Welcome to Alice Sabo
1. Where are you from and where do you live now? I was born and raised in NJ, but as soon as I was old enough, I moved away. I have lived on both coasts and in the middle. I loved living in the mountains in Colorado, but the high desert was too dry and hot for me. I now live in the mountains of western North Carolina, which are just right.
2. Please tell us a little about your writing – for example genre, title, etc. I write mystery and speculative fiction. I have one scifi novel, Lethal Seasons, out now. It is the first in a series about a post-apocalyptic world. The 2nd book in my Asher Blaine Mysteries, Dark Deeds, will be coming out in January. Those are a little lighter. I have plans for another series, sort of space opera, and possibly a fantasy series. As you can see I have lots of ideas and a ton of work ahead of me.
3. Are your characters based on real people? Not really, although I’m sure some of their attributes come from people I know. Sometimes it’s more like casting a movie. One of my characters was based on Harrison Ford. It wasn’t actually based on any of his movies. I just knew that he suited the character. So when I imagined the scenes in my head, I knew how I expected him to react.
4. Have you ever used a person you don’t/didn’t like as a character then killed them off? No, but I did name a slave planet after a boss I especially disliked. That story probably won’t ever see the light of day, but it was very satisfying.
5. Research can be important in world-building, how much do you need to do for your books? Do you enjoy this aspect of creating a novel and what are your favourite resources? I do research as it comes up in my mysteries. I have corresponded with a variety of people, and I am always amazed at how willing they are to answer my stupid questions. For White Lies, a murder is committed with a prop gun. I emailed an armorer in Hollywood about it. He was extremely helpful. It was a good thing I asked, because prop guns cannot fire live ammunition. The gun has to be rebuilt for that. So my villain had to have that expertise.
I do enough research to become well versed in what I need to know. For Lethal Seasons, I studied the forecasts of how much the sea levels would rise. I bumped the numbers a little and drew my own map of how much land the US would lose. It’s based on the maps NOAA created.
In general I love doing research. I start with the internet. Sometimes I look for people to answer a specific question. I don’t always need to become an expert on the topic.
6. Do you think indie/self-published authors are viewed differently to traditionally published authors? Why do you think this might be? I do think we are viewed differently.
Some of the authors that made it big as self pubbed had been trad pubbed before, or signed with them later. Many of them became hybrid authors, splitting off some of their book rights to big publishing, but retaining ebook rights. People look at these authors and some assume that they wanted to be trad pubbed for the recognition. As if only the big publishing houses have a right to tell us what is good enough to read. In reality, for many of them, it comes down to economics. Who does a better job of marketing and distribution for which format?
On the other hand is the self pubbed dreck. I’ve read a few too many of them. Most are just not ready to publish. It’s a hard thing to see when you are giddy with finishing your first novel. It’s a bad case of not knowing what you don’t know. If you don’t know things like story structure or the expectations of a genre, you can’t craft a good product. For example, I read a murder mystery in which the protagonist failed in the final confrontation. He had to be rescued. The book ended on a weak note and was very unsatisfying. Another example was a fantasy in which the whole first chapter was back story. A man came home from years on the road to recount the entire thing to his mother. In stilted, unrealistic dialog that went on for pages. Or the Young Adult thriller that had a 25 year old protagonist.
It’s a very mixed bag. Perhaps that’s it’s greatest fault – a lack of consistency.
7. Do you read work by self-published authors? I do, but I am a little gun shy. I have found some great ones, and some really bad ones. In a couple of cases, the first chapter is so well polished that I am fooled into buying the book. However, the problems pop up soon enough and I give up on it. At first, I tried to give construction reviews, but now I’m too busy to spend time on authors I don’t know.
8.What are your opinions about authors commenting on reviews? How important are reviews? Reviews are very important. Although as books flood the market and people game the reviews, I have heard that a lot of people don’t trust them anymore. It’s all down to word of mouth. It’s hard to get respected reviewers to accept books from new authors because they are overwhelmed with requests. New reviewers are popping up overnight, but if they don’t have the following and reputation, they aren’t helpful to an author.
Giveaways don’t always get you reviews. Sometimes you get bad reviews because people sign up for things that they don’t usually read. A bad review from someone who isn’t my target audience can be very disappointing. I had a very interesting discussion with some people on Goodreads about the pros and cons of offering free books for reviews. One person said I should never expect a review because the book is a gift. I had given away 5 audiobooks and not received any reviews. I didn’t follow up with any of them, because I don’t think authors should ever badger their readers, but I was very disappointed. The worst part is thinking that, months later, they haven’t even listened to the book, yet.
Getting people to read an unknown author’s book is very difficult. There are a lot of free sites where you can advertise, but many of them are requiring a certain number of reviews at a certain level. One site requires 25 reviews on Amazon with a 4-star average. If I already had that, why would I need them? It’s a bit of a catch-22.
9. What three pieces of advice would you give to new writers?
1. Read in the genre you want to write in. You need to know it very well. And read outside your comfort zone. I don’t usually read military scifi, but one book taught me a lot about fight scenes.
2. Love what you write. Don’t write a Romance because it’s the fastest growing market. Write it because you’ve read one every week all your adult life. Don’t write what you think will sell. Write the story you want to tell.
3. Learn the bones. If you don’t know basic grammar and story structure you will flail around constantly fixing things. Once you understand these things, they function in the back of your brain and help you be a better writer.
10. Most authors like to read, what have you recently finished reading? Did you enjoy it?
I just finished reading Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson. He’s one of my favorite authors. It’s epic fantasy and an absolute doorstop. I have to say I might be losing my taste for it, because this one felt especially long. There were a few too many detours into other aspects of the world that I found less interesting. Regardless, I will probably read the next book when it comes out. I just started Fool’s Assassin by Robin Hobbs and I am devouring it. She’s a favorite, too. I am very excited that she decided to write in this world again.