I met Heather Savage from Staccato Publishing at Romantic Times this past year and she is a nuclear explosion of power and publication. And caring. Can a nuclear blast be caring? Most definitely, if you’re talking about Heather, who like many of us poor writers, started out in life scribbling and when her day job turned slow, started her YA Paranormal novels, the Empath trilogy. Which lead her into the world of publishing, and while most might have turned all their attention to their own work, Heather started Staccato Publishing, to help the rest of us.
When I asked her which she wanted to focus on, the Empath trilogy or Staccato Publishing for this interview, she said one lead directly into the other, so this is going to be a blended interview. Like a Frappuccino. Yum, it’s summer, Frappuccinos. Okay. Must. Focus.
HK Savage has been a voracious reader of anything she could get her hands on going back to the second grade when she would set her alarm two hours early to read before school. Her passion for the written word has continued and flowed into writing going back nearly as far. Her books have fans in twenty countries on six continents with hopes of attracting attention on Antarctica if for no other reason than to check a box.
Currently, HK is a mother, wife and black belt in Karate as well as an avid dressage rider. Her three dogs: a Doberman she uses for therapy dog work and two ancient Doxies keep her busy when she is not writing or working or whatever else.
In addition to editing for the past ten years in advertising, HK has been an editor for several newsletters over the years; her favorite being for Heifer International where her ideas were put into effect and complimented by those on high. Currently her skills are being focused on clients in the writing world.
Paranormal is her favorite genre and science fiction because both address the possibilities we have not yet realized and the darker things we have. Her favorite premise: “what if?”
Aaron: Heather. Hit me. Our conversations started out with what you studied in college. What did you study? How has that helped you in dealing with writing and authors?
Heather: I started in Biology until I realized it was hard so I switched to something a little easier: Psychology. With a minor in Religion I think the combo is a perfect setup for life and the bizarre writer’s mind that now controls me.
Aaron: Like many, when you get sucked into writing, you become extremely focused. No sleep. No food. IV fluids only. Before you know you are going to get into a project, are you ever reticent, or do you look forward to the obsessive madness?
Heather: Funny you ask that. Next week I’ve cleared the decks to start work in earnest on the follow up to my new series, The Path (March 2012). The Empath Trilogy is done and I’ve put it to bed but people are begging for more Claire and James as well as some of their other favorites. I’m honestly having a hard time getting my thoughts straight. Usually I am singularly focused to the point I turn off the phones and if it weren’t for an energetic puppy I would never even put on pants and go outside. I know that once I’m in that mode it will take over and I will have a terrible time pulling out. It’s almost painful to not be able to write once I get started. The guilt is somewhat assuaged by making dinner for the family and spending a few hours with them before packing them off to bed and staying up all night because “I’m on a roll.” My husband is very understanding.
Aaron: If I were the beleaguered father of three triplet toddler boys still mourning the loss of my wife who died in childbirth, how would you pitch the Empath trilogy to me?
Heather: I’m actually really bad at selling my books. If you were that poor man I would probably offer to watch the kids while you went to get a cup of coffee and do nothing but drool on yourself for an hour. No longer though, seriously, three boys? Sheesh!
Aaron: Since you have a ton of experience dealing with writers, which one of your characters from the Empath trilogy do you think would make the best writer? Which one would make the worst?
Heather: I think the best writer would have to be Henry. He’s crazy old and has had tons of experience and has a lot to be sorry for. His deep secrets and pain would make him a dark, brooding type while his revelation (sorry, can’t give you much but you learn WTH in book 3) would make it an inspiring read.
Worst would be Gina. She’s a little more than a bit player in books 1 and 2 but she’s balls-out crazy. It would read more like a manifesto and no one should read those except as case studies.
Aaron: Why did you start Staccato Publishing? Temporary madness? Cocaine addiction? Or did the angels come a-callin’?
Heather: If only I did coke then I could refuse to ever succumb to sleep. No, I started Staccato out of a need to help. It is the double-edged sword that I endlessly cut myself with. When I started down the writing rabbit hole I learned a lot. Not all of my mistakes were bad and I’ve learned a ton. Hearing other writers struggle as they navigate the landmines made me think that since I came from print advertising and editing, had a decade’s knowledge of printing, and now could add figuring out ISBNs to my repertoire, this progression to full on publishing nut was natural.
Aaron: In the writing community, there are those who read all their reviews, good and bad, and there are those who don’t. Do you read your reviews? I read mine, and I hate them all. The good ones aren’t good enough, the bad ones not scathing enough. But my grasp on reality is tentative.
Heather: I don’t think any fiction writer has a solid grasp on reality. Otherwise they are the Nicholas Sparks of the world and they blow. Did I say that out loud? Sorry. I prefer my mindless drivel a little more, I don’t know, bitey. In the beginning I read them all. The first fifty or so were great and then I got my first 3 star and was inconsolable. Yep, serious neuroses here. If they found a flaw then certainly I was a failure. Nothing I wrote was worth the megabytes it took to store. I’ve stopped reading reviews and have done some signings. The most recent one, a fan drove over an hour in a rainstorm to come see me and said that I was her favorite author and made me pose for a picture; possibly the only picture of me as HK Savage in existence, by the way.
The most meaningful review/comment though came from my husband. He was traveling and wanted something to read. He’d read my trilogy and loved it as well as my standalone, Life Blood (written for my mom who hates paranormal- it’s a paranormal disguised as a thriller). But he took The Path with him. I was thinking of fulfilling a lifelong dream and enlisting in the Navy, going for an Intelligence position. He said that I couldn’t stop writing because I’d found my voice and it was good. Really good. Whether he didn’t want me to go away on deployments, knew I was struggling, or just wanted to be kind I don’t know. But his voice comes back to me when I worry I’m not good enough and the kind people who read my work are out there writing god awful things I’m not reading. Someone likes what I’m saying so if nothing else, I’m writing for him.
Aaron: What is the best part of working with writers and getting their stories out in the world? Notice, I didn’t ask for the bad parts. I’m all about the positive.
Heather: For me it’s about the positives too. Trust me, there are negatives but I see them as obstacles. We are in this to build careers and develop audiences. The first book might take a little while to catch on, but we will find the audience whether it’s out on the internet or hiding in the back room of a Joann Fabric. My favorite part of publishing is sending the advance copy of an author’s first book to them and getting that call or email. We send out bookmarks for each author to hand out as business cards and I ask for a signed bookmark for myself and each member of our staff. They are some of my most prized possessions.
Aaron: Here is where you tell me everything Staccato Publishing can do to make the world a better place. I started with nuclear holocaust, let’s end with a voice of hope and happiness calling out in the wilderness. Yes, hope. Better living through Staccato Publishing. What services does Staccato offer us?
Heather: Staccato Publishing can paint your house, weed your garden, walk your dog. Wait, we’re holding off on that until they threaten to turn the lights off. For now we offer editing (yes, you need professional editing, not Aunt Edna who “reads a lot.”) We’ve recently participated in a local book festival and run both a publishing workshop as well as an editing workshop with our lead editor, Sara Johnson. Both were full and got great feedback. We told them the same things I can tell you. Edit professionally, have someone do your promotions and develop your online personality. Be a reviewer, don’t just pimp your books or people will see you coming and run the other way, calling you a spammer. Staccato edits for those who we publish as well as offering our services freelance. Additionally, and equally important, we do promotions. That’s getting you locked into over 350 bloggers and reviewers and sending out to them weekly. We don’t just hit all of them in the first month. We prefer to build you up so we promote for about 9 months and then let things cool so that when we come in again with book 2 and hit them they say, “oh, I’ve heard that name.” It’s all advertising. You are your own brand and we help to manage that.
Aaron: Thanks so much, Heather!
From Amazon, I grabbed the Empath summary:
Claire Martin is a young woman with the unwanted talent of empathy. She’s lived her entire life as a slave to a constant barrage of emotions that aren’t hers. Leaving for college, she hopes simply to blend with the crowd. Instead, she meets Stephen Andrews, a fragile-looking boy who instantly recognizes Claire for what she is. Through Stephen, Claire meets James, a vampire with a talent of his own. As soon as they touch, their abilities connect in a way that has not occurred in over three hundred years, forming a bond that cannot be broken.
Empath is book one in the Empath Trilogy.