Kura: What genre, and what is A Necklace of Souls about?
RL: A Necklace of Souls, a fantasy, is set in a parallel world. It's about a Princess, called Dana, her friend Will, and the necklace that protects their country. Without the necklace, their land would be overrun by an evil Emperor; the necklace is their protection and its wearer the Guardian. But Guardian's do not live long; eventually, the necklace takes its wearer's heart. In A Necklace of Souls, Dana is to be the next Guardian.
What sort/age of readers would most enjoy it?
Ages 13+ . It seems to be enjoyed by two groups - fantasy buffs of any age, and teens aged 13+. If you enjoy fairy-tale retellings, dystopia, or epic fantasy, you'll probably enjoy Necklace.
Where did the idea for the story come from?
A dream. A cliche, I know, but true. I had an image of a girl fighting in a forest. I wanted to know more about her, so I wrote her story. In a sense, the whole book leads up to that one scene.
Which character do you most identify with and why?
Probably Will, the other protagonist in Necklace, is my favourite. He's had to overcome hardship, he's resilient, he's a survivor. He also has a very interesting view of the world. I enjoyed writing from Will's point of view more than Dana's.
What was your favourite and least favourite part in researching for the novel?
Favourite was researching sword fighting and martial arts. I loved watching all these amazing videos on you tube. You can access some of these videos from my pinterest board.
My least favourite is still the proof reading. I hate proofing.
A Necklace of Souls was initially published after winning a novel writing competition - the Tessa Duder Award for YA fiction - what tips/advice would you offer other writers entering the same or similar comps?
Competitions are good if a) they come with a review or a critique or b) they aren't too expensive! They also provide a good discipline - nothing like a deadline to get you writing :)
Tell us about the award A Necklace of Souls won.
The Tessa Duder Award for YA fiction is sponsored by Storylines. It carries a cash prize and offer of publication by a major publisher - in my case, HarperCollins NZ.
You have to be unpublished, resident in NZ (the criteria is on the website) and the work has to be a full-length novel suitable for a YA audience. Storylines sponsor a number of awards each year. I won in 2012 and was also shortlisted for the Tom Fitzgibbon Award (for middle grade fiction, ages 9 - 13) in the same year. Winning the Tessa Duder Award gave me a foothold into publishing and an understanding of how the process works that I would have never had otherwise. I am a huge supporter of Storylines; they are an amazing institution.
After success in mainstream publishing, why did you decide to venture into self-publishing?
I'm interested in self-publishing because I like knowing I'm writing directly for my reader.
Self-pubing allows me to present work that I think is innovative and different without having to jump the very very time consuming hurdles of slush piles and acquistions meetings. (these can take a year. I'm not kidding. Twelve months for a rejection is not at all uncommon). Personally, I think self-publishing will end up dominating the mid-list; the statistics certainly suggest that market share of self-pubbers is increasing.
It's slow to be accepted in New Zealand but it's becoming more accepted overseas.
What has been the hardest part with promoting your work?
Time. And money!
What tips would you give to others considering self-publishing that you wished you knew when you started?
Don't expect to get rich overnight. If you get any sales at all, you're doing well. it's a very crowded market. Unless you're lucky or famous, I think best to aim for breaking even at about 5 years.
Quality is absolutely paramount. Reviewers are much much harder on self-published work than on work coming through a trad house. You have to prove yourself with self-published; trad work already has a brand supporting it. So you must write the best work you possibly can.
Formatting, proofing, printing, distribution are a steep learning curve. And you need to be comfortable on a computer.
I have more tips set out on my blog, which you can access through my website: RLStedman.com
I've published two works - A Necklace of Souls and Inner Fire. Later this year (2015) I hope to bring out A Skilful Warrior, the sequel to Necklace. It's darker than Necklace, because in it my characters, Will and Dana, have left their country and have to cope in the wider world.
If time allows, I'd also like to bring out Ghost School. Shortlisted for the Tom Fitzgibbon Award in 2012, Ghost School is a crazy middle grade adventure about friendship, ghosts and technology. I'm looking foward to that one!! I'm also working on another YA, called Chasing Harsh Light, but that won't be ready for absolutely ages.
Where can we buy your books?
Inner Fire is available on order at bookstores in New Zealand and available through Amazon.
A Necklace of Souls can be spotted in the HarperCollins version at Paperplus and can be purchased on Amazon
I will be bringing out a print version of Necklace in a few months, which will also be able to be purchased through Amazon and Book Depository, so watch this space.
Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, it’s been a pleasure chatting today.
And for everyone out there you stay up-to-date by following RL Stedman on Twitter at @rlstedman and on Facebook