When Edmonds author Jennifer Bardsley revealed her pen name last summer, it didn’t come with the drama that one would expect. Most choose a nom de plume to keep their true names untarnished by lowbrow content, but books written under Bardsley’s pen name, Louise Cypress, are clean — no sex, no drugs, no booze.
For Bardsley, coming forward was about owning her most successful work and biggest gamble, an indie-published trilogy about teenage vampires called “The Puritan Coven,” which is now competing with “Twilight” on Amazon’s top teen vampire picks.
Unsure whether it would succeed, she decided to run the series under a pseudonym. She also skipped the publishing houses in favor of a quick digital release on Amazon. Her plan worked. In fact, it worked so well that her pen name became more popular than her real one.
“It’s exciting, because I’m doing it myself,” she said. “Amazon has been a game-changer for writers.”
With digital printing changing the publishing world, authors like Bardsley are taking advantage of the opportunity to release their books independent of a publishing house. Not only does it mean fewer people taking their share of the cut, but it also allows for quicker releases, which makes writing on trendy topics possible.
“The Puritan Coven” books are so successful, Tantor Media bought the rights to make the audiobooks, which come out this winter.
The trilogy triumph didn’t just hinge on the quality of Bardsley’s writing but on her penchant for developing a social media marketing platform, said Penelope Wright, a local author who penned “No Use For A Name.” Anyone can self-publish, but few indie writers are discovered.
“She did it, and she did it fantastically,” Wright said. She now wonders if she, too, could be successful at it, “as long as I follow the Jenny Bardsley model.”
The model includes a methodical use of social media. Bardsley’s Facebook and Instagram pages, each called The YA Gal (YA standing for young adult literature) have about 21,000 and 17,000 followers each. Whenever she releases a book, she can tell thousands of people already interested in her genre where to find them.
At Bardsley’s suburban home, framed portraits of her children are arranged neatly on an uncluttered table. She speaks in warm tones with her hands folded over stacked knees. She is exactly the type of person you’d expect to see reading at a park, while her children play.
One would never suspect from out of those hands flow the dramatic and sometimes violent narratives that drive her writing. Nor would they guess that behind her easy smile, she carries strong opinions. Yet, she started to blog, she says, to get them out, so “I could keep my mouth shut at playgroup.”
At this point the psychology degree from Stanford makes sense. Her pen name borrows from her California roots, Louise being her middle name, and Cypress the street she grew up on.
“My sister calls it my stripper name,” Bardsley said with a laugh.
After toying around with the idea of law school, she landed on teaching, which she did for six years in Southern California. She moved to Edmonds with her husband 12 years ago.
Her blogging eventually led to a column in Everett’s Daily Herald called “I Brake for Moms.”
Writing young adult fiction came from her interest in reading it. While the genre targets teenagers, its largest fan base is arguably middle-age women. With big names like “Hunger Games” and “Twilight” topping the genre, this isn’t surprising.
Students, Bardsley said, are so busy reading for school that they don’t often have time for leisure reading. This was the case for her. She didn’t start reading for fun until after college. “I felt like I was finally getting to read the books I missed out on in high school,” she said.
After getting a taste of the publishing world through her columns, she began writing “Genesis Girl,” which, with help from her agent, became a two-book series published by Month9Books. In the wake of her self-publishing success, things are coming full circle next year with Owl Hollow Press, which is releasing “Narcosis Room,” the first of two books. There’s one major change from last time Bardsley worked with publishers — they want to use her now-popular pen name.
Bardsley thoughtfully researches ideas for novels, and “Narcosis Room” was no exception. While researching brainwashing for “Genesis Girl,” she learned of a treatment once offered to women who suffered from postpartum depression.
A Dr. William Sargant from England would sedate the patients for months on end, waking them only to care for their basic needs, in hopes of getting them through. Of those who survived, there was a tragic amount of memory loss, she said. In “Narcosis Room,” she applies the idea to modern applications of medicine — mainly plastic surgery. Patients enter a sleep for months, emerging with perfectly sculpted bodies.
Bardsley is also a major advocate for community, and not just for writers. She’s an administrator for the Edmonds Moms Facebook group, which has 6,000 members, and she also served on boards for the Foundation for Edmonds School and the Challenge Parents Association.
“I think she is really giving of her time and knowledge,” Wright, the local author, said.
About the author
Jennifer Bardsley writes the column “I Brake for Moms” for The Daily Herald and writes young adult novels. Her next book, “Narcosis Room,” comes out in February.
Bardsley lives in a book-filled home in Edmonds with her family and a poodle named Merlin.
“The Blank Slate” series, by Jennifer Bardsley
Book 1: “Genesis Girl.” 280 pages. $15.35. Hardcover.
Book 2: “Damaged Goods.” 294 pages. $9.86. Paperback.
“The Puritan Coven” series, by Louise Cypress
Book 1: “Bite Me.” 324 pages. $3.99. e-Book.
Book 2: “Hunt Me.” 244 pages. $3.99. e-Book.
Book 3: “Slay Me.” 252 pages. $3.99. e-Book.
Follow the author
Do you want to be the first to know about her next book? Sign up for her newsletter at landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/r4g0k3.
Follow Bardsley/Cypress on Instagram @the_ya_gal, on Facebook as The YA Gal, or email her at email@example.com.
Washington North Coast Magazine
This article is featured in the winter issue of Washington North Coast Magazine, a supplement of The Daily Herald. Explore Snohomish and Island counties with each quarterly magazine. Each issue is $3.99. Subscribe to receive all four editions for $14 per year. Call 425-339-3200 or go to www.washingtonnorthcoast.com for more information.