Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Online Serialization: An Interview with Cat on The Witches of Greenwitch

When my friend Cat contacted me about a new project she's started, The Witches of Greenwitch, I wondered if this is where we're going to see a lot of new work heading in the future, especially as ebooks (inevitably) grow more popular. It's not that new of an idea to put a work online as a bait-and-reel gesture, but it is fairly unusual to pair quality, one-of-a-kind illustrations with a new, well-written story. This isn't an emo vamp story with a glitter background as you probably saw in 1993--this is a classy, well produced affair.

At its core, The Witches of Greenwitch is classic high fantasy mixed with a contemporary a young girl who gets sucked (literally) into the book she's reading. Three pages in, and the engaging storyline has me hooked.

The author, Cat, is herself a fascinating individual--an international writer fluent in both English and German (The Witches of Greenwitch is available in German, also), and an all around nice person. Cat, graciously allowed me to interview her about this innovative endeavor. Below are her answers!

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself as a writer?
I don't like clich├ęs. Unfortunately, I am one myself because I really did write stories from the day I knew my alphabet. I can prove it, too. I rescued the one-page manuscripts over several moves all over Germany and Scotland, and although the paper is brittle and the writing faded, they are still readable.
For years, I wrote just for fun, never believing that my stories would be worth publishing. The turning point came in 2000. My best friend found a box in her attic with what she thought was recycling paper but it proved to be historical papers dating back to the 16th century. Out of my mind, I decided to write a novel about the things she found while translating them into modern day German. I learned a lot - the book was published in English and German and it still sells in small numbers. Since then, I took many courses, wrote many more novels, and was finally accepted by the best agent for Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Historical Novels in Germany.

That was when the world wide financial crisis hit. All the manuscripts I have under consideration with publishers are currently on hold. It's nerve-wracking.


Can you tell us a little bit about the story you're serializing?I wrote The Witches of Greenwitch in 2006 from an idea I had had two years prior. The story was aimed at the late MG and early YA age (10-13) but my agent classified it as All-Age.
It tells the story of orphaned book-rat Melissa who is magiced to the world of Greenwitch by a mysterious stone. She desperately looks for a way home trying to ignore her past that pops up at the most inappropriate moments. She has to cope with fairy tale and other creatures that are not at all what she expected. At the same time, dangerous pursuers are at her heels getting closer by the minute.


What made you decide to serialize it online rather than seek traditional publication?
The Witches of Greenwitch had been a story for a series of a very small independent publisher who folded just after accepting one of my other novels.

Since it had been a fun story to write, I didn't want to abandon it but my agent told me that it was too short for a traditional publisher. After a long time (and many more novels) I decided to use it as a serialized online novel in English and German for those who would like to get to know my writing. I hope readers will have just as much fun reading as I had writing and translating (Also, it's a great chance for students of the German language to improve their reading and understanding).


What are your goals with serializing the novel? Are you trying to turn this into something you can make a living off of, or do you want to use it to gain fans, or something else entirely?
Fans would be great but for the moment, I'd be happy to provide entertainment. I tried blogging and found it hard to come up with stuff that might interest people enough to read my rants. I still blog - once in a while - but mostly for closer friends and family. With this novel, I'm trying to reach a broader audience. I'd be delighted to find readers who love my serialized novel just as much as some online-comics are loved and admired.

Not for a second do I believe it possible to make a living off serializing a novel and giving it away for free.



How are you striving to accomplish those goals?
By providing the story as best as I could. I'm revising each individual post prior to publication. Of course, there is much I'd love to rewrite (I learned so much during the last 4 years) but that would result in an erratic publishing schedule. So I nudge little things and keep the story as it is but smooth the rough edges.

Also, my illustrator Eszti makes the plain text come to live. Considering that she is only fifteen, she does an excellent job. With some more training, she'll have a big career in front of her.


Eszti's illustrations are wonderful! Could you tell us a little bit about how that partnership evolved? When did you start working together, and how do illustrations set your work apart from others'?When I decided to serialize my story on the Internet I knew I needed pictures because the www is a very visual medium. Unfortunately, my drawing skills are not up to the task. Also, I knew that it would be impossible to find someone turning it into an online-comic. So I contacted several artists whose work I liked but they were either too expensive or didn't have the time. One day, I stumbled on Eszti's DeviantArt page and contacted her on a whim.


Right now, the story is free online. Do you intend to turn this into a pay-as-you-read endeavor and/or turning it into a downloadable e-book? Why/why not?
The online-version will stay free for as long as I keep it online (currently that means forever). Eventually and if enough people are interested I will probably publish it as a PoD and a downloadable e-book. With current services, I can keep both reasonably priced. At the moment though, that's still music of the future.


How do you plan on reaching readers and drawing them to your site?
Doing interviews like this ;-) and maybe a blog tour. I might even take the time to create a book trailer (I love making weird films so that would be fun). Next week, I'll devote some time on brainstorming. I appreciate ideas from anyone willing to post one on the comment section of The Witches of Greenwitch. Also, I hope that readers who like the story will tell their friends about it.


What's your opinion on e-books? Do you think they will play a prominent role in the future, or will they always been a small percentage of the market?
I believe that the share of e-books will grow continuously in the future but like CDs never fully replaced vinyl they will never replace books entirely. There will always be those who love the smell of freshly printed paper.


What are your future plans for your writing in general?
I will keep writing in German and English, alternating between fantasy stories and historical novels. I do hope to find an agent in the US and a publisher in Germany, soon. Until then, I am improving my craft and my knowledge of US-English grammar.



Thank you, Cat, for sharing your ideas with us!
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