Anita's Haven

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Take A Journey – Interview with A. L. Mengel

on 10/02/2018

It is wonderful to be able to interview author A. L. Mengel as he begins his 2018 book tour. I first met the incredibly talented creative genius of A. L. Mengel in the Awethors writers’ group and have since witnessed his fantastic progress in the world of fiction.

1. How long have you been a published author now? What’s your favourite moment or memory for now?

I’ve been a published author for five years now. It’s really hard to believe. I remember sitting and tweaking my first novel Ashes repeatedly, readying it for publication. I had started writing that novel in 2002. Back then, I had dreams of being an author. But I was still so caught up with my young life. With the material world. And the quest for love. And experiencing human emotion. And relationships. Little did I know then, all of my experiences would come out in my written work in the future years. So I would write the story, originally titled The Last Nail in the Coffin, which was destined to become Ashes, bit by bit, over several years, on and off.

Fast forward to 2007, I finished the story. I can still remember the day, almost 11 years ago, like it was yesterday. I could feel the tickle of a cold in my throat, and was elated to type the words ‘THE END’. The next day, I came down with the worst flu of my life. It kept me bed ridden for several days. Looking back on that, and after talking with others about The Tales of Tartarus series of books, there have been some that have thought the sickness could have been some sort of demonic influence. Ashes tells a very dark story, but it leads to the light and forgiveness. Demons don’t like that. They don’t want to lose their grip on you.

And that’s really the goal of the entire series of The Tales of Tartarus books…in The Quest for Immortality, a character is racing against a certain death to achieve the gift of eternal life; in The Blood Decanter,those who have achieved the gift are under attack by an imposter – The Hooded Man – who is destined for their destruction by promising them salvation but giving them death. The book is a cleansing of the soul – as the blood “washes their sins away”. And then there is War Angel. Where redemption is found. Where protection is a right of the living and the dead. We all need to dispel our demons to elevate ourselves to a higher level of existence. The Tales of Tartarus did that for me. It may do that for others, as well.

But my favorite moment? Memory? I would have to say the creation of #Writestorm. It was so sudden, so intense, and also so life-changing. Once I introduced the writing methodology to the Literary Community, it was quickly embraced. It’s become easily searchable on Google. The book was released and received stellar reviews. There have been others that have copied #Writestorm on Social Media. I’ve seen multiple groups pop-up since #Writestorm that discuss a similar philosophy – tweaked “just a bit”. But there’s only one true #Writestorm. And people know that, it seems. But the book wasn’t written for notoriety, money, or fame. It was simply written to help other authors get their books written and follow their dreams. And for that, I hope I will have created something that will endure.

2. What and how much has changed since you started publishing? How has your approach to writing and marketing changed?

A lot has changed in the last five years. And a lot has also remained the same. I think, what has changed the most, is my approach to publishing. When I first released Ashes, I was so excited to release the book, I released it in parts, like the serial novels of yesteryear. It worked well initially, I could call myself a published author, people were reading the story and enjoying it according to reviews. I was happy. I was able to relive the natural high of a book release three more times until the paperback released in October of 2013. I still have copies of that paperback, which are now out of print. Amazon is offering it as a Mass Market Paperback, and some copies are going for up to $150 as that version has become rare. And Ashes was my best effort at the time. When I look back on that novel, I see a good self-publishing effort. But when I compare it to my novels of today, there really is no comparison. Ashes is a good story, and it got the high-end treatment it deserved in 2015 with the Special Edition, which is now the signature version.

My approach to writing really remains the same. I follow a very specific…and rather archaic…process. When I start a novel, I start with a spiral notebook and a pen. I have to get my thoughts out on paper, and I have found it best to be away from the distractions of a computer to get that done. When writing the prose, I use regular old Microsoft Word. No fancy book writing programs for me. I write notes during the writing process on a rather large whiteboard that hangs in The Writing Studio, and I do something I call “scene mapping” on the wall on a space mural I have hanging. Usually, I divide a book up into four to eight parts, which each have their own subtitle. I’ve been doing this since Ashes. I don’t work with chapters. Each part of my novels has its own story that relates to the overall story arc. I print the part subtitles out on paper and hang them on the wall. I tend to use sticky notes, on which I will write the scene in one sentence, and move it around on the wall underneath the part where I think it best fits.

But marketing is another animal. There’s a lot of authors and authors’ service providers that claim they have the answer, but for me, I am following in my predecessors footsteps who are now Best-Selling Authors. The Indie Author has to get out from behind the computer. At least if they want some sort of a level of selling success. Persistent and repetitive social media marketing really just turns into spam, which people tune out. That online marketing needs to be specific and targeted, and linked to something that page followers connect with. The goal is to get followers and convert them into readers. Getting page followers is the easy part. Just market your page on Facebook and they will come if you have a strong brand/product mix. But connecting with them is the hard part. I always check what’s trending, and also what is going on in the world to see how it could be linked to my brand. There’s a marketing opportunity in everything. I was recently out to lunch at a sports bar. When I was being questioned about my recently released novel The Mortician, it was decided on the spot to record a video, which was shared on my Facebook page. One needs to be adept at identifying marketing opportunities which are everywhere, and in places where you least expect them. And I have found, that page followers have been connecting with me more, increasing my engagement, as I get outside with the people and make videos and go-live with people-to-people interaction.

3. Who do you think your readers are? Do you write for a target audience or just any story that comes to your mind?

My readers are a wide and varied bunch. In addition to The Tales of Tartarus, I also have The Vega Chronicles, my Science Fiction series. In addition, there is a series called The Astral Files with the release of The Mortician. The Astral Files is a spin-off from The Tales of Tartarus, and I expect it to be a long running series. Then there’s also #Writestorm. And there are thousands who are Beloved Friends of The Writing Studio on my Facebook page who have never read a word I have written outside of Facebook. My target market doesn’t really focus on an age group but rather a level of intellect. My novels are typically for a more sophisticated, thinking reader. My books usually have steady builds, and tend to get philosophical in the later acts. Some have told me they’ve read one of my books the first time to take it all in, and then a second time to figure it all out. Some readers can get frustrated with that. My books are not simple reads. Books of today spoon feed everything to the reader. My books don’t do that. The reader needs to think. To discover. And I am also getting known for ambiguous endings in some of my novels, which I write intentionally to encourage discussion and personal theories about the story.

4. What do you find interesting or challenging in using social media to interact with your readers and fellow authors?

I recently was quoted on Facebook discussing Social Media: “Social Media is a smiling demon. It gains us readers, sells our books, and also robs us of our time.” It’s really true. Facebook, and all of Social Media, is a necessary evil. But the successful author will be resistant to its many temptations. It’s easy to get drawn into chats that have nothing to do with you or your brand, and even easier for time to get swallowed into lazy marketing of just blasting a book link around writer’s groups that will be ignored and prove to be a waste of time – even if it only took a minute or two.

Because for the Indie Author, that minute or two blasting a book link to other authors who are busy trying to market their own work could have been spent seeking out true readers away from social media. People that will connect with you, face to face, and read your work because they know you in person. Getting away from the computer and away from Social Media, to connect with the people, is where the true success lies, and honestly, what the brick and mortars look for when arranging events and stocking titles. I’ve been vetted for Barnes and Noble recently, and was approved not only because of my well-established online presence, but also because of the in-person marketing efforts I have made. For the Indie Author, it all really depends on their own personal goals, but I know for mine, I look forward to my titles being stocked in brick and mortars. And that requires a lot of hard work beyond writing the stories.

5. You recently had an interesting tour with author Jeremy Croston. Can you tell us how it went? What was the most pleasant surprise about it for you?

Oh yes! The tour is actually about to start at the time of this interview. It’s called “Take A Journey” with the hashtag #TakeAJourney2018. It’s a little different from the typical Author Book Tour. For one, it’s long running. It starts in February of 2018 and runs all the way to the end of October. That gives us the freedom to schedule event dates throughout the year without the tour seeming overwhelming. I’ve studied musicians for years, and how they tour, and have tried to emulate that touring formula. I think it can work for Authors as well. I think long-term touring…to represent our entire branding…could be the future for Authors getting their work out to the public. Brick and Mortars are still fading. But the best way to connect with potential readers still remains face-to-face. But arranging events at venues that may not be a book shop “official selling stop” can still build one’s market presence. Every tour stop should be embraced, because it’s an avenue to reach readers. So an author has to think outside the box. And that’s were Jeremy and I developed the “Author Discussion Series”, which will be a series of informal tour stops on our Book Tour that are at restaurants that have a topic of discussion that’s pertinent to creatives. That series won’t be selling stops, and they are being scheduled in-between the more formal, book shop selling stops throughout the tour. The “Author Discussion Series” stops are for creatives to get together and discuss the craft.

Jeremy Croston and I happen to live near one another, and after he had read several of my novels, we agreed on a meet and greet in early 2017. Shortly after, we discussed touring together throughout 2018. I had learned about his Malice of the Cross release which seemed to pair well with my own branding, so we decided to do it. We met monthly for tour planning meetings since July of 2017, and have held almost daily conference calls in the early morning discussing the progress of venue selection and other creative things. We’ve held pretty strong to the monthly meetings and the conference calls. Planning a tour – a real tour – is an extraordinary amount of work. Getting venues will not come easily. A lot of doors will be slammed in your face. And you just pick up and move on to the next venue. What’s great is that we currently have 21 dates on the books between February and October through multiple cities. Hard work, and persistence, truly does pay off.

The most pleasant surprise surrounding the Take A Journey Book Tour was the Go-Lives that we did promoting the tour, and the tour planning appointments. Our first go-live video was of me reading from Jeremy Croston’s Malice of the Cross and introducing it to the readers on my page, which has followers of over 6.7k. In just three days, over 1.4k people viewed the go-live. We were both elated. But it wouldn’t prepare us for what happened just two weeks later at our “Gods and Monsters” book tour planning stop. We went live again with over 6.1k views in four days and knew then that we were creating a buzz about the book tour.

6. What are your goals in writing? What would you like to achieve in the years to come? What are you working on now?

Honestly, my goal is to make a decent living with my writing. Usually, with fame comes fortune, but that’s not my goal. If it happens, so be it, but I just want to do what I love, which is writing books, meeting with the people and touring, and starting the process all over again. One thing I would like is for my writing to endure for generations. I recently received, as a gift, a box of very old, quite rare books. I mean, they are from the 1800’s or older. Many of the copyright pages are written by hand. And that is what I am referring to. These are 150 year old books. I want to make sure that three generations from now, my books are still out there. That’s one of the reasons why I am gradually releasing each of my titles in hardcover. Most of my market is paperback readers. Not Kindle. But when I told my business advisor that I was releasing hardbacks, he didn’t understand why. But I’m trying to create a market for the hardback. And even if I don’t, each hardback that’s printed will most likely be around for a century or more.

I’ve been taking a several month much-needed break from writing after The Mortician. That was the most personal book that I’ve written to date. Few know that I have several personal memories inserted into the story in various scenes. As a result, it was an exhausting write. I needed a break. I have a hard time moving from one book right to the next. I know quite a few authors do that, but I believe in a creative refueling period. We all have to go out and experience life again, once the book is written. Or else, how can we accurately depict characters in our future books? I’ve had discussions several times with other authors who don’t follow my philosophy of a creative resting period between books. Unfortunately, it seems many Indie authors are turning themselves into “Book Factories” by releasing book after book after book in a single year. In my opinion, anything over two releases in a year is too much. Readers get overwhelmed, haven’t had time to digest the previous release and the next one comes out, and the stories risk being underthought and underdeveloped.

Currently, I am working on a Science Fiction epic which is planned to be released in two novel-length volumes: Part One and Part Two will released on the same day together, and they both will be novel-length books. I’m not mentioning the titles right now as they are “working titles” and could change during the creative process. I never would have been open to that wave of inspiration had I not been on a creative break and experiencing life. My aunt passed during that time, and her love of my science fiction inspired the new epic novel. Taking a break from the writing is necessary. It opens the mind, and the outside the box thinking really begins.

7. What would you say to your younger self, the aspiring writer just learning about the publishing world?

I would say do exactly what you are doing, and keep learning from those who have gone before you, because it’s going to lead to something greater. In half a decade, you’re going to be touring kid. Keep at it.

8. What’s your favourite thing about your latest published book?

The most favorite thing about my recently release novel The Mortician has to be the transitions in the story. I really loved how they came out. The Mortician takes place in two separate time periods with two protagonists and two separate and complete casts. I was challenged as a writer to link the storylines together without confusing the reader, and as I write in parts rather than chapters, I had to find a way to move back and forth smoothly. The two separate storylines and two casts of characters were running concurrently. The reader needed a smooth transition from one time period and cast to the next. And I love how it was done. I used art, photos, music and photography to transition the story from one setting to the other. For example, a piece of music might be playing that one character experiences, and then the story transitions to another character in a different time period listening to the exact same piece of music, separated in time by decades.

I also really loved the cover. Shoutlines Design did the cover, and they sent me early renderings in April of 2017. We tweaked it over the next several months, and the final version was released on Halloween 2017. As I drafted the manuscripts, I incorporated elements of the cover so the cover represented scenes from the story. I love creative collaborations like that.

9. Is there any famous person, real or fictional, dead or alive, who you would like to discuss your novel(s) with and why?

I’d really love to get both Stephen King’s and Anne Rice’s opinions on my novels. I’d like to think that I am embracing my own branding, characters and storytelling style, but following in their footsteps in some way. I read novels from both of them in my younger years, and I believe their work has influenced my own in some ways.

10. What are the most excruciating and the most exhilarating moments about writing for you?

Oh, wow. That’s a tough one. Because writing can be a very challenging experience for me. But so rewarding. I’d say the most challenging part of my process comes towards the middle. When I have quite a bit written, and I have to make sense of it all, and smooth it out to form a story. It’s a period during my creative process that I can “Story Structure”. It comes after the main scenes have been written, the story, at least for the most part, is there, but usually it’s akin to an unfinished puzzle. Pieces are spread all over the place, and each piece (scene or passage) needs to be closely examined to see where it best fits into the overall puzzle, the story in this case. It’s a point in my process where my word count will expand rapidly. During this period, as the scenes are spliced and placed where I believe they best fit in the story, I then will fill holes, bridge gaps, and write smoothing sequences to build flow in the story. While the most tedious and challenging period of my process, it’s also one of the most rewarding. For this the stage where the story really comes to life for me, where it starts to flow, and I can see a true beginning, middle, and end.

But the most excruciating? I can still remember the most painful scene I have ever written, and it was a death scene in War Angel. I was pantsing my way through a passage, and the death really caught me off guard. It was violent, sudden and intense. And it was a major character that I’d only been writing about for a short while. When I saw the visual of gigantic, blood-stained angel wings, reaching up towards the Heavens in a mark of desperation, I could feel tears start to stream down my cheeks. It was just so tragic. So unexpected. It pained me to reread what I had just written. I had to stop writing that day and called my editor. She suggested to take a break, and I didn’t sit back down with the manuscript for several more days. I had to mourn the sudden passing of that character, whom I had loved so much throughout the story up to that point.

Now the most exhilarating experience for me, and I think most authors would agree, is holding a book in my hands for the first time. That amazing feeling just doesn’t go away, even with my seventh novel recently in print. Every time I open the box of the first printed copies, I can feel the excitement build. With my science fiction novel The Europa Effect, I opened the box and examined the first proofs on video, and shared it on my Author page. I got some great comments where the viewers said they could see how my face lit up when I opened the box. I think that’s a feeling that will never go away. It’s one of the most exhilarating points in my process, also one of the most rewarding. It’s where I have created something physical, something that I can hold and touch. I can look at it , as something that I’ve created that will most likely spend more days on this planet than I will. And by holding the books in my hands, by feeling the pages, and the binding, smelling the paper, and running my hands over the covers, I know that I’m creating books that will endure.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/authoralmengel

Twitter: www.twitter.com/authoralmengel

Amazon Author Page

Goodreads

(all photos provided by Andy Mengel)

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2 responses to “Take A Journey – Interview with A. L. Mengel

  1. Hi Anita,
    So thrilling reading your interview with my cousin author A.L. Mengel! I am so proud of him and all his hard work. I too, am a published author but a little different than Andy! My book started from my own WordPress blog, how about that? Not sure if I have another book in me but am loving writing my 2 blogs and just getting my website going. Andy is such an inspiration! It is so great sharing our gifts with like-minded people so I too am finding my tribe of spiritual people with psychic abilities. Thank you again for supporting my cousin!

    Liked by 1 person

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