Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Ignorance Is Fearless

Author Cindy Gunderson

The air was filled with hot air balloons as the young couple stood talking. She could barely make out what they said, but the point was clear. This young mother could not go back to their old life. That was not an option. Cindy Gunderson awoke but the dream of the couple stuck with her. What had brought them to that point? Why couldn’t they go back? The dream haunted her and as she discussed it with her husband, and she was resolved not to leave them stranded as only a memory of a dream. Their story had to be discovered by and written, and it was up to her to do it.

Becoming an author had never really been on her bucket list. It probably should have been. From a young age, she loved to devour any book she could get her hands on, following in the footsteps of her veterinarian father and artistic mother who both love stories, literature, and poetry. And in her early years taking the provincial exams (something they do in Canada) she had gotten 100% on the writing portion. But despite this, being an author had never crossed her mind, and she was many years removed from that exam.

By now she had graduated in psychology from BYU and lived in the Denver area with her husband and four children. He was a successful optometrist. She had grown increasingly busy as she homeschooled her children, served in time-intensively church callings, and discovered that parenting teenagers brings unique and sometimes intense challenges as they seek to discover who they are. But despite the obvious challenge of, “When could I possibly find time to write?” she continued to feel the need to get this story written. So, she and her husband sat down and figured it out.

WARNING: Husbands may want to prevent your wives from reading past this point. Consider yourself for-warned.

They determined that he could take the kids every night after dinner and allow her to write. And write she did. The story flowed fast and in three weeks she had her first draft complete. This was in January of 2019. From here she quickly moved from writing to learning all she could about the book business. She began submitting her book, and after 20-30 rejections and no replies, an intern at Talcott and Notch replied. They didn’t accept the book, but they gave encouragement. It had potential but needed some significant revision: less passive voice, and don’t say, the character felt happy, just show the reader what happened and let them experience it with the character. If she made these changes she could resubmit, and she did. She reworked the book and got other advise. She got friends and family to read the book, and it didn’t hurt that she happened to marry into a family of grammar aficionados. After reworking the book, Cindy excitedly resubmitted to Talcott and Notch. Unfortunately, Talcott and Notch simply didn’t have time to take on the project but Cindy was not discouraged. She turned to learning about the world of self-publishing. And by September 2019 you could buy Tier 1, the beginning of the story of the couple from her dream. The timing was interesting, it was a dystopian novel that revolved around a pandemic (these were pre COVID days).

One of the points that I find so interesting is how much Cindy credits her success to ignorance. “I am so glad I worked and got it out there. I didn’t know a lot about how things were supposed to be, so I just moved forward, and if I had known everything I know now, I am not sure I would have had the courage needed to move forward and make the mistakes I needed to learn from.”

She was encouraged by positive feedback from those who read it and she quickly had the second book in the series, Tier 2, out by end of 2019. As she approached 2020 she decided she wanted to really see what she could accomplish as a writer. She again sat down with her husband and looked at how could she squeeze every second out of a day. She joined a trampoline park for her kids, and a ninja warrior class. Her husband worked Saturdays and therefore had one day off during the week he could take the kids. All these opportunities found Cindy’s fingers dancing across her laptop’s keyboard. The goal was six books in one year. She preset dates when each would be released and she went to work. Here was Cindy’s 2020 publishing schedule.

Feb. 24th, Tier 3

April 21st, Yes, And

July 14th, I Can’t Remember

October 12th, Let’s Try This Again, But This Time In Paris

November 25th, The Holly Bough Cottage

December 20th, The New Years Party

Not only did this push her in the volume of writing but it also allowed her to try different genres and styles. Each project was unique. Tier 3, made her first complete series. Yes, And, was in women’s fiction, a coming of age novel around an elderly women and millennial and how their lives come together and impact one another (this is her most popular novel). I Can’t Remember, a mystery novel about a women who wakes up everyday not able to remember her past. Let’s Try This Again, But This Time In Paris, was her first try at romance, and I was happy to see a romance about a married couple. Helping to add to the important body of work needed to show that romance should never end with, “I do.” The Holly Bough Cottage, her first collaboration with other authors, this book is part of a series of 13 books, each done by a different author. And lastly, The New Years Party, a book that spans 12 years but covered from the perspective of only one day each year, New years.

Six very different books. And she learned exactly how much she could produce, and that she never wanted to do it again. “It was good to see what I could accomplish but it was not the right balance with my family.” And what genre did she decide fit her best? All of them. “I know the advice is to stick to one genre, but I enjoy doing different things and this keeps me writing. I am hopeful that people will come to appreciate that I have good stories to tell even if they are in different genres.”

Her next project is another science fiction, but Cindy is not one to do something the same way twice so this time she is trying the world of traditional publishing. How did that come about? She attended the 20 Books to 50K conference in Las Vegas, and she volunteered to help out, something she recommended you always do since it gives you a chance to get to know the people on the inside and build much stronger relationships. This time it did pay off. She was assigned to help stream a class being given by Judith Anderle, and her husband Michael Anderle, one of the founders of 20 books to 50K, was there with her. They talked and she got to tell him about her project. He said, “Robin Cutler, the president of my publishing company, LMBPN, is in the next room, why don’t you pitch it to her?” Cindy did, and Robin asked her to send it to her. She sent it that night, and then for months she heard nothing. As usually undiscouraged she moved forward, but then the call came. They had run the book through several groups and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. She signed a contract and is working now to publish the four book series (the Unreal series) with them.

And then what will she do? I don't know but as long as she doesn't know that she can't, she'll just do it.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Perfectly Prolific


As I am looking forward to the publishing of my second book, “Of Pigs and Priests,” I wanted to take a little time to get to know other authors and write a little about their author journey. I was able to recently sit down with Britney M. Mills and loved getting to pick her brain about her time as an author.

While I have not gathered the data yet, I am convinced that the majority of successful authors share a few key traits and one of them is being prolific. It is hard to learn about Britney and describe her in any other way. She showed this trait early on when in fourth grade story writing assignment the other kids were concerned about the minimum they had to write she had the opposite problem. She just kept adding to the story, and the teacher finally had to tell her that she did have to wrap it up eventually.

From that very early age she knew writing was going to be a part of her life. The question was, in what way? After high school, she headed for Boston College where she had an athletic scholarship as the pitcher on the soft ball team. She majored in English, but originally considered it the first step in her desired career of lawyer. However, the day she went to take the LSAT she felt a need to head in a different direction and decided to serve a mission for her church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, in Washington DC.

After getting home she didn’t waste anytime getting real life experience with what would become her chosen genre, romance. She met her husband, started dating him and got engaged all in a four month span. The next few years were full of excitement as she began life with her new little family as they started having kids and moving around. He continued school and ultimately found his career in home building, but she was always thinking of ideas and desired to find a way to write.

She eventually decided to try her hand at fantasy. Her husband had the idea of a book around an academy for knights written from both the perspective of a 12 year old boy and his father. She found a  writing critique group on Facebook. It was a group of five other authors all at various levels, they would each submit a sample every week, read each other’s, and offer critique in their weekly virtual meeting. It was during these meetings that she started to get a feel for writing, crafting a story, and what it takes to get a book to completion. But after 2 and 1/2 years of struggling with the book she was ready to move onto something else. It was while watching a movie version of a Jane Austen book that she decided what that something else would be.

A modern telling of Jane Austen, a series of books starting with many people’s favorite, the matchmaking Emma. But could she do it? She had just given birth to triplets--yes, you read that right, three children, all at the same time. But despite the challenges associated with having three brand new babies added to her load of another child, she enjoyed the release writing brought her, and she took on this new project. Clearly, it was a good fit. She quickly found another critique group on Facebook this time one more focused on clean romance. She also looked into the various options for publishing, ultimately deciding to self-publish her work. This would give her control of the work, but meant she would have to find and pay for an editor and cover design. This was early 2018 and it was 100% complete and available for purchase by later that year.

From then she never looked back. Her second book, Austen Party of Two, the Pride and Prejudice retelling was released a few months later in December 2018. Her third, Austen Unscripted, a retelling of Persuasion in January 2019.

But how does a young mother of 4 (soon to be 5), three of which are triplets find time to write. When asked she credits it to several things. One, she is very consistent about nap time and uses that time wisely. Second, Thursday nights. These are the nights that her husband takes over kid duty and she drives down to his office and focuses for four hours on her writing. Third, writing blitzes, this is focused writing for 15 minute blocks were she can quickly get a significant amount written. She often writes 600-700 words in one blitz. And lastly, those pesky deadlines. She often sets a pre-order date on Amazon, and as it approaches she knows she has to deliver a book by that date. It keeps her moving.

This method is clearly a tried and true method because, since October 2018 when her first book was published she has published an impressive, 23 books. Let me say that one more time. In less than a four year span, she has written and published 23 books. That is about a book every 2 months. (I'd be happy with a book every 2 years).

When asked what is the best book to read first, she says she would recommend her book coming out in June, Matched with her Fake Fiancé. I guess like most authors, we find ourselves in love with our latest creation. The good news is when you go to pick one, because of what Britney has accomplished, you will have a large selection to choose from.

It was great getting to know Britney and if you would like to learn more about her or check out her books you can check out her webpage: https://britneymmills.com/