Heather is a new acquaintance of mine, but I believe we’ll be seeing a lot more of her work in the future, especially as the YA and NA markets are expanding so much these days. Enjoy!
HR: I’ve been writing ever since I can remember. At the age of four I started dictating stories to my mother who would illustrate them for me. By the age of nine, I was writing plays for friends and binding my own picture books with cardboard and string. At eleven I tried my hand at a first novel. (No, you can’t read it. It’s buried in a deep dark hole somewhere in the Tasmanian Outback and guarded by a three-headed dingo.) It was then I told my parents I wanted to be published by the age of sixteen. I also told them I wanted to be Wonder Woman, a Dallas Cowboy cheerleader, a Broadway star, and an archaeologist. Those dreams faded. I never did get that invisible jet, and I would be a lot older than sixteen before I got a publishing deal, but the dream of being a writer stayed with me. After college I decided to stop dreaming and start getting serious. I joined the Society of Children’s book Writers and Illustrators, joined a writer’s group, read books on writing, went to conferences, workshops, and most importantly, I started writing every day. Some of it was crap. Ok, at first, a lot of it was crap, but writing takes work. After over twelve years of studying and writing, my first young adult novel, Pretty Dark Nothing, sold in a two book deal to Month9Books. It’s been an amazing journey and I’m still learning. I write because I have to. It’s a part of what makes me, me.
PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?
HR: When my debut sold in a two book deal. That’s the day I could finally call myself a professional writer and had reached my goal to be published.
PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?
HR: Since this is my debut and it doesn’t release until April 23rd, I’m not sure what my income will be. Ask me next year once Pretty Dark Nothing has been out for a while.
PJ: Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?
HR: My focus has always been to tell the best story I can. That hasn’t changed at all. What has changed by getting published is my confidence.
PJ: How long did it take you to get published the first time?
HR: I’ve been writing for most of my life and been serious about it since about 1995, so technically it’s taken me seventeen years! That being said, there were several years that I didn’t query or work towards publishing. If I count up the actual time I was working on Pretty Dark Nothing, including drafting and two major revisions, it took about four years altogether. It’s been a long journey, but totally worth it.
PJ: Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?
HR: No. I have no regrets and am happy where I am in my life right now.
PJ: Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?
HR: I plan my week in advance, taking certain days to work on marketing and other days to write. It’s a balance and you do have to be flexible. Sometimes the day doesn’t go according to plan and that’s ok as long as the work gets done. You also have to be able to multi-task and know which things are priority and which things you can wait on.
PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?
PJ: What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?
HR: Several years ago, I had a one to one critique with an editor from one of the big six for Pretty Dark Nothing. She read the first 30 pages and wrote me a glowing letter, asking me for the full manuscript. We talked for an hour about the story and she seemed really excited about the project. I sent the full manuscript and waited, and waited, and waited for a reply. Nine months later I received a nice personal rejection stating that she was sorry it took so long to make a decision, but in the end she was going to pass. I admit that I was crushed and put the manuscript away for nearly five years. I almost gave up entirely, but everything happens for a reason. I wouldn’t trade my publisher now for anything in the world. I’m exactly where I want to be.
PJ: With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?
HR: Pretty Dark Nothing is full of demons, and I don’t mean the hot fallen angel, bad boy types. These demons are the evil, hairy, sulphurous kind, bent on manipulating and destroying Quinn’s life. Throw in some romantic sparks with a psychic amnesic, an ex-boyfriend she can’t quite get over, and suspension from the cheerleading squad for failing grades, all while the demons are pushing her to the brink of madness, and I hope it’s a recipe for something darkly paranormal and not quite typical.
PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?
HR: Be patient. Writing is a process and the best way to learn is by doing. Also, finding your voice, your process, is about trial and error. Try different techniques, but don’t be afraid to adapt them and make them your own.
Don’t give up. If you are passionate about writing, if you are willing to work and grow in the craft, if you are ready to listen to constructive criticism and strive to improve, if you can’t imagine doing anything else, then don’t give up on your dream. It might take months or years to get published, but it’s worth it.
Everyone’s journey is different; don’t compare yours to someone else’s and don’t put other people’s choices down. You’re not in competition with anyone but yourself. Keep learning, keep striving and remember those who help you along the way. Don’t get caught up in trends, social networking, or platform building. A writer writes first and foremost. That’s the most important thing, everything else is secondary.
PJ: What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?
HR: I love Goodreads. I think it’s important to connect with other readers as a reader and Goodreads is the perfect tool for that. It allows me to make friends and talk books, which I love. I don’t like screaming ‘buy my book’, it’s not me. I prefer to forge relationships and if people are interested in my book, great, and if not, that’s ok too. Twitter and Facebook are great too, but again, I prefer to be more personal and not make everything about me or my book.
PJ: What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?
HR: Outright self-promotion is hard for me. I don’t like spammers and I don’t want to come across as that type of author, you know the ones who tweet links or reviews of their books every two minutes. I use social media to be social, so I’m out of my comfort zone posting stuff about my book. I do it, but I try to strike a balance and make sure it’s not all I do. Yes, I’m a writer. Yes, I have a book coming out, but I’m much more than just those two things and it’s important to me to connect with readers and other writers on a more personal level.
Where can we buy it?
Heather, thank you for taking time to share with us! Folks, she’s a debut author who’s worked long and hard to get here. And she’s good! So if you like reading this type of book, please spread the word and pick up a copy! Happy reading!