SPS-266: From Fighting Fires to Writing Romance – with LoLo Paige

From firefighter to romance writer, Lolo Paige shares how she educated herself about writing, dug deep to persevere when the going got tough, and looked to mentors for advice and encouragement.

Show Notes

  • Tips for preparing for a BookBub feature deal
  • On Mark’s upcoming course about launching a book
  • On Lolo’s career as a wild land fire fighter
  • Fainting in front of JK Simmons while auditioning for a play
  • Taking classes to become familiar with the romance genre
  • Providing stories that help readers feel good in difficult times

Resources mentioned in this episode:

PATREON: Self Publishing Formula Show’s Patreon page

MERCH: Are you a ligneous beetle or a yawning hippopotamus? Get your SPF hoodies and t-shirts in the brand new SPF Store.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT:

SPS-266: From Fighting Fires to Writing Romance - with LoLo Paige

Announcer: On this edition of the Self-Publishing Show-

Lolo Paige: Fire Burns Fastest Uphill. We took a big risk doing that, but it was our only choice. We had no way out. Fire behaviour is a whole different science in and of itself; how it behaves under certain conditions, relative humidity and wind and all that stuff factors in.

Announcer: Publishing is changing. No more gate keepers. No more barriers. No-one standing between you and your readers. Do you want to make a living from your writing?

Join indie bestseller Mark Dawson and first-time author James Blatch, as they shine a light on the secrets of self-publishing success. This is the Self-Publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.

James Blatch: Hello and welcome to the Self-Publishing Show with me, James Blatch-

Mark Dawson: And me, the Una Bomber, or ostensibly Mark Dawson, who hasn't shaved his beard for lockdown and his mother told him off this morning for looking more and more like Santa Claus.

James Blatch: Doesn't matter how old you are, you will always get told off by your mother. I'm similar. In fact, I've just been for a run. I feel like I'm bedraggled and funny enough, it's warm here today, like spring suddenly here.

Mark Dawson: It is warm, yep.

James Blatch: And so I look terrible as well, but people don't have to look on YouTube. You can listen and most people listen don't they. And weirdly, Mark, I can't see you. You mount your laptop in a cubby hole. I don't know if... John should show a shot of what it is I see when I'm doing these interviews. Oi, oi, he's arrived.

Mark Dawson: That's me moving in. There you go. How's that? You can see me now.

James Blatch: So people on YouTube will see what I put up with. Okay, look, we've got a few things to talk about today, including a really exciting interview with Lolo Paige, a real life hero who has been a firefighter and done some amazing things in her life and is now writing romantic firefighting themed books. Very exciting up there in Alaska. Lolo coming up in a moment.

Before then, a couple of things to mention. I have BookBub deal for one of our authors on Fuze Books, a full BookBub deal, including the United States. I've not had a full one; I've had an international one before. Got to think I've had two international ones before. So I want to make sure I've got my ducks in a row with you first of all.

The first thing is that it's in KU, Kindle Unlimited, so I've used the five free days to time this up two days before the day of the promotion on your advice and go to two days afterwards, the 18th of February is the promotion date.

My first question is, in terms of complying and making sure it's free, obviously I've offered it to BookBub, it's going to be a free book, have I done everything? Do I need to go to the KDP dashboard and do anything else for the price structure or will it be free around the world?

Mark Dawson: No, it should be free. It's always worth checking the day you set it for free. Just remember the specific time will be the time you see on the dashboard. So it's worth just checking that. Now and again, you'll see a glitch. Very, very rare. But if you do it on the day, there would be time to ask for help if there's a problem.

But no, that's it pretty much; once the promotion is set, just make sure you've done... I think it's a while since I've set a free run. All of your territories are included so that should be fine. It's just a question of setting that in advance and off you go.

James Blatch: Obviously what I don't want to do is fall foul of the hallowed Bub, because I want more in the future. So I'll make sure that I don't blot my copy book. So yes, I'll do a test then on the 16th Pacific Time, 8:00am I think it is. Something like that, or midnight. I'll double check and make sure it's zero in all the territories listed on the book deal.

And then the other things that you should have in place for a BookBub deal, what else would you be doing Mark? What's your advice to me?

Mark Dawson: Is it the 16th or the 18th?

James Blatch: 18th is the actual date of the promotion on BookBub.

Mark Dawson: So you've got three days. It's too late now for any of the things I would have suggested so a fairly good strategy is to try, you could actually try, is to book what we call kind of promo stacking. So you book promotions before and after BookBub.

BookBub is your kind of tent pole because that will be the one that drives the most traffic to the page and you'll get the most downloads. But I would definitely look to Freebooksy as kind of the next level below BookBub. There are some others; Robin Reads is very good. This is sci-fi isn't it? This is the story of a story book?

James Blatch: Yeah, it's sort of apocalyptic near future.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, there are a few. I think Book Barbarian. I don't write sci-fi so I've never done one but I think Book Barbarian is one of the better ones for that genre. But you would ideally book some around that so that you maximise the downloads and in the time when it's free.

You might be able to, given that we're fairly friendly with the guys at Freebooksy, it might be worth dropping them a line and just seeing if they've got any spots available for any time within that five days and see what they say. Probably a bit to late now but you never know.

James Blatch: Yeah, okay. I'll get onto them. I'm just having a quick look now whilst we're talking.

And what about paid ads?

Mark Dawson: You can definitely run free Facebook ads once it's out for the free book for that five day period. See how you get on. I think the tricky thing with that is you haven't done a free one before so it would be quite difficult to work out what the read through is from a free book to a paid book. Say you get 100,000 free downloads if it was an amazing promotion, it would be very difficult to know what you would expect. Because people will download loads of free books but to get them to open it and then read it is-

James Blatch: Actually, sorry, this is not Robert's story; this is Kerry J. Donovan.

Mark Dawson: Okay.

James Blatch: It's his number one in his series, the Ryan Kaine series.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, well, the principles are the same, only thing is don't apply to BookBub area because that's not thrillers.

James Blatch: Yep, yep.

Mark Dawson: With the paid ads, I would run some because you should find that those lead to downloads at a fairly decent rate, but the tricky thing is, you won't know, because you've never done it before, what the read through is that you can expect from book one to book two because it will be different to if it was paid. Much less normally; much, much less because it's free. As I said, most people won't open it up.

So, try running some but I wouldn't go nuts on the paid ad until you've got a better handle on how this one performs.

James Blatch: Yeah. Okay. Well we've got five days of free so there's no harm in running 20 bucks a day or something on a free promo for that. Okay. Good. I'll make sure I've got all of that in a row.

And I guess book benchmarking is my best way of tracking. I do use Links actually for the Facebook side of things, but in terms of BookBub, it's really just seeing what the difference is from your average. Obviously you're going to have free books and then it'll take a while I suppose to disseminate the read through to try and work that out.

Mark Dawson: It's very difficult because you've got a very noisy signal at the moment because you're promoting on all ad platforms. And that's for paid. Suddenly, you're taking it off paid; going to free. It will be difficult to work out what the effect is; not impossible but you won't be able to do it accurately. You'll just have to do your best to work out what the effect was. You should see something.

James Blatch: Yes. I hope so. Good. Okay. That's BookBub. Excited.

Mark Dawson: Good. Yeah. I haven't done a free one for several years now but I would expect 25 to 30,000 downloads, possibly more, something like that.

James Blatch: Wow. I suppose the other thing to make sure is that the front matter and back matter are as good as they can be.

Mark Dawson: Actually for the mailing list. The mailing list is a very good opportunity to build that because they'll be getting lots of lots of eyeballs will be on that book. You've just got to think, do you want the sign up to as list or to read through to book two. Obviously you could put both but you've just got to make sure that that's optimal and everything's working.

Today, I won't mention who this author was but he's done very well recently and hit number one in the store in the UK. And I just checked his website out and it had been, it had a 509 error on it, which is bandwidth. So possibly because he's doing very well and getting a lot more traffic than he's used to, but that site was down. It's back up again now.

Just make sure that everything, all the links are going to the right places if you've got enough time to change them.

James Blatch: Yeah, good work. Good, okay. Excellent. Thank you very much indeed for that very public advice. I hope everyone else can use it. If you get those BookBub deals. I have to say the feature deals I've done before which were international were excellent and really gave us a good bounce on Robert's book, so it'll be an interesting experience for this.

Now, before we move onto Lolo's interview, I think you are also turning your mind to one of our mini strategy based courses on book launching.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, I'm going to do a smaller course, much, much smaller actually and very cheap, should I say very cost effective. Much less expensive than the other courses. And probably going to look at that this week. I've finished Atticus; it's gone to my editor and I just fancy a little break before I jump into the next Milton book. So there's lots of things open on my list of things to do for ages and this is one of them.

I mentioned it in the Facebook group, maybe six months ago and at least 600 people said they were interested in that course. So I'd better do it I suppose. It's going to be about launching and I'll do it with regard to the last Milton launch, this Atticus launch and we'll look at kind of the pre-launch, the launch and the post-launch stages, the things I do with various ads, emails I send out, things like BookBub pre-release alerts. I've got some useful stats on how effective they can be. BookBub featured new deal alerts. BookBub ads, Facebook ads, Amazon ads. All those kinds of things that I'm running when I have a launch, going live. So I think it will be quite good. It's been stewing away in my head for ages so it'll be quite good to get it out there.

James Blatch: Yeah, good, okay. Dare I ask you for a timetable on this?

Mark Dawson: Hopefully, record it this week. Couple of days' worth of recording probably. But we'll see.

James Blatch: Good. Well that'll be a nice complement, certainly for the 101 course as well which is about the front end of your career which we will be opening up. We haven't actually set dates for that yet but I'm hoping soon, March probably. Soonish. Okay, good. Thank you very much indeed Mark.

We have our guest this week, then. I'm very excited to talk to Lolo Paige. As I say, she is a former fire fighter, had quite an incredibly life. We both have a love of the Steven Spielberg film, Always, which does get an honourable mention in this interview. Let's hear from Lolo. Then Mark and I'll be back for a chat.

James Blatch: Lolo Paige, welcome to the Self Publishing Show. We are talking to you from deep, I was going to say deep up north, but deep up sounds weird. Deep is normally south isn't it. What's the opposite, shallow north doesn't make no sense. Let's just say you're in the north, Alaska.

Lolo Paige: In the north country. North of 60 degrees latitude.

James Blatch: Wow. 60 degrees. Where does the arctic circle start? Is that 60? No, it's higher than that, about 90 is it?

Lolo Paige: It's north of 60 up above Fairbanks. It's up by a place called Coldfoot. That's how I always mark it. I used to travel the Dalton Highway, so I became familiar with such landmarks.

James Blatch: Yeah, we're going to talk a little bit about your past in this interview. And we should say, of course, Craig Martel, who many people will know well, of 20Books fame is, I guess, up the road from you. But he is, I think, the other side of the arctic circle.

Lolo Paige: He's up close to it; that's for sure. And he's much darker than we are down here. We're considered the banana belt.

James Blatch: Oh yeah, the tropical south?

Lolo Paige: Yes.

James Blatch: I bet it's pretty cold there.

Lolo Paige: It's not too bad. I think I'm looking out at 10 degrees.

James Blatch: There you go.

Lolo Paige: At least it's above zero.

James Blatch: Lolo, we're going to talk to you about your blossoming author career which grew to life this year. But also, start to talk to us about your background because I know it feeds into your first novel and is an important part of probably who you are and where you got to today.

You've had quite an extraordinary career.

Lolo Paige: It was a lot of fun. It was tough to leave the day job. It was pretty exciting. In the beginning, I was floundering around like any early 20 year old. I didn't know what I wanted to do. Just kind of drifted around from one job to another and then I got into the forestry curriculum at University of Montana which led me into the firefighting world because that's part of the curricula there. And study fire science and got a job doing wild land firefighting as a seasonal.

So that led me into a career with another agency in the Department of the Interior, US Department of the Interior, the Bureau of Land Management. And they have an agency up here called the Alaska Fire Service and so I worked for them for a few summers. And that got me into the whole firefighting thing.

James Blatch: Into wild land firefighting. And you've got to talk us through this a little bit.

Is this managing the way, the tactical level, the way fires are fought or are you on the ground with equipment?

Lolo Paige: I was on what they call a hand line crew. So I was one of the yellow shirts you always see on the news when they're marching single file to and from fires and they have their plasties in their hand and that kind of thing. We had overhead teams over us. We had fire bosses. It's based on a military hierarchy.

James Blatch: Sort of gold, silver and bronze thing.

Lolo Paige: Yeah, you have your incident commander, your strike team leader, that kind of thing. You have your situations department, your planning, your air attack, all that kind of thing. When it got into it, I was so amazed at how smooth it all goes when you have all the coordination together and it's very organised.

James Blatch: And happening over a big area and probably many fronts I imagine. Fires don't neatly organise themselves into a single front for you?

Lolo Paige: No. Well the thing about fire that was confusing for me in the beginning is the way it burns. Especially in these mountainous regions. You'll have the main one start of course. And then as the thing ramps up and it gains power and the rate of spread just starts booking with the wind.

Then you get these things called spot fires and they throw these sparks and fire out the front of the main fire. And then you'll have it burning on one ridge and then nothing in the ravine and then over on another ridge, there's another fire. It doesn't go like how when you pour liquid on the ground and it spreads. It doesn't do that. And that's what was always confusing for me. Surely it does move as one unit.

James Blatch: And sometimes I guess it's unpredictable. You must have had some hairy moments?

Lolo Paige: Oh yes. I was on a crew up by the Eielson Air Force Base fire. This was back in the early or late '80s. It was a long time ago. And the winds came up and we were on a finger ridge. And a finger ridge is where you have a mountain and then you'll have five ridges on a mountain. Up here in Alaska that's pretty common. For example, Mount McKinley, which became Mount Denali, was like that.

Anyway, so we were on the wrong finger ridge and we were in the path of the main fire. We thought we were on the next one over on the flank. So the retardant plane came over us; dumped a load. We knew we were in the wrong spot and we had to get out. So we had to climb up this steep mountain, our whole crew, all 18 of us. We'd got away from it but it was pretty hairy, pretty scary.

James Blatch: I was just going to say, you can't outrun the fire can you and you've got to make good tactical decisions that put you in the direction, particularly, I guess, if you're going uphill. That sounds, frankly, terrifying.

Lolo Paige: Yes, fire burns fastest uphill. We took a big risk doing that, but it was our only choice. We had no way out. Fire behaviour is a whole different science in and of itself, how it behaves in certain conditions relative humidity and wind and all that stuff factors in.

James Blatch:And you had fire retardant dumped on you? Was that deliberate? Did they know you were there and were helping you?

Lolo Paige: Yes, they did. Yes. He saw us down there and he saw that we were in harm's way, so he dumped a load on us. We filed back into basecamp with these paint shirts and then everybody looks at you, like, oh, you were where you weren't supposed to be.

James Blatch: Wow.

Lolo Paige: We got in trouble for that.

James Blatch: You made it out of there and fantastic job to do. And I guess probably, were there many female wild land firefighters when you started?

Lolo Paige: No. It was mostly male dominated and just a handful of females. And the same way when I got into it with the foresters and worked at the smoke jump based in Missoula. But I grew up with four brothers and I worked in male dominated fields my whole life so, for me, it wasn't that big a deal. It was fun.

I just got caught up in the excitement of the whole thing. Certainly, you have to tow the line, I guess they call it, and carry your weight, so to speak. Because when you're five foot two and you walk up to a bunch of guys and they're all ready to go out on the fire line. They kind of cross their arms and then look at you, like, hmm is she going to be able to do this? So yeah, the onus is on you to measure up and do the job and all of that.

James Blatch: I'm sure you wouldn't want it any other way. To have to pull your weight. Fascinating. An amazing career to have gone through.

I'm curious as to how that's led you to the point, not only of publishing your first novel this year, but also a film maker.

Lolo Paige: Well, more of an actor I guess. I started out with community theatre in Missoula. In fact, J. K. Simmons was the person that auditioned me for my very first musical down there. He was going to the University of Montana. His dad was department chair and such.

I fainted on that first audition and when he got his academy award, I emailed him and I go... Because we used to call him Kim. I go, "Hey Kim. Remember me? I'm that person that fainted on the first audition". He goes, "I remember and thank you". Because I was congratulating him on his Oscar. So, that was pretty exciting.

James Blatch: Apart from fainting on your first audition, you've done some acting all the way through to indie films.

Lolo Paige: Yes. The community theatre. I did that for decades. And picked up a lot of stage experience. When Alaska received its first film tax incentive, Hollywood came up here for about five or six years and shot some major motion pictures. So I auditioned for those.

I auditioned for some speaking parts which was very fun. That was fun. But I got in as an extra and so I got to work in scenes with a lot of people. And it was a wonderful learning experience. I didn't even have to go to LA or anything. I did it up here.

James Blatch: Wow. That future's still ahead of you. You mentioned, J. K. Simmons. I'm only really aware of him for his later work. I'm not sure what he did younger in life but he's been a fantastic older character actor if I could say that as politely as possible.

Lolo Paige: Yes.

James Blatch: So yeah, maybe that's ahead of you. But anyway, let's move onto the writing then which is what we want to talk about. Let's talk about the writing.

I guess was a bit like all of us, so you have a novel in the bottom drawer and then this year happened and I think it spurred you into action.

Lolo Paige: Yes. I did a lot of legal writing and technical writing for the US Federal Government. They sent me to a lot of writer training, so by the time I got out, I wanted to do the creative writing. I started out locally, I wrote op-eds and articles for magazines and newspapers here in Alaska and then went national and all of that.

One of the articles was the near miss we had on that summer fighting fire. And that picked up an Alaska Press Club award, that article did. I was pretty shocked. And one of the judges suggested to me, why don't you write a novel and make this a climactic point in the novel and I went, oh, okay. And so I did. I did. I wrote it up. But I wrote it as women's fiction. I just wrote it from the female point of view and the journey through all that.

I went to a writers' conference in Pasadena and another writer, author, a very well known one, and I said, if I could bribe you with a glass of wine, will you tell me how to publish this. And she goes, make it a romance, she says, because a lot of folks read romances. So I did.

I didn't read romance. I didn't know how to write one. So she said go join the Romance Writers of America and they'll help you out. And they did.

I took the classes and I got in with my local chapter who helped me learn how to write romance. And I did that about a year or two before the pandemic hit. I had been working on the story, turning it into a romance and so when that happened, I kind of went, whoa, this is go time, because you don't know what the future's going to bring with this thing. And that was in March; February or March. So I just hit it. Of course, like I was saying, with Mark's class, I'd watch a module and then I'd do it, because I can, my time is so crunched.

James Blatch: That's quite a feat from a virtual standing start. So you had the women's fiction.

Did you have that written, drafted or just outlined when you first got this?

Lolo Paige: I had it drafted. So it was pretty much a rewrite. I had to insert another male character main point of view for him, which wasn't hard. I consulted a retired Alaskan smoke jumper up here and he helped me with that. He was invaluable with that.

James Blatch: How did you plot this book then. You joined RWA. Started, I guess to read romance books and understand things you've got to hit. Because romance readers are expectant aren't they, of the points-

Lolo Paige: Oh, they're insatiable. They're insatiable.

James Blatch: Particularly certain sub-genres. And if you miss those or don't do them, try to surprise people, I don't think that works particularly well in the romance world.

Lolo Paige: Yes. And I love romantic suspense. Up until then, I was reading thrillers. I love the Tom Clancy books and the writer of those books, the current one, lives here in my home town in Alaska. I read his books. I was reading all those kinds of action adventure things and so I made that into the romance. I write that into my books. I love the action and adventure and all that. Living on the edge kind of stuff. Adrenalin.

James Blatch: Yeah. I'm sensing that.

Did you plot this in detail before you started drafting?

Lolo Paige: I had some journals that I had kept back then. They weren't extensive or detailed but it reminded me of different events that happened during the whole firefighting scenario and I had photos from back then. So I tacked them all up and I just did a scene list, following structure.

I followed hero's journey, to start as a beginner. A lot of people say don't just rely on that. But it really helped me. And I'm a Star Wars fan so that structure, for me, was easy. So I did that and, yeah, I made a scene list.

After that conference, I got on a flight from LA to Anchorage and I wrote my outline scene list. The next day was NaNoWriMo. So I wrote it in pretty much a month. Slopped over into December. And then I just worked on it like crazy.

Got tired of it; set it aside. You know, one of those things you go back and forth to and write other things. In the meantime, I wrote two other novels that are fermenting in my computer.

James Blatch: Fermenting. I like that expression. That's what my novel's doing; it's fermenting. There you go. One day. It'll be like a rare Scotch whiskey that's been laid down for a long time.

Lolo Paige: That's right.

James Blatch: So, how do you find the writing. You say you got fed up with it and moved away. Which is a fairly normal experience, even for very experienced, very successful writers can sort of not like their manuscript in the middle part of it.

Did you find a confidence in novel writing, based on perhaps your writing experience with newspapers?

Lolo Paige: It took a while. Yes, I gathered the confidence from being published in shorter things and I did some interviews and I did things like that for print. So, that confidence was there, but the novel was a different cat.

I really had a rough time, in the beginning, with the characters. And my critique kept saying I don't like her, I don't like him and that kind of thing. So I struggled there for a long time.

And then I just put it down and I read 10 books. I just read one after the other. I went to the library, checked out a stack. I just bulldozed through those. And that really loosened up my mind and then I realised what path I wanted the characters on and so I studied David Corbett and people who write about character and that kind of thing.

I joined One Stop for Writers, Angela Ackerman. I did the emotional thesaurus and that whole thing. I read everything I can. I felt like I was cramming for NFA, cramming for a final. I was just reading and studying everything I could.

By the time revision hit, I had wanted to give up. I was going to throw this thing in the recycle bin on my computer. I was so frustrated. And then I went, I met Craig Martel and he said "Simonson," he goes, "Get the thing published, just do it, just do it."

He goes, "What are you waiting for; it says you're a good enough writer to do this, just do it." And so I thought, okay. So I went to the 20 Books in Vegas and wow, that was an experience and I just picked up all that motivation and everything and came home and got it done. So between November and February of last year, I just booked.

James Blatch: What were the key things you picked up at 20Books?

Lolo Paige: Oh, wow. I loved Mark's sessions of course. And I have to mention Jamie Albright. She's probably going to get tired of me mentioning her but I do, because I locked onto what she was saying up there on the stage. She says I went from zero to 100 miles an hour and she just laid out how she did it, by sticking to it and not giving up. And reading everything she could, studying everything she could about indie publishing.

And it really had an impact on me. So I took everything she said and I just tried to emulate that. And it worked. She's right. If you don't give up and you stick to it and you educate yourself, you can do it.

James Blatch: And then you started to implement some of these things and how did that go? When did you actually publish?

Lolo Paige: May 31st of this year, 2020. So I've only been in this game for six, seven months now. But I hit it real hard on the promotion and boy, that paid off. I took advantage of all the free promotion you can do. I did the radio interviews and different interviews, so just this one. And I just got the thing out there.

In fact, one of my Australian authors said, "Whoa, I see this book everywhere. How are you doing that?" And I'm like, "Where have you seen it?" You throw it out there and you do the ads and you do all these things but you don't know really where it's all going or where it all is.

James Blatch: So, it went well.

Lolo Paige: Yes, very well.

James Blatch: Can you give us a little hint of how well?

Lolo Paige: Well, I'll tell you one thing. I was advised to start out with KDP Select as a beginner. And I'm glad I did it, I'm glad I did it. It wasn't great to sell prints or e-books so much, unless I did the promotions. And right off the bat, I got a Book Club International bill which really helped. So that brought in the UK, Canada and Australian readers for me and boy, they've stuck with me. A lot of those organic readers.

But again, a lot of it's in KU. And so the page reads have been really high. And when I did a free promotion of course that really... There were 9,000 downloads of e-books on that and out of that, I built my subscriber list and the ratings doubled and I got more reviews and that kind of thing.

So those things are very useful for visibility. And that's what I was primarily going for. I knew that on a first book, not to try to earn on it, because I'm unknown. I had to get out there and get visibility. So, that's what I've been focusing on. So as far as the visibility factor, it's gone really well. I still have to work on sales. I still have to do that.

James Blatch: As you say, that is more difficult with one book where you've got 130 odd very strong reviews on there, so that's obviously going to be a fantastic foundation for you.

I'm assuming this is going to be a series? Is it going to be a series/serial? Will it be stand alone books in the same universe or the same characters? How's it going to work?

Lolo Paige: Yes. It's a series. First I'm starting with a trilogy and the thing that binds them together is the Aurora crew, the firefighting crew and then I take different characters from each for each subsequent book. Last night I typed the end on the second book. So I'm getting faster.

James Blatch: Congrats.

Lolo Paige: Thank you. So that one's hopefully going to be released in February or March. I haven't decided which yet. But one thing I learned on the first one is I rushed it at the end and I don't want to do that again. I think you need to take your time on these releases so I'm going to do that.

And then I'm going to decide whether to stay exclusive or go wide. I'm wrestling with that too. Because you have to have a plan if you're going to go wide, you really do. You have to have that strategy laid out.

James Blatch: You've got a couple more books planned for this series, and then any plans beyond that? Different series or carry on with the same thing?

Lolo Paige: Yes, I have two other novels fermenting-

James Blatch: Oh, they're the fermenting ones, yeah, right.

Lolo Paige: And they're launching two other series. They're all under romance. The other one's a crime thriller series with Alaska state troopers that I wrote a couple of summers ago. And another one is what I call the wanderlust series with baby boomer characters, older characters and that's a travel series.

I was travelling with a group from California for a couple of years up until COVID, and so I kept journals of that and then I turn them into novels when I get back home. And that's worked out real well.

James Blatch: So is this you now? Novelist? Is this the next stage in your varied careers?

Lolo Paige: Yes, I think so. I really like this novel business. I really do. What I like about it is all the people I've met. I love authors and writers I've met along the way and how generous everyone is with their knowledge and their expertise. I love that. I'm just amazed how willing everybody is to help the new people like me and I really appreciate that.

James Blatch: It is a great community for that. 20Books and SPF I should say, of course, are great communities to be a part of for that. Your background then, how important do you think that is that's enabled you to write this novel that's obviously captured people's imaginations.

Your other books are also based on life experience, but could you envisage yourself writing a series that had nothing to do with the life you've led?

Lolo Paige: Yes. The crime thriller series, I've not experienced any of. The only thing that I had first hand experience were all the locations and the settings in Alaska for that one. I was a big James Bond fan, so it's along those lines. International espionage and geopolitical thriller kind of stuff.

James Blatch: Is your hero British?

Lolo Paige: Yeah. I want to expand my universe, so to speak. The firefighting one has been fun and I enjoy it because I did it in real life, but I also want to spread my wings in other areas too. I have two historical novel series planned; one that starts in Ireland that goes to Butte, Montana. It's kind of like on a Poldarkian thing with mining and that kind of thing. And then I have another Lonesome Dove-y thing on the other side of my family that cowboys that settled Montana. So I have a lot of projects planned. There's just not enough hours in the day.

James Blatch: Yes, I know that feeling. And in terms of authenticity, your book, I'm assuming you probably couldn't bring yourself to stretch the truth too far in that.

Is it quite realistic based in terms of its firefighting aspects?

Lolo Paige: It is. I was very careful to stay true to the accuracy of those themes when I wrote those. I ran them past several active firefighters in California and down Lower 48, and of course my smoke jumpers up here in Alaska. And they did have to rein me in a few times on a few things that I wasn't totally accurate. But that's why I like the sensitivity readers and the professional consultants on those kinds of things.

For this book I'm doing now, I introduced arson as the crime, the suspense part of the thing. And so I consulted John McLean who's a well known author of books about wild land firefighting and he writes the non-fiction aspects. And he writes what happened on a lot of deaths that have happened over the years on different fires. And he's been helping me with the arson aspects of this novel. I'm pretty grateful to have his help on this.

James Blatch: It does seem like there's been a lot of wild fires in the last couple of years isn't it. Not just in the States, California, places like that but also in Australia where they've been devastated by them. I guess it's climate change. Must be something behind it. But the last couple of years, it's been a very high profile aspect of life, which probably has helped, from your book point of view, because people always get intrigued by the background and the personalities in these situations they see on the news.

Lolo Paige: Yes, that's true. Originally, when I planned this series, I'd planned to do one in different states and I had Alaska Spark, California Fire Storm and Montana Blazing. But as the devastation piled up in those areas and there was a lot of loss of property and lives, I backed away from that because it was just too fresh. It was too raw.

My cousin's lost her house in Paradise, California in a bad fire and she was asking me. She said, "Please, in your books, don't write about death any more on these fires because it's been too real for us." I really sat back and I thought about it. And I thought well, okay, I'm going to keep the series in the last bit and then just stick to things that won't be so close to home for people.

James Blatch: I think that's probably a good decision, even though it's going to feel raw isn't it for lots of people. And as I say, not just in the US, but other parts of the world as well.

You've had a bit of a dabble with film and it does seem to me... One of my favourite films is Always, by the way, which is a fire fighting film by Steven Spielberg from late 1980s.

Lolo Paige: Oh, you've seen that. I love that movie. I talk about it a lot in my book. I love that movie.

James Blatch: I adore Always. It's one of the finest Spielberg films. I just love it for it's naturalistic conversation and they're all fantastic.

Lolo Paige: And Audrey Hepburn is in it.

James Blatch: She is. With her sunglasses. You know, it's made me think, during this conversation, I've made a little note to myself to watch it again. It's been years since I've seen it and I adore it as a film. So, it's a good subject for films and you've got a bit of a background here.

Is this something you're thinking about or any overtones going on?

Lolo Paige: Well, yes. I plan to write the screenplay for it. I wrote one before about fire and it took fourth place in an LA independent film festival a couple of years back, so that gave me confidence in the screenplay arena.

James Blatch: Wow.

Lolo Paige: Then I submitted it to other companies who adapt novels to films so I'll see what happens with that. And I'm working on getting a film agent to help me with that.

James Blatch: Fantastic. And maybe you can do a bit of acting in it. Finally, you get that speaking part you deserve.

Lolo Paige: I'd rather write lines for actors now instead of doing all that.

James Blatch: You're a proper barn owl.

Lolo Paige: I can stay in my pyjamas. I don't have to put in makeup and do all that stuff and go on camera.

James Blatch: I think if they make a film, they've got to give you a little walk on part at some point.

Lolo Paige: They did that with Diana Gabaldon in Outlander.

James Blatch: There you go. Although, yes, you can write your part. You can be the Audrey Hepburn of your novel, of your film. It's been illuminating, and I don't mean that as a terrible pun, Lola.

It's just been interesting to hear how you've transitioned from an incredibly active and I have to say, courageous life, into somebody now bringing some joy on the artistic world of things. A less dangerous career you're in now. And interesting experience of adapting your life to a book which is, I guess, what this has been about.

Lolo Paige: Yes, and you know, the pandemic has given me pause too. I've been studying the market, the analytics and such, and people are turning to feel good stories now of course and romance provides that. You have a happily ever after, which is a requirement in romance. And I like that. I just want to make people feel good and make them laugh when they're reading it. I put a lot of humour in these.

I know that in my family, whenever things went south, they dealt with it with humour and I guess I have that gene. So I put that in the books. And I just really want it to be something that is entertaining and has meaning and that there's heroes at home as well as abroad and all of this kind of thing. And I just want to make people feel good, feel better about their situations and less anxious and fearful I guess.

James Blatch: There you go. I think romance novelists are life savers in their own way. You've come from saving lives in one way to another.

Lolo Paige: Well, some of the reviews I've received, one I received from a gentleman a couple of days ago, that I just dissolved. He said he was a firefighter and he was saying how this story provided hope when all was lost kind of thing. And he really liked that aspect.

It was just one of those reviews you get where you could just feel the emotion coming from the reader to you. And that one review. It doesn't take that many words to keep an author motivated like that. When you hear those kinds of things, you go, "Oh, my gosh. I reached one reader. I got one reader." And it just makes it all worthwhile.

James Blatch: What it's all about.

Lolo Paige: That's what we're doing this for, is for the readers.

James Blatch: Absolutely. Lolo, thank you so much indeed for coming on. I hope we'll meet in person maybe at the next 20 Books, next year.

Lolo Paige: I'm registered.

James Blatch: There you go. We'll have a drink and I'll hear a few more of those stories.

Lolo Paige: Okay. That sounds great. It's really been an honour talking to you. I've been listening to you on some of the modules I have and you're really good at narration. Gosh you should narrate books. You're really good at it.

James Blatch: That's very kind of you. I'm not sure I'd find the time in the day to do another thing. That's very kind of you, Lolo. Thank you very much and thank you so much indeed for coming on.

Lolo Paige: Thank you. It's been a pleasure.

James Blatch: There you go. We've been calling her Lola because John Dyer's dog is called Lola and I think somebody said Lola once, but it's Lolo. Lolo Paige; a really wonderful woman. Great person to speak to; quite inspiring.

Been running around on mountains keeping people safe in fire situations in ways that you and I probably couldn't imagine, outside our comfort zone. But we do thank the people who do that sort of thing on our behalf. And now turning her hand to writing.

There's romance in firefighters, right?

Mark Dawson: Yeah, I was going to say, speak for yourself. You might not be running around saving girls on mountains but you don't know what I get up to in my spare time.

James Blatch: That's true, I don't. I'm going to bet that you don't but you do have that electric bike. Maybe you can get there quicker on that.

Mark Dawson: Actually, weirdly enough, this is completely out of tangent, but there's a guy in Salisbury who runs this thing called Gravity. He's basically Tony Stark. You've probably seen him. He can fly basically.

James Blatch: Ah, those things. Yes.

Mark Dawson: He has engines on his hands and his feet and he can fly. And one of the applications for this is for mountain rescue. So you think if you're up a mountain, maybe they're not able to get a helicopter up there; to get up on foot could take ages, but even if you're 200 or 300 feet up, just to basically follow the contour of the mountain, just fly up. So yeah, anyway, we should suggest that to Lolo. Maybe we could get a jetpack sent up to Alaska.

James Blatch: Yeah, it's an incredible thing. I think the Navy are very interested in it. They seem to demo it a lot. I've seen this guy, some YouTube footage of him, buzzing around warships. I don't know how long it lasts for and also it looks to me like you'd need decent biceps I reckon to hold that in place the whole time. No problem for me.

Mark Dawson: I'm fairly sure you're not going to be asked to test fly that one.

James Blatch: I have got some dumbbells but that's just to help my driving, for golf. Okay, good, right. Thank you very much indeed Mark. I think that's probably it for this week.

You and I both, I need to get my daughter to cut my hair. I'll probably need to have a shave and I need to run in the morning, so that I'm not sitting like this in my trackies all day. That's my look after yourself thing. What are you doing to look after yourself this week?

Mark Dawson: Walk the dog, that's it basically.

James Blatch: Nothing.

Mark Dawson: I'm too busy to do much else. I walk the dog in the mornings.

James Blatch: Yeah. Get out of the house is a very important thing, even if there is finally some light at the end of the tunnel, we think, in this pandemic. Certainly in the UK at the moment. Okay, that's it. Thank you very much indeed, Lolo. Great to speak to you. Thank you Mark.

We'll be back this time next week. Every Friday you get the Self-Publishing Show into your inbox in all the various channels. We do love your reviews and your ratings, so thank you very much if you're dropping those into iTunes or YouTube or anywhere else. We read every one, every comment. There was a really weird comment last week. I still don't know what it means. It called Boo Walker, what did it call him? A spud. A spud.

Mark Dawson: Yeah. I was going to say a potato, but yeah, it was a spud.

James Blatch: We don't know whether it was a compliment or an insult.

Mark Dawson: I don't think it was a compliment but...

James Blatch: Really? Who wouldn't compliment-

Mark Dawson: I know when I was at school if you called someone a spud, that wasn't a compliment; you were having a dig. Perhaps it's someone from my school days and it wasn't about Boo, it was about me.

James Blatch: But when we were at school-

Mark Dawson: In the forties.

James Blatch: People first started saying wicked, meaning good, and now every word that we used to use that meant bad, means good. So I don't know about the spud. Spud, not stud; we know what stud means. Anyway, maybe that person could get back to us at some point and let us know-

Mark Dawson: Or maybe not.

James Blatch: Their true feelings and I can decide whether to delete the comment or not. Okay, that's it. Thank you very much indeed. All that remains for me to say is it's a goodbye from him-

Mark Dawson: And a goodbye from me. Goodbye.

James Blatch: Goodbye.

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