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Happy Wednesday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have long-time follower and debut YA author Sheri Larsen here to share about her new YA contemporary fantasy MARKED BEAUTY. This sounds fantastic with Anastasia’s unusual magical ability and a romance that develops over time. Before I get to Sheri’s interview, I have my October IWSG post.

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of the month is officially Insecure Writer's Support Group Day.
The co-hosts this month are Co-Hosts: Olga Godim, Chemist Ken, Jennifer Hawes, and Tamara Narayan!

I'm going to skip the optional question and share a big insecurity for me. I am a very slow writer and already have 60-80 articles that I write on deadline for my writing job each month. Even assuming that I was lucky enough to write a manuscript good enough to get an agent and a publishing contract (which I don't assume is possible), could I write a book on contract? Would I want the stress of doing this?

I don't know the answers to these questions, which leaves me wondering why I write sometimes and results in me not having such a burning desire to write like I once did. I know that I do not want the stressful life I once had. To avoid the stress of trying to write a book in a year while having a job, I might have to write the second book in my new YA series before I feel comfortable querying, if I ever get that far. I know it could be a huge waste of time but can't see a way to not be too afraid of the stress of writing on contract unless I do this. Then let's not get into my big fears about trying to market a book too. Any of the rest of you have the fear that you can't produce a book on time if you could get a contract? How have you handled your fear?

Now onto my interview with Shari!

Here's a blurb of MARKED BEAUTY from Goodreads:

Uncovering hidden secrets can sometimes kill you . . . or worse, steal your soul.

Anastasia Tate has a secret. She can feel the emotions of others through their life energy auras. Not a welcome gift for a teenager. Especially when a sinister presence begins stalking her.

Viktor Castle also has a secret. He’s tasked with protecting humanity yet cursed by an ancient evil to destroy it.

After Viktor saves Ana’s life, her abilities grow stronger. Drawn together, she senses Viktor has answers to lifelong questions. Only he shuns her at every turn, knowing he has saved her only to put her in more danger. As Ana struggles with her attraction to Viktor, he tries everything to bury his unexpected feelings for her. But they must find a middle ground. For only together can they combat the dark forces threatening both their lives . . . and their souls.

Hi Sheri! Thanks so much for joining us!

Always love visiting here! Thank you for having me.

1. Tell us about yourself and how you became an author.

I’m mom to four, wife to one, and pet goddess to one dog and three kitties. My twisted road to publication has consisted of newspaper articles, community interest pieces, youth sports athlete magazines, and YA anthologies to my most recent release Motley Education – an international award-winning fantasy-adventure for middle grade readers.

2. Where did you get the idea for MARKED BEAUTY?

Strange as it sounds, my male and female leads are transplants. #thehorror Yes, I kidnapped Ana and Viktor from my first dreadfully written manuscript and built a new world around them. They had gripped me heart and soul, insisting their story be told. Other than knowing them, one important requirement I had to meet was to make their story world unique. Being quite fond of the creepy side of life, it was inevitable that otherworldly elements were needed. So I began researching all sorts of strange folklores, fairytales, and mythologies. Using those influences, I pieced together my world building, secondary character traits, and story problems.

3. Awesome how you were able to find a new way to share about Ana and Viktor. I’ve read that this is a real page-turner. Share how you plotted your story and tips for making a reader want to turn the page.

For me, plotting is all about cause and effect. What can I do to a character or storyline that will cause a deep reaction to engage the reader? This could be external or internal - a problem, fear, hesitation, or confusion that prompts both audience and character to lean in closer to the words on the page. And this should happen – to some degree – on every single page. Sometimes I use a minute trigger like a snarky line; other times the element is more dramatic. In either, my delivery must flow and feel natural to the reader. As the story progresses, I increase tension, conflict, and pace building upon what I’ve already established. Some of that will hinge on what I’m going for in a particular chapter or scene – reader empathy, action, inspiration, or even self-reflection. Ultimately, I want readers to identify with a personal aspect of my characters and the world they live in.

4. I love how you try to increase the tension and drama on each page. Anastasia has an unusual magical power: the ability to feel others’ emotions through their life energy auras. How did you come up with this power and develop into a credible one with limitations as well as powers?

I wanted Ana’s external gift to be an outward extension of who she is inside. That’s how the original
idea of her damaged emotions being able to affect/control this ability came about. It plays a duel role, making for conflicts within herself and within her world at the same time. To give her skills plausibility, I inserted myself into her shoes, the world, and other observing characters to play with possible reactions and effects. I weeded out the less believable ones, tweaked a few others (I’m a sucker for a problem within a solution within a problem), and came up with abilities that felt natural and had the aptitude to continue growing as she moves into the next book. *Yup, I’ve been asked to write a sequel. Eek!*

5. Congrats on the sequel! I love that the romance between Anastasia and Viktor is not immediate. Share a bit about the growth in their relationship. What tips do you have for other YA writers about writing romance?

When Ana and Viktor first meet, both are plagued by personal pains, misgivings, and fears, yet show no outward effect – Viktor is mysterious and aloof (the strange guy), while Ana is downhome and comfortable (the nice girl). But their close proximity affects Ana’s gifts. And the more she searches for a reason why, the deeper entwined their lives become. This slowly erodes their protective inner walls until what’s happening between them and their worlds collide. Their relationship literally grows from their insides-out.

For writing YA romance, I’ll offer two tips: First, play with the romance by teasing the characters, which in turn ignites a yearning in the reader to want more. And secondly, find an element or flaw within each character of the couple that complicates their attraction. This is where backstory is vital and can really juice up a romance.

6. I'm trying to write my first YA romance so I'll try to follow your tips. What was a challenge you had in writing this book and how did you overcome it?

The biggest challenge by far was persistent belief in the story. The setting and hidden world within the tale had been changed so many times I almost lost myself to the doubt that I’d never get it right. But I had a few amazing CPs that had fallen in love with Ana and Viktor, and insisted I figure out a way to tell their tale.

7. Well, I admire your persistence in getting your story writee. Your first published book is MOTLEY EDUCATION, a middle grade book released October 2016. I know your road to publication had some bumps, but then BAM, you quickly had two books under contract. Share about your road to publication and how you’ve dealt with the challenges of having two very different books be released by different publishers about a year apart.

A few years back, after many near-missed signings with agents, I decided to submit to publishers on my own. I received multiple offers from smaller, independent presses. Instead of accepting an offer, I signed with an interested agent. Things were good for a while, but eventually fizzled out, and I went on my own again. I decided to finally listen to my gut and do a complete rewrite of Marked Beauty. This was it. Either it sold or I was shelving it. I was blessed to receive multiple offers again. I chose my YA publisher, and a short two months later I received an offer for MOTLEY. You described it perfectly. It felt like BAM!

In dealing with the challenges of two uniquely different books releasing from different publishers, I’ve learned a host of things.

1. Pay attention to everything, but don’t expect to utilize it all. You’ll go crazy.
2. Celebrate the small accomplishments – Ex: passing in 1st round of edits, knowing three more rounds aren’t far behind.
3. Ask advice from those in the writing community. They RAWK!
4. Create a pre-release and post-release check list for each book and for each publisher. (The check lists I’ve created are available on my website.) They will be different, depending on genre and age range of the book. There are multiple ways to edit, market, and sell a book. Discern what is important to the promotion and sale of one book at a time.
5. Breathe and know you’re going to make some mistakes. That’s okay.

8. I'll have to check out your checklist if I ever get to that point in my writing. You’ve said that marketing a YA book is very different than marketing a middle grade book. Talk about these differences and how your marketing plan now is different than the one you used for MOTLEY EDUCATION.

The biggest difference between marketing for middle grade and young adult is social media. Most middle graders aren’t online a lot, whereas the opposite is true for YAers. They utilize social media in many different areas. That opens up a ton of possibilities for YA book teasers, giveaways, announcements, specials, and book sales. I can connect with them on a more direct and personal level. Although librarians and teachers are invaluable in every aspect of literature, I’ve found they are the most successful avenue to connecting with MG readers. They are the ones to introduce books to younger kids and their parents.

9. What are you working on now?

I’ve just completed book II in the Motley Education series, and I’m currently plotting out the sequel to Marked Beauty, tentatively titled Sinful Beauty.

Thanks for all your advice, Sheri. You can find Sheri at Facebook | Twitter | Website | Instagram | Goodreads

Sheri has generously offered MARKED BEAUTY for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower and leave a comment through October 21. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. The book giveaway is for U.S. and Canada.

Here's what's coming up:

Monday, October 9th I have an interview with debut author Tracey Neithercott and a giveaway of her YA magical realism GRAY WOLF ISLAND

Saturday, October 14th I'm participating in the Spooktacular Giveaway Hop

Monday, October 16th I have a guest post with debut author Karina Van Glaser and with a giveaway of Karina's MG contemporary THE VANDERBEKERS and a query critique giveaway by agent Ginger Clark

Monday, October 23rd I have an agent spotlight interview and query critique giveaway with agent Molly O'Neill

Monday,  October 30th I have an agent spotlight interview and query critique giveaway with agent Quressa Robinson 

Hope to see you on Monday!


Donna K. Weaver said...

Sheri is awesome. I love the sound of this book. Already added to my TBR list. Just wish it was available in audiobook ...

Jennifer Hawes said...

You go, Sheri! I loved hearing her journey to publication. This is such a tough, tricky road to master!! Thanks again for sharing. Can't wait to read her books.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Congrats to Sheri.

If writing a book on a schedule isn't doable, just sign a contract for the one book you do have finished.

Karen Lange said...

Congrats Sheri! This book sounds exciting. Enjoyed hearing about your experience. Wishing you well.

Natalie, thanks for hosting. I'll pass on the giveaway. Have a good week!

Rachna Chhabria said...

Hi Natalie, I've been travelling so I've not been online much. How have you been? Like you I too am petrified of writing a book under a contract. I'm sure it will raise my blood pressure and give me anxiety attacks.
Sheri's story sounds amazing. I loved her tips, especially since I'm working on the second draft of my YA love story.

Christine Rains said...

Congratulations to Sheri! That's excellent advice. The writing community is so generous. :)

Misha Gerrick said...

Congrats, Sheri!

Natalie, I was always worried about not having enough time... and I STILL worry about not having enough time. Still, by making priorities and making sure to get stuff done, I've discovered that things do fit in after all.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

You kept at it until you found the right home for both books. Glad those two characters stuck with you even if their stories didn't.
Natalie, I'm a slow writer, and so far I've not crumbled under the pressure to produce more.

Gwen Gardner said...

Natalie, I'm a slow writer too. And the day job just sucks the energy out of you. I'm being kinder to myself about that this year.

Sheri, congratulations on your new release. You worked so hard and I wish you so much success!

I tweeted!

S.A. Larsenッ said...

This is so good, Natalie. You did an amazing job. Thank you! You're questions really made me think, which I appreciate. And thank you to everyone for all the heart-warming comments. It means the world. <3

Oh, gosh...are we talking writing speed? I honestly hear you on that topic. I think the key to success is going at your own pace, doing what is natural for you.

S.A. Larsenッ said...

Thank you, Gwen! It has been a long road with this one, but I'm glad I stuck it out.

S.A. Larsenッ said...

Thanks for visiting, and best of luck with that second draft!

S.A. Larsenッ said...

Hi Donna! I just saw your message in my email about an audiobook version. Not sure, yet. I'll have to check with my pub. :) I'm just excited that you're interested.

S.A. Larsenッ said...

Thanks for your excitement and kind words, Jennifer! All the best to you.

Pat Hatt said...

Persistent belief is the thing that can sure keep your story going.

My ocd would keep me a trucking along if the contract said I needed book 2.

Tamara Narayan said...

Talk about not giving up! Thanks Sherri, for sharing your publishing journey.

Brenda said...

Sheri, congratulations on the release of Marked Beauty and upcoming Motley Education 2!

Patchi said...

Great interview! I've been thinking of rewriting my shelved sci-fi as a historical, and Sherri's comment makes me think it's not a totally crazy idea after all.

Jemi Fraser said...

Yay for Sheri!!! (She's awesome!!) Love the idea of transplanting characters from an abandoned book. Hmmmm.....

Natalie - I hear you on those fears! I tend to get consumed by them all, so no advice from me - just lots of empathy! :)

Carol Kilgore said...

Congrats to Sheri! Marked Beauty sounds fantastic.

Natalie, I'm a slow writer, too. I wrote all three books of the Gracie trilogy in three years. But for me it's pretty much all-consuming when I write like that. I don't think I could write faster on a consistent basis.

Raimey Gallant said...

Not only was I slower than so many writers during Nanowrimo last year, but I'm also a darned slow reader. :)

DMS said...

What a great interview. So fun to learn more about Sheri and her process. I can imagine marketing to YA is a lot different than MG because of social media. Wishing her all the best. :)

Chrys Fey said...

I've been struggling to write this year, so I definitely wouldn't want to write with a deadline looming.

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

Great interview. Motley Education is awesome. Enjoyed reading it. Looking forward to the new one. Love the butterfly on the cover. A lot of good information to remember. Thanks, Sheri and Natalie.

Sheena-kay Graham said...

So much to glean from this interview. Sheri's one smart (and persistent) cookie.

Cathrina Constantine said...

Congrats, Sheri!! Great Interview Sheri and Natalie. And I love the cover.
I don't know if I'd be able to write with a deadline hanging over my head either. And I'm a snail writer.

S.P. Bowers said...

Yes, I worry about that. It is so hard to eek out time for writing between taking care of the kids and growing our own food, etc. It takes forever to get anything written and I worry that if I get a contract the kids and house will get neglected or I'll just plain miss all my deadlines.

Congrats on the book, Sheri! Great tips on marketing for MG vs YA.

Angie Quantrell said...

Congratulations on your book! It sounds fantastic! Best wishes on future plotting. :)

Danielle H. said...

Thanks for the interview. Natalie, you always ask fantastic questions that require in-depth answers which help your followers learn so much. Congrats to Sheri! You are inspirational to others working towards their dreams of publication. I shared on tumblr: http://yesreaderwriterpoetmusician.tumblr.com/post/166081861537/sheri-larsen-interview-and-marked-beauty-giveaway

Cherie Reich said...

The stress of completing a book in an amount of time is one reason why I self-publish. It has many things to stress over too, but I know I can work on a book with the time I have and publish it when it's ready. Of course, I've also learned to finish a series (if it is a series) before publishing book one. Yeah, I won't make that mistake again. Heh.

Congrats to Sheri! That's so cool that you plucked Ana and Viktor and made their new story work in Marked Beauty.

mshatch said...

Nice to see you here, Sheri, and that Marked Beauty has finally made it out into the world :)

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

Writing isn't always about getting published. I'm a firm believer that no writing is wasted time.

Congrats Sheri!

Empty Nest Insider said...

Natalie, I can't believe that you're able to produce that many articles in one month and still consider yourself slow. I'm lucky if I get 4 or 5 stories done in a week for work. Sounds like you don't need the added stress to write anything else right now, but you could always make an outline of ideas for a future project. Do you even have time to sleep? Guess I should stop complaining!


Suzanne Furness said...

Writing to deadlines and schedules is a slightly daunting idea but should I be lucky enough to secure an agent/publisher I will give it my best! I would probably have to give up the day job!It sounds like you are a busy lady with the articles you already have to produce regularly. Happy writing :)

M Pax said...

Yay for Sheri! It gets easier to write faster and with other obligations as you write more books. I think creativity breeds creativity. But to lessen stress for myself, I publish myself. Deadlines are as I decide. That helps a lot.

Olga Godim said...

Natalie, you're not a slow writer. You write, by your own admission, up to 80 articles a month. That is 2 or 3 a day. It's a tremendous pressure. Of course you don't have lots of creative energy left for your off-time fiction projects. Everyone needs time to recharge. If anything, I think you're the opposite of a slow writer.
Fascinating interview with Sheri. Her book sounds intriguing.

Carina Olsen said...

Lovely interview post Natalie :D I haven't heard of this author before, but she sounds awesome, and that book looks so gorgeous. Thank you for sharing about it all sweetie. <3 (Not entering the giveaway :))

Cynthia said...

Natalie, I'm super impressed that you write 60-80 articles per month. You probably produce much more efficiently than you give yourself credit for.

Congratulations, Sheri, on your book! It's inspiring to see authors like yourself find success in following their passions.

Liza said...

I can see where writing on contract would cause stress. But I think too, it would force the issue, and require one to write instead of (for example in my case) procrastinate. Congratulations to Sheri on her book. I love how she calls her characters "transplants."