One of the perks to my job is meeting great new authors, like Charlotte Abel. Reading entire books from all these people is out of the question, as time is limited and books abound, so occasionally I’ll pick a new book based on the premise, the author and just a hunch. Usually it’s something along the lines of my typical genres, but sometimes not. That’s how it was with Enchantment by Charlotte Abel, and it’s a good thing a chance was taken. Enchantment is a delightful story, beautifully written and fun for a broad range of readers. YA lovers will definitely eat this one up and crave for more from Abel. (Available as ebook and paperback.)
The talented author took some time to answer my questions, which I’d like to share below.
Charlotte, how long have you been writing, and did you always know you’d be an author?
I first considered writing as a career back in high school when a few of my angst-riddled short stories and poems were published in an anthology. I’ve had many careers since then, but I never quite managed to shake the desire to write.
Decades later, after reading a certain young adult paranormal romance series — and throwing the final book against the wall in frustration — I started imagining how I might have finished the series if I’d written it. That’s when I serendipitously discovered fan fiction and (gasp) decided to give it a try. It’s my dirty little double “eff” secret … real writers don’t write fan fiction. But I’m so glad I did. That’s where Enchantment’s fan base started and I’m still getting new readers from that story.
My intention was to write a twenty-thousand word novella to find some closure with this series, but I ended up writing a 200,000 word opus that has taken on a life of its own. After it won a couple of awards, including “best original plot” and received over 2,000 reviews, I decided to get serious about writing my own completely original fiction.
I bought and read every “how to write” book I could get my hands on, submitted a writing sample to a juried workshop, bought a laptop and converted the guest room into an office. I write, or do writing related things such as this interview, at least eight hours a day.
Where can we find this fan fiction of yours?
I’d much rather direct new readers to “Enchantment” and hope LSaTYLF (that’s only hint you’re getting) fades away quietly into obscurity. I’m very proud of the plot, but the writing is first draft material and amateurish. As fan fiction, it’s pretty good, but it’d never stand up as a professional product. I’d love to pull the story, but people are still reading it and I can’t imagine the outrage if it disappeared before they finished. These are the kind of impassioned and loyal readers every author dreams of finding and I want to take good care of them — I also don’t want to piss anyone off. (One reader sent me a death threat for killing a major character.)
When I finished the fan fiction story, I began work on “Shattered,” a novel about the son of a wealthy industrialist who gets lost in the Sawatch mountains and falls in love with a member of an eco-terrorist cult. It was ninety percent done when I took a break to attend the workshop. I learned more in that single week than I did studying on my own for two years. I also realized that if I ever wanted to publish “Shattered,” I needed to start over and rewrite it from the beginning, using the original story as a 150,000 word outline.
I shoved “Shattered” onto the back burner and expanded the short story I wrote during the workshop into a novel. That story is now “Enchantment” and the first book of a three part series. “Shattered” is still on hiatus waiting for me to finish “The Channie Series” and another, as yet untitled, paranormal series.
Cool, you have another series planned?
Sort of. I was tossing story ideas around with my publicist just for the fun of it. She latched onto one of them and insisted I bump it to the top of my “to be written” list since there’s a ground swell of interest building around this type of story. (Sorry, I can’t say more about it, but she’d kill me if I shared her research).
Understandable. Publicists can be dangerous that way. Enchantment is full of magic. Has that subject always interested you? Where do you get your ideas for magic, and how did that evolve?
I might have subconsciously used magic as a metaphor while writing “Enchantment.” Romantic attachments have the power to both heal and destroy. Pure love can purge selfishness from even the most self-centered and immature soul, inspiring great acts of courage and sacrifice. But obsession or lust can turn sane people into raving lunatics that don’t care who they hurt as long as they get their way.
It’s hard to say where my ideas come from (including the previous paragraph) but most of my stories start with a vague idea of a character. As they take on a life of their own, so does the plot. There seems to be a recurring theme of free will versus fate in every story I write, but I’m not sure why. It must be something I need to work on in my own life.
Interesting you say that; I find many of the issues in my novels are also things that need to be learned in my life. Might be our way of working through personal discovery… So tell me, what is your writing process? Do you outline or just start writing?
I’ve always written by the seat of my pants until I started working on “Finding Valor.” I thought it would be faster if I outlined it so I could avoid all the winding paths my characters insist I take, leading me away from the main story. The jury’s still out on whether or not that’s working.
Your interests include being outdoorsy and also archery! How do you like life in Colorado?
I love Colorado, especially the weather. Two days ago I was riding my bike wearing a t-shirt and shorts. Today, there’s about five inches of snow on the ground. The weekend forecast has us back up to sixty degrees on Saturday. The only thing we lack is an ocean.
As far as archery goes, target practice has to wait until I attend OJAM at my parent’s farm in Oklahoma every spring. The neighbors tend to complain when I sling arrows in my suburban backyard, even though I hardly ever miss the backdrop behind the target.
I could see that making for nervous neighbors. So, how did you decide to become an Indie author?
At first I wanted to go the traditional route. I went to a writers’ conference and pitched “Enchantment” to an agent. She loved the story but insisted I cut my 145,000 word manuscript to 75,000 words. I went home, cut the heart out of the story and got it down to 85,000 words. But when I went to her website three months later, it was “down.” I was devastated. I assume she left the business.
I started researching other options on the internet. When I learned how much marketing and self-promotion a new author was expected to do on their own, even with an agent and a traditional publishing house, I couldn’t see the value of signing a contract. Not at this stage of my career. Anyway … once I decided to go indie, I rewrote Enchantment, gave it a new heart, a riskier, but more powerful ending and designed the cover myself. I was able to keep creative control right where I like it — with me.
Since I published it as an ebook, I was also able to keep my costs low and pass that savings on to my readers. No paper, no ink, no shipping. Within a month I had enough requests for a print edition that it was worth the effort to reformat everything, including the cover. I’m glad I did it. Signed copies make great prizes for contests and are a nice thank you gift for loyal readers that help promote the book.
Who do you see as your primary audience?
My logical audience should be teens and women ages fifteen to early twenties, but I’m surprised — actually, I’m shocked — by the number of men that love the book. I set out to write a young adult paranormal romance, but the book seems to have a much wider appeal. (Not that I’m complaining).
Hey, I fit that description. If you could cast the movie for Enchantment and recommend characters, who would you choose?
I had more fun (and difficulty) with this question than any other I’ve ever been asked about “Enchantment.” After hours of online research, I appealed to my readers over at GoodReads. The consensus seems to be Logan Lerman or Drake Bell for Josh and Dakota Fanning for Channie. But considering the time it takes to convert a book into a movie, I think most of the potential cast are still in diapers.
Here’s the list I came up with …
Josh: David Herman (I met him at the Dacono track last year while researching BMX racing, after creating Josh’s character sketch. The resemblance was amazing … everything from his physical appearance to his boyish charm and amazing bike handling skills was spot-on perfect. Too bad he’s an elite athlete instead of an actor!) But Tyler Posey, Logan Lerman, Drake Bell, or Chase Crawford could probably handle the job if David’s too busy preparing for the Olympics 😉
Channie: Gabriella Wilde
Hunter: Louis Hunter
Eric: Paul Wesley
Kassie: AnnaSophia Robb
Momma: Jodie Foster
Daddy: Brad Garrett
Aunt Wisdom: Laura Linney
Diego: Taylor Lautner (If he can pull off a Spanish accent)
Courage, Zeal, and Savvy: This one is tough, probably need one kid to play all three parts but with child labor laws …
Love it. Enchantment has just been out a few months, and it looks to be doing well with readers. What’s the secret to its success?
I wish I knew so I could I be sure to apply it to the sequel. Writing a “good” book that connects with readers on an emotional level is essential. It doesn’t have to be prize winning prose but it needs to be written from the heart. If the author doesn’t love the story, and especially the characters, neither will anyone else.
How do you market your books and what avenues have you found to be the most rewarding?
I hired a publicist. In today’s market, it’s more important to have someone who understands how to use social media to promote a book than to have a traditional agent or publisher that doesn’t. I love connecting with readers on Twitter and GoodReads. I sent a signed paperback to someone I met on GoodReads and she just announced that she bought a display case for the book. Now that’s rewarding! (I’m still grinning like a possum in a hen house.)
What are your hopes for the future?
I want to live long enough to write all the stories bouncing around inside my head. I also want to spend a couple of months in Hawaii researching the setting for my next series, but I’ll settle for a couple of weeks.
Like the way you operate, Charlotte, and we’ll keep an eye out for future successes. Thanks for your time. More about Charlotte can be found at her blog site – http://charlotteabel.blogspot.com/.