This week, I am happy to have Cryssa Bazos and Jessie Cahalin popping by for a visit. Cryssa and I have met. We share a passion for the 17th century – and numbers, seeing as we both have financial careers. Jessie is one of those people it is difficult NOT to meet if one hangs out in the cyber world – more specifically on Twitter – as she is an active and generous blogger who happily helps promote writers.
Cryssa writes historical fiction and I read her debut book, Traitor’s Knot when it came out and was very impressed by how skillfully she wove history and romance together – obviously, I am looking forward to reading her next book, now set in 17th century Barbados. Jessie has published a contemporary story set in Wales–more specifically in Delfryn, which thanks to Jessie has now made it onto my “places I must see” list. Among other things, she handles a difficult subject in her book – that of involuntary childlessness – and she does so with aplomb.
Well, with that I think it’s time to turn you over to my two guests!
What is the best thing about being an Indie author?
Jessie: Being an indie author means I have the privilege of building my own creative team and setting my own deadlines. I select my editor, beta readers, proof-reader and engage bloggers. I also decide the book title, design my own front over, blurb and plan my marketing campaign. Once the novel is ready, I have complete control of the process and can adjust to audience response. I set the prices and monitor the sales. I love the entire creative process from writing the novel to marketing it. During the last two years I have garnered some excellent support from both indie and traditionally published authors. I am constantly learning about the book industry.
Cryssa: I’m new to the Indie author route, but I see this as an extension of the creative process. Being involved in every aspect of the novel’s production, from cover design, back-jacket copy (not enjoyable while wrestling it down, but fulfilling when it’s done), and layout design are all different stages of creating a final piece of art. You don’t get this opportunity when a traditional publisher is involved in the project. Welcome among us Indie authors! Tell us a bit more about why you’ve chosen to go down this route with your second book.
My first book, Traitor’s Knot, is published with an independent digital publisher, and while I don’t have any complaints about how they have handled it, the reality is that the lion’s share of the marketing and promotion fell to me. It doesn’t matter the publishing house—small, big, or gigantic, an author must be prepared to do the heavy lifting, so this is par for the course in this industry. I considered that with a little more effort upfront, I could keep full control of my book: how it looked, where it was available for sale, and when it came out. This approach appeals to both my creative and business-minded side.
What is your biggest challenge and how do you handle it?
Cryssa: Time management. Trying to balance promotion and marketing activities with setting aside writing time is a huge challenge. It’s too easy to get drawn into social media and procrastinate while I should be better using the time to write. I’ve been becoming more diligent at writing early in the morning before I start work. I look forward to the weekends when I can devote more uninterrupted time to my stories. Welcome to the club. Except that lately I don’t even find time at weekends for my stories
Jessie: The biggest challenge is juggling writing, blogging and educational consultancy work. I am editing my second novel, drafting my third novel and running my Books in Handbag Blog so something has had to give. My head is so full of the characters’ adventures, I have been forced to listen to give them lots of attention. Thus, I have reduced my blogging activities, and consultancy work has taken a back seat for now. I am still doing what I can to help other authors but haven’t booked too many features in advance. It helps me to share the editing issues I have on Facebook and Twitter as other writers advise and get me back on track. Interesting! Do you do this as a general shout-out or do you have a group which you use to get feedback?
I use my FB page and my twitter account, so no group as such.
Are you a one-genre writer or do you enjoy writing in several genres?
Jessie: I have realised that I like to experiment with genres. My first novel – You Can’t Go It Alone– is contemporary romance and moves between the seventies and present day. My second novel – Loving You– is a historical romance set in entirely the seventies. I enjoy exploring the changing role of woman and the impact of the social context. However, I have also been drafting a light-hearted cosy romance and adore weaving the intrigue. This contemporary novel is set in my beloved Yorkshire.
Cryssa: Not sure that I would consider myself one-genre because what I write is historical fiction but with strong elements of historical romance. I’ve thought it would be easier if I was firmly in one camp, but then I might bore myself. I can’t imagine telling any story without romance involved, but I also love the drama of historical events too much not to build the foundation around them.
Tell us a bit about your books and what you are working on now.
Cryssa: My books are set during the English Civil War and the Interregnum (lovely choice of period, IMO), each story one step closer to the Restoration. Traitor’s Knot is about a highwayman and an herbalist who resist the new Parliamentarian regime. Severed Knot continues after Traitor’s Knot, but instead follows Scottish moss-trooper Iain Johnstone, one of the characters that appeared briefly in the first book, who is now a prisoner of war.
I’m working on a next book, which will feature yet another character who appeared in both Traitor’s Knot and Severed Knot: Nathaniel Lewis, a morally ambiguous lawyer who gets things done by nefarious means.
Each book is a standalone so the reader is welcome to read them in any order.
As I said: looking forward to Severed Knot. I also rather like that we both have books set in 17th century Barbados, although my indenture is a Monmouth rebel, not a royalist during the ECW…
Jessie: You Can’t Go It Alone explores the contrasting opportunities of women across three generations. It is a feel good novel with serious issues. I am currently editing Loving You (working title) which is the prequel to You Can’t Go It Alone. Loving You is a romance set in the seventies against the backdrop of strikes, racism and sexism. I had fun getting inside Peal and Jim’s minds. I have been quite shocked at the interactions between the adorable factory girls. I love to explore social issues and the changes in society through the characters. I am about halfway through your first book (excellent title, BTW. Among other things, very applicable to us writers…) and enjoying it.
Which one of your books would you recommend to someone who wanted to check you out as a writer? Why?
Jessie: I have only published one book thus far, and I am proud of the feedback I have had about the characters, setting and feel good message. I have also been delighted with comments about my poetic style. I put my heart and soul into this book so this book will connect readers with me and my dreams and heartache.
Cryssa: I would say Severed Knot. I loved how the relationship between Iain and Mairead unfolds, from reluctant co-workers, to friends and then finally to lovers, all against the exotic background of 17th-century Barbados. And I made myself cry, which is really, really hard to do. That makes me worried. I SINCERELY hope there is a Happily Ever After involved!
What is your latest release and what is it about?
Cryssa: Severed Knot is being released June 7th. Iain Johnstone is a Scottish prisoner of war, captured after the King’s defeat at Worcester. He’s transported down to Barbados to work in the sugarcane fields as an indentured servant and his path crosses Mairead O’Coneill who has been ripped from her home during the English conquest of Ireland. They become allies then lovers and depend on each other to survive. Together, they struggle to escape their bondage and reclaim their lives.
Jessie: You Can’t Go It Alone is ‘a novel with a warm heart’ and is the first book in a family saga.
Set in a Welsh village, the story explores the contrast in attitudes and opportunities between different generations of women. As the characters confront their secrets and fears, they discover truths about themselves and their relationships. The reader is invited to laugh and cry, with the characters, and find joy in the simple things in life. Listen to the music and enjoy the food, as you peek inside the world of the inhabitants of Delfryn.
Let Sophie show you that no one can go it alone. Who knows, you may find some friends with big hearts… Love, music and secrets are woven together in this poignant, heart-warming narrative.
Jessie Cahalin is a Yorkshire author living in Cardiff, Wales. Wales and words have a special place in her heart. She loves to entertain and challenge readers with her contemporary fiction and wants everyone to meet the characters who’ve been hassling her for years. Jessie is also the innovator of the popular Books in Handbag Blog. Connect withe jessie on FB or on Twitter
Cryssa Bazos is an award-winning historical fiction author and 17th-century enthusiast with a particular interest in the English Civil War. Her debut novel, Traitor’s Knot, is the Medallist winner of the 2017 New Apple Award (historical fiction), a finalist for the 2018 EPIC eBook Awards (historical romance) and the RNA Joan Hessayon Award. Her second novel, Severed Knot, was longlisted for the Historical Novel Society 2018 New Novel Award. Find her on her website or connect with her on Twitter and FB !