Prakaash Vir Sharma: Welcome Ann! Would you please tell us a little bit about yourself?
Ann Harrison-Barnes: Sure thing! My name is Ann Harrison-Barnes, and I am an author and a freelance writer who is totally blind. I have written a variety of blog posts, articles, eBooks and landing pages for a number of clients from around the world. I have three books published, which I will describe in greater detail later on. I also love to read, listen to podcasts and crochet bookmarks and Bible covers to help promote my books.
Prakaash: When did you decide to become a writer, and what was your source of inspiration?
Ann: Well, let me start by saying that I dabbled in writing a bit when I was in high school. I attempted to write a couple of novels, though they never got published. However, I had the desire to write in the early 2000s, during my marriage to my first husband. I was listening to an audio book called New Stories from the South for 2001. The introduction written by Lee Smith, talked about a student she had who supposedly didn’t know how to write. As she explained the student’s activities and how she wrote them, I began to think that I could write a story of my own. Back in those days, I was a brand new aspiring author, and didn’t know a lot about the craft of writing, but I knew that I had a vivid imagination, and I wanted to be creative in some form or fashion. That book inspired me to publish my very first book in 2003. Although this book wasn’t a successful investment into my writing career, I learned one valuable lesson, which I’d like to share with any aspiring authors who follow and read your blog, later in the interview. This valuable lesson gave me the motivation to connect with other writers and learn how to do the necessary research on a project, and get my work critiqued, so that my writing can be as close to perfect as humanly possible.
Prakaash: Tell us a little bit about your books, your favorite genres etc.
Ann: In 2016, I published a little book called Stories Outside the box, which was inspired by dreams, life events, and a couple of writing prompts. One such story was inspired by a breakdown my parents and I actually had after we picked up my daughter for Spring Break, back in 2016. If I may, I’d like to share some information about a couple of things you can do to get a free copy of Stories Outside the Box, but more about that later. My second book, which is a full-length novel, is entitled A Journey of Faith: A Stepping Stones Mystery. This book is about a young lady who witnessed a horrible tragedy at the innocent age of twelve. She has been haunted by dreams about this incident, and she has heard a voice crying “God help me!” in the back of her mind for the last sixteen years of her life. She takes a difficult journey, which has been chosen by God, in order to face her fear of mountain climbing and discover what she witnessed all those years ago. While she is traveling down her chosen path, there are several incidents that occur on the climbing paths at Sweet Water Park that have something to do with this sixteen-year-old tragedy. One of these events is a mountain biking accident involving Becca’s father. Can the Tensiltown Police solve these mysteries? Is it up to Becca Martin to conquer her fears and solve the crimes alongside the policemen? Find out as the journey unravels throughout the pages of this gripping mystery. Now for my most recent book entitled Maggie’s Gravy Train Adventure, an Electric Eclectic Book. I published this book under the Electric Eclectic brand back in March. This short chapter book for kids of all ages is about a little girl who takes a mysterious ride on a gravy train, to the food-filled village of Eat-a-lot. She meets another passenger who helps her solve several mysteries that occur when the biscuits crumble, and the track is washed away by an ominous hail storm. Can the train make it to Eat-a-Lot, and can Maggie and Amanda help Miss Rosy Posey and the Gingerbread conductor solve these mysteries and continue the journey in one piece? Take this wild ride with Maggie and discovered the answers to these questions as you glide down the cookie track.
To answer the part of the question about my favorite genres, I love Christian fiction, mysteries that make you ask questions about the characters and the plot. These types of mysteries make you want to help the characters find the solution that is woven into the story. I want to be surprised when the truth comes out at the end of the book. I don’t want to make the solution to my mysteries so predictable that the reader solves the mystery before the protagonist(s) do. I want you to think that one character is the culprit, while I surprise you with the unexpected truth. The discovery that the real mastermind behind the mishaps in my story, is the character you least expect. These types of mysteries are written by authors like Mary Higgins Clark, Lois Duncan, Amanda Cross, and many more aspiring mystery writers whom we’ve never read or heard of before, until now. I have also discovered that writing children’s adventure/mystery novelettes can be a fun and exciting task to undertake. I’ve got a couple more Electric Eclectic chapter books in the works, so keep your eyes peeled for new little books in the future. However, there are several other genres I love to read, but I can’t seem to write them. I have a couple of nonfiction books on my writing bucket list that I am slowly but surely working on at the moment.
Prakaash: What was the hardest part of writing your first book?
Ann, Oh wow, what a great question! One of the hardest aspects of writing A Journey of Faith, was rewriting and revising the book. Sometimes I’d see scenes playing out in my head like a movie, and there were other times when it felt as if Becca was beckoning me to “come on” with her and follow her on her journey. Killing your darlings is always hard. When I went through my book the first time, there were some characters and scenes that I had to dump, even though they touched my heart in a special way. I’m sure there are many other writers out there who can identify with me. *smile*
Prakaash: What project(s) are you currently working on?
Ann, I just finished writing my second novel in the Stepping Stones mystery series, so I am about to start revising that soon. I am currently polishing a story for an anthology called United in Fiction, which will be published next month. On the non-fiction side of things, I’m in the middle of doing the research and writing a book about gardening, and I have an idea to write an informational book about skydiving, although I haven’t tried this sport for myself.
On July 21, 2018 I am scheduled to appear at the Middle Georgia Indie Book Festival and I am excited for the opportunity to participate. For this to be a successful event I am respectfully requesting support by conducting a fund-raising campaign, and your support would be greatly appreciated. As a special thank you gift, I am giving copies of “Stories outside the Box” to anyone making donations toward the project. If you would like to support this campaign, you may do so on two ways. You can either visit www.ko-fi.com/annbarnes to “buy a coffee” for $3 or you can make a donation of any amount directly to my paypal account by visiting paypal.me/annHarrisonBarnes. Your support is much appreciated.
Prakaash: Are there any tips about marketing your books that you’d like to share with us today?
Ann: One piece of advice that I’d like to pass on to you and your readers is as follows: Don’t shove your books down people’s throats. What I mean is don’t say “buy my book” every time you post on your website or social media. You first need to strike up a conversation with your followers and engage with them. If you want to promote your book, why not work with other writers to get their books into the hands of readers around the world? Odds are, they will return the favor. That’s the way we market our novelettes as Electric Eclectic authors. Once you engage with other authors or readers, figure out what you can provide for them that ads value to their lives. Do you have a writing or marketing tip you’d like to share with them? Did you find an interesting article that you want to share with your new connections? Once you provide this valuable tip, information, or do something nice for them, they will return the favor by buying your book, or supporting one of your pet projects. For example, if someone joins my email group, I will send them an unpublished short story for free.
Prakaash: What are your views on marketing and publishing? Do you think they are the same?
Ann: I believe that publishing and marketing are totally different. For starters, publishing your book is a means of getting your written materials into the hands of your readers in either electronic, physical paperback/hard cover or audio formats. Marketing is a means of telling the world about your published work, so readers can find it.
Prakaash: How did you publish your first book?
Ann: Stories Outside the Box and Maggie’s Gravy Train adventure were both self-published on Amazon and Smashwords. I had a friend help me edit the first one and format it for me, and I published it myself, However, A Journey of Faith was published by Revival Waves Glory Publishing. They charge a small fee, depending on the package you choose. After a few months of publication, I was able to get hard back and audio book formats of my book, so Now I can market to people who want to choose their book format. I actually found the editor of this company on LinkedIn, or rather she found me. As far as cover design, I have to have help with that. My friend asked another friend of hers to do the cover for Stories Outside the Box, but the publisher and I came up with the picture for the cover design of A Journey of Faith. Now with Maggie’s gravy train adventure, I had help from other members of the group to publish this book, and they charge a very small fee to publish with them. And again, we promote each other’s books on social media and on our sites, so our books reach more people.
Prakaash: Share your thoughts on traditional publishing versus self-publishing. Which route did you choose?
Ann: I chose self-publishing and Print on demand. I have tried to find an agent to help me traditionally publish my book, but the process seemed a bit daunting to me. If I had traditionally published my books, I wouldn’t have had as much control as I do now, being self-published. Traditional publishing is good for those who write non-fiction, and those who have more experience as a best-selling author. However, for those just getting started, if you want to get your book out there, finding an editor and either designing your own covers, or having someone else do the designing for you may be the way to go before you self-publish. Remember that no matter what route you decide to take, you still have to be a book marketer. There’s a saying that goes something like this: “Marketers don’t have to be writers, but writers have to be marketers”, which is a proven fact in my experience
Prakaash: Personally, I would like to know about social and political issues of your country? Have you ever thought to write about those or something which may be beneficial for the society or nation?
Ann: There’s not a lot I can tell you about the political views of this nation, because I personally don’t write about these issues. I mostly write about the things that I am passionate about and share other blog posts that I think might be interesting to my followers.
Prakaash: What advice to you have for aspiring authors?
Ann: Take some time to write every day, and connect with other writers, either online or in person. The more you talk to other writers and let them see your work, the more feedback you’ll get and the more you can improve and hone your craft of writing. I am a member of a nonprofit organization called Behind Our Eyes, an organization for writers with disabilities. As a member of this group, I have had my work critiqued, and I have helped other writers improve their writing skills. By doing so, the three books I have published more recently are ones that I can be proud to market and sell to my friends and family.
Prakaash: Is there anything you’d like to share about your writing process or reading habits?
Ann: As a matter of fact, there are a few things I’d like to share with you. First of all, I am not a big plotter. I don’t usually write an outline for fiction. However, when I’m working on a nonfiction book, I write a brief outline, so I have an idea of where I want to go with the book. Now when It comes to fiction, I am often times a pantser, and sometimes I do a bit of plotting, but I either written my scenes in the notes app on my phone or iPad, or I just jot them down in notepad to come back to later. I have been known to jot down notes while I’m riding in the car.
Let’s talk about my reading habits now. I usually listen to talking books that I get through the Library of congress’s National Library service program. I download the books from the Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD) web site, using the app on my iPad. There are times when I will use Voiceover to read a kindle book, or something that I have purchased in iBook’s. Now, about the books I choose, as I stated before, I love Christian Fiction, so I may go for some of that over the stomach turning/heart wrenching thrillers, although I have read my share of Noir fiction from time to time, to get some inspiration for my writing. I occasionally read suspenseful romances, but I can’t write them to save my life. I also like to read the occasional Children’s book when I’m with my daughter, or just for something that will bring back my childhood memories. I used to read a lot of different books and magazines, but now, I’m picky about what content I consume, whether it be through reading, listening to podcasts, TV shows, and/or any other media that gets tossed out into the world.
Prakaash: What do you think encourages a reader to buy a book?
Ann: Many experts say that the book cover is one of the attributes of a book that encourages readers to buy it. However, I think the buying decision goes deeper than that. Does the blurb make you want to read more to answer the questions that the author poses? Is there an opening hook that draws you into the story? Another question I ask myself is, when picking out a book to read, is will the author not only draw me into the story but will he or she keep me on my toes through the page of the book and leave me hanging on, long before the last page. I’ve read some books that draw my interest, but when I get further into the story, it goes flat. This means that I have lost interest after the first few chapters. If that happens, then I either slog my way through it, or I simply delete it off my iPad or send it back to the library. If the author can keep me riveted and leave me connected with his/her characters long after the story has ended, then I want to write with that aspect in mind, so I can encourage potential readers to buy my books, without shoving them down their throats.
Prakaash: Tell us a bit about your cover designer, editor and other contributors or service providers.
Ann: There are a few people I want to mention here, because they have done an excellent job of helping me get my books out into the hands of readers, and they have supported me in my writing endeavors. First of all, I want to thank Tish Williams and DK Walker for helping me get Stories Outside the Box published and distributed to eBook retailers around the world. Tish helped me polish my stories, and DK did the cover art and formatted the manuscript for me. I did all the publication work and pricing myself.
Second of all, I want to thank Sandra W. Burch for connecting with me on LinkedIn and leading me to Revival Waves Glory Publishing, where Bill Vincent designed the cover for me by using a stock photo from a site that he uses for all his authors’ book covers. If I have questions about my book, he gets back to me the next day.
I want to thank Karen J. Mossman for telling me about Electric Eclectic books and helping me promote my books while I promoted books by other authors in one of my Facebook Groups, so that I could meet and connect with other like-minded people. Last but not least. I want to thank Paul White and Markie Jordan Madden for formatting and helping me publish Maggie’s Gravy Train Adventure.
I can’t leave out my professional clients, seeing as how I am a freelance writer. I want to give a shout out to Ernest Dempsey, for whom I have written paid guest blog posts for the last couple of years. I also want to thank Mia Bysinger from Rushcube, where I wrote landing pages for a variety of web sites. To see the client testimonial, visit the professional writing services page of my website.
Prakaash: Where can people find you online?
Ann” If you want to learn more about me, my books, and upcoming projects, please visit my website at www.annwritesinspiration.com .
You can follow me on Twitter at the following link: twitter.com/annwrites75
I do have an email group, where I post news and updates about my books, and my work in progress. I also like to talk about books people love to read in this group, so please feel to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org .