Friday, November 2, 2012

New Books in Historical Fiction

Or How I Became a Podcasting Queen

It seemed so simple in the beginning. Isn't that always the way? You take a step, and next thing you know, it leads somewhere you never anticipated. Not a bad place, necessarily, but one you hadn't imagined. So it happened to me.

As any reader of this blog knows, I have two relatively new novels to publicize. The not-so-hidden secret of the modern indie publishing world is that publishing is easy, but marketing is tough. So when I first learned about the New Books Network, I thought I had it made. The NBN site combines about seventy channels devoted to different types of new books (anything published within the last five years qualifies as new), ranging from art to world affairs and comics to critical theory. One of them covers historical fiction. Perfect.

But when I checked the page for the channel itself, it just said that NBN hoped to inaugurate the channel soon. Well, I thought (because I would be embarrassed to say this out loud), how better to inaugurate it than with my two books? So I contacted Marshall Poe, who created NBN and hosts the New Books in History channel, and suggested that he interview me. In the interests of full disclosure, I should mention that I have known Marshall for years; otherwise, I usually have trouble mustering that much chutzpah.

Only later did I find out that I had, in all innocence, violated the basic rule of academe: "first, do your research." I thought that NBN, because it was on the Web, stockpiled written interviews. A natural fit for a writer, right?

Not quite. Turns out that NBN interviews are podcasts, conducted over Skype. And what kept New Books in Historical Fiction from operating was that it had no host. Marshall solved that problem by offering me the job.

Oops. I don't listen much to podcasts, and I'd never imagined creating one. I don't even listen to audio books. As for Skype, it looks easy, but I had already tried it once and spectacularly failed to master it. Microphones, headphones, audio capture software: my head started spinning, and I hadn't even finished reading the instructions that promptly arrived by e-mail.

Moreover, even though these days I can conduct a conversation with strangers at parties, give lectures, and present the occasional reading of my own work, the super-shy high-school me still lurks in the shadows of my subconscious. Why else would I hide in my office and type novels for fun? I like learning new things, and I'm a geek at heart, so I especially enjoy mastering new technology. But Super-Shy Me was having fits. Could I make this work? Did I want to?

Well, to cut a long story short, Marshall talked me through the software and the equipment and the basics of interviewing writers. And I decided that becoming an NBN host was not only a great opportunity to market my own books but also a fantastic chance to meet other writers and learn something new. I've been practicing with the microphone and the headphones, selected a non-squeaky chair, and started requesting review copies and taking notes on new historical novels. I've even made some successful Skype calls and recorded myself practicing the talk I'm giving at the 175th anniversary celebration at Mount Holyoke College next week. 
I just have to figure out how to convince the cats not to meow at the wrong time; they're Siamese, and they always have plenty to say.

My NBN office setup, with the local celebrity,
ready for his interview, whether I like it or not

 © 2012 C. P. Lesley
Marshall is reading The Golden Lynx, and soon I will create my first podcast, in which he interviews me to introduce me as the new host. Then, when you go to, you will see not the "we hope to launch very soon" message but an actual downloadable interview and a link to subscribe to future podcasts via iTunes. I'll be conducting interviews under my pen name, C. P. Lesley.

And if you write historical fiction and find a message from C. P. Lesley in your mailbox or on Goodreads, I hope you will consider giving me an hour of your time!

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