Susan Kaye Quinn

photoWhen did you first start writing?

About five years ago, if you mean “when did you seriously pick up the pen and write a novel.” If you mean, “when did you first write a story, poem, or serial including really awful illustrations of your friends,” then the answer is “about sixth grade.”

Are you a structured writer or a see-what happens?

Both. I started out as a strictly by-the-seat-of-your-pants writer. This was my early discovery phase, when the words gushed out of me, and I was simply in awe of creating characters and emotions and chilling (at least to me) scenes on the page. As I grew in my writing, I eagerly gobbled up all manner of craft books and instruction on the art of writing. I learned how to pull my intuitive storytelling out of the depths of my subconscious and consciously apply it to the page. For one novel, I had almost 20k words in outline! This was not a bad thing, but I found that some of the best parts were still coming out as I actually crafted the characters on the page. Just yesterday, I wrote a scene that (I thought) would be fairly straightforward, but it turned into an extremely powerful scene… simply because a character ended up having more dimension (and unexpected actions) than I had planned. And the story is much better for it. My process continues to evolve, but I tend to balance both plotting and ‘pantsing’ now.

life liberty and pursuitTell us about your first novel

My first novel is unpublished and will remain so. My first published novel is a sweet YA romance called Life, Liberty, and Pursuit, that was published through a small press and found a small audience. I wrote a middle grade novel after that (still unpublished), but my first published novel to have some considerable success is Open Minds, the first in the Mindjack Trilogy. It’s a story about a world where everyone reads minds, except one girl – who finds out she can control them instead. It’s young adult science fiction, and I think I finally found my writing “home” in speculative fiction (science fiction and fantasy). Unlike my first two works, Open Minds (and every work thereafter) explores an alternate world that’s fundamentally different from ours but still recognizable: a near-future Chicago where everyone reads minds (Mindjack); a near-future Los Angeles where debt collectors come to take your life energy (Debt Collector); an east-indian-flavored alternate world filled with skyships, princes, and political intrigue (Third Daughter, coming soon). I’m currently working on a novel about a near-future where computers have become as intelligent as humans (Singularity). I love writing very human characters that live and love in these extraordinary worlds.

What inspired you to write it?

My YA romance was inspired by a bonding over Twilight with my niece – I wanted to write an epic love story for her that didn’t involve supernatural creatures! Since then, I’ve been writing stories for my kids and myself. My stories are the kind of science fiction that I always wanted to read as a kid, but rarely found: strong female heroines; political and social consequences of technology, not just the technology itself; and realistic characters that loved, fought, and battled and triumphed over evil.

mindjackYou mentioned ‘Open Minds‘ was considerably successful, did you do anything in particular to help this happen? 

I did market the book, mostly by querying book bloggers to review the book, as well as celebrating the launch on my social media sites. But I believe that word of mouth is the main source of any book’s success. You have to do some work to get it “out there” – to seed the field so to speak – but then your book has to grow on its own. An attractive book package (cover/blurb) draws readers who are interested in it, then if the book delivers, they spread the word to their friends.

You were in the Top 5 Finalists for Indie Authors 2012 – This must have been an amazing feeling – tell us more … 

This was quite an honor – I did enter to be considered, but it was merit-based, with the winners chosen by the editors of Kindle Book Review. Open Minds, and the other Mindjack books, have been up for other merit-based awards (Cybils, UTopYA), but this first one is special to me, because of Kindle Book Review’s early and strong support of indie authors.

Tell us about your latest novel (or what you are working on at the moment).

Right now I’m working on Legacy, the first novel in my new YA SF Singularity series. It’s about a Legacy Human boy in a post-Singularity world, where most of the world’s population have become ascenders – humans with computer enhanced brains, and now immortal robotic bodies to match. Here’s the blurb: Eli wants to be a machine—after all, they’re smarter, more compassionate, more enlightened, and above all, incredibly, achingly beautiful. But becoming an ascender is nearly impossible: Eli is a Legacy Human, preserved and cherished just like the extinct rainforest he paints. His ascender patron, Lenora, seems to understand his soul as well as his art, but she’s as out of reach for him as ascendance itself. When Eli has a chance to compete in the artistic Olympics for one of the few slots to ascend, he thinks his dreams have finally come true. But his ideas about ascenders, and the humans they keep, slowly start to unravel… until he’s running for his life and wondering who he truly is.

I’m thoroughly in love with this world, intrigued by the mind-body-soul questions that the Singularity evokes. I’m simultaneously writing the prequel, Day Zero, in screenplay format, which is challenging, but also lots of fun. Eventually Day Zero, which covers how the Singularity comes to pass, will be written as a novel as well. I expect both to publish sometime in late 2014

You mentioned that you entered the Indie Authors Competition yourself, if other Indie Authors wanted to enter, how would they go about doing it?

It’s an annual award. (Susan has kindly helped us link to the competition – details here.)

What motivated/inspired you to become an Indie Author?

My first book went through a small press, and I queried and shelved my second (a middle grade fantasy). Both of those experiences taught me a lot about what was working (and what was not) in the publishing industry. While I was querying my third book, indie publishing started to go mainstream – I took a hard look at the industry, my book, and what I wanted out of my career, and decided that indie publishing was the best way to advance it. I pulled my novel (Open Minds) from agents and self-published. I’ve never been happier with any decision in my writing career thus far.

You mentioned that you marketed your books through book bloggers and social media, do you market your books in any other ways?

There are many ways to market, and they’re changing all the time. First-time indie authors often ask what the “key” is to marketing, but the truth is there’s no one way that works all the time for everyone. When I launched my first book, I threw a big party on my blog– that was a new thing then, and it worked really well. Now, it’s not so new and blogging has changed, so the launch party isn’t as effective anymore. I’ll still be doing a small one for my upcoming release of Third Daughter (12.13.13), but it will mostly be for fun. I’ll also be doing a book blast for Third Daughter through Xpresso (a book blogger service I recommend), as well as giving away some ARCs of the book and letting my fanbase know about the release through my newsletter and social media. As time goes on, I may do more marketing for it, but the best marketing for Third Daughter will likely be writing and releasing Second Daughter (the second book in the series). I talk a lot about marketing strategies and how to keep a long-term perspective in my Indie Author Survival Guide, which is designed to help first-time indie authors get started, but is also helpful to established indie authors who are looking for new approaches to marketing.

indie survival guideWhat advice would you give to any writer wanting to do it the ‘Indie Way’.

Read up on the industry, just as you would starting any new business (my Indie Author Survival Guide is a good place to start, but get a variety of perspectives) – and then do what works for you. There’s no lack of people on the internet trying to tell you that you MUST indie publish a certain way. There’s no one way. In any new venture, I look for, and try to emulate, people who are successful in what I’m trying to do (writing and publishing)… not people who are experts in telling other people how to run their business. Most of all, look out for vanity publishers. There’s a post on my blog (How Not to Get Eaten By Sharks) about this specifically, and I highly recommend anyone interested in indie publishing read it first.

Tell us what you are reading at the moment.

The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind, and Brain by Nobel Prize winning Neuroscientist Eric Kandel – it’s research for my Singularity series. I’m also reading The Art of Happiness, by the Dalai Lama

Anything else you would like to add to your readers or to other writers.

A huge thank you to all my readers for taking a chance on a new writer and giving her the ability to make a living doing what she loves! And bunches of warm hugs to all my fellow writers – we’re all on this journey together, and I give thanks every day that I have you for my fellow travellers