Today I am thrilled to welcome novelist Amber Stokes to The Overweight Bookshelf. Amber has graciously agreed to let me probe her mind on the process of self-publishing, her upcoming release, and what’s next for budding writing career.
Amber Stokes has a Bachelor of Science degree in English and a passion for the written word – from blogging to writing poetry, short stories, and novels. After her brief time at college in Oregon, she is now back home among the redwoods of Northern California, living life one day at a time and pursuing her passion via freelance editing and self-publishing.
Prequel to Bleeding Heart
Old hurts, new betrayals, and a love that survives them all…
A startling revelation sends Elizabeth Lawson escaping into a stormy night – and tosses her into the arms of a young mountain man with secrets of his own. When he offers to take her to the Nevada mining town where her long-lost brother lives, she accepts. Suspicions and uncertainties are pushed aside as she struggles to forge a future for herself by meeting her past.
David has been hiding from his painful memories for years. The solitude and wildness of the Rocky Mountains are challenge and comfort enough for him – until Elizabeth’s arrival. Fueled by anger and a sense of obligation, he strives to take control of his new situation…only to find control slipping from his grasp with each new emotion Elizabeth evokes in him.
When their journey leads them on unexpected paths, can two lonely hearts find the strength to remember the good amid the heartbreak?
Self-publishing is a very brave and daunting endeavour. What has the process been like for you?
While there have certainly been stressful aspects (and it’s all very time-consuming), it’s been a very rewarding journey so far. It was all made doable by the people that God brought into my life, especially Lena Goldfinch (my cover designer/formatter/mentor), Rachelle Rea (my editor/proofreader), and Elizabeth Ludwig (my other editor). I honestly don’t know if I would have even had the gumption to pursue self-publishing if not for Lena, who was willing to answer my questions and guide me along with all that she had learned from her own projects. And credit also has to go to Sandra Leesmith, my first editing/publicity client. She wanted to hire me to help her self-publish one of her backlist books, and so it was that I had to figure out how the whole indie publishing thing worked. I self-published Bleeding Heart a couple of months after we self-published Sandra’s Love’s Miracles.
Basically, the process involves editing (a couple or several rounds), formatting, obtaining a cover, and deciding how you want to distribute the book. The formatting and cover design aspects are more involved for the paperback versions (I rely on Lena’s expertise for that!). Then there’s the marketing…which is really fun, but requires a lot of time and effort. I probably spend more time on the marketing than I should, but I can’t seem to help myself. 😉 I love the creativity involved, and it ties in with my passion for blogging.
All the covers of your books are stunning. Can you give us any “behind-the-scenes” insider information in to the creative process?
Thank you! All credit goes to Lena for the beautiful cover designs. But I have had a lot of fun brainstorming with Lena! We generally create secret boards on Pinterest and pin stock photos we like that fit with the story/title/genre. Lena then starts to get an idea for composition possibilities and puts together a rough design. From there, if we both like the overall look, Lena finalizes it and then takes into consideration my input on any tweaks. I have a blast seeing the ideas come together and having discussions with Lena via comments. She’s a joy to work with!
If you’d like some more details about the design processes behind each of the three covers I’ve revealed so far, be sure to check out the cover reveal posts: Bleeding Heart, Forget Me Not, Morning Glory.
What are your must-haves while writing and editing?
Mostly my laptop, although it is nice to have my Bible, The Chicago Manual of Style, and The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in the 1800s on hand when editing. And I often like to listen to music, although I might have to only listen to it in between bouts of writing and editing if the lyrics become too distracting. This could explain why it takes me so long to get stuff done, haha. 😉 As for what music I like, I have an eclectic taste. I’m especially fond of bluegrass and folk, as well as country, certain soundtracks, and groups like The Civil Wars, Mumford & Sons, and Owl City (not entirely sure how to properly label them!).
When was the idea for Forget Me Not birthed? What were the growing pains to bring this story to completion?
It was at some point while I was in high school, I believe. I’m sure the need for me to write Forget Me Not was birthed when I experienced a similar revelation to my heroine’s at the start of the book, but I think it really came together during one of our trips to Nevada. Virginia City—the mining town made famous by the “Big Bonanza” silver strike—really captured my imagination, and I wanted to incorporate it into a story.
As for growing pains, there were plenty! It took me a long time to actually get the story all down on paper, and then I set it aside for over two years because I couldn’t face editing it. When I did get around to rewrites and edits this last December, I realized that the beginning needed a complete overhaul and I had to rework a lot of the wording because my skill and style had changed.
What is the message you wish to convey to readers in Forget Me Not?
That they are remembered. That even when situations in life don’t turn out as they wish them to, God is still working for their good, and there is hope.
What are your favourite attributes of these characters?
I love Elizabeth’s spunk. Even though she doesn’t always go about things the right away, I appreciate that she’s willing to take risks and follow after her dreams with her whole heart.
I love David’s quiet spirit and his protectiveness. I appreciate that he’s willing to own up to his mistakes and make sacrifices for the people he loves.
I love Joe’s forthrightness in this story. Does that mean he’s always as open and honest as he should be? Definitely not. And yet, he’s not afraid of showing his heart and calling things like they are (most of the time). I guess the thing I like about him is that he tries really hard to succeed at whatever it is he’s pursuing.
I love Myghal’s loyalty and steadfastness. You seriously couldn’t ask for a better friend, as he’s always looking out for the best interests of others.
There are several other characters in Forget Me Not, but I’ll leave it at that. 🙂
What is next for this series?
Up next is Morning Glory, Myghal’s continuing story. (Finally, right?) I also have some shorter companion projects I want to work on. After I’m done with those, though, I think I’ll conclude the series, as I have another story idea in a completely different genre that I want to pursue!
If The Heart’s Springs was picked up as a mini series (ala Janette Oke’s When Calls the Heart), who would you cast in the starring roles?
Oh, how fun! I always thought it would be awesome to have Michael Landon Jr. want to make my book(s) into a movie. 😉
The one hard thing about this question is that I’ve found what I think are good actor/actress matches for my characters, but I envision them as they are in certain movies instead of as they are today. So…these matches wouldn’t all completely work for this scenario because the actors might be a little too old for the roles now. (No offense to them, though! LOL)
David: John Cusack (as he appears in The Journey of Natty Gann)
Elizabeth Lawson: Alexis Bledel (as she appears in Tuck Everlasting, or perhaps a little older)
Joe Clifton: Scott Bairstow (also from Tuck Everlasting, although perhaps a bit younger)
Seth Clifton: John Newton (from The Christmas Card)
Jacob Lawson: Randall Batinkoff (from the Christy TV series)
Annabelle Lawson: Robin Wright (from The Princess Bride)
Sally Clay: Jodie Foster (from Maverick—but a bit younger)
Rufus O’Daniel: Frank Converse (from Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel)
Myghal: I honestly don’t know who would fit him best! I like to compare his character to Gus Pike played by Michael Mahonen in the Road to Avonlea series—just picture him with red hair, I guess. 😉
There are some other characters, of course (and there will be more to introduce through Morning Glory), but you can check out my Pinterest boards to see more actor picks/pics!
Thank you so much Amber for sharing a bit of your heart with us! Don’t forget to visit Amber’s various sites and social media.