Up Close And Personal With Victoria Grossack And Alice Underwood.
You are a team of self-published authors; tell us what your books are called and what are they about?
We have written four novels, set in the Bronze Age of Greece. Our first was Jocasta: The Mother-Wife of Oedipus, telling that old story from Jocasta’s perspective. Did she ever realize that she was married to her son and if so what did she do about it? While writing that novel we noticed a mass murder that had gone undetected for more than three thousand years. That inspired us to write a trilogy based on the life of Niobe, whose children were allegedly murdered by Apollo and Artemis: Children of Tantalus, The Road to Thebes and Arrows of Artemis. We think the deaths were not caused by the gods but by a mortal or two.
Our series of interlocking novels is called the Tapestry of Bronze. The books are set in the Bronze Age of Greece, several generations before the Trojan War. This was known to many as the “Golden Age of Heroes,” but to us the people seem to be made of bronze and not gold. Our series is a tapestry, because the books tie together, but one book may focus on one character while another focuses on another. Each book can be enjoyed separately, or the books can be enjoyed together. More information can be found at www.tapestryofbronze.com
Tell us a little bit about your writing process? What methods do you use to write and how did you make it through the grueling process of writing your book?
We write as a team. While writing Jocasta: The Mother-Wife of Oedipus we noticed we each had strengths and weaknesses – and amazingly, they were complementary. Victoria is good with plot and tension, so she usually does the first draft; Alice is visually oriented, which is essential for description and action scenes.
As we base our stories on myths, we usually have a pretty good starting point for the plot. We discuss, create an outline, and then Victoria takes the first plunge. We send emails and drafts back and forth; we consult with each other on SKYPE. Alice maintains a huge spreadsheet with a timeline of all our characters.
With two people involved, the work is lessened; there is a companion to share the joys and triumphs and to slay all the monsters and to grope our way through the labyrinth. It’s simply more fun. Except for slogging through the first draft, we wouldn’t call it grueling.
Explain to us the process you took to get your book published, from formatting your manuscript to preparing it for print all the way to getting an ISBN and the book cover design.
We first tried the traditional method, and we had one of the best agencies for many years. Two novels were actually sold to Kedros, one of the best publishers in Athens, so if you read Greek, you can read Jocasta: The Mother-Wife of Oedipus and Children of Tantalus in that language! Unfortunately, literary agencies don’t manage to sell all the books they represent. So, after years of rejections and rewrites we decided to go with Create Space. We read the formatting guidelines very carefully as well as the concerns and suggestions mentioned in discussion forums before proceeding.
Did you use the services of a book coach or a self publishing company to help you though the process or did you do it yourself? Tell us about your experiences.
No, we didn’t use any of the services. However, we had received years of feedback from our agent, from our test readers, and even from publishers (who turned down the books but sometimes made good suggestions). As we had been scouring the manuscripts for years we were not too concerned about typos. Fortunately Alice is very good with visuals and graphics and she designed the covers.
What would you do differently with the publishing of your next book?
If we don’t get a better option – someone surprising us with a great contract – we’ll probably use Create Space again. The Amazon distribution system isn’t perfect, but it’s the best we’ve seen so far.
How did you market your book? Can you share some of your creative/non-conventional ways/secrets on how you sold your book?
We try to look at different markets and see what aspect of our novels can be emphasized to appeal to them. For example, when we were interviewed on a radio show which focused on travel and archaeology, we talked about our research trips to mainland Greece, Crete and Turkey. For another blogger who writes about women in history, we focused on the historical aspects of Jocasta.
Another thing we do is hold a poetry contest twice per year, each time honoring a different Olympian deity. We try to encourage excellence and creativity the way the ancient Greeks did – through competition. As we have a special category for those under-18, we feel that we’re helping to support educators and students. This may be what led one teacher to include Jocasta: The Mother-Wife of Oedipus on a high school reading list. For more about the current contest, click on www.tapestryofbronze.com/OdeForm.html.
Share with us the different platforms you use to sell your book (bookstores, signing, affiliate programs, website etc.).
We have made contact with a few bookstores but that is difficult as Create Space is owned by Amazon and does not make the distribution particularly rewarding for them – after all, the bookstores are in competition with Amazon.
Do you use social media in book promotion, and if so, which platforms work best for you? Can you share some tricks you got making it work for you?
We use Facebook a little. Goodreads is better as it focuses on reading. But it takes a lot of work.
Care to share some numbers? How many books have you sold to date?
Between 600 and 700. Of course we would like to sell in the millions, but for self-published fiction, our numbers are actually pretty good.
How was your book initially received? Has it been reviewed? What was your response to the reviews?
It can be very hard to get readers and reviewers to pick up our books. They believe, with some justification, that if a book is not published traditionally it won’t be any good. If they remember their experiences with Sophocles in high school they may think our books are going to be hard going. However, once people open the books and start reading, they usually can’t put them down. We’ve had great reviews from The Associated Press, the Copperfield Review, the Ancient History blogger at About.com (owned by the New York Times Corporation) and Historical Novels Review Online.
Our response to reviews is to thank the reviewers for their time and to use excerpts wherever we can. If we use their work in a new setting, we let them know. For example, we let NS Gill from About.com that we were using excerpts from her review in the radio interview, Apollo on Trial at Adrenaline Living, and we let Bob Mielke of The Copperfield Review that we were using some of his words in a piece in the magazine, Contingencies. We also use the reviews at our website, www.tapestryofbronze.com.
How do you handle negative feedback from critics?
We remember that no book pleases everyone, and passages that are hated by some are praised by others. We also try to learn from mistakes and not repeat them in the future. However, as most of the feedback has been extremely positive, this hasn’t been a big problem. Of course, if a critic says something factually wrong, we politely point out the error.
Where are some of the places where you sell your book besides through book distributors, your website, book stores etc.
Because Victoria spends most of her time in Europe in countries where English is not the first language, and Alice is an extremely busy executive, we have not been able to do as much as we like to develop other distribution channels. We’ve looked into book fairs and Greek fairs but so far our schedules have not allowed us to participate in them.
Do have any future projects you’d like to tell us about?
We’re continuing to write books set in Bronze Age Greece. We’re currently working on a sequel to Jocasta: The Mother-Wife of Oedipus.
Thank you for being on Authopublisher, Victoria and Alice, and I hope to hear from you again!
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