T. Jefferson Parker On Knowing When To Leave A Character Behind

Mindy:             Today's guest is T. Jefferson Parker, the bestselling author of 13 standalone noir crime novels as well as three separate series featuring the characters Merci Rayborn, Charlie Hood, and his latest Roland Ford. He joined me today to talk about knowing when it's time to create a new character as well as the bittersweetness of leaving an old one behind.

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Mindy:             We're here to talk about The Last Good Guy, which is your third book in the Roland Ford series. So you've created quite a few series that focus on an individual investigator. So when do you know that it's time to create a new one?

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Parker:             Good question. Yeah, yeah. I have, I have written I guess three series now about different eh, heroines and heroes. I feel like sometimes that the character has, has reached her or his maximum level of entertainment value and want their job to be done. They have, you know, reached a point in the series of books where the reader will feel satisfied that they know that character well enough and it's time to, you know, move on to another one. I think essentially as long as I'm deeply interested in the character, then I always feel like there's going to be another book in there and at some point it's going to be time to say, that's enough. I'm going to end this. And I'm going to go onto the next character.

Mindy:             Do you ever miss the ones that you've walked away from?

Parker:             Yeah, I do. Sometimes ones that I walk away from or characters who die at the end of the book, you know, I miss them and I go, Gosh, I wish she was still here. I wish he was still here. In terms of the characters, the series leaders, Roland or like Charlie Hood or MercI Rayborn. I do miss them when they're gone. And when people go to book signings and do tours and stuff and they ask about, are you going to write about Silent Joe again? I know I'm not. And yet I always say, well, you know, probably not, but I'd kinda like to. And that's, and that's true.

Mindy:             Yeah, absolutely. I have, uh, characters in some of my own books that have open endings and people will say, are you going to write another one? I want to know what happens. I mean, more than likely, no, I'm probably not going to return to that series because that particular genre is no longer a viable genre. Um, but that's a horrible answer to a reader.

Parker:             It is. That's the writer's answer.

Mindy:             Exactly. Exactly. That's an industry answer. Whereas they're asking me about a character that they care about as a human being and I'm just like, well, you know, the money just isn't there.

Parker:             Yeah. And you want to be with that character. You want your readers to ask about those characters that go, well, what about Merci? Or what about Joe or whatever. You got them where you want them and it's just so nice to have characters that people care about and then you can't do what they want, which is to bring them back again cause you're doing something else. I mean, I literally stopped writing Merci Rayborn books. I wrote three of them in all, it was only three, but still it's a lot of writing about one character. I literally stopped that series, brought that series to a halt so that I could write Silent Joe, which was a story that just sort of presented itself to me. And I saw this character. I had to write this book and I had to say goodbye to Merci in order to write that book and then that book led to another book. There's too many good characters to get to.

Mindy:             And you do have to follow inspiration once you have it. Ignoring it is folly.

Parker:             You can't because, no. As you know, I mean that's what gets you through the year of work that it takes you to write one of these books. It takes a long time and you need lots of inspiration to keep you at work

Mindy:             Coming up, the importance of setting in fiction and how to create a place readers want to return to.

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Mindy:             I want to talk about setting a little bit. You are a California native and all of your books reflect that. So you have just deep California roots in all of the books. And the setting is really imperative often to everything that's going on. I mean, not only as a backdrop, but also as a character itself in many ways. So if you could talk about that for a little bit. I've always found literature of place very highly compelling.

Parker:             Yeah, me too. Me too. As a reader, you know, my first demand is, is I want to know where I am, what day it is, what time it is, what's going on, where I am geographically, you know, I don't care where, I just want to have a really firmly rooted grasp of, of where I'm at. And, uh, and as a writer, I've found over my many years of doing this that I really love, writing about where I am. So my first few books take place in, in Laguna Beach, California where I was living at the time that I wrote them. And then a couple about Newport Beach, California, and then Tustin, California. These are all places I've lived. And then a little bit in LA. And then when I moved down here to San Diego County, to Fallbrook, almost 20 years ago, my books followed south, you know, down into San Diego County and down into Fallbrook where I live now.

Parker:             I love being able to go out into my little town. I live in Fallbrook now and look at the streets and the people and talk with people and do my errands. And do my stuff and see the marines from Pendleton, which is right next door coming and going to our wars and stuff and talking to them. I love being able to, to make this little town real, you know, and it, it really informs the books. The setting is so important and, and as you said, it's not just window dressing, it's, it's the fabric of the life that you're living here and, uh, reflecting the world around you. In a small town like this, you get to write about the world around you, through the small hometown eyes, if you will, and I treasure that. I think it's something that readers like. I think I like this place, even if they've never been here.

Mindy:             I'm from the Midwest, I'm from Ohio. It's interesting to me how often I see country life, especially the Midwest and also Appalachia represented completely inaccurately. Would you say California, and at least as a Midwesterner, you automatically have an idea and it might be wrong. So do you see California or especially small town California represented accurately in books, movies, television?

Parker:             Yeah. Good question. You know, California is really a whole bunch of little tiny microcosms, all the same place at the same time. My California if you will, Fallbrook. Okay. It's San Diego County, 37,000 people. We call ourselves the avocado capital of the world, proudly. And we have lots of citrus and Avocados and commercial nurseries. Fragrant, floral, little place. Woodsy. Homes are kind of tucked away. And it's very much a mom and pop town. It's not a bunch of franchises. Joe's hardware. Bicycle shop that specializes in bicycles and vacuum cleaners.

Parker:             Quirky, quirky little world that I live in, you know, which is completely unrelated to Los Angeles even though Los Angeles is only an hour and a half drive from here. So, so to answer your question, I think a lot of the writers I know are neighbors. I know Don Winslow and I know Mike Connolly and I know Robert Crais and those guys write about their little pockets of California, I think really brilliantly. So I don't often read a novel. Did I go, Oh God, that's, that's nothing like it really is. I think for the most part, people writing about California are getting their little portion of it, right.

Mindy:             Ohio is usually wrong. And I say that as like from a really small town like population 2000, when I see it represented and I'm a farmer's daughter, grew up farming. Farming is never right ever in movies. I have a huge problem with the way cornfields are represented. They love the way it looks, but they're never doing it right. The cinematic shots of the green corn is beautiful and everyone loves it, but they're never interacting with it appropriately. Like ever.

Parker:             That's a crackup. Do you know my mother was a farmer's daughter only child. She grew up in Kenton, Ohio. Grandma, Grandpa May, Elmer and May were corn farmers. So I know exactly what you're talking about.

Mindy:             There isn't really anything quite like a corn field when you're out in it. Basically, you know, they have the animal wranglers and gun wranglers for movies they need to bring a farmer in.

Parker:             They should, they should.


Mindy:             We're here to talk about The Last Good Guy. The book features white supremacy. So it's timely, but unfortunately it's also evergreen. Did the news cycle inspire you at all with this or was this a, an idea that had been cooking?

Parker:             You know, it's an idea that had been cooking forever in my little brain pan and I've written about it before I kind of hatched this book around the time the Charlottesville protest turned deadly. I've always been interested in hate and you know, white supremacy and any version of that kind of thinking. Growing up in southern California, you know, weirdly enough southern California is correctly known as the liberal bastion, but, but back to the idea of little microcosms living together, you know, there's all, there's a long and sort of infamous, uh, a string of white supremacists who have lived and operated and agitated from southern California, from San Diego County where I live from Fallbrook, where I live. I mean there's a notorious one. Yeah, I've always been interested in those people and what they do, they make great, bad guys and what they're doing. Is it timely? Unfortunately it is evergreen now. I mean, they're up to it again. Just open the news and check it out. And there they are.

Mindy:             I'm curious about your research. So when you're researching something that is obviously difficult, I have a duty as a writer to get into the mind frame of even your villains. So you know, how, how does that research work when you're dealing with something that is, you know, uncomfortable?

Parker:             I don't feel uncomfortable when I brush up against those kinds of people and those kind of ideas. Some people scare me. I've been to supermax prisons and talked to people in those prisons and they scare the living daylights out of me. And there's bars between us. These kinds of organized, you know, haters, political extremists and stuff. I can tolerate that. I don't finish the book feeling like I blighted myself, you know, I mean, I've written about some really dark people back mid career. I wrote some really scary books. A couple of them. I literally felt like, you know, taking a hot shower at the end of the day after I'd spent eight hours creating these characters and telling these stories and it the left, uh, you know, a bristling sort of bad feeling on my skin. I don't feel that way anymore. Maybe just because I'm older and feel a little tougher.

Parker:             And so much of the research I do now is, is online and is videos and people are so eager now, you know, to reveal themselves and to tell you what they're doing. I mean, you can go online and see anybody doing anything at any time practically, you know, I mean, you can watch cartel torture if you want to. There's that distance too. I think I'm seeing these people and listening to these people, these, these haters kind of BS philosophy that they spout on about, I feel like I can take it now. I don't feel quite so, so tainted by it all.

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Mindy:             And it's interesting too. You mentioned doing the research online. You have a fourth wall, you know, there's a screen. You know that it's real, but at the same time you're watching a screen. And so even though it is very different from sitting across from someone and talking to them about their activities or their past, I think it's interesting talking about dark topics and diving into the research. My most recent book is about the opioid crisis. So I'm like, Hey, you know, we've got the Internet and boy, you're right. You really can find anyone doing anything. I did so much research and was simultaneously highly alarmed at how easy it was for me as a novice to learn so much about how to do like step by step youtube videos about how to tie off and find a vein. And I'm so grateful for those as a writer and yet disturbed as a human. Yeah,

Parker:             I totally hear you, Mindy. I, I've been there too. Yeah.

Mindy:             And people, you know, asked me similar questions. Uh, how do you write such dark topics? You know, the truth is it doesn't bother me either. So when I answer the question that way, sometimes I'm like, oh, did that, do I sound a little off now?

Parker:             It doesn't bother me at all. Yeah, you can't really say that then and it's not quite true, but I, I know what you mean. You're a reporter in, in a lot of ways. I think while all of us are novelists, I mean we're creating stories, at heart we're kind of journalists and we kind of have a cold eye for the facts.

Mindy:             Yeah, very true. I feel very much more like a funnel than anything. Things pass through it. They don't stay inside.

Mindy:             Lastly, what has changed in publishing over time and how to stay invigorated as a writer?

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Mindy:             So you have been publishing for quite a while since the mid eighties is that right?

Parker:             Yeah. 85 exactly. 31 years worth,

Mindy:             You have been in writing and publishing for a really long time. Um, what has changed for you? Like in the industry,

Parker:             The industry? This is writer to writer now.

Mindy:             Yeah.

Parker:             The Internet has revolutionized the world really. And certainly our jobs, you know, the research that we do changed immensely. I guess more specifically though, um, I'm proud to have seen novels especially, but books in general have survived the digital age. We're still writing and we're still reading and, and kindles did not take over the world. And even that's still reading, you know, in spite of the mountains and mountains of entertainment that you can get, gaming and TVs and in movie theaters. In spite of all of that, much of which is really quite good, our little books hang in there and they survive and they move people in ways only books can. I'm proud to be a part of a genre that I write in, you know, the noir and the crime writing that goes back, uh, you know, maybe all the way back to Edgar Allen Poe if you believe the scholars. I think books have weathered the great storm and books will be with us forever.

Mindy:             I agree. I mean, we started with oral storytelling, passing it down and, you know, we're still here. From the creative end. Do you ever get tired or are you ever worn out?

Parker:             Yeah, I get tired. I get tired. Um, but I gotta admit Mindy, I really kinda like what I do. I always tell students this, young people, you know, writing, if you want to be a writer, don't forget that writing should be fun. And I don't mean fun all the time. I don't mean fun all day. I don't mean every day. But I mean there, there has to be a point where you write a sentence and you sit back and look at it and go, that is a good sentence and I take satisfaction in doing that. You know, and a good sentence becomes a good page and a good page becomes a good chapter. And the draw of creativity, you know, that funny state you get in as a writer where you're funneling just like you said, you know, you're funneling things from the outside, mashing it through your brain and then your fingers and then onto the screen and then onto the page is really kind of magical.

Parker:             I like that a lot. Um, it's exhausting too, for me, get to the point where I can begin writing a book. The hardest part of writing for me is not writing. You know what? I'm sitting around trying to hatch a story idea, make a story work, you know, in my brain and, and okay, I know I got Roland and he lives here in Fallbrook and he's going to get another case and you know, what's it going to be? What am I going to do? You know? And I'll spend weeks and months in that weird state. You probably do too. You're waiting for the story to coagulate just enough so that you can begin writing it. And then once I begin writing, then I'm pretty happy.

Mindy:             Yeah, it's true. I get tired of being behind my screen so much, almost in a meditative state when you are writing and it's um, you know, it cuts you off from the outside world when you're good writing happens, but it also cuts you off from other people. Can make me a little bit unhappy if I am stuck inside in my own mind in front of a laptop. But when I'm not writing, I'm also very grumpy and unhappy.

Parker:             Oh, there you go. Can't win either way.

Mindy:             No, you have to get it out or else, uh, you know, it's, it'll explode. So that's, it's just a process thing for me. And it sounds like it's similar for you, so I'm going to let you go because I know you've got another interview lined up.

Parker:             Okay. Well, it's been really good talking to you, Mindy. Congrats on your success, your Edgar, and just very cool.

Mindy:             Yes. Thank you so much and congrats to you and this, uh, new series. I'll be diving into those,

Parker:             This new one, as a writer. I think it will grab you on page one when you read it. Anyway, have fun. Awesome. Thank you so much.


Melissa DeLaCruz On Maintaining Creative Spark Through 50 Novels

Mindy:             Today's guest is Melissa DeLa Cruz, Number One New York Times bestselling author of many critically acclaimed and award-winning novels for readers of all ages. With her 50th novel, The Birthday Girl releasing earlier this month, Melissa joined me to talk about longevity in publishing, retaining the spark of creativity, and how writers need community.

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Mindy:             So your newest release The Birthday Girl is your 50th book. That is amazing.

Melissa:            Oh, thank you. I'm glad I'm younger than my book count.

Mindy:             Well actually that's a lovely way to put it. I myself have eight books out and I know that the bloom comes off the rose pretty quickly in publishing and it can be a drag sometimes because you do have to focus on the business side of it as well, and the creativity side can get a little drained sometimes. I think. So, any thoughts on that here at your 50th book?

Melissa:            Yeah, and I think as a fellow writer, writers kind of understand what it's like, right? I mean when you say the bloom comes off the rose, I think we all want to be writers. We want to be authors, but then how do we make a living at it? I think that is like the biggest question and I heard it's not even really about selling your first book, it's about selling your second. I think that there's not really a path to it. Everybody kind of finds their own way. I started out wanting to write adult fiction and wanting to write commercial adult fiction. You know, Terry McMillan was one of my favorite writers. I wanted to write fun books for women. And my first book was adult book, but my editor said, I think you need to try out this new genre that we're kind of promoting. It was called young adult. And she said, I don't know if you've read The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants or Gossip Girl, but we kind of want to be in that genre. Do you think you want to try it? And I said, okay, well I'll try it. Because her other idea was a murder mystery. And I said, okay, I'm going to try a murder mystery. And she was like, yeah, you can’t write these.

Melissa:            And she said, my next idea is YA. I said, okay. So I wrote The Au Pairs and as I was writing this book about three teenagers and the Hamptons who are nannies by day party girls at night - that was our tagline. I just really enjoyed it and I thought, oh my God, this is what I'm meant to do. This is what my voice is meant to do. And I have written 50 books because I started out writing series. The books will either come out every eight months or every three months. We tell the stories through several books and I think J K Rowling made everybody think, oh, you have to write seven books. That's how it is. So I explain that it's not, you know, that I'm writing 50 huge long adult novels. Some of my middle grade books are only 50,000 words long and they would come out every three months. So that's how the count gets so high, so early,

Mindy:             Certainly. But 50,000 every three months, that is still a ton of work.

Melissa:            Yes it is. And it was a really difficult, because my career kinda took off right when I also became a mom. So I always joked that I never saw her. The nanny would say, oh, she's rolling over. Oh, she's doing this. I'm like, oh, that's great. You know, I never saw any of those.

Mindy:             Yeah, yeah. No, it's true. When you cross that line from writing being a hobby into being your career, that is part of where that bloom does start to come off the rose where it becomes not so much I want to write today, but I have to write and that's a distinction.

Melissa:            Oh yeah, no, definitely. And I think what happens sometimes is people forget about how fun it is. Try to always remember that you, you wanted this, this is your dream. And writers always roll their eyes saying, oh, we're living the dream. But we really are. I mean, I get to, we get to imagine things and play and even though it does sometimes feel not as fun as we imagined it to be, maybe more of a chore and a stressor. This fun, creative thing that we get to do. You have to find that spark in your work still, to be able to work, I think. Like it has to be fun and it has to be something that you want to spend time with.

Mindy:             I remind myself, I remind myself every day, whatever my complaint might be, if I am upset about, I don't know, Amazon not having my book in stock or if I'm upset about a bad review or like whatever. It's just like Mindy. You write for a living. Be quiet. You're all right. You're all right.

Melissa:            My friend Ally Carter said, you're not a $20 bill. Not Everybody's gonna like you.

Mindy:             You gotta roll with it. When you're a writer, you're, you are creating content for the public and your public is, it's the public. They are not a monolith.

Melissa:            Not your mom.

Mindy:             Not your mom. That is the absolute best way to put it. It is not your mom. You mentioned YA, and you mentioned a lot of titles that are really familiar to me because I was actually a librarian in high school for 14 years. Yes. Loved it so much. So you mentioned Traveling Pants and Gossip Girls and um, of course Twilight. And those all happened right at the time when YA just kind of blew up. And of course I remember your Blue Bloods series, handing those out to kids. I see on my handout here, there are 3 million copies in print now, which is amazing.

Melissa:            It was fun. And it was interesting when YA became YA and became something that people paid attention to because when I started out in the genre had like maybe one tiny stand in the Barnes and Noble, just kind of added to the children's section. And now you go and it's almost half the books are like YA. It's a little crazy.

Mindy:             It is. It's completely changed. It is a completely changed market. And when I was growing up, it didn't even exist. Like there were a handful of authors. Middle grade plus. They weren't touching most, not all - obviously some authors, Judy Bloom of course comes to mind - would touch things that others would not. But yeah, it is changed. It's a changed market. That is for sure.

Melissa:            50 books later you're returning to that initial push that you wanted to write adult and you're jumping in with The Birthday Girl, a domestic suspense. So why specifically domestic suspense as you're jumping into the adult market?

Melissa:            So my first novel was adult contemporary and then, Witches of East End was an adult urban fantasy. This is my fifth book for adults. I wanted to write in the genre that I basically read as my escape. So I try not to read a lot of YA and kid lit because I write in that and I want my reading to be just for me, just for pleasure, just for escape. So I usually read in a genre that I don't write in. So I read a lot of literary fiction and I read a lot of thrillers and I got really into domestic suspense genre. Basically I'm a Target mom. I go to Target, I buy whatever the books are at Target and they put a lot of these books out there and I read them all. I read Ruth Ware. I read The Wife, you know, While You Were Sleeping.

Melissa:            So those kinds of books that I was really drawn to and I always wanted to write a mystery but I don't think I had the chops for it 20 years ago. And I think after having written all these books and understanding plot and structure, I think I was like old enough and experienced enough as a writer to write the book I wanted to write. And it also came from an idea of wanting to write a mystery in Palm Springs because I think it's a place in America that has a little bit of historic uh, glamorous, mythical, Frank Sinatra, the Rat Pack and you can still go there and it is like going backwards in time. So I wanted to set it in Palm Springs. And then about 10 years ago when I was 38, we bought this house in Palm Springs and I joked that I bought it to throw my 40th birthday party in. I was going to have this massive elaborate extravagant 40th birthday and like it was a revenge party.

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Melissa:            I was going to show everybody who had been mean to me in high school. Look, where the bitch is now! It was just this huge monstrous kind of delusion. I thought, oh my God, that's so gross to want that much attention and that much validation. We don't need that. But I remember that feeling of being on the cusp of 40 and 40 meaning something that was like so big and terrible that you wanted to squash that and kind of celebrate this milestone in a way that was kind of in your face. So I thought, okay, I'm going to have this woman planning this huge party, but then everything goes wrong. This party that's supposed to meant to be amazing celebration of her life is also like a time when all the ghosts of her past haunt her. And the book really came alive when I realized I could write it in two different timelines because I do write for YA I was like, Ooh, I can sneak in kind of this dark YA book into it? So that made me happy.

Mindy:             The cover is amazing.

Melissa:            Thank you. I'm not good with covers and I never really know what a good cover is. And I remember when we did The Descendants books The Isle of the Lost cover with the big apple. They're like, this is so great. And I'm like, really? And my husband was like, you're crazy. That is a great cover. And with The Birthday Girl too. He was like, that's a great cover. Everybody's like, it's awesome. Like really? Are you sure? Like, I never know. So thank you.

Mindy:             It's great. Like as soon as I saw it as a librarian, my immediate reaction was, oh, people pick this book up.

Melissa:            Oh, I'm so glad. Thank you.

Mindy:             Yes, most definitely.

Melissa:            I cannot take any credit. My notes make the cover worse.

Mindy:             No, absolutely. And that's the kind of thing whenever I get any compliments on my covers, I'm like, well thank you. But it has nothing to do with me. You are also a co director of YALLFEST, which is a huge celebration that takes place in Charleston every year. I've been lucky enough to be invited and it's awesome. So thank you for all the immense amount of work. I'm sure it goes into that.

Melissa:            Oh my God, thank you! I was like, Mindy, we've had you! Awesome.

Mindy:             Lovely, lovely event.

Melissa:            We're very proud of it. I think we're almost at 10 years. I can't remember if it is our 10th which it might be. We will have big party, I think 10 years is next year. Actually. I think it's next year.

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Mindy:             That's cool. It's emblematic of the YA community and how tight knit it is, and it really is truly a celebration and you can see authors interacting with each other, but there's also 30000 teens. It's an amazing kind of coming together of book minded people and a great love of, of course, the YA age range. So do you feel a similar type of community among the adult authorship or is it a different kind of setting?

Melissa:            We started YALLFEST because we wanted a book festival just for our genre, just for the people in our industry, who were writing our books. Because before there were all these teen book festivals, they would send you to these book festivals and you would be kind of the redheaded stepchild and you would meet these adult authors. They'd never knew what to do with you or like, What? You write YA? What is that? And you kind of feel a little bit not left out, but you not maybe really belong. And so we thought, let's have a festival that's just for us. It's just for teens. But Not even an age range. You know, it's a mindset. Youth and optimism and you can be a YA reader no matter how old you are. And so that's where it came from, from going to these other festivals and feeling like they don't really get me or my books.

Melissa:            And then the teen festivals are now so big that all the mainstream festivals now have a whole YA track. So that's kind of nice to see. We did start it because we wanted a place where the writers were celebrated. Writers kind of, um, make communities around genre. Thriller writers are kind of like, YA writers in a way where they all know each other and support each other. And it's a small kind of close knit community. I do look forward to that. People tend to band together with the kind of books that they write and there are communities in the publishing world, murder mystery. Thriller writers. They're always a lot of fun.

Mindy:             That's really cool. That's really cool. So when it comes to writing a dual timeline, that is always kind of challenging, I think. You're basically operating pacing, character building and everything within two different stories, kind of writing two novels to create one story. So how did you go about keeping yourself organized for one thing, but also just planning that out - or do you pants it?

Melissa:            No, I'm a plotter. I definitely am a planner. I like outlines. I think structure is really important. While the book was in my head, I also wrote like a pretty detailed outline of where I wanted to be because I wanted each chapter to kind of inform the other. So you would see something in the past and then something in the present and you would know that happened, uh, in the present because it's something that happened in the past and I wanted it to in the same time. I didn't write each chapter one after the other. I would write five Palm Springs in her forties chapters and then I'd write five Portland in her 16 year old mindset chapters. So it's like once I was in that certain POV, I would stick to it and kind of jump ahead. But then I also had to make sure that the chapters were still aligning in that way. Yeah. It was a lot of planning and then also like some kind of alchemy where, oh, it kind of all works. I don't know. I don't know how it works. When you're in it just kind of playing and writing and hoping, and then you rewrite it a lot and then you know, hopefully it's done.

Mindy:             Sometimes you step back and you're like, oh look, that worked cool.

Melissa:            Exactly. And it's kind of like, phew. Subconscious writing.

Mindy:             Totally. I feel that way often. So you're writing not only two timelines but you're writing someone as a younger person and then writing the same person in their forties so I am interested in the challenge of that because you have to have the voice there so that we know it's the same person. I'm curious about your approach. Were you imagining her first as a 16 year old and then wondering what kind of 40 year old person would the 16 year old evolve into or were you looking at the 40 year old and saying what happened to her when she was young?

Melissa:            I think when I thought of the character, I kind of knew everything. I knew that she had grown up poor and I knew that she had successfully built her own business. You know, kind of picked herself up from her bootstraps using her beauty and then I knew that something would happen at her 40th birthday because something happened at her 16th. But I didn't know I was going to do, like you said, two novels in one/ and when I realized, oh I could do that, that's how I'm going to show what happened in the past. It kind of clicked. I always knew who she was her entire life. I just didn't realize where I was going to put the camera. I was like, Oh yeah, right there at 16 and definitely at 40. She kind of was whole in my head. Like I knew who she was. I knew her background and her present.

Mindy:             Very cool. Very cool. Last question. What's up next for you? What are you working on?

Melissa:            So right now I'm taking a little bit of a break because I have a couple of books coming out next year. So I'm working on a couple of things that haven't been announced yet. This next year I have a new YA fantasy romance. It's called The Queens Assassin. It's coming out in February. They came to me in a dream. I dreamt about this assassin, this girl hiding in the bushes. And I was like, what are they doing? And I always joke when I wrote my vampire books, Blue Bloods, I would be on panels with Stephanie Meyer and Stephanie would talk about how Edward and Bella came to her in a dream. And I'd be like, please and roll my eyes. And now I want to apologize because now these characters came to me in a dream and I wrote a book about them. So you know, I guess it does happen.

Mindy:             My first book came about because of a dream and, and I guess you can't question inspiration right when it lands.

Melissa:            Oh yeah. You got to go with it. And then my next work after that's coming out in April is Gotham High, which is the first graphic novel that I've written. I've had my books adapted into graphic novels, but I've never written an original graphic novel. And it is the story of Bruce Wayne and the Joker and the Catwoman in high school. That's Gotham High.

Mindy:   Yes, that's exciting. Tell listeners where they can find you online.

Melissa:            I am at https://melissa-delacruz.com/

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The Key To Writing YA Horror: Chelsea Bobulski

Mindy:             Today's guest is Chelsea Bobulski, who graduated from the Ohio State University with a degree in history. As a writer she has a soft spot for characters with broken paths, strange talents and obstacles they must overcome for a brighter future. Her debut young adult novel, The Wood is available now. Her next release, Remember Me, releases August 6th. Chelsea joined me today to talk about querying for five years, the stress of breaking up with her first agent and the importance of maintaining a polite professional attitude while in the query trenches.

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Mindy:             My listeners are always interested in learning more about the agent hunt. A lot of my listeners are aspiring writers, so tell us first of all who your agent is and how you landed them.

Chelsea:           So my agent is Andrea Somberg with Harvey Klein and she is just amazing. She's everything that I could ever want in an agent and more. She's the perfect cheerleader. She always gets back to me right away when I email her with anything, whether it's like an irrelevant question or me just freaking out about some random author things, she's always right there to answer me. So I love everything about her. Very thankful to have her. But it took a long time to find her. The Wood, which is my first book to come out, was actually my fifth book that I wrote in pursuit of publication. And that happened over a span of five years. And so in those five years and those five books, I probably queried several hundred agents, at least with the first two books. At the time I thought they were really great for what they were.

Chelsea:           And now I'm like hoping no one ever sees them. But you know, I did get some agent interests with both that ended up going nowhere. But they would say, if you ever have another manuscript, make sure to query us again. And so I would keep track of those responses. And then with my third book, I actually never even queried it because I wrote it and I loved the whole foundation of it. I loved the story behind it, but I just knew from both, like a marketing standpoint of what publishers were looking for that it really didn't fit any mold at the time. And I also just knew that even though my voice was becoming stronger as a writer, it wasn't quite there yet. So I was like, instead of querying this, I'm just going to take it as a learning experience. I don't think I'll ever pull that one back out either.

Chelsea:           Just for the same reason as I don't think it really has a place and I don't know that I'd go back to it, but it was a good learning experience. And then my fourth book was a young adult steam punk romance that I still love and someday I might go back to it and try to do something with it. It got a lot of attention. I entered it into several different contests, one of which was Miss Snark's, First Victim Baker's Dozen, which I don't think she does anymore, but at the time I think I got like, I can't remember the exact number of agent requests off of that. I want to say it was like nine to 12 and then I also at the same time I did the very first Pitch Wars contest. I was a mentee in that and I got 12 full requests off of that as well and so really great responses.

Chelsea:           I did end up getting my very first agent through Pitch Wars and he was really great. But I noticed as we went on in our relationship that we had just different professional styles and also different visions of what I should be writing and how I should be writing and different things like that. It just didn't mesh well. He's a great person, just we didn't work well together and so we ended up splitting, which was very difficult. After four books in four years you finally have this and you think this is it, it's finally happening. And then to have to pull that plug and start again was really difficult. And at that time I actually was thinking that I was never going to be an author. It just wasn't in the cards for me. And so as I'm writing my fifth book, which was The Wood my first book to be published, I was at the same time like looking up law schools and like trying to figure out how to get my life back on track.

Chelsea:           I ended up querying only my top five agents at that point because I really was in this like horrible place where I just thought this isn't meant to be for me and I wrote this book because I had to, because the characters were there and they wouldn't let me not write it. Thankfully Andrea Somberg was one of my top five. I think she got back to me within like three weeks with representation. And so to go from my first couple of books, querying hundreds of agents waiting months upon months to hear anything to get an agent within like three weeks of leaving my previous one. I think it just goes to show the importance of never giving up first and foremost, but then also just keeping up professional demeanor with agents throughout and just being a nice person because they remember that and they'll want to work with you again in the future. Hopefully.

Mindy:             They absolutely do. I love your journey because mine was very similar. I also, my fifth written finished novel was the first one I got published. I also had hundreds upon hundreds if not a thousand rejections. I like what you're saying though about maintaining that professionalism because while it is true that agents receive two, three, four or 500 queries in their inboxes a week. If you have been at it for years - and you were and I was as well - they will remember your name. If you are in front of them often and I had multiple agents that would email me back and say, I remember you, you have queried me before. Thank you for your continued interest. This book is not for me, but please keep reaching out because they see your determination. They remember that you are professional and that you are trying to write a query correctly and you're really putting the work into it and you're paying attention to their submission guidelines. And if you are continuous with your attempts, it's not necessarily means that you will succeed, but it does mean that they will notice you and they will remember you. They also will remember you if you are rude and not in a good way.

Chelsea:           Yes, definitely. Never be rude because that doesn't help you at all.

Mindy:             I want to talk to you a little bit about rejections. I don't think I've talked about this on the blog before, but one of the reasons I kept writing, I was at it for 10 years. I didn't achieve representation, but I did come very close in that I had an agent respond to me. It was Jennifer Laughran. Jennifer responded to my query and said, you can really write, this is a great book. If you had queried me with this book (because it was urban fantasy) if you had queried me with this book four years ago, five years ago, I would have signed you and it would have sold. Right now, it's not going to, you need to keep writing and keep querying me. And that rejection made me keep writing. I was ready to quit. I was ready to say just like you. I was looking at masters degrees. I was getting ready to enroll myself to go get my master's of library science because I was going to throw in the towel and say, I've been doing this for 10 years. It's time to quit. It was a rejection that made me keep trying. And I want to follow up a little bit more on what you were saying about letting your first agent go because yes, that had to be terrifying when you had been trying to get an agent for so long you managed it, and then because of professional differences, just not meshing personality wise, you had to let that person go. Yeah, I mean terrifying. So how did you finally make that decision?

Chelsea:           It was so hard. I remember sitting in front of my computer, I had written an email to actually like terminate the contract and my husband was standing there and I had to like have him help me push the button to send it because it was terrifying, you know, to, to have gone so long trying to get an agent for me to decide to split ways that was really, really tough. You do it and you think, I have no guarantee that I'll find another agent. Like this could be the end of my career, right here. Is what you're thinking to yourself. Now, of course, if you're determined, especially in my case, like if you've built up those relationships that you can then reach out to, then that does help. But still you're thinking, is this the biggest mistake of my life? And thankfully when I had signed with him, I had had other agents interested at the time from those different contests, all of them including Andrea sent back to me, you know, because you have an offer of representation on this right now.

Chelsea:           I'm not going to offer just because I feel like it still needs a bit of work before moving forward. But they were like literally, if you part ways at any point, please contact me and let me know. So I think they may have even been interested in hearing from me just off of that steam punk romance. But I had already written The Wood at that point. So I sent that one out. I don't know that they would've taken it on, but they would have at least remembered and acknowledged and that would have also continued to give me that push to keep going, I think. Um, so that's why that professional demeanor and being nice and just maintaining those relationships is so important.

Mindy:             Yes, absolutely. That's why you don't respond to that email saying, well I found somebody else that wants this without the work, so ha ha, I'll see you on the New York Times bestseller list, you know? No, it doesn't work that way. I want to follow up to on what you said about contests. You mentioned Miss Snark's, First Victim. That was a very popular blog about 10 years ago and no longer in operation I don't believe. But I also participated with Miss Snark and the Baker's Dozen. I did get nibbles off of that. And of course you mentioned Pitch Wars, which is very popular. Talk to me about contests and how to use those and the boost that you get from them.

Chelsea:           I think the best thing about writing contests is the fact that you can so easily network with so many different people at different stages of their writing careers. Um, cause I think you have to go into it with that attitude. I think if you go into the attitude of I'm going to get in this contest and I'm going to get a bunch of offers of representation, something amazing, like you're most likely going to have those hopes dashed at some point. Not because it doesn't happen, but just because the likelihood when there's so many people trying to get in the same contest, I think it's better to just think to yourself, okay, I'm doing this with the hope that I'll be accepted into this contest and I'll get agent requests and everything. But even if all that happens is I connect with other writers who can be possibly future critique partners or just cheerleaders along this journey, like that's such an amazing thing all on its own. So I definitely think contests are amazing things do. Um, for both of those reasons that it can get you visibility, but it can also help you network in a career and where, you know, there's no water cooler that we all go to to talk. So it can be very lonely career. And so to meet those people online is amazing. You can talk to somebody across the country who is going through the exact same journey as you and they'll understand what you're going through in a way that your family and friends just can't.

Mindy:             If you want to have a community that actually understands what it's like to be rejected when you wrote a novel, yeah, it's gotta be another writer. That's all there is to it. Coming up, learning how to balance writing the next book against the time investment of marketing, your backlist.

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Mindy:             So Remember Me is your second book. Your first was The Wood, which you mentioned, and I had a guest earlier this month that I talked to about the phrase sophomore effort, which is often used when it comes to second books or second albums, whatever the medium is and rarely is it used as a compliment. So what do you find to be the specific challenges of the second book?

Chelsea:           It definitely is a challenge and it's across the board. It's something that you hear all the time. I don't think I experienced it quite in the same way as other people do just because since The Wood was my fifth book that I'd written when it got picked up, I had already kind of gotten into this mentality of just keep writing, like just keep working on the next one. So you don't think about what's happening with the one that's on submission. So even before The Wood was picked up, I'd had Andrea as my agent and she was shopping around, but it hadn't been picked up yet. I wrote a middle grade that I loved. It was very like Tim Burton esque. I may go back to it at some point and try to polish it up. I don't think it was quite primetime ready at the time, but that kind of got me to continue writing.

Chelsea:           And then even when The Wood had been picked up before it was published, I wrote, Remember Me, I wrote the next book before The Wood was published. So I wasn't thinking about how many copies did The Wood sell and can I ever do this again? Like I just kept that mentality of keep writing and I think that that has really helped. So if I did go through the sophomore effect, I think I went through it earlier, like even before I got an agent because I just told myself to not get too wrapped up in expectations of other people. Whether it's publishing, people are readers, you know, at some point you have to remember why you love what you do and just keep doing it.

Mindy:             When it comes to expectations. Also managing your own is a really big thing. Obviously you went through five years and five novels of trying to get published. So you, your expectations had already been managed for you, right? Yeah, and I think that's really healthy, you know?

Chelsea:           Yeah. I think I'd gone through so much rejection that to me just getting published was like I'd hit my dream just in that alone. So anything that happened after that was the cherry on top moment. So to me it was like I got published, I'm good. Even though of course you want your book to be like a New York Times bestselling book, I was at a place, I was like, if that doesn't happen, I'm just thankful that this dream came true. And I think that helped a lot with that too.

Mindy:             It's funny that you mentioned that because I was just thinking earlier today, for whatever reason, in my own publishing journey, because I was querying for like 10 years, my first book that got published was a post-apocalyptic survival novel, Not A Drop to Drink. I was fortunate enough that it just slipped into that tail end of a post apoc era, but it really did just squeak in. I was on submission for six months and people kept saying, yeah, this is great. But that genre is done, so we're not gonna pick it up. I was already having conversations with my agent about the next thing. We got to write the next thing because this one isn't going to be what gets published first for you. And at one point there was an indie publisher that had expressed interest, they no longer exist. They folded shortly after, but they had expressed interest and my agent said to me, well, So-and-so is interested, but I've heard rumors about authors having difficulty getting paid and it's in the wind that they're going to be going under. I don't think we should pursue this. My first reaction was just, I don't care if I don't get paid, I just want a book published. And my agent was just like, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. You get paid.

Chelsea:           Yeah. I think sometimes you can get into this mentality especially when you've been trying for so long to get published and you've gotten rejection upon rejection where maybe your expectations are too low. So it does help to have your agent be like, no, your work is worth getting paid for.

Mindy:             And I really was just thinking about it this afternoon because I just remember being that naive that I was just like, no, just put a cover on it, please. They have good covers. I like that company. Going back to that idea of the sophomore experience, what about marketing appearances, social media efforts? What did you learn the first time around that helped you on the second time or was there anything that you learned that you were like, okay, I'll never do that again. This was something that was a waste of my time or just didn't work?

Chelsea:           Yeah. I was really fortunate because I had several author friends who I'd met through things like those contests. They were 2015 debuts, so their books debuted two years before The Wood did. They were very open with me about their journeys, their experience especially with marketing. And so I was very fortunate in that I got to kind of learn from them a little bit before even going into my own. And one of them was very open about the fact that she worked really hard at marketing. Like she did literally everything you could ever think to do and more marketing wise and took on so much onto herself. And in the end she couldn't tell if there was really a difference. Like if she hadn't done everything under the sun, if it would've sold any better or any worse. And in that time because she was focusing so much on marketing, she wasn't writing anything new.

Chelsea:           And so she wasn't able to do the number one piece of advice, which I think is extremely true, which is nothing sells backlist like frontlist. She had nothing to put out there for frontlist cause she'd focused so much on marketing. And so seeing her go through that already put me in a mindset of marketing is important. It's not that it's not, but it shouldn't be something that consumes you to the point where you're not working on the next book. And so I already kind of was going into it thinking, okay, I'm going to market it, but I'm not going to go too wild with it. And then I think the biggest thing I learned from marketing The Wood is that there's a lot of advice out there on everything you should do, but I think you need to find what works best for you and what doesn't drain you.

Chelsea:           So for example, Twitter and Instagram come very naturally to me. Those are fine. Facebook, I want to get better at. I'm trying to get better at it for some reason. It just doesn't come as naturally to me to check Facebook, so I'm working on that. The one thing that I know from many authors is very important is the newsletter. I would love to be amazing at newsletters. Again, I'm going to work on this, but I learned that for me it just does not come easily or naturally and I can spend half a day or even a full writing day trying to put a newsletter together and I realize that's a full writing day I just missed out on. And especially now that I'm a mom, my time is so limited that I can not be spending writing time trying to put together a newsletter. You have to figure out what works for you and it's draining you, and if it's keeping you from writing the next book, then maybe that's not the particular thing you should be doing right now. As long as you have other things that you're doing that are working for you. Like don't try to do everything.

Mindy:             Don't try to do everything. I personally used to be on every single platform out there and for the life of me, I couldn't make Tumbler work. Nobody gave a shit about the stuff I was doing on Tumblr, it didn't matter. I don't know why I couldn't figure out Tumbler. Whatever I do, whatever works for me on every other platform. On Tumblr, no, it was just this big void for me and I tried for like three years and finally I was like, okay, you know what? I'm wasting my time. Tumbler doesn't work for me and I deleted my account because whatever the magic is that works on that platform, I don't have it.

Chelsea:           I haven't even tried Tumbler just because even as somebody like just looking at Tumbler, I don't always understand it so I just haven't even tried it. I'm sure it's amazing. I just, it doesn't come naturally to me.

Mindy:             No, me neither. And Pinterest is the same way. I don't have any interest in figuring out how to use Pinterest as an author. I know some people have luck with it. It seems to me like if you're going to do that, you're going to have to really lean into it and give it a lot of effort and I'm not going to do that. I have a really healthy Facebook page. I don't know why, but for whatever reason Facebook - cause I always hear everybody saying Facebook is pointless. Now I have a really effective Facebook author page and I guess it's just, I think maybe the librarian outreach that I've done and from being a librarian for so long, so it's not a teen crowd. It's an adult crowd that I have on Facebook. But Facebook and Twitter and I'm starting to understand how a wonderful Instagram is. So that is my bread and butter.

Mindy:             You mentioned newsletters and I'm going to tell you, I just spoke with another guest right before I started talking to you and we had a long conversation about email newsletters. I told her, and I'll repeat the story, that I have been doing it wrong for a very long time. For years and years I've been doing newsletters wrong. Everyone kept saying you have to have a newsletter, you have to have a newsletter, and my newsletters were just bombing. Every time I would send one out, my open rate was like 5% my click rate was like one, it was terrible and I'm like, why? Why do people say you need to have this? And finally a friend of mine who was a fellow author who is on my mailing list, emailed me back like off of my email, my promotional email list, and was like, Mindy, you are doing this wrong.

Mindy:             I was just like, oh I am? And she said yes. And she recommended a book to me called Newsletter Ninja is by Tammy Labrecque. She's like, buy this, read it. You will be amazed. Read it in like an afternoon and applied the things that she recommended. And now my newsletter has like a 50 or 60% open rate and like a 20% click rate. Like it's insane and they're very, very simple steps. So I highly recommended to you. And once you learn the really simple steps, you're just like, oh, it really makes a difference. So I highly recommended that to you. Newsletter Ninja.

Mindy:             Lastly, the key to writing horror, especially for younger audiences.

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Chelsea Bobulski.png

Mindy:             So I want to talk to you for a little bit about genre and specifically about horror because that is the area that you write in. And I think it's a tricky one because I always see readers clamoring for it, shows like Stranger Things have millions of watchers. But horror has yet to be the thing in publishing. I've never seen it blow up the way that other genres have. And in fact I even see publishers veering away from it and commenting that it's difficult to market. So as a horror author, what is your take on that? Like specifically as a YA horror author? What's your take on that?

Chelsea:           Yeah, I'm glad we're talking about this cause I have so many thoughts. To use Stranger Things as an example because it is huge - I think the biggest thing is that horror, while it's at the center of Stranger Things, I don't think that's actually what draws people in. I think the very first people to watch it when it probably were for the most part fanatics who saw it and thought, oh great, like something for me. And then they told all of their friends about it, whether their friends were into horror, not, not because of the horror aspect. I think the majority of people pushed it as you have to see this show. I've never seen a better representation of the 80s. So it was the nostalgia of the 80s and how beautifully they captured it I mean down to every little detail that I think drew most of the audience in.

Chelsea:           And then the fact that horror was a part of it for people, whether they loved horror or not, they just went with it. They were like, this is great, I'm into it. You also have the human element that's so important of people relating to these characters and wanting to see where these characters go. But I think it is important to have something else that your readers outside of your horror audience can really grab onto. So for example, with Remember Me, we pitched it to editors as the horror of The Shining meets the romance of Titanic. So while horror is a big part of it, the romance is actually just as big of a part and so it can actually reach larger audiences in that sense. Another big thing in terms of marketing that genre that can be so difficult is I think you have to get your cover design right.

Chelsea:           So for example, The Wood, I love the cover, it's everything I could have ever wanted to be in more. But the thing that surprised me was when I was doing school visits, the number of middle school readers who were reading up, who tend to say this to me. They would look at the book cover and say it looks too scary for me. The cover, it's a white cover with an autumn leaf on it. And it looks like there's blood dripping off the leaf. The blood is actually kind of metaphorical. Cause if you read the book, you'll know that the wood is this magical place where instead of out of like the leaves just changing color in the autumn, it's almost like they're painted and the paint rolls off the leaves. And so it's red paint rolling off this autumn leaf. So that's like what it actually is.

Chelsea:           But it's also alluding to the fact that the wood has this sinister side. So I would explain to them, well it's more of an atmospheric creepiness as opposed to really scary. But that just opened my eyes to the fact that a cover in the horror genre can turn off a lot of readers who might think, oh that's too scary for me. Even if it's actually isn't. It was really important to me that my Remember Me cover convey the fact that there is this darker element to the book, but that that's not all there is. And when I actually got the first cover concept it was exactly the same as it is now. It has these beautiful chandelier's, it's a little dark, it feels very like gothic Romancey but the girl on the cover who is kind of see through, so you can tell she's kind of ghostly.

Chelsea:           She looked a lot more like the ghost from The Ring, which is very creepy. So I emailed my design team back and I said, this is amazing. I love it. I'm just worried that people are going to see it and assume it's like a collection of ghost stories or that, that the horror aspect is all there is because it really takes away from the romance aspect. My cover designer came back with five brand new covers including the same cover, but with the ghost girl changed to be less, less creepy. And that's the one we ended up going with. So I was very happy with it cause I love the cover overall. I just wanted to make sure it didn't turn people off who might think, oh that's too scary for me. So I think it's important to have more than just horror as a part of it.

Chelsea:           So for example, like Stephen King I think is the big name, you know, an adult horror that everyone knows. And I think the reason, there's several reasons he was so successful and I think part of it was just timing. When his first books came out, I mean that's when I'm pretty sure like The Exorcist and Poltergeist and all these huge movies were coming out. And so it was kind of perfect timing. But he's also very edgy and at the same time very literary. And I think that that drew a larger crowd into his books than maybe would have otherwise. And then on the opposite end, you have young adult in between, you have Stephen King on the adult end and then in the middle grade end you have authors like RL Stine who were very popular when I was a kid. I'm not sure if he's as popular now.

Chelsea:           I think he is, but I think that horror for younger markets works well because a lot of kids have a lot of fears. And to address them in a fun way is actually very appealing to them. I think the young adult market is harder because you need something special about it to really push it over the edge to reach those audiences who otherwise wouldn't pick it up just like Stranger Things did. It had this special nostalgia for the 80s that really captured audience attention and I think you need that in young adult market too. So I do think the next Stephen King of young adult is out there. I think they just need to figure out what makes their book special. Just like every author has to do that across every genre.

Mindy:             So the thing that gets me about Stephen King is that yes, he is the iconic horror writer and I love him and I've read everything he's written, but his first book, the one that broke through is Carrie. And that is technically YA.

Chelsea:           Yes, very true.

Mindy:        And I think that's really funny because I hear so often - and I do think it's true -that why YA is a difficult place for horror and I think it's hilarious even though it is true because the iconic horror novel from the King of horror is a YA novel.

Chelsea:           Definitely. I think that, you know, at the time I don't think they even had the category of YA. And even today, I don't know. I mean it might get placed with YA if it came out today, but I don't know if it would have just because some of the content of it. Publishers might've pushed it into the adult realm. I'm not quite sure, even though it centers on a teenage girl.

Mindy:             No, I definitely think that, um, at the time adult was the place to go, but I think it could work as as YA today. The other thing I want to follow up on, you mentioned the covers for horror, which is very true. It is tricky when we're talking about marketing. Your cover is the face of your book. That is the first thing people are going to see and decide whether or not they're going to pick up and actually look at the writing and the blurb on the inside covers. I've always heard, and I don't know if this is true, but I've always heard that if you have a horror novel and it is a creature feature that you never ever put the monster on the cover.

Chelsea:           I haven't heard that, but it makes sense just for the same reason of you don't want to alienate those readers who might look at that cover and think, oh, that's too scary for me because there might be other things in the book that they would really love and then they would kind of jump onto the creature feature train, and be like, oh, this is actually kind of cool. So I can definitely definitely see that for sure. I mean I think it's totally fine if as long as you specifically want to hit that horror market, or like I don't care whether it reaches a broad audience or not. Like I want to take care of the readers who actually really love the genre, then I think it's great. But I think in order to cross over into other audiences, I could see why you wouldn't necessarily want to feature that. And for my personal writing, my horror aspects of my books tend to be more atmospheric than like jump out and scare you. I mean I certainly have a couple of those moments, but because of that it's really important to me that the cover conveys that it's, it's more of that atmosphere at core just so that readers know what they're getting.

Mindy:             What are you working on right now and where can readers find you online?

Chelsea:           I have a middle grade that's finished and then I also have one young adult book that I'm plotting, so it's in very beginning stages. Who knows if it'll go anywhere. And I have another young adult that I am in the beginning stages of drafting with a co-writer. Um, so that's really exciting and fun just to try something different. And then I have an adult Edwardian Romance, which is so different from what I typically write, but I'm really enjoying it just as something to just have fun with. I think sometimes you need a pet project that's just for fun and that's kind of what I'm doing with that one and we'll see where it goes. But especially right now I have one child and I'm preparing for my next baby to be born in August. And so I think it's good for me to have several different projects that I can just kind of pick up or leave because my brain is just not in that space to like really dedicate to one book. So I have several different projects up in the air right now. Where people can find me, they can find me at my website, https://chelseabobulski.com/ as well as on Twitter or Instagram and Facebook all under Chelsea Bobulski.