Meet Canadian self-published author Marlene Cheng:
Marlene Cheng is a Maincrest Media and a Book Excellence award-winning author of women’s fiction. Her books are about the relationships that define women’s lives—romance, friendship, family. Marlene is a keen observer of how people think and feel, and she writes lyrical, uplifting, and emotionally rich stories.
What is being said:
“Today’s best up-and-coming fiction writer.”—Publishers Daily Reviews. “Marlene writes with great facility. Her writing is intelligent: her prose is poetic.”—Dr. David Yeung MBBS FRCPC (certified psychiatrist). “A fantastic journey that takes readers to the innermost corners of the human heart.”—Reader’s Favorites.
Marlene was prairie-born and farm-raised. She now lives among the old-growth pine and cedar, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, on the West Coast of Canada—a haven that stimulates creativity.
“As with any worthy story,” Marlene says, “my biography has its own inner destiny independent of its author. I sense this and strive to have the poise, integrity, and courage to go with the flow.”
Visit her at https://www.marlenecheng.com
Lily’s question: I haven’t been a fan of self-published books, Marlene, because, from my experience, they usually aren’t vetted as rigorously as traditionally published novels. My published books go through at least one developmental edit where the content is examined thoroughly. Then they pass through at least two different copy editors who make sure they don’t have grammatical or structural problems. What are your thoughts on this difference between traditionally published works and ones that are self-published?
It’s taken time, and we self-publishers have had to hone our craft, but, every day, more and more, indie publishing is being recognized as a more accessible, good alternative to traditional publishing. In time, as we further improve, I can foresee it dominating the publishing world. Perhaps then, you’ll temper your prejudice.
Lily: Why did you decide to self-publish rather than go the traditional route?
I started with a publishing company and wasn’t satisfied, mainly because it became very expensive.
I’m a control freak. I need to have a say. I wish to be involved. I didn’t hand over my children to others to raise; that would have felt like I had had an abortion.
Then I heard about self-publishing. Self-publishing is a lot of learning and a tremendous amount of work. First, you must become computer savvy, which I work at constantly. I learn mostly from making errors, which is time consuming. By trial and error, you must find good editors, formatters, and someone who can bring your cover ideas to life. It’s been a long haul, but, finally, I think I have these in place. But who knows how long you can hold on to good people?
The time element is, also, a big factor between being Traditionally or Self-published. I don’t spend time looking for an agent to present my books to publishers, and then wait to be accepted.
Therefore, because I don’t lose ownership of my book and the time it takes for it to come to fruition is much shorter, self-publishing suits me.
Lily: You say that this is the first time you’ve tried to write a historical romance. What genre did you work in previously?
I’ve done a biography, literary fiction, and contemporary romance.
Lily: What do you hope your narratives communicate to your readers?
My background is in the health sciences, and I try to bring awareness to physical and mental health issues. Some that I’ve dealt with are dyslexia, addictions, depression, schizophrenia, multiple-personality disorder, ALS, and PTSD. Social problems interest me, and I hope my take on them opens discussions.
Lily: As a Canadian writer, do you think you have a different perspective you hope will come through in your novels?
I don’t think so. My themes are universal.
Lily: You seem to be brilliant at creating engaging newsletters that project your work. It must take a lot of time for you to develop them. How do you come up with these missives?
Thank you, for that compliment. I don’t get much feedback on them, so I never know how they are perceived. I think the key is, I enjoy doing them. A theme comes to me, usually based on the author’s book that I’m featuring or what’s going down in the world, and I run with it.
If any of your people wish to receive my newsletters, they just need to give me a shout on my Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lily: Why do you write?
Writing is mindfulness. It gives me joy. I was well into my seventies before I started to write. I belong to the Kwan Clan… made famous by The Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan. They were having a Family Reunion in 2012 and wanted my sister-in-law, Man Sheung, an elder, to write something about her life. She recruited me. My first book, The Many Layered Skirt was the result. That one tiny pebble started an infinite ring of ripples, and I’ve been at it, now, over ten years.
My favorite part of this journey has been connecting with people and hearing their stories. It brings fulness into my life.
Lily: How much time do you spend writing each day? Or do you write each day?
I write when I feel like it. I go at my own pace. I challenge the convention that “more” or “the same as others” is better. I’ve decided that older adulthood isn’t a project to be completed by a due date. I cherish the moments of being engaged.
Lily: If you didn’t write, what would you do with that time? Do you feel compelled to write or choose to?
As I’ve said, I do not feel compelled to write. I have many interests. I love spending time with my two children’s families. My six grandchildren are a joy. I have a huge rock garden and many ponds. Gardening and tending to the fish and birds are delightful pastimes.
Lily: What’s the hardest part of writing or publishing?
Writing and publishing are not difficult. I’m trying to learn marketing. Now, there lies the difficulties.
Lily: Yet you are so skilled at marketing your advanced review copies. Here is a portion from your most recent newsletter. You start it with “Don’t miss the bus.” Then you say, “Special ticket: $2.99 US for preorder.” Following that, you say,
|Destination: Delft, 17th Century Dutch Republic
Route Name: The Inspector’s Daughter and the Maid
|Scenery to expect:
1. Feminism bursting the corsets of intelligent resilient females.
2. Gender expression unlocking closets.
3. Disenfranchised revolts.
4. Pandemic plague.
You’ll think you landed in 2022. Today’s terminology has been tweaked, somewhat, but after near 400 years, the social issues remain. That’s progress, for you.
|What Beta Bus Riders had to say about their trip:
“Amidst current travel restrictions, this novel is a special treat. The author took me on a journey through time and place to 17th century Delft. With tremendous heart and a fluid writing style, Marlene Cheng wove a tale which captivated me from the very first page, putting me in the shoes of her protagonists and fully engaging me in their trials until the very end.”
“This historical romance fiction is full of loyalty and twists that turn to deadly betrayal. Spellbinding”
|Preorder on Amazon|
|Launch date is August 30, 2022.
Enjoy the ride.
Lily: I wonder if you’ve had any marketing training. The material is extremely imaginative and evocative. Can you explain how you go about doing this in a way that may help other self-published authors?
I think the secret is to have a theme. Themes come from perhaps the book that I’m featuring or from the steam of my morning coffee… anywhere. One must be open to playing with thoughts that pop into the mind. Writers do that all the time in their stories. They just have to carry it over in the missives about their books. If it’s a little personal, that’s good. Readers like to know about the author. Another magic bullet is to keep it short, colourful and pictorial as possible. No one has time to read pages and pages.
And relevant. It must be relevant.
I’ve had no training and I’m learning as I go.
Lily: Thanks for joining me today on my blog, Marlene. You give a valuable picture of the self-publishing world as you’ve experienced it. Keep writing and publishing!