Winnie Winkle Interview
Winnie Winkle Author BIO:
Winnie Winkle is a fabulous Central Florida broad who swills bourbon, likes dogs and cats, and practices yoga, but not with any degree of grace. Supporting live local music is a pretty big deal to her, so if you pass a gravestone that admonishes, ‘Go see the band and hit the tip jar’, it’s probably hers. But, since she’s not dead yet, she’ll keep penning fun stuff to rock your reading chair.
Winnie’s lived in Florida for over 30 years and splits her time between Daytona Beach Shores and the Mount Dora area. She prefers writing beach-side as much as she can because, if we’re baring our souls here, the ocean is a mighty muse and there’s only so much you can expect from coffee.
She began writing as a storyteller for ‘The World of Magic, New Mexico’ before branching out into other genres. Published in Paranormal / Sci-Fi Romance, Humorous Fantasy, and Literary Fiction, Winnie’s newest series drops readers into a fantastical beach world filled with humans, magicals, and a speedo clad Greek god, then takes everyone on a snark filled romp of a read. Boogie Beach, Salt Shaken and Speedo Down published in June, July and August of 2021.
Her books are published in a variety of reading device formats, as well as in paperback. Follow her on Goodreads, Instagram, Twitter, or visit her Amazon author page.
An interview with science fiction & fantasy author Winnie Winkle
About (Who, why, when, where, what)
Tell us something about your books, including your genre and your characters and/or themes.
My humorous fantasy series is “The Record”. MC is Cleopatra O’Keefe, a human chosen to chronicle the line between the real and extraordinary worlds. She deals with a host of characters including pelican shifters, witches, werewolves and the fae, as well as Greek gods. Poseidon, a hedonistic horndog, spends most of his time in a speedo or boinking in the bathroom. I like to thread an undercurrent into my stories, so while they’re hilarious and full of action, they also dig into bigger issues.
I have three Paranormal/SciFi romances, the “Messing Up Magic” series, featuring a Native American main character in Book 1 that recurs throughout. My bff since kindergarten is Native, and I drew heavily on years of connection to write Haseya. She’s one of my favorite characters, a true, principled badass.
To Walk in the World is a dual narrative literary fiction with unusual elements. In it, I wrote a MC who is never named, choosing to create a character readers saw as themselves. In the second narrative, I tell an origin story of the world, and that MC, Andatsi, is an interpretation of feminine power. Of all my books, this is the one readers email me pics of themselves holding, or just write to say how moved they were. I’m proud of this work, because it was complicated to write, but achieved the simple goal of being relatable at the heart level.
I also have two paranormal romances, soon to have a third. I wanted to dig into more obscure magic, and try writing from a male perspective, so these books chronicle three high school friends, now nearing thirty, who each experience a metamorphosis of sorts. One has a demon for a dad, one is steeped in conjuring and hoodoo, and one is changing in his role of a daimon, a guardian and helpmeet of the Olympians. If I’m not bored, readers won’t be either.
Where are you based?
Florida, near Daytona Beach
Latest releases and upcoming titles?
- To Walk in the World: Twin Tales of Inception in April
- Boogie Beach: The Record, Book 1 in June
- Salt Shaken: The Record, Book 2 in July
- Speedo Down: The Record, Book 3 in August
2021 Upcoming title: Romer’s Candle: Broke in Magic Book 3, in November.
What are you currently working on?
Romer’s Candle. I took a break from paranormal romances but wanted to finish this trilogy.
What inspires you to write?
I have an overactive imagination and the spillover was everywhere. I needed a container.
When and why did you get into writing fantasy?
I chatted with M.A. Cooper at a conference and decided that I was interested in developing a main character’s growth over a series of books. Romances are one and dones, and the chance to dig deeper into character development intrigued me.
Who are your favourite fantasy writers/ fantasy authors?
Douglas Adams, J.K. Rowling, Terry Pratchett. I read across genres and always have. Other authors I love are Stephen King, Kaye Gibbons, John Updike, Janet Evanovich, Carl Hiaasen, and Louise Erdrich.
What is your favourite fantasy series and why?
I’m a low fantasy style writer, my worlds are reality based, and I deconstructed Harry Potter from a craft perspective. I’m certain I’ve read every one at least seven times.
What are your favourite fantasy genres?
Humorous and low.
Who are some of your all-time favourite fantasy characters? And why do you think they became your favourites?
Trinity from The Matrix, Bilbo Baggins from The Hobbit, Hermoine Granger, Cleopatra O’Keefe. They’re all determined and scrappy in their own ways.
Do you follow any fantasy entertainment outside of books? (Video Games, Boardgames, Comics etc)
No, but I watched most of the Marvel movies with my kids which was a ton of fun. All three of them geek out on the regular.
What’s going on in the next few months? Anything on the Horizon?
I’m planning 2022 now. There should be two more into The Record series, possibly three, and 1-2 romances. Long term, 4-5 books per year is my annual goal. Readers binge, so planning to satiate that need helps me both in planning and marketing, and keeps readers happy. A phrase that both thrills and causes dread is “I can’t wait for the next one.” Planning helps. It takes time to write a worthy book.
What kind of books did you read that contributed to your upbringing, as far as fantasy and science-fiction?
I have a fair number of original Moorcock and Zelazny books, Douglas Adams, and some Asimov. I also read paperback Star Trek books. But I read voraciously. During middle school, I read nearly the entire fiction section at my school library, and whatever my mother read, most of which was inappropriate. A copy of “The Valley of the Dolls” in the hands of a thirteen-year-old is awakening stuff.
Was your upbringing pretty geeky?
Some, but also highly music driven. I gravitated toward sci-fi because I found strong female characters there. I was 15 when I saw Star Wars in the theatre, 13 for The Who’s Tommy. Both experiences rocked my world. I wanted to be Tina Turner. Still do.
Why should anyone read your book?
That’s an interesting question, because readers come to the point of purchase from a position of connecting with the cover and blurb, which is basically imagery and voice. I’ve created the equivalent of a reader avatar, a list of about 150 traits readers who’ll resonate with my books possess. So, I have an image of my reader in mind when I write and market, but “anyone” is a broad concept and an impossible one to execute. My voice, and readers who’ll respond to it, that’s my wheelhouse.
The writing process ( Inspiration, discipline, planning, software, editing)
Do you have a process, do you plan or do you fly by the seat of your pants?
I’m a 100% pantser. I never know what’s happening next. What’s interesting to me is all the reading I did as kid, teen and beyond is an embedded story builder. I don’t have too many plot holes to plug, so I’m grateful to all the good writers who indirectly instilled craft into my subconscious.
How has your writing process changed since you first started writing?
Practice makes, well, not perfect, but better. I use an editing program called ProWritingAid, and the tools have honed my style and cleaned up my first drafts. I write the story, then run it through PWA before sending it to my editor for line and developmental editing. My first drafts are far cleaner in my fifth through ninth books than the first four. My process hasn’t changed much but the writing is better so it takes less time.
How long does it normally take you to write a fantasy novel, and what proportion of the time is spent doing what?
I can write one (I’m usually between 50-60K words) in 2 months, then it sits a week or two before I reread, run through PWA and ship the manuscript to my editor. Writing is fluid, because as a pantser, I don’t have a solid feel on length until the characters stop telling the story. I research on the fly, so daily word count varies. Running it through PWA takes me a week and my editor usually keeps it for 7-10 days.
What is your favourite part of the writing process?
When I land in the zone, and write immersed, with no outside noises penetrating, that’s addictive. More, please.
Have your previous vocations influenced your writing?
We are a sum of our experiences. I bring everything to this laptop and whatever pops up for inclusion, I keep.
Do you involve other people in your writing, as collaborators or editors?
I met my editor, Jennie Rosenblum, at a conference. https://www.jennierosenblum.com/ We collaborate well, and she makes my books tight and rocking. I don’t use beta readers; I’m usually on a tight publishing schedule. Since Jennie does both line and developmental editing, and I write fairly tight, this works.
How do you make this work?
I give her my publishing date, and my anticipated date to have it ready to send to her and she adds me to her calendar. I’ve only missed once, but she was able to take it later and I made the deadline.
As far as writing goes, what do you use? Software, Apps, Hardware etc?
I write on a MacBook Air in Google docs, because I love their collaboration features. I publish on Velum, a program baked into Macs; it’s simple and a huge timesaver and stress reducer. ProWritingAid is my grammar/style editing program and I highly recommend it.
Do you do a lot of research for each book? If so, how do you conduct your research?
When I’m deciding on a new book, I look for images, I may read some Greek mythology, and jump down whatever rabbit hole beckons. Once I’ve started the story, I research on the fly. I’m pretty good at finding what I’m looking for, but sometimes I find something I like even better and the story shifts. Like most authors, my surfing history is pretty far out there.
How do you overcome blank writing spells?
During 2020 I blocked big time. The world was a dumpster fire. I pulled out an old manuscript and rewrote it completely. It became “To Walk in the World”.
A number of fantasy/sci-fi authors have been known to use art, music, exercise, alcohol and even drugs as a way to find inspiration to enter the zone! Do you use any tools to enter into your creative headspace?
I write and market sober. That doesn’t hold true for the rest of the day. In nearly all my books, alcohol is in the scenes, and my humorous fantasy series is set in a bar, well, two bars. The Boogie is the human side, and The Boogey is the setting for magical debauchery.
Do you prefer to write in silence and or have some sort of sound in the background?
I prefer to write near water. I have a small oceanfront condo on the Atlantic, and my sweetheart and I live on a boat.
Publishing (formatting, cover design, formats, marketing)
Describe the road you took to publishing your first novel? And how that has changed.
My first book was written into an existing world, Magic, New Mexico, created by NYT and USA Today bestselling author S.E. Smith. We met at a conference and clicked, and she invited me to participate. I’d never written a book, let alone a romance, so when I got home I wrote a sex scene, cooled down and decided, ‘I can do this’. I found a romance structure rubric and used it to help with my pacing and wrote the book. For editing I used Grammarly, and I can’t recommend it.
Melody Simmons Graphics https://bookcoverscre8tive.com/ did my cover, a requirement to write with S.E., but Melody is so talented I’ve used her for every book, regardless of genre, since.
What’s changed is my personal editing program, my skill in my craft, adding Jennie Rosenblum as my editor, and my indie marketing skills.
Will your next book be traditional or indie published?
Indie. The timeline for Trad is 3 years. If a reputable agent asked to rep me, I’d read the contract, but I’m not pitching.
Would you recommend self-publishing to aspiring authors, or would you suggest a more traditional path?
Depends on the genre, the writer, and what skills they bring to the table. There is a serious learning curve to indie publishing, but you have control.
What sort of input do you give to formatting, cover design, marketing?
- As an indie, I format everything myself, and this is where Velum is huge. The style options are excellent and the finished look is professional.
- For cover design, it depends on the genre. I give Melody free rein on the romances. All I do is pick the models. For Lit Fic and Fantasy, after researching what covers sell well in the genre, I give her a robust mock up and she makes it rock.
- Marketing is 100% on me as an indie. I take classes. I highly recommend the Get My Book Out There program. https://www.getmybookoutthere.com/ I have learned an incredible amount of immediately useful and necessary-for-growth tactics and information. It’s not cheap, but I’m investing in the success of my business. These courses changed my game.
What do you do pre and post-release to help get your books noticed?
I have a book launch schedule that takes me from three months out to launch day. I got it through the courses mentioned above, so it’s copyrighted. Through Author Central on Amazon, I up the number of categories I’m listed in to ten. Post launch, I use Booksprout and YourNewBooks to generate reviews. Social Media, my newsletter and my blog are all dropping on schedule to boost interest. I also run facebook ads and have a freebie offer to punch up new newsletter subscribers.
Marketing is so important nowadays, what’s your best advice to fellow authors?
- Create a reader avatar. Figure out who in the world is your reader. Chances are they’re a lot like you. Everything going forward, your website, social media posts, branding, and outreach go to that avatar. Know your reader.
- Website, website, website. Books, buy links, your blog, and newsletter are all there, and branded to your reader. I use WordPress
- Yes, you need a newsletter, and no, you can’t just send it when you have a new book. Cultivate your tribe. I use Mailerlite, but there are several choices.
- Find a good social media scheduler so you can post to multiple platforms every post, and schedule posts to drop later. I use Social Champ, but there are several out there.
- Create a book launch schedule and keep to it. Especially if you plan to rapid-release a series. It’s easy to drop balls.
All these save time on the backend and let you have more time to write.
What legal publishing advice can you give?
I’m not a lawyer. Get one if you have legal concerns. 😉
How did you decide the pricing of your material; how did you go about promotion/advertising and distribution of your work?
My answer here is based on an indie publishing model.
I set my prices based on word count. I charge $3.99 for 25-40K, $5.99 for 45-65K, and $7.99 for 75-90K. I never write longer than that.
I run Facebook ads for the first book of my fantasy series. It’s a strong book and pulls the following books along.
I created a sampler containing the first chapters of my books, and I offer that free in exchange for signing up for my newsletter. I run a Facebook ad for this too.
Advertising is expensive. I’d wait until you have several books or a completed series, to start ads.
Advice on making an impact in today’s busy Scifi and Fantasy markets.
Covers. Spend time finding covers you like that are in your genre, and check the credits to see who designed them. If they aren’t in your price range, look for one who is. Covers sell books.
On point social media marketing helps too. Know your reader.
Must Read Fantasy novels?
Probably “Good Omens”, but I don’t have a single all time fav. My TBR list is long. My hair is on fire most days already, so reading is short shifted.
Must read non-fantasy novels?
“The Last Report on the Miracles from Little No Horse” by Louise Erdrich. Her work is epic.
Most prized fantasy book in your collection?
It’s not fantasy, but I have a hardcover mint copy of “Encounter with Tiber” by Buzz Aldrin, and it’s signed.
Do you read digital, paperback or hardback or do you listen to audiobooks?
I prefer paper or hardback. Hammock. Cocktail. Plenty of bug spray. I like audiobooks for road trips, but haven’t gone much since Covid showed up and crapped in everybody’s beer.
What are some difficulties you’ve experienced in your writing career; how do you handle book critiques/criticism?
Chocolate and bourbon. Not kidding. I released a book, 80K words, and had an immediate one star review. No way it was read, just a troll. Super irritating. The book is now in the mid fours, so it righted itself, but at the time it was frustrating. Don’t be a Karen.
That said, please leave reviews! So many behind the scenes things — out of an author’s control — are hinged on reviews. If a book gets good reviews, for example, Amazon’s algorithm shows it to more potential readers. Book promo services, things like being able to drop a book price to .99 for a week, etc, require 20-50 reviews and an average of four plus stars. It’s hard to get traction, even with high quality, well written books.
Also, have some fun with your reviews! I received a review for Boogie Beach that compared it to Oga’s Cantina. That was a great day for this author. 😉
What are the best experiences in your writing career?
Finishing my first book. Writing a ‘serious’ book. Finding my voice in my humorous fantasy series and getting great reviews. Handling my first rapid release. Having a reader run to my conference table to buy the first three books in The Record with a huge grin of excitement. And whatever happens next, and next, and next, and…
What are some encouraging words you’d give to another author/writer?
- Write every day, even if you end up deleting it.
- Invest in your business with classes and training.
- Network with other authors.
- Be bold.
- Always be positive and vocally grateful you get to be a creative. The world teems with frustrated cubicle dwellers. You are one of the chosen.
Get in touch with Author Winnie Winkie
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Facebook Group Winnie’s Winkles: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2461575547263229
Winnie Winkie Website?
Winnie Winkie Book links?
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Any final words for the readers?
Writing books has flow and meaning.
Lightning shivers my timbers, literally, since I live on a boat, in Florida, the lightning capital of the world. Storms, big ones, are a great way to disengage your ego and relax into your role as part of a greater whole. Once the big flashy stuff passes, the healing rain falls, the world slips into peace, and for the greenery gasping from the heat, rebirth.
Writing is often a mirror of a thunderstorm. A grand idea, building and knocking the words around, gives way to a softer editing, a chance to soak in the sensory, savor the expansion in scenes to make them jump off the page. In creativity, the lightning and thunder carve the bones of a book, but the rain, the gentle filling of spaces, give the book meaning and value.
Stay well, create big, and thank you for your support.