Today I have a very special post to share with you all! Two lovely authors were kind enough to take the time to answer some of my questions about their publishing journey and how they got their debut novel into the world. Both authors haven’t opted for the traditional way of publishing, so I thought it would be interesting to learn a bit more about self-publishing and how you can get your work out there!
“… understand that your story – the heart of your story – is enough to change lives.” – Sierra Abrams, author of The Color Project
Ruquayya Sajjida = R
Sierra Abrams = S
Introduce yourself! When did you start writing? Was there a book or an author that inspired you to be a writer? Did you do a writing course, or belong to any writing groups?
R: My name is Ruquayya Sajjida! I am the author of Aurora and Keeper of the Storm, books 1 and 2 of the Alchemic Chronicles. I started writing in the 2nd grade. It started with a poem that I wrote about my sister and I at the park. I won a small award at the school and received lots of hype from parents and teachers alike! They said I was gonna go far and although I’m not famous yet, I like to think that they were right. Growing up, I always liked to read. Sadly, I was poor and homeless so I had a bit of issues with school. By the 1st grade, I didn’t know how to read or write. I could spell my name but that was about it! But with the help and support of my 1st grade teacher Mr. King, I learned to read and write and by the end of the year, I was at the head of my class! And no, the most writing courses I’ve done were English classes and two years of Creative Writing class in high school, which was actually kind of restricted to me. Things that I wanted to write about were seen as too dark and gruesome or out of the box, like the story I wrote about a man that was abused by his wife. He later murdered her and ate her at the end of the story, saying, “Ah, Anna, you never tasted so good.” Crazy, right? But that’s what was in my head. A few people liked it and one even said, “I wish you would have went into more detail on how the meat tasted.” Ha! As if I knew. My teacher wound up rejecting it, saying that it was too disturbing, even for a Halloween contest. Still, I see it as one of my greatest pieces.
S: Hi Sarah! Thank you so much for having me. Your blog is lovely ❤ And hello, Sarah’s readers! Thank you for taking the time to read this.
I’m Sierra Abrams, author of THE COLOR PROJECT. I started writing when I was 7 years old. I went up to my 4 year old sister and told her that one day, I’d publish a book. And here we are, 15 years later! It feels so good to be able to say that.
There were a lot of authors responsible for sparking my passion for writing, but the one that always comes to mind first is Cornelia Funke. I started reading INKHEART when I was 11 and it spawned so many ideas. I started by writing fantasy because of Cornelia, but I soon started exploring other genres!
Tell us a little bit about your novel. What genre is it? What books would you recommend reading for those that have loved yours?
R: My novels are Aurora, Keeper of the Storm and the soon to be released, The Guardian of Winterhollow. My novels are YA Magical Realism/Romance. They’re indie novels about an Alchemist named Aurora who lived with an abusive half-demon named Jacques. She was raised by him since she was 9-years-old after her parents were murdered by other Alchemists. She loved him for his power and it was only after she realized her own potential did she leave him and start a life with her new family, if you can call it that. The novels follow her as she embarks on her own, falls in love, starts her family and defends it from danger in the 2nd novel. The third is gonna be more like action/adventure as she settles in a foreign land and is forced to protect it, even when the danger may lie within the very place she is tasked with protecting. I don’t know what to recommend, considering mine are a little different than most but if I had today, I’d recommend the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy. I recommend it because it’s also outside the box and even though I’m nowhere near Laini Taylor’s level, I like to think that we are alike in the fact that we write and don’t give a damn that it’s not like other novels most have read or accepted.
S: My little book baby (which is actually not quite so little) is a contemporary YA (equal parts realistic and romantic?) set in my home town, and it’s all about my personal fears, hopes, dreams, and passions. I wrote it to overcome a very real fear that I had about two years ago, but since then it’s done even more than that. In short, it’s about a fictional charity and how it changes and affects the local community, as seen through the eyes of a girl experiencing a personal tragedy during her time volunteering at the charity. It’s very swoony and silly and sad and I hope you all enjoy it. (And I’d say if you like THE COLOR PROJECT, you might enjoy books by Jenny Han, Morgan Matson, and Stephanie Perkins.)
What does your writing schedule look like? Do you like to write at a particular time of day, or in a particular place?
R: My writing schedule is all over the place. I would like to write every day but by now I’ve realized that isn’t always possible. I haven’t had too much inspiration as of late but that doesn’t mean that book 3 won’t get finished. I don’t like to force my writing. While book 1 took years to hone, book 2 took around 2 months tops. I’ve been working on book 3 for bout 4 ½ months and have only written 105 pages to this day. So, yeah, I’m pretty behind my preffered schedule. Also, I’m a night owl so night time is my favorite time to write but it doesn’t usually work out that way since true inspiration can happen any time.
S: I am a very wonky writer. I work other jobs full time as *well* as trying to write full time, so it gets difficult for me for me to stay completely set in a schedule. I tend to like writing best between the hours of 10pm and 2am but that’s reeeeeaaaaally not doable with my early work hours.
How long did it take you to write your first draft, compared to how long it took to edit? Which stage did you prefer?
R: It took me about a year to write the first draft of this version of my first novel. First it was about vampires, then demonic spirits and THEN Alchemy. It took me to edit about three months. I hired someone to help me but she made all my sentences super short. Think about Throne of Glass getting turned into The Fault In Our Stars. Not that either book is better than the others, but the writing style was different. So I re-edited it myself, AGAIN! Ugh. There are probably a good amount of mistakes, and my wasted $350 but it was worth it to find out that I should trust myself and my skills.
S: This is the fastest book I’ve ever written, actually. Most take me a few months per draft, but I flew through this one on only 6 weeks per draft. I started writing it only two years ago – which is hard for me to believe because I have other books in the works that I started 5+ years ago and they’re not even close. XD All in all, I prefer the 3rd draft. Usually because it comes after my arch-nemesis, Draft 2. I’m convinced the 2nd draft of one of my future novels is going to be my demise.
Did you experience any moments of self-doubt when writing, and how did you overcome this?
R: I experienced self doubt when I tried to get my novel traditionally published. I’m still trying but I’m afraid to take it off the internet before I know an agent has picked up my book. Then I lose all my reviews for nothing. P.S. If there are any agents reading this, I NEED YOU!
S: I am usually a very confident writer, partly because I’m Alexander Hamilton and I don’t even have the time or mental capacity to think about what-ifs, and partly because I’ve had consistently good feedback for about 4 years now. But recently I did have the most intense three days of writing anxiety – and that was not fun. I think it was because I’m finally *here* – my book is going out into the world, after so many years of daydreaming and hoping and wishing. And it’s not at all going according to my plans, so that’s terrifying. XD In any case, I calmed down after three days of praying, meditating, and venting to writer friends.
How did you know when your book was “done”? Did you consult with beta-readers or sensitivity readers, and who was the first person that got to read your book?
R: The first person to read my book in its early stages was my friend Roxanna. She loved its vampire themes and was very supportive. I was popping out about 3 chapters a day with her support and I wouldn’t have finished without her. My newest version was first read by my mom, then my Beta-Reader Andreiona, though she didn’t finish it until after I published it. She had too much going on so take a lesson from my mistake and choose someone while they have free time, like Spring Break!
S: This book was done when I realized it told an even better story than I set out to tell. I had about 25 beta readers (which is down from my 100 for the book I wrote before TCP) and they were all soooo helpful. And weirdly enough, I don’t remember who was the first person to read it. Hmmmm. I might have to dig up some old messages and chats from betas.
How did you go about getting your current book out into the world? How did you decide to take the route you did to get it published, and where is (or will be) your novel available?
R: I self-published using the independent publishing platform Createspace. Royalties are fair but publicity honestly sucks. I need more reviews to get my name out there so if you’re reading this, order a copy of my novels off Amazon and give them a review once you’re done. Remember, REVIEWS KEEP US AUTHORS GOING!
S: I chose to self publish TCP because I was getting great reactions from agents requesting to see more – but not a lot of agreement on the story. The things the agents wanted to change (different things from each one) were all really important to me and my story. The most disheartening thing was hearing from one agent, “This one thing seems really unrealistic” when it was a thing that had happened to me, directly, just the year before. It was, possibly, the most realistic thing in the book. But then I realized I didn’t have to go the traditional route, and suddenly so many doors opened up. So while I wish I could make money right from the beginning or have someone else do all the promo or pay for me to tour the world, the most important thing is that I’m telling the right story.
Looking back on this journey, is there anything you wished you’d done differently?
R: Yes. I wish I hadn’t hired that God-awful editor.
S: I wish I’d considered all my options earlier. I am very stubborn and take my dreams/goals a little too seriously sometimes. I need to stop and smell the roses and enjoy the journey a bit more, rather than trying to make things happen. Things will happen when they want to. XD
If you could change one thing about the publishing industry, what would it be?
R: If I could change one thing about self-publishing, it would be publicity. If I could change traditional, publishing, it would be how novels are chosen. Mine was rejected because, as I quote, it was “too different. Think more inside the box.” I’ll be damned. I thought literature was supposed to be different and take you to new, exciting places that you wouldn’t dare dream of. But maybe I’ve been reading wrong.
S: Goodness. A lot of things – and I don’t mean that in a bad way. I think specifically for me, being self published, I’d say I wish there was some way we could bridge the gap between self published and traditionally published authors. There are so many beautiful people on both sides of the spectrum, and I want everyone to be friends! I understand some of the reservations on both sides, but I still wish it were different.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to writers trying to publish their novel?
R: One piece of advice I’d give writers is so cliché: KEEP WRITING! Screw the haters! Don’t let those rejection letters get you down. You are amazing, whether you write about dungeons and dragons or two mosquitos falling in love. Dream big, love hard and keep on doing you!
S: Oh goodness. Um. To play off what I said earlier: remember that you are the key to your story. Only you can tell that story like you can. If someone wants to change something about it that’s important to you, don’t change it just because it might get you a contract. This isn’t to say don’t listen to critiquing, because writers should always carefully consider constructive criticism. However, money and possibly fame are not worth the pricelessness of readers getting the real deal. One of the biggest things that made me realize I didn’t want to change TCP for the sake of getting an agent was this, a note I randomly received from an early reader, a few months after she’d read the book:
“(TCP) helped me through a time when I didn’t want to keep on living.”
Those words still take my breath away. So, listen and learn, but also understand that your story – the heart of your story – is enough to change lives. Don’t let anyone try to change it. They’re not a villain or your enemy for trying to change it, they’re just not The One for your words. And that’s okay.
Aurora by Ruquayya Sajjida
A ruthless Master. A magical society. One last chance for love and redemption. Imagine a world where you can become the richest man or woman on Earth by literally trading rags for riches. Imagine a world where anyone-sick, old, lame or poor-can live forever.
Now imagine that same world but with one catch… You must kill one of your fellow human beings to maintain your immortality. It can be anyone-your father, your sister or even your next door neighbor. Not so sweet now, is it? This is the life that Aurora Hawthorne has always known. No friends, no family-just an oppressive man who calls himself her Master and beats her constantly.
Although her life is filled with Alchemy-a dark, seductive magic-and she literally holds the power of a thousand thunderstorms in her hands, life isn’t so great. You see, in this society, there are three groups of humans: regular humans, Master Alchemists and Alchemic slaves, also known as Breakers. Regular humans are just that-regular, but their supernatural counterparts are much more complex…and far darker.
Is there any hope in a world so corrupt? Can the young girl find love when people have done nothing but mistreat her?
I didn’t expect to love Aurora and Keeper of the Storm as much as I did. Beautiful, poetic writing combined with an action-packed plot and irresistible characters makes this series one you can’t go past. As Ruquayya mentioned earlier, her novels really are unlike anything else out there. From the moment I picked up Aurora, I was whisked away into this world with magical-realism and intriguing powers. If you’re looking for something a little out of the ordinary and want to support a self-published author, grab a copy of Aurora from Book Depository or Amazon!
The Color Project by Sierra Abrams
Bernice Aurora Wescott has one thing she doesn’t want anyone to know: her name. That is, until Bee meets Levi, the local golden boy who runs a charity organization called The Color Project.
Levi is not at all shy about attempting to guess Bee’s real name; his persistence is one of the many reasons why Bee falls for him. But while Levi is everything she never knew she needed, giving up her name would feel like a stamp on forever. And that terrifies her.
When unexpected news of an illness in the family drains Bee’s summer of everything bright, she is pushed to the breaking point. Losing herself in The Color Project—a world of weddings, funerals, cancer patients, and hopeful families that the charity funds—is no longer enough. Bee must hold up the weight of her family, but to do that, she needs Levi. She’ll have to give up her name and let him in completely or lose the best thing that’s ever happened to her.
Ever since I found our about The Color Project from Twitter, I’ve been desperate to get my hands on a copy! I’m superbly jealous of all the lucky readers that got to read early copies of this gorgeous book, and I can’t wait to feast my eyes upon it. I mean, how gorgeous is that cover?! The Color Project has an expected release date of July 18, so make sure you grab a copy then!
Gorgeous drawing used in header sourced from Tumblr.