Friday, March 16, 2012

Forever Waiting Interview with S.R. Johanness

Today's guest of the Forever Waiting Writers Series is Shelli Johannes-Wells. Shelli is the author of UNTRACEABLE and ON THE BRIGHT SIDE. UNCONTROLLABLE, the sequel to UNTRACEABLE is due to release this summer!

Here's a brief synopsis of UNTRACEABLE:

Grace grew up in the woods. When her forest ranger dad disappears on patrol, she fights town authorities, tribal officials, & nature to prove he’s alive. Torn between a hot boy and cute ex, she heads into the wilderness to find her dad. Soon, Grace is caught in a web of conspiracy, deception, and murder. It will take more than a compass and motorcycle for this tough heroine to save all she loves.

"This thrilling story is a dramatic entanglement of mystery, deception and teen romance. The action flows like a brisk mountain stream interspersed with rapids, holding suspense to last page." -Kirkus Reviews

On your journey to publication, how long were you on the boat Forever Waiting? Were there any moments when you thought land was in sight, but it was a false alarm? 

So many moments! I had an agent for two years and had two books go to acquisitions - several times at several different publishing houses. Somehow my boat would sail back out to sea just as I was about to land on a beautiful island. I tried to swim a few times but I almost drowned :) I'm still sailing. This time looking to discover my own island (that was cheesy but yeah! :)

What inspired you to write UNTRACEABLE?

My hubby came home from camping by himself one weekend and said, "I was so deep in the woods, someone could do something illegal and totally get away with it." He's British so I am totally paraphrasing because you probably wouldn't understand if I said what he said. That seed got stored away in my head. Then, a couple years later when we visited Cherokee, North Carolina, I saw the bear pits there. It disturbed me so much - I needed to talk about it. I put those two separate events together and wha-la - Untraceable was born.

UNCONTROLLABLE will be out Summer 2012, what was it like writing the sequel?

Gosh, I'm still finishing it. It was easier because I already knew the plot and had nailed Grace's voice which is hardest for me to capture. Plotting is the easy part for me. I find sequels easier than a standalone.

Are you a plotter or pantster?

Both. I do beat sheets (from Save the Cat) and then I outline as I go. I need to know the general road map of what is going to happen but I can't plan the details until I get there. 

Any advice to those of us who are pre-published and in the trenches?

Don't set certain expectations on what your career will look like. Everyone gets somewhere - but in different ways. Don't give up and don't compare yourself to others - it will kill your creativity.  

Many of us write when we are tired, or in the wee hours of morning and late at night. What caffeine crutch do you prefer, tea, coffee, or some other caffeinated beverage? Or do you even need a caffeine crutch?

Coffee and sweet tea. I always need a caffeine crunch. I work late and my kids are up (too!) early. If I could have an IV of caffeine- I would. Can someone invent that please? 

Your blog is overflowing with marketing advice. If you had to bullet point three things for a pre-published author to do, what would it be? How about for someone whose book is about to come out?

Pre-pubbed author
Start building your platform and network NOW - it's never too early!
Get started on building a professional web site and present yourself as a published author. (Fake it til you make it!)
WRITE your heart out! 

Published author
Start marketing your book at least 6 months before it comes out. Plan ahead.
Find out who your target audience segments are and reach them in some channel. You should have at least 3-5 segment markets to hit besides the general bucket of YA.
Don't underestimate bloggers. They rock for PR.
I joined SCBWI this past fall and had the opportunity to attend the New York City winter conference and the Spring Mingle in Atlanta. I learned a tremendous amount at both conferences, was able to network with other writers, and got some opportunities to submit directly to editors at publishing houses. How has attending conferences or being part of SCBWI helped you? 
SCBWI is my family. I would not be where I am as a writer - if it wasn't for them. Almost every person/writer/author/blogger who has supported me - I met either online or in that community. I find SCBWI invaluable for any author - no matter what publishing track you are on.
If you could have any superhuman ability, what would it be?
To write a book in one week with no typos, perfect plotting, and a wonderful voice. :) Ahhh sounds nice huh?
If you read UNTRACEABLE or like animals, Shelli has created a petition to close the North Carolina bear pits. You can go here.