Can you tell us about yourself?
My name is Laurie Bell. I am an Australian author and a lover of fantasy and science fiction of all kinds. I volunteer at my local theatre company and am often found in coffee shops or on trains writing madly in one of my many many notebooks. Oh, and I love chocolate and coffee!
I maintain an active blog of science fiction, fantasy, and flash fiction pieces, reviews and rambles. My Stones of Power book series (YA fantasy) is published by the independent publishing house Wyvern’s Peak Publishing. Book one: The Butterfly Stone and book two: The Tiger’s Eye are available now. My science fiction novels White Fire and The Good, the Bad and the Undecided are self-published. I am a regular contributor of flash fiction short stories and narrator for AntipodeanSF E-zine. I have a published short story in the 250th Edition of Antipodean SF called Rift of No Return and a published short story called Together We Can Fix It in the Stories for Hope 2020 Bushfire Relief Anthology from Aussie Speculative Fiction. You can discover more about me at https://email@example.com
You can also find me online at the following…
You can find my science fiction books in both print and e-book on most online bookshops, and the occasional bricks and mortar store.
What is your latest book about?
The Good, the Bad and the Undecided
Everyone – the good, the bad and the undecided – has a story.
This is a collection of twelve short stories set during the thrilling events of White Fire and includes a large cast of guns-for-hire, undercover agents, revolutionaries and rogues, who all reveal their part in Toni’s first adventure. Because everyone – the good, the bad and the undecided – has a story.
Based on the first novel in the Toni Delle Adventures series: White Fire.
White Fire: A Toni Delle Adventure
Everybody lies. Watch your back.
Toni’s mission is to find and stop a new weapon being manufactured and smuggled into the hands of criminal elements all over the galaxy. And hey, while she’s at it, can she also find the missing weapons designer linked to these shipments?
She would have refused if it wasn’t for the insane amount of money… Oh, who was she kidding – danger, betrayal, secrets, lies – these were all the things she loved about her job. The only problem? She has to rely on information provided by The Smuggler. And he may not be the only one capable of betrayal.
White Fire and The Good, the Bad and the Undecided were written together as one manuscript when I was seventeen. The working title back then was Hunter’s Honour and it was a multi-POV science fiction action adventure.
As a young adult I couldn’t find many sci-fi stories that featured a female hero as the main character. There were stories out there, but my local library sure didn’t stock them. So, I wrote what I wanted to read. I worked on Hunter’s Honour throughout the years, workshopped it in several online publishing classes and manuscript assessment sites and eventually split off White Fire as Toni’s story. My amazing editor, Libby, suggested I turn the short stories I had left into an actual collection of short stories which became The Good, the Bad and the Undecided. Right now, I am working on the second book of Toni’s adventures.
I hope that readers will enjoy the collection of short stories in The Good, the Bad and the Undecided. It will be more enjoyable if you have read White Fire first, as this collection of short stories adds to Toni’s adventure, however, it can be read as a standalone if a reader prefers short stories to longer works.
What drives you to write?
I have always written. I think, because, I have a need to tell stories and share stories. I want to entertain. This all stems from how much I love to read. I was brought up on stories, and a love of reading. I had two wonderful reading role-models in my grandparents who enabled my reading habit by taking me to the library weekly (we would all walk out with a pile of books). I saw my grandparents reading all the time. They read to me and encouraged my own reading. There would be books in piles beside their armchairs and left open on the arms of their chairs ready for them to sit back down and continue reading. I think the desire to write my own books came out of this modelling. I want to create what I love to consume!
Why did you choose to self-publish?
For me, the choice made sense with my science fiction novels. Lighter adult science fiction is a tricky market in Australia. (There are minimal publishers who push adult Australian written science fiction and even less agents in Australia who represent it. And the readership of adult sci-fi by Australian writers isn’t as massive as I’d like. In YA and MG it is going gangbusters, which is absolutely fabulous. But for a book that sits in the mid-twenties adult years it is a tougher sell…
In White Fire, my main character, Toni, is still going through a lot of firsts. She experiences her first bad relationship and a betrayal by a trusted older figure. She needs to figure out how to move on from that. She also experiences a pretty big blow to her confidence when she makes a mistake on the job leading her to doubt her own abilities and a great deal of imposter syndrome. Is she really as good as she thinks she is? She starts out young and arrogant, fresh from training and is extremely self-confident. She thinks she has it all figured out. So, when things blow up in her face, she has to figure out how to pull herself together, how to get back up and keep on going. She also has to figure out how to trust again (in her own skills and in those around her). White Fire is an age group mash up of two parts with a two year jump in the middle. It’s a tough sell without a big marketing budget behind it. I think it is a story that agents would find hard to position in the market let alone how to best promote it. Heck, so did I and I wrote it!
And then there is The Good, The Bad and the Undecided. Another tough job to market. It is a collection of short stories from multiple POV detailing what is happening to the other characters in White Fire and takes place during the events of White Fire. I mean… How do you market that?
I think the decision to self-publish was entirely based on where I was as a writer, and what I had written. Obviously, I would have loved it to have been picked up by one of the “Big Five” and become a best seller! Haha. I realised that White Fire and The Good, the Bad and the Undecided were quite unique in the market, so I took a chance on putting them out there for readers to find and hopefully, to fall in love with.
I have a YA fantasy series with an independent publisher – Wyvern’s Peak Publishing – and they have done a magnificent job with Tracey’s magical story. I am lucky they love my Stones of Power series as much as I do and were willing to get behind it.
Each publishing journey has its quirks and I have learned a lot from each experience.
How have you found the experience?
Ah! I have learned that self-publishing is a complicated and strange path to take. It’s basically a solo project that really shouldn’t be done solo. You have to do everything yourself and every decision is on YOU. You are the author, the editor, the designer, the formatter, the marketer and the seller. Phew… that’s a lot of hats to wear.
I was fortunate in that I found an amazing project manager to work with (industry-based) who understood the publishing industry intimately and was able to guide me through my self-publishing journey. Thank you, Joel! He also had a list of fabulous contacts (editors, cover designers and type setters) and his guidance was a massive help to a nervous newbie to the publishing world.
I think the main thing you have to be aware of with self-publishing is that it is an expensive enterprise if you want to do it right. You need to budget really well – especially that first time, when you are learning all the ins and outs of putting a book together. There are so many steps to getting it right. I’d recommend connecting with a network of experienced people in the book world who can help you and answer your questions along the way. (Writing groups, online groups like #AusWrites, and people from all backgrounds and experiences.) You want to get your book looking as professional as possible. It’s the first thing a reader will see of your work, and they will be quick to judge you on it!
I’ve also learned to enjoy the editing process. (Though I still know next to nothing about commas!) I used to hate editing, but now I find it fun… I enjoy tweaking a story until it works, adding in ideas, cutting words, and adding layers until it is *chef’s kiss* just right.
I used to doubt my plotting directions and took every edit suggestion on board, sometimes to the detriment of my story. Over time I’ve learned to trust in my writing more. Many times, I find – to my surprise and delight – that I have layered in a plot point or a theme that I never knew was there until someone pointed it out to me. Obviously, the back of my brain knew what it was doing, though I might not have been fully conscious of it at the time!
I have a fabulous group of beta readers and critique partners who I trust. I rely on them to highlight what doesn’t read quite right in a manuscript and ask me questions. From plot holes to bad characterisation, to difficult settings or fight sequences that are hard to follow. They point out where my story doesn’t make sense. Every time I get my work back from my beta readers and critique partners my stories get better. They are invaluable to my process. Sometimes you can’t see the wood for the trees.
I think the worst thing about the whole process of producing a book is just how painful the waiting is. Every step takes time. Writing the first draft, self-editing, waiting on beta readers, editors, publishers, agents, and then waiting on the everyday readers to read your book and hopefully post a review… Everything about writing a book takes time. So, I write something new while I wait. Every writer’s journey is different. Do what works best for you.
How does the experience compare to working with a publisher?
The main difference? With self-publishing, you are doing it all yourself and it’s expensive, time consuming and you need to become an expert in a lot of roles you might not particularly want to become an expert in (unless you are a wizz at editing, design, marketing and promotion).
With a publisher… you have a team working together toward making your book the best possible version of itself as can be, which means you can focus on your writing and can turn your attention to the next story. You are not doing the whole thing on your own.
That being said, going through a publisher means you don’t get the final say. So ultimately, it depends on how much control you want over your own work. With a publisher… you learn to let your work go a lot sooner than if you self-publish.
Have you got any tips for new authors?
It is hard, it is expensive, and it is exhausting. If you are only in it for the money… do something else. If you are in it for the love of telling a story… then stick with it. Your love with get you through the pain of waiting, the pain of rejection, and the pain of a bad review. When you get the good reviews? Oh, that is a marvellous feeling! If you entertain even one person, then it is worth it.
But it’s hard. Not necessarily the writing or the editing or the endless waiting. Not the self-promotion or the late nights or the constant revision. It’s the whole package. It’s exhausting and it’s subjective. There is no instant satisfaction. Friends and family will assure you they will read your book (the one you lovingly created, the one you spent so much of your personal time, sweat and tears on), and then they won’t buy it or they buy it but don’t read it, (or want a free copy). If they do read it, they won’t tell you what they thought because they didn’t enjoy it (or they never tell you they read it, leaving you wondering forever).
Find what brings you joy with your writing and keep going. If it is something you really want to do, then do it. Keep reading, keep writing, keep going. Not everyone will like your work (I don’t like some types of chocolate… it’s not the chocolate’s fault, and it’s not bad chocolate.) Not everyone likes everything they read. I have a few friends who just don’t like science fiction. I don’t expect them to read my books. Of course, I’d love it if they did read them, but if they don’t like the genre, I’m not going to expect them to love it. It’s the same with publishers, agents, editors and readers. You need to find and target the right audience. They are the ones who will enjoy your work the most and tell other people about it.
If writing is something you really want to do. Do it. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t. Just keep going.
What are you working on now?
I have two more Stones of Power books to write (5 in all – book three is with the publisher) and I am currently writing Toni’s next adventure. I have three other WIP. An Aussie supernatural thriller with a dash of comedy. A MG SFF with alien dragons and camel-like elephants. And a darker sci-fi (that’s a little bit noir and a little bit horror – and it seems cursed to never be published because it is also about a killer virus!)
I have plenty of other ideas bouncing around inside my brain too. I want to write more short stories. I have an idea for a futuristic thriller and I have a fantasy story I’d love to make as graphic novel or a picture chapter book for kids and lots of other bits and bobs. I’d like to turn some of my books into audible books at some point too. So, I guess, watch this space.
Thank you very much for your time!