On Fridays right here, writers talk about their books, their process, where they’ve been, and where they’re going. Today we celebrate HEATHER BALOG's win on Kindle Scout with THE DEAD OF SUMMER, launched on September 29th through Kindle Press.
Funny and charmingly awkward Kennedy Ryan is sixteen years old with a dominating (and gorgeous) best friend, a mother who won't leave the house, and a crush on Carson, the mysterious new boy in town. Her life is totally normal...or so she keeps telling herself until her mother begins acting strangely, or at least more strangely than usual. When Kennedy stumbles upon a dead body hidden in the basement, she enlists Carson’s help to solve the mystery, and it’s sayonara normalcy, and quite possibly goodbye to everything she knows.
- Your novel did well on Kindle Scout and launched on Tuesday. Congratulations! Can you share why you decided to go with Kindle Scout and let us in on some of the highlights of your campaign?
Yes! I celebrated with my first back to school cold attacking me full force! Hehehe...no, I didn't really do anything to celebrate. This is the first book I have not self-pubbed, so it's been a little weird for me not to be able to see how it's doing. I will probably save the celebration for when I get my first royalty report.
As for why I decided to go with Kindle Scout--every year I participate in NaNoWriMo in November. I have been participating in The Amazon Breakthrough Novel in the beginning of every year as well, using my NaNo novel. Each year, I've gotten farther along in the contest--I was hoping that 2015 would be my year to be a finalist. But unfortunately, there was no ABNA Contest this year. After a little research, my husband (who is sometimes my helpful assistant) stumbled upon Kindle Scout and encouraged me to enter my NaNoWriMo 2014 novel. I was very nervous at first--I wasn't sure how it would be received. But when I had tons of shares from my Facebook page and it was hot and trending for almost 200 hours of the campaign, I was blown away by the support and thrilled that I had decided to take this leap of faith.
- What were the most challenging aspects of writing this book, and what came easily? Is there something special about THE DEAD OF SUMMER that makes it a standout from your other work?
For me, the hardest part was writing in teen voice. As much as I claim to remember my teen years, I've blocked out a significant portion of the painful events...events that would help create believable teenage angst in my character, Kennedy. I had to dig deep to fell like a teen again (shiver). THE DEAD OF SUMMER is also my only published YA novel. I usually write Chick Lit and Women's Fiction.
The easiest part was creating the characters. I already had Kennedy, Carson, and Lindy's personalities in my head before I even wrote the first word. I loved those characters, their flaws and all. It's easy to write a character when you love them.
- What inspired you to write THE DEAD OF SUMMER?
Lately I've been reading a lot of YA novels. I have a son in high school and a daughter soon to be in middle school. I like to keep abreast of what's going on in their lives, not only through engaging with them (or as my son says, "spying on them"), but keeping current on movies, music, and book trends. So in my reading, I wondered why there weren't more YA Mystery/Suspense novels. Those were the kind I would have enjoyed as a pre-teen or teen. So I set out to write a funny, heartfelt, mysterious YA novel with a twist. I hope that I've succeeded with THE DEAD OF SUMMER.
- What did this book teach you about yourself as a writer and as a person?
With every book I write, I learn something new about the writing process, the publishing process, and myself. This book was no exception. This book taught me that I can make things happen for myself. I believed in THE DEAD OF SUMMER and shopped it around to a few agents at a conference. Several were very interested, but admitted that the sub-genre that I was aiming for was uncharted waters and they weren't sure about the market. I wanted to share this story and wouldn't take no for an answer, which is one of the reasons I ultimately decided to try Kindle Scout. And throughout the Kindle Scout process, I've gained valuable knowledge from writers who have gone before me and have inspired me. I have to be willing to take risks...not only in writing, but in my life. I would be missing out on so much had I not submitted my novel to Kindle Scout. Don't be afraid to fail---failure will happen. But you'll never succeed if you don't risk failure.
- You get to the end of your life, and there to escort you through the tunnel to the light beyond and show you around is a philosopher / author / artist / scientist / celebrity you've always revered. Who is it, and why him/her?
This is such a difficult question for me...there aren't many people of celebrity status that I admire. I'm definitely not someone awestruck by celebrity. But if I had to choose someone, I would say Judy Blume. It was her writing that inspired my love of reading as a child. I've always admired her ability to really connect with her readers, old and young, and I'd be thrilled to pick her brain. In fact, can I pick her brain now? I don't want to wait for the light at the end of the tunnel...
- Tell us about your other books, past or in the pipeline.
I wrote my first novel ALL SHE EVER WANTED in early 2011. I was going through a difficult time in my life and experiencing a lot of stress in my job. I began dreaming up the main character as sort of a stress relieving exercise and found writing about her was pretty cathartic. She was a career woman with everything she could dream of, yet her life felt incomplete. She made a lot of mistakes trying to find what was missing, and writing about her mistakes and the impact they made on her life, made my problems seem silly and insignificant. I actually wrote the whole thing in a marble notebook in six weeks, and then decided I loved the story so much, I would copy it to the computer. I was so proud of my efforts, I looked into self publishing, never thinking anyone would read it, let alone buy it. But when rave reviews and encouragement trickled in, I was inspired to write more. And I haven't been able to stop since. The next year I wrote a book about a mother who is suffering from post-partum depression and grieving the loss of a child at the same time. It took an emotional toll on me, so I ended up putting off publishing it for almost three years. I also wrote a book called LETTERS TO MY SISTER'S SHRINK about a suicidal bride who will only communicate with her therapist through letters.
After writing these emotional stories, I needed some fun. I opted for chick-lit, looking to try my hand at comedic writing. NOTE TO SELF: CHANGE THE LOCKS was much more light-hearted than what I was used to. And I loved writing it, knowing it would make people smile instead of weep. So I started to write a series about a (busybody) frazzled mom of four who stumbles upon mysteries and gets ensnared in them. Amy Maxwell is by far my favorite character to write...she's scatterbrained, and I think nearly any mom today can understand her. Yes, her antics are far-fetched, but that's what's so fun about the series...you know none of those things are happening to an everyday mom, but moms can relate all the same.
- What are your future plans as an author? How do you see your career developing?
This is kind of like the job performance reviews I have to write for my boss every year. ;)
I'd love to see my writing developing into a full time job. Correction...it IS a full time job. There is so much besides writing that authors must do to get their books read...it's mindblowing. But I haven't been able to dedicate the time to it that I'd like with my "real" full time job (the one that pays for my book habit). So in the future, I would love to be able to focus solely on writing. Until then, I'm content to continue with my Amy Maxwell series and occasionally work on deeper novels that tug at the heartstrings. I'd also like to be able to get more proficient with technology--I'm seriously pathetic--my ten year old has to help me with my iPad, and my fourteen year old helps me with Google. It would be great if I could spend more time on social media, letting readers know what I'm up to. And no, I won't post pictures of my dinner (unless it's AMAZING) or give blow by blow status updates of my day.
Heather Balog is mother to two small humans, one large grown-up husband, two furry canines, and one cranky cat. By day she is a school nurse, penning her novels by candlelight. While not writing, mothering, or working, she can be found with her nose in a book and a cleaning rag in her hand (or a glass of wine…). She not only writes novels, but is the snarky voice behind The Bad Mommy Diaries blog.
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