Today’s guest for the SAT (Successful Author Talk) is Bethany Hensel, a woman so accomplished that if I listed everything cool about her it would be longer than the interview itself. Born in Seoul, South Korea but adopted when she was young, Bethany was raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and is one of fourteen children. As a child, she performed with the Pittsburgh All-City Honors Jr. Strings Symphony and the Pittsburgh All-City Honors Orchestra. She is an avid animal rights activist and works with the Western PA Humane Society and its adoptable pets. Bethany also runs an excellent arts and entertainment reviews & interviews site, and most importantly – is the author of UNSTOPPABLE.
Are you a Planner or Pantster?
I would say that I’m more of a planner, though most of my outlines end up changing so drastically that I sometimes think it’s pointless to plan anything. But I like nothing more in the writing process than opening a brand new notebook and uncapping a brand new pen and just splashing the ink all over.
How long does it typically take you to write a novel, start to finish?
Oh, what a question! It takes me a couple weeks to a month to write the first draft of a book—and I stress the words first draft. After that, it takes anywhere from half a year to…let’s see…four years to whip the manuscript into shape and have something entertaining and whole to share with the world.
Do you work on one project at a time, or are you a multi tasker?
I used to only be able to work on one story at a time, but recently, I’ve found that if I’m disciplined and focused, I can have several things happen within the same timeline. For instance, I’m writing book 2 in the Unstoppable series, I’m revising a YA book, and I’m outlining a contemporary romance that takes place in modern day Pittsburgh and Italy. I’m also still keeping up with my reviews and interviews for my arts and entertainment site. So yes, I suppose that was just a long way of answering that I am a multi-tasker!
Did you have to overcome any fears that first time you sat down to write?
Oddly, the fear doesn’t come when I first sit down to write. At that point, I’m eager to dig into a new world and explore it. I think I’m most anxious when I’m right in the thick of it, when I’m at the thirty-thousand or forty-thousand word mark and I still have a ways to go and I’m afraid of writing myself in corners or finding that the entire structure and frame of the universe I’ve created is unstable. That’s when I can genuinely say I eat my weight in chocolate.
How many trunked books (if any) did you have before you were agented?
I actually got agented on the first book I wrote, though to be clear, I wrote and revised that book about thirteen times, no exaggeration. I was very stubborn with that story. I loved it very much, and still do. However, I have since parted ways with the agent and have since trunked that particular tale. I have every intention of one day releasing it.
Have you ever quit on an ms, and how did you know it was time?
I’ve never quit on a manuscript. I like that sense of satisfaction of writing The End on a story too much. Also, I suppose I just fall too in love with the characters to leave them hanging. I’m a Scorpio. Loyal to the end.
How did it feel the first time you saw your book for sale?
It was wonderful! The Amazon page and Barnes and Noble page and all the other retailers that had it on their site made it look wonderful. It was a thrill.
How much input do you have on cover art?
Tons! I worked with the fabulous Kim Killion of The Killion Group and she was outstanding. She created a real work of art for me that reflected so much of the story. I love the fire (which reflects the incredibly hot temperatures in the story, as well as the volatile atmosphere the characters are thrust into), I love how the guy is pushed more into the flames than the girl, and I love how there’s a bit of sensuality to the image, but it’s not too shocking—which is very apropos to how the story is written.
What’s something you learned from the process that surprised you?
Hmmm…I was lucky in that there were people who had done this before me and were so open with their advice on how they published and what the process was like. I read a lot of posts from Hugh Howey, Cora Carmack and Jamie McGuire and others. I’ve also been a long time follower of blogs like Pubrants and Literary Rambles. And then I have a wonderful group of friends who are authors and have traveled the path before me and could guide me through the many inroads and detours that make up a publishing journey. Not saying that there weren’t speed bumps and sudden stops, but I felt pretty well-informed about the process and was just so excited to jump in.
How much of your own marketing do you?
I do have a Twitter account and I may get a Facebook account but I’m still on the fence. However, my main online hub is my website. I post almost daily. The website is also home to my arts and entertainment site, where I interview a plethora of artists and review dozens and dozens of shows and books a year.
Do you think social media helps build your readership?
I think JA Konrath was right when he said that you go on the internet to be informed and entertained. One of my favorite sites is Buzzfeed. I go on there and I chuckle, I laugh. I leave satisfied. That’s what I think an author’s social media should do. It should give satisfaction to your current readers, and by default, bring in more. (I can’t tell you how many people I’ve told about Sara Megibow’s Twitter feed. It’s sincere, kind and informative.)
At the end of the day, social media is amazing because it gives everyone a voice. Just remember to be genuine in that voice. Be real. To quote an oft-used phrase: To thine own self be true. If you use social media just to sell, it’s never going to work. Instead, use it to laugh, use it to share, use it to build friendships.