Hi AC! Thank you so much for letting me interview you about your debut as a YA author!
A SHOT OF BOURBON was released in March 2016— Congratulations! I noticed it’s book one in a four book series. A DOUBLE SHOT OF BOURBON is also due out this year, in October 2016. Do you have the storyline for books three and four already sketched out?
First off, thank you so much for thinking of me. A Shot of Bourbon is the first book in an already completed series. I guess I’m a bit of an overachiever but I pitched A Shot, my fantastic publisher loved it, and then I told them about the other books. They read them, and they were as excited as I am about getting Bourbon out to the world.
A Shot of Bourbon released March 29th.
(Bourbon on the Rocks April 19th (?)-I’ll explain)
A Double Shot of Bourbon, October 2016.
A Flaming Shot of Bourbon and Straight Bourbon are still too far away to talk about, but we’re looking at 2017
When you began book one, did you intend for it to become a series?
The three Shot books (A Shot of Bourbon, A Double Shot of Bourbon, and A Flaming Shot of Bourbon) center around two best friends, Charli and Lonna, and two brothers, Luke and Collin Parker, who are famous—not in a good way—for being the sons of the Bourbon Butcher. I always planned on A Shot of Bourbon, at least, having a sequel. I wrote it so that it could stand alone, but I never wanted it to. Because the characters had so many layers and the drama in Bourbon just kept coming the boys needed the third book to wrap things up.
I actually wrote six Bourbon books. Three about the Parker boys. Three about the, sort of, anti-hero guys to the Parkers. Straight Bourbon (the fourth book by BFB) is about the main anti-hero and Charli’s ex-boyfriend, Bo.
I decided to self-publish the other two standalone books. One of them (Bourbon on the Rocks) actually happens chronologically with A Shot of Bourbon, so I’m (hopefully) releasing Bourbon on the Rocks less than a month after A Shot.
My intention is to give the eBook of Rocks away for free for some time, as a reward to those who have enjoyed A Shot.
There’s so much Bourbon going around, I hope this makes sense.
How would you categorize the genre of the series — historical fiction, mystery, suspense, psychological thriller, contemporary, etc? Or is it a mash-up of a few?
A Shot of Bourbon is definitely YA contemporary. I consider it ‘contemporary romantic suspense’ but the ‘suspense’ is not as intense as the romance, if that makes sense. If the cover and the title don’t give it away this is not for young readers. Yeah, it’s about teenagers, but they’re seasoned teenagers and they act like it.
Your protagonist Charli is described as a good girl that decides to give rebellion a try after a few things go wrong in her life. She meets Luke, a boy from the other side of the tracks, and they forge a connection. When Charli discovers a dangerous family secret, Luke vows to keep her safe. Does the story of Charli and Luke continue throughout the series or do the characters shift?
Charli is innocent more than she is ‘good’ she’s been sheltered her whole life, almost in an extreme way, and when her parents leave on vacation she gets a chance to break free. Luke has always been a bad boy with a rough past. He’s devoted to the ones he loves, though, and once he takes Charli under his wing she’s there to stay.
A Double Shot is from the POV of Luke’s brother, Collin, and Charli’s best friend, Lonna, but the story continues chronologically almost exactly where Shot lets off. And it is a continuation of events, as opposed to a stand alone (Like Straight Bourbon and Bourbon on the Rocks).
Can you tell me how you sketched out their character traits and overall character development?
I’ll be honest, these characters have changed A LOT over time. I can’t remember when I got the idea for the books, or what led to the ‘Bourbon Butcher’ plot, but I remember the very first thing I thought of was that it would be so cool if there was a flawed quarterback that fell in love with an inherently flawed cheerleader.
It seems like, too often we try to keep these two characters from being together because it’s overdone. I wanted the cliché of their tropes to align, while the layers of their personalities made their story what it is. That led me to Lonna and Collin.
And, yeah, their story came first. I think I even wrote their rough-rough-rough draft first. They were the original Shot of Bourbon. Things changed of course and when Collin’s father became what he was and, Luke was always Luke, (rough, abrasive, and adorably devoted) the story of Charli and Luke had to be told first. Not just because it’s first chronologically, but they’re the youngest, rawest, and most emotionally unstable of the characters 😉
They have the most growth and they needed the most time, throughout the series, to develop.
I’ll admit, I Googled Bourbon, Missouri and found out it is indeed a real place.
Bourbon is real. I’m sitting in a one-hundred-acre farm just outside of city limits right now. The name of the town was just too good not to use. I think from the moment I decided to write a book, every book I wrote was called A Shot of Bourbon. Ha-Ha.
I took quite a few liberties with it, however. The ‘Bourbon’ in the book is not the one I grew up in. It is an absolute work of fiction. There isn’t even a football team in the real Bourbon. I never set out to base this in the real town. The only things that are similar are geography. Bourbon is a highway town right on the Meramec river. The surrounding towns are all named similarly and we’re sitting on historic RT 66, which I also mention. Other than that, this book could have happened anywhere.
The term “Bourbon Butcher” used in your premise makes me think Luke’s father was a murderer. Am I totally off base? Was there a Bourbon Butcher in real life?
Oh no, I made that up. I’m not sure how much I’m allowed to say about it, but the idea for the ‘Butcher(s)’ actually came to me when I saw a commercial for a 60-Minutes episode (I think?). The woman said something to the effect of “if only he’d thought of what his son’s life would be like, when he did…” and I just thought, ‘hmm…wonder what his son’s life is like’
Regarding the road to publication — did you begin by querying agents?
I had written two (?) novels before A Shot of Bourbon and I did query agents. I’ll be honest, I didn’t try very hard. I’m very hard on myself and I’m very honest with myself.
If so, what was that process like?
My first books weren’t good. When the few agents I did query rejected I took it for what it was and moved on.
If I’m not mistaken, you don’t need an agent to be published by BookFish Books. Did you submit to them early on? What was “the call” like?
I didn’t write these books because I wanted to be published. I wrote them because they were a story inside me that demanded to be told. I wrote all of them out of order and they were sloppy at first and all over the place. In the beginning there was no real plan. Like I said, it started out with just a flawed quarterback and cheerleader. It really grew from there.
When I was finished with the series (I actually had one standalone book left at the time) I decided I was going to self-publish. A lot of my favorite authors have had success self-publishing and I felt that was the right move in this market.
It was just lucky circumstance that I was looking at the hashtag #MSWL and I saw what BookFish Books was interested in. Their interests seemed to fit Bourbon almost too perfectly. They’re a small publisher, but I just had a feeling about them. I submitted and within a few days (maybe hours, I don’t remember) they requested a full.
Only because I wanted to keep my options open I submitted to other publishers who didn’t require agents.
It took several weeks but BFB responded that they were interested. I’ll never forget, I was standing in the barn with my hand covered in grease, working on the hay spike (if that isn’t the most country thing ever) when I got the news. The first person I told was my dad. Of course I let the other publishers who’d shown interest know. One of them wished me luck and declined, and the other said they were also interested. It was, without a doubt, the most amazing feeling in the world to know that my work was desired.
BookFish expressed interest in my series (which was completed by then) and my (now) content editor sent me a private message telling me how much she loved Bourbon and how much it she wished I’d consider them. Honestly, her message was what did it. Even though the other publisher was bigger, I opted for BFB because they made me feel like family.
I couldn’t even begin to describe this experience, but I would recommend BFB to everyone. I’ve had so many questions, and I know I probably get on their nerves, but there is no way a bigger publisher would have had the time to put the time into me that I know I needed. And, honestly, Bourbon needed that time too.
A SHOT OF BOURBON is your debut novel in the world of publishing, but is it the first novel you’ve ever written? Do you rely on the support of beta readers, critique partners, writing classes or the like? How many drafts did it take you to get A SHOT OF BOURBON ready for submission?
It’s actually hard to know for sure how many novels I’d written. I say two, but I re-wrote and re-worked Bourbon a lot. Like I said, I’m hard on myself. Even now, I ask my editor if I can have the book back (in between edits) so that I can go through it.
I’m not sure any other publisher would let me get away with it, but I’ve been lucky that BFB is accepting of my neuroses. Ha-Ha.
Looking back on it now, Bourbon wasn’t ready for submission. I’m insanely proud of how it looks today, but the way it looked a year ago was embarrassing. I can’t believe they even loved it like they did. I guess it’s one of those situations where they could truly look past the dirt to see the diamond underneath.
Where do you draw inspiration from — tv, movies, books, nature? Can you give some specific examples?
I don’t watch a lot of TV, just SNL and if I catch Jimmy Fallon or Seth Meyers then I’m obliged to finish the episode. I have a huge movie collection that I started in college. I’m in love with Star Wars (circa Harrison Ford *Swoon*) and if ever there was a book turned into a movie, I probably own it. But I’m not sure if that inspires me or not.
Mostly, I read a lot. A Lot. A Lot. When I first decided to write a book (actually sit down and write, not toy with the fantasy) people told me that I would have to read, so I bought several ‘how to be an awesome author’ books and then a couple ‘how to get your book published’ books. Needless to say, I knew everything. So it’s no surprise that my first book was pretty bland.
It wasn’t until I started reading all the time. Fiction, romance, suspense, horror, paranormal, posters in the bathroom at the mall, the directions on the back of macaroni (Ha-Ha) that I really started to understand the importance of reading.
Thank you so much for chatting with me!
For more information about A.C. Land or her books, please visit: