A CPA by day, a poetess and author by night. PJ LaRue’s The Mystic Princesses and the Whirlpool has nothing to do with kitchen, laundry and home appliances. It’s now available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iBooks. PJ is also a hiker and loves to travel, waterfalls, and photography. I’ll fade into the shadows now and try to prod some answers from our guest. Welcome PJ!
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I had a dysfunctional childhood, but I don’t believe that one’s past has to predict one’s future. I knew from about the third grade that I would go to college so that I could provide for myself without being dependent on anyone else. After changing my major several times, I settled on accounting and became a CPA. I’ve been happily married for 31 years, to the same wonderful man.
What do you do when you aren’t writing?
Hike to waterfalls, watch football, go to car shows, and watch Survivor and Amazing Race or Netflix movies
Do you have a day job?
Yes, I am Assistant Director of Finance for a major international airport.
When did you start writing, and when did you finish your first book?
I started my book two years ago and it only took two months to write. But I didn’t have any experience with copyrighting or publishing. I also needed to find an editor and illustrator. The whole process took longer than the second will require.
From where do the ideas for your stories come?
The news, my dreams and places I’ve visited. Pretty much anything that strikes my curiosity. I like history, and I like to make up reasons for why events occurred in history.
Do you ever experience writer’s block?
Sometimes, but I actually have more trouble with time management since I work full-time and writing is a passion that I would like to develop into a second career.
Do you outline or write “by the seat of your pants”?
I usually start with a list of ideas and then arrange them into sections. I like beginning, middle and end, because they let the story unfold without being tied to a strict chapter by chapter outline.
What author or book influenced you most in your writing?
The one book that I read over and over again was “Gone with the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell. I loved that Scarlet O’Hara was flawed, but strong. She found ways to better her life during a time that women were not supposed to be educated or work. I do disagree with the book in that it paints an idyllic pre-war life, when the slaves were actually mistreated and considered property. I’d never condone treating people that way.
What challenges did you face in getting your book published?
A total lack of knowledge of the industry was the largest challenge. I spent a lot of time on the internet researching steps that I needed to take. The only connection I did have was an editor who cheered me on. Every other part of the process has been a climb up a large learning curve.
If you had to go back and do it again, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published you’d do differently?
Yes. I would have started working on my social media platform sooner. I also would have held the release of the book until I had some reviews. I found out after putting it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iBookstore that reviewers prefer to review prior to a book release.
How do you market your work? What works best for you?
I’m using Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads and Pinterest. I’m also writing short stories that I submit to writing contests. I’ve had one short story receive an honorable mention from Writers Digest. However, it didn’t bring any publicity. Since I just started developing my social media platform a few months ago, it will take a while to find what works best for me. I’m on the lookout for any advice I can get on how to improve my platform and get the word out about my book.
What was your favorite part of this story to write?
Three of my characters were named after my niece and daughters of two of my staff members. One of the daughters was really into the story and asked great questions that made me develop the characters more. She is still asking for book two. So hearing her comments made it fun, because she was the right age group to enjoy the book. And then I found out she was writing her own stories to go with pictures that she drew. It made my day to find out that I might have inspired her to write.
Do your characters lead you on merry chases, creating new plots or do you have to pull it out of them?
So far, I’ve controlled my character’s destinies. But they do terrorize me, in the middle of the night, by waking me when they decide they want out of my head and into my computer.
I am thinking about writing a novel, which will prove to be a real challenge. Based on the amount of time I have available right now, it could be years before it is written, so the characters and story will have plenty of time to drive me crazy.
What’s the most amusing thing that happened during the writing of this book?
As I mentioned before, I named three of the characters after my niece and two of my staff member’s daughters. Princess Breanna is the daughter of Pele, the Hawaiian volcano goddess. Since she is the element of fire, she can also throw fire balls and has a fiery temper. When I described Princess Breanna to my staff member, she said the character traits sounded just like her daughter. And I’m sure she’s glad her daughter can’t throw fire balls.
Why this story? What was your inspiration?
Visiting Hawaii and talking to locals who are very concerned for their culture and environment. I also caught the picture of the double rainbow at Spouting Horn, Kauai. As a result, the book teaches keeping the water clean and Princess Coral lives underwater near Spouting Horn.
Tell us about your writing environment. Is it messy or neat? Is there a cat on the desk or a dog at your feet? Do you use pen and paper, laptop?
I use whatever is handy when I get an inspiration. I keep a notepad in my purse and I have a laptop so I can be in the bedroom with my husband and cat. But when I’m at my desktop computer, the cat sometimes hangs out in the window beside me. Most of the time, she prefers to watch football with my husband. My office is the messiest room in the house. The rest of the house is neat, umm except for the closets. Whatever you do, don’t look in my closets.
What about your process? Do you produce consistent daily or weekly word counts or do the words rush out all at once and leave you with a dry spell?
I can go for weeks without writing and then I’ll write every day for weeks until the characters and story have happily escaped my head. I’ve been promoting my book steadily since Labor Day. I miss writing, so I need to split my time and actually finish the second book.
What project are you working on now?
Primarily, I’m trying to market The Mystic Princesses and the Whirlpool. However, I have written about 75% of The Mystic Princesses and the Magic Show, which is set in New Orleans. It will feature more child safety, like how the princesses can escape from the Children of Ares if they are captured. These same techniques will help children to escape from potential predators in real life. It also has more environmental awareness. The magic show is to raise funds for cleaning and healing wildlife injured as a result of a hurricane causing an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
What was the toughest criticism you received as an author? What was the best compliment?
My toughest criticism was when an editor said a short story was not cohesive enough. The funniest thing about his statement was that he didn’t know the majority of the story was based on a real life event. It was written the way it occurred. The best compliment was from my editor, who said I am devious and twist my plots in unexpected directions.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
I’d want them to understand that writing is just a small piece of the total package. The marketing is very difficult and there are no guarantees that they will reach monetary success. However, if they write to fulfill a desire or drive, then they should concentrate on that and let their passion be the reason that they write. If they are happy that they are writing, then they are succeeding. And I’d tell them the same thing I tell myself. It took David Baldacci twelve years to publish his first novel. We have the benefit of publishing as indie’s so we have a jump-start on his twelve years. But there is no way to jump-start the marketing process. We need to make friends with our social media contacts so that they will buy and recommend our book to others.
Is there anything you would like to say to your readers and fans?
I’d thank them for reading The Mystic Princesses and the Whirlpool and I’d tell them I’d appreciate it if they told their friends about the book. I’d also encourage them to continue to read all their lives because it is both educational and entertaining.
Where can we find you on the web?
Facebook Fan Page: The Mystic Princesses and the Whirlpool
- Our own P.J. LaRue has a great interview on “Samuel Branch”…check it out! (thomasrydder.wordpress.com)