We’re back! And we’re talking superhero inspiration, indie publishing, hobbies and more. If you haven’t read our first Author Chat, check it out.
RJ: We both have a bit of romantic YA history, which is something I think shows up in our books, but recently you’ve mentioned switching over to purely Superhero genre. I can’t say I don’t understand–after I did My Super Villain Dad I figured I’d found the right niche (AKA something that I enjoyed and actually sold), but for you that would mean more than just tossing up the stuff you’ve finished, right? Can you tell us about what all it would include?
Chey: I’ve known since November of last year that I wanted to hop over and work on exclusively superhero fiction, but it’s taken me a while to actually do it. Mainly because I’m selfish and had a bunch of YA manuscripts ready and I wanted to publish them. So now that Somewhere Only We Know is out, I’m back to working on new material. I’m nervous as hell to have you guys from PCS read Overpowered before I publish it–you guys are real superhero authors and my old crit partners were YA romance readers. But I’m looking forward to growing in my superhero skills and expanding my worlds into new series for the genre. When the Powered Trilogy is finished (by December, if I’m on my game) I already have a new series that I’m excited for. It’ll be more college aged and may or may not be inspired by both Captain America and the Big Bang Theory TV show…
I know you’re working on your fae series in addition to Cape High. Are you planning other books/series in addition to Cape High and if so, what? Do you think you get much crossover from fans of Cape High to the other books?
RJ: Other books, huh? Well, honestly, every once in a while I go, “I WANT TO WRITE FANTASY, DANGIT!” and then hit my head on the nearest wall because I don’t have time with this current schedule. I’m seriously considering taking a month off from my two-month release schedule to write a short or something, but I keep chickening out–mostly because of the lack of crossover fans. I do have a few–I just don’t have a lot. I think mostly that’s because not all of my books are on Amazon. They have to hunt them down through Smashwords, which can be a pain in the butt, but I haven’t gotten around to converting them to Amazon format. Also, like I mentioned before, the Fae series is about fairies. Even my most stalwart fans will probably hesitate to pick them up because they’re used to the Tinkerbell stereotype. Don’t get me wrong, I like Tinkerbell just fine, but my fae aren’t the Neverland fairies. There’s a lot more kidnapping, violence, romance, and non G-rated things going on. Not to mention the villain in book 1 is a bit… psychotic. Yes. A psychotic fae.
My urge for fantasy snuck into CH with Ace because of the lack of fantasy in my life. Him and his dragons.
I’ll be honest, I’m a little amused at being called a “real superhero author.” It’s more of me just goofing around–once in a while I get a review or a comment about how I’m nowhere in the league of the big names in the game–some of whom are also PCS members. The really funny ones are the ones that call me “too juvenile.” I write YA superhero books–which were originally aimed at 13 year olds. They’re MEANT to be juvenile. But it brings me to my next question! There’s been a lot of talk among our group about how Superhero is now its own official genre–which means there’s going to be sub-genres sooner or later. Do you plan on working in a specific sub-genre, or do you just plan on labeling your work as “superhero” and tossing it into the mix?
Chey: Oooh! Sub-genres are an exciting idea! I guess Powered would be classified as YA Superhero, maybe “Superhero race”? Because there’s supers who gain their powers from a specific event, supers are are just humans with gear (Iron Man) and supers who are an entirely different race/species. I’ll probably always keep some romance in my stories and they’ll probably always be more contemporary or “magical realism” – of course I am awful and sticking to one thing, so who knows what kind of stories I’ll write as time goes on. Likely a lot of teenage or new adult stuff. But I want to write stories about regular people who gain powers, so there’s that too. Moral of this answer: I can’t be expected to answer anything competently.
I know what you mean about the juvenile comments. I wrote a book for my pen name about a teenager having a baby and someone left a bad review that said “This book sounded like it was written by an 18 year old.” Uh, okay?? It was?? *eye-roll* And you are definitely a real super hero author! Own it!
Let’s talk inspirations. Any superhero stories/books/movies/etc that have inspired your characters? Where do you typically draw your inspiration?
RJ: I actually had a conversation on Facebook with one of my readers about this! He asked me if Cape High was inspired by Disney’s Sky High. It’s a great movie if you haven’t seen it–especially if you like a cheesier take on your capes. That was definitely one of the influences I went with. The Incredibles was one, as well, along with X-men Evolution, and a ton of other series I’ve seen. But as far as the characters themselves go–yes. Superior was blatantly based on Superman at first, then given a twisted personality that had Nico hating him with a passion even after he’d “died” some twenty years before the first book. Ken is my world’s type of Captain America–a different personality, different abilities, and a family, but I wanted a cape that was an American Icon. Heck, even the parents in Sky High do that. Those that know their Superhero types will recognize a LOT of them in my series. I’m not making up the abilities off the top of my head, with as many superheroes as there are out there, it’s really difficult to come up with something that hasn’t been done before.
Of course I might have started out with basic ideas like Superior/Superman, but things change as the story goes on. This happens with all of my characters, but Superior is a great example. Through writing my up-coming novel, Steampunk Time, I’ve learned a lot about Superior and his past–a bit of what makes him into the guy he is now. (There’s no Smallville anywhere in the story, I swear.)
How about you? Do you have any obvious inspirations for your super stories?
Chey: I love Ken and the American icon! I did the same thing with Max so a small degree. I had some inspiration from The Incredibles for my super race and the idea of a costume designer that’s dedicated to making the Hero suits. (It’s SO ANNOYING when people claim that my suit designer was ripped off of Cinna in the Hunger Games. GAH. So not true.) I also liked all of the fancy technology in Iron Man with his computer screens and stuff, so some of my fancy gadgets in Powered is inspired from that. Besides those two inspirations, I tried not to read any superhero fiction while I was writing Powered because I didn’t want any of it to rub off on me in a way that would make my books sound unoriginal.
I’m going to move things to a more technical side now. How much of publishing your books have you taken on yourself, as far as cover design, formatting, marketing, etc and how are you liking the technical side of publishing vs writing?
RJ: How much… does all of it count? Well, no, that’s not completely true. I did buy the covers for the arcs–I actually have The Mimic Arc cover already, I just need to revise everything one more time and put it together. And I do have two beta readers, both of whom have been reading the series since the beginning. They help out with grammar and typo checks. As far as the formatting goes, though, I take the easy way out. On Amazon there’s an option to upload .DOC files, as long as you put page breaks between each chapter–so that’s basically what I do, plus a few other little things that make it look pretty. There’s actually more that needs to be done for Smashwords copies, but I just set my writing program to the specifications and never bothered to change out of them. I figure as long as it looks good on a kindle or other e-reader, I’m good. I haven’t gone to paperback, so I don’t have to worry about that one yet.
The covers for the singles I do myself. They’re super simple and I can make them in Amazon’s cover maker! I did find a free site for pictures (one that gives permission to use them for ebooks) and I’m using that for the newer books backgrounds. Steampunk Time is an example of that. I was worried at first that the covers were too simplistic and would be overlooked when I first started making them, but it actually makes them stand out a bit in this genre. Another benefit is how much easier it is to recognize a new book (or “episode”) right away.
As far as marketing goes… um… I post a blurb about my first arc on Twitter once in a while? And I run a facebook page with updates, as well as a blog that I randomly put stories on. I honestly really SUCK at marketing. I’m just lucky enough to have gained a great group of readers that like to share the series with friends and come back whenever I put a new book out.
Basically, I think this just shows how even the less tech-savvy can be a published author. As for how much I like it compared to the actual writing? It’s sort of a relief to sit around playing on the cover maker when I’ve got a case of writer’s block, and formatting is just one of those things I do unconsciously before I do my revisions. I know most people say to format last, but I didn’t hear that until I’d gotten in the habit of doing it first.
What about you? How much do you do on your own?
Chey: I love that you take a laid back approach to marketing! I’m more of a quiet person and would rather let my books speak for themselves, so when it comes to marketing, I suck. I’d rather just sit quietly and hope people find my books because I’m very uncomfortable trying to force them onto people. And then sometimes I try to make an effort, with tweets and such, but it all feels so forced. I think we’re very lucky to have a solid group of readers in this genre. I am both nervous and excited for book 2 to come out next month…I’m wondering how many readers will come back for another story from me. 🙂
I’m very hands-on with publishing. I’m a crafty person in real life and love making things, so it translated into the digital world as well. I’ve made all of my book covers myself with the exception of Understudy which was a premade that fit the story so well I had to have it the moment I saw it. I had no idea you used the Amazon cover creator. Your covers don’t look “cover created” at all. Branding is very important and all of the Cape High books have the same look that makes them easy to identify.
I also use the doc format for Kindle because it’s just about the ONLY easy part of publishing! However, for certain books that I want to have more zing in them, I use Angela at Fictional Formats to do the digital formatting for me. She knows all the fancy tricks that I can’t figure out on my own and she’s doing the formats for the Powered Trilogy.
Paperbacks are probably my favorite hands on thing about publishing. I love formatting them and designing the wraparound cover and then seeing the final product in my hands. It’s a shame that fewer people purchase them compared to ebooks because I put a lot of work into my paperbacks and I think they look great.
Creating the covers and doing formatting for my books is always a welcome break to writing. I feel like it’s a way to continue to be creative outside of writing. Lately I’ve taken up creating promo graphics for my books and I even did a couple of book trailers for Powered and Overpowered. It was my first time playing around with stuff like that, and although I’m still a total amateur, I had a lot of fun with it.
Speaking of breaks– what do you typically do when you aren’t writing? What’s your break from the writing world?
RJ: I love the Powered Trilogy covers so far! They look amazing! Breaks… I love to read, like most writers. Taking a break means I’m usually reading books or manga. But there’s other things, of course. I LOVE to go to the zoo–I’ve got a FOTZ membership, so I can go whenever I want to! I also live really close to one of the only two outside theaters around, so I go to plays all the time. I might not live near Broadway, but I get to see a lot of Broadway plays during the summer! In fact I’m going to The Sound of Music this Saturday night. They also have concerts, so I get to see OneRepublic next weekend! I’m a big fan of theirs. I’m also planning to go to The Blue Man Group when they get in town, my nephew wants to go. I like to spend time with my family and my dog, as well. I also enjoy hanging out on Twitter and Facebook, talking with fellow writers and my readers. Oh, and watching movies and cartoons–I don’t think I’ll ever outgrow some cartoons. Oh, and don’t forget shopping. I like shopping.
Do you have any hobbies other than writing? (Can writing even be considered a hobby when we get paid for it?) Er, do you have any hobbies?
Chey: Writing is both a hobby and a side job for me because sometimes I write for fun and sometimes I write for books I want to sell. As for other hobbies. ..there isn’t much time for other things when you work full time and write part time. But I love going to the movies and doing fun stuff around town. We live near Houston so there’s always a concert or some kind of show to see.
I also live near the beach and I love summer/outdoors activities like camping, swimming, and hanging out outside. I used to love working out but now it’s a struggle to maintain that with writing. (Yeah…that’ll be my excuse)
Okay time for the *big* question. Do you have plans to become a full time author?
RJ: I’m actually pretty much full time already, to be honest. The family business doesn’t ask much of me, but it doesn’t pay much, either, so I’m reliant on my writing for most of my cash. Thankfully that gives me time to put out so many books! I did the math the other day, after I put out Steampunk Time I’ll have put out seven books (plus an arc copy and a few older pieces) in one year. That’s pretty astounding, even if they are kids books.
Now! We know that your next book, Overpowered, is coming out August 14th, so here’s a question! Have you started writing the final book of the trilogy yet?
Chey: The answer is both yes and no. When I finish a book from a series I always end up writing the first few thousand words of the next book before I start edits. Why? Because I’m a weirdo. So although I’m still working on edits on Overpowered, I can rest assured that book 3 has already been started and will be waiting for me when I dive back into it. As soon as Overpowered comes out, my break will be over and I’ll be back to writing book 3. (The title of book 3 will be announced at the back of book 2, so stay tuned!)
Steampunk Time is about to come out and I think your fans will love this book, and yes I’m bragging because I got to read it early. What are you working on now? And when will Emily’s book be out?? I’m crazy excited for that one.
RJ: If you’re a weirdo, I’m insane, because I usually get the first thirty thousand of the next book written before I even think of editing. Right now I’m working on Vinny’s book, Fire Hazard, which has been pretty interesting because Vinny’s a rather unique guy. For those (including you, of course!) who’ve read the Cape High series, Vinny is one of the super kids that were held captive by a rich jerk called the Collector. Vinny is Morgan’s second in command, and a fire mimic, meaning he can light up like a torch. But since I’m finishing a second arc in a row with Steampunk Time I’m going to take a tiny breather before starting the next. Fire Hazard will be out Oct. 29th.
With that timing, Emily’s book will wind up being a Christmas present for everyone, if I can pull it off!