A big welcome with today’s
victim interviewee, PJ Larue, author of the children’s book, The Mystic Princesses and the Whirlpool.
How did you become a writer?
I wrote poetry when I was in high school, and then quit for quite a long time. A couple of years ago, a former co-worker and his three sons were killed in a car crash. The driver at fault was impaired. The family’s pain spoke so strongly to me, and a poem poured out, along with many tears. It was a heart breaking way to re-start my writing, but the family was so touched that each of the wives framed the poem and hung it in their homes. It was also read at the sentencing of the impaired driver a few months ago.
Just after that sad event, I wrote a two or three page summary of the first Mystic Princesses book and gave it to one of my staff members who had a daughter the right age. Her daughter loved it, and the mother encouraged me to expand it into a chapter book. So I read some chapter books to see what they were like. When I expanded the story it became The Mystic Princesses and the Whirlpool. Her daughter is still asking for book two, so she must be my number one fan.
What is your writing process like?
I carry a small spiral notebook everywhere I go. I never know when a poem is going to come out. Likewise, ideas for my books or short stories are jotted down in the notebook, so that I won’t forget them.
Also, I dream very vividly. I often wake in the mornings with ideas for short stories and maybe even a future novel. I don’t really outline ideas chapter by chapter. I divide ideas into beginning, middle and ending categories, providing the roadmap for where I want a story to go and how to get there
What is your #1 motivation?
So far, writing is a hobby that separates me from my day job. It distracts me from other responsibilities and is an outlet for stress. However, I would like my writing to blossom into more in the future.
Most super hero books are for boys. Through my chapter books, I hope to empower girls to be strong on their own. Although my books series is called The Mystic Princesses, the books won’t focus on finding Mr. Right, or even “princess-like behaviors.” I don’t like the proliferation of princess books and movies for girls that teach unrealistic relationship and marriage ideals. I can say this, because I’ve been happily married 30 years, but life has its ups and downs and isn’t always the “Happily ever after” presented by these fairy tales.
Finally, I hope to spread moments of happiness to my poetry readers. My husband and I hike when we are on vacation, so the photography and nature is often the inspiration for my poetry. But sad events like losing family members to cancer inspired me to write a series of poems about each of the cancers that touched my family. The poem about breast cancer is on my Facebook page right now, since October is breast cancer awareness month.
(Laura’s note: this interview was originally conducted in October.)
Do you self-publish or use traditional publishers? Why?
The competition in traditional publishing is fierce. One almost has to have a name established as a known commodity in order to attract an agent or publisher. So I self-published using eBook formats only.
Another reason is that agents and publishers expect the author to develop their own platforms and market their own books. Yet, the author receives so little in return. I understand that is because the cost of printing creates a risk for the agents and publishers. The profit after the eBook commission that I pay to Amazon, Barnes and Nobel and iBooks is much more compared to the amount I would receive by going the traditional publishing route.
Tell me about your recent book.
The Mystic Princesses and the Whirlpool is a chapter book for girls about 6 to 10. The girls inherit powers from their parents who are mythological gods. They use their powers to protect Princess Harmonie, who makes people feel peaceful, from the Children of Ares who want to fight and cause wars. The girls’ powers are elemental, coming from the water, air, fire and earth.
Princess Coral is the daughter of King Neptune and can command sea creatures and help the other princesses breathe under water without scuba gear. Princess Catie is the daughter of the Goddess Iris and can make rainbows for the girls to slide down as transportation, or just to play. She can also turn the girls into birds so that they can get to the top of the rainbows. Princess Breanna is the daughter of Pele and can throw fire balls. She can also turn the girls into candles and torches if they need to light the way in when it is dark. And Princess Janna is the daughter of Mother Nature. She can turn the girls into flowers to blend into the landscape if they need to hide. She can also command butterflies and ladybugs. All of the girls’ powers will increase to equal their parent, as the girls grow up.
It only took a few weeks to write. However, the editing process covered months. Getting the book up online actually took about two years from when I wrote the first draft. My illustrator is my sister-in-law, but I didn’t ask her to draw the pictures until the editing was complete. She is a busy mom, with two young children and a job outside the home. I wasn’t sure that she’d want to add anything more to her schedule. The copyright process was also completed separately. I know now to have my illustrations completed while I’m in the editing process and to copyright everything at the same time to shorten the timeline.
I used the internet extensively to self-educate about everything I could think of, from copyrighting my work to the purchase of the ISBNs. I’ve also subscribed to several magazines to learn along the way. Unfortunately, I didn’t start developing my online presence sooner, so I am behind in that regard.
As for publishing, I just found it to be another step in the process. I found a free ePub conversion software called Calibre on line. I used it to convert from Word to ePub. These files were then uploaded to Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. I had to have my web designer format the files, though. The pictures weren’t page breaking properly and the cover appeared twice. For iBooks, I had to borrow a MAC laptop and download an App called Pages, as Calibre wasn’t compatible with Apple products.
Any other projects in the works?
I write poetry and pair it with my photography. Some of it is posted on my Facebook page.
I am also in the process of writing the second book in The Mystic Princesses series. It will be set in New Orleans, which is where Princess Catie lives. Princess Catie is the daughter of the Goddess Iris, who used rainbows to carry messages to the gods. Princess Catie can make rainbows so that the girls can use them for transportation, or just to play, like a waterslide. Princess Catie can also turn the girls into birds, so that they can fly to the top of the rainbows.
My plan is to have each of the princesses be the lead character in a five book series. I will feature that character’s flaws and let them grow into their powers and overcome their flaws as each book progresses.
Do you write full time?
No, I juggle time with my husband, my day job, writing and marketing my book.
I am a CPA and Assistant Director of Finance at a major international airport. I would rather keep my day job separate from my writing, so I use the pen name PJ LaRue.
Where can people buy your book?
It is in eBook format only. People can link directly to the following sites from my website www.mysticprincesses.com.
Barnes and Noble
The book is currently being translated to Spanish for release at a later date.
Where can we send fan letters?
What is your #1 tip for aspiring writers?
Make time to read and to write. The more one reads, the more one notices styles. The more one writes, the more one’s writing improves.
Even though you didn’t ask for #2, I’ll give it anyway. Get an experienced editor and listen to him or her.
What are some of your favorite books/authors?
I love reading and enjoy a variety of books and genres.
Philippa Gregory – historical novels – The Tudor Court novels
Ken Follett – historical novels – Pillars of the Earth and World Without End
Dan Brown – suspense books
David Baldacci – King and Maxwell books and Camel Club books
Christine Feahan –The only Feahan books I haven’t read yet are the stand alone books. I love all of her series – Dark series, GhostWalker series, Leopard series, Drake Sister series, and Sisters of the Heart series
Christian Dodd – paranormal romances – The Darkness Chosen series and The Chosen One’s series
Nalini Singh – Psy/Changeling paranormal romance series
J. R. Ward – The Black Dagger Brotherhood series and Fallen Angels series
Stieg Larsson – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest
Tell me something random about yourself.
I have a Russian Blue cat named Sasha, like big dogs (like German Shepherds, Alaskan Huskies and Golden Retrievers), hiking, photography, Jackie Chan movies, college football and elegant car shows. I’ve been known to go shoe shopping on my lunch hour a few times. :0)
You can see what I mean about the car shows by visiting the following websites:
Thanks, PJ! The books sound right up my own 6-year old daughter’s alley! Best of luck and again, thanks for taking the time to interview!