Monday, May 21, 2012

Beth Matthews, Fantasmic By Any Other Name

Welcome author Beth Matthews, who's gone through a roller coaster of a ride on her writer's journey so far. I'll let her explain...

1) Who are you anyway? You were E.D. Walker; now you’re Beth Matthews? Tell us about the switch in author pseudonyms - and the lesson to be learned, if any, when selecting pen names.
Well, when I chose E.D. Walker it sounded very writerly to me and also appropriate for writing SF/F stuff. Initials are big in SF/F, after all: JRR Tolkein, CS Lewis, etc. But, as I got further and further into my writing career, people just kept missing the periods. As a result, I got called “Ed” a whole lot more than any female person who is, in fact, not named Ed would probably enjoy.

Another factor was that I decided to switch genres and start writing romances with sex in them. (My first two books writing as E.D. Walker are strictly sweet with nothing warmer than kisses, my Beth Matthews romance has 3, well, 2 and a half sex scenes). I’m also stepping away from SF/F and writing just straight contemporary romance right now so the new pen name signals a lack of demons, gods, and other paranormal-ish elements to my faithful readers. Basically, the pen name switch was to signal that these books are very different from what I’ve written before.

Mostly, though, I’m really sick of being called Ed. That’s the lesson to take away when crafting a pen name: if you choose initials, choose them with care.

2) The Beauty’s Beast, loosely based upon a medieval poem about a cursed werewolf knight. You actually have paperdolls for The Beauty’s Beast (and a very sexy cover). But it seems in terms of selling, the characters were too old for YA, too romantic for fantasy, too innocent for adult romance... yet, it did find a publisher, eventually. Share a little of the journey, and what we’ll love about this book.

(I love my Beauty’s Beast paperdolls. They were a gift from my sister who’s an artist. She’s working on a set for my other book Heir to the Underworld, but her computer has been having technical difficulties so they’ve been delayed.)

The Beauty’s Beast is a bit like some of Robin McKinley’s old stuff to me, books like Spindle’s End and Beauty. Books that I think if they were trying to be published today might also have a hard time finding a home. I’ve pretty much always been a writer, I’ve been writing a novel a year ever since sixth grade but The Beauty’s Beast was the first book I wrote as an actual adult and it was the first one that actually seemed good enough that someone outside my immediate family would want to read it.

Having made the decision to publish, I went about trying to get an agent whilst also teaching myself about the publishing biz. I think a lot of this book’s problem was I didn’t know where it should fit so I didn’t know who to target to sell it to.

Eventually, I gave up and moved on to other projects and this book went to live in a drawer. But then I sold my second book written as an adult, Heir to the Underworld, to an epublisher, a route I hadn’t tried with The Beauty’s Beast. When Heir sold I decided to give The Beauty’s Beast another shot, and it finally found a good home in the line of sweet romances published by Noble Romance.

I think The Beauty’s Beast will appeal to fans of wry humor, honorable werewolves, honorable knights, honorable werewolf-knights, and especially to people who like their heroines to talk back and give as good as they get. (One review said my protagonist was like a “16th Century Jennifer Cruisie heroine,” which is the best compliment I have ever received about my writing.)

3) Heir to the Underworld. Still a fantasy, but this time, Greek gods and Celtic ones. How did that idea occur to you?
I think it was sort of a “what if” game: What if every god ever imagined by ancient man actually existed? What if the different pantheons regularly interacted with each other? What if the different pantheons were still limping along in the modern day? The idea filled me with all kinds of glee. I’m a bit of a folklore/mythology buff so the opportunity to put all that useless knowledge to good use was too delightful to pass up.

4) Tell us a little about why we’ll love Heir to the Underworld.
Well, again, if you’re fond of wry humor this book has my patented brand of it on every page. Also, a sassy heroine who really doesn’t take anybody’s crap (not even the gods’), a lovely brooding hero who’s sort of a reformed rake (if you’re into that thing). Ancient gods, hellhounds, drunken fairies, old loves, older grudges, and a girl named Freddy.

5) You got the call - yay, a publisher wants to publish your work! How long after that did you find out that one of your publishers was going out of business and your book, Heir to the Underworld, would be pulled off the virtual shelves?
It was a little sad because I had one of those good news/bad news moments with Heir to the Underworld. It had been out for about a year  and I found out it was a finalist in the 2012 EPIC ebook Awards! Yay! And then, within a few weeks of getting that good news I found out my publisher was going out of business so even if Heir to the Underworld won the award people wouldn’t be able to buy it…boo…

6) You decided to go ahead and re-release Heir to the Underworld as a self-published title rather than shop it around again. Why did you decide to go in that direction?
Unfortunately, manuscripts that have already been published elsewhere are kind of the discarded orange rinds of the publishing world; publishers feel like all the juice has been squeezed out of them already. Anyone who wanted to buy the book already has so why should they re-release it, is the mindset? Publishers want new!exciting! projects that no one’s read yet. I also already knew by then that I was going to be switching over to my new secret identity Beth Matthews, so, as much as I love Heir to the Underworld I was at the point in my career where I didn’t have much attention left to give it. I had a new baby and so the older child had to fend for itself a bit. I really liked having two books for sale, though. Having just one book on my website felt…lonely.

7) Once you had your rights back, and you’ve made the decision to self-pub, what next? I understand you re-edited them, and had them copy edited. You also had to do new cover art...?
When I decided I was going to reissue it I re-read Heir to the Underworld to trim some of the flabby bits and also to do another pass myself for errors and problems. Then I sent it off to a copy-editor who I’d worked with at my other publisher who freelances. Fiona Jayde did the cover art. She did the beautiful cover for my book The Beauty’s Beast for Noble Romance, which I loved, so when I found out she freelanced I contacted her and we worked together. I like that both the E.D. Walker books have the same general look and tone now. Makes me feel like a genuine Author Brand.

8) E-publishing yourself - you did your own formatting? How easy or hard was it, how long did it take? (Bev’s note here - I read Heir to the Underworld on my Kindle, and while there were a couple typo/error thingies, I think there were fewer than I’ve found in big six published ebooks. So, brava to Beth on that!  Plus, I really liked the story.)
Formatting wasn’t easy! LOL. I’m not a total luddite but I’m hardly a tech savant either. Basically, I asked other friends who’d self-pubbed for resources and someone pointed me to Nadia Lee’s wonderful and so useful book How to Format Your Manuscript for Kindle and Nook. It was exactly what I needed: a step-by-step guide. “Do this, then this. Watch out for this.” And it was all VERY easy to understand and very user friendly. I highly recommend it to anyone looking to self-pub. As to how long, basically one weekend I was like “I’m gonna get this damn book formatted and back into the world” and that was what I did for the whole weekend, almost for the full 48 hours. Not a lot of sleep or eating! I kept borking the formatting somehow and having to tweak and re-tweak the files until they were just right. It was very important to me to present a professional product that was indistinguishable from other books. When I embark on a big project I tend to just put my head down and barrel through until I’m done. That was what I did to finish the formatting.

9) Like a lot of us, your writing is slowed down a bit by a day job and other commitments. You’re currently shopping a contemporary romcom called Beauty and the Bouncer. What else are we going to see coming from Beth Matthews soon?
Well, I’m having a lot of ideas for contemporary plots, and right now I’m 10K words into my second one which is tentatively titled Can’t Help Falling or, sometimes, The New Year’s Kiss (depends on my mood. Which title do you like better?) As you might guess the story takes place over a hectic holiday season and it’s set in Washington DC. Our prickly, career-focused heroine really has no time for a man right now so, of course, she meets an irritating but so-charming and very handsome guy who just won’t leave her alone. Trips to the Smithsonian, scenic walks along the Potomac, and one mind-blowing New Year’s smooch ensue.

10) Is there anything else you’d like to share with readers and fans?
Well, I’m doing this new thing on my blog called “The Inept Cook” where each week I try a new recipe and report on the results. I’m hoping to broaden my food horizons and, just maybe, learn to do more in the kitchen than boil water. I can always use new recipes so if people want to stop by and check it out, suggest a dish, that would be awesome.

 Beth Matthews is a SoCal native with a BA in English Lit from Berkeley (GO BEARS!), who came of age with her nose stuck in a book and an obese cat kneading his claws in her lap.

These days her nose is glued to her laptop as she pounds out her latest manuscript, and the obese cat, well, he just has to lie in wait until she goes to bed so he can knead his claws in her shoulder at 3am. And drool.

Beth's Linkies:
Twitter: @BethMatthews12

This was fun. Thanks for having me, Beverly!

Questions? Comments? Just want to share a little love?
Beth's giving away a FREE ebook to one lucky commenter - winner's choice!