Today’s author spotlight was hard pressed to pick Elizabeth Woodrum out of the crowd. Surrounded by munchkins at the end of her yellow brick road, these little ones are a daily reality for this children’s author. Without further ado, here’s…Elizabeth!
Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am a teacher with fourteen years of experience teaching elementary students. The majority of that time was spent working with fourth-grade students, though I now teach sixth-grade. I’m originally from Indiana, but have lived in Ohio since I began teaching. I also love animals. I have a cat named Butterscotch and a dog named Reese Cup.
How did you get started on your writing journey?
I’ve always been interested in writing. I liked to write as a child and I often wrote material for my language arts classes. Eventually, I was inspired by my fourth-grade students to write something that was aimed at their age level.
Are there any poets or writers who influence you? How so?
I am inspired by books that capture my attention and are really well written. I don’t know that I have specific authors that have influenced me, but I have definitely been inspired. I have a wide range of genres that I like to read. I often find myself wanting to write more while I’m reading a really great book. Some of my favorite authors are JK Rowling, Rick Riordan, and Darynda Jones.
Let’s talk about your novel! What is it about?
I write a children’s mystery series called The Maisy Files. It is about a fourth-grader named Maisy Sawyer who uses her excellent deductive reasoning skills and imagination to solve mysteries. She considers herself to be a private detective and has found her inspiration from old detective movies. Her unique creativity leads her to imagine her surroundings are just like a black-and-white movie whenever she is trying to solve a case. There are currently three books in the series, each with a different mystery to solve.
How is the title significant?
Since my book is written for children, the titles are pretty straight forward. The series title, The Maisy Files, hints that there is more than one book. Each book’s title indicates the central mystery for that particular story.
Where did inspiration for this come from?
I cannot pinpoint a specific situation that provided the inspiration. But, I think I was inspired by my time teaching fourth-grade students. My main character, Maisy, is a fourth-grader. I believe I was able to capture many personality traits of elementary students due to my time working with students that age.
Tell us a little bit about the characters? What are they like and how did you come up with them?
The main character, Maisy, is a little quirky. She really enjoys solving mysteries and likes some things that are uncommon for a girl her age. For example, she likes to use a typewriter. Maisy came about as a change from a short story I had written with a somewhat similar character. Another sort of character I enjoy writing about in the books is Maisy’s dog, Reesie. She is based on my own dog and I find a little extra enjoyment when adding Reesie’s cameos into the books.
Who do you think would like your story and what kind of readership are you aiming for?
My books are written for elementary aged children. I think that fourth-graders would really enjoy the books because the main character is their age. Of course, children who enjoy mysteries would probably enjoy The Maisy Files.
What is the message you are trying to get across in your book?
Since I write for children, I try to get across positive messages without being too preachy. Maisy is a character who is dedicated and helpful, but also goes to adults when there is a problem. I want my readers to have an example of a kid their age who is both strong-minded, but also knows when to go for help. She has a good sense of right and wrong while still being sympathetic.
What is your writing process like?
Before I start writing, I get an idea of what the main mystery will be and how it will be solved. I am not one who generally outlines the entire story, but I think that would be different if I were writing for older readers. My books are about 100 pages in print. If they were longer or a different genre, I would likely need a more solid outline. I feel that having the basics helps my creativity flow well for writing mysteries for younger readers.
When write, I’m usually sitting on my couch or on the floor at my coffee table. It’s sort of silly since I have a large desk and nice desk chair in my office. But, I find I get more distracted in a mundane setting such as that. Plus, the dog starts whining since she can’t be right next to me. So, I tend to write in more comfortable places. I have a nice view from my living room, so I tend to write there.
How do you go about editing your story?
I have a bit of a bad habit of editing as I go. I know it would be better to get the whole story out and then go back to refine. It’s a bad habit because I often make changes later in the book that require me to go back to earlier chapters and make changes. So, I’m sometimes editing my previous edits, making the first round unnecessary. And all of this happens before I finish the book and begin editing in earnest.
When I am finished with the draft, I usually start with checking for errors or making better word choices. I then go through and make improvements to various aspects, such as dialogue.
I then have some trusted beta readers offer suggestions before making the final edits. I also then like to have it read to me by using text to speech. It helps to catch things that may have been missed before.
Where did you find your cover artist and what was the process like?
I used a website called E-Lance, now Upworks, to find my cover artist. I posted a job saying that I was looking for someone who could design a logo and cover art. I wanted something drawn by hand. I looked through some portfolios of people with similar work and reached out to a couple of artists. They sent in some rough mock ups and I chose the one I liked the best. My artist has been really great at taking my ideas and bringing them to life. It’s important to find an artist that you communicate with well so that changes can be made until it’s exactly what it should be.
What was your self-publishing experience like?
It was very frustrating, to be honest. I had to do a lot of research to see what my options were and then choose what I thought fit me the best. The actual process of publishing was easy using the various tools I had available from self-publishing companies, such as Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. But there is a lot that goes into publishing besides actually getting the book up for sale. For example, setting up social media to gain followers, advertising, and making a website are all large and daunting tasks. When I published my first book, I had all of these tasks ahead of me, and more. It got easier for my second and third books.
What are the pros and cons of self-publishing?
The main benefit is that your book is out for public consumption. You can start gaining readers and seeing the fruits of your labors. It is also nice to have complete control over pricing and creative aspects of your work, such as cover art. The downside is that you are mostly in it alone. It is up to the author to find advertising options and be financially responsible for everything.
How do you go about promoting your book as a self-published author?
When I first started, I found that blog tours were great for getting exposure and book reviews. Social media ads and participating in promotional emails from popular services have been the most effective recently. I also share news on my blog and to my newsletter subscribers. I also occasionally offer giveaways, which are advertised on social media. Those can help to gain followers and new readers as well.
Do you have any advice for writers who want to self-publish?
The best advice is to not rush. Be sure that the finished product is worthy of being published. Edit, edit, edit! If you aren’t sure of your ability to successfully edit, then it is worth it to have it professionally edited.
It’s also important to learn the craft. I know my third book is better than my first. It’s worth it to take a class and make sure you understand the writing process.
What plans do you have for the future of your writing?
I would like to write more Maisy Files books, but I would also like to branch out to write young adult novels as well. I have some ideas for a dystopian novel that I would like to publish at some point.
What are you social accounts if people want to connect with you?
Readers can connect with me through my website, Facebook, and Twitter. I am also on Goodreads.
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