CAROL ERVIN: THE GIRL ON THE MOUNTAIN CAME ALIVE AS I STUDIED PHOTOS OF LOGGERS
Posted by Ognian Georgiev
Carol Ervin is a dream-come-true self-publishing author. Her novel The Girl on the Mountain found its place at Kindle Amazon Top 20 ranks. The story was very well received by the readers with average 4.6 Amazon stars. Two more books from Mountain Women series followed. We’ve got a great chance to borrow some time from our next guest.
– Carol, what was your feeling when you saw The Girl on the Mountain in the top 20 of Kindle Amazon bestselling list?
– My author friends emailed about the bestseller list before I saw it, so my first feeling was gratitude that they cared enough to be following. When I saw the numbers, I didn’t scream or leap for joy, but for several hours my husband and I had fun watching the numbers, and I kept busy returning emails and commenting with friends in a Facebook thread. On the surface, I felt calm, but I slept only a few hours that night and the next.
– How did you decide to write the story?
– The Girl on the Mountain is historical fiction, but not about real people, events, or even a real town. What is most true is the setting and industry of the time. The story takes place in the mountains of West Virginia, near where I’ve lived for about forty years. The story came alive as I studied old black and white photos of loggers, their equipment and horses, camps, trains, sawmills and towns. I’ve always been impressed by the hard work and ingenuity of people who accomplished so much without modern equipment. Readers have reacted favorably to the characters, whom I try to make as real as possible.
– What was the biggest challenge in writing this story?
– The biggest challenge was to stay committed to the story and make everything coherent. Fortunately, I like a writing challenge, and I managed to forge ahead when confronted by questions like ‘what happens next’ and ‘why would he do that?’ I think I kept going because I like to edit, and I could always find a way to make the text better. Rewriting—trying the sentence or paragraph several ways—often generated new ideas, too.
– Tell us something about your main character, May Rose. Is she 100% fiction or close to someone in real life?
– May Rose, the main character of this story, is representative of many women of the period who were supposed to be subservient to their husbands and who usually had no career or financial resources of their own. May Rose is a rather genteel young woman, modeled somewhat after my mother, who was always sweet and non-assertive. Because many readers want contemporary heroines to be aggressive and powerful, May Rose doesn’t appeal to every reader, yet many admire how she persists through adversity.
– How much time did you need to finish the story and publish it?
– I worked on the story for about five years, through many drafts. Though the manuscript was grammatically clean, I hired an editor who corrected typos, etc., and made suggestions that resulted in the addition of a couple of scenes. I also hired a formatter for both e-book and print book, though since that time, I’ve done this work myself. I published The Girl on the Mountain in 2012.
– Was it tougher to write the sequels?
– The sequels took much less time, because I already had most of the characters, the period, and part of the setting. I published books two and three, Cold Comfort and Midwinter Sun in the next two years. These stories take place 15 years later, after fires and floods have ravaged the deforested areas of West Virginia. But instead of extending May Rose’s story, in Cold Comfort I featured the grown-up Wanda, who was a child in The Girl on the Mountain. This story has moonshine as a background, and as one reader said, includes “The grandmother from Hell.” The third book returns to the story of May Rose. Many reviewers have asked for a continuation of the series.
– Describe yourself in a few sentences?
– I’ve always loved to learn, and I like music, movies, art and books that are thought-provoking, well-developed, complex, and not just the same old thing. My husband and I raised our children on a small farm, which I think is an ideal way to live. We no longer farm, but still garden and preserve vegetables.
– What are your writing habits?
– I write early in the morning. I like to use Microsoft OneNote in the development and first-draft stages, then I switch to Microsoft Word. I find Word’s two-page view useful in editing; somehow seeing a different presentation allows me to spot problems. I also like creating tables in OneNote or Word to organize and help generate ideas.
– Are you satisfied by the sales of your books?
– I’m very happy with the sales surge of recent months. I suspect the series’ potential is even greater.
– Do you have plans for your next novel and would you reveal something about it?
– I’m finishing Ridgetop, a contemporary mystery/thriller set in the same small West Virginia town as the historical series, 100 years later. A soundtrack to Ridgetop would include a lot of bluegrass music.
– Tell something about Dell Zero, your science fiction novel?
– Dell Zero is a dystopian that does not blame big government or big corporations for the degradation of society. In this future world, the tightly controlled society has evolved naturally, responding to the people’s desire to be immortal and live in peace. All of this has been achieved through mandatory medications and periodic painful restorations. The problem with this society is the lack of innovation; even maintenance is lacking. There are also no births, because the medication that keeps the population on task also renders them sexless. Into this society comes a different kind of human. She calls herself Dell and though she has speech and intelligence and seems civilized, she has never been on medication and is clearly female. Powerful members of the society disagree whether they should destroy or enslave her. But Dell is accustomed to freedom, and furtive encounters with others who also seem young and alert propel her into an underworld of slaves and saboteurs.
– What are you doing to promote your book in the best possible way?
– Every quarter for the past year I offered a discounted price on The Girl on the Mountain, taking advantage of Amazon’s Countdown Deal. Previously I advertised the Countdown Deal with a few of the free or less expensive promotion services. The recent deal, 5 days at 99 cents, was boosted by a BookBub ad, which rocketed the book to Amazon’s top 100.
Moral of the story: you must keep stirring the pot (or your business will dry up and burn). There are so many competing books—it’s necessary to remind readers about yours.
– You are a self-published author. Would you share your experience with dealing with traditional publishers and how you decided to self-publish?
– In the traditional publishing world, a small number of publishers and agents decide which and how many books will be available to readers. Before the arrival of digital books, the great majority of writers had few options unless they fronted a lot of money themselves. Digital publishing, e-readers and Amazon changed all that. When I began participating in forums that discussed independent publishing, I knew I could do it myself. Furthermore, Amazon and other online publishers have shown that the traditional publishing industry hasn’t produced the number and variety of books readers want, especially not at affordable prices.
– How would you advise writers who do not yet have rewarding sales?
– Keep writing, and seek a lot of advice. I recommend critiquecircle.com to develop skill, and beta readers and editors for a broad range of advice about language, characters, and plot in your completed draft. I think it’s important not to get too excited or disappointed or to think too highly of ourselves and our work. There are a lot of highs and lows in writing and publishing. Try to make each book better than the last, and don’t be in a hurry. The Girl on the Mountain’s best-seller status resulted from several years of writing and critique, then a couple of years of slow but steady growth due to reader recommendations and consistent promotions.
Thanks, Ognian, for this opportunity to talk about my work. I appreciate what I learn from other indie authors. Good luck to all!