Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason are a sister writing duo who I met in several Facebook groups, including at JEA Press. They are taking the publishing world by storm with their short stories and novels, but have always managed to say a kind word or two my way when I have questions in various Facebook groups. Without further ado, here are the Sisters of Slaughter, famous for their first novel, Mayan Blue.
Hi Michelle and Melissa, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason- We are a twin sister writing team from Arizona. We’ve been published by Sinister Grin Press, Fireside Press, and Wetworks.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
M&M- We are happy to be able to share our imaginations with people and only want to continue to do that. Getting paid for that is like a dream so if that comes along with it, then that’s fantastic.
Which writers inspire you?
M&M- We have a ton so we will name a few here: Ronald Kelly, Brian Keene, Jack Ketchum, Tolkien, Salvatorre, Gaiman, King, Dahl and Stine when we were kids.
So, what have you written? What genre do you typically write? What genres are your books?
M&M- We are known mostly for horror. Our first horror novel was released May 25, 2016 by Sinister Grin Press. We were also in an anthology called Fresh Meat for them and most recently we wrote a story for them for Vicious Circle, a collection of horror stories that all take place on one street. We’ve also been in anthologies by JEA and Fireside Press. We got our start in a book called Promises to Keep put out through Miles to Go clothing.
Where can we buy or see them?
M&M- Amazon and the Sinister Grin Press Website.
Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?
M&M- Our two main characters are really put through Hell; they have to be stronger mentally than physically to endure it.
Give us a summary of what your book is about.
M&M- A group of college students go on a search for their missing professor who has unwittingly opened a doorway into the Mayan Underworld.
If you had to choose a favorite character that you’ve written, who would it be and why?
M&M- The Lord of Death, as he was a brutal and merciless, and really fun to write.
What are you working on now?
M&M- We just finished a sci-fi novel that released September 1. Now we’re diving back into a horror novel and we are already promising a publisher a horror novel and a dark fantasy novel for 2017.
When did you decide to become a writer?
M&M- We have always wanted to become writers, ever since we were eight we have written stories just for fun so being able to do it professionally is like a dream.
Why do you write?
M&M- We write because it entertains us; it’s an escape from the real world.
What made you decide to sit down and actually start something?
M&M- When we turned thirty we decided it was time to really try to do it professionally instead of just dreaming about it. It’s taken a lot of work but it’s working out really well.
Do you write full-time or part-time?
M&M- We both write as much as possible around taking care of our children.
How do you structure your day, by word count, hours or by pages?
M&M- We meet up about five days a week to look at the deadlines we have and then we decide how to approach them. Sometimes that requires four thousand words a day and other times it’s a few short stories.
Do you write on a typewriter, computer, dictate or longhand?
M&M- We write everything longhand first in a notebook and then we type it on a laptop.
Where do your ideas come from?
M&M- Our ideas come from the world around us, books on mythology and demonology, overhearing conversations in the grocery store. We take those little pieces and grow them into bigger things.
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?
M&M- About 80-90% of everything is outlined. It helps keep the true storyline on track.
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
M&M- Our writing has gotten better through trial and error and reading a ton and listening to the advice of our editors and other writers.
What are your greatest challenges in writing and how have you adapted to them?
M&M- Working under a ton of distractions, we’ve learned to focus amidst chaos haha.
Do you proofread/edit all your own books or do you get someone to do that for you?
M&M- We usually have our work edited by the press that accepts it but the sci-fi novel we’re putting in a Kindle World is being edited by Sinister Grin Press, they offer editing and formatting to anyone that’s looking for it.
What process do you use to proofread or edit your books?
M&M- Melissa’s husband reads most of our stuff and he’s pretty critical because he wants us to succeed. In the future, we plan on passing our work to Erin Al-Mehairi at Hook of a Book for her expertise.
Who edited your book and how did you select him/her?
M&M- Sinister Grin Press has editors; Erin being one of them.
Did anyone line proof your book separately? If so, how did you come to choose them?
M&M- The editors at Sinister Grin Press provided that to us with Erin.
Tell us about the cover/s and how it/they came about.
M&M- Sinister Grin hired Zach McCain to do our cover art for Mayan Blue; he’s done other book covers and is an amazing artist. They asked us for ideas of what we’d like to see and sent us samples as Zach progressed in creating the cover. It turned out to be really fantastic.
Who designed your book cover/s?
M&M- For Mayan Blue it was Zach McCain.
Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?
M&M- Cover art is critical because you can write a great story but people will scroll right by it if the cover doesn’t catch their eye.
How are you publishing this book and why?
M&M- Sinister Grin Press is our publisher. We went with them because they have a reputation for putting out some of the best horror around and we’re excited to be a part of the Sinister Family.
What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing against being published or the other way around?
M&M- If you’re going to self-publish you have to make sure that you’re putting out the highest quality product you can. Too many people skimp on cover art and editing and it shows when people aren’t happy with their purchase. Anyone can get a bad review based on people not liking their story but if it comes down to editing and cover art then that falls on the writer themselves. A good publisher will make your book the best it can be to stand up against those criticisms. We believe either way is a good route for publishing just be ready to put in that extra effort if you self-publish.
How do you market your books?
M&M- Sinister Grin provided us with the best publicist around (also Erin)to help with Mayan Blue, but beyond that writers need to have a social media platform to post about their work and a newsletter. We notice that most of our attention comes from our personal Facebook pages instead of our author page.
Do you have any advice for those who want to do Indie publishing, such as social media, marketing, giveaways and promoting sales?
M&M- Many people shoot for BookBub. Also doing giveaways of books, but keep it fun and interesting. We were lucky to have a strong friendship base in the horror community that helped spread the word for us. Also don’t be pushy and spam people, it earns you a reputation of being obnoxious and people are turned off by that.
How do you relax?
M&M- We enjoy spending time with our kids and our husbands. Family time helps you cut down on feeling so stressed out. We also enjoy reading, watching cheesy movies, and getting out into nature.
What is your favorite book and why?
Melissa- Moonbane by Al Sarantonio, it is a unique spin on werewolves.
Michelle- We have a ton but I love Adam Cesare’s Video Night, it makes me remember being a teenager and walking to the video store and renting every horror VHS they had.
How do you get inspired to write?
M&M- We read a lot of mythology and books about true crimes, mysteries and demonology. We also love watching old horror classics as well as new horror, and sci-fi flicks. Music also inspires us.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
M&M- You can do this. Don’t give up!
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
M&M- Keep reading and writing, use rejection as a fuel to better yourself and to keep on trying.
Where do you see publishing going in the future?
M&M- E-books and Paperbacks will continue to thrive…and hopefully horror gets huge again hahaha.
Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?
M&M- We would like to thank you for taking the time to interview us.
To continue to see their progress on the Mayan Blue tour and their other words, readers and fans can check this site out:
Fans can also use the following hashtags to follow Michelle and Melissa:
#MayanBlue #Mayans #legends #HookofaBook #SinisterGrin