Today my guest is multi-published author with a number of books to her credit. She's here to talk about her most recent children's novel.
AUTHOR: Chris Eboch
BOOK TITLE: The Eyes of Pharaoh
PUBLISHER: Pig River Press
BUY LINK: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1460959434
1. Please tell me how long you’ve been writing, and why you decided to become a writer.
I got interested in writing when I was studying photography in college and did some work for the school paper. I decided I didn’t want to be a photographer after all, but enjoyed journalism. I went back to school for an MA in Professional Writing and Publishing, planning to work for magazines. After I graduated, I started a novel as a fun project while looking for work, and that led me into writing fiction for kids.
2. Are you a full-time writer or a part-time writer, and how do you organize your writing time?
I am a full-time writer, if under the heading of "writer" you also include writing teacher and editor. Besides writing novels, I write a lot of articles about writing, I teach workshops, I teach through a correspondence school, and I take on private critique/editing clients. But basically all my work comes from writing in one form or another.
I start the work day by checking e-mail while I eat breakfast. Then I work on my main project, as mornings tend to be my best creative time. I often set a word count goal when I’m working on a novel -- usually between 1500 and 2500 words per day (the shorter end being one chapter in a children’s novel, the longer end one chapter in a novel for adults). So long as I know what happens next, I’m a fast writer, so I usually make that goal at least four days a week. Later in the afternoon, I may work on marketing, publicity, critiques, or whatever other writing tasks are on my to-do list.
3. What influences your writing?
I write what I like to read. When writing for children, I try to create the kinds of books I enjoyed as a kid -- historical adventures and mysteries with fun characters and plenty of action. Styles have changed over the years, so I try to make my books a little more fast-paced, with just enough description to set the scenes. My journalism training plays into my writing style, with a focus on clear, brisk storytelling.
4. Is this your first published work? What other types of writing have you done?
My first published novel was The Well of Sacrifice, which Clarion books published in 1999. I’ve been very lucky in that the book, a historical drama set in ninth-century Mayan times, has been embraced by many schools as supplemental reading when they teach about the Maya in fourth or fifth grade. For that reason, it’s still in print.
Many of my other published books have been work for hire, including nonfiction titles and fictionalized biographies about Jesse Owens and Milton Hershey (written under the name M. M. Eboch). I also have a series about kids who travel with a ghost hunter TV show and try to help the ghosts. The Haunted series starts with The Ghosts on the Stairs and includes three books, with a fourth scheduled for 2012.
The Eyes of Pharaoh is my most recent book for kids, a historical mystery set in a time and place that fascinated me as a child.
5. Why did you choose to write a children’s story?
All those years ago, when I wanted to write something for fun while looking for work, I chose a middle grade novel partly because it was shorter, and therefore less intimidating, than an adult novel. Also, I’ve always enjoyed children’s novels and never stopped reading them. I like the fact that they are not split into genres in the same way adult novels are, so you have more flexibility. They’re wonderfully fun to write, and you get to capture some of that wide-eyed enthusiasm with which kids face the world.
6. What was the process of creating this book from the first idea to the final published book?
Many years ago I wrote another novel set in ancient Egypt. That one followed six sisters, the daughters of the Pharaoh Akhenaten, over the course of 20 years, and each girl narrated a section. It was complex and difficult, and I didn’t have the writing skills to pull it off at that time.
A couple of years later, I revisited ancient Egypt but with a simpler and more straightforward story, and told from a single point of view. In The Eyes of Pharaoh, the main character and her sidekick follow trail of clues when their best friend disappears. I couldn’t find a publisher, so I put it away for a couple of years and then revisited it several times, getting more feedback and further editing and polishing the story. Finally, I was confident I had an excellent story. Publishers kept saying that they liked the manuscript but weren't buying historical fiction or they already had an Egypt book, while teachers were telling me they wished I'd get the story published so they could use it in the classroom.
I decided that rather than waiting for publishing trends to change, I'd release the book myself. I traded a manuscript critique for proofreading from a professional proofreader, and I hired a talented illustrator friend, Lois Bradley, to do the cover art and design. I had the book published about two months after I decided to self-publish it.
7. What are your thoughts on traditional versus self-publishing?
I believe both will have a place in the future. Self-publishing offers new freedom and opportunities to authors. Many traditionally published authors are discovering "Indie" publishing as a way to put their out-of-print books back in print, to make more money from new work, and to release work that doesn’t resonate with traditional publishers. On the other hand, I don’t think that self-publishing is the miracle answer that some people think. It’s very difficult to get attention for your work when you don’t have a publisher’s support, and far too many people are rushing to publication before the work is ready.
8. What is your marketing strategy?
It varies for each book. For The Eyes of Pharaoh, I e-mailed teachers who have used The Well of Sacrifice in the classroom, letting them know about my new book. I know at least one teacher has already ordered copies for her class. I hope that if teachers like the book, they’ll spread the word. If The Eyes of Pharaoh becomes a success, I expect it will do so slowly, spread largely by word of mouth.
9. What are your thoughts about children’s writers needing an agent or not needing one?
You can still submit your work to some publishers without an agent, but it’s becoming more difficult. Agents are becoming the gatekeepers to traditional publishing. Still, agents can be more trouble than they’re worth. You need to be able to work well together. I have a good relationship with my agent, and he supports my choices, even when they involve self-publishing. Still, I wouldn’t recommend him to some of my friends, because I don’t think the personalities would mesh.
The best agents are worth far more than the percentages they take, but you’re better off alone than with someone who makes you uncomfortable or doesn’t get back to you when you need answers. Authors have to remember that agents work for them, and should be fired if they are not doing a suitable job.
10. Where can people find out more about you and your writing?
My website, www.chriseboch.com, has information about my children’s books and excerpts from many of them, including The Eyes of Pharaoh. I also write for adults under the name Kris Bock. I have a separate website with the first three chapters of my romantic suspense novel, Rattled, at www.krisbock.com. I blog about the craft of writing at Write Like a Pro!: http://chriseboch.blogspot.com/. Right now I’m sharing excerpts from my new writing book, Advanced Plotting, which include lessons learned from 20 years as a writer and writing teacher.
11. Do you have any tips for writers who are new to children’s literature?
Don’t be in too much of a rush to submit or self-publish your work. Writing well is hard, and writing for children is no easier than writing for grown-ups -- in many ways it’s more difficult. So take your time and learn your craft. Take classes, attend workshops, read books and articles on writing, and get professional critiques. Don’t worry about submissions and marketing when you’re starting out. Take a few years to learn to be a writer, and enjoy the process. It should be fun, and it won’t be if you worry too much about the end goal of publication.
12. Please give us a brief synopsis about your current book and when and where it will be available.
The Eyes of Pharaoh, set in Egypt in 1177 BC, brings an ancient world to life. When Reya hints that Egypt is in danger from foreign nomads, Seshta and Horus don’t take him seriously. How could anyone challenge Egypt? Then Reya disappears. To save their friend, Seshta and Horus spy on merchants, soldiers, and royalty, and start to suspect even The Eyes of Pharaoh, the powerful head of the secret police. Will Seshta and Horus escape the traps set for them, rescue Reya, and stop the plot against Egypt in time?
The Eyes of Pharaoh, suitable for ages 9 and up, is available now in print or e-book form. Bookstores should be able to order it, or you can order it from Amazon. The paperback is $7.99 and the e-book is currently priced at $2.99. You can find all of my other books on Amazon by searching for Chris Eboch or Kris Bock, by visiting my Amazon page at http://www.amazon.com/Chris-Eboch/e/B001JS25VE/, or by visiting my website and using the “Buy” links.