Tonight I caught up with Shawna Hunter author of Their Wild Little Girl and asked about the life of an independent writer and the things she’d wished she’d known before she started!
Q. Shawna, what drew you to writing Their Wild Little Girl?
A. Writing, especially erotica, has been a hobby of mine for a long time. My first novel began as a free writing exercise. No plan, just writing and letting the story develop on its own. I had intended to simply write another short story for my fetlife profile but when I reached 30,000 words and realized how much longer it would be I decided to take the plunge and write it as a real novel. I suppose, in short, you could say I did it on a whim.
Q. How long have you been writing?
A. I’ve been writing stories since I was a kid. My parents encouraged it as a hobby. I love English in high school and although I chose to major in sociology in my post-secondary years I never did stop writing my little stories. I didn’t try my hand at erotica until my early 20’s, however, and that’s when I really found my muse.
Q. How long did it take you to write this book?
A. The first draft for Their Wild Little Girl took me about a week and was much longer than the final version. I had thought to self-publish but instead decided on submitting to a publisher. I received about 2 dozen rejections before Stormy Night offered to take a chance on me, with extensive revisions. Including submission time, revision time and editing the novel’s development ballooned to 6 months but I enjoyed the journey. I probably could have done it faster but I have a full-time job. Writing, at this point, is just a hobby although I dream of one day making it a full-time career.
Q. What do you use to write your books?
A. I write on a computer. I used to use pen and paper but I found transferring my poor handwriting to type tedious. I still take notes on pen and paper to help the writing process but most of my work is done on a computer.
Q. What problems did you encounter?
A. I follow a very organic writing process. I do what feels right for the story. That did run me into some trouble with my content getting a bit too hardcore and over-detailed but I had a great editor who worked with me to trim the fat.
Q. How do you think you’ve evolved as a writer since you’ve started?
A. There are too many lessons to list. My grammar was atrocious for one thing and I had so many run on sentences it was easier to count the ones that didn’t fit that description. In terms of plot and character development I have really grown in that I was terrible for one dimensional, “samey” characters in the past and in this novel I feel I really created fleshed out human beings.
Q. Is there anything you wished you’d known when you started writing?
A. Actually writing the book is not the be all and end all of being an author. Promotion, deciding on going with a publisher or self-publishing, print or ebook, etc were all considerations I essentially stumbled into yet they can make or break a work as easily as a bad story.
Q. Do you structure your plots or just go with the flow?
A. Go with the flow 100%. I write my first drafts in the present-tense, telling myself the story as I write. Then I go back through it 3 or 4 times to get all my ducks in a row. I may change this, however, and at least take notes as I write to avoid having to fix continuity errors but overall I find it the most enjoyable way to write.
Q. Do you work on a set amount of words per day or does it change?
A. I write when I feel like it. Some days I won’t write anything, other days I’ll write 20,000 words in a sitting. You need to give ideas a time to form in your mind. You can’t force it. I go by the motto you can’t write what you don’t feel.
Q. Do you do a lot of research when writing a book?
A. Just as you can’t write what you don’t feel you can’t write what you don’t know. I write based on my interests and experience. I fact check and look for inspiration but I wouldn’t call it research. My books have a lot of BDSM and erotic content but this is drawn from real-world experience and a love of reading. If that’s research then so-be-it but I just call it living.
Q. How would you describe your writing process?
A. I type a story. Then tighten the nuts and bolts.
Q. What time of the day do you find is best to write?
A. There is no specific time which is best. I write when I feel like it. Inspiration may hit before work, during work (but don’t tell my boss), on the toilet or in the middle of the night. When it does use it. If that means waking up at 3 am to write down an idea or jotting down a note for yourself in a meeting then go for it. Never squander a good idea because of the time of day.
Q. Where do you draw your inspiration from?
A. I write erotica. It’s meant to tap into sexual desire and arousal. I am a healthy adult. I have a strong sex drive. I draw my inspiration from that. My writing turns me on and I try to convey that arousal in my work.
Q. What draws you to this genre?
A. I’ve tried my hand at horror, mystery and thriller but I can’t sustain the necessary emotions long enough to get a full novel out of it. Many genres come from someplace negative. Horror from fear, a thriller from anger or frustration, etc. I can’t and/or don’t want to feel that for as long as it takes to write a book. Erotica, on the other hand, is drawn from a positive emotion. Finding ways to make that last is a joy. It’s why I did it for fun and it’s why I’ve stuck with the genre.
Q. Have you ever tried to write other genres?
A. I have but it’s never been very good. I may make attempts at it again one day but for now, I’m happy where I am.
Q. Which author/book would compare yours too?
A. I’m a harsh critic so although I’d love to compare myself to an idol like Anne Rice and her Sleeping Beauty trilogy I would hold myself back from doing so. Pride is a weakness of mine so I strive for humility. Obviously, some comparisons are necessary, however, as Their Wild Little Girl has a Tarzan motif throughout. It’s not exactly similar to the classic story but the elements and themes are clear enough that characters remark on them in the book.
Q. Can you relate to any of your own stories?
A. Every character I create is an aspect of myself. I take an element of my personality and flesh it out a bit to create a unique individual. In Their Wild Little Girl, the three main characters are directly related to aspects of my personality. Marcus is my ideal self. He is the person I want to be. Reflective, caring and dedicated to those he loves. Jessica is my sex drive made flesh. Elizabeth is my inner child all grown up. I’ve always felt like an outsider. I was the kid who was bullied, who was socially awkward, who preferred to be alone.
Growing up as that child I felt I had to develop a thick skin and learn to take care of myself. As such, I really relate to Elizabeth and what she goes through in the book. Marcus and Jessica are, if anything, the characteristics I wish had been fully formed in my early days to help me overcome.
Q. How many books have you written?
A. I’ve written 3 thus far and am working on a fourth. Their Wild Little Girl was my first. I also have a self-published sequel called Their Meddling Aunt (which I wanted to satisfy fans of the first book but which publishers were reluctant to adopt due to sequels not selling well) and a third book tentatively titled The Tale of Alyssa K currently under consideration by a few publishers.
Q. Have you ever written in collaboration with another author?
A. No. I don’t generally work well with others. I tend to be shy and quiet at first and have a strong personality when I come out of my shell. Neither is conducive to a healthy collaboration.
Q. Who designed your front cover?
A. Stormy Night Publications had the cover for Their Wild Little Girl designed and I think they did a great job.
Q. Have you ever dedicated a book to someone?
A. Dedications and erotica don’t generally go together.
Q. How do you market your books?
A. Via the publisher, twitter, my Facebook fan page and fetlife. I don’t have a lot of money so I do what’s cheapest or preferably free. Everyone starts somewhere after all.
Q. How do you deal with bad reviews?
A. They come with the territory. Not everyone is going to like my works. That said I prefer that a bad review have substance. I hate when people say they don’t like the book but won’t tell me why. I like to at least learn from a bad review.
Q. Do you use an agent?
A. No. I’m a neophyte as an author and I don’t currently see an agent as being worth the money.
Q. How much time do you devote to marketing your books?
A. I try to tweet throughout the day but it depends on the demands of my day to day life. If I had to put a number to it I’d say 10-13 hours a week.
Q. How do you get your book reviewed?
A. I don’t. I encourage readers to review my work on Amazon, Kobo, Goodreads, Barnes and Noble, Allromance erotica or Google play books but it’s totally up to them. I appreciate everyone who takes the time to write a review (good or bad) however. It tells me that the book is worth discussing.
Q. Do you ever run free book promotions? Have these worked for you?
A. I tried on Amazon but that feature doesn’t exist on the Canadian version.
Q. Do you do all your own proofreading and editing?
A. I had an editor provided by the publisher for Their Wild Little Girl but I did it all for Their Meddling Aunt. It was difficult and I’m sure I missed typos and grammar points (especially using the correct spelling of “there, their and they’re”) which I find embarrassing. I much prefer having an editor when possible.
Q. How and where are you publishing this book?
A. This book is published through Stormy Night Publications on Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Google Play Books and All Romance Erotica. The sequel is only on Amazon thus far.
Q. What are the main benefits of being an independent author?
A. I write how I want when I want, what I want. Individual publishers may like it and they may not but I don’t have to compromise my creative freedom if I’m not willing to do so.
Q. What are you reading at the moment? Which book do you have by your bed?
A. I’m currently reading the Marquis De Sade but I’m always reading something. My favourite books are always close at hand. Friedrich Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil and Drew Karpyshyn’s Darth Bane: Path of Destruction.
Q. What was the first book you ever read?
A. Aside from kids books the book I remember best was Robin Hood. I must have read that book about thirty times by the time I was thirteen.
Q. Who are your most loved authors?
A. Nietzsche for non-fiction, Anne Rice and Drew Karpyshyn for fiction.
Q. What is your favourite quote from a book?
A. “Those who fight monsters should be careful not to become monsters themselves and when you stare too long into the abyss the abyss stares back at you.” Friedrich Nietzsche Essays and aphorisms in Beyond Good and Evil.
Q. In your opinion what is the best book to film adaptation?
A. Vampire Academy. It convinced me to read the series.
Q. Where are your favourite places to read?
A. I usually read in bed or on the bus but I once climbed a tree and lay on a branch while reading philosophy. That was my favourite.
Q. What books do you read to your children?
A. Flowers for Algernon and Darth Bane. At least when I have children to read them to!
Q. When you read do you prefer a book or a Kindle/tablet?
A. A book. Nothing beats the feel and smell of real paper.
Q. Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
A. Hellen Keller wrote “Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” Remember that. You will feel that your work isn’t good enough to get published. It will never live up, in your own mind, to your idols. Ignore that. Take a shot. You are an author. Don’t be afraid to show it.
Q. Wonderful! Thank you again for your time tonight, what’s coming next?
A. I’m currently working on a mystery/erotica and have plans for a seduction story to follow. All my works are intended to take place in the same literary universe, surrounding a small town. As such they will all interconnect with characters from one making appearances in the others. I want the reader to be able to take each work as a stand-alone or put them together as they wish.