Magnolia Belle has been self-publishing novels for longer than I’ve known her, back when people still scoffed at the idea of self-publishing. But those tides are turning and one could say she saw the wave of the future with the publishing industry. Her books are available as both paperback and ebooks, depending on your preference. Her characters are always rich, the dialogue natural and engaging, and the descriptions of actions and emotions and scenery well crafted.
Normally she writes about Native Americans. Her Black Wolf series is about four Lakota Sioux brothers who start an R&B band in Austin, Texas. The T’On Ma series is a trilogy that takes place in 1850, just after the Mexican-American War. This summer she branched out and crossed the pond to write Lady Gwendolyn, a novel that takes place during the Middle Ages in Northern England and Scotland. You can read my review of the novel in an earlier post, but, in short: I really enjoyed it. It’s worth the pickup.
Here’s what LG is about:
In early medieval days, bandits beset a caravan taking Lady Gwendolyn Hampton of England to marry Angus Dewar in Scotland. In the confusion, she escapes, while the bandits think her maid, Madeleine, is her. From one peril to another, Madeleine must keep the ruse in order to stay alive. Lady Gwendolyn’s brother, Lord Richard Hampton, wants Madeleine as his consort, and tries to rescue her. Through betrayal, intrigue and murder, she becomes a woman of title, and must decide if she wants the life he offers.
Magnolia was kind enough to answer a few questions about her writing and the self-publishing industry.
After the jump… the Q&A…
Lady Gwendolyn has a lot of the classic historical adventure story staples — action, adventure, romance, chases, murder, betrayal, plot twists, large battles, etc. Was it hard to put all that in one story and it not be too long or too cumbersome?
The story had a natural progression, so it wasn’t difficult to add those elements. The real trouble came in remembering who knew what when. Beowyn learned of something in Ch. 2 that Richard didn’t know of until Ch. 7 and Elspeth didn’t know about until Ch. 12. One subplot like that is difficult. With all the subplots I had, I kept diagrams and charts (no kidding).
So most of your stories revolve Native American culture. What made you decide to cross the pond and write about English/Scottish lords and ladies?
As a youth, I loved “Ivanhoe” and stories of that ilk. I began writing “LG” as a lark, not intending to ever finish it. It was just a bit of fun to write in that time period.
One thing you do that I’ve never seen before in a historical fiction piece is footnotes that give the definition of some unfamiliar words to a contemporary reader. What coaxed you into putting those in? At first I found them a little jarring, but there were some words in there I didn’t know and it was kinda nice to see the definition in the text and not have to go look it up later.
I hate reading a book that will from time-to-time use French or German phrases and not tell the reader what it means. When I wrote the “T’on Ma” series, there was so much research that went into it, I wanted to cite my resources so people would know the true history of the Kiowa. That’s when I began using footnotes. For “Lady Gwendolyn”, I wanted to use a sprinkling of medieval terms, but knew a lot of folks wouldn’t understand them. A glossary seemed the best solution to keep my readers from getting frustrated or mad at me.
What was the hardest part about writing Lady Gwendolyn?
Finishing it. It took several years, with a two-three year gap where I put it down. If friends *cough-you-cough* hadn’t kept bugging me about it, I doubt I’d ever have finished it.
Hahaha, and you are well welcome for that!
The romance in the story was well done and really interesting. I’m always a little hesitant when I see a love plot line in these stories because a lot of times they come off as forced or cliche, especially when there’s a damsel in distress involved. But you pulled it off nicely, and I found the Stockholm Syndrome take unique as well. Can you walk us through what your process was for writing the romance subplots in the story?
I am such a sucker for romance – I mean the real deal – where folks are hesitant to get too close because of past bombshells, yet, they can’t deny what their hearts are telling them. They inch a little closer and a little closer until they’re standing so close, they either have to move away or tell the truth. In that era, there was a strong apartheid system in England – Normans vs. the English. Class was second nature to their world view. So having a maid and a lord embroiled in that system was too much fun to resist.
The story is fairly self contained, but will there be a Lady Gwendolyn sequel?
I don’t know. I’ve got a few other books waiting for me to finish. However, I will say that “LG” ended with a great hook for Beowyn to get his own. An English knight marrying into the Scottish Dewar mess of who owns what and who is the true heir could be fascinating and complicated.
Tell us a little bit about some of your other works. They’re a lot different from Lady Gwendolyn.
I have always been keenly interested in American Indians, especially the plains tribes. I have a few different tribes in my DNA, so perhaps that helps generate the interest and respect. I also love Texas. It’s a natural combination for me to combine the two. There are so many stories to tell. That’s for my “T’on Ma” series. My “Black Wolf” series comes from a completely different place. It’s about four Lakota Sioux brothers who form their own R&B band. I was a musician back in the day – guitarist, lead singer and lyricist. Writing about the brothers is just too much fun for me.
You self-publish your own novels through your publishing company, Blackwolf Books, and you were doing it well before self-publishing was considered “ok to do” by a lot of readers. What made you decide to publish your own stories and how has the self-publishing industry changed over the years?
I tend to be impatient and had heard all the horror stories of great books already recognized in literature given a new title and being rejected by the “Big” houses. I didn’t want to wait for permission to publish. It sits ill with my independent (i.e. stubborn) streak. The industry has changed in that so many more people are going the indie route. Sadly, a lot of them have no business publishing yet. They need to learn the craft. Some of them need to learn basic English. I had one person tell me she wasn’t interested in learning punctuation. That’s what at editor was for. Palm…forehead.
Yikes! Other than learn basic English, grammar, and punctuation, what tips do you have for up and coming writers who might be turning to self-publishing to get their work out to the masses? What are some pros and cons?
They need to understand that self-publishing means they’ll have to wear an awful lot of hats – writer, formatter, book cover designer, marketer, etc. etc. If they can’t do it, they need to be prepared to pay for someone who can. Readers are discriminating, and sloppy won’t cut it, I don’t care how broke the author is. Don’t publish if it isn’t professional. That’s the downside. They also need to be aware that there is no magic bullet for marketing. It’s the wild west out there, with lots of folks selling snake oil. Check ’em out before you hand them a check.
The pros are that you have complete autonomy over every aspect of your book. You’re not under anyone’s deadline. You don’t have six months to sell your book before it’s pulled by a big house. You own all rights to your work.
What are some books you’re reading now (or read recently) that you’re enjoying?
It’s a shame, but I don’t have a lot of time to read. I do for reviews, research and editing, but for pleasure…?
What’s next? What tales do you have in store for readers in the near future?
I need to finish the last book in the “Black Wolf” series. It’s started but that’s about all I can say. I also have another American Indian book to finish, “Mountain Man Kate” set in the Rockies. It’s almost done, but I can’t seem to find the right ending.
Anything else you’d like the readers to know?
Yeah. Every book that is purchased gets us that much closer to my husband’s retirement. He keeps reminding me. Ha!