Interview with USA Today Best Selling Author, Carissa Lynch
April 7, 2017
While I was working on a completely different blog post (about “making it” as an indie/self pub author – coming soon), I remembered that I have a good author friend who made it to the best-seller list recently. I know I’m not the only indie author who frequently searches the internet, scouring for success stories to prove to me that it IS possible to find success outside of traditional publishing. So I figured I’d reach out to this friend and ask her to share her story with you. Hopefully, we can all learn a thing or two from her. At the very least, hopefully this post will inspire us to keep trying and never give up. So here goes…
Today I’m talking to my good friend, Author Carissa Lynch. Carissa is from southern Indiana and she has a background in psychology. Her first novel, This Is Not About Love, was published in 2014 by Sarah Book Publishing. Since then, she has published 12 novels, including: Have You Seen This Girl, House of the Lost Girls, Carnival of Dead Girls, Grayson’s Ridge, Cheerleading Can Be Murder, Cutting Up the Competition, Killer Moves, Searching for Sullivan, Dark Legends, Shattered Time, and Things Only the Darkness Knows. In January of 2017, her paranormal short story was featured in a collection called “Dark Legends,” which debuted on the USA Today Best Sellers list and sold nearly TEN THOUSAND copies in only one week! I spoke with Carissa recently and asked her a series of questions. Some will be enlightening, some inspiring, and some are just for fun. Read her responses below:
First and foremost, what do you think was the biggest factor in your book Dark Legends hitting the best seller list?
Dark Legends was a collaborative project and it took a major group effort to reach its success. The boxed set was arranged by Rebecca Hamilton, and she helped us establish a marketing plan and pull it off. Hitting the list was a combination of using paid ads, newsletter swaps, around-the-clock social media promotion by all of us, and luck, in my opinion. I wasn’t sure if we would hit or not, but when the USA Today Bestseller’s list came out that day, and I saw it at #45, I cried (happy tears of course!). The truth is, you have to get a ton of sales in a one week window to hit a list, and it requires some serious planning in advance (ads, blog tours, newsletter swaps, etc.).
What did you do to celebrate your success?
To be honest, it was a Wednesday night (a school night), and I was in so much shock, that I didn’t do anything but stare at the list that night. But I did treat myself to a few weeks off from writing and I also indulged in a nice new stack of paperbacks (I love to read!).
What has been the most successful marketing tool for you? Explain.
Honestly, I still feel like I’m trying to figure this out! But I’d have to say that the most important thing is establishing a readership. I have a street team, and a regular group of readers that support me. Most of my connections with those readers came from participating in Facebook parties, doing giveaways, and engaging with readers on Twitter. I’ve also established an incredible group of author friends who share my books with their readers, and vice versa. Recently, I’ve been focused on building my newsletter subscribers, and this seems to be a great way to quickly reach readers when I’m having a sale or a new release.
Have you ever cried over a book? If so, which one and why?
Ummm…all of the time. I really struggle with writing and reading back emotional scenes in my books. I’m very connected with my characters and I get emotionally absorbed into their worlds. If I had to pick one, I’d say . Wendi’s character really struggled and there are some sections in it that make me cry every time I read it. I almost always write in first person POV, which means I’m always walking in my characters’ shoes.
Who are your top five favorite authors?
This changes all of the time! But the first five that come to mind today are: Chuck Palahniuk, Gillian Flynn, Liane Moriarty, Chevy Stevens, and Sylvia Plath.
What is the worst book you ever read and why?
Gosh, I don’t know. I usually stop reading if a book is bad. I’m a guilt-free reader. I read what I want, and if it’s not for me, I just put it aside.
What’s your ultimate writing goal?
I set a goal to publish ten books by the time I was 40 and I’ve already surpassed that at 33. Now I’m aiming for 20. My true ultimate goal is to reach massive amounts of readers. I want to effect people with my writing. I want to make them think and feel and cry and smile and gasp…that’s what I want more than anything.
What made you decide to become a serious author?
I started writing my first book on a whim. Late one night, I couldn’t find a book to read, so I decided—why not try to write my own? I worked on it off and on for a year, and when it was done, I let my sister read it. I was a little embarrassed by it, at first. But my sister convinced me to submit it to some small publishers, and I was shocked when I got offered a contract. I didn’t know anything about the business side of publishing. But as soon as I held that first book in my hand, I was hooked—and about it. I wanted to continue writing, and successfully, for the rest of my life.
Do you do research for your characters or settings? Give us an example.
I tend to “write what I know” first, but I do often have to reference maps and research places if they are real. I traveled to New Orleans to work on a section of House of the Lost Girls. The internet makes the life of a writer so much easier, and I rely on it often. I also read a ton, and I consider reading books in my genre part of the job.
Do you believe writing is a gift or a learned skill? Explain.
Both. I believe that there is no substitute for hard work, and if someone wants to learn how to do something, and do it right, and they’re willing to work hard for it, they will. However, I do think there are people who have a natural gift for writing and storytelling. The key is if they LOVE to write—if they love it, they can learn how to write better.
How often do you write and for how long?
It depends on what I’m working on, honestly. I almost always write in the evenings, while everyone else is asleep, and I’ll usually write at least 1k-2k words at a time. If I have a deadline, then it might be closer to 5k or more.
What did you edit out of your most recent book?
For my most recently released solo book, , I deleted the entire ending and wrote an alternative ending. I often do that—change endings around a few times until the right one fits.
Do you read your book reviews? Why or why not?
I read them religiously when I first started, but I only check them occasionally now. The truth is, I love hearing back from my readers and I’m not afraid of criticism, but once the book is done and out there in the world, I try not to sweat the bad stuff. I don’t write to please everyone—I write because I love it and I hope others will too. It’s okay if some people don’t like it.
What was the hardest scene you ever wrote and why?
I’ve written a lot of tough scenes. But I’d have to say one of the toughest was the final scene in . It was the end of the series, and I literally felt traumatized as I “watched” myself bring it to an end.
How long does it take you (on average) to write a book?
The fastest I’ve ever written a full-length is novel is five weeks. I prefer to write in an 8-16 week time frame; that’s my comfort zone. Although I write fast, I usually take a month or so off in between books, to plot out my next book and relax my brain.
Have you ever been contacted by a non-family/friend fan?
Yes! I love when fans send me random emails or messages to tell me how much they enjoyed a book, or how much a book of mine effected them. I don’t know if they know how much it means to me, but it literally makes my day when I get feedback like that.
What is your best writing advice for beginners?
Everyone says never give up, and that’s true. You have to stick with it to be successful. But for my advice, I’d say—write a story that makes you . Don’t try to write what’s popular, or what you think everyone expects you to write. Write like nobody’s watching. Pretend it will never be published. Because that’s when the best stuff comes out, when you’re giving it your all and not worrying about any of the extraneous factors.
Tell us what you’re working on now? What’s next for you?
I have a ton of projects going on right now. I just completed a new book called . It’s gritty and dark, and I’m super excited to share it with readers. I’m also co-writing books with Bradon Nave and J.L. Clayton, and I have two more short stories to complete for anthologies this year.
You can check out Carissa’s latest novel, Searching for Sullivan, available on Amazon now. To reach Carissa, here are her social media handles: