Local Author Spotlight: April White

Catherine Royalty, Principal Librarian, Collections,
Local Author Spotlight: April White

April White has been a film producer, private investigator, bouncer, teacher and screenwriter. She has climbed in the Himalayas, survived a shipwreck, and lived on a gold mine in the Yukon. She and her husband share their home in Southern California with two extraordinary boys and a lifetime collection of books.

Marking Time is the winner of the 2016 Library Journal Indie Award for Young Adult fiction, and the first novel in White’s Immortal Descendants series, which Kirkus Reviews calls “A rich, satisfying mix of romance, horror, and time travel." All five books in the series are on the Amazon Top 100 lists in Time Travel Romance and Historical Fantasy.

Marking Time was designated a SELF-e Select title by the staff of Library Journal and is now available at participating libraries nationwide.  The Los Angeles Public Library congratulates April on her award—let’s hear a bit more about her and her winning title!

Interview with April White

Book cover

Did you know you were starting a series before you began writing Marking Time?

I set out to write a trilogy, and realized about halfway through book one that with five Immortals (Time, Fate, Nature, War, and Death) I needed five books to tell the story. It was a terrifying, yet oddly fortifying choice to make. I couldn’t afford to mess around because there were books to write.

What draws you to writing for the Young Adult audience?

I wrote what I wanted to read, and the fact that my characters are young mostly just came from my appreciation of teenagers. They’re figuring out their personalities, their preferences, and they’re choosing who they’re going to be. It’s fun to get to take a hand in shaping that for my characters.

You include many real historical events in your plotline and make reference to several real locations. Did you do a lot of historical research before you began writing?

Historical research is one of my favorite things about writing a time travel series, and my Google search history has probably put me on a couple of watch lists. Between the recipes for gunpowder and white phosphorus, the specific details of Jack the Ripper’s murders, and rules for kosher butchering, I’m either a writer, or slightly mad. Or both.

I have stumbled across several historical mysteries that became storylines while researching other facts. Joan of Arc just happened to have won the Battle of Orleans the perfect number of years before Princess Elizabeth Tudor was a prisoner in the Tower of London, for example. And who knew Mary Shelley actually traveled through Italy the same year the Fisherman’s Ring of the Pope went missing? Those kinds of coincidences have made me absurdly happy as I plotted the Immortal Descendants series.

Marking Time has such an imaginative premise—do you have any favorite fantasy authors that inspire you?

Patrick Rothfuss and Neil Gaiman could write the phone book and I’d read it. Laini Taylor, Robin Hobb, and Kevin Hearne craft complex and compelling characters that I love, hate, and want to go on adventures with, and Megan Whalen Turner, Rae Carson, and Suzanne Collins excel in laying emotional charges in the worlds they build. Also on my always-recommend list are Patricia Briggs, Elizabeth Hunter, and Nalini Singh.

The books that wove their way into my own storytelling were by Simon Hawke, Piers Anthony, and Diana Gabaldon, and the ones I recommend to every reader I meet are Ender’s Game and The Martian.

Quote by author April White

Do you have any advice for first time authors attempting to finish their first novel? Do you have a daily writing routine?

My advice to other authors is to write what you love because you will read it approximately two thousand six hundred and fifty-seven times before it’s published. Part two of that advice is that if you find yourself skimming, or anything bores you, it’ll bore your readers too so cut it. Part three is hire an editor. They don’t have to work with you while you write (though it’s helpful), but you definitely need the critical eyeballs of someone you trust on your work.

Whether you’re a seat-of-your-pants writer (a Pantser) or you know exactly what will happen in each chapter before you begin (a Plotter), or some combination of the two (like me), finding a time to write each day helps make it a job rather than an endeavor. Unfortunately, because of the amount of research I do as I write (which river of London runs under Clerkenwell? What does the British Museum ghost station look like now?) I can’t unplug from the internet. If I could, I’d get much more work done. As it is, the early mornings, from about three a.m. until I get my kids ready for school, are the most productive for me because I can’t distract myself with the laundry, or the phone, or any movement beyond to-and-from the coffee maker lest I wake up the rest of the house.

When writing Marking Time, did you complete multiple drafts? Did you show unfinished versions to friends or beta readers for feedback?

Writing my first novel was an exercise in determination, stubbornness, stamina, and faking self-confidence. I probably had about ten friends and family read it in various stages of completion (from mostly done to way-too-wordy) and did lots of revisions based on their feedback before I declared it done enough to send out to agents. At that point it was just over 180,000 words long. When agents came back with “It’s great, love the voice, compelling story, but it’s too long and we can’t sell it,” I started cutting it down. I even briefly considered releasing it as a serial before I finally wrestled Marking Time down to 155k words, but by that time my self-confidence had fallen to somewhere around my ankles. Deciding to trust that the book was good enough, and publish it independently gave me back my confidence. About a month later I’d taught myself formatting, designed a cover, and released the book.

Later, after I’d released book three in the series, I went back through Marking Time and edited it again using what I’d learned from writing the two other books with an editor. My editor and I managed to cut out another 10k words to make it a book that could win a Library Journal award.

The self-publishing industry has really exploded, especially in e-books. What advantages and/or challenges do you see in self-publishing your work?

I’ve never been traditionally published, so my only experience with that process is the rejection side of things. It’s brutal on self-confidence, but I’d recommend going through at least some of the steps of researching and submitting to agents. The occasional feedback you get from them can be very valuable to your work, and at a minimum, if you can survive it still believing in your book, you’re probably up for the effort it takes to publish independently.

The stigma of “self-published” still exists, although it’s gradually diminishing as people realize that publishing one’s own books isn’t vanity, it’s a business. With the sheer volume of books in the marketplace today, the work has to be impeccably edited and the cover art has to look professional in order to compete. Then, to see that book rise to the surface, the author has to become their own publicist, manager, and marketer as well.

Even the big traditional publishers require their authors to participate in their own marketing through social media and direct interactions with readers, and with book releases becoming more and more like movie releases, if a book doesn’t make a big splash its first month, publishers generally move their marketing dollars to the next release on their slate. There’s no expiration date on independent marketing, and in fact, I’m finding more readers now that my series is complete than when the books were fresh.

As the boss of any small business can attest, having total control over the finished product, its price, its profit margin, its sales, its distribution, and its release date is excellent motivation to go into business for oneself. Yes, it’s a lot of work, but a lot more work goes into the writing of each book, so putting the effort into finding readers is work I’m happy to do.

Explore the SELF-e collection to discover more great new talent!

If you are a self-published author please consider submitting your work to the Library’s SELF-e platform.