Thursday, April 26, 2012
Interview with Heidi Angell
What was your path towards publication like?
Hectic, to be honest! I've been writing ever since I was a kid and I knew that someday I would publish something, but everyone always tells you that you can't make a living at writing; that you gotta have a back up plan.
So, I was working on my novel tentatively titled All is Well, while going to school, working part-time and raising two kids. I had a couple really great friends, Stephanie and Caroline Mitchell, who also liked to "dabble" with writing and we had a set date once a week, at our local coffee shop, to write until we were too exhausted to do anything else.
Steph was so supportive and pushed me to clean it up. She read through it and gave me suggestions and then told me to start submitting it. Four years later I had finished school, and the company I was working for gave me an opportunity to work from home. I was able to focus on regular submissions and checking up on everything. Two weeks before Christmas the same company let me go.
The day after New Year's I got a contract from an agent.
My husband and I sat down and talked about it and decided that I should continue working from home, but work for myself. While I was waiting for my agent to get me a contract, I started blogging, doing on-line articles and pretty much anything I could do to make a couple extra bucks. Then I decided to self-publish my first two books to get some practice marketing, to test the waters, and to make a little extra money. Still waiting on a publishers contract for All is Well, but I write every day and I love the freedom of being able to set my own schedule!
What is your biggest obstacle when it comes to pitching yourself as an author and what steps have you taken to overcome that obstacle?
I guess the hardest thing is to convince people that I am legit. I'm new and there are a lot of us newbies out there. I can't prove that I am better than the others out there, mainly because I'm probably not!
We are all telling different stories, so to me it is sort of like comparing apples and bananas. We are both fruits, but that is about where the similarity ends. It is an obstacle I am still dealing with, but basically I am just working on being prolific, building up a resume so to speak. Tenacity and a thick skin are key if you want to write for a living!
How do you balance your life as an author with your duties as a business person, employee, parent and/or spouse?
Balance.... I was never good at it when I was a kid in gym, and metaphorically it is even harder than literally! I am a total workaholic, which really doesn't help matters, especially now that I absolutely love what I do!
I try to maintain a very strict schedule for work, which includes scheduled "down time" so that I don't get burnt out. All my "business" stuff I try to get done early in the day so that when the kids get home I can do my homework (Code for write) while they do theirs. With us all in the same room, they are free to ask for help with their work. I have also had to make a rule in my house that if you are feeling neglected by me, then come and tell me! We will make time.
What is your best advice for finding new places to promote your work?
Well, the Internet is your best friend! Never pay for anything, unless you can see how it will help you in advance.
But the biggest thing is to be creative, volunteer and make friends. You never know what will come of your connections. For example, I have been a leader in Cub Scouts for several years now because of my kids. I did it because I come from a scouting family and it was a great chance for my kids and I to bond over positive activities. I never anticipated publishing a children's book, but when I did another leader pointed out how many things I could help the kids sign off because of my unique profession. I ended up setting up several "meet the author" events with several local packs to promote my book.
My book, Creative Exercises to Inspire, was based on my volunteer experiences through my city and when Royal Prince Vince came out, I had contacts lined up to do several promotional readings for similar programs. It's the opportunities no one else would think of because they don't have the same involvements that you have that will help put you a cut above the others.
What was the best writing-related advice you ever received?
I honestly can't remember where I got this, but it was probably from one of the MANY authors I follow on twitter. The advice was to write for you and no one else.
It is so easy to lose your authentic voice when you start chasing "what is hot" in an effort to make the biggest sales. That is not why I write. Yeah, I wanna make a living; but the old adage "you can't please all of the people all of the time" really strikes me.
So many professionals tell me to stick to one genre, that I need to have different pen names if I want to write different books. I know a lot of authors do it, but then I look at Orson Scott Card and realize that I don't have to fit into "the industry's" pigeonhole. I write for me and if I am lucky someone else will appreciate what I do, if not then at least I know it is authentic and real.
My latest book, Royal Prince Vince, was published in e-book format in November 2011 and in print-on-demand in January, 2012.
It is a children's picture book and fable told in a rhyming format. I did self-publish it and I also illustrated it myself. It is 26 pages and tells the tale of Royal Prince Vince, a spoiled little prince. His parents don't know what to do to make him happy and get him to stop throwing fits. Then help comes from the most unlikely source! A great story for children to learn the joy of hard work and pride in accomplishment.
How did you come up with the idea for your book?
Actually, I wrote this story in high school as part of my final project for my creative writing course. I never really expected it to go anywhere. But as a writer, I hold on to pretty much everything I have ever written. Well, I was going through a bunch of my old papers, trying to go digital, and my boys got a hold of it and they were like “Wow, you wrote this? That is so cool mom!!”
And I looked back over it and thought that it was just really relevant with the way the world is right now. The demand of entitlement, the attitude that a lot of my college classmates had about not being able to find work and how they were entitled to have a job because they had done everything right, going to school and everything. The message was pretty clear and I thought it was good to share it.
What was the most difficult aspect of writing this book?
The hardest thing was to decide to do my own artwork. I am hardly an artist, in the traditional sense. I was trying to find one of my artsy friends to do the artwork for me! I had the original artwork I did in high school sitting out on my counter and my son had some friends over.
One of them was looking at the book and asked who had done it, because it was really cool. I told them it was a work in progress that I was looking for an artist for and he said, “But this is totally awesome! Why do you need someone else to do your artwork?” And I thought about what he said. I went back and looked at other children’s books and although a lot of them have phenomenal art work, some of them are just brightly done. The real key is bright pictures and a great story. I think intuitively children know this. So, I went for it!
If you could choose just one thing for your book to accomplish, what would it be?
Although most of my works are fiction, they all contain a deeper message about the human condition. I don't want people to just be entertained. I want them to be inspired, to be influenced, to think about what they would do if they were in a similar situation. To see the world as I see it, and feel free to disagree.
With Royal Prince Vince I am spreading the message of taking pride in yourself, not your things. To gauge a person's worth by what they do, not how many cool toys they have. It would be nice if the income from Prince Vince would pay for one of my boys to go to college, too. I would have no complaints there!
What’s ahead for your writing?
Well, hopefully a contract for All is Well! I just finished writing the sequel to that story and am working hard on editing that, fleshing out a third story and writing a couple of others. I'm always getting little side jobs too, editing, writing articles and blogging, so lots of busy work for me! It's good though, I like keeping busy!
To learn more about Heidi Angell at http://angellslife.com
Order Royal Prince Vince on Amazon.com
This post was sponsored by The Dabbling Mum.
For more articles like this, check out The Dabbling Mum eMagazine.
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