Hot Fun in the Summertime, discusses her book, her journey as a writer, and self-publishing on Kindle.
DAVID WISEHART: What can you tell us about Hot Fun in the Summertime?
CHICKI BROWN: To give you a brief synopsis, seven very singles—four women and three men—rent a New Jersey beach house for the summer: author Shontae Nichols, self-employed accountant and realtor, Linda Harris, Linda’s sister, hip-hop video dancer Kinnik Watkins, cosmetologist, Jovita Blassingame, Calculus professor Curtis “Doc” Whetstone, actor and drama instructor, Kip Lee, and new housemate, up and coming film actor, Devon Burke.
During their two month stay, romances bloom friendships are tested and when a tragedy strikes one of the housemates, they all learn the answer to the age-old question: "Can men and women ever be just friends?"
So many people have asked me if I wrote Hot Fun because of the popularity of the TV show Jersey Shore, but I wrote this story more than two years ago. The movie, The Big Chill, was one of my favorites back in the '80s. It was about a group of old friends who come together for a weekend for the funeral of one of their college classmates. The movie was a study in interpersonal relationships that I found fascinating. I wanted to write a story about singles, and thought confining them to one house like they do on the television reality shows would give the story an interesting twist.
My characters aren’t hard drinking, bar fighting post-pubescents like those on the TV show. Rather, they are in their early thirties, and each of them has a goal for coming to the house. Their very different goals and personalities create the conflict and drama that drives the story.
DAVID WISEHART: How do you develop and differentiate your characters?
CHICKI BROWN: I wish I had a very artistic answer for you, like “my characters come to me in dreams and whisper all I need to know about their lives then I just sit at the keyboard and it miraculously flows from my fingers,” but I don’t. Actually I create detailed character profiles for each character that includes their physical characteristics, personal preferences, brief backstory, immediate family, greatest desire, biggest fear, personal and career goals in order to make sure their personalities differ.
DAVID WISEHART: Who do you imagine is your ideal reader?
CHICKI BROWN: My ideal reader is a woman, between the ages of 18-60, who loves realistic contemporary and multicultural stories without the erotic stuff.
DAVID WISEHART: What was your journey as a writer?
CHICKI BROWN: Long, tedious, and frustrating. After being a lifelong avid reader, I began writing in 2002 after a job layoff and began the search for a publisher two years later. During the next eight years I wrote seven more full-length manuscripts, submitted to editors and agents, signed with two well-known agents, who were impressed with my work but still weren’t able to sell anything for me. After more than six years of submissions and rejections, I’d had my fill of business as usual. A few years ago, I started reading Joe Konrath’s blog and following his Kindle experiment. The more I read, the more I wanted to try my own ebook experiment. Of course I knew I wouldn’t make the kind of money Joe is making, but anything I made was better than the big goose egg I was earning at the time.
DAVID WISEHART: What is your writing process?
CHICKI BROWN: I always start with a story idea, something that’s been percolating in my head. Because I am a plotter by nature, then I begin making general notes, which eventually turn into an outline. By the time I complete the outline, I have a good idea of the characters I want to populate the story, so next I complete a detailed character profile for the main characters and a simpler one for the secondary characters. When those are done, I start the first draft.
Most weekdays I work from 7 AM to 7 PM. Of course, I stop for meals, laundry, to run to the store, and those other detestable yet necessary tasks things, but since I’m an Internet junkie, it’s imperative that I unplug and work away from home when I’m writing. The local coffee shops know me as a permanent fixture. In the spring and early fall, I often write at one of the lakes—anywhere there are no distractions. My AlphaSmart is a lifesaver. I can take it anywhere and write without the need for electricity or wi-fi.
I am blessed to have a home office, so when I’m editing my writing or doing critiques for my partners, I close the door and put on some instrumental smooth jazz.
DAVID WISEHART: What authors most inspire you?
CHICKI BROWN: Beverly Jenkins and Eric Jerome Dickey’s realistic portrayals of African-American life in contemporary and historical settings always inspire me. I am awestruck by J.R. Ward’s incredible world-building skills and Lisa Kleypas’s incredible talent for writing moving and emotional love scenes.
DAVID WISEHART: What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you’d written yourself?
CHICKI BROWN: I’d have to say Lover Eternal by J.R. Ward. She created the most spectacular hero and fascinating world that I’ve ever read.
DAVID WISEHART: How did you create your cover?
CHICKI BROWN: My critique partner, Zee Monodee, created my covers. I found the pictures on different photo sites, and she worked her creative magic on them.
DAVID WISEHART: How have you marketed and promoted your work?
CHICKI BROWN: My marketing program changes weekly. The most important strategy is making the books available in different places. The majority of my sales come from Kindle, but I also sell on Barnes & Noble’s Nook, Smashwords, and most recently Google.
Involvement on discussion boards and groups like Goodreads, Kindleboards.com, eBook Gab, Nookboards, and Amazon’s own discussion communities are important. A constant presence on social networks has worked well for me. In fact, Facebook has been the most successful marketing site for me. Of course, I post promos, excerpts and trailers on every romance book site I can find.
DAVID WISEHART: Why publish on Kindle?
CHICKI BROWN: In my opinion, this is a no-brainer. The 70 percent royalty option on Kindle sales far exceeds the 6-15% authors are paid by their publishers on sales of paper books. Also, with the recent 190% increase in e-books sales, I think e-publishing is the only way to go.
DAVID WISEHART: What advice would you give to a first-time author thinking of self-publishing on Kindle?
CHICKI BROWN: Learn all you can about the industry and keep your finger on the pulse of the ebook business before you publish anything. Study everything you can get your hands on about marketing ebooks. Understand that this business is changing daily, and you can never stop learning. Joe Konrath’s blog, for all of 2009 and 2010 should be their first stop, and Huffington Post Books is a fantastic site to keep you up to date on what’s happening with electronic publishing.
DAVID WISEHART: Thanks, and best of luck with your books.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hot Fun in the Summertime. She recently finished writing her eighth manuscript.
A New Jersey native, and the mother of two grown daughters, she and her husband live in suburban Atlanta, Georgia.
Visit her website.
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