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Aisuru Interview - Part 2

Happy Friday!  Two weeks in a row, wow!  Don't get used to it.  It's just because I didn't have to think to come up with two posts in a row.  

Last week I interviewed my writing friend Anma Natsu about her debut novel, Aisuru, which is available today!  Full disclosure, I helped Anma edit this story, so you could say I'm a little invested.
You can check out the first half of the interview in last week's post.  In this half, we discuss strong female characters, writing craft, and some of the last kinks Anma had to iron out before release day.  Since this interview was available on her podcast, The Lackadaisical Writer, last week, we also discussed pre-ordering options.  If you'd rather, just listen to it there!

Can you tell me about your pen name?


When I decided I was going to publish, I decided I would have a pen name because, one, I work for the state and having my name on a book would cause all sorts of problems.  Two, I have people in my office I don’t want reading my stuff because they’re just nasty.  Dirty old men do not need to read anything I write that has a sex scene in it, ‘cause I would never hear the end of it.  
When I was thinking of pen names, “Anma” is… I thought I was being clever and thought up a word.  Anime and manga, the first two letters of each word, smushed together.  Then I discovered it has all sorts of meanings; it’s a common word and it means “massage” in Japanese.  “Natsu” is the Japanese word for summer, which is the season when I was making up the pen name.  I’m so clever.  :)  When I was in high school, in my Spanish class you had to make up a name.  We had a list of approved words; our teacher recognized she had teenage boys in her class.  I liked the word “verano”.  I thought, “That’s a pretty word, verano.  Verano Racquel.”  My teacher had the most gorgeous accent, so when she said it, it sounded beautiful.  “I feel beautiful, professor!”    When I was in high school and thinking about publishing, that was going to be my pen name.  I thought it might be nice to tie that to my current writing.  Verano is the Spanish word for summer, so, “What’s the Japanese word for summer?  Oh, cool, they sound nice together.”  So I put Anma and Natsu together and it worked.  I have fun every time I try to Google it and Google tries to correct me.  “Did you mean Anma Matza?”  No, I’m not a matza ball!  It just throws all sorts of weird stuff in there.  
That’s how I ended up coming up with it:  my love of anime and manga.  And also I wanted it to have a Japanese flair because of the influence Japanese storytelling has on my writing.  I suspect most of my novels will reflect that pretty heavily, so I thought, “Eh, might as well go with a Japanese sounding word.”  I did laugh when I came up with it and months later realized it basically translates into “summer of massage”, or “massaging summer”.  I looked at that and thought, “Yeah, I might get some dirty people finding my site.”  But it works for me.


Going back to honorifics and the hierarchy of honorifics, if your fans wanted to address you in the proper form, what version should they pick for you?


Probably the one that people use to relate to artists and celebrities would be the first name.  So, “Anma-san” would be the common way.  But I’m perfectly fine with just “Anma”.  “Natsu-san” would be putting distance, which would be more business oriented, more formal.  It’s interesting there because their celebrities are not treated “super” like we do ours.  It tends to be more personal relationships with them.  You would just say first name and “-san”.  Some people do “-chan”, so “Anma-chan” would also be appropriate for a female.  Just not “-kun”.


We talked about this a little already, but was there anything else you learned as a writer for your craft, your toolbox, while working on this book?


Again, the confidence level.  I gained significantly more confidence in myself as a writer working on the revision.  I fine-tuned my revision process a little more so that I kind of started to get an idea of what worked for me.  Six years of what didn't work, then finally coming up with something that would work for me and enable me to finally get a full revision done.  I go to a point where I thought, “Yeah, this is good.”  
Then the importance of being stricter with myself and my deadline.  That was the point of charging myself $5 every week that I was past my deadline.  I’m still paying that out.  I think this is my last month of payment before I go back to my full fun money budget.  I found it very easy to make excuses that were bad excuses.  They weren't good excuses.  My excuse was, “Oh, look, a video game!  I’m tired.  I’ll do it tomorrow.”  Then it was two weeks later.  That was definitely something I needed to hone, that discipline.  
Kind of playing on the confidence in the writing, not being afraid that it was too long.  “Young adult novels have to be this length.”  Ahh, screw that.  The story needs to be the length the story needs to be.  300,000 for a young adult romance might be a bit excessive, I will acknowledge.  But, “Oh, I’m writing too much, it’s already at 75,000 words.”  No!  It’s fine!


Do you remember approximately what the final count was?


Barring any final tweaks of the revision, it’s about 104,000 words.  


Oh that’s not bad at all!  We have a version of the book here in front of us.  It has a beautiful cover with a cherry blossom tree over the water.  Can you tell us a little bit about your cover?


I did the cover myself.  I decided I was paying enough for editing, I could do the cover myself.  


It looks great, I will say, to our readers and listeners that haven’t done the due diligence of going to look at the cover.  Shame on you.  


It is on the site.  You can go to the site and see it.  I wanted to incorporate the cherry blossom tree, because Sakura’s name means cherry blossom.  In a way it’s a little obvious motif.  There’s also a cherry blossom tree that’s a subtle but significant back character of the story.  It features quite often.  It’s important to Sakura and ends up having special meaning for her and Kazuki and Karasu.  It’s where she meets Kazuki.  It’s where Karasu sleeps and first learns more about Sakura from the tree.  And it becomes their communication device in a way.  It’s a very old tree and it has special meaning.  It plays into the supernatural belief that if you love the tree it might return your feelings.  It would have special power from the love that she gave it as she grew up.  I definitely wanted to have that cherry blossom tree as a significant part of the cover.  
I went hunting for usable photographs.  I didn’t want to use line drawings so much, going off the realism I tried to put into the story.  Beyond the fact that there were yokai in it.  I found this one off this site called Morguefile by a guy named Kevin Connors, I believe.  On the site, you can use the photographs however you want so long as you change it.  You don’t even have to give credit, but I did because I wanted to give him credit for the beautiful photograph.  I thought it was perfect.  The full photograph has only one cherry blossom tree in bloom in the picture.  
Color version of the photo from the cover - kconnors
To me, it spoke to Sakura’s isolation.  She’s standing alone.  When I did it, I made the whole image black and white and colorized only the tree and the tree’s reflection.  That to me was symbolic of Sakura’s world and Kazuki’s world, in a way, more subtly.  Their worlds are grey and lifeless until they meet each other, and then the color comes back in and opens them back up to living again.  Especially for Sakura.  Kazuki, you might think, “Well, he’s a prince, he’s happy,” but he’s not.  It was something that was harder to do.  It’s hard to have sympathy for someone who’s rich, who’s handsome, he’s got women, he’s the prince.  How could he be miserable?


So there’s an annoying attendant.  Whatever.


He’s like, “Yeah, my dad’s attendant drives me nuts.”  But he likes Reito very much.  But it’s more he’s not free to do what he wants to do.  He’s stuck having to do princely duties.  “This is not what I want to do.  I want to study, I want to live my life the way I want to live it.  I’m miserable.  I want to go travel but I can’t. I have to do this, this, and this.”  He’s kind of lost a little bit of his own enthusiasm for living as well.  Primarily, though, his arrival is that which brings back the color into Sakura’s world.  That was kind of the motif I was aiming for with the cover.  You’ll see it in the paperback, which is predominantly the tree,  and the hardback which has the dust wrap.  It has more of that same lake scene but still the whole world is grey and black except for that one tree.  


There is a version of this on the ebook as well, correct?


Yes.  The ebook is essentially the same cover as the paperback, re-sized for ebook, of course.  If you looked at the paperback and hardback side by side you could probably pick out the smaller differences.  They are two different photographs by the same person of the same tree, but two different versions of it.    Minor differences, but it is the same tree.  It’s the same tree in real life and it’s the same scene, it’s just the dust jacket is a much bigger space to have to fill, with the wrap around, the inner flap and outer flap.  Which was fun, by the way.


As you were writing and editing, who were you thinking about as your target audience?  Who do you think would enjoy this book?  


That’s always a hard question for me to answer because I’m not very good at that side of it.  Just like I have a hard time genre-ising.  When I've been getting ready to put this up on CreateSpace, it says, “Pick a Category”.  I’m like, “One?  Okay, three.”  That’s still not enough!  Most people who've heard of it would throw it in the young adult category.  I hesitate to throw it in young adult because it doesn't follow young adult tropes.  And Sakura is 18 at the start of the story.  She’s kind of too “old” to be young adult, it’d be more towards new adult, except that she’s in high school, so it’s kind of right on the cusp between the two.  
I think that most young adult readers, not counting us adults that read young adult, read up.  If you do like young adult, particularly young adult romance, that it would be something that would appeal to you.  Hopefully not just because she’s eighteen, but because it’s something different.  It’s not just another vampire story or another mean girl story, or another Hunger Games, Divergent, those kind of things.  No post apocalyptic.  That’s another story for another day.  
I also think, with the influences on my writing, if you are a fan of light novels or anime or manga, it may appeal to you.  Especially if you like the shoujo variety.  It would certainly be more shoujo leaning than shonen leaning.  It’s written in the style of a light novel.  It’s a little longer since they tend to do series.  I didn’t want to do a series, I just wanted to do one.  I wasn’t going to cut you off and make you read two.  
I also think that, unless you have an issue with the age of the character, you would like this if you like adult romance.  Which is usually just “romance”.  Or if you like fantasy romance or even, I hate to say “women’s fiction”, because I hate that label.  


“Chick Lit”, yeah.


That label just bugs me.  Stories of someone finding themselves; if you like those kinds of stories it would appeal to you.  If you don’t want just action and violence, also.  There is one sex scene.  Tastefully done; it is a romance.  I am a firm believer that sex is part of romance so I am going to have sex in the story.


And certainly for Sakura’s age group, that’s kind of a big deal.  


Yes.  And I tried to keep it more age-appropriate.  It’s not erotica.  If you’re looking for erotica, you probably won’t like the story.  Check out my other stories if I ever get bold enough to finish them :)


I would agree with all of those definitely.  Somebody that likes young adult stuff; if you like female characters as the main viewpoint character.  I would say, and I don’t mean to demean Sakura in any way,  but she isn't what you would think of as the “strong female character” at the beginning of the story.  She definitely comes into that as part of her growth arc.  If you want to get the strong female as she’s getting strong, this is for you.


A lot of times you hear about the strong female character and it means she beats up guys.  She’s physically strong.  She can smack the guys around and she’s tough.  For Sakura, you see her strength in her endurance of what she’s going through and her ability to not let it completely defeat her.  If you think about how she’s injured, then spending ten years of your life knowing you’re dying inside, every year… It’s scary for an adult to think about that and stay sane, not just be tempted to finish your life early.  Sakura has to endure this, stay true to herself, and still be a kind and gracious person.  She’s, to me, a more ideal version of what a strong female is.  Not just physically strong but emotionally strong.  Because she’s physically weak.  She’s sick; she’s skinny and pale.  Emotionally, she’s got that little iron core and it comes out more and more as she continues to grow in her arcs.  


We’ve talked at length about this book, hopefully you, reader and listener, are chomping at the bit.  How can people get this book?


There are a variety of ways! It will be available in paperback, hardback, Kindle, and epub (basically all ereaders other than Kindle).  It will be available worldwide.  The paperback, hardback, and Kindle versions will be available via Amazon.  The Kindle version obviously will be available on Amazon’s Kindle Store.  The paperback will also be available in their CreateSpace estore, which I don’t know that anyone actually shops in directly.  Also amazon.co.uk and via IngramSpark, Barnes and Noble, any other bookseller that’s tied in to the national IngramSpark database.  Theoretically even places like Half Price Books and your independent bookseller can order a copy for you if you request it.  All of the versions have ISBNs which you can find on my website so you can request it just by ISBN or by title.  I’m pretty sure there aren't any other books with that title just yet.  It will be available in the US, UK, European Union, and Australia.  The paperback and hardback should be available worldwide.  
The only one I’m not positive on is Canada, and it’s because IngramSpark kept telling me zero.  When you go through Ingram Spark they tell you how much you make per copy.  No matter what price I put in for Canada it was telling me I was getting nothing.  I can’t tell if they’re just not selling it or if Canada has been rolled into their regular worldwide distribution.  Presumably, it is available in Canada.  The epub version will be available from Kobo, iBooks, and Nook.  All formats are also available directly through me on my site at anmanatsu.com/store at better prices, by the way.   


If people wanted to give you the most monetary support with their purchase, which would be the best way to do that?


Buy direct from me.  When you buy the paperback version from Amazon, that’d be $14.99 cover price, I make $3.27 out of that.  If you buy it direct from me, I make $8.13.  I’m not having to pay Amazon for the fact that they made the sale.  For the hardback, it’s the same kind of thing, although I don’t make as big of a percentage.  I price it at $24.99 for retail, so if you buy it from Barnes and Noble I make $5.39 a sale.  If you buy it from me for $19.99, I make $6.34.  I could have left it at $24.99, but I said, “Screw it.  You buy it from me, I’ll give you a discount.”  I may even do that on the paperback down the road.  
On the ebook Kindle version, it’s not as big a difference.  On the Kindle version I make up to 70% per sale, depending on where you buy it.  Some places I make 30% or 35%.  If you buy it from me, all I’m out is the 2.5%, plus the 5¢ I think they charge me for the payment processing.  Being an ebook, I don’t have to pay delivery fees.  Buying direct from me is going to get me the most money per copy.  
If you do buy from Amazon or one of the other vendors, a nice way to say, “Well, I didn’t give you as much money,” is to leave a review.  That gets more people to know about the book.  You can’t leave reviews on my site.  It doesn’t do much good on my site; no one is going to trust a review on an author’s site anyway.  It’s like, “Yeah, I’m sure you’re keeping all the bad reviews, right?”  Definitely leave a review.  While I don’t make as much per Amazon, Amazon is giving me more exposure.  If more people were buying on Amazon overall then I probably would make more money.  At least leave a review.  If you do leave a review it gets the “Verified Buyer” mark which makes people happy.  
If you get it from me personally though, I make more per copy.  You also have more options when you buy from me because I do the bundles.  I did activate the Kindle Matchbook, so if you buy the paperback from Amazon you can get the Kindle version for $1.99.  Or you can  buy it direct from me and get the same thing.  Or you can get the epub version for $1.99.  Or you can get the hardback version and the digital version, which you really can’t do in any of the stores.  None of the stores really give me the option of doing bundle options; if they buy this, give them a discount on this.  Amazon’s only one is the Kindle Matchbook, and I’m not positive that that will work on the hardbacks purchased from Amazon, because it’s not Amazon distributing it.  I've never tested that.  I've never bought a hardback that had a Kindle version.  Obviously the paperback will match with the Kindle because it’s Amazon distributing both of them, but I don't know how to get it to go, “Hey, the hardback is also a part of those options.”  It may be that you can do the Kindle Matchbook on the hardback as well, but I’m not sure how it works on Amazon.  I don’t buy that many hardbacks myself.  
Yeah, I've done that on a private author’s site, but not on Amazon from a seller that wasn't Amazon.  
That sounds great, and everyone is now going to go to your website and get ready to buy your book!


The store link will be appearing when this episode is posted.  If you look in the show notes (or down at the bottom of this page) you may find a coupon code to save you even more money.


Your first book: an incredible achievement.  Congratulations!  Not to get you back in work-mode too soon, but what’s in the works for you next?


The very first thing, once this is out, is a two-week break.  I gave myself two weeks of playing and not working on anything besides getting reviews and marketing, which will be light.  The infamous 2R (second release), as my listeners know it, we will go ahead and make the official announcement that 2R  -


(drum roll)


- will be Deviations!  That’s probably not a huge shock to anybody.  
After my break I’ll start the process there.  It will basically be me reading it and making notes on it.  I already have a page of notes.  As I was finishing it up I thought, “Hm, I want to change this; I want to change this!”  I have to read it, make sure those notes make sense, make additional notes on what I want to do with it, and update the outline.  I’m planning to not take six years to revise it.  My big hairy audacious goal is to have it revised and out by the end of the year so I would have two releases this year.  At the worst case, very early in ‘16.  
Especially as an indie author, the key way to be successful and to make readers happy is to keep writing, publishing, and repeating, as the Self-Publishing Podcast guys say.  If you find an author you like and you want to read something else by them, if they don’t have anything else, you forget them.  Or you might think, “They haven’t published anything else.  I’ll wait and see if they publish anything else.  I don’t want to like it if they don’t ever write anything else again.”  One-hit-wonders with books aren’t like music where we’ll still play them twenty times in a row because they’re still awesome songs.  
I’ll still be doing podcasts and continuing my blog posting, and all that fun stuff, too.  


You mentioned getting reviews.  Will we be able to review your book on Goodreads?


Presumably, because it’s fed from Amazon.  I will note I don’t have a Goodreads account, so I won’t see them.  And I won’t look on Goodreads.  I have personal issues with Goodreads.  But it should be there, and you won’t have to worry about me responding to them.  
I do firmly believe that if you read your reviews, you do not respond to them.  Making sure that you’re not even logged in so that you have to think before you answer is good.  I will probably check reviews on Amazon now and then.  From my understanding, though, anything that’s on Amazon will feed into Goodreads.  Especially CreateSpace and Kindle.  They probably will pop in there.  
I am supposed to get the final proof back from Lauren sometime today.  Depending on what time it comes in, I will be going through and accepting or declining changes.  I have yet to come across a set of changes that she made that I didn’t want to accept.  There were a few places where she guessed, “Did you mean ___?” that was wrong, but otherwise… “Accept!  Way better grammar than me.”  Halfway through, she said, “You know you flipped between American style quotes and British quotes?” I don’t know, it depends on how much sleep I had that night!  
My goal is, once I get through that, the very first thing I will be working on is getting it reformatted for pushing out to the publishing platforms.  Doing the final check, getting it to CreateSpace, and especially getting it to KDP, and testing the Kindle version real quick.  If everything looks good, I’ll be able to flip it to pre-order status.  You should be able to pre-order it from Amazon within 24-48 hours from then.  I can’t put it on that status now because I would have had to upload the final file yesterday.   I have to upload the final file, say it’s the final file, and then change the release date to March 27th.  
I will say, if you pre-order from my site, I will send you the ebook as soon as I’m done with the file.  So you would get that early.  If I remember correctly, I can also set up pre-order on Kobo or Nook, one of the two.  I’ll pop those up on social media and the site once I actually have them.  You’ll see the official book launch page once I have the purchase links available to drop them in.  Amazon finally let independent authors set up pre-orders on Kindle but I do not think they set up an option for pre-order on CreateSpace.  
If I can, I will set that up so you can pre-order from me or pre-order from Amazon and go ahead and get it.  They’ll probably ship it early.  Like with pre-ordering a video game, it actually arrives on the day it came out rather than two days later.  I love to do that with games I really really want.  Stupid Kingdom Hearts III that won’t be out on a platform I can play for another three years.  “I’ll still pre-order you, baby!”


As this process is drawing to a mad-rush of a close, how would you feel about revisiting these characters in another work?


In the case of Sakura and Kazuki, they might make side appearances.  Sakura does make a side appearance in Deviations.  When you are reading Deviations look out for Easter eggs because it is set in Hakodate as well.  Timeline-wise I think it’s a couple of years after Aisuru.  You will also see a certain pairing from Aisuru that was hinted.  If you followed along and you picked up on it, you will not be surprised by their appearance in Deviations.  If you didn’t, you might throw my book out of the room.  You might think, “No you didn't!”  So there are two side characters there.  
In terms of characters from Aisuru having their own stories, I have loosely thought of something for Yuji.  I think he could have an interesting story.  In the end, he still has to deal with the aftermath of what happened in Aisuru.  I think I could have some fun writing what happens with him.  I would certainly have fun visiting the yokai realm and expanding on that.  
In terms of the human side characters, I have considered writing Akari’s story.  She has an interesting story that is only hinted at that I think would be fun to write.  
I have thought about writing a short. I’m not very good at short stories, but I thought it would be kind of fun to write one to answer the question, “Where the heck was the king?”  It’s, to me, a very interesting story and partly explains where he was and explains his reaction when he finds out his son is in love with a human.  Why he reacts the way he does to the whole situation and maybe even a bit of his friendship with Reito.  You know, 950 years together, you've got to be really good friends.  I have considered that and I may throw that out there later.  
It would be interesting if I wrote Akari’s.  That would throw the timing off a little, because her’s would fall in between Aisuru and Deviations, then go past Deviations.  The part of her story that I think would be fun to write about would overlap Deviations a little bit.  I have considered it, but no firm plans.  


Sure, no pressure.  I’m certain after reading this some readers will be attached to the characters and would not be averse to seeing them again.  


If I did want to revisit Sakura and Kazuki I could see myself doing another short.  It would be like a year down the road or something like that.  I’d give the one scene that was cut from between revisions.  Due to the way this version ended we lost one scene that was kind of fun to write, but we won’t tell you that part.  


Thank you so much for letting me interview you today!  If you, reader/listener, are interested in this book, go out and get ready to buy it.  If you are not, but you know someone that would be, please tell them!  Share this book and what the story is about with them.  For beginning authors, it is very important to establish your base.  We really want Anma-san to be able to get established!


I sent out some coupon codes to my newsletter subscribers last week.  If you subscribe to the newsletter within the next week or so, I may send out more!   The store will be linked at anmanatsu.com/store.  It is powered by a company called Ecwid.  You can read my slightly ranty version of how I settled on them on my blog.  If, for whatever reason, you aren’t comfortable buying it from my site because I don’t have an SSL certificate, theirs is secure.  It is a secure purchase, so I don’t need one on my site.  You can go to anmanatsu.ecwid.com, which is the Ecwid version of the store.  You can buy it directly from that site and be under the SSL the entire time.  Again, you can get it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, anywhere good books are sold.
I do want to thank Madeline for interviewing me and for joining us today.  I look forward to interviewing her when it comes time.


Many years down the road.  

Eventually she’ll get a book out!  First school, though.  Like I said, if you check the show notes on my site, you may find a coupon code.  Other than that, the hardbacks may be delayed because IngramSpark is the slowest at processing things.  They really should just go steal the technology from CreateSpace and have a “Check Files” which happens instantly, not three or four days later.     Otherwise, everything should come out March 27th and be available in the places we mentioned before.  

After that Anma thanked me and I gave the link to my blog. And I meowed like a cat, because that's what happens when she signs off of her podcast :) You can see a further breakdown of the money Anma gets per copy at this post on her blog.

And here's a goodie!




  • Ebook Discount!  Get either eBook version for only $2.99 with coupon code PWFBW7J3QASJ (expires 3/31)
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    But the sun does not push you away;
    It consumes you.

    Over the course of this last year and a half, I have been thinking about the phrase "to work tirelessly."  On face value, you keep working when you get tired.  But in reality, it means there is no stopping point.  There is no giving up.  In the absence of a door, in the face of an unscaleable wall, you get out the sledgehammer and carry on.

    Violence like we've seen this week produces the kind of feeling in the pit of my stomach that makes me want to fall over the back of the chair to vomit to have done with it.  But the response I have seen reaffirms in me that if a few people can cause this much pain, every person that decides to value life, to hold out mercy, to expect and pray for the best, can overcome that hate.

    Oh sun! You burn w…