Meet Author Gretchen S.B.

Gretchen spawned in the Puget Sound region. After some wandering she returned there and now lives with her husband and the daintiest Rottweiler on the planet. When not drowning herself in coffee, as is custom in the Greater Seattle Area, Gretchen can be found at her day job or sitting at her desk in the home office, flailing her arms as she dictates to her computer.

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Can you, for those who don’t know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?

I have been writing and telling stories since I was very, very little. I didn’t think seriously about writing and publishing my stories until I was in college. But this was before the Kindle and all that, so I sent out query letters to agents and publishers and no one was interested in publishing my work. Then in 2013 a friend of mine, who published his book independently via Kindle publishing, told me about Kindle publishing and how easy it had been for him and after weeks and months of talking about this I finally published Lady of the Dead.

What is something unique/quirky about you?

Something quirky about me, oh man, one of the funnier ones is that I volunteered in different positions, at haunted houses for about 10 or 11 years in my late teens and early 20s. I love working at haunted houses. I was the casting director for a while and it was so much fun. I love it so much! It was such a large part of my life for those years. The quirky bit, the really funny part, is that one of the haunted houses the group I worked with was, is actually where I met my husband. It took 2 or 3 years before we started dating. When we started dating, we spent that whole season dating in secret, which looking back, was pretty entertaining. I was the casting director and he was the pirate captain for the ghostly pirate ship.

Describe yourself in 5 words or less!

Halloween loving, world creating, kook

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I first considered myself a writer around the time I was working on my fifth or sixth book. My first three books were across three different series and I had them mostly, if not all, written by the time I got around to publishing them. My fourth book I wrote from scratch and my fifth one I think had a few thousand words in it when I settled down to publish it. Once I published those two books I proved to myself that I wasn’t a one book wonder, could write across multiple genres: at that point I had paranormal romance, urban fantasy, and wholesome romance. I considered myself a writer because it wasn’t just books I already had finished that I was publishing. I was writing them expressly to publish them and I remember thinking that I wasn’t a writer when someone called me one and then one day after or during the fifth book that mentality changed. It was a really gradual process for me.

Do you have a favorite movie?

Oh man, I switch between the Saint with Val Kilmer, Ghostbusters one and two, Brotherhood of the Wolf which is a French film that takes place in 1700s rural France, and Bride and Prejudice which is a Bollywood/British hybrid of Pride and Prejudice. Those are my tried-and-true favorite movies and they jockey for first place depending on what mood I’m in.

Which of your novels can you imagine made into a movie?

I think it’s a tie between the Jas Bond series, I think Jas would make a really good TV show. As well as the Anthony Hollownton series, a homicide detective who gets an un-Orthodox introduction, via a murderer, into the supernatural world. I could definitely see Tony being made into movies but I would be super excited if any of my books got made into TV shows or movies

What inspired you to write Book Burgling Blood – Magic?

My inspiration for this book is a little funny. I wanted to write a supernatural book about my husband and his job. My husband is a retail manager and our Rottweiler goes with him to work. The stories he comes home and tells me are hilarious and ridiculous and sometimes you think he’s making it up even though I know for a fact he’s not. So, I wanted to have a very self-deprecating, version of my husband, a store owner that I could throw into a paranormal world and see what happened. Jas bond definitely moved away from that initial caricature of my husband once I was really writing the first book but my husband was definitely the inspiration for this story. When I read it to him he tells me that the Rottweiler Bailey is a much better representation of our Rottweiler then Jas is of him.

What can we expect from you in the future?

All the things! I’m just kidding, I do an author podcast titled Exceptionally Average Authors Explain it All, with an author friend of mine Stevie Ray Causey. In that podcast we talk about how I jump from project to project really easily and struggle with setting goals and sticking to them. But you’ll definitely see the second season of our podcast, we’re currently at the midseason break. I am also releasing the first four books of the Jas Bond series between now and the end of July. Right now I’m thinking there are eight books in the series total and I’m hoping to have all of those out by the end of the year. I am also hoping to have some other books out this year but I’m not sure what other titles there will be or what genre, it will all depend on what I can fit around Jas Bond’s schedule.

Do you have any “side stories” about the characters?

I do not have any publishable side stories about the characters right now. That could change later, but as of right now I don’t. I do however know things like how Jas started working with Sven, I have that whole scene played out in my head. Or why Jas broke up with his fiancée and the story behind that. But I don’t think any of those side stories will end up getting published, they might be in some small capacity in one of the main series, but as of right now no publishable side stories.

Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in this book?

Sure, there are a cast of characters in the Jas Bond world. There’s Jas who is a magic-less son of a witch who owns a magical antiques store. His mother owned it before him and his grandmother before her and they are both witches so running the store was a lot easier for them than it is him. He has a rambunctious young Rottweiler named Bailey who is very opinionated and what she wants and when she wants it. He has a best friend Blake who is a werewolf, paranormal police detective who Bailey likes more than Jas. There is also Sven who is a dwarf that works at the antique shop he works in the back fixing objects that come into the shop that are broken. Though his name is Sven he is actually Scottish and very old but we don’t know his exact age. There is also Violetta who is Jas’s ex-fiancé. She is a very powerful witch and a very free spirit, she travels a lot she’s very no-nonsense she and Jas are on very good terms and are still friends even though sometimes they bicker a little bit and there’s a little bit of stress between them from time to time.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

I enjoy writing Snark so anytime someone was snarky I enjoyed it. I enjoy writing Sven a lot because he wants no part of what’s happening in about three quarters of the stories and sometimes he just gets dragged in reluctantly and I really love that. I also really love writing Bailey the Rottweiler. I personally love my Rottweiler. She’s fantastic! She’s a great dog. I can’t say enough weirdly adoring things about her. So giving the Rottweiler in the story personality was a big thing for me and anytime Bailey is doing something that displays that personality I’m usually enjoying myself immensely writing that personality into the book.

Tell us about your main characters- what makes them tick?

The main character in this book Jas Bond owns a magical antiques store. There’s all kinds of magical objects in it and it’s the business his mother owned and his grandmother before that. He was basically raised to take over the store. So he is doing what’s basically expected of him even though he himself does not possess any magical abilities like his mother and grandmother do. What makes him tick as he is just trying to live his life as best he can while being supernatural world adjacent. He doesn’t have a lot of ambition to do anything else. He’s good at his job. He has a comfortable life and that is enough for him. He just wants to maintain his current level of lifestyle and what happens over the course of the stories ends up making that increasingly difficult.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing since I was in early elementary school. We wrote stories and then drew pictures with them. My stories were moderately creative for that age. The older I got when I got writing assignments the more creative and outlandish they got. But when I was younger I wanted to be an actress so that was more my creative outlet in writing which meant that my storytelling was more just that, storytelling and not being written down. I didn’t start writing down my stories until I was a teenager and even then it was just bits and pieces I would occasionally work on but since I was writing by hand I was constantly losing them. Once I had my own laptop for college I was taking writing more seriously because I saw how many ideas I had that I just yearned to write down. Wanting to publish was a dream but at that point it wasn’t really available to me and then in October 2013 I published my first book and I have never looked back.

Do the characters all come to you at the same time or do some of them come to you as you write?

My characters definitely come to me as I write them. Every once in a while a world will occur to me first and then I will backtrack and see what sort of characters could live in that world. But usually there is one character and I want to see how they react in a given situation. Sometimes there will be two. By the time I start world building and creating the story more characters will pop up as I’m writing. I usually don’t have a solid idea of the entire cast of characters until I’m at least partway into either the first book in the series or partway into that one single solitary book if it’s a standalone.

The one exception is the clean romances where it’s just one set of main characters male and female. Those I tend to know from the get go even if I don’t have a more fleshed out idea of what they’re like. Secondary characters are more fleshed out, like with my Lantern Lake series which takes place in a small town. With a small town romance characters who might be the main character in one book will show up as reoccurring side characters in others.

Do you see writing as a career?

I think writing is a perfectly possible career choice. But it is very hard to break into. I currently have a day job that pays all of my bills and writing is a, I don’t want to call it a side hustle, but it’s something very similar. If I could be a full-time writer and make that my career I would be over the moon. I just keep working at it and working at it and hopefully someday I will be able to reach that goal.

What do you think about the current publishing market?

I think the current publishing market is a fascinating place. When I started it was easier to get people to read your books. There weren’t as many books at the end of 2013 as there are now. There are now more than, I think last I saw, 10 million titles on Amazon which is insane and that’s just the e-books I believe. It’s become much harder to find readers and so you have to be savvy about your marketing, which I definitely am not. It’s a fascinating place to be and there are so many of us so there are more likely to be people that you can connect with however there are so many of us and the network is so vast you can’t always find them really easily. So overall it’s a really interesting place but it is definitely saturated and you just have to be more strategic then you did in even 2016 when it comes to how you place your book and how you market.

Do you read yourself and if so what is your favorite genre?

I love to read, though now that I am working so hard on being an author I do not get to read as much as I want. Since covid started I do eat through audiobooks a lot faster. It used to be that I would just listen to them on my commute, my commute into work is about 70 minutes each way so I would listen to audiobooks or music to and from work on the bus. And that’s my main way of consuming literature. I read across the same genres that I write. There’s a lot of paranormal thrillers, urban fantasy, paranormal romances, some clean and wholesome romances. The one genre I would love to break into that I haven’t yet that I read his cozy mysteries. I love cozy mysteries especially paranormal cozy mysteries and my goal is to one day write in that genre as well.

Do you prefer to write in silence or with noise? Why?

It varies for me. If I am actually writing like fingers to the keyboard I need music in the background to distract my mind, I guess is the best way to put it. It can’t have a lot of words so it can’t be an audiobook. It has to be music and nothing that’s incredibly catchy so that I want to sing along because than I get distracted and I’m not writing. If I’m dictating it’s harder to have music going because sometimes the mic will pick up the lyrics from the song or get confused and then that gets into the dictation which can be funny but also a little frustrating. So if I’m dictating it tends to be in silence if I’m writing I will have music going and I tend to have that music match the genre that I’m writing. I’ll listen to darker music or something like death metal if I’m writing more of the urban fantasies. If I’m writing the clean romances it’s more upbeat music usually from the mid to late 90s and 2000s so I’ve definitely built myself environmental niches depending on what I’m working on.

Do you write one book at a time or do you have several going at a time?

I do not write one book at a time. I’m getting better about it but distraction is a big thing for me. I struggle to write one series at a time so writing Jas Bond has been an interesting development for me because I have gotten through 3 ½ books and I mainly concentrating on that series. It’s been interesting to be just focused on one series as normally I will be world building in one book, writing another, and editing in a third. I don’t consistently stay in one world which is probably bad but I’m hoping to pick up better habits as I go.

Advice they would give new authors?

Go at your own pace. Writers do this whole thing drastically different from person to person. If people tell you how they world build or how they write, try it, see if it works for you. If it doesn’t don’t get discouraged or feel embarrassed. We are all different in how we do this. Stevie and I talk about this on our podcast Exceptionally Average Authors Explain it All. Almost every step of writing is done differently and it’s all about finding what works best for you. If you need to be in a crowded café to write the pandemic probably isn’t the best time for you but you know that’s how you have to do it. If you have to be at home in a specific chair with specific lighting and specific candles burning than do it. If you have to edit as you go or you have to plot ahead of time or you have to write on the fly. Don’t be afraid to try new methods but definitely don’t get frustrated if other people’s methods don’t work for you. Also work on sustainability for you. If you’re going to write just one book awesome good for you but if you’re planning to write a bunch find a plan that is sustainable for you. Don’t try to rapid release if it takes you longer to write. Either wait until you have finished writing all of it or maybe piece your releases out farther apart so that you’re not stressing yourself in writing too fast. Find what works best for you and do it. That’s the best advice I can give is due this crazy thing in a way that works for you.

What is your writing process? For instance do you do an outline first? Do you do the chapters first?

I used to be strictly a fly by the seat of my pants kind of writer. It wasn’t until I was maybe a dozen books in that I started to incorporate outlining in a meaningful way. I don’t outline in the traditional sense. I might know the major plot points or beats to the story and I pants my way to each plot point. What I tend to do is just start the story until I hit a point where I’m not sure what comes next and then I will do a paragraph outline about what the next steps are the character needs to take or what steps are further down the road. Which gives me a better idea on how to get there. So I still pants the beginning of books but once I’ve started them and have a feel for them I then do an outline of sorts for the rest of the book so I guess I’m a combination writer.

What is your writing Kryptonite?

Ideas, I get ideas in my sleep, I get ideas from reading stories, watching TV, or just from doing something in my day-to-day life. When I get a new idea if it’s even somewhat sound I want to write it down and I want to work on it and I want to flesh it out and I struggle with being that easily distracted and producing the books I need to do. You can see this pretty evidently from the fact that only one of the four series I have been working on is complete. My Night World Series has 20 some odd books planned but only five are out. Because I don’t work on the stories back to back and skip all over the place because I get a new idea that I want to work on I don’t release things as fast or as consistently as I should and that is definitely my kryptonite. I get really excited about new ideas and that I want to play with them.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Finish one series before publishing. Or at least write consistently in one series before publishing a new one. I published the first book in my Night World Series first, then the first in my Berman’s Wolves series, then the first book in my Hollownton series before going back and doing book 2 in the Night World Series. I thought at the time that it would be great because I was writing across several fantasy subgenres but in actuality, I was confusing my audience because they wanted the next book in that series and then had to wait years. And then once I had started doing that I felt I had to continue writing one book in each series at a time which meant that there were 2 to 3 years between books and I would definitely tell younger me to knock that off and just work on one at a time.

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

It depends on the length and how busy I am at my day job. I finished my book Lady of the Dead in seven months, the first Jas Bond book, which is much shorter, took me nine days. Then there’s my second Berman’s Wolves book, which took me almost a year and ½ to complete. It varies on how long it is and my interest on what I feel like writing. Because once you started a series you have to finish it in my opinion and when you want to write something else it makes it harder to maintain what you should be working on. So it definitely takes me a while to finish my books because I get so easily distracted and because I have a day job with a long commute so I can’t spend as much time writing as I would like.

Do you believe in writer’s block?

Oh heck yes! Writer’s block was not a big deal for me until I hit my second Berman’s wolves book. By the time I got around to writing the second book I had kind of lost the thread on the series. When I originally wrote the first one I didn’t know how many books it was or where it was going. By the time I got to the second one I was struggling with what I had originally wanted the series to be. It was also hard to write in that world coming back so many years after writing the first one. I’d written the first one in 2007 and I think I wrote the second one in 2015. So there was a very large gap and it was very difficult to come back to that and to figure out where the book was going. Writer’s block hit me really hard for the first time with that story which is why it took me about a year and ½ to finish it.

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