We are joined this evening by Stephany Tullis, author of the Angelica Mason series, who has kindly agreed to answer a few questions about her most recent release and what drives her as a writer.

Stephany published her first novel The Master’s Plan, A Novel in November 2013 (Edition 3 issued in 2016) and her first Christmas novel, 48 Hours ‘Til Christmas, in November 2014. In 2015, she released Love, Peace & Joy: 3 Short Stories.

BLUE LADY (a short story), published in February 2015, launched her first series, The Angelica Mason Series. The first full instalment in this series, entitled BLUE LADY’S Sweet Dreams was released July 2016 to be followed by BLUE LADY’S Mission Impossible in 2017.

In June 2016, she launched her second series (B.B.B.) with a novella entitled, Beach Baby Blues (part of an 11 author Beach Anthology, Stories of Sun, Sand and Sea). She hopes to publish the sequel by Christmas 2016.

Stephany lives in Georgia with her family where she continues to write professionally and has been published on Examiner.com as Atlanta’s Society and Culture Examiner and in various health-related peer review journals.

Q: Do you structure your plots Stephany or just go with the flow?
A: I am a ‘go with the flow’ writer aka a ‘panster’.
A concept or topic will surface…I usually mull it for over for some time—thoughts come and go–nothing is ever set in stone and at some point, I begin to write on my pre-identified topic. For each of my books, to date, I decided on my title before I began writing. My title and music (I love music—all kinds) tend to drive my storyline, character and plot development. For example, I have selected my title for the next instalment of The Angelica Mason Series as well as my second planned series B.B.B.

Q: Why did you decide to write your newest book, Blue Lady’s SWEET DREAMS?
A: Blue Lady’s SWEET DREAMS is the first novella in my first book series titled The Angelica Mason Series. Interestingly, Angelica Mason has evolved and developed a life of her own after only a very brief mention in my first novel, The Master’s Plan, A Novel. In that book, she was mentioned as the Ex ‘Angel’ of heartbroken community organizer and proposal writer, Shawn Mallory.

Q: How long did it take you to write this book?
A: It took me a year or so to write Blue Lady’s SWEET DREAMS (published 7/29/16). BLUE LADY, the prequel was written and released for Valentines in 2015 as a short story.
In reality, the concept and storyline were created around a major segment of my second novel, 48 Hours ‘Til Christmas published in 2014 and one of my favourite books.

During one of my editing stages of 48 Hours ‘Til Christmas, I felt as though I had allowed the relationship between Angelica and Shawn to become a dominating feature of the plot which was not intended. As a result, I removed major segments of that novel which became the basis for the prequel, BLUE LADY. In writing that short story, I decided to give Angelica Mason, a political operative, her own series.

Q: What problems did you encounter?

A: I’ve encountered writer’s block many times as I develop my work and tend to think it’s a reflection of my ‘seat of the pants’ writing style. Once I have my idea and concept, I find myself writing and moving along with my first draft at a fairly fast pace. Usually, I encounter the block, at a point when I can’t figure out how to end my story.

When I first experienced writer’s block, I was devastated because despite reading and re-reading my draft, I was unable to move my story…it refused to go forward. Luckily, after a long bout of frustration and inability to write, I looked to the experts and found this incredibly great book, Write Your Novel from the Middle by James Scott Bell, one of my favourite authors. Without fail, I now frequently rely on this book and after revisiting and applying some of Mr. Scott’s techniques, my characters and I find the winding path that brings us to a highly satisfactory, ‘The End’.

Q: Do you do a lot of research when writing a book Stephany?
A: Yes, I always research when writing a book.

Depending on the topic or storyline, I may begin my research before I actually start writing. As an example, I already know that I have a lot of research to do in order to effectively create the backdrop for the next book in the Mason series. This summer I worked with 11 other authors to develop a summer beach-themed series. My book, entitled, Beach Baby Blues was set primarily on a cruise ship but my theme was the bachelorette party for the main character. I’ve taken several cruises so I had a firm background on that topic but I wanted my bride-to-be to have a French themed wedding so my research focused on Parisian/French-based weddings, etc.

Q: Have you ever tried to write other genres?
A: My books cross genres presenting one of my biggest challenges as a writer. I have difficulty pegging my readers, my promotion categories and strategies, including promotion events.

Some of my best reviews have come from male reviewers—so I don’t fit neatly into chick lit. My characters tend to be multicultural—again a factor for my readers/audience. I write with an edgy, satirical tone often touching on ‘hot social topics’.

Since my books do not fit neatly into any one genre—other than the broadest category: Fiction, I find myself promoting and categorizing each book differently and cross genres.

Q: How do you deal with bad reviews?
A: I read and consider all reviews. It’s always exciting to get great reviews from my readers; especially when I can tell that the reader not only read the book but was able to relate to a character and/or situation based on their personal experience(s). I was incredibly touched by two recent reviews where the readers identified and related personal family struggles of their own to Angelica Mason’s struggles in the book, SWEET DREAMS.

Fortunately, I’ve not had a lot of ‘bad’ reviews but I read them as well. I’ve learned that a reader may not relate to the topic of the book, or that the book is ‘too long’ for their preference or other such explanations. I respect readers’ opinions and believe I can benefit from reader feedback. I’m thankful for the feedback I’ve received from my reader community.

Q: How much time do you devote to marketing your books?
A: Marketing is one of the biggest challenges I face and I’m not alone in this regard. All Indie authors are challenged by the tremendous amount of time, technical skill and financial resources needed to effectively promote. Social media and promotion chops away at author writing time. I have not resolved this dilemma. The ideal solution is to hire personal assistants to assist with PR and related functions. I recently hired an assistant who helps with my tweeting and a few other social media functions. This is an area I need to address more fully in the coming months as I return to active writing.

Q: What are you reading at the moment? Which book do you have by your bed?
A: I did very little writing this summer and instead (besides my book promotion activities) decided to read books by a few of my favourite authors: Keep Quiet, Lisa Scottoline; The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead; Robyn Carr, Swept Away as well as several summer beach books.

Q: What is your favourite quote from a book?
A: “My mission in life is not to merely survive; but to thrive, and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humour and some style.” Maya Angelou

Q: So what’s coming next Stephany?
A: This is a big question. My response and intended writing goals are laden with a lot of hope, aspiration and will require intense commitment. These are my goals:

  1. I’d like to complete the sequel to The Master’s Plan, A Novel (my first book) by spring of 2017.
  2. I’d like to have a draft of the next novella in my BBB Series by Thanksgiving 2016.
  3. I’d like to write and publish the sequel to Blue Lady’s SWEET DREAMS by Valentine’s Day 2017.