I am very grateful to Debra Brown, an Amazon bestselling author, active member of the Historical Novel Society and editor of a collaborative anthology Castles, Customs, and Kings: True Tales by English Historical Fiction Authors. This compilation of essays is a perfect gift for hardcore English history buffs as well as novices who are only getting their feet wet.
MJN: Can you describe the curating process for compiling Castles,Customs, and Kings? If two or more authors submitted an essay on the same subject, was it difficult to choose one? Or were the topics pre-assigned?
DB: Castles,Customs, and Kings is an anthology of selected history blog posts from the English Historical Fiction Authors blog. Volume 2 is taken mostly from our second year as a blogging group. (You may find us asking to put your post on Florence Hobson in a future volume!) The posts are almost always on a different topic as 2000+ years of British history studied by many authors yields much variety. The problem is actually keeping the book down to a reasonable length with so many good posts to choose from!
MJN: I hear complaints from publishers and editors that they are tired of manuscripts dealing with the Tudors. Tudors are the new vampires. Is there a particular dynasty you would like to see more explored in historical fiction? I would love to read more about the Stuarts. They seem to fall through the cracks somehow.
DB: The Stuarts are fascinating. My main interest is in the Victorian/Edwardian era. It is getting close to "home", but life was so different. There were still the class differences that can make for huge conflict in a story, and I guess I am swept up by the beautiful hats and clothes, balls and banquets, and charming etiquette--contrasted with the poor Dickens characters scraping by. The Great War had not yet brought an end to the regal lifestyle in the country houses--though it is only the upper middle classes and nobility that had it good there; one has to put themselves into the right shoes to enjoy those stories. Please don't write much about the scullery maids....
MJN: It's no secret that commercial success does not necessarily correlate with quality of work. Sometimes you do everything right, blog tours, live events, and you still cannot traffic copies. What have your author friends have found to be an effective marketing strategy?
DB: That is the part of being an author that is not what we signed up for. But it is necessary, even for most authors who have mainstream publishers. Most authors now are blogging and active on social media to make their work known. Even that can seem ineffective. My blog has had some success because readers know there will be a new history post every day by one of many authors. And I've been putting the author's latest release on the sidebar for the day, which I hope is of some help. We also have a mutual promotions group that has been a big help--I attribute the many sales of my first book to the marketing aid of the members when I did two Kindle freebie days which put the book into the algorithm to be easily found on Amazon for a time. When Volume 1 of CC&K came out, I was involved with ASMSG (Authors Social Media Support Group) which enabled me to sell many copies by mutual retweeting as well as 84 copies of my novel's new audiobook in just the 12 days before Christmas. I was really amazed! And I am now involved in another retweeting group as well based on Facebook, using Twitter, of course, which gets my book tweets out there before 1.5 million potential followers of the group members. It's very effective!
MJN: Have you met any of the contributors in person? I have the pleasure of knowing Stephanie Cowell personally. I've been to several of her book signings in New York vicinity. Unfortunately, I have not been able to attend any of the Historical Novel Society conferences due to work and family obligations.
DB: I have only personally met Patricia Bracewell, which was a treat, and a huge supporter of the HistFic community, Darlene Elizabeth Williams. Maybe with the HNS Conference 2017 being in Portland, OR, I will be able to meet more. I can hope!
MJN: One of the co-editors is the late M.M. Bennetts. I haven't had the privilege of knowing her personally, but I heard many wonderful things about her. I understand there's a literary award in her name?
DB: Yes. M.M. co-edited Volume 1 and was working on Volume 2, but we had to put it aside while she worked on getting well. Unfortunately, that did not happen, and we lost her in August of 2014. The histfic community was devastated as she was knowledgeable, witty, and helpful. She had worked as a book critic for the Christian Science Monitor for 20 years, and her literary talent was clear in her two novels, May 1812 and Of Honest Fame. When she became ill, her publishers turned her books back to her, and she didn't have much time to promote them herself. So we wanted to step up and make her name better known with the award. Authors are invited to submit their 2015-published historical fiction at http://mmbaward.org. And please do check out M.M.'s work!
Castles, Customs, and Kings: True Tales by English Historical Fiction Authors is available here: http://Author.to/DBrown. Volume 2 is on Nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/castles-customs-and-kings-english-historical-fiction-authors/1116967513?ean=9780983671961