This week, I am interviewing S.J. Lem, author of Waterfall Traveler, who writes Young Adult Fantasy. Her debut novel, The Waterfall Traveler, is available for pre-order and will be released April 19, 2017.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
I can't speak for all, but I had two: self-doubt and procrastination. The latter is probably a symptom of the first. So many times I thought my writing was terrible and worried that people wouldn't like my novel. But I wanted to write, so I set my mind to it, joined a critique group, and kept revising. Though I still have moments of doubt, I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Narrowing it down to one thing is impossible! These are three things that I feel were well worth the investment:
I joined a paid online writing group four years ago and met both traditionally published and self-published authors. Without their help, my novel would still be an idea swirling around in my head. I'm tremendously grateful for their guidance, and now that I am much more knowledgeable, I try to follow in their footsteps and help aspiring writers when I can.
I cannot stress the importance of hiring an editor enough. An experienced editor will give your work that final polish so you can provide a high-quality product to your readers. I had the pleasure of working with Aaron S. Kaiserman, and I highly value his level of dedication, timeliness, and expertise.
Unfortunately, people do judge books by their covers, so I wanted mine to stand out and look professional. I worked with two talented, award-winning individuals to create my cover. Lindsay Nery visualized my ideas into an eye-catching illustration, and Victor Sanchez designed the elegant typography and layout. I'm so appreciative of all their hard work.
What's the best way to market your books?
Great question! I don't believe there is one sure fire way. (That would be too easy!) Writers need to pursue every opportunity available to them. Actions may include engaging in social media, building an email list, supplying copies to ARC readers, creating an informative website, scheduling book blog tours and in-person appearances. All of this can be daunting to an author just starting out, but there is help available. I’m always happy to share my marketing plan and answer questions. I also plan to offer a section on my website focused on helping other writers with marketing.
How many hours a day do you write?
As a new mom, my time is very limited. I have a 45-minute train commute to and from work each day and use that time to write rough drafts. I aim to revise those drafts on the weekends when my little one is asleep.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
I do. S.J. Lem is a pen name. I currently have a successful career as an Art Director for a large company. That said, I prefer to keep my "designer" life and my "writer" life separate. I also aim to maintain some level of privacy.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
I do read reviews, but I don’t respond to them when they are posted on retail sites or communities such as GoodReads. I think that would make the reviewer uncomfortable, and I believe everyone is entitled to express their opinion. It hurts to receive a bad review, but all writers receive them at one point or another. You can’t make all the people happy all of the time, as they say.
When a blogger posts a positive review on their website, I will send a thank you email. This is a great way to start a conversation to learn about them and what their readers enjoy. I enjoy supporting bloggers and readers however I can.
Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
Yes! I love sprinkling in clues throughout the story that readers may only pickup on in hindsight after the big reveal.
What is your favorite childhood book?
This is hard to narrow down! I loved the Velveteen Rabbit, the Serendipity Book series, Charlotte’s Web, Where the Wild Things Are, the list goes on. I’m looking forward to revisiting these books as my son gets older.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
My critique partners played an integral role in helping me shape my novel. Those authors include:
Josh Mendelssohn, Craig Snow, Martin Felando, Jordan Philips, and Forest Taylor. Their continuous reviews and suggestions helped me clarify ideas, develop my characters, improve my dialogue, and identify areas where tension needed to be raised. They are some of the nicest folks I’ve met and are incredibly knowledgeable in their craft.
I also met bestselling YA author L.A. Weatherly through a fundraiser for refugees. She critiqued my near final draft and offered extremely helpful advice on where I could make improvements. She was such a pleasure to talk with, and her feedback was so encouraging.
Writing is far from a solo effort, and I am so grateful for all the support I've received along this journey.
What does literary success look like to you?
Ultimately, I would like people to read my book and enjoy it. Delivering a quality book for readers has always been one of my top goals. My other goal, and also a definition of success I think, is to do something that I love. I fell in love with writing four years ago and look forward to creating new worlds for many years to come.
Thanks S.J.! If you'd like to learn more about S.J. Lem and keep up to date with her future releases, visit her on Facebook.