Vanessa Finaughty

Vanessa Finaughty BIO PICI grew up in Cape Town, and still live here with my husband of thirteen years and plenty of furry, four-legged ‘children’. My passion for the written word started my career as an editor and copywriter, and I part-ran a writers’ critique group for close on seven years.

I’ve been writing ever since I learnt how, have always been an avid reader, and currently live on coffee and cigarettes. My interests include reading, photography, watching good movies, the supernatural, life’s mysteries and martial arts, of which I have five years’ experience.

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?

It’s difficult to make a set time to write with a new baby in the house, so I write whenever I get a gap.

My writing process is simple I just write. I don’t split it into chapters until afterwards. I don’t edit until it’s finished. When I’m working on a book, the story is more important than those other things.

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?

Thankfully not. Instead, I’m cursed with ‘muse overload’ – too many stories in my head and not enough time to write them all.

What is the single most important piece of advice for aspiring authors?

Make your book the best product possible – that includes proper editing, eye-catching cover, tidy formatting and so on.

What are your current/future projects?

I’m currently editing Book 3 in my Legends of Origin fantasy series. It’s been a long time coming. I’ve also started a new fantasy series, titled Wizard of Ends.

Are you traditional or self-published, and what process did you go through to get your book published?

I’m self-published with Smashwords. I never did try the traditional route – I’m too much of a control freak.

Have you ever changed a title, book cover, or even the content of your book after it was published? What was that process like?

I’ve changed some covers and content, but never a title. As I learnt more about the industry, I realised some of my covers could be far better, and every now and then I might refer to a book for an interview, for example, and spot a typo – once I know it’s there, I *must* fix it and upload the new version or it’d drive me nuts.

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’m still learning all the ins and outs of book marketing, but one thing I can say is that you have to have a marketing plan. It doesn’t have to be anything fancier than a ‘to do’ list. At the moment, I’m spending more time on Twitter and Facebook, and have just started my author blog. Next, I plan to encourage my fans to sign up for Smashwords’ affiliate marketing programme. I also list my books on all the book sites I can, and do author interviews and showcases when the opportunity arises.

If you are a self-published author, which platform do you prefer? (Amazon, Smashwords, Lulu, Author House, or something not mentioned), and why?

Smashwords, without a doubt. It’s user friendly, takes a low cut of author royalties, and the help staff usually answer emails fairly quickly. I also love all the great features, like the affiliate marketing programme, the author interview on author profiles, the wide distribution network and the coupon manager, which enables me to give out free or discounted copies of my books whenever I want with the click of a button.

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 jot it down on a piece of paper, or, if I don’t have paper or a pen, I save it as a reminder on my cell.

Do you have a target amount of words/pages for each of your books or do you just know when enough is enough?

I write until the story is finished without considering word count. In some cases, like the book I just finished writing, the story continues long after the book ends, but continuing it in the same book would make the book far longer than others in the series. So I ended it in a nice place, then continued the story in the next book. It happens to fit really nicely too, so it won’t feel like it’s cut off halfway through the story – at least, I hope not!

Do you believe there is value in a review? Do you believe they are under rated, over rated, or don’t matter at all?

Reviews are vital, because they allow potential new readers to see what other readers thought of your book. It’s almost like being allowed to smell chocolate cake in order to decide if you want to buy and eat it.

What are your thoughts on authors doing review swaps, paying for reviews, or reviews that just don’t seem right for the book?

It depends how honest they are. I do review swaps, but with the agreement that, if they would give the book less than four stars, they give me private feedback instead that I can use to better the book (assuming I agree with the feedback, of course). So no one ever lies in a review for me, and I will never lie in a review for someone else.

Do you believe there are competitors or general readers out to sabotage authors with bad reviews and what are your experiences with this?

I believe so, yes, but I don’t think most of us need to worry too much about this unless you’re being targeted by more than one of these types, because readers aren’t stupid – they will see where it’s coming from and where it’s personal, and will ignore those reviews.

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?

There is no such thing as ‘too many books’, IMHO. However, I think there are too many badly written books where the authors have written the last word and hit ‘publish’ without even a single self-edit, never mind a professional edit and proofread. If the author can’t stomach reading it even once, why the heck would anyone else? The free samples provided by many retailers are helpful to readers, because they can find out easily if the book in question was properly edited and the proper attention given to it during the writing process.

If you have multiple books published what do you feel is your greatest work, why?

I think my latest or current book is always my greatest work – simply because I’m continually striving to better my writing, so each new book, therefore, is the best.

What is the intended audience for you book?

Anyone who enjoys a good fantasy, some laughs and plenty of deep thinking.

If you had the chance to get one message out there to reach readers all over the world, what would that message be?

Create balance in this world wherever you can. It’s more vital than most of us realise.

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?

Definitely. I use Twitter and Facebook, but prefer Twitter – all those games and whatnot on FB can be really irritating and time consuming.

What makes a good story, why?

Many things…. but realistic characters that people can relate to is top for me. If you can relate to a character, you feel more for him/her. If you feel more, you’re drawn deeper into the story, and, therefore, gain a greater enjoyment from reading.

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?

Main characters’ names usually just pop into my head and nothing else sounds right, even if I don’t like the name. This sometimes happens with side characters too, but if not, Google is my friend.

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?

Sometimes, but not always. I never respond to a review. I think it’s unprofessional and, if it’s a negative review, you’re opening a can of worms you really don’t want to. If readers email me, however, even with negative feedback, I respond to that.

What would you like to write about that you have never written about before?

My personal experience in finding the ‘key to the universe’. Of course, that has to happen before I can write the book.

Have you ever had a book idea or characters come to you in a dream? What did you do about it afterwards?

Yes. I write it down immediately, even if it’s just point form.

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?

Yes, actually. I do have plans to introduce a few short story characters to my Legends of Origin series when the time is right, and the ryokin I created for the series also appear in a few short stories.

Were your characters based off real life people/events or did you make it all up?

A bit of both, depending on which book we’re talking about.

What are your thoughts about eBooks vs. print books?

I prefer reading a print book if it’s not something I’m editing or proofreading. Ebooks are more popular, though, probably because they’re so much more affordable, and countless readers now own e-reading devices. I think that, as long as you’re reading, it doesn’t really matter what your preference is when it comes to print or digital, on a personal level.

Do you view writing as a career, labor of love, hobby, creative outlet, therapy, or something else?

All of the above. I get very depressed if I’m not writing, but I do also see it as a career, simply because I would love to be able to write full time, and that will never happen unless I treat writing as a career (I tend to write for myself, then package and market for others).

Were there any challenges (research, literary, psychological, or logistical) in bringing your book to life?

I work full time, am mom to a new baby, and write whenever I get a gap. That’s pretty challenging.

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?

Both. I’m lucky, because the professional editor I’ve always sent my work to, who is now a full-time writer, is also my best friend, so she edits my work for me.

What are the advantages/disadvantages of self or traditional publishing?

Self-publishing gives you a lot of control over your work, which I love. It’s also a lot of hard work, but, from what I hear, traditionally published authors also have to market their own work, so the only things you wouldn’t have to worry about organising yourself when traditionally published is the editor and cover design (as far as I’m aware). Self-publishing’s greatest advantage is the higher royalties authors get.

What motivates you to write and where does your inspiration come from?

I’m unhappy if I’m not writing, so the human need for happiness motivates me to write. I don’t know why this is so, but I feel incomplete if I’m not writing, and I enjoy the process thoroughly.

As far as inspiration goes… I find that daily in the world around me, and often in ancient legends too.

What makes your book stand out from the crowd?

Hopefully the amount of effort I put into them.

Do you design your own cover? If not who does, why?

Most of the time, yes. Amy Staff illustrated one cover for me, for Sanctuary for the Devil, because I’m not an illustrator and wanted the ryokin I invented on the cover. She did a great job!

What is your most/least favorite part of the writing process, why?

Everything between the last word and publishing can be considered my least favourite parts of the writing process. It’s hard not to just publish without all the edits and beta reading, and making sure your cover and blurb are perfect, but it has to be done or your product won’t be as good as it could be.

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