What compelled you to tell the story/stories in your most recent book? (And specifically, why this genre?)
The 10 Commandments of Author Branding is an authorship reference book, according to Amazon categories, but I like to call it a self-help book for writers. Reference sounds so dry, doesn’t it?
It was NaNoWriMo 2018, and I needed a book idea. I was a few days late coming up with something, and I had just published my debut novel, The Suicide Tree. While I was at a coffee shop with my writers’ group (we do Saturday NaNoWriMo write-ins during November), it struck me to start compiling all of my articles, email newsletters, Facebook posts, and more into a Word doc.
It just kept growing and growing. I knew then: This is my book. I need to help authors learn about branding, marketing, and authenticity. And so I did.
What obstacles—either inner or outer—did you encounter while writing the book?
The Suicide Tree took me three and a half years to write. I was constantly battling with perfectionism. Thankfully, I learned my lesson (to some degree) with Commandments. In fact, that book was written, edited, and published in under a year.
I did, however, encounter quite the setback when I realized an entire chapter (Commandment IX: Thou Shalt Not Bear a Boring Book Launch) had to be completely rewritten in two days before going to the editor. Originally, that chapter taught authors about Facebook launch groups. I knew, though, that they didn’t work anymore.
That meant sitting down in my recliner and writing an entire chapter from scratch. Funny thing is, that chapter gets the most compliments!
How has writing your most recent book changed or added value to your life?
I’m currently finishing up a book of poetry entitled All the Things I Should’ve Told You. Out of everything I’ve written, this has been the most important to me. It’s me bearing my soul and talking about grief, love, loss, resilience, and anger. Almost every poem was written in the moment—in the moment of grieving the loss of a loved one, in the moment of falling in love, in the moment of dusting myself off and trying again.
These poems helped me get through some dark times, and they’ve also shown me the light. It’s my hope that these poems will guide others out of the darkness and into a brighter world.
Did you self-publish or did you go the traditional route? Why did you choose the route you chose, and what was that process like?
Oh, self-publish all the way! I’m too much of a control freak to hand my books over to anyone else. Plus, the waiting game is unbearable. I have a hard enough time waiting on a microwave minute, let alone two years after getting a deal.
I’m a self-publishing mentor and have been working with indie authors for years. It’s a blast for me, and I wouldn’t want to go any other route.
The process for someone who has done it for years isn’t tough. But for those who are new to it, it’s seriously like taking on a full-time job. There are so many learning curves! I’ve been blessed with a team who helps me publish high-quality books, so that certainly takes a load off.
I also have the Pre-Publishing Checklist: A To-Do List for Indie Authors because so many of my clients needed a road map for the process.
Are you friends with other writers? If so, how do they influence your writing? (No need to mention names unless you and they are comfortable with that. We’re more curious about what your writing life looks like and who/what influences/supports you.)
Absolutely! I’m the organizer for the Yukon Writers’ Society in Yukon, Oklahoma. In fact, the majority of my friends are writers. We organize workshops and conferences together; we attend conferences in Texas (road trip!); we go to coffee shops to write; we send each other writerly memes and quotes. I’ve said it before in previous interviews, but there is no doubt in my mind that my books wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for writer friends.
I think, yes, accountability is a part of success, but it’s this loyal support I get unlike any other from them. If I talk about a new book I’m working on, or if I tell my friends about ideas for workshops, they immediately cheer me on. And I do the same for them.
Find your people, my author friends. It will change you.
Do you maintain a regular writing practice? If so, what does it look like? If not, how do you stay engaged in your writing projects?
No one has ever accused me of sticking to a routine. Ha! I’m kind of all over the place with my writing. The weekends and week nights (after 8 o’clock) are a lot easier for me. I get my coffee, a snack, my Bose headphones, and I get to work. I love setting a timer too, because it’s fun to see what I can accomplish in an hour. Or on the days when time is so limited, just 15 minutes of writing is better than none.
One thing that helps me stay engaged—and this is an odd answer—is ensuring my mental health is up to par. If I’m not exercising, eating healthy, staying in my devotions, and spending time with wonderful people, my mental health will deteriorate. And if my mental health is meh, then my writing is meh.
How many other books or stories do you have in progress right now?
As I said, the book of poetry! But I am wildly excited about my first psychological thriller. It isn’t named yet, but I’ve been in research mode most of the year. This one . . . well, let’s just say it’s my magnum opus.
For NaNoWriMo this year, I’m using this time to outline my entire novel using the Save the Cat! Writes a Novel method as my guide.
Do you view writing as a spiritual practice?
As a born-again Christian, I know God gave me the gift of writing, and I never want to let a talent grow stagnant. So I’m very grateful for that. When I’m writing, I do think there’s a spiritual aspect to it, because I am genuinely bearing my soul to the world. I don’t care what genre I’m writing in; there is a piece of my heart in my writing.
You need to take that writing time seriously. Turn your phone on silent or leave it in another room. Turn on some rain sounds (I like rainfor.me). And for the love of Pete, leave your blasted social media alone.
What would your life look like if you didn’t write?
I wouldn’t call it much of a life at all. Honestly. My whole life is centered on books. I think I would feel empty. I would always know something was missing in my life. A void.
Why do you write?
Because I can’t not write.
Shayla Raquel is the author of the Pre-Publishing Checklist, “The Rotting” (in Shivers in the Night), The Suicide Tree, andThe 10 Commandments of Author Branding. In her not-so-free time, she acts as organizer for the Yukon Writers’ Society, volunteers at the Oklahoma County Jail, and obsesses over squirrels. She lives in Oklahoma with her dogs, Chanel, Wednesday, and Baker.