Blogs by L.T. Suzuki
Steena Holmes Interview
9/29/2012 6:30:09 PM
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Bestselling author and 2012 Indie Excellence for Fiction winner Steena Holmes discusses her astounding success!
LTS: Normally, my month-end blog is reserved for editing or writing tips, marketing, etc. but today, I have something, or should I say, someone, very special of whom will need no introduction in the very near future as her literary career takes off to all new levels! Are you ready to meet todayís featured author? Well, sit tight because here is 2012 Indie Excellence for Fiction Winner, the lovely and oh-so talented Steena Holmes, author of the award-winning Finding Emma! Iíd like to begin by having you share a little information about yourself with our readers, Steena. What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing?
SH: Lorna ó thank you for having me on here! You give me too much praise though! But...what do I enjoy doing when Iím not writing, hmmm...that would be daydreaming about irresistible chocolate recipes, making muffins with my kids and reading. Oh - and watching Criminal Minds. Iím seriously addicted to that show!
LTS: Has writing stories always been a part of your life and becoming a published author a lifelong dream?
SH: You know, itís funny - looking back, I can see where even as a teenager I wanted to write. I kept a journal full of teenage angst, competed in writing competitions (and winning a trip from it) and my favorite place to be was either in the library or sitting beneath a tree reading a book. I didnít actually think it was something I could do until about 7-8 years ago when I wrote my first story and won a publishing contract through a small indie press.
LTS: Your debut novel Finding Emma was released just over 6 months ago now and so many exciting things have happened since its release! Letís start with this novel. What was the inspiration behind this story and can you tell us a little bit about your protagonist, Megan?
SH: Itís hard to believe itís been only 6 months! I wanted to write a story that was Ďmy heartí - if that makes sense. A wise friend once asked me what it was I wanted to write. I had tried several different stories and still hadnít made up my mind. The stories that stuck with me, the ones that had me coming back time and time again were ones that made me cry. One day my youngest daughter was playing hide and seek and I had that moment of instant panic...thatís when the story idea hit! Megan is that mom who experienced the very thing most mothers dread - turning her back for a minute and having her child disappear.
LTS: Oh, I know all about this minute of instant and sheer panic, having a daughter of my own. Without giving away too much, can you reveal whatís in store for the readers when they crack open Finding Emma?
SH: Youíll be pleasantly surprised when you read Finding Emma. Youíll fall in love with characters you want to hate and youíll find yourself putting yourself in Meganís shoes.
LTS: Your foray into self-publishing has become a dream come true and a source for inspiration for me as well as many aspiring authors and struggling writers working hard to build a readership. You have even accomplished what many traditionally published authors hope for, but never achieve. Can you share with our readers how your novel hit the stratosphere in August, selling over $100,000 on Amazon?
SH: I am so proud to be a self-published author, I canít even begin to describe what it means for my dream to come true on my terms. I managed to grab Amazonís attention through a combination (I believe) of the number of reviews I have (from 1-5 stars) pricing and likes and when they decided to promote Finding Emma for the month of August - letís just say my whole world rocked.
LTS: I think your book sales are wildly fantastic, Steena, and it could not happen to a nicer person! This is so huge! I know for me, even with a major motion picture trilogy in development now and an Oscar nominated/two-time Golden Globe winning production team at the helm, my book sales have been seriously lagging. So what is the secret to your ongoing success?
SH: First off - I have to admit Iím a little jealous of you and your success! Having your book be made into a movie has to be a dream come true and to have the backing you have...wow! Congrats! Now - as to there being a secret - I honestly donít think there is one. Writing a story that hits the hearts of my readers is the only thing I can think of. Once you touch a readerís heart - whether it be through imagination, laughter, heartache...youíve grabbed on to something amazing. If one person loves your story, theyíll tell their friend who will tell their friend and etc. Itís all word of mouth and itís the best type of promotion out there.
LTS: Since hitting the Amazon Bestseller list, can you share how you landed/selected a literary agent?
SH: Okay - another amazing thing, right? I queried Finding Emma for two years before I decided to pull it from 8 agents and self pubbed it. The best decision ever! What happened is that I ended up receiving offers from publishers mid-August - right around the time I hit #13 on the Bestseller list. There is an agent I met at my local RWAís writerís conference - Deidre Knight and in the past year weíve kept in contact. When I started to get these offers of representation and book deals, I had no idea where to turn, so I turned to her with questions. Deidre is an amazing person who not only happens to be an agent but also an author. I knew her plate was full with clients and that she wasnít actively looking so I didnít feel like I was making a sales pitch when I had questions. And to be honest - at that time I wasnít even sure I wanted an agent. I was okay on my own...but Iíd been given an opportunity that I didnít want to waste. Deidre put me in touch with her sister, Pamela Harty (who is just as awesome btw). She listened to my concerns of going with a publisher, she understood right away my passion for self publishing and she helped me understand what it was I was looking for and wanting in a career.
LTS: We all must travel our individual route that best fits our personal needs and goals. What made you decide on going from self-published to traditional publishing? Was this decision hard to make?
SH: At first it was. But when I realized that it wasnít an either/or decision, it became easier. I can be both self and traditional published and I will be. Iím not giving up self publishing at all. In fact, I fully plan to use it to my advantage...I will gain new readers that I can introduce my self published books to and vice versa.
LTS: Can you share that moment when Pamela Harty landed you a fabulous two-book deal with Amazon Publishing?
SH: I cried. I sat on my bed and hugged myself. It was such a surreal moment. Amazing, humbling and crazy at the same time. It was a dream I had given up on because I wasnít sure it was a path I wanted to go on anymore. You know that moment when you realize that dreams do come true and that they keep happening over and over and over? That was that moment for me.
LTS: Yay! I just tingle with excitement reading about your joy and enthusiasm! Now, what is the most important lesson youíve learned on the road to publication?
SH: To listen to my heart and follow my own path. Like you said above - we all have our own routes - what works for one doesnít always work for another. Comparing myself to another bestselling author who makes 6-7 figures each month doesnít help me at all. I can only compare myself to...myself. Take what Iíve learned and do better. I canít be happy with status quo and I need to push myself. Always push myself to do better. To be better. To write better. Iíve also learned that I need to be there for others - not keep what Iíve learned to myself but share it so that others can be just as or even more successful than I am!
LTS: Still on the subject of writing styles, are you a plotter or pantser? The readers would like to know if you tend to plot out your story line in great detail or if your writing is more organic with the characters and events unfolding as you write.
SH: I do a little bit of both. I have a general idea of what is going to happen and using Scrivener, I plot out some general scenes. Then I just write. I allow my characters to express themselves and sometimes take me on a new direction.
LTS: Some authors meditate, others need to fuel up on coffee or listen to music. Do you have any rituals, ones that can be shared with the readers, that you must do before you hunker down for a writing session?
SH: I need a cup of coffee by my side, a bowl of chocolate covered almonds and quiet. With three children, a dog and a husband who loves to do carpentry on the side - finding the quiet doesnít always work. So I write during the day when they are at school.
LTS: At one time or another, most writers hit the wall and their work stalls because of the dreaded writerís block. What do you do to get around or over this mental wall to resume writing?
SH: Hereís a question for you. Is writerís block real? Or is it when we find ourselves at a crossroad when our characters are saying one thing but we want to write another? I know when Iím struggling...Iíll work on something else. Iíll write out plot ideas, Iíll have a conversation with a character, Iíll watch a show where my mind can wander and I think of new scenarios.
LTS: Who is your favourite author and how has he/she inspired you to write or influenced your writing style or choice of genre?
SH: Karen Marie Moning and Ted Dekker. Those are my two favorite authors. Each story I read amazes me, pulls me in and leaves me wanting more. I want to write like that. They both started off in the same place you and I are...I keep reminding myself of that.
LTS: What do you foresee in your future over the next five years and do you hope to branch out from literary fiction into genre fiction? When can your fans expect the sequel to Finding Emma?
SH: Why did you have to ask this!! Joking! This is something Iíve been thinking about. There are two directions I can go. I can take my writing deeper and darker or I can stay on the path where I write novels that make my readers cry but leave them smiling at the end. Iím not entirely sure. I think it will be decided when I finish Emmaís Secret. There are two ways I can write it...
As to when will it come out ...Iím not sure yet of the date. I hope to find out soon though ;)
LTS: Thank you so much for taking the time from your crazy, hectic schedule to share in your exciting news, share in your writing experience and for being a true inspiration, Steena! I am so very proud of you and all youíve accomplished! Catch you on Twitter.
SH: Lorna, YOU are the true inspiration! Iíve been watching you for a while now and canít wait to see where this journey you are on takes you!
For more information about Steena Holmes and her debut and upcoming novels, check out:
Follow Steena on Twitter: .SteenaHolmes
Where to buy the book: Amazon
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