Diva Interview: New Indie Authors,
Mary Elizabeth and Sarah Elizabeth
Today, we welcome to the blog two new and upcoming authors. Mary Elizabeth and Sarah Elizabeth are a team of women taking the adventurous journey into self-publishing. Their new book Innocents (Dusty #1) is set to release July 14th. With its release looming, the early buzz about their book is starting to explode. The cover reveal even trended on Twitter!
But what do these two women feel right now? Excitement, dread, anticipation…? I wanted to take a look at what the experience would be for someone not yet published. How have they maneuvered through the writing, editing, and marketing phrases? Self-publishing a book, especially for the first time, is a big learning experience and can be very scary for the first time author and these ladies are taking the leap. So let’s get into their heads, get to know them, and find out more about Dusty.
Hey, ladies! Love having you on the blog. Can you tell us a little bit about yourselves?
Mary: This is actually the first interview we’ve been asked to do as soon-to-be published authors, so thanks for having us.
I’m Mary, and my life is pretty typical. My husband Jason and I have been together since we were teenagers. We have four kids, two dogs, and we live in Southern California. I’m a cosmetologist, and technically, I’ll turn 30 later this year, but I’m in serious denial. My best friend is Ashley, and she was the first person in my real life to know about Dusty. Now she’s my assistant. She’s also a HUGE JM Darhower fan, so she’s more excited than I am that I got invited to sign at the Capital City Author Event next year with her.
Lolita is my favorite book, and I have a problem with leaving empty water bottles in my car.
Sarah: My name is Sarah, and I think I’m addicted to coffee. And hearts. Hearts are everything. Atreyu the Warrior is my spirit animal, and red and white together are my favorite colour. I also prefer to spell colour with a u.
Water bottles hoarding and The Neverending Story references. I like it! Definitely things I have in common with you both. Let’s talk about Innocents. It started out as fan fiction named Dusty which was very popular. Do you think that your fandom readers will read your self-published work as well? How has the support been from fandom readers?
Mary: I think they already have. The support has always been insane, but since announcing that Dusty is going to be an actual book, the readers have been there every step of the way. The first time the story trended on Twitter was the day the fan fiction version completed, and it happened again on the midnight reveal of the Innocents cover. Those things do not happen unless you have a very strong fan base. And Dusty does. It’s remarkable and unlike anything I’ve ever seen.
And through that I’ve created some amazing friendships. With one group of girls in particular. They know who they are, and they know I love them. But the Facebook page dedicated to the fic, Dusty Lovers, gains new members daily. The Dusty fan fiction profile on Goodreads is enormously popular.
The fandom is very much involved with this journey, and we’re lucky to have them.
Sarah: I do think this, yes. Dusty has some truly, fiercely passionate and seriously devoted readers. They write songs for the characters. They make videos and collages for the story. They write honest, from the heart reviews and send really personal messages. It’s crazy that some of them have been there from the very start and have been a part of this whole thing. The support that Dusty has from readers is seriously incomparable.
What made you decide to take the story into a new venue?
Mary: Our monster and his softer side literally changed my life. I knew early on that I wanted Dusty to be a book. I just did… that’s all there is. I love them, and the characters still talk to me.
Sarah: For me, it felt like giving Dusty a safe place, a good home. Like protection. And also like fulfillment.
So you decided to make the leap into self-publishing, what were your first steps? Did you keep a lot of the fan fiction the same or did you have extensive rewrites? You know I want to know how the editing process is going as well. How do you feel about trusting your book with someone else?
Mary: Editing is the devil.
*Gives Mary the side eye*
Sarah: Our very first step was choosing new names for most of the characters! That part was really fun. After that, we went through the entire story, chapter by chapter, line by line. Both of us made notes on what to cut/change/keep. From there, we sent the chapters with our notes to our editor, who made more notes–agreeing or disagreeing with ours, and adding her own. When those were returned to us, we began rewrites. Some chapters are harder than others, between rewrites and streamlining, it’s so heartening to see how far it’s come and to feel so proud and excited. And I love Max (our editor). She’s done and is doing an amazing job and is there to answer every question we have.
Do you find that early marketing will be effective for your release date? Tell us what you have been doing to market Innocents.
Mary: This interview, of course! LOL.
We’ve been so busy with rewrites, there hasn’t been that much time to market. And besides all the things Sarah mentions in her answer, Dusty is in a very rare and special spot because it literally markets itself at this point. Blessings are the best kind of advertising any author could wish for and simple word of mouth. Our readers make it no secret that they love this tale.
Last year, the Goodreads group, Buddy Read Zone, had a massive group reading of the Dusty fan fiction. With well over 1000 members, their reading gained uncountable readers… readers who are excited about Innocents. I’ve become very close with some of them.
Let’s not ignore the white elephant in the room. Dusty was plagiarized (allegedly) by a popular writer (I use that term lightly). That drama put The Elizabeths and Dusty on a lot of peoples’ radar. The amount of support gained from that situation is invaluable and cherished.
Sarah: We host giveaways on The Elizabeths Facebook page and post lines there sometimes while we’re working. Enticing Journey Book Promotions put together an awesome cover reveal for us, and there’s a blog tour scheduled the week of publication.
The cover reveal for Innocents happened recently and the cover turned out lovely. Tell us more about your cover designer.
Mary: Ari. She literally brought to life the simplest of ideas. She also designed the cover for Branded. Sarah and I are writing Branded: a Bad Boys Anthology with Jeanne McDonald, B.L Wilde, and Jo Matthews. We needed a cover and I was like, Cover it! Designs. Not only is she amazingly talented, she is one of the nicest people I have ever had the experience of meeting. I can’t imagine myself ever not using her for a cover. Ever.
Sarah: The cover blows me away. I love it so much. When some things happened a while back, Ari was one of the first people to write something up and was an immediate source of support. Her catalogue of work speaks for itself. She was an easy choice and I’m so thankful to be working with her. I definitely want to continue to in the future.
How do you work as a writing team? What do you think is the advantage or disadvantage of team writing?
Mary: Dusty is the only collaborative piece I’ve ever worked on. Sarah and I have been writing together for four years now, and I’m not the same person I was in 2010, you know. I’ve grown and aged and developed my own style of writing. I’m sure she would agree she has, too. While similar, it isn’t as easy as it used to be. Which is okay. It’s been awesome to see how much Sarah has improved since Dusty first started. Since working with our editor, Max, we’ve each had times where we’re like, what were we thinking?
I’m really proud of Dusty, and I’m proud of us for getting it done. It’s not a simple job.
Sarah: Dusty started in emails and Gchats way before a chapter was ever written, just bouncing bits of plot and dialogue back and forth for months. Once we finally had an outline, we separated out the chapters, and basically just took turns. I’d send her mine and she’d send me hers, and we’d make notes on each others, finalize it and then send it to our beta. It’s basically the same now with rewrites. Dusty wasn’t my first collaborative experience. I love writing with a partner or a small group. There are disadvantages (bumping heads, disagreeing, having to compromise), but sharing creativity like that, sharing excitement and ideas and flailing together over lines and details is one of my favorite things in the world. The good definitely outweighs the bad. Collaborating on something you’re both passionate about is encouraging and developing and intimate on a lot of levels. I love it.
What advice do you have for other authors coming out with their first books this year based on your experiences?
Mary: Don’t believe your own hype. You can always improve, and there is always someone out there who will do it better than you. Don’t write for the reviews. It’s so tacky when authors beg for reviews. Write because if you don’t, you won’t be able to sleep. Write because everything inspires you and you have a story to tell.
Hire an editor.
Never give up and never underestimate yourself. Just because you’re new and “indie” doesn’t mean you have to sell your work for 99 cents. Price yourself and your work accordingly.
Sarah: Trust your heart-guts. Always. Save everything in at least two places. Know when to be done for the day, rest, and start fresh. And don’t give up. Persist. Persist. Persist.
What do you have in store for the future? More books? Still writing as a team?
Mary: Dusty will conclude later this year, and after that I plan on finishing my last fan fiction Pickup Truck.
Next year should be interesting for me. I think I might try my hand at traditional publishing… my ego can use some bruising. I’ve been sitting back, watching two of my friends struggle with queries, rejection letters, and success. I want that experience, you know. There is not a single thing that’s easy about self-publishing a book, but I have a goal.
I want to see one of my books on a Target bookshelf. (I’m so lame.)
Oh, and next year, I’ll be reworking and editing Closer, my very first fan fiction, for publication.
Sarah: Mary and I will be releasing the second half of Dusty on October 23rd. I have another collaborative work coming out on June 8th, a novella called Light and Wine, written under the truelove shared pseudonym Sparrow AuSoleil. I’ve also written a short story, Don’t Let Me Go, which will be featured in Branded: A Bad Boys Anthology that will be out August 28th. And of course more books after that! I’ll always write. I’d die if I didn’t.
I asked this question to all the fellow Divas over the last couple of weeks. It’s very James Lipton of me: Four Divas walk into a bar, what happens next. Funny, huh? Let’s turn it around and ask the two characters in Innocents. Dusty and Bliss walk into a bar, what happens next? How about the Elizabeths?
Mary: Dusty would never allow Bliss into a bar—he’s a monster.
And can The Elizabeths walk into a McDonalds’s instead? I’m starving.
Sarah: Dusty and Bliss aren’t old enough to get into a bar! The Elizabeths on the other hand… I’m not funny enough to answer this question. I just want a black velvet and dollars for the jukebox.