Today we have an interview with a newly published writer, the lovely Shawna Railey. Her first book, Asylum Journals, was supposed to be released next month, but she encountered some unexpected hurdles, and had to make some hard decisions. Regardless, she continues her work, not letting these issues slow her down. So I’m happy for the opportunity to interview her before she gets bombarded with requests and responsibilities that come with being a new writer.
I met Miss Railey via Twitter. We began chatting, and while discussing her book release, she gladly volunteered to answer some of my questions. She came across as very positive and enthusiastic, and I am delighted for the opportunity to have her on my blog.
Now on to the interview!
Short Bio: I am a mother, wife, author, animal lover and artist. I love the sound of my daughter’s laughter, the crunch of gravel and the perfect click of a keyboard. When I’m not reading or writing, you can find me with a paintbrush in my hand rocking out to Panic! at the Disco.
Published Works: Asylum Journals (due May 2016)
Current Projects: Bella's Curse (due Spring 2017), Blue's Brothers (in revision with my agent before submission).
When did you begin writing?
I've been writing ever since I can remember. I wrote my first book at age four, The Digging Ant, lol.
Did you receive any special training or attend a school?
I've taken various writing classes and workshops, but no special training or degree. For me, the way I learned to write is by READING.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
My dreams and my life experiences. I like stories that are real. I don't mind a happy ending, as long as the story feels authentic along the way.
Do you use any special resources when writing? (other books, computer programs, etc)
I have thesaurus.com open at all times, lol. There's nothing worse than being in the zone, the words flowing, and then getting stuck on a word. I also have my own notes for the chapter I'm working on, along with a general outline for the book.
What is (in your opinion) the most important thing to remember when writing, and why is it so important?
Oh man. There are so many things. I think, for me, it's to remember the plot. I like to go off on a side story and then end up having to cut it. And word repetition. We all have a favorite word. Mine are "just" and "that." So I would say write the words as they come to you, but always go back and edit edit edit.
What is (in your opinion) the most challenging part of writing, and how do you overcome it?
I get inside my head and it can completely stop me from getting anything done. So I would say just trying to relax. If I find myself staring at the screen for an hour or more, I leave. I'll take a shower or walk the dog...anything to just get away and relax.
Have you encountered any pitfalls or drawbacks while on your way to becoming a writer? And how did you overcome them?
Well, there's the most recent setback with leaving the small press I signed with. I actually feel lucky, though, because I recognized the red flags and got out quick.
The biggest thing I think was learning how to be an author along the way. I wrote my first book and thought, okay, I'm ready. Who wants my masterpiece? I had NO IDEA how crappy it was, lol. And I didn't realize trying to become an author would be the equivalent of trying to become a rock star. It's not an easy career path, to say the least. But it's in my soul, so what can I say? I'm a tortured artist, lol.
Did you use an agent? (why or why not?)
For the first series I wrote, I participated in a twitter contest for aspiring authors. A small publisher "liked" my tweet, which meant they wanted to see my query letter. After requesting the partial, and then the full, they offered to publish and sent over the contract. I signed right away, ecstatic to be chosen. I think this is a good lesson to learn: Not everyone is what they seem. I quickly realized I'd made a mistake and I'm still in the process of terminating that contract. There are a lot of small presses out there and I can only urge authors to do their research diligently before signing with anyone.
For my second book, I went the agent route. I sent out queries to my favorite agents and accepted an offer of representation from Steven Chudney with The Chudney Agency. We are currently revising before he sends it out on submissions. That sounds so simple, but it wasn't, lol. I had many, many, MANY rejections along the way.
Do you have any criteria when looking for an agent? (feel free to describe the process here)
Absolutely! I stalked each agent before I queried them, lol. Publishers Marketplace is the best tool for researching potential agents that I've found. (I also like querytracker and Absolute Write). I chose my top five agents based on three things: if they represented my genre (duh), their sales, and - this is where the research comes in - how they are as an agent. Are they editorial? Are they nice? Are they going to want to represent me just for the book they sign or for the length of my career? Are they well regarded in the writing community?
Did you use an Editor? If not, what process did you use to edit your work?
I've never used a professional editor - it was very much trial and error with my first book. Two people in particular, an agent and a best selling author, were brutally honest with what was wrong with it. After the tears passed, I realized they did me a huge favor and I am incredibly grateful for their honesty and wisdom. But the truth is, some people are mathematicians, some people are scientists. Me? I was blessed with the ability to spell and knowing where to put a comma.
How did you get your book published? (self-published, Vanity publishing, Mainstream publisher).
I am finishing up revisions for my agent and then I will send it back to him. After a few more revisions (I'm assuming), he will submit it to the publishing houses and editors he thinks will be interested in it.
Do you have any criteria when looking for a publisher?
That is, for the most part out, of my hands. My agent will choose the publishing houses he wants to send the manuscript to. :)
Do you handle your own marketing?
I haven't done a whole lot of marketing yet. I will once it gets closer to a publication date. But it is so important for authors to do their own marketing - don't rely on your publisher!
What is your best marketing tip?
Be authentic. Take an interest in others.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Keep writing!! Everyone always says it, but it's true. Read your favorite authors. Find a critique partner (or two or three). Don't be afraid to ask for help. The writing community is like a little family, one I am incredibly lucky to be a part of. :)
In closing, I would like to thank Shawna for doing this interview, especially amid all the chaos of last minute changes she went through. As someone who is still in the process of finding himself as a writer, I found her energetic personality to be quite motivating. I look forward to hearing more about her in the future.
Until Next time,