I wanted to introduce you to a very special friend of mine! I met Leah a couple years ago and over the past year, we've developed a close friendship. Leah started working for Maiedae last year as an editor, ad manager, and admin. She is an amazing addition to Maiedae and is so invaluable to the business. Jenny and I love having her do work for us! Besides doing work for Maiedae, Leah recently quit her full-time job as a teacher to pursue writing full-time. This year has been an exciting year for Leah, because she independently published her first book! Leah is so driven and it has been a thrill to see her accomplish her dreams! I sat down with Leah and asked her questions about her first book and her insight on being an indie author. Enjoy!
1. Congratulations on becoming a published author! Such an amazing accomplishment. I'm curious to know what led you to pursue writing and become passionate about it. When I was little, I learned to read before I started school. As soon as I could decipher and understand the written word, I fell in love. My parents tell me that as soon as I understood what stories were, I began to write my own. In fact, before I could write, I dictated my stories verbally to my mother who wrote them down for me. As soon as I could hold a pen on my own, I started writing funny short stories and later on, bits and pieces of unfinished novels. I was always inspired by the books I read and as I grew older, I knew I wanted to be among the ranks of the fantasy authors of the world. I was especially inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien and his Middle-Earth.
I decided I wanted to be a full-time author in third grade, but I didn’t get serious about pursuing my writing until after I was married. In the back of my mind, there was this tingling desire to pursue publishing, but I was not hugely committed. In February 2011, my husband challenged me to write for an hour a day. “If you’re serious about writing books and getting published,” he said, “You’ll make a commitment and stick with it.” So, I took his advice and made a commitment to write an hour a day! No exceptions unless I was physically ill or an emergency came up. Within a year, I had written four manuscripts (complete): three novels and one novella. The first manuscript I wrote became my first published book!
2. Your current book, "Night Bells" is part of a series, when did the idea for this series first come about? What inspired you to write it? I first got the idea for Night Bells in college. I sat down and the words flew from my fingers. I quickly finished the first chapter. At the time, I had only the barest hints of a universe based around the story and the history behind it. Soon, as I grew more involved with the manuscript, however, it became apparent to me that I had created a HUGE world to play in! As well, I grew attached to my characters and wanted to write more about them. The series idea grew over a year’s work on other novels. I missed my Night Bells family and wanted to continue their story.
I was inspired to write the series based on my love of science fiction and fantasy. My novels take place in a fictional universe concept called “The Primoris System”. It operates under the assumption that mankind left Ancient Earth to colonize a new solar system with ten habitable planets out of twelve. The world on which Night Bells takes place is one of those ten planets. I loved Norse mythology and fairy tales, so I incorporated some of those aspects into Night Bells and the sequels I’m currently working on. The other planets in this universe have inspirations from other cultures and myths.
3. Give us just a brief description of your first book! Lord Maslyn has been a prisoner in his own home for the last six years. When the twelve year old noble of New Kristiansand discovers a secret passageway in his tower, he delves into a world of adventure, intrigue, and secrecy. With the help of a mysterious stranger and his friend Arna, Lord Maslyn seeks to unravel the secrets of his past and to plot his escape from his castle prison. As his life changes drastically, he is drawn into the larger tale of his elder twin brothers. Can he unearth the secrets of his family’s past without endangering those he has come to hold dear?
4. So, you used to be a teacher, but now you work from home full-time as a novelist. What motivated you to take that leap? As soon as I started work in schools, I knew it wasn't my heart’s passion. I was good at it and I enjoyed many aspects of teaching, but all day at work, my mind would dwell on my novels and writing ideas. I carried notebooks with me everywhere and made notes and sketched out character sheets and plot summaries. I researched writing articles during my planning time. When all the other teachers were getting excited about their classrooms and upcoming units, I was getting more and more homesick for my first love: writing. Two years into the teaching world and I knew I was done. I have the highest respect for teachers and I know how difficult it can be to care for and foster the growth of twenty+ children. However, for me, my heart belonged elsewhere.
My husband inspired me to leave teaching behind and pursue my writing full-time. Before I left teaching, I was working that job full time, Maiedae in the evenings, and still committing to my hour a day writing schedule. It was too much. My husband saw how much I wanted to work full-time from home on Maiedae and my novels, so we reworked our budget to make it happen. The summer of 2012 was the most productive summer of my LIFE! I started a self-hosted website about writing and my novels, I published my first book, I took on more responsibility at Maiedae...and I’ve never been happier in my career. I am home. I am doing what I was wired to do.
5. How do you stay disciplined and productive working from home? Any tips? I am a highly motivated and self-disciplined person. I knew working from home would have its challenges, but I never worried about my ability to be productive. For one thing, I LOVE schedules and to-do lists. Most days, I keep regular “office hours”. I’m at my desk by 8:05 AM everyday and I’m usually done around 4 or 5. Having a normal schedule (while my husband is away at his job) really helps to keep me on track. I also have a semi-permanent order in which I do things. I typically write, blog, and read during the mornings. In the afternoons, I work on Maiedae tasks, edit manuscripts, and market my book. This routine helps me to know exactly what I need to sit down and accomplish during each portion of the workday.
If I were to offer any advice on staying productive from home, I would suggest having a regular routine and set time that you work and reward yourself throughout the day. By reward, I mean that you should encourage productivity by dangling the proverbial carrot in front of your eyes. Let’s face it, the internet is a HUGE distraction—especially when you must use it for work, like me. So, instead of fighting the urge to check Facebook and Twitter, I use those things as a reward for a certain amount of work done. For instance, I’ll write a whole page, then I can have a minute or two of browsing time. I’ll edit 5-10 pages of a manuscript and I’ll get to check social media. It works wonders for my productivity and it keeps my brain happy.
6. You are self-published, what made you decide to be self-published and what are some tips and resources you have for others looking to self-publish? I decided to self-publish after seriously researching it in comparison with traditional publishing. As someone who very much loves "doing it all herself", I knew self-publishing was the route for me. For people who love to write, design, format, market, and run a website all by their lonesome, self-publishing is the perfect path! I thoroughly enjoyed learning how to properly format my book for its eBook and print releases. I also loved creating attractive book covers. Marketing and website maintenance is fun, too! That doesn't mean all these things aren't challenging, time consuming, and frustrating sometimes, though. If all of that freaks you out or looks like you would hate parts of it, self-publishing may not be for you. The happiest self-published authors are those who love the nitty gritty bits of getting a book published. It’s for those who love having control over every aspect of their work. You can certainly outsource bits and pieces of the process, but it’s still YOU running the show and making all the decisions.
If you’re looking into getting self-published yourself, I’d highly recommend familiarizing yourself with Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing program (for eBooks) and Createspace (for print). Outside of Amazon, you should read through Barnes and Noble’s PubIt! program as well. If you don’t mind a lack of DRM protection on your files, check out Smashwords. If you want to start your own publishing house (in case you want to publish yourself and other people’s works as well), check out Lightning Source for printing your books. There are many authors out there making a living from self-publishing. Some notable ones are J.A. Konrath, Lindsay Buroker, Zoe Winters, and Daniel Arenson. Google those names and you’ll find a WEALTH of information about self-publishing, their experiences, and tips! As well, if you’re a book reader, check out Zoe Winters’ Smart Self-Publishing: Becoming an Indie Author. That book might have some views on DRM that I don’t agree with, but the book itself is an invaluable resource. As well, I have many articles about the topic on my website.
7. How do you go about writing a book? What is your process? I’m what they call a “pantser” in the writing world. Ideas and characters bounce into my head and I just start writing! It is a wild ride and because I don’t plan out every aspect of my stories, I am often surprised by the direction my novels take. It is a hugely fun way to write, but it can be tricky sometimes. Eventually, there are days when I have to sit down and plan out some plot progression points or character details. I don’t spend more time doing that than writing, though. I love to start with a completely blank page and just jump in! Somehow, my characters seem to unearth their pasts and the plot finds its way. I named my website “Unearthing Words”, because that is what I feel like I’m doing when I write my novels! In some ways, it feels like the story is already there and I’m an excavator unearthing its bones and hollows. It can take me anywhere from a few months to a half a year to finish an entire manuscript and most of my books are between 80,000 and 110,000 words.
8. What are some of the biggest lessons learned from publishing your first book and completing a dream you've had for many years? Well, first off that dreams can come true. I never expected to be a published author at twenty-four years old. I had been dreaming of that day since I was 8 years old! That is definitely the biggest lesson. Another I’ve learned is this: when you’re working on the career that makes your heart sing, you’ll do whatever it takes to continue doing it! I could not wait to leave my teaching career, but if someone tried to take my full-time writing away from me, I’d definitely fight them tooth and nail to keep my dream job. There is nothing like knowing you are literally doing what you were created to do. I firmly believe that part of my God-given mission on this earth is to write stories that enchant, inspire, and comfort people. It is an incredibly high honor to be able to work full-time on that mission. I am blessed and fortunate to have this chance. The last biggest lesson I’ve learned through this process is that once you achieve your dreams, you have to fight to keep them alive! Anyone who has published a book knows that marketing makes all the writing and prep work look easy in comparison. Now that I’ve become an author and fulfilled a lifelong dream, I have to make sure I sell enough books to keep my dream operating in reality.
9. What's next for you? I am currently writing the third novel in my Tales from Niflheim series (of which Night Bells is the first). The sequel to Night Bells is in the editing process and I hope to publish it before the end of 2012. I also have plans to finish a novella in the series before the end of 2012. My hope is that the third book in the series will be out in early 2013. After this series, I have another series I plan on producing. If all goes according to my hopes, I’ll be writing books forever! :-)
10. Where can we find you and your book?
I’m around lots of fun places on the interwebs! You can find me at the following places:
Website | Email | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter
My book is available in eBook and print on Amazon and in eBook at Barnes and Noble.
If you love fantasy and science fiction stories, I hope you’ll give Night Bells a read! If you’re on Goodreads, you can add the book to your shelves! Thank you so much, Savannah, for having me on Maiedae today! Thank you to all of those who read my interview and who consider reading Night Bells!
Thank YOU, Leah, for such a wonderful interview. You are such an inspiration!! OK everyone! Time to add Leah's book to your wish-list! :)