Thanks everyone who came and joined me at the Suntree Viera Public Library last Saturday! What a blast it was to read for you from the second Zaria Fierce book. I had a lot of fun sharing my book and talking to you all.
Here are the highlights from the author talk:
Below is the video of the reading:
Here’s a video of the Q&A portion of the event. You had so many good questions!
Below is the audio (includes Q&A) from the reading:
If you loved hearing the book read, you should check out Michele Carpenter’s narration of theZaria Fierce books on Audible. She does an amazing job. She even gave me some tips for my reading today. I love her voices and you will too!
Transcript of the the Q&A Session
Q: What is the game called?
A: The game is called kettupeli. It’s a Finnish word that combines two Finnish words actually. They combine the words fox and game, where kettu is fox and peli is game, and when you write a Finnish word it gets smooshed together. The reason I know that is because growing up, just before I really remember, my mom and dad had some exchange students come from Finland. I’m friends with them now as they’re all grown up and myself, too, on Facebook. I would posed questions here and there as I was trying to come up with words for things. So they were able to help me out with that. That was pretty cool.
Q: Why did you pick Norway?
A: I picked Norway as the setting for Zaria Fierce because everywhere else that I tried in the north just wasn’t working. Russia seemed too harsh, and Canada seemed too friendly. (Laughter) And I didn’t really want to do it on an off-world version like Game of Thrones or something where it’s a made-up world. I wanted it to feel like it could happen here and now, with anybody being able to walk into Norway. They have such a rich folklore that goes hand-in-hand with their mythology. The same with just Europe in general. They have a very big fantasy, folklore environment that you can take things from and use, so that’s what I did. I really liked it once I set it in Norway. It worked out really well. That’s when Olaf came to me, too, the bad guy. He showed up and appeared fully formed out from underneath his bridge the minute Zaria had to go to school in Norway, which was perfect, because until then I didn’t have a bad guy. No story without a bad guy.
Q: Have you visited Scandinavia?
A: I have gone to Finland. I haven’t been to Norway, yet, or Sweden. Both are places that I would love to visit. I’m hopeful to get there in the next year or two. I guess, I’ve also been to Russia and St. Petersburg so that kinda counts – it’s in the same general area.
Q: Are you working on the third book or are you already finished with it?
A: I’m working on the third book. If I meet my word count I’ll be done by the end of the year in time to start prepping it with Eoghan and Michele, so they can do their narration and illustration. If I don’t meet the word count it’ll be just after the new year starts. Right now I’m about halfway to two-thirds done.
Q: Are you keeping it a trilogy or are you going to be like Lucy Jordan and instead of a trilogy, I’ll make 14 books, or however many?
A: Currently the plans are to keep it a trilogy, but there are different scenarios that could open up with either Zaria still being the main character or another character taking over as the main character for the narrative. So, we’ll see how that goes.
Q: Why did you want to create the books? Did you just want to create it or did you want to create it for a reason?
A: I’m going to go with a bit of both. I grew up reading lots and lots and lots of books. I fell in love with Harry Potter, and Percy Jackson, and Artemis Fowl, and my mom would come to school and would read Half Magic to me and my fellow classmates. It’s the magic of falling into a world. I knew I had one in me, and so did Zaria. She kept coming to me for about a year, but like I said, until Olaf came on the page the story didn’t really start happening, because I didn’t have the bad guy. So sometimes you need both the hero and the villain in order to know where you’re going. Good question. Are there any more?
Q: It’s available on Kindle?
A: Yes, the books are available on Amazon, Audible, and iTunes. I also brought a couple of physical books with me if anybody would like to pick up a set and get them autographed while I’m here. They make great Christmas presents, there’s my plug. (Laughter)
Q: The illustrations are fantastic. (They’re Caldecott quality.) Yes. Has he illustrated other books?
A: No, this is the first book and book series that [Eoghan Kerrigan’s] illustrated as far as I know.
I found him on Deviant Art. I was searching the internet for John Bauer’s work. He’s a famous Swedish illustrator. He did a whole bunch of illustrations of trolls and things for different folklore books and collections. He has a very specific style. When you see them, it’s otherworldly and you can’t help but fall in love with them.
As I was searching for his work to get a feel of things, a copycat had appeared in the search from Deviant Art. By the time I went back to see the copycat I couldn’t find it, so I started searching Deviant Art people who did troll art, because I thought where there’s one there’s probably others and that’s when I found Eoghan.
His profile there said he wasn’t doing commissions, so I followed him to his website where he said he wasn’t doing commissions, and I followed him to Facebook with he posted that he was doing commissions. So I was like, we should get together I have an idea, and it worked out really well.
Q: Have you met him?
A: I have not met him, but that would be fun to do. And, I haven’t met Michele either, she’s the narrator. She lives in Tennessee.
Q: How did you come up with the name of the heroine? It sounds Middle-Eastern.
A: It does come from that area of the world, and Africa. It means Princess, actually. And because Zaria is in fact a princess I thought it was quite fitting. (A fierce princess.) Yes! In terms of her last name, she’s an adopted little girl, and her father’s name – her adoptive parents names are Mr. and Mrs. – Colonel and Meredith Fierce.
Q: You keep mentioning a narrator, and I haven’t read the books yet, so this probably shows in this question, but does that mean there is a narrator in the book or do you have a narrated or voice version of the books?
A: I do have a voice version – audio book version – of the books. Michele Carpenter does a brilliant job. She’s quite entertaining and has a huge range of voices. You haven’t really fallen in love with Olaf as a bad guy till you’ve heard her as Olaf, he’s pretty scary.
Q: You can hear a sample on Amazon?
A: Yes. You can hear a sample online, and you can also go to my website where I have the samples a little bit closer together, so you don’t have to do as much searching.
Q: So presumably, you taught her how to say all the names correctly?
A: Yes. We worked together on that. Kettupeli is just one of those words because it’s Finnish. So I started by asking my Finnish friends, and they gave me a written pronunciation of it. She read it one way and I read it another way, and we’re like okay this where we go from here. We have a list of how the names break down and we just add to it.
Q: We should have that list too. You should publish that as a little side work or something.
A: If you go to my blog, which is part of my website, so if you go to keiragillett.com, the website has a blog section and I did a blog tour online where I gave that list for the first book. It’s not a phonetic breakdown by any means. I put an “E” down when I wanted you to make the “E” sound and “er” when I wanted you to say “er”. It’s American sounds, here’s how I broke it down. Go!
Q: We got Zaria and Olaf okay, but the rest of them… I wasn’t sure if it was Christopher, but it’s spelled differently. (And for Geirr we said, Gerrr.) Daddy said, Geh-rr.
A: Geirr is one of those funny ones. There was six different ways to pronounce it. So we just picked one be both liked. I’m just glad you guys didn’t go with Gear, because sometimes people were doing that, like clockwork gears. But it would’ve worked. When you read you read it to yourself it’s however you pronounce it.
Q: When did you start your first book?
A: I started my first book last year, sometime around January. Then I put it down around May because I wasn’t making any progress. I had started and stopped, and trashed different plot lines. Some of the original ones, were where Zaria went to a school with other kids with magical talents. It sounded a little bit too much like Harry Potter to me so I kind of (makes a sweeping gesture) went with that. Then there was a Beauty and the Beast remake, but then I thought Zaria was too old and she was kind of fighting that story too. I fully believe Zaria helped form her story. She was like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. This isn’t quite right, and this isn’t quite right, but here we go! This is just right. Let’s go! As soon as Olaf came the book started writing itself. That was about late September of last year and I finished it just before Thanksgiving and I got it published March of this year. So it was whirlwind, fun times!
Q: How did you manage to get it published?
A: I self-published. I’ve been in the book blogging community for several years now, so I’ve known that self-publishing a little less sneered at and a little bit more lifted up. There was people who just went from being nothing but self-published to getting huge deals with publishers, and people who went from huge publishers wanting to do self-publishing. And I thought, I can do that. I can read up on how to format and do all that stuff. I taught myself what to do and where to do it and how to do it. Little by little the books came together. That was what I was doing while Eoghan was illustrating and Michele was narrating. I was teaching myself how to get the book up on the different websites for sale.
Q: What company did you use?
A: I used Amazon’s Kindle Publishing, Create Space for physical book format, and ACX for audio book, where you can upload an audition script and choose a narrator.
Q: What does self-publishing mean? Does that mean you published it yourself?
A: That’s exactly what it means. I wanted to ensure that the story got out as fast as possible to the people who would be interested in it.
Q: Did you use Scrivener?
A: I did not. I used Word.
Q: Have you had a good response?
A: I have. It’s been pretty good. There’s hasn’t been a negative review yet, which is nice. Although I’ve heard from some authors you’re not really published and you don’t feel published until you get a really nasty one. I feel published getting the really nice ones. I love hearing that kids love the books, and that it’s their favorite story. A certain grandma has come back and bought three different sets because her grandkids are talking to each other about the books and say, we want a set too! That’s really great. That makes me feel warm and fuzzy on the inside. It’s why I wrote the books, I wanted to share my love of reading with everybody because it was such a huge part of my life growing up. Even now I’ve read like seventy something books this year. It always hurts me when a kid says they don’t like to read. I say it’s just because you haven’t found the books for you yet.
Q: What’s nice is that it crosses over to adults. Adults like it too. You can’t read a book that bores you.
Q: Well, your language, too, it isn’t just as simple as possible. I think it’s important that children see hard words and have to look it up to see what they mean. For this group of kids that’s appropriate for them, for these little group of adventurers.
A: I’m glad you feel that way. I think the same too. You don’t learn the new words until you see them for the first time. I figured with Amazon being my main source that if people bought it as an e-book then you just tap the word on the screen and it tells you what it means right there as you’re reading. It’s different obviously with a print book and an audio book. With an audio book you hear the words pronounced correctly so that also helps with vocab.
Q: One of the downsides with an audio book when you’re listening to it, is that when you read the first book the differences in the spelling of the words is huge, like with heart. If you don’t have that visual then you’re not going to grasp that you’re not talking about that. Oops. Sorry, daddy. (I listen to a lot of audio books, that sort of thing actually resolves itself pretty well. You’d be surprised by how that works out. You’d be amazed what you can pick up on because you’re listening.)
A: One of my favorite things someone said to me as they were reading it (and they didn’t leave this in a review)… Keira, I think you’re spelling heart wrong half the time. You need to fix that. I said, you just need to keep reading. What chapter are you in? They said I’m here, and I said you got two more chapters to go, just keep reading. Then the next response from them was, Oh, I get it.
Q: I listened to Harry Potter, and when it got to the chapter title of Mirror of Erised. I said, oh, let me have that and I could tell it was the line backwards. When you listen to it as well you get things, too.
A: That, I hope is the result of a good writer. I would love to be in J.K. Rowling’s shoes someday. That would be wonderful.
Q: Is that your goal to be with a big publisher someday or do you like self-publishing?
A: I like self-publishing because I really get to control everything. It’d be nice if one of them wanted to seek me out, that would be great. It would make me feel like I was going in the right direction with things, but I really get that from the readers. I feel that if Zaria Fierce had been with a publisher then Eoghan wouldn’t have been the illustrator. They might never have found him, and Michele might never have been the narrator. There’s nobody else who I would’ve picked to be either one of the people to help make this story what it is.
Q: Is it expensive to self-publish?
A: It depends. It depends on who you hire, it depends how many rounds of edits you go through, and it depends what you feel you’re not able to do. Because I’m comfortable with computers and Word, I saved a lot of money by not hiring interior formatters or people who I didn’t need to hire because I was able to do it. I was able to do the cover design myself. I took Eoghan’s illustration, I found the fonts I wanted and purchased them so I had commercial rights to them, and laid everything out and kept working on it. This particular cover (book two’s) took quite a bit of time because of these two elements right here (ISBN and QCR code) at the bottom did not want to play well with each other. If I designed it on Create Space looking at it, constantly uploading, and would say okay it looks perfect, and print out a copy to send to me. Then when it came they would be off from each other by quarter of an inch and it was just bad. So I had to take everything that Create Space would do for you for free and take it all off and tell them not to do it. I had to do it myself and put everything in place. If you don’t have the patience to figure that stuff out then there’s people to hire which changes the costs.