Welcome, Stephanie Collins. How long have you been writing?
I began writing therapeutically in 1996. It was sometime around 2010 when I started seriously considering turning those writings into a book.
How many books have you authored?
I never intended to be an author at all. As I said, I wrote therapeutically through some rough times in my life, and later turned that into my one and only book—With Angel’s Wings.
Do you have a writing schedule?
I’ve been asked a number of times to write a sequel. That project doesn’t feel right to me, so I “compromised,” and write a monthly blog that acts as something of a continuation to the book’s epilogue. Writing once a month feels like a comfortable pace. It’s fun, it’s therapeutic, and the length of time between posts gives me plenty of time to find a new, interesting subject matter to focus on.
You’re a member of RAVE WRITERS – INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY OF AUTHORS (RWISA). Why do you think you were accepted into this exclusive group?
I was accepted into RWISA because I didn’t have a lot to do with the writing process. I am in awe of REAL authors. I wrote a memoir. I didn’t have to come up with a plot or a storyline. I didn’t have to worry about character development or believable dialogue. Someone with a much higher pay grade (and apparently a rather twisted sense of humor) took care of all that for me. I just had to play my role, then honestly and accurately document what happened. Now, living it…THAT was a challenge. Writing it down was a relative walk in the park. Heck, I didn’t even have to have good grammar; I had a great editor for that!
Modesty aside, what separates your writing from the millions of other writers in the world?
In all seriousness, what sets our story apart is the story, itself; not my writing. It’s all about the content. I’m not the star of my book (as a character or as the author), it’s the circumstances I and the rest of my family faced. Having a compelling, intriguing and thought-provoking story that demonstrates humanity (at its best or worst…or, better yet, a little of both) and touches the reader’s heart—that’s what can make a story great. Like I said, I am in awe of fiction authors when they can create that for us readers. As an author I was “lucky” enough to have all of that taken care of for me. I guess you could say I had the best writer of all on my staff! I WILL take credit for finding a great editor before I ever shared our story with anyone. That’s advice I’ll give to EVERY author. Find. A. Good. Editor!
If you could spend a day picking the brain of one author, who would that be? Why?
There are a number of authors I’d love to sit and chat with. I’m a romance junkie, and something of a history buff, so I’d have a particularly great time talking with any historical romance author who has done extensive research. One that comes to mind (off the top of my head) is Pamela Clare, who wrote a historical romance trilogy that had to do with the origins of the US Rangers. The love stories were great, but I was fascinated by the history of the Rangers, and would love to chat further about all she learned in her research.
Are you a die-hard INDIE writer who loves having complete control of your work, or, if you were offered a publishing contract today, would you sign on the dotted line?
I’m a fan of being an indie author. I’m a bit of a control freak (and by “a bit” I mean JUST shy of obsessive/compulsive), so I guess it fits my personality. I started off with a small publisher (who was also my editor). We were a great team, I learned a lot from her, and was happy to begin my publication journey with her. Unfortunately, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor about a year after we published, so she had to sell her business. The woman who bought the business was NOT at the same level as the woman she had bought the business from. To make a long story short, I fired her and went solo. I have LOVED being an indie author. I don’t know that I would have been so successful as an indie author without the lessons I learned from my publisher, so I’m thankful for that experience, but I can’t imagine ever accepting a publishing deal in the future.
As an author, where do you see yourself in 5 years?
In five years I hope to be pretty much where I am now as an author. I set out to educate people about some realities of special needs parenting. I think I’m rather successful in getting the message out there. If I’m still reaching new people in five years, I’ll be ecstatic.
What is the ONE tool that has been the most beneficial tool in the marketing of your books?
My marketing “plan” heavily relies on social media. It has been an AMAZING marketing tool…at JUST the right price! Twitter has been, by far, the most useful tool for me, but I try to keep up with multiple pages (mostly Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest).
Name one writer that you know of, member or non-member of RRBC, who you feel should be added to the RWISA Roster of elite members? Why?
I read Amie O’Brien’s “The Merchant’s Pearl” months ago, and I still find myself thinking about the story. It was a unique, memorable, and touching read. I can’t think of better qualifiers for mention, recognition, and addition to the RWISA library.
What is the one piece of advice that you could share that would be most valuable for those aspiring to not only be writers, but those aspiring to be great writers?
Write with your heart. If it doesn’t reach you it won’t reach your readers. Then find a good editor.
Do you believe that writers who churn out several books a year are really putting out quality work?
I’ve never paid too close attention to the publication dates of the series I’ve read (or multiple stand-alone books by a single author), so I don’t know that I’m qualified to answer that question. I’ve certainly read books that felt rushed (lack of editing, “shallow” plots, etc.), but I don’t know if that was due to rushing, neglect, or lack of writing talent (or some special combination of the three).
If you had promised your fans a book by a certain date only to find that your book wasn’t the best it could be, would you go ahead and publish your book just to meet that self-imposed deadline and deliver as promised, or, would you disappoint your fans and shelve the book until it was absolutely ready? No matter your reason, please explain why?
I wouldn’t want my name attached to anything that is less than the best I feel it can be. That has actually happened in the past, and I’m still horrified. I had my book translated to Spanish. It was a reputable agency and the translator had a good track record. The book was in Spanish, though, and I’m not fluent in Spanish. I just assumed it was fine and I published it. Not long after publication (and THANKFULLY before I made any sales) I had a friend from Madrid and another friend from Mexico City read a sample. Both women said it was a horrible translation. I immediately pulled the book off the market. After some legal intervention, the translation agency gave me the choice of a few new translators to re-translate the book. I chose a gentleman who I felt would do the best job. He finished the translation months ago, and—despite the fact both of the women who read samples from the previous translation have given it a thumb’s up, I hesitate to put it back on the market until I can find at least one more person to check it over.
In your opinion, what makes a book “a great book?”
A “great book” is one that the reader thoroughly enjoys reading. What might have been a “great book” to you last week might not be this week, because last week you were in a different mood. A book that you’re not enjoying today you may enjoy next month. There are things that, in my opinion, make books more difficult or frustrating to read (editing concerns, proofreading concerns, inconsistencies in the story, etc.), but I don’t think there’s anything specific that makes a story “great.” Reading is subjective—even to a single reader. I read “great books” as a kid that I’m sure I would roll my eyes through today, wondering what I was thinking to ever consider it a “great read.” So, I guess you could say what makes a book “great” is the perfect combination of content and current reader mindset.
If you received a review of your book which stated that there were editing & proofing “issues,” what’s the first thing you would do? And the second?
I have occasionally been alerted to typo’s in my book and I, of course, made the corrections as soon as I could. That process is much easier now that I’m independently published. With other issues mentioned, however, I carefully consider what is said. I recently received a review that suggested I get the book re-edited because the reader didn’t care for the amount of inner dialogue included. I respect and value the reader’s opinion, but I don’t think I will act upon that particular suggestion. I have received reviews that specifically commend the quality of editing, and others who specifically mention their appreciation for the inner dialogue. I think you have to balance out what is truly an editing issue and what is reader preference. Certainly, if you see a trend in reader feedback, you should seriously consider making adjustments. You can’t please everyone, though, so—to some extent—you have to follow your heart.
Why You Need to Face Down the Fear of Publishing a Memoir by Stephanie Collins
In what felt like the blink of an eye, I went from being a young woman wrestling with a temperamental marriage to a single mother of an asthmatic, autistic toddler and an epileptic infant in heart failure. There was suddenly an overabundance of OMG moments, WTH moments, and “Hold my head in my hands in utter disbelief while I try to just breathe through it” moments. I began writing therapeutically.
Then other people (specifically nurses and therapists) began to read what I had written, and urged me to share our story, insisting it would be helpful to other special needs families. I wanted to help others if I could, but my heart was laid bare over those pages, and I feared judgement—as a writer, as a woman, and scariest of all—as a mother. After years of similar feedback, however, I decided to take a deep breath, close my eyes, and offer my exposed, bleeding soul to the world.
I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by the generally supportive response from readers. Here is why I am thankful to have been talked into publication, and why others with important stories to share should work through whatever fears of judgement they may have: A mother in of a special needs, medically fragile toddler reached out to me via social media about 2 years ago. She said, “I recently stumbled upon your book. Reading it gave me hope that things will get better when hope is hard to come by. Also, before reading it, I never felt understood. I’ve ordered 3 more copies to give to family and friends. I’m hoping if they read about you, they’ll better understand me. Thank you so much!” Now, tell me; could there be any bigger reward for taking a leap of faith than that?
Handle: Stephanie Collins@W_Angels_Wings