An Interview with Emily Martens & Chelsey C. Hankins
Sylvia: Welcome Emily and Chelsey. I am excited to interview a dynamic duo! Please give our readers an introduction of yourself and a little about your book.
Emily & Chelsey: Hey all! We are a writing duo based out of New Orleans, and have just released the first in an exciting five-book series, Death of Eden, set in Mississippi throughout the Civil War.
Emily: I am originally from a tiny Gold Rush town way up in the California alps (yeah we have alps!). I have been imagining and writing stories since I could talk, but I finished my first novel when I was sixteen.
Chelsey: I grew up in Magee, Mississippi. It is a very small town just south of Jackson. I too started at a very young age coming up with stories and plays. I used to make my friends act them all out. Writing has always been very cathartic for me. I would just start writing about what was happening and soon those feelings turned into short stories.
We met while studying acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. After working together on a Hollywood sword fighting team, co-writing a comedy web series, and starting a business as PR Copywriters, we were casually looking for our next project when the idea for the Death of Eden series swooped in and took over our lives.
Death of Eden: Outlaw, which was just released, is our first novel together. It takes place on the eve of the Civil War. Our dashing outlaw hero, Jesse Locke, who was run out of town seven years prior for murder, returns to Eden to escape marshals that are hunting the gang he rides with. There he discovers that his mother is dead, his sister is in the whorehouse and his whole world has been turned upside down. Always living in the shadow of the gallows, Jesse and his companions get swept up in the perilous whirlwind of love, lust, adventure and corruption that waits in Eden, Mississippi.
Sylvia: What inspired you to write your first book?
Emily & Chelsey: We were sitting in a pub one night, sipping Stellas when one of us asked, “Why has no one ever made a version of Robin Hood set in America? Like during the Civil War?” A beer and a very animated conversation later, our outlaw gang and the town of Eden had been born. After that night, we became women possessed. We read stacks of books; researched for countless hours; stalked our historian friend; and visited museums, battlefields and antebellum homes. We wrote like fiends, often spending 16 hour days working away at our story. Through that whole process our little germ of an idea grew into a five-book epic filled with adventure, intrigue, romance, humor and grit.
Sylvia: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Emily & Chelsey: We have done our utmost to represent life as it was and is in all of its aspects, the good, the bad and the ugly. It takes place in one of the most volatile times in our history, one that is very different from today, yet human nature is still very much the same. All people, no matter what era they live in, are capable of immense greatness, terrible cruelty and everything in between. That is what we have set out to explore.
Sylvia: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Emily & Chelsey: Never, ever let anyone tell you what you should or should not write. If it interests you and gets your blood running, then it is worth writing about. You do have a voice. It is unique and valuable. Don’t ever be afraid to let it out.
Sylvia: What marketing techniques have you used to sell your books and which ones have been most successful?
Emily & Chelsey: Quality of material is the most important thing. A memorable tag line, attention grabbing quotes, and a killer synopsis are definitely important to have when trying to build interest. Since many authors are working with a tight budget, here are our favorite low cost techniques:
Social media is an invaluable and FREE asset. It opens up the entire world for you to build a platform and connect with readers and writers alike without ever having to leave your home. Facebook ads are as little as $5 a day, and they definitely deliver the results promised. Goodreads is an extremely valuable site to look into. It puts you into direct contact with people who already love what we writers do! There are also a plethora of tools, widgets and marketing opportunities available to authors.
Above all, we stick with the motto: ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ Word of mouth is one of the oldest and greatest tools that you can use. Nothing can replace human interaction. Your confidence and enthusiasm carry over to others. When you are excited, they get excited. When they get excited, they tell everyone they know about you and your book.
Then those people tell other people. Word of mouth creates a ripple effect that can reach father then you ever thought possible.
Emily & Chelsey: First and foremost, you will be extremely entertained. It is a gripping story that you won’t soon forget. If you like a plot that will suck you in and characters that you will fall in love with (or love to hate), then you should buy our book.
Sylvia: Is there a special place that you prefer when you write?
Emily & Chelsey: We write anywhere and everywhere, using whatever materials we happen to have at our disposal from computers to texts to notes passed back and forth. Our favorite place to write is our living room (we’re roommates too…no we don’t get sick of each other). We have two very comfortable couches facing each other from which we can lounge and send our pieces of writing back and forth. Our work is a true fifty-fifty effort.
Sylvia: What projects are you currently working on?
Emily & Chelsey: At the moment we are editing the other four books in the Death of Eden series, getting them ready for publication. Editing is, of course, a very long and involved process as well as very active one for us. Since there are two of us we try to do it outloud as much as possible. On the writing side, we are a few books into a quirky paranormal series, and have a couple of other irons in the fire.
Sylvia: Is Eden based on a real place?
Emily: While there does happen to be a place in Mississippi called Eden, it is not the same as our town. We drew a lot of our inspiration for Eden from Natchez, Mississippi. The location on the river, the history and events surrounding the war are very much grounded in Natchez. The Natchez Trace also plays a pivotal role in all five books. Retaining creative freedom is very important to us, so we chose to invent a fictional setting so that we could influence the events, places and people in the way that best served the story. However we pay a great deal of homage.
Sylvia: What is your POWER WORD?
Chelsey: I think we probably have a different word for every project we work on, but for Death of Eden it would be TRUTH. If we ever tried to write something that wasn’t true to the story and our characters, we would immediately feel it. Keeping the word ‘truth’ in our mind kept us from trying to force the story to go a certain way. It also helped us be true to ourselves throughout the publishing process. There is always a lot of pressure to censor and sugarcoat a story like this so that it will appeal to wider audience. Our characters deserved better than that, they deserved the truth.
Sylvia: thank you! Please share your social media and book contact information.
Emily & Chelsey: Sylvia, thank you for taking time to allow us to share our book with your readers.
Emily’s Blog: http://ekmartens.blogspot.com/
Chelsey’s Blog: http://www.southernbelle-confessions.blogspot.com/