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Lee Wind, Laurisa, me, Claudia Harrington. Photo by Nutschell Windsor.

Today I’m really excited to welcome Laurisa White Reyes to the blog. I met Laurisa a few years back at a writing retreat, soon after her first novel, THE ROCK OF IVANORE, had been picked up for publication by Tanglewood Press. Of course she was pulsing with excitement and we all wanted to sit next to her and get some of that pixie dust to rub off on us!

Now with three published novels under her belt, Laurisa isn’t slowing down. She’s going to graduate school, homeschooling her kids, editing Middle Shelf magazine, and putting the finishing touches on four new novels. In her spare time she’s teaching herself Spanish, learning to play the piano and starting her own publishing company.

Ok, first question: Do you sleep? Because honestly, I don’t see how you have the time for all of this! How do you fit it all in?
I love this question because I ask myself the same thing every day. But I actually sleep really well, at least I have been the past four years since my youngest started sleeping through the night. Before that, I hadn’t had a good night’s sleep for sixteen years while my other four kids were young. You know how that goes. I actually used those sleepless nights to write. Now I’m too tired for that. I do a little work here, a little there scattered throughout the day. It’s amazing how much you can accomplish when you don’t watch TV.

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So if I remember correctly, THE ROCK OF IVANORE got pulled from a slush pile, right? How long did it take after you had submitted the story to hear back from the publisher?
Two years. And nearly 50 rejections. I think Tanglewood Press was about publisher #46. I had pretty much given up hope when they emailed me and said, “Your book’s been sitting on my desk for 2 years. I finally opened it and love it. Is it still available?” Talk about an epic surprise.

I can’t even imagine! This series grew out of bedtime stories you would tell your kids, right? So do you have multiple story lines and books already mapped out?
I have enough books planned to last a lifetime. I am currently writing book three. Unfortunately, it appears as though that series has been moved to the back burner for various reasons. However, I have written three books of a prequel series, THE CRYSTAL KEEPER, which I may end up self publishing.

How long does it take you, on average, to go from idea to finished novel?
First draft can take anywhere from four to six months, which is much faster than a few years ago. It took a year to write THE ROCK OF IVANORE eight years ago. That, of course, does not take into account the months and sometimes years of revisions afterwards. I recently finished the twelfth revision of a middle grade novel I originally wrote six years ago.

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I am all too familiar with that! πŸ™‚ I had the pleasure of hearing the first chapter of CONTACT during our writing retreat. It’s a much darker YA story compared to IVANORE. How did this concept come to you?
It actually evolved out of the ongoing debate among writers about which writing method is better – Pantser or Plotter? Plotters use detailed outlines and Pantsers write by the seat of their pants, so to speak. I had used very extensive outlines for my fantasy novels but felt I couldn’t make a good judgement on the matter until I had tried both methods. I began with a simple idea, of a girl who could upload people’s psyches with a single touch, and just followed where the story led. A year later, I sold the book to Hallowed Ink Press. So I guess both methods work equally well for me.

I’m impressed that you’ve landed publishing deals without an agent. What made you decide to go it alone as opposed to having an agent?
Believe me, I have tried very hard to land an agent. I have collected more rejections than I care to admit. Maybe I write books that are not quite mainstream enough, I don’t know. I do admit that I get discouraged, but I never let it stop me from living my dream. My system is – I submit a book to a certain # of agents. If they all reject it, I move to phase 2, which is to submit to small presses. So far, so good.

Smart stragegy! And it’s obviously working in your favor…Both your middle grade and YA books have been placed with small publishers. What has your experience been working with small companies? How has it informed your decision to start your own publishing company?
There are both advantages and disadvantages to working with small presses. The disadvantages are mainly concerned with lack of money. Small or no advances. Limited marketing. Minimal sales. No real income. But if money was the only reason for writing a book, most of us would gladly do something else. Of course, I do want to earn a living as a writer someday, but I’m content to take the long road to success.

The advantages of working with a small press are numerous. Having a personal relationship, even friendship, with my publishers. Being included in the design process. Having a say-so in how the book will be promoted. Sometimes even a larger cut of the sales. I’ve learned more about writing and publishing from my current publishers than anywhere else. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.

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I know you said you decided to start Skyrocket Press to help a friend publish her book, but obviously this isn’t a spur of the moment endeavor, and once the company is established, you’ll be in a position to help publish other authors as well. So what’s the grand plan?
A friend of mine suggested one day that I create a publishing company as a sort of self-publishing co-op. All participating authors would be responsible for publishing their own books just as if they had self-published, but they’d all do it under the umbrella of this company. I loved the idea and decided to take it a step further by putting together a nest of publishing resources our authors will be able to utilize with my help. And instead of having to foot the bill, we are using crowdsourcing, such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo, to raise the money for each project.

Skyrocket Press’ debut title will be a collection of short stories called MARTIAN GOODS & OTHER STORIES by Noelle Campbell. Noelle is a fabulous sci-fi writer who recently lost her husband to a sudden illness. I decided to publish her book to give her one more reason to keep going, to look up and have something to keep her from getting swamped in depression. The book is dedicated to her husband, Sam. We are 1/3 of the way toward our goal of raising $1500 by the end of August, but we could really use all the help we can get. Every dollar counts.

Do you ever plan to publish your own books under the imprint?
Absolutely. But I’ve got several other books to work on first. After MARTIAN GOODS comes out in October, our next book is the coolest romance/adventure book about a woman who goes back in time to rescue a genie. EVERTIDE will hopefully come out around January. Then I’ll tackle my book THE CRYSTAL KEEPER which is a high fantasy love story.

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And then there’s Middle Shelf Magazine, which I have to say is absolutely gorgeous! How did you get involved with the magazine?
I got an email one day from Margaret Brown, owner of Shelf Media Group. I had read a couple of issues of Shelf Unbound, but otherwise it just came out of the blue. She said she had an editing job and wanted to talk to me about it. I thought it would be a freelance editing gig. We chatted on the phone for an hour – I was in the bathroom sitting on the side of my tub so I could hear because the kids were all so loud. Margaret told me about her vision for a digital magazine about books for middle grade readers and wanted my opinion. I wondered why she cared what I think, but I told her I thought it was a great idea. Then she said, “Great. It’s your magazine.” I about fell on the floor. I really love Middle Shelf Magazine. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had. Anyone who is connected to kids-teachers, parents, librarians-should be reading it and sharing it with the children in their lives. And it’s free.

With all you’ve done, what additional goals could you possibly set?
I have lots of goals! I tell my kids I want to live to 100 because it will take me at least that long to do everything I want to do. Writing/publishing books, learning languages, studying history, traveling. My bucket list is miles long.

What has been your favorite part of this journey from dreamer to author?
My favorite part is reading my books to my children. I write for them. If no one else ever reads a story I’ve written, it won’t matter as long as my kids enjoy them. I just read both of my fantasy novels out loud to my six-year-old as bedtime stories and loved them. Since they started as bedtime stories for his older brother, it seemed very fitting. Maybe someday I’ll read them to my grandchildren. I can’t think of any better reason to write than that.

Keep up with Laurisa on the internet – you won’t be able to do it any other way! Here’s where you’ll find her:

Skyrocket Press website
http://www.skyrocketpress.com/

Skyrocket Press Facebook Page
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Skyrocket-Press/426541787488421

Laurisa’s website
http://www.laurisawhitereyes.com

Laurisa’s blog
http://laurisareyes.blogspot.com

Laurisa’s Facebook page
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Laurisa-White-Reyes-Author/148553665188339

Twitter handle
@lwreyes