I write in three completely different genres: faith-based fitness (non-fiction), women’s contemporary, and young adult fantasy. My non-fiction books are all about viewing ourselves as three-part beings comprised of spirt, soul, and body, and eating well and exercising properly with that in mind. To me, fitness is about far more than looking a certain way or preventing diseases; it’s about being the best version of ourselves so we can better serve and love those around us.
My first novel, Moonbow: The Colors of Iris, is a prequel to the young adult fantasy series I’m currently writing. It’s set in an ancient-Greece-like world and tells the story of a teenaged girl with a secret superpower who must decide whether she’ll use it to perpetuate war or bring about peace. It was an adaptation of a screenplay I wrote in college and was a ton of fun to write, as I love researching all things related to ancient Greek culture and mythology!
My upcoming women’s contemporary novel is called Armor for Orchids. It follows three small-town twenty-somethings who are each struggling with seemingly hopeless battles, from depression and anorexia to rebellion and marital infidelity. Their only commonality is their connection to 82-year-old Poppy McAdams, a local heroine who shows them all, in her unique albeit mysterious way, what it takes to have true and lasting victory. This story was one of those I literally felt had to be written….really, it wouldn’t stop pestering me until I got it out on paper! It was truly therapeutic to write and I pray it’s a blessing to the women who read it. It will be published by Evatopia Press later this year!
The current fantasy series I’m working on is, like Moonbow, heavily influenced by my lifelong love for Greek mythology. It is set in the present, unlike Moonbow, and follows my protagonist Chloe who lives in a dystopian world whose corrupt government is hiding a long-kept secret only she can uncover. I’ve had a blast bringing gods and heroes such as Apollo, Hermes, Orpheus, even Medusa into the cast of characters!
When did you start writing?
As soon as I learned the alphabet! My mom has bins full of my stories, which were written before I knew sentences run from left to right! I just scribbled letters around the edges of construction paper, drew pictures in the center, stapled the pages together, and called it a book!
Why do you write?
I’m going to shamelessly quote Nicole Krauss because her statement perfectly expresses my sentiments: “Why does one begin to write? Because she feels misunderstood, I guess. Because it never comes out clearly enough when she tries to speak. Because she wants to rephrase the world, to take it in and give it back again differently, so that everything is used and nothing is lost. Because it’s something to do to pass the time until she is old enough to experience the things she writes about.”
I write because, quite simply, it’s the best way I know to both express myself and daydream about and discover the things of which I am absolutely ignorant and naïve. It’s the art form God gave me to explore and enjoy, and I intend to soak up all its joys until the day I die.
How do you find inspiration?
Obviously, Greek mythology is a huge inspiration for my fiction. I’ve been fascinated with myths, and Greek myths in particular, since I was little girl. There’s something so timeless about them. The characters, even the most divine and powerful ones, are incredibly relatable and relevant, even now. The level of conflict they portray, the pathos they present, the catharsis they provide, and the worlds they paint are what have kept readers and writers returning to them for millennia. They’re classic examples of stellar storytelling that will never grow stale.
My fitness books and contemporary fiction are largely inspired by events in my own life. I struggled with anorexia and body image issues as a teen and now write extensively about having a healthy mindset when it comes to fitness and nutrition. I know firsthand what it’s like to be your body’s own worst enemy and want to help women overcome harmful habits and thought patterns. Though several of the characters in Armor for Orchids struggle with things with which I personally have little or no experience, I draw inspiration from stories I’ve heard or read throughout my life, as well as from my own imagination. As is often the case, inspiration seems to come when I just let myself ponder the question, “What if…?”
What is your advice on the editing process?
First, enlist beta readers, people who are familiar with your genre and can give you honest feedback on whether what you’re writing is resonating or falling flat.
Second, hire a professional editor to proofread and/or edit your work from a developmental standpoint, preferably both. It’s worth it to save some money and invest in an editor who can put the final polish on your book. A great editor and an expert cover designer are musts, in my opinion.
Third, never stop learning about the craft of writing a story that works from start to finish. Learn all you can about plot structure, beats and scenes, set-ups and pay-offs, crises and resolutions, inciting incidents and climaxes. The more you know, the easier editing will go for you as you’re better able to identify any problem areas and their fixes.
Were you ever nervous about publishing?
Honestly, not really. I knew that this would be a giant learning experience and that only a very small percentage of people knock it out of the park with their debut novel, or even their first ten novels. I made a boatload of mistakes when I published my first few books, but these have only made me a better business person and have further convinced me that I was born to be a writer. So much has happened, both personally and professionally, that could have caused me to give up on writing altogether, but I’ve stuck with it because I love it with all my heart.
Today’s publishing world is exciting, volatile, competitive, and tremendously frustrating, but I believe it will always reward the authors who stick with it and persevere.
So far, what has been the highlight of your career as a writer?
Recently signing with Evatopia Press was a huge moment for me. I’m very excited to have their support and look forward to seeing what this relationship brings.
Second to that – and this might sound strange – my agent breaking up with me earlier this year was actually a blessing in disguise. He’d been representing my novel Moonbow and gave up on it, understandably, after eight months. I was heartbroken.
A few months later, I emailed him my latest fantasy novel for his consideration and didn’t receive so much as a standard rejection email. More heartbreak. I felt like I was being rejected by my first love all over again! But, as was the case with my publishing mistakes, this disappointment only made me stronger. After I cried and threw my pity party, I got up, dried my tears, and went straight back to work on my manuscript.
You can’t let one person tell you, either by their words or actions, that you’re not good enough, that your work is worthless. I strongly believe that the joy of writing should always be your “why” for writing. It should never be about pleasing an agent, making money, or winning fans. Creating meaningful art transcends all those things, which is an immensely freeing thought.
Do you have any advice for your fellow writers?
Read a lot! I know I quoted another writer earlier, but I’m going to do it again. Lisa See said this, “Read a thousand books, and your words will flow like a river.”
Read books that challenge you, books by authors you know are (for now, at least) far better than you. Let them be your teachers. Let their words wash over and enrich you. Take notes on how they turn a scene, build a world, and describe a character. Read like a student. I promise you’ll be amazed by the results!
Today’s interview was with Robin Puelma, who is a splendid author, and had some great advice about writing. She also told us about her experiences as an author, and all about her books, so, take a look!
Mrs. Puelma, can you tell us about your books?
Here are my back blurbs!
The Missing Crimoire
Twelve-year-old Luke Cedrus lives in the most un-magical place (an adoption ward), under the authority of the most un-magical person (Mrs. Hall), believing only un-magical things happen to him (detention). Until one night, Luke discovers he is anything but un-magical. He is a keeper of magic. The one thing Luke wants in life? Family. With his new magical powers, he’s convinced he can have just that. Or can he? Immediately, life flips upside-down as in one night, he must escape from the ward to save his life and learns that his mother is dead and his father is wanted for the murder of a powerful keeper.
Now, engulfed by his new magical surroundings, Luke faces ridicule and ultimate danger for the actions of his father. Plus, after discovering an evil keeper’s secret plot to dominate keepers everywhere, Luke is thrust into an adventure well beyond his years.
It’ll take the help of his new friends, magical key, and sheer belief in himself to tackle the terrors facing the keeper world. And discover what family truly means.
The Naming of Colton Black
Seventeen-year-old Breslin Black grew up in the royal family; in a kingdom where a mystical naming ceremony determines everyone’s destiny. Where every thirteen-year-old receives a definition of their name, one that sets the tone of their life to follow. For centuries, royals have received Namings that mean powerful; leader; protector. Until one. Princess Breslin. Her naming’s results? Rattled her royal lineage and worse, fractured the once sweet relationship she had with her father the king.
For years, Breslin vowed to prove to him she’s more than her Naming. That he can trust her; love her. But nothing she did made any bit of difference. Until her brother Colton is Named. Until he too receives mind-numbing results, sending the kingdom into a panic as a once unshakeable tradition begins to unravel. Her father, desperate to conserve order and peace, approaches Breslin for help. This is her chance. She agrees, promising to follow him blindly. But as Breslin submits to her father’s plans, she discovers things about the Namings that have been overshadowed for centuries. Dark secrets. And if they’re not exposed, the future of the kingdom could crumble. Breslin’s loyalty is now put to the test. If she departs from her father’s plans she risks never healing their relationship again. But if Breslin ignores what she uncovers, she could be responsible for the kingdom’s demise.
Were you ever turned down by publishers? If so, how did that affect you?
YES — For a year, I queried The Missing Crimoire to agents and publishing houses and received several rejections. All very nice—but all said no. I then queried The Naming of Colton Black to over 40 literary agents. Once again, I received rejection after rejection — this time, however, agents were more encouraging in their responses—“This is such a subjective field”; “Keep querying”; etc. One agent asked to see my entire manuscript, she liked it so much. But in the end, decided to pass. Each no is ALWAYS hard to hear. Your work is such a personal representation of you, so any kind of rejection of your work feels like a rejection of you. But, I knew this was part of the journey. I knew that every writer has heard a no. And that all it takes is one yes. I think rejections also help you develop tough skin, which is most definitely needed in this industry. While I decided to go the self-publishing route, I am still interested in and curious about traditional publishing.
Which authors inspired, and influenced, you the most?
Like many, J.K.Rowling has been a huge influence on my writing — how she created such a fantastical story with such depth and detail blows my mind. Not to mention her adoring characters. When I create new worlds, I’m always thinking about Rowling’s depth. Orson Scott Card, hands down, has forever changed how I view and write internal character monologues / emotions etc. One of my favorite characters in literature is Ender; I never thought I’d feel such emotion for a young genius boy who fights battles in space. But. The way Scott reveals Ender’s character, desires, wants, I can’t help but fall in love with him. And lastly, F. Scott Fitzgerald. I admire his poetic prose so much and aim to write not only interesting stories but to write them in a beautiful, melodic way. I am always trying to find the right cadence to my sentences; the right flow; the right sound—even if it’s a kid’s book.
How would your writing be different, if you hadn’t read their works?
Interesting question! I want to say my writing wouldn’t differ too much, but that’s probably a lie. These three authors helped me find my style; my voice. It was reading their works that lead me to know how exactly I wanted to write stories. Without them? I think that process would have taken much longer. I might not have discovered my style as quickly—or at all, for that matter.
How old were you when you started writing?
I was *old* in the “I want to be a writer” world—I was 18. I always loved drawing and spent my childhood creating characters through art. Not until I was a senior in high school did I start to enjoy writing. Then, when I began college (as an undeclared freshman), I received such praise for my writing from peers and professors. The amazing support gave me the confidence I needed to start my journey as a writer.
Do you have a favorite time of day to write?
I used to think night time, since I’m a night owl. But honestly? Any time of day works. Afternoons are a little tricky, since I’m usually most sluggish then. For me, it’s more about the ambiance. The space. Set me up in a coffee house in a big city with a mug of coffee, and I could write for days.
When you have an idea for a story, what is your first step in writing it?
When an idea hits me, I grab the nearest writing instrument and write everything down that’s flowing through my mind. I want to get as much of the original thoughts on paper/screen as possible. No time for editing. No time for anything but putting words down.
Was there ever a time when you felt like quitting writing at all? If so, what motivated you to keep going?
Yes! But I think knowing that who I am is a writer and if I quit, what then? I look at those times now — those “I can’t do this” times — and seem them as I need a break from whatever project I’m working on. Then, once that passes (and it always does), I feel recharged and motivated again. I don’t think I could ever stop writing. It’s as necessary as breathing. What do you do to combat writers block? Write through it! Often times I set either a page limit, a word limit, or a time limit on my writing days. And no matter what, no matter how I’m feeling; no matter if I’m inspired or not; not matter if the words come or they don’t, I force myself to reach that goal for the day. True, this doesn’t always happen. But there have been plenty of times I sat down to a 4-hour writing session and the writing didn’t happen until hour three. But had I let “writer’s block” determine my day, I would have missed out on some amazing prose!
Is there a certain person you turn to when you lack inspiration, or just want to brainstorm?
My husband. He has been the most fun and helpful person to brainstorm with! He’s not a writer,but he is a jazz musician so a lot of our processes and vocabularies cross over. He has such a great imagination and can see a story from a new perspective. His ideas are fresh; his words encouraging; and he’s easy on the eyes, which doesn’t hurt!
Can you remember any specific milestones in your life as a writer?
Every time I finish a first draft, I cry. There’s something so exhausting, so rewarding, so overwhelming when that moment comes. Along with those moments, I’d have to say the first time I saw my published book in my favorite bookstore. This blew my mind. I worked at that bookstore; met my husband there; and now have my books on its shelves. What??
To wrap it up, can you tell us your advice for your fellow writers, new or otherwise?
One of the greatest pieces of advice I received from an amazing professor of mine (who oversaw the Creative Writing department at Pepperdine University) was if you want to be writer, write. I had contemplated on getting my MFA; he asked me what I wanted to do with my writing. “Write books,” was my answer. His reply? Then, just write. I knew that it would take practice; that I wouldn’t get it right away; that I wouldn’t even know what I was doing. But if I kept at it, kept writing, I would get there. I would write books.
My other piece of advice is to always show up. No matter how little time you have, show up. If you schedule writing time, make sure you’re there. And stay there until your time is over. Like I said before, often times my best writing comes just minutes before my writing hour is up. Had I left? I never would have discovered some of the best plots/characters/dialogue that I’ve written.