Born in a small town in upstate New York, Brita Addams has made her home in the sultry south for many years. In the Frog Capital of the World, Brita shares her home with her real-life hero—her husband. All their children are grown.
A writer of historical fiction, as well as both het and gay fiction/romance, Brita has won several Rainbow Awards for her work in gay romance. Her love of everything historical has led her to concentrate on New Orleans and its much storied history.
For more information about Brita Addams, please visit her website: www.britaaddams.net or follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or Goodreads.
A bit of trivia—Brita pronounces her name, Bree-ta, and not Brit-a, like the famous water filter. She also says she was born in the wrong century, but can’t live without her air conditioning.
What question do you wish that someone would ask about your book(s), but nobody has?
Why Civil War-era and Ragtime era?
I’ve always wanted to write a Civil War era book because of my work in genealogy. I’m an non-professional genealogist and discovered that I have an ancestor who fought in the war, at the Battle of Cold Harbor. Having visited most all the battlefields, I gleaned some knowledge that I thought would make a book interesting. Ta-Da – Cedar Grove.
As for After Dark Rag – I love New Orleans and Ragtime music. What better than write a story about both?
What is your writing process? Do you follow a regular routine or do you have any weird, funny, or unusual habits while writing and what are they?
I have an office in what we refer to as the sun room. Bright, cheerful, and quiet. I treat writing like a job, so most days, I am in my office six to eight hours researching, plotting, and/or writing. I do take Sundays off, which helps recharge for the coming week.
No special habits. Just a cup of coffee and my imagination. And books. And index cards. and more index cards, and more books. Lots of index cards and books.
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?
I can honestly say I don’t suffer from writer’s block. Does the opposite have a name? I have so many stories that I want to write, I fear I don’t have time to write them.
Now if you mean do I get stumped on where to go from a certain point – yes. But working that out within the perimeters of the story is easy once I step back and reread what I’ve written.
What is the single most important piece of advice for aspiring authors?
Read, read, read the genre you wish to write. Absorb it, digest it, live it, breathe it. You can’t write unless you read.
Study, study, study the craft of writing. Know what works and what doesn’t. There are rules, like them or not. Learn the rules and use them until you’re good enough to break them seamlessly. some of us never are.
Don’t think you know everything there is to know about writing, because you don’t. None of us did in the beginning, and many don’t years in. Showing, not telling isn’t a unique way to write. Neither is passive voice or using filters. You won’t invent a way of writing that no one has ever seen before. You owe the reader a well-written, well-edited story. Don’t play games and don’t let your ego get in the way of the story.
What are your current/future projects?
At present I’m writing a book of historical fiction called “Blind Eye”. It takes place in 1890s New Orleans. Blind Eye is a society of powerful men that oversees everything in New Orleans to their own advantage. A contradiction? Not really. Blind Eye refers to the society’s disdain for law and order.
I’ve researched this book for four years. I suspect it will be completed in late 2019.
Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?
First – I love history. Secondly, I love historical fiction. When I read Phillipa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl, her ability to mix true events and fiction fascinated me, so I read everything else she’d written and her work didn’t disappoint.
After I exhausted her backlist, I sought out other authors and discovered historical romance. Long story short, I’ve always wanted to write, but spent years raising my family and working. Finally, my time came, and I chose to try my hand at historical romance.
I’ve had some success with that, not Phillipa Gregory style, but some. Romance, however, has a structure than can restrict and I wanted to break out of that, so I took to historical fiction, to loose a need in me to tell a darker story perhaps or to focus on one character and their journey. Out of that has come “Cedar Grove,” and “After Dark Rag,” the two books in my Delacroix Saga that spans over sixty years and chronicles two generations. It dates from the beginning of the Civil War to the jazz and ragtime era in New Orleans.
What do you think is the future for independent authors and do you think it will continue to be easy for anyone to be a published author?
I have mixed feelings on this. Having been traditionally published, I know the value of having a good editor and a professionally created cover. Sadly, today, many writers can’t afford an editor, so they skip that vital step in the production of their books. Consequently, we have a lot of poorly written books, which reflects badly on all independent authors.
When a writer remains insulated in their own bubble, they don’t see the mistakes they are making in their writing. Without critique and constructive criticism, they believe they know all there is to know about writing.
No author can edit their own work. We become text blind, unable to see the errors, if indeed we recognize a dangling modifier or rampant passive voice. Putting out an under-edited book will harm the author’s reputation, because readers are savvy creatures.
Don’t ask people to pay for a poorly written, unedited book simply because you feel you have to tell that story. Readers will cut you in half and savor the pieces.
The same with covers. Get a professionally made cover and not one you can cobble together on Amazon. Well worth the price.
Are you traditional or self-published, and what process did you go through to get your book published?
I have been with several publishers, some of which are now defunct, a couple that are still thriving. I had no desire to self-publish in the beginning, because I had no idea how to go about it.
When my first publisher went out of business, I got all of my books back from them, and turned around and submitted them to another publisher. They re-edited them, gave them new covers, and published them. They had more success with that publisher, but sadly, they too went out of business. They did, however, along with my rights, give me the covers, something that usually doesn’t happen.
Given that the five books were properly edited, I self-published them.
I have five books with Dreamspinner Press, a publishing house that is top notch and as professional as they come. I’ve learned so much about editing through their wonderful staff, and have no intention of leaving DSP.
I have, though, taken to self-publishing my historical fiction, because those books don’t fit DSP’s spectrum. They publish gay romance in all sub-genre’s, and my historical fiction isn’t in the romance genre. I do get my books edited, and I have had professional covers made for them, by the artist who made and gave me my covers for the other five books.
Acceptance with a traditional publisher is difficult, but a journey everyone should undertake. There is so much to be learned and trad publishing is the way to learn it.
Have you ever changed a title, book cover, or even the content of your book after it was published? What was that process like?
No, can’t say I have, after it was published, but I have when they were briefly off the market during transition from one pub to another. I’ve also expanded books during that period.
What opportunities have being an author presented you with and share those memories? (i.e. travel, friends, events, speaking, etc..)
I’ve attended book conventions, which honestly intimidate me. I’m outgoing, but the conventions are manic. I love the author signing because I get to meet people who have read my books. I love meeting the authors that I know by name, but conventions are off my radar after attending several.
Publishing opportunities have come my way because of someone reading my work and liking it, then passing the word on to a publisher. Also, I had the opportunity to do historical content editing for a publisher, as well as becoming promotions and marketing manager for two of my publishers.
I have made great friends, other authors as well as readers, and that is rewarding. I’ve taught a workshop on passive voice and filter words with another author, and made many friends through that.
What are your marketing, advertising, promotion strategies and which one(s) have worked the best for you? If you had to share your most valuable promotion tip, what would that be?
I do blog tours, guest posts, and interviews, and interact with my readers on social media. I might host an event on my blog, such as a treasure hunt. I do use groups on Facebook, those that draw readers of historical fiction or historical romance. I’ve done some paid advertising, but there are so many free opportunities, you don’t have to spend a great deal of money.
Best advice Don’t go on Social Media and scream “Buy my Book!” That’s the kiss of death, as your voice is simply part of the din. I recommend that every author buy “Your A Game” by Damon Suede and Heidi Cullinan. This book is geared around promotion strategies within a person’s comfort zone. Fantastic book that should be in every author’s library.https//www.amazon.com/Your-Game-winning-promo-fiction-ebook/dp/B01HSDJQ1A/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1542125138&sr=8-1&keywords=your+a+game+damon+suede
If you are a self-published author, which platform do you prefer? (Amazon, Smashwords, Lulu, Author House, or something not mentioned), and why?
I use Amazon because I’ve tried others, and my sales are with the giant, and always have been. I did transfer five books to Draft2Digital and their distribution network, but sales were slow. I put them back exclusively on Amazon and my sales increased.
What do you do if inspiration strikes in an inconvenient place like (car, restaurant, bathroom/shower, etc..) and how do you capture that moment before it gets away from you?
I carry a notebook with me at all times. Nothing catches me unawares. LOL
Do you have a target amount of words/pages for each of your books or do you just know when enough is enough?
In romance, I reach for the sweet spot of between 60 and 80k. In historical fiction, I can tell the entire story, without bloviating, in the area of 100k, maybe slightly over.
How much influence do you believe a title, cover, content, page numbers have in purchasing decisions of potential buyers/readers?
Title – maybe. As a reader, I’m not necessarily drawn to the title of a book, but more the blurb.
Cover – yes. It should tell you something about the book. If you read the blurb and you have to scratch your head to figure out how the cover represents that, you will wonder about the book itself.
Content – that’s everything.
Page numbers – I purchase books on the basis of the promised story and the reviews for that book. Page numbers don’t really mean anything, unless a reader has a short attention span, making longer books unwieldy.
Do you believe there is value in a Press Release, have you used any press release service, and what have your experiences been?
I used press releases in the early days and saw no real value in them. Sales didn’t increase because of them, and I haven’t used them since.
Do you believe there is value in a review? Do you believe they are under rated, over rated, or don’t matter at all?
Absolutely there is value. Readers pay attention to reviews. Authors should learn from reviews as well. Yes, reviews can hurt a book, but if the author is smart, and a consensus of readers say the same thing, they will take heed. So many authors dismiss reviews, but I take them seriously, and have learned much from them over the years.
What are your thoughts on authors doing review swaps, paying for reviews, or reviews that just don’t seem right for the book?
I’ve never heard of review swaps, but never. That’s as ego massaging as trading likes for likes on Facebook. If you’re swapping reviews, who is going to write an honest one if the book actually doesn’t deserve praise? That pads Goodreads and Amazon with positive reviews, which is great for the authors but not so great for the readers. Disingenuous at best. I’m firmly in the came of authors not reviewing other authors’ work. Read yes, review no.
Paying for reviews – no. Kirkus, for instance, is prestigious, but an author shouldn’t have to pay for an honest review.
Reviews that are just not right – LOL Sometimes reviews say more about the reviewer than the book. I had one that said, and I paraphrase – “I just don’t like it when the characters talk all old fashioned and stuff.” and another – one star “review” – “I bought this book and didn’t know it was a historical. Won’t read it.” The blurb started out with, “In 1815 England…”
Do you believe there are competitors or general readers out to sabotage authors with bad reviews and what are your experiences with this?
I’ve had no personal experience with this, but I’ve seen it happen because of political views or an unpleasant exchange online where the offended party gathered an army of sock puppets and savaged an author’s entire backlist with one star ratings and nonsensical “reviews.”
Lesson learned from that – authors shouldn’t expound on politics or religion because they don’t know who their audience is. Yes, they have a right to, but should they risk their career to take a jab at the opposing side? I think not.
Have you ever had an interesting, funny, or even bad experience during a live interview, reading, event, or autograph session?
I did have one experience, but it was touching. I got a Facebook message from a guy while I was at a convention. “Brita, I’m a huge fan, but I don’t know what you look like. Can you find me today?”
I didn’t know what he looked like either. LOL But, he did find my signing table and we met, where I promptly wrote the wrong initials (his) when I addressed the signing. I apologized and he was so sweet and said it didn’t matter. We’ve since become friends and I love he dearly.
With self publishing being so easy these days, do you believe there is an over abundance of books out there and how do you sort through all the hype or copycats?
I’ve been burned so many times. Poorly written, unedited, unproofed, badly researched books clog the virtual bookshelves, something endemic to self-publishing. I dismiss bad covers immediately, because if the author doesn’t care about the quality of the cover, I don’t want to take the chance on the story. If the blurb is poorly written (I recently read one where the writer spelled and *an* every time,) I move on. I also avoid books where the blurb starts with “So.”
What is your biggest fear about having a book published?
I’ve had, at one time, eighteen books published. Since that time, I’ve take several off the market for various reasons. At this point, ten years into writing for publication, I don’t have fears. Books either sell or they don’t. I’ve done my job and given readers what editors feel are good stories. I don’t obsess about sales or rankings or reviews. That would take time away from my writing.
If you have multiple books published what do you feel is your greatest work, why?
I love each of my books for various reasons, but my greatest work? I’d have to say my last three – Beloved Unmasked, “Cedar Grove” and “After Dark Rag”.
“Beloved Unmasked” because I, according to reviewers, captured the tone, pulse, and meaning of New Orleans in the early 20th Century.
“Cedar Grove” and “After Dark Rag” – both sent in New Orleans, they span sixty odd years, something I love as a reader. I’ve longed to write a Civil War-era book for years and “Cedar Grove” is that book. “After Dark Rag” continues the story into the ragtime/jazz era and brings a young man with slave ancestors to the spotlight as a ragtime musician.
All three of these books are near and dear to me, so picking one is like choosing my favorite child, something I can’t do. )
What is the intended audience for you book?
Those who love historical fiction. If you love it, the era doesn’t matter, does it?
Give us a fun fact about your book(s)?
The main character, Uranie Delacroix, in “Cedar Grove”, was inspired by my husband’s late grandmother, Uranie Madere Berthelot. Ranie, in the book, has Grandma’s spunk, her will and perseverance, and her stubbornness.
If you had the chance to get one message out there to reach readers all over the world, what would that message be?
Read what pleases you, review what inspires you, and let authors know what their work means to you. We can’t hear that enough.
Do you find it easier to connect with your readers with the advances in technology we have today like social media? What platform do you prefer, and why?
Oh, my yes, I am active on Facebook, as it seems more personal in an odd, technological way. People have their pictures there, etc. Twitter drives me crazy. I haven’t gotten cottoned up to Instagram at all.
What makes a good story, why?
The care an author puts into telling the story. The delivery of the story is as important as the concept. If the prose flows, sans passive voice and filter words, the reader knows that the writer cares about their craft. If the characters are well-developed, they will breathe for the reader. You’ll hear them sigh, you’ll see them smile. You’ll agonize and rejoice with them.
A good story is a combination of research, character development, study of craft, concern for every nuance of the story. Nothing is left to chance. Nothing is left to the readers’ imagination. They buy a book to be entertained, not to fill in their own interpretations.
Author concern makes a good story. If a writer is just writing for themselves, they’ve missed an important element in becoming an author.
How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning? Do you have any name choosing resources you recommend?
Names are important and should fit the character. I use “throwaway names” for secondary characters. Main characters get premium or memorable names or, in the case of Picayune in “Beloved Unmasked”, a name with meaning.
He is the son of a New Orleans Storyville prostitute, who didn’t want him, so she named him Picayune, meaning nothing, trivial. When he changes his name, a friend who’d helped him as a boy suggested David, which means beloved.
I use old census reports to get names and I keep them on index cards. My stack is quite thick and divided into categories, genders, and eras.
Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?
I do read reviews, but I never respond.
One piece of advice I got early on, was never engage with a reviewer, particularly one who has written a bad review. Telling a reviewer thank you for the kind review is acceptable, but never defend your book to a reviewer.
If the author hasn’t said all there is to say in the book itself, and a reviewer finds the book lacking, all an author will do is damage their author reputation by arguing about points they think the reviewer missed. Careers have been destroyed by “authors behaving badly.” Don’t do it!
What is the easiest/hardest scene for you to write, why? (Love, action, fight, death, racy, controversial, etc…)
A death scene is very difficult for me. Very emotional, and it’s hard to write through the tears. Seriously, I cry.
Easiest scene? Each book is different, so I don’t have a pat answer for that. Some scenes are easier than others, but my mind is constantly grinding away at each line.
What would you like to write about that you have never written about before?
Hmm. I don’t have anything in mind right now. Something related to New Orleans, for sure, but I don’t have a clue right now. I’m so into the book I’m writing, I haven’t had time to look past the finish of that one.
Have you ever had a book idea or characters come to you in a dream? What did you do about it afterwards?
Yes! I woke up and wrote it all down. That book became “Her Timeless Obsession”. It involves a bit of time travel and a changing of fictional history. I love time travel and I guess my subconscious went into overdrive.
Do you have any characters you would like to introduce in other books or a combination of characters from multiple books you would like to write about in one book?
I carry over Ranie Delacroix from “Cedar Grove” to her grandson’s story, “After Dark Rag”. I actually wrote “After Dark Rag” first, with Ranie in it, and couldn’t let go of her. She had a story before Fitz, before her own son, and I had to find a way to tell that story, so I wrote “Cedar Grove”. Her age fit the Civil War era, which satisfied my want to write a book in that time. Otherwise, no.
Were your characters based off real life people/events or did you make it all up?
“Cedar Grove” and “After Dark Rag” each contain real people mixed with my fictional characters, and real events mixed with fictional events.
As I said, Ranie was inspired by my husband’s grandmother. But no other fictional characters were based on real people.
What are the most important elements of good writing? According to you, what tools are must-haves for writers?
A working knowledge of the English language. Sounds elementary, but too many writers don’t have this and think that editors will fix their errors.
The ability to see and eliminate passive voice, except where it truly fits. Good stories are ruined by passive voice, which is clunky, tortured, and easily fixable. Same goes for filter words – Filtered – “I felt my heart beat wildly” as opposed to “my heart raced.”
Show don’t tell!!
Always define “it.” So many sentences start with *it* and leave the reader wondering what *it* is. Define *it*, always!
A cursory knowledge of editing – ability to identify a dangling modifier and other basic grammatical mishaps. Google pre-edit worksheet and use it.
What book(s), author(s), or significant life event(s) have had a positive or negative influence in your life that inspired you to begin writing?
A significant life event when I was in seventh grade turned me away from writing. Briefly – my English teacher took one of my short stories and sent it Hal Borland, an author we’d read in class. Mr. Borland kindly critiqued it and wrote me a note saying I had a future in writing.
Excited, I took my paper to someone important to me, someone who wanted to write and never had the nerve. They ripped up the paper, threw it at me, and told me Borland didn’t know what he was talking about. That destroyed me, because I believed my detractor.
Years later, I started reading romance novels and recapped each story for my husband, who likely didn’t care, but he’ll listen to me because he cares about me. He knew the story of Mr. Borland as well. One day, out of the blue, after a long recap session, he asked me, “Do you think you can write one of those?”
I revived my want to write, something I’d only done in many volumes of journals, and within six months, I’d written my first, and yet unpublished, historical romance. The unwieldy manuscript is 134k and is filled with passive voice, filter words, and showing instead of telling. LOL But I wrote, putting to rest the disappointment and heartbreak of the past. I haven’t stopped writing since.
What are your thoughts about eBooks vs. print books?
Print books are great and those books I want to keep, I get them in paperback or hardcover. I find ebooks so much more convenient, especially for travel. Also ebooks sell better, for me, than do print books. But they look great on my bookshelves.
Do you view writing as a career, labor of love, hobby, creative outlet, therapy, or something else?
Labor of love. I resist the career aspect because I’ve had one of those and retired. Hobby and creative outlet are too cavalier, and readers deserve better than a writer who isn’t putting their all into their work. Therapy – no. I’m well adjusted and happy in my life. LOL
Were there any challenges (research, literary, psychological, or logistical) in bringing your book to life?
Research is daunting and widespread. I read a lot of books for both “Cedar Grove” and “After Dark Rag”. Three years of planning, research, and writing brought the Delacroix Saga to life, but it wasn’t always an easy slog.
Do you proofread/edit your own books or do you send them off to an editor? If you send them off to an editor, who/what have you had the best experience with?
I proof and pre-edit my own books before I send them off to have them done by someone who isn’t text blind. I have a friend who is excellent. Jeanne DeVita is also super terrific.
When Musa Publishing was in business, Jeanne was the senior editor. During that time, I was fortunate enough to have Helen Hardt as my editor. She has since gone on to become a New York Times Best Selling author of the Steele Brothers Saga, among other things. These ladies have taught me so much about editing and writing, as has my editor at DSP.
What are the advantages/disadvantages of self or traditional publishing?
Advantages of self-publishing is that you reap the lion’s share of the royalties. Everything else is a disadvantage.
Publishers provide cover artists, editors, proofers, and valuable feedback that every author needs. They take the book through every step of production, until your baby appears for sale.
When you self-publish, you do everything. You shouldn’t edit your own work, so you must pay an editor to do that. Money well spent, but an expense that you must recoup through sales. You should have a professional-looking cover, and that costs as well. I recommend Kelly Shorten at kmdwebdesigns.com She is fabulous and reasonable. She not only did my covers for “Cedar Grove” and “After Dark Rag”, but she formatted the print and ebook, uploaded to Amazon, and did the entire setup there. Invaluable help.
Do you have a subject/genre you would never write about, why?
Contemporary romance. I don’t read it and can’t see myself ever writing it. I like the tenor of historicals better.
What motivates you to write and where does your inspiration come from?
What ever story I’m writing motivates me to write. If it wasn’t compelling enough for me to want to get behind the keyboard and write for four to six hours a day, how can I expect a reader to buy it?
Inspiration comes from books I’ve read about particular historical events, an anecdote, a historical figure. Inspiration isn’t lacking in the genre.
What makes your book stand out from the crowd?
I hope I’ve a different take on the Civil War depiction – less war, more concentration on what effect the war had on a young Creole woman and the options open to her. In “After Dark Rag”, a Creole man sees the advantages of being able to pass, but his principles hold him true to his ancestry.
I hope the characters appeal, their experiences enlighten, and the stories inspire.
Do you design your own cover? If not who does, why?
I had a lot of input in the design of my covers for “Cedar Grove” and “After Dark Rag”, but Kelly Shorten of KMD Web Designs put it all together. On “After Dark Rag”, the man’s image was my inspiration throughout the writing of that book. His pose inspired Fitz’s signature move, after he finishes playing. In the moment between the finish and the applause, he swings around, straddles the chair, and pulls his pork pie hat down over his eyes. I love that image!
On the cover of “Cedar Grove”, the home depicted is reminiscent of one that inspired the sugar plantation. That home has long since met the worms and the varmints, but it once stood tall near where I lived in the New Orleans area. Seven Oaks Plantation was the name.
What is your most/least favorite part of the writing process, why?
I love the research and the writing. I love making the decisions about the covers, picking out the cover art, etc. All the rest is fussy work that I don’t look forward to. That’s why I pay Kelly shorten to do it. She’s good at it and reasonably priced.
Books by Brita Addams