Writers are often advised to read widely in the genre in which we write. As a blogger, I try to do the same thing -- checking out other blogs and supporting the ones that stand out.
One blog I particularly enjoy is “Random Writing Rants,” a joint effort from a trio of writers: two adults with different writing backgrounds and a teen who stops by as homework allows - an apt combination, since the blog’s subhead is “Teaching Adults and Teens How to Get Published.”
One of these bloggers just released her debut novel, Cache a Predator, which explores fathers and daughters, sexual predators and the fallout they create.
Sound creepy? It’s not. Well, maybe a little -- in places -- but you always know who you’re rooting for. How does it end? I honestly can’t tell you...yet. I still have about 100 pages to go, and my Kindle is fully charged so I can read it when I go to the beach.
But in the meantime, I had a chance to chat with the author, Michelle Weidenbenner, someone I’m delighted to have gotten to know online. Welcome, Michelle.
Hi, Lisa. Thanks so much for hosting me today. Thanks also for taking time to get to know the writers at RWR and for reading Cache A Predator. By the way, what do you think of that title? Does it fit the book?
It does! Actually, the title was what drew me to the book - it’s so clever! The book has some very emotional themes, Michelle. What was the spark that made you decide to tackle this as fiction?
Someone in my life was struggling with substance abuse at the time I was writing this novel, and I was concerned about the children, often fearing they'd wander off without the parents knowing. That gave me the "what if" for my novel. I often ask myself when I'm brainstorming, "What if this happens, or what if that happens." Also, one of my brothers (I have five) went through a nasty divorce and feared he wouldn't get custody of his son, so the emotions for both of these scenarios were raw, close to me. That makes it easier for me to write.
Did these themes present any special challenges for you when you were writing the book?
The themes in this novel are father's rights, CASA, child abuse, geocaching, and sex-offenders. Some of these topics aren't really fun.
I had to interview our county coroner who owns the funeral home to learn how to open a casket. I also interviewed the county deputy to discover how they would investigate a case like this. It took me forever to find a social worker who would talk to me. They were too busy! I finally found one at a writer's conference in Wheaton IL in June of 2012 who helped answer my questions. What I discovered was that Child Protective Services is different in every state. I think the hardest part of my research was asking a physician friend how to sever a certain body part. Awkward! But hey, I had to get my facts right.
You sure had a lot of facts to keep straight! Speaking of which, geocaching (which I’d never heard of before) plays a large role in this novel. Can you tell us a little about what that is and how it works?
One of my writer friends I met through the Indiana chapter of the ACFW (HoosierInk) said, "You should write a book about geocaching." I said, "What's that?" I had no clue, but it sounded interesting. Here's a definition: Geocaching is a treasure hunting game where you use a GPS to hide and seek containers. Typically there's random stuff in the cache boxes or containers—nothing of real value. The fun is finding the hidden box.
I researched geocaching in our area and found a lady at our local library who has played this sport in 13 states and found over 275 cache boxes. My thought was, "Cool. What if someone put body parts in these boxes." Then my imagination took over from there and my villain was created. But I wanted readers to feel sorry for my villain. I like to show both sides of the story because that's real life.
I think you do a good job of that. I haven’t yet finished the book, but I’ve reached a point where the villain does something impulsive that will definitely have fallout!
Michelle, I know you have an agent. Why did you choose to self-publish?
Great question. My agent works for a Christian Literary Agency and some of the content in this novel didn't lend itself to the Christian market. However, Christians have read the book and loved it. I was pleased my agent said to try it on my own. I could have looked for another agent, but decided it's more fun learning the marketing tips and tricks on my own. I've always been an entrepreneur. I love that I don't have to wait for someone to validate that I write well. Hiring a developmental editor really helped build my confidence too. I wanted to publish a well-written novel. I didn't want to look like an amateur. Do you know what I mean?
Yes, I do - and after watching you launch this book, I may be hitting you up for tips in a few months! What are the best thing and worst things about self-publishing a book?
It's a double-edged sword. The answer is the same for both. The best part is not having to wait for a publisher and managing the whole process myself, being in control. The worst part is doing it all myself. Ha! I'm taking all the risk. I don't have anyone to lead me or recommend marketing one way or another. I have no one to bounce ideas off of. However, I found an awesome site that helps Indie authors called World Literary Cafe. It's wonderful. The authors there sincerely help each other. Their hearts are in it. They're not afraid to share great tips. They have TWEET TEAMS too. It's a great support system. I highly recommend having a support system whether you're self-publishing or publishing the traditional way.
Anything else you’d like to share with us?
I'm having a Facebook Release Party next Tuesday, July 30. I was so nervous because I didn't have a clue what that was or what to do, but it's supposed to help launch your novel. So I hired the RELEASE DAY DIVA, and I'm shocked at how many people are coming. All you have to do is sit at your computer, answer silly questions, play little games, meet lots of people and win prizes, my prizes. I went to someone else's launch party last night and met so many awesome people. Some reviewers that were there asked if they could read my novel, write a review, and post it at their blog. I'm meeting so many book reviewers and blog interviewers that it's overwhelming. (I'll be sharing my list of reviewers at RWR to help authors soon.) I've had to keep track of who I'm meeting because I really care, and I don't want this to be all about me. It takes time to nurture these friendships, learn about them too. Today I had a woman from Egypt join my "team" of influencers. She's incredible. She loves CSI. Can you imagine that? The wide world of Indie publishing is still all foreign to me, but I'm learning quickly. I'll be heading out on a two-week blog tour with Book Promotional Tours in August.
If any of your readers have questions about being an Indie author please ask. Also, if any of your readers are brave enough to read Cache a Predator and write a review I'd be pleased to share my story.
If you’d like to “talk” to Michelle, please leave a comment below. I know she’s planning to check back and I also know from first-hand experience that she’s very gracious about responding. If you think you’d like to read Cache a Predator, I’m sure she’ll be happy to help get a copy into your hands!