Q&A with Me: Thoughts on Myself as a Bestselling Author
Did you know that Amazon has a category of books called "alchemy?" And did you know that yours truly hit #1 in that category on the release day of my first book: Crown Jewels: The Akasha Records (Book One)
I didn't either. However, I am beyond grateful for it. I am beyond grateful for a lot of things in my present moment actually. As you guys will come to know, I like to think of myself as an alchemist, a magician if you will, transforming the shadow into light. So, to reach #1 in a category named after one of my defining archetypes on the day of the release of my book is pretty epic
But to take a step back in time and catch you all up to speed, my very first book was published on Saturday, August 1st.
To celebrate this, Matt Prindle (The CEO of Intention Inspired who I currently work with) and I threw a book launch party.
You can watch the re-play of the book launch here:
On the docket was a Q&A session and since we didn't get a chance to go through all of these questions, I wanted to provide the answers here to give you all a little bit more of a sense of who I am (and if you're curious AT ALL about who I am you can join us for 30 days of Authenticity... shameless plug... I know).
As a child, what did I want to do when I grew up?
When I was little, I always dreamed about being an actress actually. I wanted to be a triple threat, singer, dancer, and actress. I wanted to perform, I wanted the world to see me and I wanted to share my story, looking back now it's just manifested itself in a different form.
When did I first realize I wanted to be a writer?
I honestly don't think I ever officially ever set that as my goal. When I was younger, I wrote all the time, but it was just for fun. Then in my adolescence and early adulthood, I convinced myself I wasn't one. I literally believed for about 10 years that I wasn't any good at it. The crazy thing though is that for me, writing (like how acting was for me in the past) is such a form of release. It's such a healing practice for me. So, I'm glad I eventually quieted those voices down and started listening to my heart. When I finally embraced the fact that I am a writer, it wasn't for anyone else other than me. But then, once I got to know who I am, once I started believing in myself through my dedication and devotion to my own writing, then the passion transformed me into wanting to be able to share my story to help others who might be on the similar journey.
What inspired me to write Crown Jewels?
I wish I could remember when the moment of inspiration came, but I honestly can't. I do remember when I linked 30 Days of Authenticity and Crown Jewels. Originally, they were separate projects. I was about 10 chapters into Crown Jewels and in the process of developing 30 Days of Authenticity. Matt had asked me to think about a character I would like to represent 30 days of Authenticity, and to feel free to dream up something "otherworldly." Upon meditating later on that evening, Akasha's Shadow emerged. And the minute the two were linked, the floodgates for both opened as they/we now had a central theme, the embrace of ALL of who we are.
Where do I get my information or ideas for my books?
All from my imagination actually. The characters all have elements of me within them, I literally see myself in each and every one of them, they are all very loosely based off of my own life. As to the events, times, places, and location, I couldn't tell you. Half the time I couldn't tell you what's going to happen at the end of the chapter, let alone the end of the book. I am in the middle of writing book two as we speak and I still don't know what Tariq and Akasha's mission to "Bridge the Divide that exists between the worlds of Light and Dark" actually looks like. I don't think I'm meant to know yet though and I've made peace with that. Once book two is finished, I think book three will be ready to emerge.
What was one of the biggest challenges while writing Crown Jewels?
Myself! During the writing process, it was the consistency of actually sitting down and writing. I set a goal of one chapter a day no matter what in order to actually finish it. Once the first pass was done, it was then the overwhelm of tackling how to edit my very first book. Writing a publishable book is VERY DIFFERENT than just the act of writing. I realized that while I myself understood everything perfectly (because I knew the characters and their motivations like the back of my hand), the reader doesn't necessarily have access to the inner-workings of my mind. The challenge became, and in all honesty remains, to try and bridge the gap between my mind and the words on the paper. A feat that will never actually EVER be mastered and something I had to just make peace with before publication. I could have literally spent the rest of my life editing Crown Jewels to try and catch it up to the current moment and my ongoing development as a writer. At some point, I had to reach a state of acceptance of its imperfections and just be incredibly proud of it as my very first book (even if it does have a typo on page 242, a fact that my perfectionist nature really loves to point out to me).
What did I edit out of this book?
I don't know that I edited anything out actually, I more so added things in. I wrote in two murders into the beginning of the book that originally were off-page (as in, I mentioned them in the story but didn't write about them directly). I gave each one of the characters a bit more internal conflict than they had in my first pass of the novel. I mean this book's central theme is about embracing one's Shadow and my first draft of it literally had no actual shadowy aspects. So, I recognized the need to balance it all out, an act that I'm still working on mastering actually.
Do I hide any secrets in Crown Jewels that only a few people will find?
You know what they say about having eyes to see and ears to hear, I think all of my writing will always have magical and mystical elements, things hidden in plain sight. The irony of it all is that sometimes even I'm not fully aware of them as I write them. All in divine timing as they say.
What was one of the most surprising things I learned in writing Crown Jewels?
That getting caught up in the story and allowing for the characters to let me know what's going to happen and tell me the story is actually really fun. Yes, I am officially the author of Crown Jewels: Book One, but really it was Akasha and Tariq that were driving the show. I just had to sit down at the computer and allow for their voices to come through.
I also forgot about how healing of a practice writing can be for me. I mean, I knew it from journaling, but to be able to take things that I was struggling with in my real life and weave it into the novel was such a cathartic release.
What do I think makes a good story?
I think people need to be able to relate to the characters. They need to be able to see themself within them. Like I said above, I see myself in literally every single one of the characters and my hope is that you will two.
What was an early experience where I learned that language had power?
I think it goes back to being a child and loving to read and using books as a form of escape, as a way of getting caught up in a beautiful world that I wanted to live in. I had a vision board that I made a few years ago and one of my favorite quotes on it is: "Books have healing properties. The right character, in the right novel, read at the right time can soothe, ease anxiety, and make you feel a little less alone in the world."
That quote inspires my vision and mission in terms of why I write and the power I believe that language and sharing our stories has. You can read about this particular vision board and experience here:
What does my writing process like?
Well I haven't had much of one recently, But there are three phases:
The writing of the book itself: During that phase consistency is key. So literally committing to either a certain amount of words or a certain amount of time each day. EVERY day. No matter how I'm feeling. I can be a horrible boss of myself though, and I've recognized that recently, so it's about setting realistic expectations, but setting them none the less, so that way I make a daily habit out of writing
When the first pass is complete I then need a break. I need to not touch the book/novel for at least a month to give myself and the characters a chance to breathe. I wasn't kidding earlier when I said the characters and the work itself really does have its own spirit/energy and we all need to rest.
Once a certain amount of time has passed, I then enter into the editing process. Granted, I have only been through this process once but it was WAY harder for me than the act of writing the novel itself. I went through six major revisions, working with three different editors, and I honestly really probably could have edited this first book for the rest of my life if I hadn't managed to reach a state of acceptance with it.
What is the most difficult part about writing for me?
Editing. It's hard on multiple levels. It's hard to take critiques from others because your writing really comes to feel like your child. So, it stings and feels a bit like "why are these people criticizing my baby??"
Once you get over the bruising of your ego and the fact that no, the first pass of your novel isn't perfect and yes, you do have some work to do. It is really hard work to then apply it. Again, I had to be consistent. But it was in the editing process that time and time again I set really unrealistic expectations of myself and then beat myself up for not hitting them. When I get to the point of editing book two, I am going to NOT do that. I'm going to slow down and see if I can find some way to savor the editing process. It's hard for me though because everything is so clear in my head, so I struggle with really making sure that people that aren't me can really see what I am trying to say. It's tough work!
What advice would I give a new writer, someone just starting out?
Don't give up! I did NaNoWriMo a few years ago. That was my start in terms of really starting to think of myself as an "author." I spent the month of November 2018 writing a novel called "Just Maria" that no one has ever read and no one will ever read. Originally, I thought it was going to be my first bestselling novel. But when I finished it? I realized that I had written it just for me. I had written it to process my thoughts. I had written it to reconnect me to my love of writing. So that's my number one advice, Don't Stop. And then number two, a quote I always found inspiring is NaNoWriMo's slogan: "The World Needs Your Story" and I also really do believe that's true. I believe that each one of us has a story that someone needs to hear. How that story is made manifest, what medium it is told through, and who needs to hear it is yet to be determined. But, if you feel that pull in your heart to say those words and speak that truth and tell that story... follow it! I did, and now? Now I have first book available for purchase.
Describe my ideal writing space.
OH! You know what I would love. A cabin by the beach that I can escape to every now and then to just write. I've seen a few of these on day trips and I always think "Oh, that would be SO FUN to just have a writer's weekend away," well, that and maybe a few other things besides writing...😉 BUT, aside from my dream world. Honestly, a desk by a window. AND consistency in practice. Haven't really managed either of those things in my current moment in time but I'm determined for 2021.
What did I learn about yourself in writing Crown Jewels?
That I can heal myself through my writing. I knew that before, but I've seen it time and time again through the writing of this novel and also through the start of book two.
I also learned that I CAN write a publishable book. I didn't know that I could do that before.
If I could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
You have an amazing imagination and the world needs to hear the stories that you create. I love you and I can't wait to see what future stories we will create together.
Do I view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?
Absolutely. Writing does two things for me. If I'm moving through something, a difficult emotion, for example, it helps me to process those feelings. I am the type of person who has lived in my head 99% of the time. Thinking about my problems, but never really actually feeling them or doing anything about them. The act of writing creates the space for me to be with my emotions, to process them, to be aware of them, and to then to transmute and transform them, a form of alchemy if you will (hence my excitement at being #1 in alchemy.)
Writing also, without fail, always taps me back into who I ultimately know myself to be. BUT only through the process of actually being with myself however I'm feeling in the current moment. I have to deal with whatever is bothering me or with me in the current moment in order to reconnect to who I know myself to be. Writing allows for me to have that practice, processing what is to dive in and truly connect to the authentic me.
And who do I know myself to be?
Well you will have to join me in 30 Days of Authenticity to find out
(I couldn't resist...)