Book Review and Author Interview: The End of All Things by Lissa Bryan

Guest Review and Interview by Jennifer Hensley

Book Review Lissa BryanThe End of All Things is a book that stays with you long after you finish reading it. When I picked up this book, I didn’t expect the beautiful love story that emerged. After finishing, I had to know more about the author and how this story came to be. She was gracious enough to answer my questions. I am excited to read the sequel to find out what is next for these beautiful characters.

What was your inspiration for writing this book?

I’ve always loved EOTWAWKI (End of the World as We Know It) books and movies, and just like I do with most subjects that interest me, I had to “write” my own post-apocalyptic story. The quotation marks are because, at the time, it was “written” in my mind. I never actually intended to write down any of my stories or try to publish them; it was only for my own amusement.

The inspiration often came from aspects that irked me in those stories, like people driving cars years after the disaster (no, the gas would go bad), or not thinking of simple things like water purification. It made me start thinking about how people would have to adapt to those situations. My imagination took flight from there.

I wanted my book to be about an ordinary girl in a horribly un-ordinary situation. The current trend has been for kick-ass heroines who can take on the whole world by themselves, thank you very much, and might shoot you just for the hell of it. And while I enjoy those stories, I’m more fascinated with the tales of people who aren’t prepared for anything, who have to find a core of strength inside themselves they never knew they had.

When Justin first finds Carly, she’s deeply in shock, not thinking clearly about her situation or what she needs to do to survive. He can tell she has fire and steel inside her, underneath that soft, naïve exterior, but she spends a good portion of the first novel discovering it. You’re going to see her come into her own in the sequel and learn to trust her own strength.

Did you personally identify with any of the characters?

I think I identify more with Justin because I have a similarly practical nature, and I over-prepare for everything.

I’d like to have some of Carly’s traits, such as her unyielding optimism. I share her love for animals and reading, but that’s about it

What kind of disease do you think was the cause of the apocalypse?

I envision it as a kind of weaponized super-flu.

Did you have any other agenda in mind when writing this book, such as advocating for vaccinations or dealing with governmental cover ups?

My sole agenda when I write a novel is to entertain. I’m always amazed at the messages readers tell me they took away from my stories. It makes me think of that old saying, An author only begins a book; the reader finishes it. We all see through different lenses and our areas of focus vary as well.

The only conspiracy theory I espouse is the one that says Truman Capote was the real author of To Kill a Mockingbird. I really like that one, and I refuse to let facts get in the way of it.

Did you do any traveling to Alaska to research the area for the book?

No, but I wish I could have! Visiting Alaska is on my bucket list. I relied on a friend who used to live there and Google Maps. The Street View function allowed me to “walk” alongside Carly and Justin for portions of their journey. I was even able to find topographical maps that told me whether they were going uphill or downhill. On a couple of occasions, I used tourists’ vacation photos to describe the interior of buildings. I went over that route so many times in the 3D simulation mode, I think I could probably walk from Skagway to Toad River blindfolded.

I tend to get a little pedantic about details like that. I had two sentences in the early portion of the novel where I mentioned Carly’s job and the fact she was calculating sales taxes on her purchases. I actually looked up the salary offerings on Juneau job postings and the cost of the average apartment rent to make sure she could afford it, and then checked to make sure there was sales tax in Juneau.

Will we get to read anymore about Carly and Justin or their daughter and how things changed for them once they made it to the South?

Yes. The End of All Things is actually the first half of a longer novel. I never know how long these things are going to be while they’re still inside my head, so I had confidently asserted to the acquisitions editor I could tell the whole story in under 120,000 words. Turns out I was wrong about that, so I ended it where it seems logical: as they completed one journey and were about to begin another.

I’m going to start writing the sequel this summer, as soon as I finish up the edits on my historical novel. I’m going to try to get it out as quickly as possible so readers don’t have to wait long. There will also be a collection of short stories coming out which has backstories on some of the characters, a couple of whom you’ll meet in the sequel.

My True Love is urging me to consider making it a series. He says, and I quote, “You know with parents like that, Dagny would grow up to be a real badass.

Who influenced you to become a writer?

Sylvain Reynard, actually. I read Gabriel’s Inferno in the fall of 2011 and when I went to Amazon to leave a review, I saw one reviewer state —rather scathingly— it had once been Twilight fan fiction. I had to go find out what that was.

It was like one of those moments of epiphany you see in movies where the sky opens up and golden sunlight pours down, and a host of heavenly angels sings the Hallelujah Chorus. I had discovered that other people re-wrote books and movies, too, and there were massive online communities devoted to it.

I’d never written anything before, unless you count the novels I’d “written” in my head over the years. It took me a while to talk myself into it, because I was afraid reviewers would be cruel. But the fan fiction community was incredibly supportive and kind. I started my first story in September and in February, I was contacted by a publisher. 2012 was a crazy year.

I sent Sylvain Reynard a thank you note a little while ago, and he was very kind and gracious in his response.

If you had 24 hours with nothing to do but read, what books would you read?

How many do I have to narrow it down to? My appetite for books is legendary, and I read everything from graphic novels to ancient Japanese literature. I have a library of non-fiction books on bizarrely esoteric subjects like ketchup, and the history of lawn care, and two sagging book cases filled with nothing but vampire romance novels.  I never know what I’m going to be in the mood to read.

Book Review The End of All Things by Lissa Bryan

About the Book

After a terrible virus ravages the planet, Carly Daniels, one of the few survivors, hides in her apartment in Juneau trying to survive the best she can with only occasional forays to gather food. With her is Sam, a wolf puppy she found starving on the streets. He becomes her companion and a reason to continue when giving up sometimes seems like the more attractive option. Still dazed with shock and grief, she hopes for the world to go back to normal soon.

She is discovered by Justin, an ex-soldier who is intent on making his way to Florida before the winter sets in. Justin coaxes her out of her hiding place and convinces her to join him on his journey, because a warmer climate will be their best chance against the extremes of Mother Nature.

Together, they begin a perilous journey through a nation laid to waste by the disaster. Challenges abound along the way. The weather, injury, and shortage of supplies all help to slow them down. In time, they discover that they aren’t the only survivors. Some are friendly but some have had their minds destroyed by the high fever. Then there are those who simply take what they want, leaving Carly and Justin with no choice but to defend what is theirs.

But their journey is not without joy and love. Together, they face every struggle, including an unplanned pregnancy. Despite the perils of bringing a child into a world of chaos, their baby is a new beginning for themselves and a symbol of hope for the other survivors they find along the way.

This is the story of their journey to find a place to begin a new life, and a home in each other.

About the Author

Lissa Bryan is an astronaut, renowned Kabuki actress, Olympic pole vault gold medalist, Iron Chef champion, and scientist who recently discovered the cure for athlete’s foot … though only in her head. Real life isn’t so interesting, which is why she spends most of her time writing.

Find Lissa on her blog, her Facebook pageGoodreads profile, and follow her on Twitter. To buy the books, check Amazon.

So, You Want to Publish (God Help You)

Various Publishing Methods and Why They’re All SO HARD

Guest Post by Lissa Bryan

Various publishing methods for Fight for Your Write“If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.” ― Dorothy Parker

You’ve done it. You’ve completed your magnum opus and are now ready to share it with the world, but now you’re faced with the monumental choice of what to do with the damn thing. Writers have a greater range of choices in this regard than ever before, and really, the decision comes down to which method of publishing best suits your goals and the amount of effort you’re willing to personally invest. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks.

Traditional “Big Six” Publishing

This is the typical writer’s dream  when it comes to publishing, but it’s also the most difficult to achieve. Only about one or two percent of manuscripts will be accepted by a Big Six publisher, hereafter referred to as “Bix,” because I’m a lazy typist. (Soon, it will be “Bive” after the merger of Penguin and Random House. I’m really hoping they change their name to “Random Penguin,” but I digress.)

Most Bix companies and their subsidiaries will not accept directly submitted manuscripts. To go this route, you must have an agent, who will shop your manuscript around and attempt to get you the best possible deal if a publisher is interested.  Acquiring an agent is a difficult process in of itself, fraught with many pitfalls for the unwary and eager. The agent will also absorb a cut of your earnings, and most new authors don’t make much.

Going with a Bix company means you will get highly professional editing teams and graphic artists who will design the cover. However, you will sign over most of your creative control. You may be required to make changes to the storyline or re-write portions of the book to make it more marketable. Bestselling author J.R. Ward was recently forced to change an m/m romance storyline in her Black Dagger Brotherhood series to include a female character. You also may have no input whatsoever on what ends up on the cover. Even the highly successful Stephenie Meyer has said she had no control over the cover art for her first three novels.

Then, you wait. It can be up to two years before the book is actually published and on the shelves.

But, hey, you get an advance, right? That helps keep you going in the meantime and to soothe your wounded ego over the changes you had to make. However, the advance an author receives is essentially a loan against future sales. If the book fails to make back the amount of the advance, an author can be sued by the company to return it. And dozens have been.

Still, it will all be worth it to see your book in stores, right? Bix companies have the distribution channels no other form of publishing can match. However, a book’s time on the shelf may be brief, unless it’s a success. Bookstores typically stock a title for a certain number of months, and then return the unsold books to the publisher, so they can use that precious shelf space for another novel. Remember, too, that the big bookstore chains that comprise the majority of Bix publisher’s sales are quietly dying. Borders is gone and Barnes & Noble is teetering on the edge.

The amount of promotion a book is given by the publisher depends on whether a book is “front list” if it’s expected to be a hit, or “mid list” meaning, it might sell moderately well. There’s an old writer’s comic which shows an author and a publisher’s agent in contract negotiations: “We’d like to take your book, change everything about it, put it on the shelves for a few months and do absolutely nothing to promote it.” The days of the promotional book tour are almost over, and more and more, authors are expected to take on promotional duties themselves. The “mid list,” the books on which the publisher takes more of a risk, is shrinking, meaning fewer new authors are given a chance.

In the end, there’s a reason why some mainstream authors are ditching the Bixes and publishing themselves.

“Indie” Publishing

Small, independent publishers are booming, spurred by the ebook revolution and print-on-demand technology.  Look around a bit and check out the quality of the books they publish before you decide whether they’d be a good fit for your book.

Most independent publishers can be approached directly, without an agent, and most have their submission guidelines on their websites. The benefits include more creative control over your work and cover art, and having a professional editing and graphic arts staff to prepare your book for publication. Another benefit is a much quicker publication time, but that means a lot of work in a short period, so be prepared for it.

A book published by an indie likely won’t be found in a chain bookstore. However, your book will be available through online retailers, such as Amazon, and the chain bookstores’ websites may carry your ebook version.

An indie publisher may have a marketing team, but you’ll need to put in effort to help promote the book by getting reviews, guest spots on book websites, etc. It’s a lot of work, building a base of readers.

You’ll also have the added burden of a stigma. There are some who insist that the Bix publishers are the only “real” publishers, even as indie and self-publishing eat up more of their market share every day as the Bixers contract and merge. Your book needs to be squeaky clean when it comes to editing, because reviewers point out any errors they find in indie/self-published books.

That brings us to…

Self-Publishing

This is the do-all-the-work-yourself option. It’s going to require a significant investment both in time and money.  Research carefully the services you use for formatting and publishing your book. They vary widely in price and, apparently, in ethics.

The most important thing you need to remember is, You cannot edit your own manuscript. Nor can your mom, or your friend, unless either of those happen to be a professional editor. You’re going to have to pay for a professional, and a good editor doesn’t come cheap. Your manuscript has to be as clean as a saint’s soul or many people will reject it automatically, even if it has a great story.

This is only copy editing. You also need substantive editing. That means, you need strangers who aren’t worried about hurting your feelings to read the book and tell you the parts that don’t work. Every book has them, but the author usually can’t see them. You don’t want to learn about them from reviewers after the book is published.

And you’re going to face an even greater stigma than those with indie publishers. Despite the ebook revolution, and the incredible success of some authors, there are those who disdain self-publishing. When I was at the Texas Book Fair with my publisher last October, a woman entered our tent and scowled at the booth of my publisher, The Writer’s Coffee Shop. Her husband headed in our direction and she grabbed his arm. “That’s self-publishing,” she said, in the same tone she would use to warn him away from entering an infectious plague ward. I stepped forward and corrected her, telling her we were a small, independent publisher. Her expression changed from scorn to interest, and she came right into our booth, where she bought several books. Good stories, all, which she never would have read if she thought they had been self-published.

That’s why your book has to be well-packaged if you want to be a success as a self-published author. You have to pay for professional editing and a good graphic artist to make an eye-catching cover. People do judge a book by its cover, unfortunately, and will scroll right past a book that has cheesy or clumsily executed cover art.

So, there you have it, in one overly-long article. Hopefully, I’ve given you at least a general impression of the pros and cons of each method of publishing. Success is possible with each of them, but no matter which method you choose, it’s going to take a lot of hard work and dedication.

It’s not a profession for the faint of heart. It’s a Sisyphean task, and sometimes discouraging… but ultimately, very rewarding.

Good luck, and may God have mercy on your soul.

***

Lissa Bryan is an astronaut, renowned Kabuki actress, Olympic pole vault gold medalist, Iron Chef champion, and scientist who recently discovered the cure for athlete’s foot … though only in her head. Real life isn’t so interesting, which is why she spends most of her time writing.

Find Lissa on her blog, her Facebook pageGoodreads profile, and follow her on Twitter. To buy the books, check Amazon.

Book Review: Ghostwriter by Lissa Bryan

Novel Review by Jennifer Hensley

novel reviewGhostwriter is a story about Sara, an unemployed journalist, who finds her way to an isolated island home. While living in this house, she finds out that her idol author used to live there. Through a series of events, she is able to interact with the ghost of her idol author. Sara moved to the island to start over after breaking up with her boyfriend and to escape the modern technology of cell phones and internet, thereby cutting off her emotionally abusive mother.

I found the first half of the book to be rather slow. I kept waiting to meet the ghost, but it seemed to take forever to happen. I found the several letters that were typed in the book to be tedious and I kept thinking that I was going to meet Seth soon. This felt like somewhat like a historical romance, but only part of the book. There are a lot of details setting up the story, but it seemed tedious.

The second half of the book was what I was waiting for. The connection between Seth and Sara was magical. I was captivated by their relationship and how it developed. It was heartening to see at the end that she was the one who saved him.

Overall, this is a good book. I just wish we could have met Seth earlier in the story.

Rating

Novel review

Lissa Bryan is an astronaut, renowned Kabuki actress, Olympic pole vault gold medalist, Iron Chef champion, and scientist who recently discovered the cure for athlete’s foot … though only in her head. Real life isn’t so interesting, which is why she spends most of her time writing.

Find Lissa on her blog, her Facebook page, Goodreads profile, and follow her on Twitter. To buy the books, check Amazon.