Updated: Mar 3, 2020
It's Indie Author Sunday! Every other Sunday, we're posting an interview with a different indie author along with posts about them on all our social media accounts. This week it's Talia Felix, the author of The Virgin and the Bull.
WW: Tell us about your experience with Indie publishing?
TF: I have a few different pen names I use for different kinds of books... I had tolerably good results publishing nonfiction books, but I admit I've been disappointed so far with fiction. If you don't have a lot of friends who read your genre to help you get started, it's very difficult to acquire the sales, reviews and word of mouth you need to get anyone else interested.
WW: Tell us about your book.
TF: My latest book is The Virgin and the Bull. The name alone is so lurid that both Facebook and Amazon don't want to let me advertise. It has two or three graphic sex scenes, but it's actually no worse than your typical HBO soap operas, in that regard... the story is actually a noir. There are no good guys. Everyone is doing something immoral. The "bull" of the story is a fellow named Charles Macgregor, who, despite his better judgment, gets ensnared by the underage daughter of his business partner -- note, she's the one coming after him, and not really letting him refuse. Still, he does want to do everything honestly as possible. Things, however, don't go smoothly for an inexperienced, honest guy in this position; and he can't stay honest for long.
WW: What made you want to write in the genre of your book?
TF: I like historical fiction because I like to read stuff that is kind of removed from anything resembling my own life... not to mention that, in the past, there were often a lot of weird social requirements that created problems for people. Of course it's better for everyone's real lives that we don't have these rules anymore, but for a story it is going to be more interesting the more problems that the characters have. For instance, in another book of mine called The Cut of the Clothes, which tells the true story of Prinny (King George IV of Great Britain) and Beau Brummell -- if Prinny lived today, and fell in love with a Catholic woman as he did, it might raise a few eyebrows but it would generally be considered much worse to refuse to marry her only because she was a Catholic than to marry her despite her Catholicism. I'm pretty sure the law that forbade such royal marriages has been done away with. That guy's whole life could have been different if he had been able to marry who he wanted instead of who his parents chose for him. Yet that's the sort of thing that makes a more interesting story. In Virgin and the Bull we make use of issues like 21 being the old age of majority, so the heroine (if you want to call her that) cannot consent to her own marriage till she reaches that age. There were also other things going on, like kind of lax requirements for entering the clergy, meaning they had a lot of priests who were effectively in it for the money and prestige as opposed to genuine piety or religiosity. These sorts of long-gone events just make for a more interesting world.
WW: What has been your favorite part of being an Indie Author?
TF: I can write and publish a lot more quickly. If I send books out to publishers for consideration, it can be months just to hear back from them, then, if they accept, several months more before the book is released. When I self publish, I can have the book out within a couple days of finishing it. I also like that I know my own sales and when they happen -- with publishers I just get my royalties a couple times a year, if they remember, and I don't get real-time accounts of when books have sold.
WW: What do you wish you knew before going the indie-publish route?
TF: That most of the info you find online about "how to make great money doing book sales" are outdated or really only work if you already inexplicably have a fanbase of 100,000 followers somehow established before you actually publish anything.
WW: What books or authors have inspired you?
TF: For Virgin and the Bull, oddly, a lot of inspiration came from a Dean Koontz novel I read when I was about twelve, called Whispers. I do not think I have read anything else by that author, but that book was my standard of luridness to follow. A lot of the other inspirations are mentioned in the author's notes -- Walter Scott, the Marquis de Sade, Samuel Richardson, the Baron von Goethe. Plus there are some portions where I deliberately looked to Alice Sebold and T.E. Lawrence for my models.
WW: Are you working on anything now?
TF: The character of Francis Exenchester is hinted to have quite a backstory, in Virgin and the Bull; so I decided to actually write the book all about that part of his life. It's taking a long time because it's a difficult subject to do well; it's virtually the plot of a Marquis de Sade novel made into a gay-oriented crime story set in the late 18th century. It's called Steps of the Malefactor.
WW: What does your writing space look like?
TF: It generally looks like a laptop computer that get set down wherever is most convenient. Sometimes it looks like a printed stack of papers and a red marker that gets set down wherever is most convenient.
WW: What is your writing process like?
TF: I have a couple of different styles, but usually I figure out some kind of plot structure before I start -- I was trained for screenwriting, and lots of your screenwriting training is about plot structure. The Regency Romantics books had every chapter planned in advance, whereas Virgin and the Bull I only knew how I wanted it to begin and how I wanted it to end, and a few scenes I wanted within. Then, it usually works best if I plan how many words I want the book (or at least the first draft) to be, and give myself a daily quota for the word count. Once the first draft is done, I read it to see how it turned out, and we start revision from there, basically until we hit the point where revisions are not making the book any better -- that's the mark that we've done all we can. For historical fiction like Virgin and the Bull where I want period-correct language, typically the first draft is just written out with whatever wording comes to me, modern slang and all if that's the case. Then I go back after all the rewrites and fix the dialogue, usually after reading a bunch of literature in the style I want. It makes getting beta readings difficult, because if I want a beta, it's usually to check on plot; and that means I want to show them the draft where I haven't yet spent weeks correcting the language (since if there's a plot problem I might have to revise large sections, and I don't want to do the linguistic work just to throw it all out.) Unfortunately I have found betas often want to focus on the language, even if I tell them not to, and thus give me lots of feedback I can't use. So, I rarely involve betas; I just have to trust the fact that I hate most things I read to guide me in doing it myself.
WW: What advice would you give writers looking at indie publishing?
TF: Well, you pretty much have to do all your own advertising, so make sure you know how to do that and are able to do that. If you don't have money to waste, it's a full time job in itself, if you want sales.
WW: How connected are you to the indie publishing community? What is that experience like?
TF: I'm just kind of like an indie hobo, just making use of the food banks and whatnot.
WW: Which platforms do you use to promote your work?
TF: Facebook and Goodreads seem to get best results. I have tried a few other platforms but didn't get good enough results. Paid advertising has been a disaster so far.