LPC, Smitten Historical Author J’nell Ciesielski is my special guest. Her novel Among The Poppies is a wonderful tale set in World War I. I’m so excited to learn more about this talented author and how her debut novel stayed on the top of Amazon ratings on release day.
J’nell, let’s start with a little about your writing journey.
From an early age I was creating stories, but it wasn’t until college when it became serious. My first novel was riddled with beginner’s mistakes and will probably never see the light of day, but I kept at it. Kept writing, taking classes, studying the craft, and entering contests. Years later, after my third finished manuscript, I landed my wonderful agent. Another four years later and I got The Call on Palm Sunday. My first contract! Now life is a bit of a whirlwind, but at the heart of it I just want to write good stories.
I love your commitment to writing good stories. That is truly the key.
What is your latest published project.
My debut novel, Among the Poppies, was published only last month! It tells the story of a female ambulance driver who falls in love with a duty-bound army captain on the front lines of France during WWI.
I love historical romance, I find few set in World War I. Tell us how you did research for your book?
Since I was tackling an era somewhat unknown to me, I had to do a ton of research. No problem for me because I love research! It’s my favorite part of the writing process. I read every book I could get my hands on: fiction and non, biographies, diaries, first-hand accounts. I watched every movie pertaining to the period, listened to music of the age, and even spent a day watching videos on how to change a model-T tire. There’s nothing I won’t do to be as accurate as possible. Though I do leave room for fiction flourishes J
Research is always fascinating to me as well. What inspired you to write your book?
Like many people the world over, I got swept up in the whirlwind that was Downton Abbey. The elegance, the estates, the manners, and, of course, the clothes. Oh, to wear fancy hats again! Season two plunged the audience into WWI and there I saw it, Lady Sybil the nurse and her world-changing chauffeur love of a man, Branson. I had to be a part of this world! Gwyn Ruthers became a chauffeur’s daughter longing for adventure beyond the garage doors, and William Crawford is an army captain who, above all, desires order. But Gwyn is anything but orderly J
I have to ask when did you realize your calling to create words on paper to share with the world?
Like most writers, I grew up with a passion for books. I’d gobble them up as fast as I could then sit down to pen my own. My first novel was in kindergarten where I wrote a love story between an apple core and a trash can. It wasn’t until I read Kathleen Morgan’s Embrace the Dawn where I finally thought yes, I can do this! No surprise the book was about Scotland J It was a turning point because I wanted to create stories and characters for myself and have it play out in a way that satisfied my imagination instead of waiting around for someone else to do it for me.
I love your honest answer. We’re shifting gears a bit now. Do you have a favorite verse that resonates with you?
Romans 8:28 We know that all things work together for good to those who love God.
It reminds me that God is still in control.
If you could go back in time and give one piece of advice for your younger self about writing what would that be?
Don’t stress so much. I’m a notorious worrier which I think lends itself from my being a planner. Things will work out exactly how and when they’re supposed to because God’s got this.
Who is your best support system to keep you focused on your writing?
My husband. He gives me all the time I need to sequester myself in my office while he keeps our daughter occupied (which is a full-time job J ) and never ever complains. I bounce ideas off him, and he gives great advice on battle scenes and the inner workings of the male mind. He helps me remember why I love writing.
You’re are truly a blessed woman.
What is your favorite genre to read for fun?
Historical romance is my favorite! I can’t get enough of it. Highlanders, pirates, world wars, and once in a while a revolutionary tale. I’ve read a few contemporaries, but I’m really picky about those. When I read I want to escape, and modern-day life that I see every day is not an escape for me.
Where is your favorite place to write?
Since I don’t live on the water I have to say the second best place is my office. It’s pink, dotted with flowers, black and white pictures, and over the top girly. I love it!
The thing I am super interested in knowing is what steps did you take before your book was released to get your book at the top of Amazon ratings?
Let me just say that I am not business minded. Me and numbers make about as much sense as toothpaste and orange juice so when my publishing house started asking me about a marketing plan I froze like a deer in headlights. That being said, let me tell you what I did in hopes of helping others out there like me J
First, I wrote the best book I could. Without that nothing else matters. Long before that elusive contract fell into my lap, I joined writing groups and started mingling with people on social media. As an introvert I really had to push myself out of my comfort zone, but you know what? Writers are a pretty friendly group who are more than happy to help and lend advice. Here’s the important thing: I didn’t go into social media with the intent to advertise myself as a writer or my work. I simply talked to people, sometimes about writing, sometimes about what crazy thing my daughter did at school, or the latest book I’d just read, or favorite movies. It didn’t matter because the point was to get my name out there and make connections on a personal level. I can’t stress this enough because when it came time for release day, all the people that I had made connections with in the months prior were more than happy to help me out with.
Months before release day, I set up interviews and requested endorsements from other writers that I had become friends with via social media. Then, I set up a launch team to help get the word around about Poppies with Advanced Readers Copies. I’m blessed enough to have a very talented husband who happens to be a whiz on the computer so he designed a few graphics for me to share on social media, and gave a facelift to my website.
That’s basically it. I don’t have a big secret that I was just waiting to reveal on release day. The preparation started years before. First, by writing the best book possible, and then getting to know people, writers, bloggers, reviewers, and readers who could help put my book and name in front of an audience much larger and farther reaching than I could ever accomplish on my own.
I can see why that makes a difference. These are all musts for a successful launch but what was the key action on release day that made the difference?
I think this goes back to laying that foundation of personal contacts and making sincere connections. Other writers, bloggers, reviewers, and readers are some of the nicest people you could meet. They genuinely want to help and see you succeed and they were instrumental in promoting Poppies when release day came. Word of mouth spread like wildfire, so much that it took me by complete surprise! Poppies sold out twice within two days of release!! I believe that you can have all the fancy graphics and ads you want, but it’s word of mouth from fellow readers that gets books into the hands of readers.
Great tip J’nell and it definitely worked like gangbusters for you. Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your story with my readers.
Who is J’nell?
Believing she was born in the wrong era, J’nell Ciesielski spends her days writing heart-stopping heroes, brave heroines, and adventurous exploits in times gone by. Winner of the Romance Through the Ages contest and Maggie Award, J’nell can often be found dreaming of a second home in Scotland, indulging in chocolate of any kind, or watching old black and white movies. Born a Florida girl, she now calls Virginia home, along with her very understanding husband, young daughter, and one lazy beagle.
Among the Poppies blurb:
Gwyn Ruthers longs for adventure far beyond the stifled life society restricts her to as a chauffeur’s daughter. With the war to end all wars exploding across the Channel, Gwyn signs up to drive ambulances on the Front. Rambling over bomb blasted roads and living in mud bogged trenches is far from the exotic travels she had in mind. A simpler life doesn’t look quite as bad as she once thought. Especially when a handsome captain has her rethinking her objections to settling down.
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