Q&A with Author and Actor Megan O'Russell

by Nina Post

I'm very pleased to have author and actor Megan O’Russell on the blog today to chat about social media, marketing, touring, working creatively with a spouse, public speaking, and a time portal in Trader Joe's. I think her answers are a fascinating insight into the life of a touring actor, and useful for anyone who wants to improve their marketing and public speaking skills.

Megan and I have the same publisher, and she just released her latest book (congrats, Megan!), a young adult urban fantasy novel that sounds like a really fun read:

The Tale of Bryant Adams:

How I Magically Messed Up My Life in Four Freakin’ Days

In the past few weeks, you've been doing a Facebook Live reading series, where you read an excerpt from a book from our publisher, Curiosity Quills. Before that, you did a number of Facebook Live videos. Can you talk about how you got started, why you're doing it, and how you're getting the videos done?

I actually got started with the videos because of Curiosity Quills. They issued a challenge for all their authors to try Facebook Live [Ed: that was me :::villainous laugh:::]. It took me a while to find something that I consistently wanted to chat about that people might be interested in. Reading excerpts became the concept I could most consistently work with.

It’s fun (and super educational) for me to read other authors’ blurbs and books, and it’s a great way to get the word out about my fellow writers’ material. The videos are actually really easy to do. I have a mini tripod for my phone, and Facebook Live is very user friendly. Honestly, the biggest issue is finding good light for filming at home.

You'll be leaving to go on a tour soon. I have so many questions about this :). Have you done that before, how many people are you going with, and what are you taking with you?

I have been on a national tour before. I did the Fiddler on the Roof tour about five years ago and am super excited to get back out on the road. This time I’ll be Dance Captaining (monkey wrangling) and performing in The Wizard of Oz. I don’t know an exact number, but my best guess is that I’ll be sharing a bus with about twenty-five other actors and musicians for seven months.

As for packing…you have to think of it as a two-week backpacking trip where you hit all four seasons of weather. Pack as light as you can on the clothes, bring a sleeping bag for days when you have to sleep on the bus floor, and don’t forget your laptop and Kindle!

Can you give me an overview of a typical day (and night) when you're in a theater production?

When you’re in rehearsal you usually spend between eight and twelve hours a day in the rehearsal studio. You learn all your music, dance till you can’t walk anymore, and figure out where to stand so you don’t get run over by a set piece. Once you’re in performance, you really only work nights. Two or three days a week I have a matinee so I’ll have to be at the theatre around noon and then back at seven for the second show, but it’s really not bad.

On a tour like Wizard of Oz all bets are off. We travel from city to city pretty quickly. So a morning could be 5am bus call, 12pm lunch, 3pm arrive at hotel, 6pm leave for the theatre to get to mic check, 8pm show. Then do it all over the next day.

On what I think was your first Facebook Live video, your husband was playing the piano and singing. It seems that you two have a great working relationship and share the same passion for theater. Can you give me an example of how you tend to work together, and do you have any tips for facilitating a spouse's creative process?

My husband is actually a performer as well. He’ll be playing the Tinman on tour. We have a very… strange relationship. We’ve been together since we were eighteen and have worked together as performers since college, which is very rare in theatre. We have been extremely lucky in that respect.

Because we spend pretty much all our time together, working together on projects became a natural extension. He’s the first reader for all of my books, so I have a thick skin when he tells me something isn’t working. We’re actually working on writing our second musical together right now. I write the lyrics and sometimes a bit of the melody, and he does the rest of the composing and orchestrating. It’s actually a ton of fun to lock ourselves away and work on a project, and it ensures we never run out of things to talk about.

It seems like you've been getting more interested in marketing and branding lately, including launching your reading series and making visual content. What was the hardest part about getting started, and do you have any tips for someone who wants to get more active in marketing their products?

The hardest part of getting started was pushing past the intimidation. You read about creating banners, and it all just seems overwhelming. Finding your brand colors and font, experimenting with posting times, finding a way to do all of it consistently can feel impossible. My best advice is to take it one tiny step at a time. Figure out how to use Manage Flitter to work on your Twitter. Figure out how to schedule posts on Facebook. Figure out how to use Canva.

But do it one thing at a time, and don’t get frustrated if you need help. I have been asking questions all over the place, trying to figure everything out. Without wonderful people like Nina (who helped me figure out font pairing) I would still be crying over my Canva handbook. [Thanks, Megan!]

As an actor, what advice would you give someone who's doing some infrequent public speaking, but still can't quite get past their terror when they're in front of people?

You just have to practice. Practice in front of your partner or, if that’s too much, your pet. Then add a few more trusted friends. Find a low stakes environment: an open mic poetry night, go sing karaoke, sign up for an acting class.

The only way to get really comfortable in front of people is to get used to it. I’ve been onstage thousands upon thousands of times, and I still get nervous sometimes. You have to accept that nerves happen and train your body and your mind to do what it needs to anyway. The only way to do that is by practicing

If you found a time portal in your local Trader Joe's that looped briefly through another time and place, where would you most want that portal to lead, and what Trader Joe's product would you want to take with you?

I would love to go to the original opening night of Romeo and Juliet at the Globe Theatre, and I would bring four boxes of the maple leaf cookies.

The Tale of Bryant Adams: How I Magically Messed Up My Life in Four Freakin’ Days

Ever wanted to grow a five-story tall flower in central park? How about fight a deadly battle under the subway tunnels of Manhattan?

Don't worry. I never wanted to either. But if you're ever being chased by ladies made of mist and you have to save the girl with the sparkly eyes you've never had the guts to say actual words to, there's an app for that.

I found a magic cell phone, opened an app I shouldn't have, burned down the set shop for my high school's theatre, and it was all downhill from there. A drag queen seer who lives under a bridge is my only hope for keeping my mom alive, and I think the cops might be after me for destroying my dad's penthouse.

But it gets better! Now I'm stuck being the sidekick to the guy who got me into this mess in the first place. It'll be a miracle if I survive until Monday.

Megan O'Russell is a native of Upstate New York who spends her time traveling the country as a professional actor. Megan's current published works include YA series Girl of Glass and The Tale of Bryant Adams: How I Magically Messed Up My Life in Four Freakin’ Days as well as the Christmas romance Nuttycracker Sweet. 2018 projects include The Chronicles of Maggie Trent: The Girl Without Magic and book two in the Girl of Glass series, Boy of Blood. For more information on Megan O’Russell's books, visit MeganORussell.com.

Curiosity Quills Press
(author page)

Q&A with Jessa Russo, Author of Ever

I'm thrilled to welcome Jessa Russo as part of her Ever Blog Tour, which has been like the Dakar Rally or the Western States Endurance Run. I'm going to throw her some bottled water, energy gels, pretzels, and bananas.

Jessa's debut novel is the YA paranormal romance EVER (which has a beautiful cover). It was published in October 2012 by the innovative Curiosity Quills Press, who also happen to be the publisher of my first three novels.

You're a California girl, and you’re from south Orange County. How do you think living there has informed your writing?

That’s a tough question, but on a very superficial level … EVER takes place in Orange, which is an area I am very familiar with, so I think that helps when writing a story. You already know the layout of the area – the streets, the attractions, the food – so it makes setting the scene a lot easier. In my opinion.  

Which author's career do you most want to emulate in the long run and why?

I can’t think of anyone in particular. I want to get all of my book ideas on paper, and I want to grow and learn with each story. I want the world to love my books, so if I could emulate anyone, it would be someone who has a following of people devoted to their stories.

Which of your characters is the most similar to you, and which is most different?

Ever. Definitely Ever. I didn’t realize it when I was writing, but the more I get to know her, whether re-reading the book, or working on book two, and the more that I hear feedback from friends, I realize she’s pieces of me. Pieces of me now, and pieces of me as a teen. As far as most different from me, it’s a tie between Jessie and Ariadne. Though completely different from each other, they both have the confidence I’ve always thought I lacked. Jessie lights up a room when she walks in, and Ariadne makes all heads turn. I’ve never felt that I hold that kind of easy grace or confidence.

Are there any of your characters you wish you could be more like? Why?

Well, in truth, I think there are bits of all of them that are me, and bits of all of them that I wish were me. I wish I had Jessie’s easy-going nature, Ariadne’s confidence, Frankie’s ability to love unconditionally, Toby’s strength, and Ever’s ability to trust and love so openly.

What is your writing schedule like?

Ha! Currently, it is non-existent. But when I’m not devouring manuscript submissions for CQ, I devote all of my free time to writing. I’m blessed to be a stay-at-home mom, so while my daughter is at school, I write all day. But my favorite time to write, and the best time in my opinion, is first thing in the morning. After my husband goes to work, but before my daughter has to wake up for school … when it’s still dark outside, and the coffee is flowing … that is my favorite time to write.

Where do you want your career to be in ten years?

As far as writing goes, I want to have all three books of The Ever Trilogy released, along with the prequel (from Toby’s POV). I also want my other works in progress to see the light of day. I have an awesome story – a loose biblical retelling – that I can’t wait to share with the world, but I have had to put it on the backburner for now. But it is going to be good. Really good. (At least, in my humble opinion. Lol) As far as my job with CQ goes, I want to watch authors reach their publishing goals because of me. I want to have a part in starting the careers of some amazing undiscovered talents. And if all of this goes well, for both my job as a writer, and my job as an Acquisitions Editor for CQ, I really want my husband to be able to do what he loves. So hopefully everything works out, and our financial situation changes enough to make his dreams a reality too. God knows he’s worked hard so I could stay home with our daughter and chase my writing dreams. I’d like to be able to tell him some day that it’s his turn.

What's the best advice you received while working on Ever?

Hmmm … I’d say that my friend, Marisa, telling me to write my “morning pages” every day, started me off on my early-morning writing path, and in turn helped me find the time and drive to finish. It also helped me realize that in order to write my book and write it well, I had to write every day. Something I’ve forgotten as of late, but I hope to return to soon.

What type of book do you think would be the most challenging to write?

Oh geez. There are two types of books I can think of off the top of my head. First of all, anything based (loosely or otherwise) on history – any history. I recently read an amazing submission for CQ – a YA historical romance – and I was blown away by how much research the author had obviously put into the book. It baffles me. Secondly, I have a hard time wrapping my mind around completely made-up worlds. So anything that takes place somewhere other than modern day America, is mind-boggling to me. I just don’t feel like I have the ability or creativity to completely form another world entirely, and authors who do that are totally amazing to me.

What role does your husband play in your writing process? Is he involved with brainstorming or editing, or encouraging you during every writer's occasional spiral into despair?

Oh geez. You ask the tough questions, don’t you!? Honestly, my husband doesn’t read fiction. He doesn’t understand why anyone does. So you can imagine how un-enthused he is about my young adult paranormal romance about a seventeen-year-old girl in love with a ghost! Lol! He’s a very factual, scientific person. He wants to learn something from what he reads. He loves reading instruction manuals. Haha! Can you imagine!? I’d go crazy without a fictional boyfriend to love, or a mystery to solve! So he’s as supportive as he can be. More so now, for sure, since the book is a real thing and not just a hobby. I think for a long time he thought I’d just found something to occupy myself with, but now that he has seen it come to fruition, and holds the book in his hand, I think he finally gets it. And I know he’s finally proud of me.

What was your favorite book (or series) when you were your daughter's age?

I LOVED the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books. Those were probably what introduced me to my love of all things paranormal. From there I read everything by Christopher Pike. He was my favorite childhood author, though I’m not sure I was reading him when I was nine. I can’t remember though – a lot of my childhood memories are missing.

I'd like to thank Jessa for taking the time to answer my questions. Her debut novel is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. You can also learn more about Jessa on her website, or follow her on Twitter.