Name: Barb Caffrey
Book Title: CHANGING FACES
Genre: LGBT Contemporary Fantasy-Romance
Publisher: Twilight Times Books
Thank you for your time in answering our questions about getting published. Let’s begin by having you explain to us why you decided to become an author and pen this book?
Barb: One morning, many years ago, I woke up with a problem I had to solve. At the time, I wrote nonfiction—opinion, sports, arts and entertainment, current events, and book reviews. But I had this story, see…two lovers who did not want to be separated, but were in a terrible fix. The woman wanted to become a man, and the man didn't know what to do about it…then two aliens (who also might be angels, depending on your point of view) stopped by and tried to "fix" the problem by putting each other in the other one's body.
Oh, and did I mention that a car accident and a coma are also involved, too?
I saw nothing out there that was anything remotely like this, so I decided I had to write the story myself. And in many fits and starts, I did just that.
Anyway, that's where I got the idea for CHANGING FACES. It came to me long before transgender issues became a trending topic, but because civilized society now seems to understand transgender issues better, the time for this story to be told has finally come.
Is this your first book?
Barb: CHANGING FACES is my third published book, but it's the first one I started to write. (I refused to give up on it, and it's gone through quite a number of revisions. But I had the title early and never wavered about that.) And it is the first book I've ever written that's specifically meant as a romance—much less a transgender romance (with fantasy elements).
With this particular book, how did you publish – traditional, small press, Indie, etc. – and why did you choose this method?
Barb: My publisher is Twilight Times Books, a respected (and respectable) small press. I chose this method because I believe in the publisher, Lida Quillen, and know that she puts out high-quality books.
Can you tell us a little about your publishing journey? The pros and cons?
Barb: My publishing journey was long and protracted, but some of it had nothing to do with publishing, per se.
You see, as I was querying agents and publishers for my first novel, ELFY (later split into two books: AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE and A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE), my husband, Michael B. Caffrey, passed away. He and I wrote together, worked together, and understood each other extremely well, and had a great marriage.
Losing him, especially when I was still in my thirties and he was only in his mid-forties, was devastating.
I say this because I believe in being honest. I don't want to discount how much my husband Michael did for me, and with me. He believed in CHANGING FACES as much as he believed in the Elfyverse, and he wanted me to complete CF because he felt it was an important story. (He even told me that it reminded him of some of C.S. Lewis's later work, which I thought was high praise and certainly didn't expect…and he said this long before we were even dating, much less married.) Without that belief, and without all the help Michael gave me before and during my marriage, I would be a much poorer writer and a much poorer human being, too.
It took me a great deal of time—several years, minimum—to be able to go on after Michael's untimely death. I refused to let my writing die during this time, but I wasn't able to do much with it, either…I was just too dazed with grief to be able to do much.
That said, I did keep going, kept writing, made friends with more authors and editors, worked on my crafts of editing and writing, and went through several revisions with CF to make it the strongest and best story it could possibly be.
At any rate, over time, I learned a great deal about publishing. I knew that a story like CHANGING FACES needed someone to take a chance on it, which meant a large publisher was likely not in the cards. (Larger publishers usually chase trends, these days, rather than set them. If my transgender romance sells a ton, they probably will come calling at my door…but until then, they won't be interested. I'm not a household name, and that's that.) I needed someone who understood the quality of my work, and that it had a timeless, romantic story to tell despite what some might see as "trappings" or even borrowed garments if they didn't realize this story was in process long before transgender issues became so widely discussed. (Much less the story of poor Leelah Alcorn, who dealt with much frustration in her own family due to being a transgender youth before ultimately committing suicide. I dedicated CF to her memory, BTW.)
Then, while working with a number of fellow writers to learn more about self-publishing, I met author Stephanie Osborn. She and I clicked immediately, and she pointed out her own publisher, Lida Quillen of Twilight Times Books. Without Stephanie, I don't know if I would've found Lida as quickly—though as I said before, "quickness," in this sense, is definitely a relative term.
Anyway, Lida Quillen took a flyer on ELFY, she I got to know each other because I did some freelance editing for Twilight Times Books at her behest (I'm now on the TTB editorial board), and down the line, she read CHANGING FACES and thought it had potential.
Because of that, I worked with a great editor, Katharine Eliska Kimbriel (a wonderful writer in her own right; do look her up and buy all her books), and helped to get CF into the best shape possible.
And along the way, Lida found me an exceptional cover artist, Tamian Wood, who translated what I saw in CF perfectly…I could not ask for a better fit than Tamian, and I am greatly appreciative of all Lida Quillen has done for me and CF along the way.
What lessons do you feel you learned about your particular publishing journey and about the publishing industry as a whole?
Barb: I think the most important things I've learned over time are very simple: Keep going. Do not break faith with yourself. Your story may not seem to be relevant—goodness knows, for the longest time many people did not understand CHANGING FACES whatsoever (granted, Lida Quillen might have, but I didn't make contact with her until mid-2012), and they certainly didn't understand the Elfyverse, either.
The publishing industry, as a whole, is very slow to move. They want to see hard numbers, results, and they want to see what you, the author, can do for them.
A smaller press is much more likely to deal with someone who isn't well-known but does quality work, and that's why I'm pleased that I found Lida Quillen and Twilight Times Books.
While I have self-published some work—particularly the works of my late husband, Michael, or work he started but I've finished—I prefer the work I've done with TTB. The editors, the fellow writers, and Ms. Quillen are top-notch people who understand what they're doing and are committed to telling the best stories possible. I enjoy my interactions with them and believe that I've improved as a writer at least in part because of them.
Would you recommend this method of publishing to other authors?
Barb: Absolutely. Do your research, go to Writer Beware and Preditors and Editors and look to see which publishers are reputable, and try the ones that seem to be good fits. (Don't just query willy-nilly; that will not help you.) And give a good, long, hard look at TTB, while you're at it; the contracts are reasonable and the publisher is honest.
What’s the best advice you can give to aspiring authors?
Barb: Keep writing. Work hard. Network with other writers. Find out about writing groups that might be able to help you, such as Critters.org, the Forward Motion Writers Community (fmwriters.org), or join other groups focused on marketing like Marketing for Romance Writers (you do not have to be a romance writer to join, mind) or Exquisite Quills, and learn all you can about the business as a whole.
I'd also advise you to read as many different blogs as you can about the business and craft of writing. The blogs I recommend the most include KrisWrites.com (this is the blog of Kristin Kathryn Rusch, a long-time SF&F writer and editor), the Passive Voice, the Mad Genius Club, Amanda Green's writing blog, and a whole host of others of various political persuasions. Try not to get too hung up about whether this one's a Libertarian or this one over here is a liberal Democrat; instead, figure out if this person understands the craft of writing (or the craft of self-editing) and keep following along. Maybe you'll find one thing of interest in a year—but that one thing can change your perspective and help you.
And best of all, these websites are all free! (How great is that?)
In addition, other authors need to know about several great people who do a lot of low-cost or no-cost promotion. Chris the Story-Reading Ape is a wonderful gentleman who loves SF&F and writing in general, and he's done so much good for the writing community. Ditto for Nicholas Rossis, Charles Yallowitz, Sally Cronin, and Mrs. N.N. Light (her blog used to be called Princess of the Light, and is now called POTL; her blog charges a nominal fee for many promotions, but it is well worth doing as your page views will go up considerably). All of these people will help you get the word out about your writing, and much of it is done for free because they know how it is themselves, as all of them are writers, editors, or book promoters, too.
So, in conclusion, don't give up, research the business of publishing as well as the business of writing, and keep working on your craft. That's how good things happen. (Or as my early writing mentor Rosemary Edghill once put it, "It takes many years to become an overnight success." You could learn a lot from that, if you try.)
About the book:
Title: CHANGING FACES
Genre: transgender fantasy-romance (contemporary)
Author: Barb Caffrey
Publisher: Twilight Times Books
Purchase links: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N3CQKWJ/
Allen and Elaine are graduate students in Nebraska, and love each other very much. Their life should be idyllic, but Elaine's past includes rape, neglect, and abuse from those who should've loved her—but didn't, because from childhood, Elaine identified as transgender.
When Elaine tells Allen right before Christmas, he doesn't know what to do. He loves Elaine, loves her soul, has heard about transgender people before, but didn't think Elaine was one of them—she looks and acts like anyone else. Now, she wants to become a man and is going to leave.
He prays for divine intervention, and says he'll do anything, just please don't separate him from Elaine…and gets it.
Now, he's in Elaine's body. And she's in his. They'll get a second chance at love.
Why? Because once you find your soulmate, the universe will do almost anything to keep you together—even change your faces.