This week I was privileged to reach out to a local author of horror and fantasy novels, Marlena Frank, to ask her a few questions. She shared some fun stories and good pieces of wisdom with us. Thanks again to Marlena for sharing her time with us.
Question: Tell us about your writing process and the way you brainstorm story ideas.
Frank: My writing process has really changed since I started. I used to take a year or longer to write a book, but now I usually can finish a book in about six to eight months, and usually a month to edit and streamline it. Having deadlines has really helped with that. One of my favorite places to write before the pandemic was at a local coffee shop, but now I have several places to write around my home. I find it helps to vary up the locations, especially since I work from home with my day job now.
I get a lot of inspiration from my dreams, especially for my horror books. My fantasy is a slower process, usually with me mulling over a scene, a character, a storyline in my head for sometimes several years before I feel like it’s ready to write. That was how my first book, “Stolen,” came to be.
Q: What is your writing Kryptonite?
Frank: Probably social media. I have to be on it to promote my work and to network with fellow authors, but it also has the potential to be a big time sink. So I try to remind myself what my goals are for the day, so I mentally keep track of the time I spend on them. I spend a lot of time on Facebook and Instagram.
Q: Do you believe in writer’s block?
Frank: I think writer’s block can happen, but for me it helps to put down words. Sometimes I’ll shift gears in the middle of writing one book to focus on something else. Right now I’m working on the first developmental edits on my novel “Chosen,” but I had inspiration for a short story, so I wrote on that for a day. I feel better getting that story out of my system, and now I can turn back to my edits. Usually if I’m dealing with writer’s block, it’s because I have another story that wants attention.
Q: How did you celebrate the publishing of your first book?
Frank: When I first got the offer, I went out into the hall at work and did a little dance! Fortunately nobody saw me. After years of trying to find anyone to give my work a chance, it was such a relief to find someone who loved it as much as I did. After I reviewed and signed the contract and sent it off to the publisher, I broke out the champagne. I had to post a vague image about it online because the news wasn’t official yet, but I was so proud!
Q: What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
Frank: I’m friends with several other authors who publish with Parliament House, my independent publisher. We all have worked together to share booths at BookCon in New York City and at the Decatur Book Festival. We all pitch in to help each other and we learn a lot along the way. It’s great 'cause we continue to cheer each other on even as we move forward in our author careers.
I also have several author friends in the Atlanta Chapter of the Horror Writers Association (HWA). There are many seasoned members who come to our active meetings, and I’m always trying to learn from them. It’s also great to see new authors join in because we all work to help and encourage each other.
Q: If you were given the opportunity to form a book club with your favorite authors of all time, which legends or contemporary writers would you want to become a part of the club?
Frank: I think Stephen King and Neil Gaiman would definitely be on that list. I just want to be at the table listening and soaking in their conversation together. I would also love to include Cherie Priest and Susanna Clarke at the table, too, because the entire group would just rattle away about horror and fantasy, and it would be glorious.
Q: How do you think concepts such as Kindle and ebooks have changed the present or future of reading?
Frank: I think it’s incredible that people can read whatever they want in any format they want, whether that’s a physical book, ebook or audiobook. Readers have never had so many options like this, and I think it’s fantastic. One thing that always prevented me from reading a book when I was in school was that others could see what I was reading, whether that was a comic book or a novel. Sometimes I could sneak a Stephen King or Dean Koontz book in with a vague cover, no problem, but other times I would be the target of bullying for it. I’m so happy that people can enjoy books now without being judged, whether it’s horror, romance or young adult. There are fandoms and reader groups to join regardless of reading tastes.
Q: What marketing strategies do you find most helpful?
Frank: I post fairly regularly on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, and I’m always amazed at the connections I make there. I’ve found reviewers, bloggers, podcast hosts and YouTubers through posting, discussing and collaborating. I’ve also found that having incredible book covers really helps. There are so many books available right now that excellent covers go a long way to reaching readers.
Q: Can you tell us about your current projects?
Frank: I have so many projects going on, but that’s normal for me!
I’m working on developmental edits for “Chosen,” the last book in the Stolen series. I’m also working on edits for a weird western novel for an agent who has been working with me for the last year who I met through my HWA group.
I’ve begun a short story featuring pirates and mermaids for an upcoming anthology doing a call for submissions. I’ve started what I’m affectionately calling a cabin horror novel where a family goes on a vacation to a cabin in the woods, only to encounter weird monsters that watch and lurk in the forest.
Q: Any advice you would like to give to aspiring writers?
Frank: I know this has probably been said before, but persistence is key. Keep submitting your work so you can see it published one day. Keep writing and allow your style to find itself. The more you write novel-length books, the better you’ll get at pacing, plot, character development, etc.
I never thought I would write so many young adult novels when I first got started, but it’s really where I learn now as an author. Allow yourself to experiment and try out different ways of telling stories, you might surprise yourself. Romance may come easier for you than the adventure novel you’re stuck on, so give yourself a chance to try something different. Be persistent, be patient, and be kind to yourself along the way.
Some library services still available
While the library building is closed, we still have many services available. If you would like to check out a book by Frank, do that through our curbside service. For more information, click on the curbside service link on our main page, www.ngrl.org.
And don’t forget, our book drops are now open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. You can start returning items that you have checked out during those hours. You can also check out books online through RBdigital and Overdrive. Just visit www.ngrl.org/downloads to find out how to log on with your library card and see what new reads you can find.
We’re also hosting virtual programs and sharing resources on our Facebook page, @DaltonWhitfieldLibrary. Hope to (virtually) see you there!
Logan Petty is the young adult coordinator for the Dalton-Whitfield County Public Library.