Today on Author Wednesday, best-selling author Florence Osmund stops by to talk about her life as a writer since leaving the corporate world several years ago. She’s been a phenomenal success in her new career, and her advice is well worth following. She writes literary and women’s fiction. Red Clover, one of her best-selling titles, is a coming-of-age piece with a strong male lead character. Regarding Anna, another of her hits with readers, follows a young woman as she explores her mysterious past. Please join us as I probe her mind for some thoughts on her success.
Good morning, Florence. I’m so pleased to have you on my blog today. I always love to ask writers when they were first able to describe themselves as a “writer” or “author.” When did it happen for you?
I spent a long career working for large corporations, and during that period I wrote numerous articles, white papers, proposals, and other business-related documents. It wasn’t until I retired in 2009 that I began writing fiction. I started referring to myself as an author in 2012 when I published my first novel—at the tender age of sixty-two. I don’t regret having waited that long to do what I love to do—I have so much more material now!
It doesn’t matter how long it took, and sixty-two is very young! Now that this is your full-time gig, how much time do you spend a day writing?
I would like to be able to say that I spend as much of the day writing as I so desire. I’d like to be able to say that, but I can’t. I discovered early on that books don’t sell themselves—most of us authors have to spend a considerable amount of time promoting our work. Otherwise, no one would know of its existence.
I’m an early riser and usually spend mornings doing things that help to build my author platform—maintaining two websites, participating in on-line discussion groups, writing articles, answering e-mails, keeping up with social media, crafting promotions, and maintaining my e-mail subscriber list. That leaves the afternoon open for writing, usually in three two-hour blocks, since I can’t seem to sit in one place for more than two hours without a break. With this routine, I’ve been able to publish one book a year, and that works for me.
It’s an incredible juggling act to be both marketer and writer, but it sounds as if you’ve found a formula that works for you. Rachel Carson (Silent Spring) said she never chose a subject because as a writer, the subject chose her. Describe a time when a subject chose you.
For years while I was working in corporate America, I thought about writing books after I retired. And for years, every time an idea for a story line would come to mind, I wrote it down on a scrap of paper. It didn’t matter when or where. I could be walking down the street when I observed something that I thought would make an interesting scene in a novel. Or I could be at work and someone would say something that sparked an idea. Over the years, I amassed hundreds of these ideas in a shoe box. When I was ready to start writing, I pulled them out, scrutinized them, and put them into piles. When I was done, I had three stacks of notes that showed promise for three distinct stories.
That’s amazing! That’s a great bit of advice for any writer at any stage. I do the same thing, but I need to get a shoe box to save all those ideas that grab me. Life is the best food for feeding fiction. Do you find that similar themes or messages emerge in your fiction?
The protagonists in my stories are average people who find themselves faced with difficult decisions. Like most of us, both supporters and defeaters surround them. It’s particularly rewarding when readers of my books think about their own set of values and what they would do in a similar situation. Many have shared their own stories with me. In one case, a book club had chosen one of my books for their monthly read and invited me to join in by phone. At the very end of the discussion, one of the members said that I had told her story, almost down to the smallest detail, and she thanked me for shedding light on part of it that she hadn’t realized before. Rewards like that are priceless.
I agree. I’m amazed when readers/strangers tell me that. I’m pleased to hear that you’ve had that experience. You are right–absolutely priceless. What are you working on these days?
In August of this year, when novel number five went into the very capable hands of my editor, I started writing novel number six. It’s about a cozy mystery writer who thinks her husband may be imitating some of the behaviors of the characters in her books. He claims she’s being paranoid since he admits to never having read any of her books. She feels betrayed by his lack of interest in her work but is still suspicious of his actions and is particularly concerned about her current project where the protagonist goes missing. Maybe she should change the ending?
I love that premise. It sounds intriguing and scary. You’ve been very successful in a short period of time, so can you give other writers some tips or advice?
Up until recently, I never paid very much for advertising and promotions for my books, and I did okay. Then I connected with eNovel Authors at Work , a group of authors who know a lot more about the subject than I do, and the results of their paid promotions convinced me to try it. I promoted Regarding Anna on BookBub, a paid promotion site, and the results were phenomenal—during the month following the promotion, more than 4,600 copies of this book were either purchased or borrowed through Kindle’s lending library. Being an author is like any other business in that the return on investment can often make decisions easy.
I have heard great things about BookBub, so I’m happy to hear about some real tangible results. Now let’s talk about reviews, which are an inevitable part of publishing. What’s the best thing said about one of your books by a reviewer?
“Florence Osmund paints such a rounded picture of each character that the reader feels he is in the book with them.” —Excerpt from a review of Red Clover by Charlie Bray, Founder of INDIETRIBE.com
If we put our books in the public domain, bad reviews are also inevitable for even the best authors and their work. What advice can you give to other writers about receiving a bad review?
It’s important for authors to understand that book reviews are extremely subjective, and no one has ever written a book that appealed to all readers. What one reader loves, another one will hate. No one likes to receive a bad review, but when I do get one, I don’t fret over it. When I do start to take notice is when I see repeat criticisms. For example, I know now that I wrote my first book with what I’ll call a “cheesy” ending, and readers commented on it. I couldn’t change the ending without changing the beginning of the sequel, but I could include the first chapter of the sequel at the end of the book, and I could bundle the two books for a discounted price. The bundled version of these two books is currently averaging 4.7 stars on Amazon, but individually they each average only 4.0 stars. Sometimes it pays to listen to your readers.
That’s good advice. You’re smart to ignore or to listen when there seems to be a pattern. I love picturing my favorite authors as they create, so tell me, where do you write?
I live in downtown Chicago on the beautiful shore of Lake Michigan. When I’m at my desk writing, I look out over Navy Pier and the north end of Monroe Harbor. I find the water calming and inspiring, and the activity going on just enough of a distraction to clear my head when I get stuck on something. I can’t think of a better place to write.
That’s very special and I can envision it perfectly. I love Chicago and that view is spectacular. Thank you so much for stopping by today, Florence. I hope you’ll come back when you publish your next book.
About Florence from Florence: I currently live in the great city of Chicago where, after a long career in corporate America, I write literary fiction novels. I like to craft stories that challenge readers to survey their own values. Topics I have tackled include ethnicity, questionable heritage, desperation, dependency, precarious familial ties, and complicated matters of the heart. I have a website called Novel Elements that I dedicate to helping new authors—offering them advice I wish I had received before I started writing my first book.
Click on the links below to connect with Florence Osmund: