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Author Interview: Historical Fantasy Author Shelley Schanfield

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Shelley Schanfield’s passion for Buddhism and yoga arose sixteen years ago, when she and her son earned black belts in Tae Kwon Do. The links between the martial arts and Buddhist techniques to calm and focus the mind fascinated her. By profession a librarian, Shelley plunged into research about the time, place, and spiritual traditions that 2500 years ago produced Prince Siddhartha, who became the Buddha. Yoga, in some form, has a role in all of these traditions. Its transformational teachings soon prompted Shelley to hang up her black belt and begin a yoga practice that she follows to this day.

Because she loves historical fiction, Shelley looked for a good novel about the Buddha. When she didn’t find one that satisfied her, she decided to write her own novels based on the spiritual struggles of women in the Buddha’s time. She published the first book in the Sadhana Trilogy, The Tigress and the Yogi, in 2016 and will publish the second, The Mountain Goddess in early 2017.

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Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Shelley.  Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?

I have published two books: The Tigress and the Yogi and The Mountain Goddess. They are the first and second books in The Sadhana Trilogy, which tells the stories of remarkable women of the Buddha’s time.

Q: When you were published for the first time, which route did you go – mainstream, small press, vanity published or self-published and why or how did you choose this route?

I started my own imprint, Lake House Books, and I am its president, CFO, marketing and sales force, senior editor, and best-selling author!

In all seriousness, I started by finding an agent and hoping to find a traditional publisher. After a year, my agent had not succeeded in selling my manuscript and we parted ways amicably. At that time, self- and indie-publishing had really surged as viable paths to publication. My work crosses genres—historical fiction, fantasy, women’s fiction, a dash of romance—and I felt my best chance to keep it mine, that is, to write what I wanted, was to self-publish.

Q: How long did it take you to get published once you signed the contract?

If you self-publish, you can do it anytime, which is the beauty and danger of it. You should spend the money for good, solid editing and you should read the contract of the distributors and publishers you use. That said, I did a lot of research.

I compared Kindle exclusivity (KDP Select has certain advantages but serious limitations) vs. multiple e-book platforms and went with the latter. I upload to Draft2Digital which distributes to various platforms (iBooks, Nook, Kobo, many others) for you.

For the print book, I researched Amazon’s Create Space vs. vendors like Epigraph or Mill City Press or Ingram Spark and ultimately found a third way, which was to sign a contract with a local book manufacturer, Thomson-Shore, whose printed product was much higher quality than what I’d seen from the other POD vendors.

Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

It took me sixteen years to write my first two books. I published the first one in January 2016. Holding it in my hands was one of the most satisfying moments of my life, almost as overwhelming as to give birth to my two kids!

How did I celebrate? By getting back to work to get the second book published—getting ISBNs, Library of Congress cataloging and control numbers; arranging for copyediting and proofreading; working with my wonderful book designer Streetlight Graphics (creator of my first book’s award-winning cover); and finally, working on marketing. Thanks to PumpUpYouBook, this is already going better for the second book! Book Two, published February 2017, is now available!

Q: What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?

I held a book launch at local bookstore Bookbound. I read and took questions and had a great time! I sold a lot of books that day, which was a huge shot in the arm for doing additional publicity.

Q: Since you’ve been published, how have you grown as a writer and now a published author?

My belief in my own artistic process has grown deeper. I passionately wanted to tell the stories that came to me about women of the Buddha’s time and their spiritual journeys. To do that, I needed to master craft and technique and language and make it serve a thrilling story. Ultimately, this required more time spent alone than with critique groups and editors, though they are essential for support, constructive input, and wisdom. So what I’ve learned is that you must close the door and without anyone watching you must put your heart on the page. Then no matter what happens, you will have written something authentically yours.

“Publishing is the punishment for writing.” I’m not sure who said that, but it rings true! Some authors revel in the marketing you must do to find an audience, but I’m one of the many who would rather be at my desk creating characters and worlds. However, I’m learning!

Q: What has surprised or amazed you about the publishing industry as a whole?

I’m absolutely amazed at how many people have the stamina to write novels. How many novels are published every year? Several hundred thousand! It’s no easy task to stay with it when friends and family look at you like you’re crazy, when sometimes the blank page stares at you defiantly, just about daring you to write even a single word, when you’re late for work, your kid just spilled milk and cereal over today’s homework, and the cat just puked all over the carpet, and all of this with no guarantee of ever making a nickel. And writers still do it. Creating art is its own reward.

Q: What is the most rewarding thing about being a published author?

When you hear from a reader that your book moved them or helped them or took them somewhere they’d never been before.

Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

Just two:  Keep writing!

 

 

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