Visiting me today is Rebecca Ryals Russell, aka, the Yellow Hat Writer. Her debut novel, Seraphym Wars Odessa, is slated for release April 1, 2011 from MuseItUp Publishing. This book will be followed by several others throughout 2011. She’s been a very busy writer.
I live in a Victorian house on five acres with my family. I also run a Vacation Rental Log House on the property (Florida Black Bear Cabin http://flablackbearcabin.com) It was in this cabin I wrote Odessa within 6 months. I am a fourth generation Floridian. Born in Gainesville (Central Fl), I grew up in Sunrise (South Florida), lived in Orlando for 8 years (Central Fl) and Jacksonville for 28 years (NE Fl) before settling outside Lake City (North Central Fl). The daughter of a school principal and school secretary, for fourteen years I taught Middle Grades, preferring English and Creative Writing. I had several students’ works published in anthologies. My main interests are my four children, ages 22, 19, 16, 11 and Irish hubby of 35 years. I enjoy spending time writing, drawing, going to movies and reading. My favorite pastime is sitting on our wicker porch swing on a chilly Autumn evening with my husband and usually a kid or two, drinking a beer and eating mixed nuts while chatting about anything and everything.
My all-time favorite book(s) are Lord of the Rings. I was in seventh grade when my Daddy introduced me to the series. I started with The Hobbit and moved on to read them all within months. Then Daddy brought home a 1000 piece puzzle of Middle Earth. When I finished it we mounted it and it hung in my bedroom until I left home. I wish I had that puzzle today. The effect that series had on me is clearly evident in my writing. My YA series, Seraphym Wars, is a quest Fantasy with elves and faeries, dragon-demons and strong characters. While writing each book I ask myself constantly, “Would this be in LOTR?”
Tell us about the genre you have chosen to write for. Why do write specifically for them?
I write MG/YA Fantasy for several reasons. Firstly, it’s what I read. I don’t enjoy adult fiction as much as YA. Maybe I never grew up at heart because I always identify with the YA characters more. Secondly, I write for teens because I have 4 of them at home. All of my kids read – but NONE read Fantasy. I find that hilarious. In fact, NONE of them have read any of my books to date. Thirdly, because I taught MG for fourteen years, I know how teens think and what they say and feel. I try to incorporate that into my characters. My sixteen-year-old son gets so tired of me quizzing him on what’s happening at school, what are the trends, how would his friends react to such and such.
Tell us about your new book. How did it come about and share your favorite excerpt/scene.
The first book of the YA series Seraphym Wars will be released April 1, 2011 from MuseItUp Publishing. Odessa is the first of a five book series. So far, the Prequel, Conscientia, due out Sept 1, 2011 and Book 1 Odessa have release dates. Book 2 Harpies is at the publisher now being read.
The storyline for Seraphym Wars was 30 years in the making. I just didn’t have time (or gumption) to write it out, but it was always in the back of my head. When I retired from teaching I began writing it and six months later had a 250,000 word book. Obviously too long I split it in two and revised Odessa 6 times over the next 3 years until I was finally satisfied.
18-year-old Myrna is drawn into the middle of an epic battle between Seraphym and Demons. An average High School student from Florida, struggling with inner demons resulting from a rape at sixteen, she wakes one morning on the Steampunk planet of Dracwald, home of the demon-dragons responsible for her brother’s recent murder as well as many other atrocities in the news. She meets sweet sensitive Michael, who explains that according to prophecy, Myrna must gather the remaining six Vigorios (teen warriors with special talents) then train with the Majikals on an enchanted island. He accompanies her on the quest. A roguish Scientist with suspect motives haunts her dreams, while a sensual dragon warrior defends her against her will.
Will love and lust, jealousy, greed, deceit and distrust break the delicate tie that binds these teen warriors called The Vigorios? Can a troupe of teens help the Seraphym finally defeat the massive empire of evil dominated for eons by the demon-dragons of Dracwald?
How has writing affected your life? And what’s your favorite part of being a writer?
Writing has given me new purpose after leaving the classroom. I tend to give 110% to whatever I do and when teaching I spent 80 hours a week, easily, making lessons interesting, grading work and in the classroom. Now I spend that time and more writing. My favorite part is I can do it from home. My desk is in the living room so I’m in the heart of the family area, everyone comes and goes, but I can still produce my work.
What advice can you give regarding the writing process?
Before I started writing I tried to think of good ideas for stories and couldn’t. Now that I’ve been writing daily for 4 years, the ideas won’t stop. My advice is Write Often to Write Well. And secondly, don’t second-guess what you’ve produced until it is as perfect as you can make it. If it takes 15 revisions to get the story or voice or characterization, Just Do It.
Regarding publication and marketing, what advice can you offer aspiring writers?
It’s NEVER too early to start. If you wait until your book is published, you’ll be running backwards trying to catch up. I started building my platform, as it’s called, before the book was written. But it is only recently that people are recognizing my name. that’s four years of being very visible on the Internet. In fact, I think it was because of that visibility I got my first contract.
Today’s publishing world has changed and is still evolving. It is now the writer’s responsibility to promote yourself. A publisher wants to see that you are Internet and computer savvy and not afraid to put yourself out there. You need a website with a blog that you update at least weekly, twice a week is better. You need to belong to as many groups, website rings, forums and associations as you can find in your genre and BE ACTIVE on them. Get your name known. Brand yourself.
When I go to a writing conference, I wear my yellow hat to the keynote banquet. Why? Because that’s how people know me. And I have writers come up to me and say, “Hi, We’re friends on Twitter or Facebook or such and such forum.” And they knew me because I have branded myself as “The Yellow Hat Writer”. I have a separate website called http://yellowhatwriter.com and it’s only email signature banner, business cards and even used as a forum id in places.
Keep the same photo of yourself for everything. Don’t change your photo or use different ones for different sites. People will recognize you from the photo. Make it a good one and use only one.
How can your fans find, follow or friend you?
I’m all over the Internet. The best place to look first is my website/blog: http://rryalsrussell.com. I also have a grog (group blog) with several other MG/YA authors. We rotate postings about how to write aimed at Teens Who Write and Those Who Write for Teens. We have author interviews, news, hints, etc. http://teenwordfactory.com. Lastly readers can find me at http://facebook.com/rebeccaryalsrussell or http://facebook.com/myrnawatts; http://twitter.com/vigorio and http://myspace.com/rebeccaryalsrussell or http://goodreads.com/user/show/1941846-rebecca-ryals-russell. I love to make new friends!!
My book can be seen at https://museituppublishing.com/bookstore2/index.php?page=shop.product_details&flypage=flypage.tpl&product_id=64&category_id=6&option=com_virtuemart&Itemid=1. If you want to buy the book, you can hit the ‘Notify Me’ button and when it’s available you’ll get an email to go and buy it.
Watch for all of my other books to come available as well at http://museituppublishing.com/musepub/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=98&Itemid=82 or my website http://rryalsrussell.com
April 1, 2011 Odessa, YA series Seraphym Wars http://seraphymwars.com
July 1, 2011 Zarena, MG series Stardust Warriors http://stardustwarriors.com
Sept 1, 2011 Conscientia, Seraphym Wars
Oct 1, 2011 Don’t Make Marty Mad (adult horror story)
Nov 1, 2011 Jeremiah, Stardust Warriors
Feb 1, 2012 Laman, Stardust Warriors
These have been submitted to the publisher:
TBA Harpies, Seraphym Wars
TBA Mercy, Stardust Warriors
TBA Magaelbash, Stardust Warriors
Thanks for joining us today, Rebecca.