Today we have an interview with newly published writer, Emily A. Steward. She contacted me after I posted a request in one of the Facebook pages I am part of. We began discussing the release of her first book, Penelope Gilbert and the Children of Azure, which gets released this month.
Though Emily came across as very organized and professional, she is also funny and young at heart. I am delighted for the opportunity to have her on my blog, before she gets bombarded with requests and responsibilities that come with being a new writer.
Emily A. Steward
Short Bio: Emily Steward spent the better part of her childhood dressed as a ninja and trying to convince others to call her ‘Ace.’ When she wasn’t saving the world from evil samurai, she could usually be found in the branches of a tree reading a good book. She now lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, three daughters, and dog Bentley. Though she seldom dresses as a ninja now, her adventurous spirit remains as does her love of tree climbing and reading good books.
Published Works: Penelope Gilbert and the Children of Azure
Current Projects: My current projects include the second book in the Penelope Gilbert series, a middle grade Mystery/horror that is in the final stages of editing, and a middle grade story along the lines of a more contemporary Harriet the Spy.
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/emilyastewardAmazon link: https://www.amazon.
When did you begin writing?
I wrote my first book when I was in kindergarten. It was a blatant rip off of the Berenstain Bears, but I was pretty proud of it. I got a bit more creative after that. I wrote a short story in middle school about a shark attacking people. I called it “Fangs.” Ok… so it took a little while for me to become original, but I got there eventually!
Did you receive any special training or attend a school?
I took a few writing classes for fun at the local college near my home. It was really great for me. I was so encouraged by the teachers and other students there. The classes were great for my confidence, and a wonderful motivator.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I get inspired by the interesting people I meet everyday. They make me want to infuse that level of depth and spirit into my own characters. I’m also really inspired by the works of Roald Dahl. His books are just so imaginative and I love all the quirky, fun characters he’s created.
Do you use any special resources when writing? (other books, computer programs, etc)
No, I don't use anything very fancy. My resources include my handy pen shaped like a sword, a cup of hot tea, and my favorite notebook. These are my brainstorming tools. My writing tools are similar, but include my laptop and possibly some sour gummy worms or chocolate.
What is (in your opinion) the most important thing to remember when writing, and why is it so important?
I have to remind myself that the first draft does not need to be perfect. It is more important to let the words flow, and get into a rhythm than get everything just so. That's what editing is for! Otherwise you can get so bogged down and that's when writer's block can set in. Also, if you don't like where the story is going, take the reins, and don't let those characters boss you around. You are in charge after all. Other writers may not have to be reminded of this, but my characters can be rather bossy.
What is (in your opinion) the most challenging part of writing, and how do you overcome it?
The most challenging part to me, is just finding the time to actually do it. I've found that it helps to just fit in a little whenever I get a chance. I don't need a huge stretch of time. Sometimes I only have fifteen minutes, and that's okay, as long as I do something. Some days I write a chapter or even two. Other days I’m lucky to get a paragraph. I try not to worry about daily word counts. As long as I’m making progress, I consider the day a success.
Did you use an agent? (why or why not?)
I did look for an agent initially and I may still use one in the future, but for this book, it seemed small presses were more interested.
Did you use an Editor? If not, what process did you use to edit your work?
I did a lot of my own editing with the help of critiquing groups and beta readers before submitting my work to be published. The publisher I signed with also helped with editing. They have an amazing team at Clean Reads that helped me fine tune the story and make it the best it could be.
How did you get your book published? (self-published, Vanity publishing, Mainstream publisher).
I found a great publishing house called Clean Reads Publishing through a Twitter contest called #Pit2Pub. Traditional querying can definitely be beneficial, but there is something to be said for contests where the agent or publisher actually contacts you and asks to see more. It's a great feeling, and it can help you stand out from the slush pile and actually get noticed.
Do you handle your own marketing?
I am primarily in charge of my own marketing, and that is going to be my next challenge for sure! Right now I'm actually in the process of exploring different avenues and methods for marketing to a middle grade audience. Luckily, the other authors at Clean Reads are fantastic resources and have great advice for a marketing newbie like me.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Listen and learn from other people's feedback on your work, but ultimately trust your gut. Don’t get discouraged when you run up against harsh criticism. Use that criticism to fuel your fire. Edit like crazy and show them you do have a story worth sharing that only you can tell. And those rejections you have piling up in your inbox… they really are subjective. Somewhere, someone is looking for your book, it just needs to fall into the right hands at the right time.
We have a little something different this month. In addition to the standard interview, Emily has been generous enough to supply us with details of her newly released book, as well as an excerpt. So read on for more details.
Title: Penelope Gilbert and the Children of Azure
Back Cover Blurb: When 13 year-old Penelope Gilbert accidentally transforms into a stapler during math class, she’s sure she’s going crazy. But she’s not imagining the men in black suits now patrolling the halls at school, nor is she imagining the new substitute teacher who orders the class to take a special new test. A test that requires blood. Hunted for her powers, and torn from the life she knows, Penny is swept up into a world in the clouds where magic meets machine and pirates rule the sky.
Buy Links: Coming soon
Excerpt (509 words): A six-foot-tall arachnid hovered over them. One of the creature’s razor-sharp metal legs was raised to attack. The scream seemed to confuse it. It wasn’t much of a window, but it was long enough. She rolled to the side just as the beast’s leg smashed into the ground, leaving a deep hole behind. Crane turned to see what was happening. He let out a cry and fell back into Haldor.
“Guard your necks!” Penny shouted. A web shot out from another spider just behind the first, catching Crane around the ankle. It pulled him in faster than he could react. Another web shot toward Penny. She managed to deflect it with her sword. She could hear Chip hooting wildly from somewhere above, as if cheering them on.
“Haldor, these guys are metal, can’t you do something?” she cried.
“I’m trying, but I have to get closer.”
“Help!” Crane yelled from where he hung upside down from the spider’s back. Haldor jumped to his feet and ran at them, swinging his spear around. He let out a gasp as a spindly leg knocked him to the ground. Another rose up to make the kill. Penny leapt forward and chopped the leg in two with her sword before it could connect.
The metal shrapnel scattered onto the ground. Haldor took that moment to drive his spear into the soft underbelly of the animal. It let out a horrible shriek but only seemed to be angered more. It came at him again, foam dripping from his fangs, his glass eyes gleaming red like a hundred tiny traffic lights. Haldor fell back, losing his grip on the spear. The spider lunged just as Penny attacked it from behind, stabbing her blade deep within his thorax. She then swung around, looking for the spider who held Crane. She could see it skittering toward the forest.
“Come on!” she yelled to Haldor who was wriggling out from under the spider corpse. She ran to the spot where she saw the creature enter as Haldor hurried to catch up. She scrambled through the brush until she came to a stream. There she saw the spider. He was across the water under a large tree.
Above him were several objects swinging in the breeze. It took her a moment to realize that they were rotting bodies strung up by their necks. Their unseeing eyes stared eerily into the darkness. Upon closer inspection, she saw that there were at least thirty of them. She wretched silently as she tried to think of a way for Crane to not become one of them. The spider was already trying to wrap a strand of webbing around his neck.
A thought occurred to her. An outrageous, outlandish thought. I can do this, she assured herself. She tried to picture every last detail of her slain foe—every creepy crawling, hairy, shiny detail. Penny could feel the energy pulsing through her. Her hands were no longer her own. Her teeth had become fangs, and her eyes were the eyes of a killer.
In closing, I would like to thank Emily for doing this interview, and wish her well with the release of her first book. As someone who is still in the process of writing his first book, I found her positivity to be quite motivating. I look forward to hearing more about her in the future.
Until Next time,