This week’s #SPFBO Author Interview is with Emerald Dodge. She is a debut author of superhero urban fantasy. A Virginia native, she is married to Alex, a nuclear electrician in the US Navy, with whom she has two young sons. When she is not writing, Emerald enjoys cooking, baking, reading, going to Mass, and FaceTiming her many relatives around the nation. Alex and Emerald look forward to moving to new stations and states, and they love to make new friends wherever they go.
What drew you to self-publishing?
I queried literary agents for eighteen months, and the vast majority of interested agents passed on Battlecry because (in their own words), they didn't know how to market it. My main character is twenty, so too old for YA but too young to appeal to general audiences, apparently. It's a female-led action novel. It has as much human drama as action. Agents felt that as good as it is, it wouldn't be an easy sell.
I disagreed. I feel that a good novel does much of its own legwork via word-of-mouth. Indeed, helped out by a structured marketing plan backed up by market research, Battlecry has done exceptionally well for a debut novel.
What advice do you have for anyone new to self-publishing?
Do your research before making any decisions. Research trends in your genre and overall market trends. Study the pros and cons of Kindle Unlimited vs. wide. Look at your comp titles and see how they phrase their blurbs and what the covers look like. Check out current marketing tools and why they work.
A dragon lands in front of your Main Character, what would they do?
Jill would immediately direct Ember, the team's animal telepath, to ask the dragon what it wants. If the dragon is hostile, she will quickly devise a strategy to neutralize the dragon. If the dragon is a threat to the team or their city, she will order Marco or Reid to kill it without any hesitation.
If the dragon is friendly, she'd ask to ride it.
Does a big ego help or hurt writers?
Big egos can only hurt people. Writers who think that they're the reincarnation of Kerouac or Vonnegut are the worst kinds of writers. They generally can't take constructive criticism, so they don't improve. They step on aspiring writers and crush dreams, and for every writer with an inflated ego, there are 100 writers with fragile egos.
What is the most unethical practice in the publishing industry?
I've recently become aware of how widespread embezzling is within literary agencies, and it's made me even more leery of possibly going that route one day. A lack of financial transparency will be traditional publishing's wooden stake if they don't change their practices, especially since more and more authors are going hybrid and will demand the same transparency that they've enjoyed as indie authors. I already love that I can access my sales data without a middleman, and I will never give this up just for the slick appeal of having a literary agent.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I'm part of Enclave Authors, a professional writing collaborative comprising the immensely talented Miranda Honfleur (another SPFBO4 contender!), Emily Allen West, Ryan Muree, Nicolette Andrews, and Katherine Bennet. All of these women demand pure excellence from me! Not only have they held my hand throughout my debut, but they deliver honest (though kind) feedback on my work, which is invaluable to any writer. They helped me clear up the clutter in my writing style, and have shared tips and tricks for improving scenes. It's such an honor to be counted among their number.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
When I was eight years old, my third-grade teacher told us to write a short story called "If I Were One Inch Tall." I recall everyone else writing about flying on butterflies and sneaking into candy stories, but I wrote a somber tale of being lonely and friendless because, hey, the prompt never said that anybody else was an inch tall. My teacher called me out in front of the whole class and told me that my story had upset her and that she wanted me to write it again. Everyone's a critic.
I was shocked that something I'd written had elicited an emotional response. In hindsight, I can see that she didn't expect a young child to produce something so serious. Call me wicked, but I've come to relish that "demographic shock," that surprise that Someone Like Me (whatever that means to the person) wrote something like That. These days, it's the surprise that mild-mannered homemaker Emerald Dodge, mommy and baker of tasty treats, moonlights as an author of violent and rather dark novels about cults and the politics of power.
If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?
I'd probably wait until my sons are school age, and then earn my esthetician's license. I love spas and skin care, and would probably enjoy working in that industry. I may do that in the future anyway.
What did you edit out of this book?
The most substantial edit was the wholesale removal of a plotline in the second half. In the original version, I used that plot line to explore why the villain was the way he was via a bit of symmetry with the main character. Basically, she was making choices and going down the same road. None of my beta readers liked it, and it really was a bit of a sinkhole, pacing-wise. I ended up removing it and moving some other parts around.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
In my experience, there are two big ones that trip people up: taking yourself too seriously, and not taking yourself seriously enough.
Writers who take themselves too seriously are the ones who can't take criticism, and generally the ones who suck the joy out of the craft for themselves and everyone else around them. Every conversation about writing turns into a philosophy lecture about "the art." Interestingly, these types frequently have WIPs but are often not published.
Writers who don't take themselves seriously enough never go anywhere because they don't believe that they deserve to be read. They don't try to improve, they don't network, they don't market, and they don't succeed. I see this often in young writers who often talk about writing, and maybe even hope to be a writer "one day," but they shrivel in the sunlight. It's hard to watch.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
I bought a new MacBook Air so I could use Vellum. Expensive, but worth it.
To learn more about Emerald Dodge and find out about her upcoming projects, check out these links: