Author advice from YA writer Dolores Beagle

The title of her first novel is repulsive, but then it is a horror story. YA author Dolores Beagle is all set to enter the dog eat dog world of self-publishing with her first novel Tapeworm.

– Do you follow the advice you read on the internet?

There’s really only one bit of advice that matters. Fans. If you don’t have fans how do you expect to sell your books. In fact, there are three bits of advice. Fans, fans and fans. You gotta have fans.

You know, some people actually set out with the intention of writing a boring book. Don’t do it. Make your book as interesting as you can otherwise all those fans, you’re gonna lose them.

Make your dialogue zing. In real life people talk stupid, so don’t let your characters talk like real people. Make it zing, folks.

“Hey, John.”

“Mickey.” John and Mickey high fived.

“You going to the party?”

“Wouldn’t miss it for anything, dude,” said John.

“I’m hoping Cindy’ll be there. She’s cool,” said Mickey.

“You mean she’s hot?”

“Hey, you’re not hitting on my girl are you?” said Mickey raising his fist.

“She’s not your girl, you don’t even know her except for her name.”

Mickey jabbed a paw at John’s chin. He dropped like a sack of jalapenos.

There are other bits of advice too. Get interviewed on the radio is one, but why stop there. Dream big. Get interviewed on national television. They’re always looking for guests. If you don’t ask you don’t get.

– You describe your first novel Tapeworm as a mix-up. What do you mean by that?

Don’t be afraid to mix and mash your genres. My own novel Tapeworm mixes YA with slasher horror and romance. Hey, teens who like gory horror fall in love. They want something to read. You never fell in love when you were sixteen? People told me I was nuts to write a teenage romance horror, but who dares wins. (Which reminds me, never write cliches in your novel. That’s another no no.)

– What’s the writing process for you? How do you go from idea to finished book?

An idea usually comes to me in the form of a ‘what if’ question. I brainstorm. Some of the what ifs get tossed quite early on: like ‘what if that guy’s shoes ate him?’ (Actually I nearly ran with that one. I was going to call it Sneakers, but then I thought, well how does the same pair of shoes eat people with different sized feet?)

The what if question leads to characters, and again some people seem to think they can write about boring characters. Are any of your friends boring? No, of course not. You don’t hang out with boring people, why would you want to read about them.

I spend about a month on a first version or draft. Then go over it and throw in some curveballs and twists and surprises, then rewrite it. For Tapeworm I used a friend of mine to edit the novel. She’s a retired editor, so if you can’t afford to pay for a full time editor search online for retired editors and use one of those. Yes, I’m lucky to know people, but that’s how networking comes in. Put yourself about, folks. Meet the right people. Take an interest in them and they’ll be interested in you.

– Are you nervous about the reviews your first novel might receive?

Reviews are important, but apparently there’s a lot of confusion over what is a good review and what is a bad review. The current trend is that good reviews are bad. No one believes them when they read them. So what you actually need are a ton of bad reviews. One star, two star reviews are what give people confidence because they know these are genuine reviews and not written by your dog, uncle Tom Cobbley and that guy who works in Burger King who keeps giving you the eye.

Good writing is another bit of advice that people often overlook. Look at all these websites telling authors how to write a bestselling book and hardly any of them tell you to write well. I’ve seen other sites say avoid adverbs, semi-colons, question marks, full stops. Some of that works, but remember sometimes you need a full stop Your sentences will usually work better and be easier to read.

See what I did there, I left out the full stop and it looked like all one sentence. Rules are sometimes there to be broken. Be confident. Break the rules now and again.

Oh, and before I forget, on the subject of reviews. There are a ton of websites that help authors get reviews for their work. Find these websites, make a list and then – and here’s the trick – most authors submit their books and walk away, but it’s better if you are part of the team that runs the website. Join that team, folks. You heard it here first!

– What do you read for pleasure and what do you read for inspiration?

I get a bit worked up when I see authors instructed to read read read. Well if you read read read you won’t have time to write write write, will you? You have to write. Read when you’re in the bath or when you can’t write, like when you’re driving. (Obviously don’t read when you’re driving though, unless it’s a road map.) I don’t write when I have time. I make time to write. Sometimes, that means the kids go hungry, but you won’t find any obese kids in my house, so that’s two problems solved.

I read Patricia Cornwell and Dan Brown, occasionally Stephen King, but I’m too busy writing to read.

– Are you ready for all the marketing and promotion? What will your approach be to this perennially sticky problem?

Marketing and promoting your novel is surrounded by confusion. A lot of wailing and holloring comes out of authors’ mouths on this subject, but it isn’t rocket science, folks. Sure you can pay top dollar to some fancy pants ad agency in New York, but all they’re going to do is tell people what your book is about and where to buy it. That’s all there is.

What’s it about? Well, it’s about blah blah blah.

Where to buy it? Amazon.

If you want to be really thorough you can say how much it costs, but so long as it’s under three dollars people aren’t interested. If you give it away free then tell yourself how are you going to make money that way? It’s a no brainer. I see so many authors who want to earn a living from writing and they’re giving their work away. Why? Does Ford give its cars away? Course not.

People buy books like they buy tomatoes: they pick ’em up, give ’em a squeeze, see if the skin’s blemished and have a sniff. Treat your book like a tomato. The squeeze is the cover, make the cover fresh. The blemished skin is the writing; the slightest flaw and that shopper will put the tomato back in the rack. The sniff is the story, the extract that might be the blurb or the sample. If the sample stinks the story stinks. Back it goes in the rack. Your book is a tomato. Make it red and fresh and blemish free. Make people want to eat it.

– You’re not on social media yet. Do you plan to utilise the web?

Social media is a hot topic, everyone uses it, so use it. Doesn’t matter which one, use them all. I personally haven’t started yet, but I’ll be on Facebook to tell my friends and family, on Twitter to tell everyone else. I’m not camera shy so I’ll be on Youtube too. Don’t be shy, don’t be a shrinking violet. You have a big mouth, you wouldn’t be storytelling otherwise, so put your face where your mouth is and look people in the eye. Imagine if someone came up to you in the street and said ‘hey, Dol, what’s your book about and where can I buy it?’ Imagine what your response would be and film that response. Do it! Do it now.

– Give your book a plug. What’s Tapeworm about?

Tapeworm is about an infection that spreads through a college campus one semester. John wants to make out with Cindy, but they’re from different sides of the tracks. When Cindy falls ill with the mysterious Tapeworm she turns into a ghoul. John’s love for Cindy comes under pressure, can he still love the girl who has become a ghoul, will a cure be found? Of course, this is pretty straightforward so John has to fight the ghouls and this is when he meets Patricia, who isn’t a ghoul, but has wanted to make out with John for two years. Will she distract him from saving Cindy? It’s a tale of loyalty, redemption, temptation, strength of character and never giving up in the face of an apparently unbeatable threat. And the book is easy to summarise in one sentence: Zombie Flesh Eaters meets Romeo and Juliet. How simple is that?

The book cover is clever too. The font looks like a tapeworm and you have these college kids, but one is asleep and sort of looks dead. Above them are jungle type leaves where the tapeworm came from originally and then an illustration of a tapeworm is superimposed, but it covers one of the kids, so suggests he might be a carrrier, or the kid who’s asleep might be the carrier, or the kid reading the book. There’s no way of knowing who might be the next victim. The cover is loaded with questions and suggestion.

– Will there be life after Tapeworm?

I’m already working on my second novel, another YA horror romance. (Hey, maybe I should trademark the genre!) The second novel has the working title Bone Marrow. It’s set in the same college as Tapeworm and will follow the lives of the students picking up the pieces following the events in the first novel. It’s important to keep your titles short and snappy, memorable. Think about it, which story title do you remember? The Unbearable Lightness of Being or Tapeworm.

Don’t make it hard for yourself. Life’s too short to make it hard.

Thanks to Dolores Beagle for taking time out from her writing, writing, writing. No doubt, we’ll be hearing more about Tapeworm when it’s released. For now, here’s that horrific book cover. (You know what I mean!)


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