Local readers of Ann Charles’ books will see some familiar names on her pages now and then. Some day even more than a name is going to ring a bell.
“I have a series that I want to start and I want it to be set in Fayette—a fictional Fayette,” she told an audience last week at the Opera House. “I want to write a series about the woman who owned the funeral home, Elaine Eagle. She was amazing.”
It will be a woman named Grace who runs the funeral home after her father died.
“What I see is that it’s a mixture of humor, romance, mystery and horror,” she said. “I’m not sure how I’ll pull it off.”
The project will serve as an example of how she develops an idea for a story, because it stemmed from attending her grandfather’s funeral in Fayette.
It was a time of sadness at his death, but she was also gazing around the funeral parlor thinking about story ideas. The experience turned out to be an odd mix of sadness and inspiration.
Ann Charles serves as a pen name for Fayette native Wendy Kunkle who now lives in Seattle. Following a biographical talk, Charles fielded questions from the audience and then met with readers for a book signing.
The event also became somewhat of reunion with several former classmates who attended the event.
During the question-and-answer session, Charles was asked if she had any advice for young writers.
“Keep writing,” she said. “I know that really sounds like a cliché. Keep writing and practicing. Read other books you love. I learn a lot from books and from movies. Watch the dialogue, watch the body movements in movies you really like and incorporate that into your story.”
Now and then someone will appear on the scene and get a book published after only a year, but that’s not generally the case. Many successful authors needed several years of trying before breaking through.
“Be patient and be prepared for rejection because you really are putting yourself out there. There will be people out there who will hate you. There will be people who really come at you and want to knock you down a notch.”
Charles was asked if she ever again encountered the people from New York City who rejected her manuscript, predicting that it wouldn’t sell.
There was one person who believed in her, she said earlier in her talk, but he was overruled.
“He contacted me on Twitter late last fall and said, ‘I’ve been watching your book. I knew that book would sell. Congratulations.’”
He now works for another publishing company and there’s a chance they could reconnect.
“But to be honest, I don’t know how much I want to go through New York,” she said.
The big publishing houses take very good care of big name authors, but not so much with the lower tier. Newer authors and those with some following are publishing on their own and connect with their fans through Amazon. They make a lot more money that way.
There are some misconceptions about book sales, Charles said.
“People think, you’re an author and you’ve got all kinds of money,” she said. “Authors typically make seven to 10 cents a book. That’s it.”
Well-known authors live off the advance that a publisher pays, and the sales from most books never equals the advance.
“I would still like to give New York a series because they have such a distribution arm that I can’t touch,” she said. “Right now if you want my books you have to get them from a family member who has boxes in her garage.”
Sales of e-books is much easier through Amazon or Barnes and Noble, but how do you stand out among the millions?
“That’s where you stop sleeping at night and spend time on Facebook promoting yourself,” she said.
During her biographical talk, Charles spoke of how she attended several colleges due to relocating with her husband. At each one, she was told that she needed to take their English classes and she ended up with an enormous amount of English credits.
When she applied for a job as a secretary, her interviewer took note of the English classes and asked if she was interested in taking a job as a technical writer.
She accepted, then went home and investigated what it meant to be a technical writer. She had no idea. Twelve years later, she still has the job.
An early attempt at writing a romance story never really blossomed until she rewrote a portion and it became an action/adventure story.
She entered the story in a national contest and won the top award for mystery writing. She later entered it in a romance competition and won again.
“To this day I still can’t believe that this quirky, crazy, mixed-up mystery romance with some paranormal won these two national awards,” Charles said, holding up a copy.
She mentioned that the name “Doc Nyce” appears in the story, but she pointed out that it was written before a publisher insisted that she go back and add a little sex to the story.
It’s not the Doc Nyce we knew here, she said, but she made him into a great character that readers love.
However, she added, she is a little nervous knowing that someone bought a copy of the book to give to Ruth, the late doctor’s wife.