Dear Writer-Friends,

I've been self-publishing since 2011, and I've shared the knowledge I've gained in two books: the Indie Author Survival Guide, Second Edition, and For Love or Money. I'm not an indie rockstar or a breakout success: I'm one of thousands of solidly midlist indie authors making a living with their works. These books are my way of helping my fellow authors discover the freedom of indie publishing. Write on, writer-friends!

S.K. Quinn, Independent Author of Science Fiction

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Monday, February 4, 2013

Meet Mari Mancusi, author of TomorrowLand

Today I have Mari Mancusi as a guest for tea and chat, plus a giveaway of her book at the end! First, a little about Mari and then pull up a chair and join the conversation…

Mari Mancusi is a young adult author with an 8-book series of Blood Coven vampire books through Penguin, as well as Gamer Girl (which looks totally cute and fun) and a couple post-apoc novels. She lives in Texas, goes goth clubbing (what??), and used to be a journalist, but now works as a freelance TV producer and writes books for teens. She’s jumped into the indie pond with her backlist title Tomorrow Land, a post-apoc zombie tale with love and world-saving all wrapped up together. Color me intrigued! Here’s the blurb:

Can true love survive the end of the world?

Imagine finding your first love, only to be ripped apart by the apocalypse. Peyton Anderson will never forget the day she was forced to make a choice--between her family--and Chris Parker, the boy she'd given her heart. And now, four years later, as she steps from the fallout shelter and into a dead and broken world, he's the only thing on her mind.

All Chris "Chase" Parker wanted was to take Peyton away and keep her safe from harm. But he waited for hours in the rain on judgment day and she never showed--breaking his heart without ever telling him why.

Now the two of them have been thrown together once again, reluctant chaperones of a group of orphan children in a post-apocalyptic world where the dead still walk...and feed. As they begin their pilgrimage to the last human outpost on Earth, can they find a way to let go of old hurts and find the love they lost--all the while attempting to save what's left of the human race?

Pull up a chair and join Mari and Me for a chat about post-apocalyptic worlds, mindjacking zombies, and the freedom of being indie…

SUE: *scoots chair closer to the table* Okay, I’ve activated a thought-wave disruptor shield around the café, so we should be safe from any evil mindjackers that might stop by for a latte. But I’m a little concerned about bringing both our futuristic book-worlds together. I mean, you have zombies, right? Do we need to fortify the door?

MARI: But of course! After all, what self-respecting apocalypse doesn't have a few of the walking dead wandering around? You did bring your double-barreled shotgun right? Guns were outlawed in my world a few years ago by the government so I'm not going to be much help in that department. Mostly we just hole up in the local WalMart and pray for the best. 

I know, I know, you're like "A WalMart? Really?" But don't knock 'till you try it--turns out a WalMart has everything you need to survive a zombie apocalypse. 

Hmm. I wonder if zombies' minds can be jacked? I mean, on the one hand they probably wouldn't be able to put up much of a fight. On the other--is there enough gray matter left to make use of? 

SUE: Jacking zombies – now there’s a thought. A rather nasty thought. I think I’d prefer shooting them to diving into what’s left of their mindfield and getting lost in the blood-lust-crazy there. *grimaces and puts gun on the table* I’ll be sure to double-tap if any make it through the door. *sips tea, black, no milk, no sugar, none of that sissy stuff* Now, tell me, how does a nice girl like you, who was doing quite well for herself with vampire books, end up writing about post-apoc zombies? And now that you’ve jumped into the indie publishing world with your backlist novel, do you think you’ll indie publish follow-on works, making Tomorrow Land into a series?

MARI: Not that I don't love myself a good vampire (Team Spike!), but after writing eight books in the series, I was feeling a bit like a zombie myself! Tomorrow Land was originally published traditionally as part of Dorchester's Shomi line. Not sure if you heard about all the badness that went down with the publisher's demise, but let's just say it was about as pretty as I’d imagine a zombie mindjack to be. I was one of the fortunate ones—who got their rights back for their books. So I figured—why not take advantage of the awesomeness that is indie publishing and make the book available again? Not to mention hopefully recoup some of my lost royalties. Sigh.

As for a sequel, I’m thinking more of another book set in the world rather than a pure sequel. I think a post-apocalyptic wasteland just has so much potential! (That’s not weird, right?) *Looks around a bit nervously* Ahem. You’re sure this disrupter shield is sound?

In any case, I know readers love sequels and spin-offs and that sort of thing. In fact, I see that as a distinct advantage to indie publishing. You can give readers what they want, when they want it. (Okay, maybe not exactly when!) Still, you don’t have to worry about a publisher going out of business or just not wanting your series to continue. The readers dictate—not the corporations!

When you started your Mindjack series – did you always know it would be a trilogy? 

SUE: As soon as I decided to publish Open Minds, I knew it had to be a trilogy – there was just too much of Kira’s story left to tell. In fact, that was one of the reasons I chose the indie route –I wanted to write the rest of the trilogy, and going through a publisher would have meant waiting to see if the first book sold before writing the next two. And you’re exactly right that indie publishing gives you so much freedom that way – which is how I ended up writing three novellas for the series as well. Once readers (and writers!) get into a world, they really want to play around in it for a while, and it’s great fun to be able to give readers more of what they want!

And sorry to hear about the Great Publisher Meltdown, but I’m glad you (and all authors these days) have that indie option. It really opens up the possibilities. One thing I’ve found about indie publishing is that it changes how I write – in the sense that I’m driven more by what moves me as a writer, and less by what’s selling or what editors/agents are looking for. For example, I’m almost done with the first draft of a steampunk fantasy romance with a strong east-indian aesthetic. It’s a complete genre mashup, but I love it! And when I’m done, hopefully readers will too. Another example: I just had a story idea literally over the weekend. Three days later, I’m done with the 11k novella. It’s something totally different from what I’ve written before – darker, grittier – but I fully intend to polish it up and publish it and possibly turn it into an episodic serial of novellas. A week ago, I had no idea this would be in my writing plan for 2013, yet here it is… and in a few weeks, it will probably be up on Amazon for sale. Then I can see if anyone else likes it too. 

I’ll be curious to see if your indie publishing experience affects you as a writer this way too, as you get further into it! I know we have more Tomorrow Land related works coming down the pike, but what would be your dream project, if there were no limits, no restraints on what you could write/publish? Also where can we find you and your books (links please! The wifi in this café works even with the disruptor shield activated)?

MARI: Dream project, huh? Well, I have this book called The Camelot Code. We call it my cursed book because it's sold to two different traditional publishers over the last 7 years and both of them basically shut down their YA lines before it could be published. And then the third publisher we almost sold it to--I mean, contract in hand!--backed out at the last second this fall. ARGH! The rest of the trad publishers wouldn't touch it because it's a tween with fantasy elements. Too old for middle grade, but too young for today's YA market - which tends to gear toward older teens and darker subject matters. It really sucks, too, because it's my dream project and I just know that it would find an audience if only someone would give it a chance. I would indie publish it--and who knows, maybe I should--but I'm not sure there's a market yet for indie tween. The tweens I know, even if they have e-readers have to see the book in a physical format, like at the library or in a bookstore--before they'll go download it onto their kindles. They're just not trolling the lists online. I know this will change in time, but for now, my beloved Camelot Code remains under the bed.  (Or, you know, a dusty computer file.) 

Sob story aside, I am fortunate enough to be publishing my other dream project, a trilogy called "Scorched" with Sourcebooks in September. It's basically Terminator but with a dragon apocalypse instead of Skynet. I'm super excited about that one as it combines what I love about fantasy novels with a modern day sensibility. 

Oh and links, yes, yes we love links. Here's the rundown: website, facebook, twitter, Tomorrow Land Buy Links.

Also - steampunk fantasy romance with east-indian aesthetic? Um, awesome! I love hybrids. I love writing them, I love reading them! And I love that indie publishing paves the way for more! Oh and I love that I won't have to wait 2 1/2 years for it to be published. Because I'd like to read! You can hook that up, right? Too bad I can't just jack it straight from your mind. I'm still waiting for the day when I can just "think" a book straight into MS Word...

 SUE: Ha! I guess maybe I should stop building my storyboard on Pinterest and get busy on finishing the book, eh? For now, I still have to do it the old fashioned way, fingers-to-keyboard. 

Your dream stories sound awesome (dragons! Yes! *nods sagely*). I think you're right about the tween indie market not being quite there - kids still discover their books through gatekeepers like teachers and librarians. But that's slowly changing. My three boys each have their own ereaders - the time is coming when they will browse the kid's bestseller lists just like they browse YouTube for the latest Minecraft videos.

Thanks so much for stopping by today and sharing your journey with us, and best of luck with all your books!

Don't forget to enter the giveaway for Mari's book!
(ebook or print - US only for print)
(plus hop over to Mari's blog to enter to win Open Minds and a signed copy of Mari's Blood Coven!)

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