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Just because a book is fiction doesn’t mean it can’t deal with some serious topics. Author P. J. O’Dwyer believes writers are entrusted to entertain as well as educate, which became the motivation behind the Fallon Sisters Trilogy. First in the series is her debut book, Relentless, which published in April 2012. The second book, Defiant, has just been released by Black Siren Books.
In Defiant, O’Dwyer’s main character is a victim of domestic violence, and the danger follows her even after she tries to start a new life. Kate Fallon, a Maryland farm girl turned trial lawyer, practices in the affluent Annapolis law arena and is married to multimillionaire Jack Reynolds, the U. S. Attorney of Maryland. Everyone thinks she’s got it all, but behind closed doors, Jack is as cruel as he is intelligent, as controlling as he is handsome. When his tirades turn physical, Kate must fight for her life. Her efforts to leave him will take her down a rabbit hole to secrets she doesn’t fully understand, and that Jack will kill to suppress.
Two years later, Kate, now living as Charlie Robertson, begins to fall for a mysterious and sexy guy named Nick, even though she knows it’s not right to trust him. Love won’t save either one of them if she discovers his true identity or doesn’t give him what he came for. His boss won’t tolerate failure.
O’Dwyer also delves into another kind of abuse in Relentless, where her main character, Bren, runs a horse rescue operation, saving horses from slaughter. Now a cause near and dear to her heart, O’Dwyer donates between 10% and 50% of her book sales to horse rescue organizations. This mission became one of the reasons she decided to self-publish.
Self-Publishing Opens Opportunities
“Relentless tackles the controversial topic of horse slaughter. After much research, and having a love for animals, I wanted to assist horse rescues with their mission of rescue, rehabilitation, and education. With traditional publishing, I wouldn’t be afforded the opportunity to help this noble cause. Self-publishing offers more royalties per sale of each book, which in turn allows me to donate more,” O’Dwyer explains.
Another benefit of self-publishing—she knew she could take control of her own destiny. “After months of emotional highs and lows following the submission of 40+ queries, I received a mix of rejections and requests for partial and full manuscripts from literary agents, all subject to their timeline.”
Today, O’Dwyer is not only a published author, but also the CEO and Publisher of Black Siren Books. “It’s a title I’m proud to own,” she says. “Having the ability to oversee each step of publication for my books is very fulfilling. Having my fingerprint on each stage, from editing, copyediting, formatting, and my favorite, the illustration of the cover, gave me the opportunity to learn how to manage a publishing company.”
She also appreciates being able to hold on to the rights for her books. “I will always own my book and have complete control, including movie rights. And control is key for me.”
Assembling the Right Team
Even as chief of her own publishing company, or perhaps because she plays this role, O’Dwyer knew that she couldn’t do it all. She understood that to publish a book worthy of her time and financial investments, she needed a talented editing team. “I wanted people who could assist me in creating a publishing process similar to any heavy-hitting publisher from New York. Basically, I wanted to be afforded every opportunity for success, and it started with Ally and her team of professional editors and copyeditors.
“Developmental and copyediting go hand-in-hand. I realized early on that it is not enough to have one without the other,” she explains. “A novel is a tapestry. Strands of plot, back-story, and sub-plot are woven together to create a world where your reader will become one with the characters. But one loose thread of inconsistent plot or a misspelled word can bring them out of your story with one resounding thought—amateur. Not to say readers aren’t forgiving. We are all human, after all. But a book riddled with these issues is unacceptable, if you want to be successful.”
To make sure she gave her readers the best reading experience, she looked for more than just experience and brainpower when she chose her editors. “The most important element is chemistry. I found Ally very personable and professional, not to mention she has a knack for catching those little idiosyncrasies that I, as an author, seem to miss, having been too close to the project. The result was a professionally edited book that could compete with any traditionally published on bookstore shelves today.”
Success Transpires In Big and Small Ways
O’Dwyer admits she, like most authors, dreams of hitting the New York Times bestseller list, but she also finds success in the small things. “Being able to take a concept and plot it out, create likable characters, and keep your reader turning the page is something most only dream about,” she says. “Once the book was published, I received that validation in the form of an email. Yes, I actually started receiving fan mail. How thrilling is that?”
Recognition for her writing is rewarding, but O’Dwyer knows that appreciation doesn’t happen without a lot of hard work. “I had no idea how time-consuming it is to market your book, but it’s one of the most important elements to success in the publishing industry,” she explains. “New York publishers have an advantage with marketing, having years of experience and contacts with booksellers. But I’ve learned that even big publishers, with all their marketing dollars, will not give debut novelists a large marketing budget. It’s still up to the author to market her book.”
Successful marketing means people discover your book, read it, and become fans. “I recently received an invitation to do a book signing in April with about six other authors, including one of the most prolific romance authors in the world, Nora Roberts. I’m still pinching myself,” she says. “Nora’s husband has a bookstore, Turn the Page, in Boonsboro, Maryland. My debut novel Relentless has sold well there, and I think that helped me get this opportunity. It’s is all about putting yourself out there and taking risks and not being afraid of failure.”
The attention means one thing to O’Dwyer—she is accomplishing her mission. “If my stories can enlighten those to a travesty such as horse slaughter or give hope to others who may suffer from the criminal acts of domestic violence, then I’ve succeeded. And the positive reviews and the requests from fans waiting for the release of Defiant only reinforces my future success. It’s a very exciting time.”
Writing is a Continual Learning Process
After writing and self-publishing two books and working towards finishing her third, Forsaken, O’Dwyer has learned a lot. “Like anything else, [writing a book] takes practice and commitment. Writing is a craft, and with time, your writing becomes better, sharper, and stronger,” she says. “There are some writers who plot as they go. I thought I was one of them, but I realized I was wrong. I’ve found that having a well thought-out outline works best for me. It cuts the writing process in half.”
It’s a continual learning process, one that will always present challenges. “Marketing continues to be a learning curve for me. I try not to let it consume me. After all, if you don’t have more products to sell, marketing will only get you so far.”
Plus, with the right help, these challenges can be overcome. “I definitely recommend joining a writer’s critique group, which has been invaluable to me. The members of my group are brutally honest, which I appreciate. Their candor has made me a better writer. I also highly recommend writers invest in creating a library of resources, such as The Writer’s Journey (3rd Edition) by Christopher Vogle, Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass, Revising Fiction by Kirt Hickman, The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman, and because I write romantic suspense, Writing Romance (3rd Edition) by Vanessa Grant.”
O’Dwyer advises not to forget a good editing team. “In today’s market, I find whether you are seeking traditional publishing or self-publishing, you must have your manuscripts professionally edited and copyedited if you want to compete. I’m fortunate to have found Ally and Ambitious Enterprises in that regard.”
Aspiring writers can find inspiration in O’Dwyer’s path towards two successfully self-published books. “Follow your dream,” she says. “I never had any formal training as a writer, just the desire to write and put my thoughts and stories on the computer screen. Just remember, writing is a journey that never ends.”
Relentless is available in hardcover and Kindle editions at Amazon.com, and Defiant, just released on February 14, is also available in the Kindle format. However, if you’d like part of the proceeds of your purchase to go to horse rescue organizations, you’ll need to buy the books from O’Dwyer’s website, www.blacksirenbooks.com. From there, you can choose which rescue organization you’d like to support from an extensive list of partners.