Perhaps it doesn’t come as a surprise to you that a person by the name of Starrene Rhett Rocque has been in and around show biz for years. So it seems only fitting that her debut novel, Bloggers Can’t Be Trusted (Amazon UK | DE | FR), is about a “jaded entertainment journalist” who gets caught up in a tangle involving an actor/rapper and an obsessive blogger.
We all know traditional media has been going through some serious identity issues over the past decade or more. The internet has made it possible for a whole host of hobby writers to break and redefine the rules of the fourth estate, wreaking havoc on those of us who have learned to conform to the “system” but also creating exciting opportunities for anyone trying to grab headlines. (No longer must we wait for someone to validate our words, our story!)
Starrene is an unabashed indie author who self-published her debut book (though she would consider “going trad” for her next book). As someone who also recently self-published her own nonfiction book, I was definitely interested in hearing Starrene’s take on the process and what motivated her to take that decision for herself. Feel free to leave your comments at the end of the interview. Starrene and I would love to hear from you!
Let’s hear it for Starrene Rhett Roque!
Age…33 (34 by the time this will run in August) US
Occupation/Aspiration (related website?)… Recovering journalist and aspiring copywriter, screenwriter, novelist, pole studio owner, and generally open to what good the universe may have in store for me (that is a lot to juggle, but I believe I can and will). I can be found at www.gangstarrgirl.com, gruntsandglam.com, and thehollywoodshuffle.com.
Your debut novel, Bloggers Can’t Be Trusted, is now out and on Amazon. Congrats! Can you share a synopsis? Thank you, and yup. “Bloggers Can’t Be Trusted” (US | UK | DE | FR) follows Nyela Barnes, a jaded entertainment journalist who goes from writing the stories to becoming the story after getting involved with Olu Major, the hottest actor-turned-rapper in the game. Nyela must find out the identity of the anonymous gossip blogger, Chatty Abernathy, who is seemingly hell-bent on destroying her reputation by making up lies.
In a blog post (on www.GangStarrGirl.com – I love your blog, by the way) you mentioned that career burnout led you to writing this novel–and among lots of interesting tidbits, you noted that Bloggers Can’t Be Trusted started out as journal entries. At what point between journaling and beginning to write a novel did you know it was “time” to write a book? How long did this book take to write? It started when I couldn’t stop thinking about things that I had journaled throughout the day. A lot of the scenarios I wrote about just started to seem like they could really work as some type of script if I actually fictionalized events. Plus, the characters just started materializing and talking to me.
That’s the thing about journaling, at least for me, it’s a way to relieve stress, to write down hopes and dreams, complain without sounding like a broken record (since it’s just yourself and the universe), and to make fun of or lambast people who may have hurt me without actually having to face consequences lol, but also to meditate and to open me up to new ideas and energy, so that’s how the book just started to flow. I really believe that journaling or any kind of free writing can help with your creativity, not just with writing, but with other forms of art.
It took me about five years to write the book. At first it was hard for me to juggle working and setting schedules to write so I’d constantly start then stop, and then have to start over again because I’d forget what was happening and who the characters were. In 2014, I got more serious and began forcing myself to take at least 15 minutes a day to write something toward finishing the book.
Were you ever nervous while writing your book that, even though it was fiction and not a tell-all, the real people you have fictionalized into characters might recognize themselves? Did you have any tricks for getting past those concerns? It crossed my mind, but it doesn’t make me nervous. The reason why I’m not nervous is because even though I’m aware that people who read it may single out one specific person that a certain character may remind them of, that’s actually not the case. Most of the characters are exaggerated amalgamations of personality archetypes in the same genre. For example, there are a couple of relationship blogger/life coach types in the book, there are so many in real life that it could still be anyone.
There are some events that were inspired by actual events and my thing with that is, without the exaggerations, these are things that happened (and still happens) so if someone gets mad at me, it’s like “it happened and people experienced it so what do you want me to do?” I hate to sound cold in that regard, but that is why we should be mindful of the impressions we leave on people. Plus, none of it is slander. It’s all satire.
Can you share a little bit about your writing process? Rituals you live/write by? My favorite read about how to construct a novel is by Stephen King. He wrote a book called, “On Writing,” and I noticed that I liked his writing process a lot. A lot of times, it’s suggested that you write an outline first and then write based on the outline. I prefer to freestyle and just start with a character and let them tell me where their day will go. Don’t get me wrong, outlines are very helpful and I actually ended up needing one once I finished BCBT to put things in better chronological perspective, but there was just something about Stephen King’s style that resonated with me.
As far as rituals, setting aside 15 minutes a day is tremendously helpful (that is actually a tip I picked up from Aliya S. King). It may not sound like a lot, but it adds up. You will also have moments where 15 minutes becomes an hour and so on.
You have also mentioned on your blog that you decided to self-publish. Good for you! (And congrats again — no small feat!!) What part of self-publishing was most difficult, what will/would you do differently a second time around? Lawd…thank you lol. I decided to self-publish just because after doing some research about the publishing world, I realized that I was already super burned out, so I just didn’t want to deal with anymore industry BS and politics.
The part of self-publishing that is most difficult is not having a budget or a team. Other than hiring an editor that one time lol, I really just have myself and then friends of course, who have been helpful, but I don’t want to burden anyone, especially when it’s not their job or obligation to help me. So, the hardest part is promoting yourself and getting the word out to your target market.
For the next time around, I’m actually considering going for a traditional publishing deal. I would like to have experience with both ends of the spectrum. That idea is always subject to change, but that’s where I am right now.
If you could step into a time machine and pay a visit to Starrene, 14 y.o., what would you tell her? Why? Wow, good question. I would tell her not to major in communications. At that time, 14-year-old me wanted to be a news anchor. I’d tell that version of myself to get a degree in something else, but work toward the journalism career she wanted by way of internships. I’d also tell her to start learning to let go because she will need a whole lot of forgiveness in life.
What do you do when you’re not writing? When I’m not writing I’m teaching or taking pole classes and probably aerial hoop, or hanging out with the hubby.
Any new projects you’re working on? Brainstorming more books! A lot of people have been wanting a follow up to “Bloggers Can’t Be Trusted.” I really enjoy those characters so I’m definitely trying to figure out what’s next for Olu and Nyela especially, and then Reiko and Felani were such good characters too. I think they need spinoffs as well.
I’m also preparing for motherhood. My first child will be arriving at the end of August, maybe even September.
Coffee or Tea? Tea!
Is there a question you wished I would pose to you? (or to anyone else? Whom?) No. This was actually thorough and enjoyable. Thanks for having me.
Thank you for being here — We’d love to have you back!
Connect With Starrene Rhett Rocque!
You can connect with Starrene through the following links, or you can say Hi to her in the comments!
“Bloggers Can’t Be Trusted” is available for purchase at Amazon.com.
WANT TO BE A PART OF LIVINGINCYN’S E-INTERVIEW SERIES FOR ASPIRING AUTHORS?
If you’re a new or aspiring author — that is, you are actively working on your debut book, you plan on publishing — or you recently published your debut work, you qualify for this e-interview series! Enter a comment below or send an email to cynthia [at] livingincyn [dot] com if you wish to participate in an e-interview. This series is slated for the 3rd Wednesday of each month.
Note: There are links on this page that will lead you to Amazon.com. If you decide to make a purchase on Amazon as a result of clicking the link, I receive a small commission from your purchase. Find out more about affiliate links here. Thanks for your support.
One of the exercises I address in my latest book for aspiring authors handles goals-setting. As time ticked on and people shared their opinions about my success or lack of success, I grew more aware of how important setting goals for myself was. They’re really your only true measure of success.
When you’re publishing a book, you’re also putting a little bit of yourself “out there”. That can be a scary prospect, especially when you have an active inner critic. People will come forward and tell you what they think you should do with your project. They’ll also be telling you why they think what you’re doing works or doesn’t. While their tips may be well-intentioned, much of it won’t resonate with the goals you set for yourself. Please try and remember that–so you don’t let your inner critic get fueled up for an “I told you so!”.
A person I’ve worked with once told me that the best way to share is to show. It might be helpful for me to tell you what my own goals were for self-publishing:
- GOAL ONE: To one day work for myself as an indie author and a freelancer. As some of you may know, I hold a full-time day job with a nearly three-hour daily commute. I also freelance in the evenings and over the weekends. You may already know that freelance work can be irregular with an irregular cash flow. Holding a steady full-time job for now is necessary for me — but it doesn’t mean I can’t write a book about what I know and share it with people (some of whom may even become prospective clients). This segues nicely into my next goal.
- GOAL TWO: To create a business card for myself. I have been in marketing communications for several years across a range of sectors and fields. I knew that developing a marketing strategy for my WIP (work in progress) would include a sequence of steps to point me in the direction of what my message and talking points would be, so I wouldn’t run out of ideas for my blog, Twitter account and building my indie author business!
- GOAL THREE: To be a published author. This sounds silly, I know, but it was important to me to officially have a book on the market, so I could check “get published” off my bucket list and put my inner critic to rest! “The Aspiring Author’s Guide: Write Your Marketing Strategy” was low-hanging fruit for me in that I felt comfortable enough with its content to get it out the door. (I knew that drafting and editing my fiction would take more time, so I put that work on the back-burner.)
- GOAL FOUR: To share the knowledge. One of the biggest traps I see a lot of people fall into when it comes to marketing is biting off more tactics than they can realistically chew. New applications and social media make marketing look easy, but there’s planning and a lot of work involved.
A strategy is an overarching guideline to help you in your approach to meeting your goal. For instance, if you’re in New York and your goal is to get to Hollywood, your strategy is to travel west. Your strategy is not to hitchhike, take a train and a plane and a bus. Those are tactics. Your tactics may be to apply all four means of getting there, but it could just as easily be one. Your situation and circumstances usually define what works best for you.
Developing a marketing strategy can help people see the bigger picture and take a leaner, less “busy” approach to implementing a regular drumbeat of “noise” for one’s product.
So, it just so happened that I had a really good idea of what I wanted to convey in my book and I managed to produce it quickly enough to meet my other above goals.
- GOAL FIVE: To have a “practice run”. This relates loosely to “be a published author”. Because I had never actually published an ebook, I had no idea whether the timelines I was setting for myself were even realistic. I didn’t know how long it would take me to edit 60-plus pages of my own work, I didn’t even know how long it would take for someone else to do so. I also didn’t know a ton of things surrounding the beloved book-marketing behemoth, Amazon. (More on that in another blog post!)
- GOAL SIX: To build an author platform with other authors, creatives and readers. Community-building is important to me, because it bolsters my own creativity and helps me keep motivated in keeping my blog going, my novel alive, and also my non-fiction growing. I am in frequent dialogue with my audience via email — and, no, we don’t always chat about marketing.
Goals-setting helped me see the bigger picture
A couple people recently expressed to me their main fear about publishing their debut books: that people are going to criticize it, or them. Well, I’ll share with you a little anecdote.
A few weeks after I had published my own book, I received a long email from a reader who enjoyed my book but noted that it ranked dismally low in Amazon. The person then wondered how I expected to sell any books with such a low ranking. Good question! How, indeed?
I’m not going to lie and tell you I didn’t feel like a failure upon reading this person’s observations. But the marketing communications person in me did the one thing she knew best: I returned to my marketing strategy and looked over my goals. What I found amazed me!
Absolutely nowhere in my goals is “selling” books listed.
Selling books was an objective — or a measure — of a greater goal, but it was not why I set out to publish Write Your Marketing Strategy or even to write books. Ultimately, I set out to publish because I wanted to establish credibility for myself as an author and to support my plan to work for myself. Sure, selling books would be nice — but at $0.99 or $6.99 a book, I would still have to sell beaucoup books every month to pay the rent! (I think that’s pretty unrealistic (for me) with only one book/product in my sales portfolio!)
Setting the right goals helps put you in the right direction
To continue with my little anecdote… another couple weeks after the above-mentioned email, I received a completely unsolicited email from someone who was looking for someone who could conduct market research and then write a consumer report quickly and correctly!
She found me through social media. But thanks to my book, which she saw on my blog, I had practically scored the job before replying “Yes” to her email. Also, the earnings from that project represented way more than the revenue I would have projected for myself in the first year of sales.
Basically, the publication of that book is supporting my larger goal of building a writing business for myself.
How about you and your goals as a writer?
Why did you set out to write a book? What do your goals look like? Do your goals keep you motivated to keep writing?
Scroll down and let us know what your goals are/were for being a writer!
Recent B.R.A.G. medallion awardee and indie author, Megan Haskell, alerted me to the big news that her Sanyare book series just had a makeover! Living in Cyn hosted Megan Haskell and Sanyare: The Last Descendent (Book 1) on this blog a couple months ago. I’m a visual person, so my memory of the old covers conveyed subdued and earthy greens and blue. Nice, dark, but not entirely kick-ass. The new look has fiery oranges, yellows, ochres and gold. They practically burn on the screen with kick-assery!
The unveiling of her updated covers for Sanyare: The Last Descendant (UK)and its free prequel, Pixie Tamer (UK), serves as further evidence that Haskell is about to come out with a bigger, badder Book 2, Sanyare: The Heir Apparent. (I can’t wait!)
Sanyare’s new covers: Post-Makeover!
Sanyare: The Last Descendant (Book 1) – Book Description
A woman torn between honor and survival…
Raised in a realm where humans are no better than slaves, Rie Lhethannien has struggled for decades to earn a meager post in the High Court messenger service. Even training as an elite fighter isn’t enough to earn the respect she craves. Scorned by the high elves who rely on her loyalty, Rie’s closest allies are the fierce carnivorous pixies who travel by her side.
When she’s attacked on a routine delivery by assassins from the enemy Shadow Realm, Rie’s martial prowess keeps her alive…and frames her as a traitor. Facing execution at the hand of an unmerciful king, Rie must forsake her oaths and flee into enemy lands to prove her innocence. With surprising help from a bastard prince and an ambitious blood sidhe, Rie searches for the truth behind the attack. The secrets she uncovers may threaten more than her honor or even her life…for war is looming in the nine faerie realms.
Sanyare: The Last Descendant is the first book in The Sanyare Chronicles, a fast-paced dark fantasy adventure. If you like kick-butt heroines and action-packed fantasy filled with mythological creatures, then you’ll love the first novel in Megan Haskell’s debut series. Start your journey across the nine faerie realms today!
Pixie Tamer (Prequel to sanyare the last descendant, A short story) – book description
It’s Nuriel “Rie” Lhethannien’s twenty-fifth nameday. She should be celebrating her rise to maturity, not sweating in the training hall. But life isn’t fair, and humans aren’t equal to the elves, at least not in the High Court.
After losing a practice bout to the one man she wants to trust, Rie is thrown into the most challenging test of her life. Will the rewards outweigh the risks?
Pixie Tamer is the short story prequel to Sanyare: The Last Descendant, a dark fantasy adventure with epic themes and a new adult tone. The stories are complements, but can be read independently.
** You can get your free copy of Pixie Tamer by signing up to Megan’s newsletter.
Why a makeover?
So, why the new look? The rampant rumors that Haskell is getting ready to release Book 2 were confirmed when the award-winning author wrote on her blog that she had submitted a final draft of her manuscript to her editor! It’s only a matter of weeks and months, now… And then, we get to see the new cover for Sanyare: The Heir Apparent (Book 2).
The cool thing about being an indie author is that you can make those sorts of calls. If you feel that the cover of your book isn’t fully meeting your readers’ or genre’s expectations (and therefore not selling as well as you’d like), then as an indie author, you can find a designer who can help you get it the way you want. A traditionally-published author who feels that way about their publisher’s decisions doesn’t typically have that luxury.
About the Author: Megan Haskell
Megan Haskell is the author of the dark fantasy adventure, Sanyare: The Last Descendant, and Program Director for O.C. Writers, A Network of Published and Aspiring Authors. She lives in Orange County, California with her husband, two young daughters, and one ridiculously energetic dog. You can find her on her website at www.MeganHaskell.com, www.OCWriters.Network, and Facebook.
Connect with Megan Haskell via Social Media
Note: There are links on this page that will lead you to Amazon. If you decide to make a purchase on Amazon as a result of clicking the link, I receive a small commission from your purchase. Find out more about affiliate links here. Thanks for your support.
You can imagine my delight this weekend, when I discovered that The Aspiring Author’s Guide: Write Your Marketing Strategy had been featured on InstaFreebie! There’s still time to download this and a range of other books in the InstaFreebie #FreebieFriday offer, so don’t delay if you see something that appeals!
Are you a reader?
If you’re an avid reader, then make sure you sign up to receive new releases from InstaFreebie regularly. You can choose your favorite genres and discover new authors. All you need to do is click and read!
Are you a writer?
If you’re a writer, or an indie author, make sure you bookmark this site! InstaFreebie helps you promote your work to new readers, and it also helps you build your author platform! There are free and paid options for authors to feature their works.
You may have seen my blog post on setting up your mailing list à la Nick Stephenson. If you haven’t make sure you give it a quick read! It’s a useful precursor to getting your email management account primed for handling all your new subscribers.
My book was featured under “Business” and overnight there was a bump in new subscribers to my mailing list.
Okay, maybe bump is an understatement. My list grew by 700% in 24 hours!
My book is about marketing strategy, and how it’s important to be clear on what you want to accomplish with your book marketing efforts.
In my case, my goal has been to reach out to other writers and help them in the way that I can: by sharing my marketing knowledge while learning from experts of the writing craft. Believe me, I have met some really talented people: from bestselling and newly published authors to successful indie and aspiring authors. That’s been the ultimate win for me so far: I’m crafting my dream job!
But I digress…
And now I’m curious. As a reader or a writer what are your favorite book giveaway sites? Which one’s have you found turn up the best books, or have the best readers? Leave your comment below…
I’m always amazed by the variety of people I encounter when I receive their e-interview responses. Sa’iyda Shabazz was an actress who has now turned her attentions to writing. Somehow, she manages to juggle childrearing, freelancing, writing and pitching agents. On that latter subject, it seems she has opted to go the traditional route, and she shares a bit about her pitch experiences in this interview.
Name/ Age/ Website… Sa’iyda Shabazz, 30
Title and synopsis of your debut novel. The title is currently in flux. It is about a teenaged brother and sister (twins) who move from England to Los Angeles. It is a fish out of water story, complete with love triangles and typical issues teens face like social hierarchies, making new friends and fitting in.
Where do you currently reside? What’s your hometown/origin? I currently live on Staten Island, NY. I also grew up here.
Can you share a little bit about what prompted you to write this book? I was inspired by the reboot of the show 90210. I liked the concept of the fish out of water story and there is no better place than Los Angeles to set it. I had recently lived there, and I was fascinated by the culture. It really is a whole new worl.
Ah–East coast, West coast. Can you tell us a little bit about your experience moving to the West Coast and some of the differences you noticed? I think the biggest difference is the people. New Yorkers are tough but there is a certain level of friendliness that goes unnoticed. People on the west coast are super laid-back but there is a certain sense of entitlement, especially in the higher end neighborhoods like the ones in my novel. But I loved living on the west coast and look forward to returning!
You’ve shared you’re getting ready to pitch your debut novel for the second time. It sounds like you’re taking the traditional route to publishing. Can you talk about the process (your process) a little? What was the first round of pitches like? Finding an agent is not for the faint of heart. It takes months of research before you begin to pitch. I looked up a lot of agencies and agents through Google and then looked up agents I liked on social media. I also looked in the acknowledgement sections of books by my favorite authors to see who their agents are. I pitched to about 5 agents. I got back a few rejection emails. Even though they said no, it was a positive because that means they took the time to really consider my work.
Did you learn any lessons from the first round of pitches? What, if anything, would you do differently this time around? I think my biggest takeaway is that I need to make my query letter a little more dynamic. I think I have a good story that needs to be a little more exciting to get an agent’s interest.
Do you remember the moment you knew you had to be a writer? I don’t think there was a moment. I had always thought I would be an actor and write for fun. Then I started putting more attention into my writing than my acting career so I just changed trajectories. It was a very organic transition.
You don’t mean you gave up acting do you? Do you still act? What was your latest appearance? I did give up acting actually! I sometimes miss performing and I’m sure I’ll go back to it one day, but right now I don’t have the energy or the time to do both.
How do you come up with your story ideas? How do they present themselves to you and how do you interact with them? Story ideas present themselves in different ways. Sometimes I’ll hear a song lyric that will inspire a scene or a short story. Or I’ll see a picture or sometimes I’ll just have random ideas pop into my head.
You also freelance. Can you give us an idea of your daily routine? How do you balance writing a book, freelance writing and your “personal life” in a day/ week? Are you really good at compartmentalising or does it just work effortlessly? I’m still very new to freelancing so I’m not doing a ton of pieces. I have a list of pitches I’m working through. It usually takes me a few hours to write a piece and then I edit sporadically. This book is in the editing phase so again I do a few hours a few times a week. I also have a two year old son and I work as a babysitter. As a result, I do a lot of my work on my phone. I have the Docs app so I can work on the go.
Coffee or Tea? Tea most of the time but occasionally I need coffee. I prefer regular black tea with milk and sugar or a Dunkin’ Donuts french vanilla iced coffee with 7 sugars and half and half. Occasionally I go to Starbucks, but that’s a treat.
WANT TO BE A PART OF LIVINGINCYN’S E-INTERVIEW SERIES FOR AUTHORS?
If you’re a writer, new author or aspiring author, send an email to cynthia [at] livingincyn [dot] com if you wish to participate in an e-interview. This series is slated for the 3rd Wednesday of each month.