Charissa Dufour is the author of fourteen novels mostly in the Fantasy and Science Fiction genres. She lives in Chicago and has been writing from a very early age due to a personal illness that took her out of circulation for a while. She was interviewed by Kathryn Bax for One Stop Fiction.
Q: Who is the real Charissa Dufour?
A: The real Charissa Dufour is an enigma wrapped inside a mystery, wrapped inside an onion… okay not really. More like just a young lady with a too-large imagination. Even when I don’t want to be thinking of plots, I’m thinking of plots.
Q: Did you always want to write or did writing find you because of your ill-health?
A: No, I was very much a normal kid, wanting to grow up and do all the normal stuff—teacher, doctor, etc. But then my health happened and I wrote my first novel in junior high (middle school for those from the Midwest).
Q: You describe yourself as a Sci-Fi/Fantasy author. However, a number of your books also have a paranormal element. Do you write to market or do you write for yourself? Would you be tempted to try a new genre, and if so, what would it be?
A: I very much write for myself. If I don’t love the book, others probably won’t either. As to a new genre, it is looking like I will be dipping my toe into the time travel genre—or something like it. My next series is so bizarre I don’t really know how to classify it.
Q: You are still young but have 14 novels under your belt. How old were you when your first book was published? How long does it take you to write a novel from inception to publication? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
A: My first book was published Oct 4, 2014. I was 27 at the time. I usually produce a book a little faster than 1 per quarter. At the beginning I was very much a panster, but as I developed my craft I have shifted more towards being a plotter. I find it valuable to have at least a skeleton of a plot down in outline form before I write.
Q: When you wrote Torn, Book 1 in the Dothan Chronicles you created a whole new world; new lands, new races and new cultures. This must have taken a lot of thought and planning. How do you go about doing something like this? Where do you get your inspiration? Do you use any particular apps or software for this type of planning or do you do a lot of freehand sketching?
A: At the time I did not have a software for planning, but I now use scrivener. With Dothan the world kinda developed with the plot. Some things I knew ahead of time such as the main powers in said world, but a lot of the smaller details came alongside the plot. I also did a lot of Google image searches. Just like they do for the movies or video game, concept art was a big deal with me, and it still is even for my current series. I take pictures of places that have the feel of what I’m looking for and refer back to them if I get stuck.
Q: When you write your novels, even though they are based on fantasy, do you ever weave your own life experiences into any of your stories?
A: Absolutely. My first series, The Series that Just Plain Sucks, is filled with people from my life. The main character is a mix of me and my dear author friend, Allison Hawn. In fact, I borrowed Allison’s last name for the main character. She has many glimpses into her past that are taken directly from my life. Example: How she broke her nose.
Q: You have written both Urban Fantasy and Medieval Fantasy. Was this a conscious effort to cater to both markets within the fantasy genre and which one do you prefer writing, and why?
A: While I try to write strategically, these books were purely the ones I wanted to write at the time. Now, though, I think a little harder on what I should write next. For example, my next series will have a medieval theme to them in the hopes that those who like Dothan will then go on and read this new series. In the same way, I wrote the Void series to provide what I call a “sister series” to my Sucked series. I think it is important to provide our readers “the next book” when they finish a series.
Q: Balanced Chaos, Book 3 in the Void Series is your latest book. The title is a bit of an oxymoron. Would you like to talk a little bit about this book and how it fits in with the rest of your novels?
A: Balanced Chaos is one of those titles that you wonder at, but then you get half way through the book and think “Oh, yes, I understand now!” The main character is caught in the middle of a chaotic war and is doing her best to balance her allies and her enemies. Balanced Chaos is a fun scramble through the compact world set up in the previous two books and it builds the main character up, preparing to launch her into the world at hand. It’s essentially preparation and training for the main character to prepare her for the enormous turning point coming up in book 4. I am very excited about this series and where it is going in the future.
Q: I noticed that at least one of your book covers had a makeover. The current covers are great. Did you make the change to encourage sales and did it make a difference? Who does your current book covers?
A: Yes. The upgrade was purely about sales. While the first cover was fun, it did not fit in with the genre and therefore I think people shied away from it. My cover artist is Lia Cooper. She is a fantastic artist as well as an author. Her cover design website.
Q: For some authors a goal would be to be published by one of the big five. Is that a goal for you? Please elaborate on your answer.
A: No. My goal is always to get the next book out. If that were to happen, that would be awesome. But I don’t focus on it. I focus instead on telling a story. If I’m no longer telling good stories then I’m not doing my job.
Q: What tips and advice would you give to authors starting out with regards to writing and marketing?
A: The first thing I say to any person who wants to be an author is: “Writing is not the main thing you will do. If you have this vision of sitting in a cabin in the woods and writing beautiful prose day in and day out, then you will be disappointed. Being an author is half writing and half marketing, and it is the marketing that brings in the paycheck.”
Now as to tips:
Get your social media pages up and running as soon as possible.
Be consistent with your social media pages. Posting once or twice a month won’t do it.
Don’t just do book posts. Share the dumb video of the kitten on the rumba. That is what keeps people on your social media page. Then you can sneak in the occasional “buy my book.”
There is a time and place for paid advertisement but it is not until you have a couple books out. Paying for an ad on a sale with only one book won’t make you money.
When you do buy ad space, consider what barriers are between your audience and your book.
For example: With email blast ads all your reader has to do is click a few times to buy your book. In contrast, an ad in a magazine has many barriers. The potential reader will likely have to finish their doctor’s appointment, drive home, stop at Starbucks, get to the house, remember the ad they saw, sign on to Amazon, then buy your book. Let’s just say—it’s not gonna happen. You want as few barriers between your ad and your buyer’s ability to make the purchase.
Q: If you had to start your writing career all over again would you do anything differently?
A: I think the big thing I would do, or rather not do, is my two attempts at a blog. Everyone says you have to have a blog if you’re an author. It’s just not true. The first one was the typical “Here’s my opinion on this or that” and the second one was a fiction-based blog with episodic bits of the story coming out each week.
Here is the key thing you have to remember about a blog: to be effective you have to put quality work into it each week (or however often you post to it) and that is REALLY hard! I found I just didn’t have it in me. So rather than killing myself trying to fit into the mould of what other people said an author should do, I stopped and focused on my books instead.
I really wish someone had told me all this back when I was feeling like a failure because I hated my blog. If a facet of the life is causing you distress, ask yourself, “Is it really necessary?”
You’ll be so much happier!