This week’s Indie Author Spotlight shines on author Elena May with a Guest Post. Check out her book below and be sure to enter the Giveaway to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card and a print copy of Kingdom Of Ashes. Best of luck!
Being an indie author is amazing.
You may wonder, shouldn’t every author strive to get a traditional publishing deal? After all, if you get one, you would receive so much help with marketing, editing, formatting, cover art, etc, etc, etc. While all this is true, what I love about being an indie is the full creative control over some very important elements:
The editing process
You can choose your own beta readers and editors, and you can choose how many to have. If you are a perfectionist, you have the freedom to go through dozens of revisions and to have multiple beta readers review your book at every step. You set your own deadlines, so you can take as much time as you need to polish your novel until you’re satisfied.
I worked with eleven beta readers I chose myself, and each contributed something to the final version. If one of them had never beta-read the book, it would have been a great loss. Some of my favorite scenes in the book were inspired by beta readers’ comments and suggestions.
My YA fantasy series, Nightfall, is set in a post-apocalyptic future. Prior to the story, vampires have been few in numbers and have lived in hiding. Then, human scientists design the WeatherWizard, a device that manipulates the weather. An ambitious vampire, Prince Vladimir, comes up with a plan to use the contraption for his own purposes. He gathers his armies, takes control over the WeatherWizard, and covers the world in clouds, so that vampires can go outside during the day. The conquest over the world is short as humans are unprepared – vampires kill, turn, or enslave nearly all humans, and only a few escape with their lives.
Book One, Kingdom of Ashes, begins fifty years after this apocalypse. The few remaining humans have formed a Resistance movement, but they are on the brink of extinction. Everyone is focused on fighting and surviving, but one Resistance member, Myra, needs something more.
After a failed mission to assassinate the Prince, she ends up a captive in the vampires’ palace and faces a big shock – while her human friends are good, loyal, brave, and somewhat boring, the vampires are pure evil, and yet intriguing, sophisticated, and constantly challenging her way of thinking in many ways. Now, on top of continuing her initial mission, she also needs to fight to stay true to who she is and resist the pull of the dark side.
In an early draft, I had a scene in which Myra makes a reference to a time in the past when the vampires have taken her to see an opera. My very first beta reader said, “This doesn’t work. It’ll be much more effective if you write and show the actual scene.”
My first reaction was, “Huh? How can I possibly write a scene about a bunch of characters watching opera and make it interesting?” But then I got an idea how to handle it, and the scene fit the book perfectly. It improved the pacing and flow and added to the characterization. And, if I hadn’t worked with that beta reader, that scene would have never existed.
The opera scene wasn’t the only one. Each beta reader suggested something, which ended up in the book. And, as an indie, I could make all these changes at my own pace, deciding if to send the book to yet another reader, and at what point to finally draw the line and declare the book finished.
The book content
That’s a big one. If you’re an indie, you can have as many editors as you wish, but unlike a traditionally published author, you are free to choose which suggestions to incorporate and which ones to discard completely. Don’t get me wrong – taking into account your editor’s feedback is generally a very good idea. I have made almost all the changes my editors recommended. Almost all.
In Kingdom of Ashes, a young heroine stands against an evil but charming vampire prince. As it turns out, all my readers expected a love story. But was a love story what was best for the book?
At first, I wasn’t sure. I considered the option, but as I kept writing, the idea made less and less sense. Why would Myra fall in love with Prince Vladimir? He’s a monster, directly responsible to the deaths of her people and her family. And why would he fall in love with Myra? He has lived for eighteen centuries – surely he has met numerous intriguing vampires and humans before her. Also, she is his prisoner, so falling in love with him would have been a classic case of Stockholm syndrome. And my book is targeted at young readers – I couldn’t in good conscience present an unhealthy relationship as romantic.
Myra and Prince Vladimir ended up developing a significant relationship, but it is a deep and very twisted love-hate friendship, and not romantic love. Instead of on romance, the story focuses on the action, adventure, mind games, magic, political machinations, plots and twists. Any love stories in the series will come in later books and will involve different characters that will make more sense.
I was happy with how it turned out, until I started sharing my draft with beta readers. Ten out of eleven said Myra and the Prince should have a love story. On top of that, some also suggested a love triangle with the two of them and Tristan, the Prince’s closest friend, which I thought would be very out of character for everyone involved.
The thing is, if I was working with a publisher, I would have had no option to refuse such recommendations. I would have been obliged to incorporate the changes the editor wanted me to make, so that the book would fit neatly in a specific subgenre. As an indie, on the other hand, I had all the power. And while I was starting to wonder if my beta readers were right after all, I ultimately decided to do what felt right to me.
I’ve been sending ARCs to readers and bloggers, and a couple of them came back to me to tell me how happy they were there was no love story and how it would have made no sense. Now I know I made the right choice. Do the majority of my readers share this opinion? I don’t know, and it doesn’t really matter. My motto is: if at least one other person in the world likes your story, it is worth writing.
Traditionally, authors get little to no control over what goes on the cover. Of course, that’s not the case for indies, and I couldn’t be happier. I had a very specific vision of what I wanted – Myra, in a red ball gown, walking towards Prince Vladimir’s castle up in the mountains. Dead branches cover the ground and thick clouds hide the sky. She holds a stake in one hand and a book in the other to symbolize the two types of weapons she uses to fight the enemy.
After researching numerous cover designers, I realized that a designer couldn’t give me what I wanted – I needed an illustrator. I looked through various artists’ portfolios on DeviantArt and fell in love with TheSwanMaiden’s work. I thought she was perfect, and as soon as I saw the first draft of my cover, I knew I had been right.
My cover now is exactly as I want it to be, and many readers comment on it and compliment it. The picture seems to attract attention, but, most importantly, it accurately reflects what’s in the book and gives the message I want it to give.
A publisher often makes a book available only in selected territories. My book is available worldwide in both digital and paper format, and all my giveaways are open internationally. I’ve already shipped some paperbacks to various corners of the world, and I’m thrilled that everyone has the chance to read my book if interested, no matter where they live.
And, last but not least, being an indie gave me the great opportunity to be featured on Rochelle’s lovely blog. Thanks for having me here!
Myra never witnessed the Nightfall. She has only heard stories from the eldest among them; tales of the Old World and of the scientists who invented the WeatherWizard—a technological innovation that controls the weather. Unfortunately, the device also gave an ambitious vampire prince the means to cover the world in impenetrable clouds, allowing his armies to crawl out of their caves and conquer all.
Vampires rule over the New World, breeding humans for food. After fifty years of guerrilla warfare, the Resistance is fading, its supplies dwindling. They must rally and succeed—and soon—or all hope of restoring human civilization will be lost.
When Myra goes on a desperate mission to help the Resistance, she ends up a captive in the vampires’ palace. With time running out, she must find a way to stop Prince Vladimir, and every wrong step leads to the death of innocents. Her battle abilities prove useless, but Myra discovers she has another skill that can give her an edge over her captors. Now, Myra must defeat the vampire leader at a power game he has been playing for almost two millennia.
About The Author
Elena May is a fantasy and science fiction author. Born and raised in Bulgaria, she has studied in New Zealand and the US, worked in Germany and the UK, participated in various research or volunteer projects in Israel, Liechtenstein and Turkey, and travelled to over forty countries.
The place that provided the greatest inspiration for her Nightfall fantasy series is foggy London, where she spent a year sharing a tiny basement room with a humongous rat and wishing her landlord allowed cats. In the absence of cats, she faced the rat in battle, armed with both modern and more traditional weapons, such as garlic, chili peppers, and fresh mint leaves all around the room. The rat wasn’t impressed, but at least all vampires stayed away.
Her debut novel, Nightfall: Kingdom of Ashes, will be published on Halloween 2016. She is currently working on the sequel, Nightfall: Men and Monsters.
- a $20 Amazon Gift Card
- A print copy of Nightfall: Kingdom of Ashes
- Open Internationally
- Ends October 22, 2016