As an English major, writing has always been a part of Ryan Lawrence’s life. It was only after leaving his long-time profession that he took his education and a passion for writing and began his author journey.
Ryan currently lives in London, Ontario, with his husband Todd, their cat Dora, and a massive comic book collection that once fell on Todd (Ryan assures us that he’s okay).
We’re thrilled to welcome Ryan as our Author of the Month for June. Read on to learn his advice for authors when on self-publishing and marketing your work . . .
Toot your own horn! Be proud of what you have created, and never feel embarrassed to promote yourself. Excitement is contagious!– Ryan Lawrence, author of Vindictive
Tell us about yourself . . .
I live in London, but I was born and raised in Guelph, Ontario, where I attended the University of Guelph. I’m the youngest of three children. I like to think I encompass a balanced combination of my older siblings’ best qualities. I’m task-focused, organized, and responsible, but I can be a tad rebellious and snarky when the mood strikes me. I’m married to a handsome, wonderful man who accepts my addiction to green tea frappuccinos and my penchant for sarcasm.
What inspired you to write Vindictive?
The origins of Vindictive date back to high school, when I was bullied for being gay. Writing and storytelling became my scheme of revenge against my tormentors, my therapeutic way of dealing with feeling powerless. I started writing a melodrama about people getting revenge against their antagonists for transgressions against them.
Decades later, I rediscovered my unfinished manuscript in a box and decided to complete the story. Having much more life experience, knowing myself, and possessing confidence, I created a revenge story far beyond what I could have done in high school.
While Vindictive follows the story of Jules, you have made a point to include LGBTQ+ supporting characters. As someone who is proudly a part of the community, what advice would you have for authors who are looking to avoid the token gay character stereotype?
Write from a place of authenticity. If you are LGBTQ+, embrace your unique experiences, both painful and wonderful, and utilize them to enrich your story and diversify character personalities. If you are an ally, do your homework. Thoughtfully ask your gay/queer friends, family members, or work/social media contacts about their lives and experiences. See if you can weave the essence of their authentic selves into your work. Be up front with them about your literary intentions and come from a place of respect and genuine interest. Writing from a place of unfamiliarity, from a place of creative guesswork, is a choice that comes with risk. Readers may sense your forced, potentially problematic characterizations, language, and scene creation. Stereotyped characters and settings of any minority group come into existence this way—from a lack of respect for discovering who these people are, their lives, and their stories during the writing process.
LGBTQ+ people exist everywhere. If you choose to incorporate us into your work, please do not add just the one GBF or sassy neighbour to add “flavour” or token diversity. Do better. Multiple queer characters can exist within a story without needing their existence justified. We deserve incorporation into any narrative, any genre, period.
What has the author’s journey been like for you? What were some successful and challenging moments?
Regarding my writing process, I take time to develop a story, formulate a unique plot, and design the characters’ personalities thoughtfully. I’m no pantser, but I allow for organic creativity. If inspiration strikes, I’m not so rigid that I won’t alter the course of a character’s preset fate or adjust a storyline. Admittedly, I’m a terrible perfectionist. I spent months rewriting and editing my “finished” manuscript, ensuring my sentences were tight, the storylines made sense, and my timeline flowed seamlessly. The more I revisited my story, the more opportunities I saw to adjust—to make perfect. It became a rabbit hole of perfectionism that I had fallen into. Eventually, this situation worked itself out with the guidance of my very patient husband; he helped me get out of my own way.
As for the publishing side of things, I had to learn to navigate an entirely new world with no previous experience. While I had some challenges and miscommunications as a newbie to this process, I received great assistance from Tellwell’s Ben Belding and Angela Gascon. I cannot thank them enough for their input and professionalism and for keeping me sane when I felt overwhelmed and frustrated. I know the second go-round will be much smoother. I now have the knowledge and experience behind me to ask the right questions and be more proactive with my own agency. Oh, and I’m so in love with my cover!
With an abundance of great reviews from readers and professional reviewers alike, what have you been doing to market and promote Vindictive?
It is vital to utilize social media to promote yourself. I readily use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and especially Goodreads (where I did a book giveaway) to publicize Vindictive. These platforms are valuable tools to help market your work and showcase who you are as an author and an individual. I frequently engage with other writers, and I love to cross-promote. There are so many talented writers out there that I feel honoured to help increase their visibility, and I know they feel the same when they feature my work.
Also, I participated in a three-month blog tour which was so much fun. Not only did I reach a wider audience, but I was also able to showcase more of my writing and ideas by submitting articles to these sites.
What advice do you have for new authors trying to generate their own awareness?
As I previously stated, engaging with social media is a must. Paid ads on these sites can be hit or miss. Yes, they can increase your visibility, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to sales. Calculate a reasonable, affordable marketing budget and determine how and where you wish to utilize these advertising funds. The best advice I can give is to interact with the public as much as possible. It can be just making your online presence known, but don’t toss out the idea of approaching libraries and book stores to see about public promotion. It can be scary and intimidating, but it’s a viable avenue of exposure. Toot your own horn! Be proud of what you have created, and never feel embarrassed to promote yourself. Excitement is contagious!
What advice do you have for other authors considering self-publishing a book?
Do your research! Learn about the three paths of publishing: traditional, hybrid, and complete self-publishing. That way, you will have the knowledge to determine which route is best for you. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. The querying process is daunting and often frustrating, and it takes a strong person to accept repeated rejection. Every person should navigate towards the path they feel most resonates with them. What are you looking to get out of this process? How much are you willing to give of yourself to the process? And yes, that includes personal financial contribution. Knowledge is power, granting you confidence when utilizing your agency to make that final publishing decision, so don’t make assumptions. Self-Publishing gives the writer substantial freedom and control, yes, but be ready and willing to do the work, especially in the marketing and advertising of your book.
What’s next for you and the mysterious town of Fairporte?
My next novel is not a sequel but a companion book to Vindictive. The storylines of both books take place over the same three days, and by the end of the second installment, the two books will have converged into a cohesive storyline leading into my third Fairporte novel. Many characters that take centre stage in Vindictive take a back seat in the second book, allowing the story to focus significantly more on the Bergé family, Stella Cartell, the mysterious bearded man, and several new and compelling characters. I am excited to include even more LGBTQ+ representation. There is a certain sexy gay police detective I am very excited to introduce!