Saving Sara, discusses his book, his journey as a writer, and self-publishing on Kindle.
DAVID WISEHART: What can you tell us about Saving Sara?
H.A. OLSEN: Saving Sara is a mystery/suspense novel with a distinct Southern flavor, geared toward a female audience. The protagonist, singer-songwriter Angela Jenkins, is physically and emotionally exhausted after a whirlwind concert tour, and decides to spend a week at her seaside cottage with her sixteen year-old daughter, Sara. But Angela's plan for a relaxing vacation soon goes awry when Sara goes missing after a fireworks show. When the bodies of other teenage girls that bare an uncanny resemblance to Sara begin to show up, it leaves little doubt that she is in the hands of a serial killer. As the frantic search for Sara begins, Angela discovers that the people she thought she could trust the most have secrets—dark secrets she must reveal if she is to save Sara before it's too late.
DAVID WISEHART: How do you develop and differentiate your characters?
H.A. OLSEN: Each character has a unique voice and personality inside my head, and I do my best to convey that voice and personality to the reader. As I write, I constantly ask myself these questions: "How would this character act in this situation?" and "What motivation would they have for doing what they do?" Many authors claim that their books unfold before them like a movie, and I suppose that is the case for me. And trust me, the characters often take me down paths that I never intend for them to travel; but I've found that those paths usually turn out to be the right ones for the story.
DAVID WISEHART: Who do you imagine is your ideal reader?
H.A. OLSEN: Someone who enjoys a female protagonist that is smart, yet vulnerable. I think any mother can relate to the way Angela tries to connect with her daughter in the beginning of the book, and the terror and pain she feels when Sara goes missing. Also, this is a work of Southern fiction, and should appeal to anyone who enjoys novels by authors like Dorothea Benton Frank, Pat Conroy, etc.
DAVID WISEHART: What was your journey as a writer?
H.A. OLSEN: I was compelled to write my first novel, A Lone Palm Stands, from the experiences I had during Hurricane Hugo, a category four Hurricane that all but destroyed my hometown of Charleston, S.C. and its surrounding sea islands. Seeing the way a disaster of that magnitude can change a life overnight and witnessing the determination of the people it affected, planted the seed in me that ultimately became A Lone Palm Stands. No one was more surprised than I was how popular and successful the novel became in South Carolina, and how everyone kept asking me if there was going to be a sequel. The comment I heard the most from my readers was how the characters became like family to them, and how they wanted more. So I thought "Why not?" and began writing Saving Sara, which takes place fifteen years after the original novel.
DAVID WISEHART: What is your writing process?
H.A. OLSEN: As I mentioned, the story comes to me scenes, much like a movie playing inside my head. I don't do outlines, and I don't think a lot about the story when I'm not writing. But when I sit down at the keyboard, something magical happens. I lose track of time, and if there was an earthquake, I probably wouldn't notice it. All background noise fades away, and the story pours through me. Of course, the hard part comes later, when I have to revise and edit the aftermath. But the creative process is amazing and something that I cherish experiencing with every book.
DAVID WISEHART: What authors most inspire you?
H.A. OLSEN: Southern fiction authors like Dorothea Benton Frank, Pat Conroy, and Mary Alice Monroe.
DAVID WISEHART: What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you'd written yourself?
H.A. OLSEN: That one is easy—To Kill a Mockingbird, my all-time favorite novel.
DAVID WISEHART: How have you marketed and promoted your work?
H.A. OLSEN: I have marketed the physical book through book signings and establishing retail outlets throughout South Carolina. For the Kindle version, I have concentrated on social media, both through word-of-mouth and paid advertising.
DAVID WISEHART: Why publish on Kindle?
H.A. OLSEN: Besides the 70% royalty? All kidding aside, the Kindle has allowed me to reach an audience that literally spans the globe. It is an amazing piece of technology that has evened the playing field between indie authors and major publishing companies.Never has there been a more exciting time to self-publish than now.
DAVID WISEHART: What advice would you give to a first-time author thinking of self-publishing on Kindle?
H.A. OLSEN: First and foremost, make sure your work is ready to be published. NEVER put a first draft out there to the public; make sure that your book has been revised many times and has been thoroughly edited. If you want to balance the playing field with the big guys, you have to make sure your work is the best it can be.
DAVID WISEHART: Thanks, and best of luck with your books.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
My first novel A Lone Palm Stands was inspired by my experience with the storm and its aftermath. Witnessing the way the hurricane changed so many lives, and seeing how it brought out the good in some people and bad in others, provided the 'fuel' to get the story going. Little did I know that it would evolve into a novel that has touched so many people in so many ways. If you like a story that lets you watch a character grow from adolescence to maturity (and learn many lessons about life along the way), then you're sure to enjoy A Lone Palm Stands. If it's quirky mysteries that you're into, then be sure to check out my latest novel, Saving Sara."
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