Today I’m interviewing author Shawna Romkey (a fellow Darkly Delicious YA blogger) and asking her all kinds of tough, hard hitting questions about her books, her writing, and her life (okay, they’re not that tough or hard hitting–but it’s always interesting to learn about a fellow author!)
You have one book out, SPEAK OF THE DEVIL, and another coming out this year, THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT. Tell us about SPEAK OF THE DEVIL and THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT.
Both of these books are young adult, paranormal novels focusing on Lily, the main character. Speak of the Devil starts with her getting into a car accident where she and her two best friends are killed. Somehow she comes back to life and her adventures begin there. She has to overcome some serious grief as well as guilt for surviving. She ends up in the middle of a war between angels and demons where God is lost.
The Devil Made Me Do It releases in September, and is the second book in the series. It takes Lily on a journey to Hell. Literally.
What would you say makes them stand out from other books?
I would say that the first book especially, deals with serious grief and depression issues initially. It’s very real and seems to have touched people who have experienced the loss of people they love. It’s based on something that happened to me actually, in high school. I lost three of my friends in a car accident, and still almost thirty years later, I’m affected by that loss. Speak of the Devil goes to some dark places.
They also deal with religion and spirituality, but I think it is respectful. I don’t think Christians would be offended and I don’t think non-Christians would be offended. It is a story about questioning faith and then establishes the parameters of what is real, religiously, in the fictitious world of the book. I think a lot of popular angel books out today omit the religious aspect of angels. They simply treat them as a paranormal being. But angels are religious creatures, and I think to leave that part out is the easy way.
What current books would you compare them too?
I think they’re pretty different, but I haven’t read a lot of current books either. I would say they are more of a cross between Twilight for the love story, the TV show Supernatural and how it deals with God and angels in a non-religious way, and Buffy, in having a strong female character. Not that Lily ever totally kicks ass yet in that way. Maybe a fight or two in The Devil Made Me Do It, but I wanted her to be a survivor emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically.
Are these books stand-alones or part of a series?
They are a trilogy. Speak of the Devil is the first. The Devil Made Me Do It is the second. The third, The Devil You Know is in the works.
Can you tell us about your personal background?
I’m married with two sons and two dogs. I live in Nova Scotia, but I’m from Missouri. I teach at the community college level and have taught everything from seventh grade to university courses in English, communications, business and literature. I do marketing on the side from time to time and volunteer for a dog rescue organization in my spare time. Ha!
How long have you been writing fiction? What inspired you to become an author?
I wanted to write after the first trip I took to the library at school in kindergarten, and started then. Wrote through elementary, junior high, high school, and university. I published in university publications and had a play I’d written produced at a community theater through one of my university courses.
I see that you teach at the university and secondary level, do you feel this has any bearing and/or impact on your writing?
I’ve taught people from age 12 – well older than me. I feel like teaching high school and college level keeps me in touch with the age group of my demographic. I interact with them daily and it keeps me in touch with them. I like those age groups and think I can still relate to them.
How do you balance your professional career, your writing career, and family?
Very carefully. Ha! It’s hard working full time, and I tend to over extend myself as you can see from the earlier question. On any days off I try to write first then when the family is out of the house or preoccupied, but when I’m working, writing takes the back seat. Things are extremely busy right now, so I don’t anticipate writing for another month or so, but being off for the summers has its perks. I will write like a madwoman and try to finish at least one project before September.
I see that you also blog. With regards to social media, what do you feel has benefited your writing career the most?
Social media is all smoke and mirrors. I was just talking about twitter on my FB page the other day and how I hate the DM. Most of them that I receive are spam. I think if you use your social media in an honest, sincere way rather than say “buy my book” fourteen thousand times a day, you have a better result.
Some of the best successes I’ve had have simply come from asking. I sent out a press release inviting local media to my book launch and was featured in an article in the paper about paranormal authors. I put some bookmarks in a local new age bookstore. Someone saw them and invited me to do a book club meeting at the big box bookstore chain in my area. I asked to do a presentation at a local sci fi/fantasy con, and was featured as a guest author along with Terry Brooks and Robert Sawyer. I’ve also had a lot of bizarre success simply by having an author signature on my emails. Everyone from my dentist to marketing clients have commented and looked into the book from that.
What are your thoughts about the publishing industry today? Can you speak a little about your experiences with traditional presses?
I have no thoughts. LOL! I’m afraid by the time I have a thought and then write it down, it will all change, so why bother? I’m with my small press through the third book and don’t multitask with writing projects. So until I’m done with this trilogy, it does me no good to wonder about the rest.
I think self-publishing, traditional publishing and small press publishing is all a personal decision and each individual needs to choose what works for her/himself. I think I will attempt to submit my next project to a larger publisher who has more distribution than what I have with my small press now. It would be nice to see my book on box chain store shelves. I am also going to try to self-published because I’m a control freak. Then I can see what works.
Right now, I’m building my backlist and seeing what happens along the way.
Tell us about your path to publication.
It took a very long time. LOL! It took me close to twenty years to get a publishing contract. I wanted a traditional press to publish my first book rather than to self-publish because I needed that validation. If I self-pubbed my first time out, I’d always wonder if I was good enough. But I also came across a phoney agent in those twenty years and stopped writing for a long chunk of time where I gave up.
I was laid off the year my youngest started school, so I had all day home alone and figured it was now or never. Write a book, try to sell it and see what happened. I had no excuse not to. That worked out for me.
What tips or recommendations do you have for aspiring authors?
Write. A lot of people who want to write don’t write or don’t write enough to finish. You can try to sell something if it isn’t done, and I’ve always heard it takes about five books before your writing is honed enough to publish. So write something. Write something else. And again and again. Have people read it and give you feedback. And after four or five attempts when you start getting good feedback from friends and family who’ve read your work, send it out. And don’t give up!
Shawna, thank you so much for coming by the blog today and sharing about your books and your writerly life!
You can also follow Shawna here:
Facebook: Shawna Romkey