Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Chris Eboch Interview with L. E. Falcone on The Voices Upstairs

Chris: I’ve worked with hundreds of writers, through workshops, in private paid critiques, and through courses with the Institute of Children’s Literature. Some of my clients plan to submit to publishers, while others are interested in self-publishing. Today I’m going to share a conversation with middle grade novelist L. E. Falcone, who recently released The Voices Upstairs. Here’s the book description:

When 14-year-old Jason Myers gets suspended for fighting with the school bully, he thinks he’ll just kick back and relax at home while his parents work all day. Unfortunately, a week off from school turns into a week-long stay with Grandma in her smelly house, cleaning out her closets as punishment. With no freedom, no TV, no video games, and no friends—life can’t get any worse for Jason.

Until the dead start talking.

Something is wrong in Grandma’s house. It holds a dark secret. As Jason digs into the past for answers, he uncovers disturbing truths that put his life in danger. How far is Jason willing to go to solve the mystery behind the voices?

Chris: Doesn’t that sound wonderfully creepy? For starters, L. E., tell us a little about why you wrote The Voices Upstairs.

L. E.: Well, I love ghost stories. But this story came after reading a book about a murder trial from the late 1920s where the young man who committed the crime claimed to have heard voices. It was also inspired by a line in a song by The Clash. The two together sparked the idea and the main character, Jason, showed up, bags packed, ready to go.

Chris: You first contacted me for editing in April of 2011. Why did you decide you needed a professional critique?

L. E.: I had already revised it umpteen times and shopped it around to agents. I had some good comments but no takers. Something wasn’t working but I just didn’t know what. I joined a writer’s group hoping to make connections but I wasn’t feeling it. I revised some more but it was more like banging my head against the wall. I wanted someone who knew writing, not only as a reader but as a writer, so I put a call out for editors and found you.

Chris: Looking back at my first critique letter, I opened by saying, “Jason has a great voice -- clever and casual and a bit snarky. The humor is wonderful. The novel’s premise is interesting and creepy, and the plot builds to a dramatic conclusion. You have a good balance between action and dialogue to keep things moving, and the writing is smooth.” So a lot was working – but I then gave you several pages of suggestions, such as escalating the problem, clarifying Jason’s emotional reactions, and explaining the villain’s behavior better. I also made detailed comments on the manuscript. How did you react to all this feedback?

L. E.: Overwhelmed! But, I loved it. I had lost all objectivity with the manuscript and needed someone to give it to me straight. I liked that you were no-nonsense about it and clarified for me what wasn’t working about it. You hit on everything I felt wasn’t working, by the way. Weird, isn’t it? (Not really) Once I began to see the bigger picture more clearly I felt more confident in making bolder choices for Jason.

Chris: You contacted me again in October 2012 for a second critique of the revised manuscript. Wasn’t once enough? Are you a glutton for punishment?

L. E.: Why? What have you heard? No, once wasn’t enough. The reason for the first time was to find out what was wrong so I could present a more polished product to agents/editors. Then technology changed things. The second time I contacted you was to polish it even more because I had made the decision to self-publish.

Chris: I’m always impressed by writers who are willing to really dig into their manuscripts and make major changes through multiple revisions. I think it’s one of the best indicators of success. In my second critique letter, I said, “You’ve made a lot of good changes. You have strong characters, nice humor, and an active plot with good complications.” And then I followed with more suggestions. By that point, the suggestions were more “small picture” things, like cliffhanger chapter endings, eliminating any wordiness, and clarifying cause/effect and goals. How did you feel after that critique?

L. E.: This was the letter where a lot of things came together for me. I had read so many how-to books, followed writer blogs, hung out on message boards, but some things weren’t sinking in. It helps to have someone work on your manuscript with you. You hit on the nagging questions I had about my writing and the Ah-ha! moments began. This fine-tuning period was when I felt like my manuscript had become a book.

Chris: By the second critique, I felt your work was getting close to publishable, or ready for submission. Why did you decide to self publish rather than to submit to agents or editors?

L. E.: Self-publishing fits my personality. I’ve always been a DIY kind of person. I like the business side as well as the creative side of it. I’m going to have to work on the marketing side of it though. It’s something I wanted to do long ago when I first started writing but the technology wasn’t there. And, my writing wasn’t anywhere near ready either.

Chris: Getting professional feedback is definitely recommended before self-publishing. I like your cover, too, and the final title. They are nicely creepy together. Did you do the cover yourself? What other steps did you need to take?

L. E.: Yes, I did. Once I settled on a title (which is hard for me), the idea for the cover came to me quickly. I have basic web design and Photoshop skills that helped. Formatting, and uploading, seems to be the biggest hurdle. Sometimes technology doesn’t want to cooperate with you and it took me a few tries to get it right. Setting up the business end of it has been a lot more time-consuming than I had anticipated. If anyone is interested in taking this route, be prepared for that. So far, it’s been fun. Busy, but fun.

Chris: Self-publishing isn’t easy. I blogged about the process earlier, here and here. I also have an “Indie Publishing Worksheet” on my website that offers an overview. Good luck with your novel, and feel free to report back later about additional things you’ve learned from the process!

For more about Chris Eboch critique services, see the “for writers“ page on her website.

L. E. Falcone began her writing career writing songs for her stuffed animals. She later took up writing something that sort of resembled poetry, and really short stories before moving onto writing for young people. During that time, she managed to earn a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre. Ever in search of a ghostly mystery, she currently occupies space ten miles outside of the middle of nowhere and is convinced the woods behind her house are haunted. Her website redcollarbooks.com is under construction. Find her on Twitter @elliefalcone.

The Voices Upstairs is available for the Kindle for $3.99. A print on demand version is in the works.

1 comment:

  1. Great interview with L.E., who's one of my Twitter buddies. (I hadn't heard of this book, though--so get marketing it, L.E. I'll put the word out for you too!)


Thanks for adding to the mayhem!