Friday, October 26, 2012

[Heart Search Blog Tour] - Guest Post by Carlie Cullen


It’s strange how a story idea just pops into your head, seemingly from nowhere  It’s like an invisible hand plucked it from the ether and plonked it in just the right area of your brain. Sounds bizarre, right? Not to me – I’m used to it! However, this time it was different; it felt different, bigger than any idea I’d had before. As I mulled over this concept, gifted to me by my Muse, two characters marched fully formed into my head and demanded I tell their story. Boy, were they persistent! And so, I began to write . . .

The outline and synopsis was written, the first twelve chapters were planned and now it was time to start.

The words began to flow onto the screen of my laptop, each character in turn telling me a little of their story as I wrote, seeing each scene through their eyes and feeling their emotions. This was something much deeper than I’d ever experienced before; there was a connection being forged, like the strongest steel, between my two main characters and me.

As the writing continued, they took over and by chapter five my carefully structured chapter plan was in shreds. “You don’t need that,” they told me, “we’re telling our story our way!” Who was I to argue? They had already guided me away from how I thought the story would evolve and put me in a position where I just had to trust them. And so I did. I also knew by that point, the story was too big, too involved to fit into one book.

They each took me through their journeys as I pounded the keys and the word count grew and grew. Then came the hard part! Where could I draw a halt in this flowing story to end book one? My Muse showed me the way and suddenly, 152,071 words later the first draft was complete.

It was the wee small hours of 26th October 2011. My daughter was in bed asleep so I couldn’t whoop and holler as euphoria swept me into its embrace. I sat, stunned by the enormity of it all. I’d written a full length novel. I wanted to dance around the room with joy. Pouring myself a celebratory glass of my favourite wine, I sat looking at the final words on the screen feeling proud of my achievement. It took me ages to get to sleep that night!

Later that day, I contacted the editor I’d lined up and sent her the raw manuscript. It was a heady feeling. Then I did something crazy – I signed up to National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short), in which you try to write a fifty-thousand word novel in just thirty days. I had no idea what I was going to write about and only had five days in which to plan it, but I just felt I couldn’t stop writing. As tempted as I was to begin book two of the series, I was advised against it by some author friends, so I took their advice and came up with another story. I’m proud to say I completed the challenge.

By this time, the first few edited chapters of Heart Search; Lost were sitting in my Inbox. I abandoned the tale written for NaNoWriMo and got to work.

I was amazed by the insight of my editor and disturbed by the number of overused words and grammatical errors she’d found. Gently guiding me through the process, she explained it was perfectly normal and nothing to be upset about. I trusted her judgement and relaxed as I edited. Sending her back the revisions for checking as I finished each block, by early January two rounds of editing had been completed and I gave it to an alpha reader. I was gobsmacked by her response. Jakki didn’t normally like stories in my chosen genre, but she loved it and gave me some good constructive criticism.

Again I made changes and sent them to my editor for checking. Now it was ready to go for beta reading. I chose my beta reader carefully. I wanted someone who I not only trusted, but who had experience and was overjoyed when she agreed. Alison was senior editor for a US publishing company and a published author. She gave me some great structural suggestions, which had echoed those of my editor, and she also loved the story.

This time I had to re-structure the first half of the book which was quite tricky; I had to ensure all the little subtle connections remained and the story still flowed. Again it went off to my editor. You know, I didn’t mind going through the editing process. I know some authors hate it in some ways, but to me it was a labour of love. I wanted my book to be the very best it could be – to be a polished gem – and something I could be proud of.

When my manuscript was returned, it was ‘submission ready’ and with hope in my heart, I penned a query letter and sent it off to an agent. Sixteen weeks and two emails from me later, I got my first rejection. I was a bit sad, but brushed myself down and looked forward with positivity in my heart – it was the agent’s loss!

That was when I decided on a new strategy – I would self-publish through Myrddin Publishing Group. I sent my novel to another beta reader for final checking and Rachel came up with a couple of minor yet valid points and I duly made a couple of corrections. In the meantime, I’d asked Nicole Antonia Carson to design my cover and she did a fabulous job – it was everything I wanted and more. It was all coming together slowly. I worked out a marketing plan for the launch, sent out a call for bloggers for the Blog Tour and was blown away by the great response. I’d also had a book trailer made for me by the wonderful Connie J Jasperson which was the final jewel in the crown. Everything was in place. All I had left to do was send out the copies to the reviewers in the tour, write twenty-odd guest posts, do fourteen interviews and find about sixteen unique excerpts from the book and I only had a month. To top this off, I was scheduled for spine surgery end September which I knew would impact quite severely on my ability to use the computer for many days.

I set to work and got as much written in advance as I could, knowing in my heart that the only way I would complete this huge task was by not sleeping. This wasn’t an option although I managed on five or six hours sleep a night leading up to my hospital stay. The marketing plan kicked in and the cover was unveiled, followed by the trailer ten days later. It had begun and the whispers about this new book began to circulate through the social media platforms.

Then the big day hit. Seeing my book up on Amazon was the most amazing feeling – even better than the euphoria I experienced at finishing the first draft. My dream had come true, I was a published author! This time I did whoop and holler (but no dancing around the room – not with sutures in my back)! It was better than winning the lottery (I think, bearing in mind I’ve never won more than ten pounds) and to get a five-star review on launch day was the bubbles in the champagne. To think someone had enjoyed my work enough to give it five-stars made all the long hours spent editing worthwhile.

As I write this, we’re now two weeks into the Blog Tour and I’ve got five-star reviews and sales of the book on both sides of the Atlantic. The paperback will be coming out soon too and I’ve started writing book two of the trilogy. Am I a happy bunny? You bet I am!

Carlie M A Cullen 

Carlie M A Cullen was born in London. She grew up in Hertfordshire where she first discovered her love of books and writing. She has been an administrator and marketer all her working life and is also a professional teacher of Ballroom and Latin American dancing.
Carlie has always written in some form or another, but Heart Search: Lost is her first novel. This was launched 8th October 2012 through Myrddin Publishing Group and work has started on book two: Heart Search: Found. She writes mainly in the Fantasy/Paranormal Romance genres for YA, New Adult and Adult.
Carlie is also a professional editor.
Carlie also holds the reins of a writing group called Writebulb. Their first anthology, The Other Way Is Essex, was published September 2012 under Myrddin Publishing Group. Carlie currently lives in Essex, UK with her daughter.

3 comments:

  1. With every stop on the blog tour, I learn something different about you Carlie. Yesterday, I learned about and signed up for NaNoWriMo myself, and I'm both scared and excited. Are you doing the challenge this year? Nice post Emma! :0)

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