Author Spotlight: Brandi Schmidt

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Tru Darling is a Sparkler. She didn’t choose to be almost electrocuted, inherit otherworldly powers, and fall for the hottest evil guy in St. Louis—but that’s exactly what happened. Her power to see true love spark in the eyes of strangers, to watch it flicker with excitement, fuse with its perfect match, or witness it burn out from despair, is a wonderful curse that drains her emotionally and physically. But she can’t afford to be weak while she’s hunting down soul mates, saving others’ faith in love, and contemplating if her hot new boyfriend is her guardian angel or the angel of death. Being a Sparkler may have its perks; enhanced vision, intuition, and physical beauty. But what of the personal costs that come with Tru’s destiny? Constant danger, unbearable pain, and lost souls she just can’t save. Tru must choose between a normal life without love or a birthright that comes with great passion, danger, and responsibility.

The Kindling is the debut novel from author Brandi Schmidt, who also is currently writing erotic fiction under the name of Elle Sharp. I had the privilege of working with Brandi as her content editor at MuseItUp Publishing, so I was very excited to ask her a few questions for one of our Author Spotlights.

AW: Who is your intended audience and why should they read your book?

Brandi: Women between 16 -60, but really anyone who loves a good love story. It’s a sweet romance about true love, best friends and crazy family.

AW: How did you come up with the title for your book/series?

Brandi: I get all of my inspiration from God and the Bible. Most of my stories are given to me and I am thankful for that. I didn’t ever intend to be a writer, but it’s the most amazing thing I have ever done. Sometimes you just have to go with it, have faith and never give up.

AW: Tell us a bit about your cover design? Who designed it and did you have a lot of input into the design?

Brandi: The amazing Suzannah Safi designed my cover. She is the best! With MuseItUp publishing I was able to fill out a questionnaire of what my book was about, what HAD to be on the cover and what my protagonist looked like. I loved the first draft of the cover. I did want the “spark” in her eye brighter and Suzannah did make it brighter. I think the cover is amazing and yes I did cry when I saw it. I ran into the bedroom, woke up my husband and made him come see it. I texted a picture to my mom, too!

AW: How long did it take to complete your novel?

Brandi: It took me 7 months to complete the first draft and 4 years to complete the edits! I was a new writer and had to learn everything about the business and more importantly about myself. It took me 4 years to get published with MuseItUp Publishing. I cried like a baby when I got the e-mail accepting me. I mean, I totally freaked out! I was so happy, that was the best day ever!

AW: Did you ever experience writer’s block? If so, what did you do to get out of the funk?

Brandi: Not really. When I do get stuck on a scene, I take time to just think about it. I will reread the chapter before and get into the heads of my characters. They will show you the way out, you just have to be willing to listen.

AW: Tell us about the challenges of getting your first novel published? About how long did it take?

Brandi: Wow – this could be a book. When I started I thought “hey I’m going to write a book and be like Stephenie Meyer!” Little did I know how hard it was really going to be? It took me 4 year almost to the date to get published. My first drafts were terrible! I am not kidding. My first queries were a joke! After many rejections I took leave from submitting and focused on getting the book in shape and learning as much as I could about the process of publication. I was very uneducated, but that was okay. I needed to learn. I needed to go through it all to make me a better writer. I am grateful for the journey. It if was easy everyone would do it. It takes passion, grit, and a lot of faith to get published. It’s been the best ride of my life.

AW: Who is your favorite character from your book and why?

Brandi: Tru Darling, hands down. She is so funny and real. She isn’t a kick-ass superhero, she is scared and confused. I think her emotions are what any of us feel at one time or another. She didn’t want to be a Sparkler, she didn’t even know if she could do it. The Kindling is her story of growth as a woman and as a reluctant semi-superhero.

AW: Who is your least favorite character and what makes them less appealing to you?

Brandi: I love writing all of them, but if I had to choose it would be Weylin. He is so difficult to write, even though I love him. He holds back so much, even from me. I never know if he is good or bad or both.

AW: If you could change only one thing about your novel, what would it be?

Brandi: Hard question…I love the book. If I had to pick something, I would have made Weylin more likeable (maybe). I kind of like him the way he is, but then again readers don’t seem to like him. But, that makes good drama, so I don’t know. UGH…what is the right way? This is a writer’s life – never knowing if what you are doing is right/wrong or awesome.

AW: Give us an interesting or fun fact about your book/series.

Brandi: Tru’s name. I don’t think most readers figure this out, but it’s Tru Leigh Darling…” Truly Darling.” Cheesy I know, but I love it.

AW: What other books are similar to your own? What makes them alike? Did they inspire you?

Brandi: I love all paranormal romance. Twilight, Black Dagger Brotherhood by J.R. Ward is amazing, The Mortal Instrument by Cassandra Claire. I love contemporary paranormal books, books set in today’s world with supernatural elements. Although I don’t have any vampires/shifters/fairies in The Kindling, there is a new power. Who wouldn’t want to be a supernatural matchmaker?

AW: What made you decide to become an author?

Brandi: Twilight, true story! Love it or hate it, the book series changed my life. I devoured the books in a few days. I was what my husband called a “book zombie.” I stayed up until the wee hours of the night to read. When I finished I actually hugged the book. That’s what I want. I want my readers to love the books so much they hug their kindles/nooks/e-reader/paperback.  That would be the greatest complement as an author.

AW: What is the toughest criticism that you have received as an author?

Brandi: Each reader has their own criticisms. Some have said the beginning is too slow, some say it’s just right. What really makes me cringe is when people find mistakes in the book. I worked so hard with my critique group and editors to get it right, but still a spelling error or grammar error happen.

AW: What is the best compliment?

Brandi: Getting a review on Amazon, good or bad, either way someone read it and felt empowered to write a review. That is a great compliment.

AW: Do you have another job or are you a full-time author?

Brandi: Oh yes! I have a full-time job as a Sr. Regulatory Specialist at a local pharmaceutical company. I have a degree in Biomedical Engineering from Washington University in St. Louis. In addition, I own a small business, BB bows, LLC. We make interchangeable hair bows and have two patents on the invention. I am a mother of three, 16, 6, and 3yrs. I also have one fur-baby, a golden retriever. My husband is an engineer too. We have a crazy busy life! I dream of the day I can be a full-time author. I have a plan to get there, if all things work out one year from now I can be a stay-at-home writer. *Fingers crossed*

AW: What can we expect from you in the future? Do you have a new novel or project that you are working on?

Brandi: I am working on the sequel to The Kindling called “The Flame.” It is an amazing book, lots of action and danger. Of course lots of love and sparks flying.

In addition to that, I have started a new series. The first book is “Krossroads.” It is a paranormal erotic romance series with danger and suspense. Bree is a paranormal investigator who meets and falls for Karsten Kross an ex-priest and professional exorcist. Each book will cover a case of demonic possession and the trials they have with each other and a paranormal team bent on destroying them. “Krossroads” will be released this summer so keep a look out!

AW: Do you have any tips for readers or advice for other writers trying to get published?

Brandi: Keep at it! It took me four years to get published. If you love it don’t stop. I highly suggest a good critique group, my group is amazing. They make me a better writer. I also suggest Beta Readers! If you don’t know what that is, look it up and find some. They make your book so much better.

AW: How to you market your book?

Brandi: I made a lot of mistakes marketing my book. I paid a ton of money for reviews and ads, it wasn’t needed and didn’t increase my sales AT ALL. I have a Facebook author page and a private page, www.BrandiSchmidt.com. I am active in many groups and have been to several writing conferences. I joined Romance Writers of America which has open many doors. I have a Twitter account, Pinterest, and Google +. I follow many authors and study what they do. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel; there are successful authors out there. Be real. Be available. You have to put yourself out there so your readers can see who you are and that you care about them.

I also have a blog with four other authors, “The Busy Lady.” I hope you will check it out. I also have the website www.ElleSharp.com. You can also follow me on Twitter at @ElleSharp.

Author Spotlight: Angela Snyder

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After being left for dead in the woods, a woman wakes up from a coma. With no memory of her past, she is given the name Jane Doe. While trying to adjust to her new life, tragedy strikes again. However, this time a mysterious and handsome next-door neighbor is there to help her pick up the pieces. But is he really a stranger, or does he hold the key to unlocking her past and finding out who wants her dead?

Today’s Author Spotlight is on author Angela Snyder and her first novel The Vampire Next Door. We had the opportunity to chat with Angela about her book and her writing and publishing experiences.

AW: Tell us a little bit about your book.

Angela: The Vampire Next Door is a romantic suspense novel with a little bit of everything.  The book starts out with a woman being found in the woods barely alive.  When she wakes up from a coma, she has no memory of her past and is given the name Jane Doe.  The book follows Jane’s path through love, tragedy and her struggle to find out who she once was and who wants her dead.

AW: Who is your intended audience and why should they read your book?

Angela: My intended audience would be adults, and mainly women.  I think almost every woman out there would swoon over the main character, Sebastian Alexander, who is a vampire.  He is definitely “book boyfriend” material.  I think the book has action, romance, suspense and a little bit of everything in between, and that would make a lot of people want to read this book.

AW: How did you come up with the title for your book/series?

Angela: It was a working title that just stuck.  When I sat down and tried to come up with a better title, I couldn’t.  And so I just went with Vampire Next Door, and I’m glad that I did.

AW: Tell us a bit about your cover design? Who designed it and did you have a lot of input into the design?

Angela: Vampire Next Door’s cover has recently been revamped.  The cover was designed by Cheryl Ramirez at http://ccrpredesignedbookcovers.com.

AW: How long did it take to complete your novel?

Angela: I worked on it off and on for several months.  The last three months was when I really gained momentum on the story, and it really just seemed to write itself toward the end.

AW: Did you ever experience writer’s block? If so, what did you do to get out of the funk?

Angela: I experience writer’s block whenever I am trying to force myself to write.  Usually I just take a break and either work on a different chapter or walk away from the book completely until the creative juices begin to flow once again.

AW: Tell us about the challenges of getting your first novel published? About how long did it take?

Angela: I self-published my first novel.  It was relatively easy and did not take that long at all.

AW: Who is your favorite character from your book and why?

Angela: My favorite character would be Sebastian Alexander.  He is a vampire and very complex.  I just loved writing in his state of mind and trying to figure him out, what he would say or what he would do in certain situations.  He was so interesting to me.

AW: Who is your least favorite character and what makes them less appealing to you?

Angela: My least favorite character was the antagonist in my book.  I just wanted the character to come across so loathsome that I found myself loathing him as well as I was writing about him.

AW: If you could change only one thing about your novel, what would it be?

Angela: I think I would have left a cliffhanger, because I eventually want to write a sequel.  I left the ending open that there could be a sequel, but I just wish I would have left a killer cliffhanger to keep the readers’ anticipation of the sequel on a higher level.

AW: Give us an interesting or fun fact about your book/series.

Angela: Sebastian Alexander’s appearance is based off of actor Colin Egglesfield.

AW: What other books are similar to your own? What makes them alike? Did they inspire you?

Angela: I haven’t read any books that are similar to my own.  However, a vampire novel that inspired me would be one that I read as a teenager — The Last Vampire series by Christopher Pike.  He fueled my desire to write about vampires.

AW: What made you decide to become an author?

Angela: I have wanted to write ever since I could hold a pencil.  Being an author was the one dream I have always had, and I am making that dream come true every single day that I write.

AW: What is the toughest criticism that you have received as an author?

Angela: I think every author goes through tough criticism at one point or another.  You can’t please everybody, and I just really take that into account when a get a sub-par review.

AW: What is the best compliment?

Angela: The best compliment I get is when someone tells me they stayed up all night and/or couldn’t put my book down.

AW: Do you have another job or are you a full-time author?

Angela: I have a fulltime job aside from being an author, and a lot of times it feels like I have two full-time jobs.

AW: What can we expect from you in the future? Do you have a new novel or project that you are working on?

Angela: I have several novels I’m working on simultaneously.  I have a new adult romance novella that will be published next.  Then I am going to be publishing a young adult paranormal series and then a paranormal detective series.

AW: Do you have any tips for readers or advice for other writers trying to get published?

Angela: My advice for readers would be to leave a review for a book that you read.  It is so helpful to authors, especially indie authors. My advice to other writers would be don’t give up.  If you want to write, then write.  You only live once, and you have to make it count.  Even the best authors out there have editors that make their mediocre book seem amazing, so don’t ever think that you aren’t good enough.

AW: How do you market your book?

Angela: The biggest marketing tool I use is social media.  Word of mouth is great too.  I spend a lot of time on Twitter and Facebook interacting with fans and other authors.  There is a comradery between authors.   We are all in the same boat, and we just want to help each other. You can find my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/AuthorAngelaSnyder. You can also follow me on Twitter at @AuthorAngelaS