrows, I’m a “northern transplant” in the south. I’ve been writing short stories for a long time, but it was more of a hobby.

I’m Michael Stewart, I’m a native Californian who has lived there my entire life with the exception of a three year stint in the army.  I have dabbled in writing short stories for awhile, but nothing serious until a few years ago.

The Writing Piazza:
It’s a pleasure to have you both with us today. And you two have co-authored the Dark Moon series, can you tell us a little about it?

Shelly & Michael:
The Dark Moon Series centers around mythical creatures, or Variants as we call them. In our first book Blood Moon, you only get the tip of the iceberg with vampires and werewolves, but there’s so many twists and more to this world than the norm.

The synopsis:
In book one, Blood Moon werewolf witches, Conri Olcan and Saoirse MacKay are on the hunt for the bones of the original Alpha of the Blood Moon Pack, Panteon. Cronus, the leader of the Vampire Coven will stop at nothing to prevent that from happening. Mike Hardy and Bentley Britt are caught in between these powerful beings. Will they become casualties of war? Or will they be more important than they even realize? Will Conri and Saoirse survive? Will Cronus succeed in stopping them? Follow this thrilling tale and enter the Variant World.

The Writing Piazza:
Oooh I love that, Variants is a great term! With all the books and shows out there dealing with werewolves and vampires, it sounds like you’ve got a fresh story to tell and really makes me want to enter “the Variant World!”

Is Blood Moon your first published work?

Shelly & Michael:
It is and we are so excited!

The Writing Piazza:
Now you mentioned to me that you first self-published but then went with a small publisher. Can you tell us about the process and your thoughts throughout all that?

Shelly & Michael:
We did self-publish and it is so much more complicated than we ever imagined it would be. Talk about a learning curve. There is a lot of information and it took time to get to learn the whole process. We eventually decided to go with a small publisher because there was knowledge there that we didn’t have and a wider range of contacts.  There is also a certain security in having a publisher and knowing you have a team behind your work.

The Writing Piazza:
I can only imagine what all is involved in self-publishing. It’s so great hearing from someone who has done both and can compare and contrast the two. I know a number of my readers are at the point where they are trying to decide which publishing route to take so I’m so grateful to be able to interview you and hear about your experiences with both.

We are all about learning from one another here! My blog is about a behind the scenes look at writing and publishing novels so I love to get the perspectives from other authors just to give my audience a good rounded view of what it’s like. I know I have learned a lot from my conversations and interviews with other authors. There’s a question I like to ask that usually holds a great lesson to other writers:
What is something you know now that you wished you knew before you published?

Shelly & Michael:
That you can NEVER have enough editing!  Writing a novel is like baking a cake, but in order to get it right and sweet, you must layer the frosting. In order to get it right, we constantly have to revise this and that, and you do that as many times as it takes.

The Writing Piazza:
Ah yes, the editing phase! That is where I am currently and sometimes (ok most of the time) it’s harder to get through than it was to write the rough draft of my manuscript. But that’s great advice and I will keep it in mind as I go through my edits for the hundredth time! haha

Another question I wanted to ask you was whether you queried for an agent or did you go straight to a publisher?

Shelly & Michael:
We wrote for both, but in the end we went straight to a small publisher. We still own the rights to our series, which was very important to us.

The Writing Piazza:
You bring up a great point that I have been doing some research on. Maintaining the rights to your work. I am working on some legal tips for writers and that is something I definitely want to address in my tips.

*Side note to my readers, these tips will only be available to those who sign up to follow my blog so be sure you’re signed up!

Back to the topic of querying, can you tell us what you did to prepare for querying?

Shelly & Michael:
Google is your friend. Look for several different examples (of query letters) and craft one that suits you. Also, make sure you read HOW the publishers want their queries, following directions is important.

The Writing Piazza:
So true! You don’t want to be tossed out of the running just because you single spaced your synopsis instead of double spacing it. Always be sure to check the agent/publisher’s guidelines for querying! So, so important!

Now having done both self-publishing and traditional publishing, are you happy that you switched to a traditional publisher?

Shelly & Michael:
For me (Shelly), I am extremely glad. Our publisher has been valuable because she knows how to better navigate the world of publishing. For example, if anyone wants you to pay them to publish your work, that should be a red flag.

I agree. (Mike) Self-publishing is a means to an end, but you are out there in the big, bad publishing world by yourself, trying to navigate what was virgin waters for us. Our publisher has been doing this for a few years, so she knows the ins and outs and the help this enables her to provide us is immeasurable.

The Writing Piazza:
Fantastic! What else do you like about traditional publishing?

Shelly & Michael:
It gives us valuable contacts and a network to get our work out there.

The Writing Piazza:
As much as you are in favor of traditional publishing, I’m sure it can’t all be good. What are some things you don’t like about it?

Shelly & Michael:
You give up a certain amount of control. We were used to being able to track our sales, but now we don’t have access to those numbers as readily.

 The Writing Piazza:
This is true. Something that writers need to be aware of is how to ensure that they will be able to track their sales. This is something I will be hitting on in my legal tips for writers special email. An author needs to guard their right to keep publishers accountable and it’s important to know how to do that.

In our preliminary talks, you mentioned that you are co-writing a whole series and not just Blood Moon, how did you decide to co-write your series?

Shelly & Michael:
Michael and I have known each other for years. We started out role playing together and developed characters, backgrounds and got to “know” them. We were encouraged by multiple people to write and finally we said, “Why not?”

The Writing Piazza:
I like that idea of getting to know your characters. I think people who don’t write are surprised to hear that writers aren’t always in control of their characters. Often times I have this idea in my head for what will happen with a certain character but then as I write I find them doing things much differently. I love that I’m not the only one who has to get to know their characters. 🙂

We are nearing the end of our interview. Sad isn’t it? As we close things out, what advice would you give to writers who are writing and/or attempting to publish their work?

Shelly & Michael:
Never give up. Not everyone will be interested in what you’re writing. Don’t take it personally, just keep going. Take both positive and negative critiques and mull them over. If you feel they have a point, you can address it. But ultimately, you have to realize that you won’t please everyone. There is no writer, no matter how great, how wonderful, that hasn’t received negative reviews and rejection. It simply goes with the territory.

The Writing Piazza:
Very true and great advice. Writing is such a lonely profession. It’s good to hear encouragement like this every now and again!

And of course I have to ask, are you currently working on another book?

Shelly & Michael:
Yes we are, and actually it’s finished. We’re starting the editing portion. It’s called Dark Harvest. You’ll get a wider view of the Variant world in this book.

The Writing Piazza:
Very exciting! Good luck getting through that difficult editing phase! Thank you again for your time and for being a guest on my blog! Before we go, can you tell my readers where they can purchase a copy of your books?

Shelly & Michael:
You can find us on these sites:

Amazon:

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/blood-moon-shelly-burrows/1119635388?ean=9780692291856

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Shelly_M_Burrows_Michael_S_Stewart_Blood_Moon?id=RZYHBgAAQBAJ

The Writing Piazza:
That concludes this week’s guest author interview! I hope you found it as enlightening and enjoyable as I did! Tune in next time for another author’s perspective on the various aspects of the writing and publishing scene.

Until we meet again!

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