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SHELLI JOHANNES-WELLS INTERVIEW AND GIVEAWAY OF UNTRACEABLE
First I want to say how excited I am that we just hit over 2000 followers! You all are so awesome. We really appreciate all your support and all the spreading of the word lately. Casey and I will plan something special to celebrate in January after the holidays so be sure to check back.
Today I’m excited to interview Shelli Johannes-Wells about her debut book UNTRACEABLE which was released on November 29th. She’s not only an awesome author but also experienced in marketing. I loved that the story was set in the Smoky Mountains, which is somewhere I’ve visited many times. Shelli really nailed the setting accurately. And it was a page turning mystery with many twists I didn’t see coming.
Here’s a description of her book:
16-year-old Grace was reared in the wilderness. Her first pet was a bear named Simon. Her first potty, an oak tree. And, her first swing, a forest vine. Grace has lived in the Smokies all her life, patrolling with her forest ranger father who taught her everything he knew about wildlife, tracking, and wilderness survival.
When Grace's dad goes missing on a routine patrol, unlike everyone in her sleepy mountain town, she refuses to believe he’s dead. After finding a Cheetos bag and stolen government file, Grace is convinced she’s one step closer to proving all the non-believers wrong.
One day, while out tracking clues, Grace is rescued from imminent danger by Mo, a hot guy who has an intoxicating accent and a secret. Grace has never felt a connection like this before, certainly not with her ex-boyfriend, the adoring, but decidedly unrugged, Wyn.
After a few run-ins with the town's police chief, her father's partner, and some new evidence, Grace travels deeper into the wilderness that has always been her refuge only to learn that her father's disappearance is not a mere coincidence.
Soon she’s enmeshed in a web of conspiracy, deception, and murder. And it’s going to take a lot more than a compass and a motorcycle (named Lucifer) for this kick-butting heroine to emerge from an epidemic that’s spreading like wild fire, threatening everything and everyone she’s ever loved.
And here’s an awesome author blurb:
"Grace is a spunky, independent, nature girl who doesn't need a boy to save her. With wilderness survival, a juicy love triangle, and more twists and turns than a roller coaster, this fast-paced novel had me holding my breath until the very last page—and still begging for more!" -Kimberly Derting, author of the The Body Finder series (Harper Teen) and The Pledge series (S&S)
I love Kimberly Derting and totally agree with what she says about Shelli’s book.
Hi Shelli. Thanks so much for joining us. 1. Tell us a bit about yourself, your experience in marketing, and how you became an author.
Hm. Well in a nutshell. I got an MBA at Auburn University and started in Corporate America. For 15 years I did marketing, communications and training. In 2004 after I had my daughter I started writing while she was sleeping. I have a 5 months maternity leave and wrote a MG book that will never see the light of day. In 2006, I left a high-level executive job b/c I was having panic attacks at night and I wanted more. At the time, I had my first baby so I started freelancing with past clients, eventually starting my own marketing company.
Man… I sound boring.
2. No, that’s awesome you started your marketing company. And I would have loved to ditch the stress of working and being a parent. I love that you set UNTRACEABLE in the Smoky Mountains. They’re so gorgeous! I know you live in Atlanta. Did you research your setting and into having Grace so knowledgeable in the wilderness or draw from your personal experiences?
My husband loves the wilderness so we take our family to the mountains at least twice a year. I have been to Cherokee NC a couple of times, which is where Tommy lives. I wanted the book to be as authentic as possible.
3. You did a good job with that. I admired how independent Grace is, especially hiking in the woods with bears. I’m terrified of them and couldn’t even sleep in our locked car when we pulled over in the Smokey Mountains one trip. Yet she’s really vulnerable in her refusal to believe her dad could be dead. Tell us about how you developed her character.
I wanted to create a tough girl who was vulnerable and who could be feminine – and I didn’t want her to live in a fantasy world or have magical powers. I also wanted a girl who could take care of herself, yet kind of want others to step up and take care of her. Especially her mom. It was a tough balance having Grace be snarky and tough, still show her emotional and endearing side - enough for a reader to like her. I also think there are a lot of tomboys out there who love the outdoors. I was one and I wanted to reach them.
4. I agree that there are lots of tomboy girls who can relate to Grace. My daughter is one of them. And I liked how Grace had to rely on her own abilities, not magical ones. I see your book as a mystery thriller. There were a lot of clues that got me guessing in the wrong direction. Give us some tips on how to create a mystery and plant clues. How much of it did you plot out before you wrote the story?
My book started out as a book about a foreign terrorist cell living in NC. Yeah – bad right. So no – I did not plan it out from the beginning. Once I rewrote my book, I finished it and then went back and dropped clues against what happened. I think most of writing a thriller of mystery is about not being afraid to go to places that you didn’t want to go. This was not the original ending but I think it is more of a surprise, which makes the book keep its tension. I wanted the unexpected and I think I did it. ;) Mwa-ha-ha-ha
5. That’s so funny how differently the idea started. I know from following your blog that you agonized about leaving your agent and going the independent publishing route. Tell us about how you came to that decision and why you believe the decision was right for you.
Well it was mutual. I don’t know if we would have parted if she had believed more in this book. I adore her and think she’s great. I just was not ready to give up on this book and she did not know how to help me get to the next level.
I don’t think I knew at the time it was right for me. It was sad and I was depressed for a few months. I felt like I failed and had stepped back. I think I felt it was unfair and sucked. It is only now that I look back and see why it all happened. I don’t think we connect the dots in our life until we look back. It’s impossible to see what connects looking ahead.
6. Yes, sometimes it’s hard to know when you’re in the middle of it. You are an expert in marketing. We already know you’re using a blog tour as part of your marketing strategy. What other marketing avenues are you using and how are you reaching out to the teens that would like your book?
Well I don’t like to think about using my blog as part of my strategy. But part of my “strategy” is that I’m honest and open. I didn’t want to just a talk about myself or my book – I mean how boring is that. So I decided to tell my readers everything about the process and be honest. All while giving advice and tips on how to indie publish.
I just realized I hate the word “strategy”. My goal was to start a grass roots effort. I say yes to everyone who is nice enough to ask and I talk to any blogger I can. That has been more as my “strategy” (ugh that sounds so impersonal!)
I also wanted to produce a solid product – I figure if it can stand on its own – it might grow into something.
7. Do you have any other marketing tips, especially for us aspiring debut authors?
Build a platform. It doesn’t have to be a blog but you need some kind of web presence. A way for people to find out about you. Be genuine and authentic. We blogger scan see through someone who isn’t. (Right?) Know that it takes a long time. It took me 2 years to get where I am now so that’s why you should start now.
8. That’s great advice. And it’s important to remember that building connections takes time. What are you working on now?
Well, I have a special edition of Untraceable coming out in JanFeb that has a completely different ending. Also – I’m working on Book 2 called Uncontrollable that I hope comes out in early summer. I also started a WIP that I hope to get a new agent for someday. I believe in the traditional model – it just doesn’t work for me right now or for this book. I hope to do both someday.
Thanks so much Shelli for all your advice. Good luck with your debut.
You can find Shelli at her blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.
Shelli generously offered an e-book for a giveaway. You don’t need to have an e-reader to read it. I’ve started reading e-books on my computer and am enjoying it. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment by midnight on December 17th. I’ll announce the winner on December 19th. If your e-mail is not on Blogger, please list it in your comment. International entries are welcome.
If you mention this contest on your blog, Twitter, or Facebook, please let me know in the comments and I’ll give you an extra entry.
Here’s what’s coming up. On Monday, I'm interviewing Louise Caiola and giving away a copy of her debut book WISHLESS. Then the following Monday I’ll be interviewing a high school boy for my ASK THE EXPERT series and doing another book giveaway. After that, I’ll be taking a two week break for the holidays.
Since I know everyone's going to be busy with the holidays and maybe not reading blogs as much, I want to give you a heads up about my first interview in January. On January 9th I'll be interviewing Marie Lu and giving away a copy of LEGEND. I can't wait!
Hope to see you on Monday!
Posted by Natalie Aguirre on Wednesday, December 07, 2011