Thursday, March 4, 2010
Review The Bowdancer and Interview with Janie Franz
By: Janie Franz
Published by: Breathless Press
This review is based on a review copy provided by Janie Franz in exchange for review, all reviews being my own opinion without guarantee or assumption of liking or disliking.
In The Bowdancer, Janie Franz has created a believable story with full-fleshed characters brought to life through the magic of her imagination. Jan-nell is the Bowdancer, a woman whose life is dedicated to her people. From a small child she was raised to pass on the lore of her people to their children. It’s her job to call the children to lessons, to heal injuries, and to sing newly weds into their life together. She dances the sacred dances and dedicates her life to the One.
While Jan-nell hopes someday to be a wife and a mother, she cannot forsake her duty until a new bowdancer is born. Years come and go, yet Jan-nell still seeks her replacement. Jan-nell is different from the other villagers. She is curious about life. She uses her mind to think, to heal, and to teach. Did she choose the life of the bowdancer because it was her destiny or because no other choices were available to one such as her? Different in size and stature, she purposely chooses to set herself apart both in looks and her abode.
What will become of her when a stranger enters their village? Will long buried needs and desires take hold, or will her duty keep her moving forward on her chosen path? If you enjoy a tale which blends romance and duty, read Janie Franz’ The Bowdancer. You won’t be disappointed.
My guest today is author, Janie Franz. Janie has agreed to answer some questions about her writing life.
1.How long have you been writing and what made you decide to become a writer?
I have been writing stories since I was in grade school. I have a couple of those I saved. I also drifted into fan fiction and romance as a teenager, some of those stories were never fully fleshed out. I took a creative writing course as a junior in high school and was encouraged to get something published. Only, my first paid published piece was an essay. Perhaps that was foreshadowing what my later adult life would be.
I had dreams of being a published fiction writer, but never actively pursued it until college, which I started as night school courses when I was in my twenties and declared a creative writing major. Even then, I took all of the required literature and composition courses but never did any creative writing. I wrote as a young woman and finished my first short novel when I was carrying my first child. I continued off and on for many years, completing more short stories and novel-length works. Twenty-something years later, I finished my degree, but it was in Anthropology with a concentration in English, and soon after I established a successful career as a freelance journalist.
I think that I wrote because I could. My parents didn’t have very much education so I knew that what I wrote would probably be private. And, my mother was diligent about not prying into our stuff when she cleaned. I think that writing then was part creative exercise and a way to write down my daydreams or work through adolescent angst. Today, I write fiction because it completes me in ways that non-fiction doesn’t.
Journalism, for me, has been writing about someone else, usually promoting someone’s work or their unique story. Fiction, on the other hand, allows me to write my stories with characters of my own creation, some who are part of me and some who are parts of people I’ve known or would like to know. The stories deal with issues I am discovering are deeply personal to me, themes of not fitting in and the desire to belong, themes that play with gender, women’s roles, and concepts of family. And, of course, the arts and spirituality are ever present no matter what worlds I am creating.
2.What types of writing do you enjoy most and why?
As I explained, fiction is really my obsession lately. The Bowdancer launched a whole fantasy romance series—that I think is more fantasy adventure than romance, though the books deal with relationships. I’m enjoying the characters I have created and how they are discovering more about themselves through their experiences.
I also write in other genres —- horror, time-travel futuristic romance, contemporary adventure, etc. They all deal with relationships of some kind.
3.If you do different types of writing, which do you find most successful and why?
Certainly, I have a steady income with journalism, writing about a wide variety of topics from music to art to pavement contracting. I’ve also written about beauty, health, medical issues, landscaping, food, wine and spirits, travel, weddings, and relaxation. Trade publications writing has been the most successful. I tell people that copper and asphalt have been good to me!
For fiction, it is really too early to tell how successful it is. I am been selling books. In addition I am finding that The Bowdancer Saga is garnering a lot of interest, and readers are asking for more. I’m currently waiting on official word from my publisher for the second book in the series, The Wayfarer’s Road. What is curious is most romance is being read by a young female audience, while most of the interest I’ve seen in The Bowdancer Saga is coming from women over 40 and young men! For some reason the strong women character and the mention of music that is interwoven in the books has some appeal.
4.Are you a full-time or part-time writer? How do you organize your writing time?
I’m a full-time freelance journalist, but the novel writing is encompassing that. Right now, I’d call myself a full-time (maybe overworked) writer who is juggling two writing careers. I try to handle interviews, transcriptions, research, and other computer tasks on the journalism side during the day —- that recently has included marketing and networking about The Bowdancer Saga. I try to write fiction in the evening and into the wee hours of the morning. I feel the pull of my characters so strongly during the day even when I’m writing other things. Then when I open up my laptop and dive into the story I’m working on, I’m home and the hours fly by.
5.How do you find ideas for your stories?
That’s a good question. Jan-nell, the bowdancer, came to me in a meditation. Other story ideas just popped into my head. Often, it’s the characters who appear first. Then I try to figure out who they are and what their conflict is. Sometimes, they come from something I’ve experienced. For example, I got a horror story idea from a neighbor who was always knocking on my door. Ideas come from anywhere.
6.What is your writing process?
I don’t spend a lot of time filling out character sheets and world building charts. If I did that the story would never be written. I will usually have a general idea what the story is about and jot down a short outline that is located at the end of the story I’m working on. As I write and new ideas occur to me, I add them to the outline and it expands, often adding more chapter numbers to the list in appropriate spots. I also jot down research points I want to add. This just gives me a guide.
And I try not to write out of sequence. I find that writing the book in sequence builds momentum and pace like a live stage play. When I was writing the third book, Warrior Women, one scene in my head was driving it. It was a pivotal scene —- or I thought at the time. I forced myself NOT to write it. When the scene finally came up to write, it was a totally different animal because of what had had preceded it.
I broke that rule in the fourth book, The Lost Song, because the book is much larger. What happened was the writing of those scenes then colored the behaviors of the characters and kept me pointed toward those two scenes I wrote.
I write it through once, read and edit, and then give it to my husband to read. He finds typos I missed and tells me when he doesn’t understand something. I’ll make changes that I deem necessary and then we format it and send it off.
7.What comes first your character or your plot?
Characters usually come first. In fact, I am finding now that some of them have stronger personalities than others and they will shout to be heard. Plotting is harder for me than most writers, I think. I write from a very lose outline that is embedded in the work and often add notes as I work through dilemmas.
8.How did The Bowdancer come into being?
I first discovered Jan-nell, the bowdancer, in a meditation. I saw her shooting a flaming arrow across the night sky. As sometimes happens in active meditation, you can ask questions and I did. The story just unfolded from her about who she was and what her conflict was.
As I wrote the next books after The Bowdancer was published, I realized that the whole Bowdancer Saga plays with gender, roles, concepts of family, as well as spirituality, the arts, and culture. So, it isn’t your typical romance book.
9.Why did you choose to publish The Bowdancer as an eBook rather than submitting to a magazine?
That’s interesting. I had tried to sell the story as a novelette (it was just under the novella word count) when it was first written several years ago. I never could find a good fit for it. Then as the publishing industry began to reduce the pages of their magazines, there was no place for such a long story. When Breathless Press picked it up, a few minor editing tweaks tipped it into novella size. It is still small. But the other books in the series are near novel size and the fourth one, The Last Song, looks like it will be a good sized novel.
10.How did you find your publisher?
I like to think that an act of kindness got me published. I sent in a pitch to the Muse Online Writers Conference last October because I wanted to help Lea Schizas, who founded the conference and runs it. She needed more appropriate pitches for the slots she had set up with publishers. I didn’t have anything novel length so I looked at the publishers’ guidelines again and found that some took shorter works. I sent in two and got a slot for each of my pitches.
The first pitch asked for a rewrite and to resubmit. I did that, and it is still pending at the moment. The second, Breathless Press, asked me to send my work to them. They liked it and sent me a contract. I’m just thrilled that they like my work.
11.What is your marketing strategy for The Bowdancer?
I plan to use as many digital resources as I can. I have been working with a friend of a friend who has helped me coordinate the two-week tour I’m currently on. We have reviews, interviews (including this one), articles, and even a live radio show scheduled. And, we are tweeting and posting to other social sites. Also I have drafted a mailing list where I send fellow writers, friends, and relatives news about the Bowdancer Saga. And, I actively participate in it all.
Before the current intensive tour, I was a guest on on Barbara Ehrentreu’s blog Barbara’s Meanderings (http://barbaraehrentreu.blogspot.com). I will be on her live radio show in June, Red River Writers Live, Tales from the Pages. (http://www.blogtalkradio.com/robinfalls) I have another interview scheduled with Jozette Aaron (Jozette’s Desk http://jozette.webs.com) and Katie Hines’ blog, Walking on Water, http://katiehines.blogspot.com, both in May. And I have a few more pending. When the next book comes out, we’ll schedule more dates.
There is a lot of work in arranging these tours, but it is usually done before the tour begins, and I can enjoy those who stop by the websites and comment. I think that alone puts virtual touring on an equal footing with face-to-face touring.
I am also working with a young singer/songwriter in Minneapolis and a local computer wizard who is very experienced in visual media. We are trying to get out a book trailer for later in the spring for The Bowdancer and the launch of the Bowdancer Saga. When the next book comes out, we hope to have another one ready. And my husband, who also is a singer/songwriter is working on a song cycle for the Bowdancer Saga, and he may be collaborating with the young man in Minnesota. Eventually, we will be offering a couple of additional downloadable companion books that will be related to the books in the series. But those will be offered as incentives for buying the book. We’ll tell you more about that when the second book is released.
12.I understand The Bowdancer is now a “bestseller” for Breathless Press. How did that come about?
I set up my first interview as a published author this month on Barbara Ehrentreu’s blog, Barbara’s Meanderings (http://barbaraehrentreu.blogspot.com). To announce that first interview, I drafted a mailing list and sent out a mass email to writer friends, other friends, and family. The response was amazing. After the first day or two the interview was up, we still kept getting comments. That’s when I went to my publisher’s website to check out reviews posted there, and I saw the list of Top Five Best Sellers. Mine was fourth on the list. Last week it was up to third but has returned to fourth. I’m just happy that my publisher is seeing the result of all of this hard work!
13.Do you find it more difficult to market an eBook or a traditional print book and why?
Actually, it’s been a lot easier to market my ebook than it’s been to market my two print wedding how-to’s (The Ultimate Wedding Ceremony Book and the Ultimate Wedding Reception Book) that have been out there for awhile. One of the reasons for that, to be honest, is that those books fall into a very narrow niche. But my co-author and I have saturated the internet with reviews and posts at just about every book selling site out there. And the books are on Amazon.
But in the case of The Bowdancer, I have found that though some people still want to hold a printed book in their hands, many people are buying ebooks for the new ebook readers out there. I know I was that way even though I reviewed a lot of ebooks that I had to print out on my computer. When I got my Sony Reader, it made my life so much easier, not to mention my suitcase lighter when I traveled!
The Bowdancer also is not available in a Kindle version —- and I am happy that it’s not. The books that Breathless Press offer cost less than Amazon’s, but the quality is still first rate (and they are a great bunch of folks to work with). By buying directly from the publisher (or some online retailers that my publisher works with) authors retain a larger piece of the revenue pie.
Marketing for any book is hard work. With the popularity of virtual book tours, though, we can actually reach far more readers than the handful who might come to a booksigning. It’s been reported that even hot authors may only sell a few hundred books doing a traditional book tour at brick-and-mortar bookstores, while they can sell thousands with a virtual tour. And, ebook sales have risen from $2 million nationally in 2002 to an expected $100 million for this year.
I’m very content having an ebook for my debut.
14.Do you have any tips for new writers wanting to be published?
First, read everything you can. It doesn’t matter whether it’s in your genre or not. You can learn from writers who tell good stories. After awhile, you’ll be saying: “I can do this as well as this.”
Next, write often, daily if possible. Though you might be doing other types of writing as I have done for the past ten years with freelance journalism, you will be honing skills. When you apply those skills to the story you have in mind, it will be a lot easier to write. You won’ be afraid of the blank page, and the search for words won’t be so hard.
Finally, submit your work. Don’t be afraid of rejection, especially if you have submitted your work properly. Most of the time that rejection occurs, it may not be because you are a bad writer or have a bad story. It’s because it just doesn’t seem to fit what the editor is looking for. Different editors have different tastes. And sometimes they reject something that they regret years later. An editor friend of mine still is kicking himself for rejecting “Buying My Heart at Wounded Knee.”
15. Where can people find out more about Janie Franz and your work?
You can read all about the Bowdancer Saga at my website: http//:thebowdancersaga.wordpress.com
Janie, thanks for being my guest today and sharing such great information about your writing.