Welcome to Writer WednesdayA few weeks back, we talked to Cat Grant. Last week, we interviewed Francesca Hawley of Romance with Dangerous Curves.

This week I’m excited to talk with Natasha Duncan Drake about her books, her small publishing company, her experience making book covers, and many other interesting things about marketing and affiliates.

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Let’s begin!

1. Cat’s Creation, your most recent book, is the second in the Charlie Waterman series. Tell us a little about the series.

The series is contemporary fantasy with lots of magic and adventure for the YA age range, as well as elements to entertain an older readership. The set of books is Charlie’s journey from totally clueless about magic and everything that goes with it, through becoming part of a team that protects the many worlds in infinite universes from the forces of chaos trying to destroy them.

Charlie is thrown in at the deep end when he is attacked by a cat figurine, thinks he is hallucinating and wakes up the next day with a tail. His only choice is to travel to the magical realm of Between where he can learn how to use his new magical abilities properly. Here he meets his stoic mentor, Akari and the six other young people who are in the same position, except for the fact that most of them consciously chose to be.

There are seven great spirits: Cat, Dragon, Wolf, Horse, Hawk, Spider and Dolphin and each grants their power to a Questor, their agent inside reality, if you will. It is the Questors’ jobs to protect all that is, with all the responsibility and complications that come with that position.

In the first book Charlie has a lot on his plate: what with being two years late to his role, not having the first idea about anything, fancying one of his female contemporaries, having one of his male contemporaries fancy him, sabotage, and to top it all off the Questors’ first task.

In the second book Charlie is a little more in control, but a task that requires all seven Questors puts them into danger and might actually manage to kill him and Alexander, the Dragon Questor. A society based on mafia-style families with some magic thrown in makes a tough setting when none of them are really sure what it is they are supposed to be doing there.

Each book is a separate adventure, but with the continuing thread of Charlie’s progress and the not always so smooth running of Between.

2. It looks like Charlie and the Questors are living the old saying, “There’s no rest for the weary.” Will there be more books in this series? How many books do you anticipate coming from Charlie’s world?

Oh yes, there will definitely be more books; I will be working on number three very shortly. I have lots of ideas for Charlie and his friends and I envisage many more adventures for them all. I honestly can’t say how many because I intend to keep going for as long as I have ideas and I don’t start boring my readers.

3. Obviously, these books took some effort at world building. How did you map out the workings of your magical realm?

Honestly, to start with I didn’t map it out at all. I was working on a different novel with my sister when I started Cat’s Call (the first book in the series) and the other novel had to be planned out in great detail because there were two of us writing it. With Charlie I wanted to just start writing and Between (the magical realm) simply began to evolve. The rules of the Questors’ magic and how they change shape and do other things all came about because of situations into which I wanted to put Charlie.

For example I wanted to put Charlie under extra pressure and give him some initial conflict with what he was being asked to do. This is why I made him two years too old for his new role as Questor. It was simply a matter of giving Charlie more stress so we could see some of the depths of his character.

I did more planning for the second book, because I already had a set of rules from the first one and I had to make sure it fitted. However, parts of it also evolved as I wrote. My second male lead is Alexander and he’s a vampire. In the first book there is some introduction to what exactly that means, but in Cat’s Creation I had a lot of fun exploring more of that by putting him outside his comfort zone with other vampires that didn’t fit his mould.

The great thing about the setup of the books is that, while there is a core magical reality, because the Questor’s tasks take place on different worlds, I can come up with just about anything and have fun with it. The trick is maintaining the feeling of continuity while exploring exciting new things at the same time.

At a practical level I use timelines mapped out in Excel and character references in Word documents to keep track of everything I’ve created for the series.

4. Let’s talk about your small publishing house, Wittegen Press. Currently, you and Sophie are the only authors putting out titles. Are you looking to add authors to your stable? If so, what kind of manuscripts are you specifically looking for and where can authors find submission guidelines?

We’re not looking to add authors at the moment, unfortunately. When looking into the details of doing so we discovered some insurance issues because we are such a young company and so we are only using Wittegen as a platform for our work at the moment.

We are however, interested in cross promotion and having guest authors on our site. We’d love to link up to other publishers, authors and bloggers. Anyone can send us details of their website/blog/books and we’ll add them to our affiliate’s list which appears on the front menu of our main site. We also love it if folks want to take our details and do the same thing.

We have a page here on out site all about affiliating.

5. What has been your most successful marketing technique for your books?

Having a permanently free title available on Amazon as part of a series has been the most successful so far. Free titles give the author exposure and we have discovered that the most effective way to use the free titles is as part of an ongoing set of books.

My most successful book is Forbidden Soul, the second in the Soul Reader Series, which is a set of paranormal, erotic romance short stories and novella length books. Forgotten Soul, the first in the series, is free and is proving itself to be a very good marketing tool for those that follow.

6. I see that you design the covers of your books and those released via Wittegen Press. Has there been a learning curve there? Which book covers are you most proud of? I have to say I like Cat’s Creation the best.

I went on a self-publishing course a couple of years ago, run by Harper Collins and they gave some very good tips on designing covers. The best piece of advice, I think, was know you genre and check what the fashions are at the moment. Readers skim covers and if your book does not look right for its genre they are much more likely to skim over it.

It has also been a learning curve, especially since the self-pub course never mentioned anything about eBooks, which is our chosen medium. I think, because of online book buying, covers are continuing to evolve. It’s hard to design a cover that looks great at 2000px wide as well as 80px wide. Being able to read the title is one of the biggest problems.

I’m also improving my techniques with each cover as well. My Photoshop skills are forever expanding. As I am discovering there is always something new to learn.

I’m very fond of the Cat’s Creation cover as well. The books in the series are of the ‘icon’ fashion that there seems to be in fantasy titles at the moment. If you look at fantasy books in the current marketplace, they mostly come in one of two types: title – iconic image – author; title – author – semi-realistic heroic figure. I went for the iconic image for the series because Cat’s Call was the first cover I ever did and I thought it would be easier.

The one I am most proud of, however, is Forbidden Soul; I really like the emotion I managed to get into the figure of John.

Forbiddn Soul by Tasha D-Drake

7. What are you future plans for publishing? What should we look out for from you and from Wittegen Press?

As far as new books are concerned, the third in the Chronicles of Charlie Waterman is definitely in the pipeline, as are the next in the Soul Reader Series and the next in the Dark Reflections series, both of which are erotic m/m romance. My sister Sophie and I are also working on the sequel to our first joint novel Sacrifice of An Angel, which is ‘Harry Potter meets Midsommer Murders’ according to my husband.

Sophie will also be bringing out new titles including the second in her Heritage is Deadly series.

As for the press, we are looking to up our profile and we have just completed a month long giveaway, where we gave away a free short story every day for the whole of July. It was a lot of hard work, but we wanted to give back to our loyal readers and attract more to the press. All of these stories will be available as anthologies now that the promotion is over which will, hopefully showcase the whole range of the books we offer. We did our best to cover every genre we like to read and write.

Cat's Creation by Natasha Duncan-Drake Cat’s Creation by Natasha Duncan-DrakeLife goes on for the residents of Between as they struggle to recover from the events that nearly destroyed their home and left a gaping hole in the structure of their world. As one of the leaders of the Questors, Charlie feels responsible for helping them to remain strong and together, but he’s not sure how. To make his problems worse, his magic has become unreliable, and yet there is another task to deal with; one that requires all seven Questors to be at their magical peak. The difficult road before them ends in, Mydarec, a world run by mafia-style families, where sorcerers and vampires are a part of every-day living. Forced to play a role that could cost him his life and plagued by a vision of death, Charlie must struggle to overcome his own insecurities and, with his friends, figure out why they have been sent to such a dangerous world.

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About Writer Wednesday: a couple of Wednesdays per month I hope to feature another writer and their work. Any writer of any genre is welcome to request participation by sending an email to leta.blake.author@gmail.com with the subject title WRITER WEDNESDAY COUNT ME IN! and I will get back to you about the details of participation.

6 thoughts on “Writer Wednesday: Natasha Duncan Drake of Wittegen Press

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