Wednesday, October 12, 2011

REV UP WEDNESDAYS - A weekly booster shot for inspiration... Catching up with CHICKI BROWN


Today I'm spending some quality time with Chicki Brown, who was just voted 2011 New Author of the Year and whose book, Have You Seen Her? was voted the 2011 Fiction Book of the Year by the readers of Shades of Romance Magazine (SORMAG)

I first met Chicki when I became a new member of the Georgia Romance Writers Association. I was a little nervous about what to expect but Chicki made me feel right at home by inviting me to sit at her table. With five feet of bubbly energy, a smile that makes her eyes sparkle, and a soft voice that draws you right in, Chicki became the one I always sought out at every meeting after that. Then came the most heartwarming thing ever - when I got pregnant with my Cole and told Chicki I'd be moving to Europe, she showed up at the last RWA meeting I attended with a gift for the baby, showing me her kindness and thoughtfulness. She didn't have to do that - but there's no denying that Chicki is a "mother hen" type who loves family above everything else. She wanted to let me know that she already cared about my son - that really moved me.

That's why her capacity to observe and empathize, her wisdom and character shine through in every story she pens, in every challenge her characters are faced with. She manages this without being preachy. I realized how true this was immediately after reading her first book, Have You Seen Her? Chicki's personality and outlook on life are reflected in stories that are so real, down-to-earth, yet packed with emotional punch. Every woman - and man, I think - can relate to many of these feelings, even if they don't share the same story. Because Chicki writes not only about love - she writes about the wonder of life, hard decisions, and moral dilemmas that we've all experienced at some time or other in our lives. What's most important, however, is that no matter what we go through, determination, faith and hope are always there to guide us and lift us up.


Here's more about Chicki, the little woman with a lot of inspiration...

1. Did you start by writing full time or did you have a day job?

When I first started writing, I was working full-time as an administrative assistant. I got laid off and asked my husband if he wouldn’t mind me giving the writing a chance. Every six months or so, I would check with him, and he’d say, “Let’s give it a little while longer and see how it goes.” That was eleven years ago. :-)

2. Did/do you have a crit group or mentor to guide you?

During the past eleven years, I have been a member of three online critique groups and two local writer’s groups. The ladies in my current group have been together now for five years. Having them to examine my work is essential. Even though we are spread all over the globe, they have become my friends and a priceless sounding board.

3. Do you use a/several pseudonym(s) and if so, why did you choose to have one/them?

I use a pseudonym because I felt my real name is boring and not at all memorable. I think it sticks in your mind. Chicki Brown is my nickname and maiden name. Most people with whom I grew up don’t know me by anything else.

4. Did you sell the first story you wrote?
Not hardly! My first published novel, Have You Seen Her? was the fifth manuscript I’d written. Even though Lyrics, my maiden voyage into the literary world, was the book of my heart, it was a jumbled mish-mash with a convoluted plot and confused points of view. It will never see the light of day!

5. Did you ever get rejected? If so, how did you handle it?

While I was submitting to editors and agents, I got rejected so many times I lost count. For years those rejections only served to make me mad enough to keep on writing. I believed that if I didn’t give up, eventually I would create a work someone in the publishing world would love. I had some close calls, but in the end I didn’t sell to New York. Finally I decided to stop banging my head against the wall and take my writing career into my own hands.


6. What do you think of the changes going on in the book industry (e.g., e-books vs. print books, and big publishers getting involved in digital publishing)?

Just about the time I’d become weary of the whole traditional submission process, I started reading author Joe Konrath’s wonderful blog, A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing. Joe seemed to be fascinated with Amazon.com’s new gadget, an electronic reader called the Kindle. In the fall of 2009, he embarked on an experiment to publish some of his books directly through Amazon to the Kindle, and he documented every aspect of the experiment on the blog.

After a year of reading about Joe’s amazing success with e-publishing, I was convinced that if he could sell tens of thousands of e-books, I could sell a couple of hundred.

I spent about two months just studying everything I could get my hands on about e-publishing then began formatting my manuscripts for Kindle. Have You Seen Her? was released in June 2010. Needless to say, I think the dramatic changes in the publishing industry are wonderful. For for the first time in recent history, authors are in the driver’s seat and are making 70% royalties while they’re driving! We now have the ability to bring our work to the public and let them, rather than editors and agents sitting in their ivory towers, decide whether or not they like our work.

7. Do you think writers should consider self-publishing?

Self-publishing isn’t what it used to be even five years ago, and every month that passes the respectability of being an independent author increases. I strongly believe the only writers that should consider self-publishing are the ones who have taken the time to learn the industry and are willing to work like dogs to promote their books to the reading public. Self-publishing is a tremendous amount of work. It is definitely isn’t for the faint of heart and surely not for the first-time author. Cyberspace isn’t the place to toss your initial offering. Readers and reviewers will devour you and spit you out.


8. What advice do you think aspiring authors should heed today?

Get as much critical input on your writing as you can from people who aren’t invested in your work. Hearing what’s good or bad about your writing prepares you for what readers will think and it makes you grow up. Join a local or online critique group and listen to what they say. Never think your words are golden. If you are too sensitive to take criticism from writing partners, then you’re not ready to be published. Developing a thick skin when it comes to our writing is a necessity.

The last thing is to decide what kind of marketing you plan to do before you publish the book. Also join online indie author groups where you can chat with other authors about marketing and promotion. If you wait until the book goes live to figure out how and where you’re going to promote it, you’ll be way behind. Start building your online presence before you finish writing the book. Research the top e-book promotion sites and determine if you will pay for advertising or focus on free promotion.

9. What hero/heroine/character was the most fun or challenging to write for you?

Taylor Villanova, the hero in Have You Seen Her? He’s so masculine and sexy. I loved getting into his head and his background and uncovering what made him the man he was.


Kinnik Watkins, the video vixen in Hot Fun in the Summertime was the most challenging to write, because I couldn’t stand her at the beginning! My intention, when I first started writing the book, was for one of the other female housemates to be the lead, but Kinnik and her volatile personality, took over the story. I had a ball watching how she took over the story and how she grew and changed in the process.

Where to find Chicki:

Website: http://www.chicki663.webs.com
Personal Blog: http://sisterscribbler.blogspot.com
Twitter: http://twitter.com/@Chicki663
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/chicki.brown

~ Angela ~
No Rules. No Formulas. Just Love.

"Mile High to Heaven" and "Mr. & Mrs. Foster" available at Whiskey Creek Press Torrid.