Student Spotlight: How Anne Mortensen Went From Inspiration to Publication (& Indie Published Her Novels)
I recently sat down for a conversation with Anne Mortensen—one of the lovely writers I had the pleasure of working with a few years ago. And in our conversation, Anne shares what the writing, editing, and publishing process looked like for her two novels—The Truth Effect and The Arcadian Match.
You’ll get to hear Anne talk about how she had to walk away from the finished draft of her first novel because something just wasn’t working—and spoiler alert: it was something big… Her protagonist! You’ll also hear about her experience taking part in different writing groups and working with a book coach (me!). This is a jam-packed episode with Anne Mortensen, and I’m so excited to share his story with you. If you want to listen to this episode, click here or search for the Fiction Writing Made Easy podcast in your podcast player of choice.
Transcript: How Anne Mortensen Went From Inspiration to Publication (& Indie Published Her Novels)
SAVANNAH: Hi Anne! Thank you so much for coming on the show. I'm so excited to have you here today. You have a fun story when it comes to writing not one, but two books! So, we’re going to talk about your journey—how you got to some sticking points, went out and found the help you needed, and then cranked out two novels. One of which was published in 2021, and the other in 2023. But before we get into all of that, let's start at the top… Can you introduce yourself and let people know a little bit about who you are, what kind of books you write, and things like that?
ANNE: Yes! Hi there, everyone! Originally, I'm from El Paso, Texas, and when I was a teenager, we moved to Athens, Greece, and I grew up there as well. So I have that huge combination and difference between Greece and the States, and Greece has a fantastic history of mythology and so I do find I pull a lot of inspiration from the mythology stories. Anyway, so it was Greece, and then I moved back to the States for college, and then I came to London, and that was in 1994. And I've been here ever since doing public relations! I've done photography, I've done journalism. It's always been within sort of the communications field and always in the background. I was doing some form of creative writing, and whether it was short stories or flash fiction or even the poem, here and there, there was always some workshop that I was attending or just a class I was involved in. So it was basically… I think it was after I did my journalism... I thought to myself, it's time now. I think I've gotten to a point where I can put a novel together, and that's where I'm at.
SAVANNAH: And what kind of novels do you write?
ANNE: Now I do science fiction, science fiction dystopian. Kind of thriller-esque stories. Yes, there's a very strong element of thriller action and mystery involved in the stories. It's the type of story I would love to see on film one day. Fingers crossed, we'll see!
SAVANNAH: Yeah, if there are any producers out there, you know how to get ahold of Anne! There’s a little flavor of romance in your stories, too, right?
ANNE: Always, yeah.
SAVANNAH: Okay, so that's wonderful. You've lived all over the world, which I'm totally jealous about. Let me just give an overview of kind of what we're going to go through, and then we'll dig into all the little pieces. Does that sound good?
SAVANNAH: Okay, so we're going to talk about the whole writing journey, and this is just a quick highlight reel of kind of what I have known of Anne since 2019 when we met. So her journey started before then, like she just said. But we met in 2019, and we worked together for about, I think it was three to four months on the novel that is now called The Arcadian Match, so you'll hear that title come up. And then, if I remember correctly, you kind of felt like something wasn't quite right in the draft that you produced, so you put that on hold. You were working on another novel called The Truth Effect, which we'll talk about also—and that one was published in 2021. And then you came back to The Arcadian Match, finished that one, and published it in June of 2023, correct?
ANNE: Yes, that's it.
SAVANNAH: Okay, yeah. A quick highlight reel of Anne. I love it. So we're going to get into all of that. I pulled the back cover copy of both of your books. Do you want to start with The Truth Effect or The Arcadian Match, and then I'll can give a little blurb…
ANNE: Yeah, that's a good question. Which one? Because they were interwoven in so many ways. We'll start with The Arcadian match, which is the second book, because that's the one you and I started off with and started working together on and it was the challenging one in many different ways to the first one… Because my head was still with The Truth Effect and yet I had this idea for The Arcadian match and it just was bugging me so much I tried to ignore it, but when inspiration strikes, you know, sometimes the inspiration keeps striking and it just didn't want to go. And so I put The Truth Effect on hold while I started to draft The Arcadian match… I just had to get it out of my system, and I said to myself, “My goodness, my head is still in the book one, so how am I going to get this to work this?: Because when you're writing a novel, as you know, it takes over your brain in so many ways. And so when you're starting a new book, you're like… There's a whole different set of situations going on here. How am I going to do this? And so this is what got me to reach out to you for support… Because I couldn't have one head in two places. You know, it was just too much.
SAVANNAH: So you need to borrow my head…
ANNE: Yes, I did! And your professional sensitivities and skills were amazing.
SAVANNAH: Let me read the blurb really quick so we can give some context to the story. In 2032, Sweden is the first crime free, eco-ideal nation. In this brave new world of social clubs and point scoring, many attribute the nation's remarkable achievements to the introduction of Q-scores. Social media genius Christian Karlsson plays the Q-scores like it’s the stock market, and he never fails to deliver. But when his friend falls to his death, Christian’s life is turned upside down. His hunt for justice leads him into the murky web of the country’s oldest social club—rumored to be a secret society. With his back against the wall, he's forced to play a real-life game...where everything depends on who wins The Arcadian Match. So, oh my gosh, I got goosebumps while reading that because I haven't read it out loud or like even seen this since we worked together. So that's so cool!
ANNE: Yeah, it’s been quite a while. Yeah.
SAVANNAH: So tell me, where did this idea come from? Because this is a pretty cool idea….
ANNE: Well, it started with a newspaper clip that I had read in passing… The inspiration for this book came from a newspaper clipping from a Swedish newspaper that was talking about how a museum was melting Iron Age Viking coins. And I thought to myself, “How is it that a museum—who was meant to be preserving history—is actually melting it away?” It just boggled my mind, and there was something about that that I had to dig into, and I did. Then I turned it into a more personal question of… What kind of person wants to do away with their own history? And so the whole thing started just developing from there, and I thought, wow, let's dig into this. I like this…
SAVANNAH: And then it wouldn't leave you alone.
ANNE: Yes, it wouldn't leave me alone. So I started with that kernel of an idea, and then I reached out to you, and that's when we started fleshing out the outline.
SAVANNAH: Yeah, and I remember you had so many ideas, and it was kind of like we were just channeling them and trying to contain them in some kind of structure. And I think, if I remember correctly, I went back and looked at some of our notes last night... We had some trouble with your main character. Do you want to talk about that?
ANNE: Oh, yes, okay.
SAVANNAH: So, tell listeners what his name is and kind of what he's all about.
ANNE: Well, his name is now Christian Karlsson, but at the time when I first started writing him, his name was Lucas Nielsen. And when you're naming a character, you often it just is quite a spontaneous thing—for me it is. And so it was Lucas this, Lucas that… But I couldn’t seem to grab hold of the esence of what Lucas really wanted to achieve in this story. And his voice was not clear. He was a little bit wishy-washy. He didn't have enough drive. No scratch that. He did have drive. He just didn't know his purpose. And I know that's all me in the end. So it feels very much like the character as opposed to you as the writer, and so I was talking to you a lot about that and how to extract the essence of the character, and we worked a great deal on that, because once you finally get the essence of your character, it starts to almost he writes that story, right? He leads it, and you're almost like just letting him do his thing.
SAVANNAH: Yeah, and on this podcast we talk a lot about, you know, it's fine to have all these ideas for external stuff, but we need to always bring things back to character and show how the events of the story are affecting them and what that interiority is like. So, how they're processing what's happening and stuff like that. And I remember there was a time in your outline I saw this last night where I would kind of ask you like… “What is that internal point of the scene?” And you would say, “The point is to introduce the character!” And I'm like, “No, that's your point. What is the point for Lucas?” Well, Lucas, now Christian. So we really had to like dig in, and I remember we tried a couple of different scenarios on him too. Like you know, maybe he's this type of guy and he cares about this, or maybe he's something totally different and he's got this kind of ace up his sleeve or whatever. So we definitely tried a lot of hacks on him, and then it seems like you found, you know, maybe once you renamed him, his identity came into light.
ANNE: And that's exactly what happened! I had to rename him. It was interesting. I didn't expect that. I really didn't expect that. And just listen to the consonants and the vowels of those two different names, Lucas is softer.
ANNE: Christian is clear, yeah.
SAVANNAH: I heard someone once say that sometimes it's like you have to audition for your main character, and so it's almost like Lucas came to the audition, and you're like you're okay, like you're a stand-in, we want this part to work for you. And then Christian came on the set, and you're like, “YES!”
ANNE: Yes! And that's exactly what I felt like, because as soon as Christian came on board, it was like, oh my God, yeah, he's running with this story. In fact, the story went so fast that we barely had any time to do any thinking with him. I mean, he was just all action.
SAVANNAH: Yeah, that's great, and I think he said you wrote your draft in about three to four months, right?
ANNE: Yes, yes.
SAVANNAH: And so I like to point out that, had you not been open to that kind of change with your character… Because I see a lot of people that get really stuck and they're like… “But it was Lucas! And I want it to be Lucas!” You know? And you were kind of feeling like something's not right, I'm not going to force it. I'm going to be open to a different main character, and then it all just fell into place.
ANNE: Yes, yes, and in that regard, always keep moving forward anyway. Even though you might not have the full character sketch or the feeling of the character from page one, the character will become clear, certainly by the time you get to the end. And if it doesn't, you know, then you have drafts two, three, and four, and so forth. It will happen.
SAVANNAH: And so, if we're thinking about the character, which we know changed. But how much of the external plot stuff changed from kind of draft one to after you met Christian? How much of that changed?
ANNE: Because Christian was a lot more focused and driven, his narrative drive became clearer to me as well. And so the opening is different, and the major plot points, therefore, were slightly different. They had to be changed according to his new drive.
SAVANNAH: Which I think is great. And a lot of listeners might be hearing that and thinking, “Oh my gosh, that sounds scary!” Because you just wrote a whole draft and then you had to start over. And basically, yes, you did. You might know the trajectory of where it's going. But because this new character is coming in with different wounds and goals and motivations, it does have to change. That's logical. But I guess what would you say to those people that are like either perfectionists stuck at the starting line and they're so afraid to write through a whole draft because it's not going to be perfect, or people that get to the end and they kind of cling on to things because they've just spent so long working on it that it feels hard to change. What would you say to those people?
ANNE: You never run out of words. As a writer, you will never run out of words. So, if you need to change a scene, just change it. Your scenes will change and be revised continuously up until the thing goes live, and even then you can still change a few things. So change is part of the process, and you want to change. I would lean into that change.
SAVANNAH: Yeah, because if you hadn't, we wouldn't have the book we have today, which is a great story. So, I think… You tell me if I'm wrong but the book you have now more matches your vision and your voice and what you wanted than that original one that, if you clung to it, wouldn't have felt the same.
ANNE: Correct. Yes, absolutely, Absolutely. I did use a number of the scenes that I had initially drafted the ideas of the initial scenes, but they all got a renovation, yeah.
SAVANNAH: Yeah, and speaking of change… Rewind back to when we were working together because one of the things I did and we did together was we really were hard on your outline, and we pressure tested that thing to no end. So, what was that like? And then kind of like, how was that experience for you?
ANNE: That was very tough for me because my character, Lucas, was not clear to me and so it was really hard to extract his motivations at that early stage. I persevered in the action of the story regardless and in the cause-and-effect sequence, so there are still things you can do with your outline.
SAVANNAH: I'm just thinking back to that point. You were probably like, “Savannah, I know that you're asking me these questions. I don't know the answers either!”
ANNE: You know, I don't know why Lucas is doing what he's doing, yeah. I don’t know the deep motivation. I have no idea.
SAVANNAH: Yeah, it's good that, like you said, you didn't stop. You were kind of like, okay, well, I know the story is still going to go in this direction, so let me just get this all out of my head and then we can make it awesome later.
ANNE: Yes, yes, and that was my attitude. I need to get this out of my system.
SAVANNAH: Speaking of pressure testing your outline, do you remember having any moments where something clicked, or were there any like big aha moments or any points where you felt you were turning the corner?
ANNE: I think was the cause and effect. The logical sequence of the cause and effect really became very clear to me in the outlining process, and I used that a lot to keep the structure of the story very strong.
ANNE: And to keep me motivated as the writer. Because you don't want to read a story in the end, you're like how did that happen? From here to there, it makes no sense whatsoever. Then you know that's a true draft zero. This way of using an outline as a guiding force… You're going to get something nice that you're to work.
SAVANNAH: Yeah, and, like you said, it's not always easy to pressure, test it, and do this kind of work and realize, okay, it's not perfect, but I'm going to go forward anyway. But again, then you wrote the draft in three to four months. So you know, that's, I think, for a listeners who maybe don't see the value in outlining or who haven't found that right way for them to outline, that's what's possible when you have an outline like this. So it's pretty cool.
ANNE: Yes, and the kind of outlines that you work with aren't so detailed that they're inflexible. You do a very succinct, one-page bullet point type of outline process, and it's so that you, as the writer, know where you're going, and there's a sense of security within that, and then, with that sense of security, the creativity flows a little bit easier.
SAVANNAH: Right, and it was like you said… Had we kind of not gone through that process and realized together that Lucas wasn't entirely formed or the right fit for this role… Imagine writing a hundred thousand words and having to realize that, and then you're like, “I quit writing!” You know? That would be hard or worse!
ANNE: We were forcing Lucas to be something he's not.
SAVANNAH: Yeah, we forced him for a while.
ANNE: Yeah, we had to, just to get the story down. But again, it's being open and flexible to saying okay, maybe you know he was the stand-in, as you said.
ANNE: The new character will come on board, and thankfully, he did.
SAVANNAH: Yeah, and so then, like we said, you had issues with Lucas. There was something wrong—we didn’t quite know what the deal was yet, so you put that draft aside and you went back to work on The Truth Effect, which I do have a synopsis for, so let me read that and then we can talk about it.
SAVANNAH: So, this one says… It’s 2030. The Truth Laws are set to go into effect, unleashing enhanced algorithms that will empower the British Government to regulate all online activity, hunt down Truth Law breakers, and prosecute the guilty. “Truth” has become a concept defined by the government to control its people. A journalist, smeared with libel charges, is sent classified information that could clear her name and blow the new system apart. But, her connection cuts out before the transmission is complete. Left with only one lead, she seeks the help of hackers and high-tech, so she can piece together the whole story. But will she live long enough to expose the story? And even then, will anyone believe her? Another great synopsis, or back cover copy, I love that! And so what was that like going back to this story after working on The Arcadian Match and hitting a roadblock?
ANNE: I felt that the work that I did on The Arcadian Match supported the work on The Truth Effect. I refreshed my outline, I refreshed each scene. It really did support the process a lot more than I expected it would. I thought I would also be somewhat drained, and I wasn't.
SAVANNAH: Yeah, not you! I can't imagine you being drained. I feel like it fuels you. Every time you finish one, you're ready to start another one in. And like you said, you used some of the tools you learned while writing The Arcadian Match to apply to The Truth Effect which probably made that process easier in a way.
ANNE: Yes, it did.
SAVANNAH: People always ask me, “Do writers have an easier time with book two?” And I always say, “Kind of?” You have tools, you have ways to troubleshoot your own draft. But you tell me the answer to that question for yourself… Was it easier or harder, or a mix of both?
ANNE: It was easier in terms of the craft itself, yeah. But I would say that each project has its own individual challenges. Book one will always be the most challenging because you have about 10 balls in the air—when I say the balls, I mean in terms of your craft that you're applying to your project. And you have to remember all these techniques, and you're putting them into action. After that, each book… Like with The Arcadian Match,I encountered the character issues which I hadn't expected because with The Truth Effect, Kelly, who's the main character, was so clear to me. It was like I was dreaming her. The Arcadian Match is like… “Who the hell is Lucas? Who is that guy?” So each project will have its challenges.
SAVANNAH: Yeah, and I always like to say—I don't know who originally said this, but I heard it somewhere, and I've just kind of glommed on to it—but when you reach a new level, you're going to find a new devil. And so you know with any new book you write, there's going to be something, whether it's a character or a plot, event like, whatever it is… Maybe your outline's not working where you didn't have that issue before… I always like to tell people not to make it mean more than it does. It doesn't mean that you're not going to be a writer. It just means that you've hit a new level and now you have new challenges.
ANNE: Yes, and that is the danger. When you're working alone on your book, you can quite easily start thinking, “Oh my gosh, I can't do this!” And because we don't have the colleagues next to us to discuss these things with…. So a number of writers go through different challenges, and this is where having someone like Savannah coaching you will really help give a broader perspective.
SAVANNAH: I think a lot of writers… They think that, you know, books are made in a silo, and if you're not creating something that works, then you're the problem. But if we think about, you know, all the stuff we do, like if we were to go out and, I don't know, let's say, learn how to golf tomorrow and we tried to do it on our own, how would we know if we were getting better? Or how would we know which techniques to fix, you know? And then it's like imagine working with a golf coach because you want to become a better golfer or golfing with a friend who you guys can kind of look at each other's form or whatever it is and give each other tips. Like there's so much… I don't know, greatness? That comes from having another person involved. Even if it's just a writing buddy, who can kind of keep you accountable and, you know, be there for you when you get bummed, because that's going to happen. But if you're in your silo, you don't know what to expect, and you don't know… Like I always tell people at the end of each act in your story, you're probably going to hate your story, and you're going to be like what am I even doing!? I see that happen all the time. But if you don't have someone sharing that, how are you going to know that that's normal? You know.
ANNE: And you know your first draft is always going to be a little bit rougher…
SAVANNAH: Yeah, so you can always expect that of yourself. You're getting that story down. That's what the point is that draft, and so definitely not the time to beat yourself up either.
ANNE: As writers, we have to work alone because that's the nature of our work, but you don't have to be alone in the process.
SAVANNAH: Let me ask you this… Before we worked together, had you ever had any kind of feedback or worked in any writing groups or anything like that?
ANNE: I had worked in writing groups and workshops. They're really good for different purposes. Having gone through many different types of, you know… Working with different writers and coaches and so forth, the coaching experience is probably the best.
SAVANNAH: Yeah, and is that just because it's tailored to your story and your set of tools?
SAVANNAH: On my end of it (this is different for every coach) but when I come to a new project, I'm kind of like… I'm going to meet, let's say, Anne, where she's at, and I'm going to help her execute the vision. And I want to say that because I wanted to ask you… A lot of writers worry about working with somebody because they're like, I don't want them to change my voice. I don't want them to take over my story. And what would you say to that fear?
ANNE: Oh, it's unsounded entirely. An editor will not want to change your voice, and a coach won't either, and the reason for that is because, well, it's too much work for them.
SAVANNAH: It really is.
ANNE: And you're an individual with your own style and your own voice, and that's the beauty of being a writer. You have that, and nobody will ever be able to take that away from you. And the coach knows this. A good coach will cultivate that voice and even point it out to you because many times writers don't even know their own voices.
ANNE: Yeah, they're discovering that, as well as everything else.
SAVANNAH: And I’ll vouch for what you just said… It would be a lot of work for me to just come in and take over your story. I have my own things I want to write, so I'm not going to come in and take over yours, right?
SAVANNAH: So, tell me if this is accurate from your experience, but part of how I do things is I like to ask you questions. So I'm like, “Okay, Anne, if this is what you want, or if this is true for your story, what would this mean for the character?What would this mean for the next scene? Or why did he act this way?” So it's more like, instead of me saying this has to happen at this scene, it's like if you want to do this, then we have to do this to get it in order. Was that what you remember from the experience?
ANNE: Yes, yes.
SAVANNAH: So it's not like you're being dictated to. It's more like, let me help you accomplish the vision, and here's how we're going to do it.
SAVANNAH: Sometimes writers need to hear that because it can totally feel scary to get feedback. What was your relationship with feedback before we worked together and you were in those groups? Was it always easy to receive it?
ANNE: Yes, because I was thirsty for feedback. I wanted to improve my craft, but it's almost like the blind leading the blind. In some of the workshops, there are a lot of your peers who are also learning at the same time. So, as a reader, they can sort of figure out that something's not right, but they can't tell you exactly what needs to be fixed and how. And this is where more of a skilled coach helps enormously. In a workshop, you go home and you're like okay… somebody said it wasn't clear. I don't know what that means. So you start researching all this stuff to try to understand what they meant, and a whole week can go by. You're just trying to fix one page, you know, and so, coach, it just cuts all that time in half.
ANNE: But actually it cuts it down entirely.
SAVANNAH: I see that happen a lot where people will come to me with pages of feedback from, let's say, beta readers or a writing group or whatever, and it just says, like, you know, “Chapter 17 didn't work, it wasn't clear what was happening.” And then I'll read it and I'm like, “Okay, well, what wasn't clear? I it the character, is it everything? Is there something in particular you didn't like?” And then, like you said, it's, how do you translate that into taking an action on it? Because, first of all, not everyone's going to like everything anyway. So you have to kind of weigh is this valid feedback or not that I want to take action on?
SAVANNAH: And then how do I translate that into an action step? And that can be really hard because you're in the creative mind, not the logical workshop mind.
ANNE: Exactly, yeah, so it's very hard to have those two hats on at the same time. It really is. So having that second person who's the objective feedback person is like… Wow… it just allows the creativity to flow that much easier.
SAVANNAH: Yeah, it takes some of the stress away.
ANNE: Yes, it does.
SAVANNAH: What would you say to people who are so afraid of getting feedback from anybody, and they know they should do it because of all the reasons the internet says, but they don't want to because they're afraid? What would you say to those people?
ANNE: If they're afraid because they are worried that somebody is going to take or steal ideas, that's always one of those things that you worry about. That is a fear that you could try to ignore because the original idea will often develop anyway, and the way that you develop the story will be unique to you. If somebody is dishonest enough to do that to take an idea and develop for themselves, it'll be something else. And in fact, you might have inspired them, so you could look at it that way. But for other things, like the criticism, it hits hard sometimes. This is something that hearing a lot of feedback will help overcome. So, I'd say, throw yourself into even more feedback.
SAVANNAH: Yeah, definitely. It's like the first time with anything. Even if you decide to go to the gym all of a sudden, it's going to be the hardest the first time. And then it's kind of you know… I always say, don't ask your family for feedback that you want to take action on, because you're probably going to get you know mom or dad saying, “This is great! You're an amazing child!” Or you know someone's going to say you know, “This is terrible! You really should have become a doctor.” I mean, it's just like they're going to project their own stuff. They're not the right people to be giving you the kind of feedback you need. But also in the writing community too, it can be hard to find a person who's not going to take their issues out on you like another writer, you know. So sometimes you have to just kind of do your homework and picking the people that you're going to trust to give you feedback and, you know, provide them questions, or you can use like a trusted beta reading service—like, The Spun Yarn is one of those services or work with a coach or an editor or another writer. So sometimes, you can do a lot to prevent your worst fears from happening. But you have to be aware to take those action steps.
ANNE: Yes, I think the word that you use is trusted. I would vet for sure. But also bear in mind sometimes, even if you've worked with an editor before, they could also be going… You know, maybe you're on your book two or book three, and you're working with them again. Maybe they're going, you know, and maybe if their delivery style isn't what you remembered it was back in one, just think, maybe they're having a bad day, but don't work with them.
SAVANNAH: Yeah, I mean, you can change up whatever you want at any time. And I tell people like that too. Like, let's say that Anne and I were working together on, I don't know four books. I'm making this up, and then by the fifth book, she's like… “You know, I hear Savannah in my head. Now, I'm going to go look for different kinds of feedback.” That's totally fine! I'm good with that. I'm not going to be mad at Anne for working with another editor or coach, you know, because as a writer, I would eventually probably want to do the same thing, you know? So just something to keep in mind.
ANNE: Yes, you can always change.
SAVANNAH: If you’re working with professionals in the industry, they understand this happens. If I lost Anne and I never worked with Anne again, I'd be sad, but I would not be mad at her. It's a thing that happens. Professionals know this. So, okay, let’s get back to The Truth Effect. How long did it take to get your first draft done?
ANNE: Oh well, that was a much longer process. That took me four years, I think. The first draft probably took me a year, and part of that was because I was slightly working at the time still, so it just did. And I was applying a lot of my knowledge of technique as well to it, so it just took a while.
ANNE: Yeah, but it was probably one of the most rewarding experiences at the same time.
SAVANNAH: Yeah, so, that was The Truth Effect. If we compared the total timeline approximately for The Arcadian Match, what was the total for The Arcadian Match?
ANNE: I know we said the first draft was three to four months, but there was that gap of time because I went back to The Truth Effect, finished that one, and then did it. So, I think The Arcadian Match took a year and a half.
SAVANNAH: Yeah, and it's so interesting too, because you said in The Truth Effect, your character was more clear. So in a way, that part was easier, but then, like you said, you were working a day job and all that. So I don't know. It's always just fascinating to me looking at different timelines, and neither one of them is bad. They're both great because both stories are out in the world. I mean, neither timeline is bad. Both the books are excellent, but the overall result is great. They're both out. Are you working on a third book right now?
ANNE: I'm going to start working on a third one in the autumn. And this is going to be an interesting one because I have not yet outlined it whatsoever. I'm taking a break. My brain needs to relax. After you finish a novel, it's very important, in my opinion, to take a break and fill the well—that's how I call it, or that's what I say it is. So it's going to the museums or the film, seeing films, doing whatever it is you really enjoy doing to fill your well back up.
SAVANNAH: Yeah, and so, just to remind people who are listening, you just published The Arcadian MAtch in June, so it's been two months, so you're still coming off of that big whirlwind, and it's pretty exciting! But speaking of publishing, how and when did you decide that you were going to self-publish, and how's that whole journey been?
ANNE: I did want to get involved with more traditional publishing originally, but in the end, I thought to myself, I need my creative autonomy, because this series ended up being a series that is not a traditional series. It was actually hard to sell it in. It was too different, and it was too new, in my opinion. You know, The Truth Effect has a whole set of characters that are not connected to the book two, and yet book two and book one are connected. And so I was trying to get that across. It works, but it's a different format. Sometimes traditional publishing doesn't allow experimentation to happen.
SAVANNAH: Yeah, I like what you said about creative autonomy too, because that's a big selling point for a lot of people, and so is the timeline. A lot of people don't want to wait for the publishing cycle, so you know that and the creative autonomy. Plus, you know, all the other benefits of self-publishing oftentimes look like a win-win-win.
ANNE: Yes, very much so, and it is. And, yes, there's more work involved, but you are in control of it, and you get to work with people that you can, you enjoy working with, and you know you find your team, and you know there's a huge talent pool out there, yeah, in the author world. And, don't forget, you know a lot of traditional publishers have are also using a lot of freelancers. They're publishers themselves these days, right, you know they've downsized a lot of in-house activities, and they outsource a ton of stuff. So there's, you know we could I could be using the same book designer as Penguin, for all I know.
SAVANNAH: Right, for all we know! So, I'm going to start to wrap us up, and you said in your email to me if I could put a theme to this project, it would be never give up. Do you want to talk about that a little bit?
ANNE: Yes. It's dealing with your challenges. Every project will have a challenge. If you go into the book, into the writing process, recognizing that yeah, there's going to be a challenge, most likely I'm going to experience that you have an opportunity to be even more creative. And that's what I would say: Don't see it as a challenge. Don't see it as a challenging part of the process. We're creative people, and this is our job. So I mean, I don't want to call it a job; it's just more like it's who we are.
SAVANNAH: A calling.
ANNE: Yeah, and creativity can be messy! I mean, that's a part of it. You can't plan creativity all the time either, and so there's a discovery process that's part of it.
SAVANNAH: And I really like what you said about never giving up, because a lot of writers, even listeners of the podcast, will email me and they'll ask me what are the things, you see, that make the writers that you work with, who publish what makes them successful and other writers not? And I'm always like, well, they just don't give up, they keep going. And so many people give up because things get hard. But it's a skill that develops over time, and, like we said earlier, even if you're on your fifth book, you're still going to have a set of challenges that come with that unique story. So you have to love it and be in it and never give up, and you'll be a success.
ANNE: Yes, yes, never give up, and even if your sales are lagging a little bit, or this happened, or that all sorts of things can happen Always remember we're writing for the love of the craft, the passion of the word, this is what lights our souls on fire, and so that's what we have to remember at the end of the day.
SAVANNAH: Right and personally for me, when I think about my books… Let's say I'm thinking about my young adult fantasy series… If someone who is a young adult reader, who was like me as a young adult reader, picks this up, and it affects their life, I have already won. That's enough for me. So I think sometimes it's just putting in a perspective like what are we doing it for and what metrics matter or don't matter? And not getting caught up in the things that don't matter.
ANNE: Yeah, yeah, because, yeah… You've said it perfectly.
SAVANNAH: So I guess we'll start wrapping up there, unless you have anything else to add to this conversation, Anne? Any parting words of wisdom?
ANNE: One last thing I would give any writer this bit of information, which is something I discovered as well recently, or in both books Try not to look too far ahead when you're writing a book. So it's again. It's a process-orientated type of mindset rather than the goal, and it is kind of easy to fall into it. I mean, you're writing towards a goal, but when you're writing a scene, for example, enjoy the process of writing that scene and then when you go to the next scene, you enjoy that scene and then in the next. So it's very easy to fall into the trap of oh gosh, I only have two more chapters to go and I'm done. Savor every moment, because it's a long process. It can be fun every single day.
SAVANNAH: Yeah, and I think, to piggyback off that, you're going to write a stronger story if you let yourself sink into the scene anyway, so you'll have a stronger draft. Other people do like to fast draft, and they kind of just put the bare bones down. That's totally fine, too. But I also like that you brought it back to the outline, because I was going to ask you… Not looking ahead doesn't mean not having an outline, right?
ANNE: Correct, correct. Let the outline do its job, yeah.
SAVANNAH: And then sink into each moment as you write a scene, and then you can kind of have fun with the process instead of always feeling like you're coming up short of your deadline or rushing to do it.
ANNE: That's right. That's exactly right.
SAVANNAH: Yeah, ok. Well, it's been a real pleasure to sit down and talk about this, and it was like before we jumped on I told Anne it's… gosh, it's been how many years since we've been on the phone talking about story!? And we determined it's been about four. So this is a great catch-up for both of us, and I know that everything you shared is going to inspire other people to take action and write their books. So thank you for sharing everything you did and where you people follow along on your journey or learn more about you other than the links I'll post to your books on Amazon.
ANNE: Yeah, I have a website which is www.annemortensenwriter.com, and you can find me on Facebook at Anne Mortensen (writer) and on Twitter as AMortensen100 on X. I’ll give those links to Savannah.
SAVANNAH: We'll put those in the show notes for everybody. But, Anne, thank you so much for spending your time with me, and I really look forward to seeing what you write beyond these two books. So keep us posted, good luck with all of that, and we'll have to have you back to talk about book three!
ANNE: Oh, wonderful! Thank you so much, Savannah. It was such a pleasure being here on your podcast and talking to you again, and I hope that some bit of information helps another writer in some fashion.
My favorite takeaway from this episode is that Anne was able to use her love of writing as her “North Star” that kept her going when things got tough. She could have easily given up after getting stuck with the first draft of her first novel, but she didn’t—and now she’s published not one, but two fantastic books. I’m so thankful to have been just a tiny part of Anne’s writing process, and I hope this episode has inspired you as much as it inspired me.
If you want to learn more about my Notes to Novel course—and how it can help you finish your first draft—you can click here to get all the details!