Publishing Q and A with Sheala Henke

Today our Q and A takes a slightly different angle. Sheala Henke, fantasy author, talks about her path to a traditionally published fantasy novel.

Born and raised in the foothills of the Colorado Rocky Mountains, and local CSU alumni, Sheala Dawn Henke is a veteran educator, with nearly twenty years in the trenches. She’s the author of an honored title for the ‘What’s New in Young Adult Literature, 2018 Edition’ with her YA Climate Fiction series, IDEA33 and the new release with Pen Name Publishing of her Literary Fantasy novel, Story Bends. Sheala and her husband and two children thrive in Fort Collins, Colorado.

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Name a few of your favorite books/how they inspire you.

I find that the books that resonate most with me are the ones that pull on my heartstrings. They sit in very distinct emotional chambers in my mind that stays with me for weeks, months, sometimes years. I actually go through a process of grieving over books I’ve finished that have this quality. Only when I realize I can read them again, do I feel at peace. One of my favorite books that I read aloud each year with my students is A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd. This book is truly one of the most deliciously, tantalizingly magical books I’ve ever read for young and old. I particularly love to read this book out loud as I prefer the audio version of books with such a musical quality like this one. If “words were the sweets in the mouth of sound” this would be on my Top 10 list. Natalie is also very engaged with her audience, and she has been a source of delight for my students as they continue to fall in love with her prose. She shares her writing journey and is very responsive to independent inquiries. She even went as far as to respond personally to a letter from one of my students last year who wrote to her about how much she adored her book. She followed up by sending us some wonderful Snicker Swag.

Another author I adore for his unique and lyrical style is Neil Gaiman. His writing is leaps and bounds above anything else I’ve ever read and I’ve decided that if winning the lottery was in the cards for me, I’d happily trade it for a little whisper of his magical page dust to transfer to my own work. I also truly admire his dedication to improving his craft. I feel like he’s along the same lines as Steven King with his abilities and his commitment as a career writer.

I’ve also fallen in love with and stay true to a few classics that will always resonate with me. I’m a Jane Austin fan, through and through and I enjoy the disturbingly ethereal works of Nathanial Hawthorne, whose short story, The Haunted Mind was the initial inspiration for my Literary Fantasy, Story Bends.

I’m a fangirl for a good epic tale like Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series and Kent Follet’s Pillars of the Earth. I enjoy the way they both write with such sensory detail enhancing the reader’s experience to ‘live the days’ with the characters. It’s a writing style I aim to emulate in my work as well.

Tell us about your publishing journey. How did you decide to self-publish and what were some roadblocks and positive experiences you encountered?

My publishing journey began in a room with over 300 people at a conference for the National Gifted and Talented community. Like a burst of bumbling brilliance, it came while listening to the Keynote author, Stephanie Tolan speak about creativity. At that moment the seed of an idea came to me while I was taking notes. I sketched out the most god-awful Frankenstein rendition of a thinking map outline for what later became my first novel, IDEA 33-A Regeneration. What sparked the ignition to move it from idea to page occurred the following day when I went back into my classroom and shared the experience with my students. They were full of questions. They wanted to know about the story, the characters. There was a wanderlust in their eyes I couldn’t put down. They wanted to READ this story. This story that didn’t exist…yet. They wanted more, and it was up to me to deliver it.

So, what did I do? What anyone else out of their ‘write’ mind would do, I went home that night to hatch a story and stayed up until the crack of dawn to get enough of it down so I could share it with them the following day. Even then, I didn’t come to understand what I was doing. I was writing a novel. My first novel. I was not well-versed with the writing coat of arms or a lifetime of craft study. My writing journey was as organic an experience as any other happenstance, and as the days wore on and the yellow bricks on my road to publication evolved, I evolved with it, laying each ever-loving bricks with the support and encouragement of my family, friends and most of all, my students. I wrote the entire book that year with built-in Beta readers and they stayed with me years after the maiden voyage. In fact, we hosted a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund a full manuscript revision with a professional content and copy editor team.

In that time, we began an after-school writing group called the Write Muses, operating on one mission statement, grounded on the ‘If you build it, they will come’ theory and working on our craft together. And, THEY KEEP COMING! The group has grown and changed over time, with a membership of over thirty young aspiring writers and purveyors of their own inner guide to feed their passion. We meet twice a month and the membership is free and voluntary. They mentor one another, they learn the art of critique and find a space where they can cultivate their interests. Many of the original group members have gone on to accomplish amazing things outside of our space. They are artists, speakers, engineers, and musicians and they know what it means to feed a curiosity with every breadcrumb of success.

How did you find your way to getting traditional pubbed and why did you decide to go down this path at this time?

I have always been somewhat of a closet writer, journaling the days away and writing poetry, and although some may see my experience with how I came into publishing as a Cinderella tale, I happen to believe in the magic of perseverance and grit. Where I’ve landed today didn’t happen on accident or with the swipe of the magic wand or as a result of my Fairy God Agent. I’ve had nothing but my core conscience and a drive to keep improving my craft. I believe I will be agented one day in the near future, and I look forward to that day, but I look more forward to a future of ‘manucripting up’ to write more quality books that alter perspectives for readers of all ages. It was with pure spirit and grit that I’ve moved from point A to point P in publishing. I also believe it was due to the fact that the kids have always served as my direct muse. Without their persistence and cajoling, I might not have been enticed to take the first, second and twelfth step on a journey toward the first traditionally published Literary Fiction novel, Story Bends with Pen Name Publishing. It was a promise I made to myself and to them and our story continues…

What advice do you have for other writers about deciding what pathway to publish to take?

Choosing the path to publishing is a very intimate, personal decision. In today’s market, it can take on an overwhelming number of forms, and it really depends on each individual’s goal. I would offer the advice to consider joining a writing group or take a platform building class on branding to really dive into the ‘Why’ behind your writing. That is what success-minded people do in every industry. If writing is just a hobby, and it fills you up, then that’s all it should be. If you want to pursue it further, join a local writing group or organization to start learning more about the industry and the market and take on the beast of the craft by writing each and every day. I’d recommend you sign up for one of the myriad of social media groups who share and create together. These communities are priceless, and you can stay as anonymous as you’d like as you choose what level of engagement you wish to pursue. I also highly recommend some low-cost conference opportunities like WriteOnCon which hosts an amazing three-day intensive online conference with an even more amazing lineup of writers, editors, agents, and industry professionals in a safe (put yourself out there at your own pace) space. For more information visit their website and full conference admission is only $10! It’s probably the best deal in the industry for anyone who needs a little help navigating where they stand and it is a great place for writers of all levels.

https://writeoncon.org

What three words describe your writing.

Versified, Lyrical, Expressive

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I would like to express my sincerest gratitude to those in the industry who embrace and support debut writers and who take a chance to build relationships with people like myself who are new to the industry. I am humbled by the kind and generous individuals, editors, agents, publishers, authors/agents who offer support and a safe commune for those of us who are new to the experience.

 

Find her here:

http://sdhenke.com/

Twitter: @HenkeSheala

Insta: @shealadawnhenke

FB: @authorshealahenke

Q & A with Author Rain Sivertsen

In this Q and A Rain Sivertsen answers my questions. Let’s learn a little more about her.

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Rain Sivertsen is a 25-year-old fantasy writer currently working on her first novel, a YA fantasy she intends to self-publish by 2019/20. She is also working on a darker fantasy trilogy about vampires. Everything Rain writes takes place in a fantasy world called Hurst where she spends most of her time, while her corporeal self is located in the beautiful city of Prague –which might be the ideal home for anyone writing fantasy, with magic hiding around every corner.

 

  1. What do you write? (genre etc.)

Fantasy. Everything I write, pretty much everything I read, is fantasy. Doesn’t matter if it’s epic, urban, YA. Anything with even a sprinkle of fantasy and I am there for it.

  1. Favorite book that you think is underrated?

You couldn’t start with an easier question? J I stare at my bookshelf and there are so many wonderful books that I wish were the kind everyone knew about and talked about. Kristine Cashore’s books Graceling and Fire are beautiful stories about strong women making the best of impossible situations, with love stories I can respect and admire, which I wish I saw more of. Ash and Huntress by Melinda Lo are lovely fantasy stories with queer women. Ask was the first book I ever read with a non-straight main character. It blew my mind.

  1. Favorite book from childhood?

I don’t remember much I read from childhood – mostly Norwegian books designed specifically to get kids to read more – but there was a series of five books called “Sofie and Kathrine” by Grete Haagenrud that I would borrow from the library almost every month. It’s about two young sisters during the war when Norway was occupied by Germany. Their family is forced to flee their hometown and travel through Norway. The stories were so funny, heart-warming and heart-wrenching, and though my life was so different from Sofie, I could still relate to her and a lot of the things she went through. That might be the first series that made me properly fall in love with novels.

  1. Use three words to describe what keeps you writing and persevering?

Love, persistence and forced discipline (because discipline does not come to me naturally).

  1. Where do you draw your inspiration to keep writing?

I never really choose where I get inspiration from. Sometimes I’ll try and kick-start some inspiration by looking at beautiful digital art or reading passages in my favorite books, but really it tends to come out of nowhere. It’s really important to me that I write even when I don’t feel inspired, so I’ve trained myself to do that and then be pleasantly surprised when genuine inspiration does hit. It’s the best feeling. I guess you could say that the idea of inspiration is what inspires me. Too complicated? 🙂

  1. Do you have any tricks/tips for aspiring authors you’d like to share?

Write. Down. Your. Goals.
You can’t hit a target you can’t see. If you write down your goals – both long-term goals and the smaller milestone goals along the way – you will be more motivated to work towards them. Put them somewhere you can see them every day so you never forget that you wanted this badly enough to commit it to writing. Writing down your goals helps to turn a dream into a plan. It’s pretty much the tip that helped me start taking writing seriously.

  1. As a writer who/what is your inspiration (animal, vegetable or mineral ☺)? 

Beauty. Beauty in anything – nature, music, art, architecture. Surrounding myself with beauty in all forms is what inspires me to create, to take all that beauty and try and make something magical out of it. That’s why I listen to epic instrumental music when thinking about my writing. It’s why I enjoy long walks in the most beautiful parks in Prague. I inhale beauty and hope to absorb some of it for later use in my writing.

  1. What was one of the hardest scenes for you to write?

I’m best at writing violent things, like fight scenes and torture, or just people being miserable. For the story I’m working on now, the MC spends a lot of time figuring out clues and working on solving a mystery. I’m not very good at that, at figuring out exactly which clues to reveal at exactly the right time. It’s why I could never really write crime and detective novels like Beth Green writes so brilliantly. I love to read them, but those details and clues… I’m better with the big stuff, less so with the fine print.

  1. What do you think helps you to become a better writer?

Setting clear goals and working my ass off to reach them. Not just big goals like “finish this novel and self-publish it”, but goals that aren’t so far away. Milestones. When I’m drafting, my goal is to write 30.000 words a month, approximately 1000 words per day, and when I’m plotting and outlining I also have a plan and try to spend at least 1-2 hours daily working on that plan. If I didn’t set these goals and have a clear, achievable plan, I would never write anything at all. I’m one of those people who think structure is a good thing, and I thrive on it.

  1. How do you think being someone else’s beta reader helps inform your own writing process? Or helps you become a better writer?

Being a beta-reader helped me better understand the research I’ve done into beta-reading, it helped me see which parts of that research I want to keep and which aren’t going to work for me. It’s also super motivating when you’re drafting, to read someone else’s nearly-finished work. It’s a reminder that not too long ago they were suffering the same way, but look! They got this amazing thing at the end!


Where to find Rain:

Website

Twitter