Anyone who knows me, either from my site or on Twitter, knows that author Juliana Haygert is one of my dearest friends and one of my favorite people. She's also a kick-ass self-pub'd author of NA, including fantasy (which are of course MY FAVES from among her library) and contemporary books.
I met Juliana in 2013. What people probably don't know is, back then, when I (embarrassingly) knew literally nothing about writing, Juliana was one of the incredible women who (kindly) helped me. She's not only a self pub'd maven, she's also one of the kindest and most supportive people I know. (SO MUCH LOVE FOR YOU, JULIANA.)
And hooray, she let me pick her brains about writing and self publishing.
(NOTE: Any bold text in the interview is my doing for emphasis based on things I particularly liked.)
Wow! 13? That's incredible! (And I can't believe I didn't know that already.)
I wrote for many years then, just for fun. I stopped for a while during college, but the stories never left my head. Then, it was around 2008 that I first thought of actually pursuing writing and publishing.
What's your best piece of advice for writers struggling to complete a novel? Do you ever find yourself stuck, and if so, how do you unstick yourself? Usually, when I’m stuck, I skip the scene that isn’t flowing. I go to the next one and continue writing from there. Sometimes, the way to fix the previous scene comes to me as I’m writing the new one. Sometimes it doesn’t come to me until I start revising the entire manuscript. When that happens, I try to think of that scene often while I’m driving or cooking or washing the dishes, hoping the answer to fix it will come to me soon.
Your new book "Breaking Through," the third installment in your "Breaking" series just came out in August. Did you have any particular inspiration for that book and the series as a whole? I actually wrote an “about this book” at the end of "Breaking Free," which is book #1, explaining how it all came to me. It all started with a music video by Britney Spears, Radar. From there, I researched polo and found out the best players in the world are brothers and that their father, currently their coach, was a famous polo player too.
OMG, I love it when true events inspire a story. How cool!
I follow them on Instagram and Facebook and I love their pictures – of their training sessions, of the tournaments, and even of their family get-togethers. I want to be friends with them all! It’s so awesome. And that was what I wanted for my characters … so that’s how Leo and his great family came to be. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg – there were more ah-ha moments during research, and it all came together so nicely. It seemed it was meant to be.
And you're currently working on getting book four ready (so keep an eye out for that, readers). Yup! Working away.
I'm definitely with you on that. Revising my non-plotted novels took YEARS, but plotting changed my entire life. I do a little pantsing in between planned out scenes, so it ends up being very satisfying.
As for my process, I usually start by writing down the scenes and details that come to me in a random order, then I stop and think about it, asking lots of what-ifs to develop the story. When I think I have enough, that I know my main characters, I work on an outline of the key scenes. If I know the in-between scenes, I write those down too. But if I don’t, I just go with the flow. And I do an inspiration board on Pinterest and one for my magnetic board beside my computer. The visuals always help.
As a self-published author, what made you decide to go that route versus traditional publishing? Have you ever considered switching (OR doing a hybrid)? I queried my first novel, "Destiny Gift," and I actually got a few requests, but in the end the agents and editors passed on it … mostly because they didn’t connect with it. Publishing is, after all, very subjective. Then, I had already put Destiny Gift aside when I saw a contest online. I entered it and got a request from an editor from a small pub. I sent it to her, she loved it, she revised it once with me, then she made me an offer. I signed with the small pub. However, a couple of months later, the editor who was supposed to work with me left the pub, and I was assigned to a very busy editor who specialized in contemporary romance. We didn’t click and, to my shock, she left the pub right after.
I do consider going hybrid at some point, but it’s not something I’m rushing toward to. It’ll happen when it’s supposed to happen ;)
Self-publishing allows for full creative freedom, including things like cover design and promo. What is it like getting to be in charge of those things? It’s exciting but it’s also scary and time-consuming. In the beginning, I loved it all, but now I wish I was buying more third party services and trusting them, like formatting … it can get out of hand fast and sometimes there’s a glitch I have to fix it asap, and it all takes away my writing time. Also, editing can be very expensive, especially if you do several rounds of it (you should!). I wish I didn’t have to pay for that either. Lol!
I don't blame you! Though cover design stuff DOES sound like fun. In fact, you just did a (VERY steamy) cover re-design for your book “Playing Pretend.” What factors influenced you to re-think the “packaging” for that one? I always loved the concept of "Playing Pretend." I think it’s a very sexy New Adult Contemporary Romance, which might appeal to readers of New Adult novels. After the first round of revisions with my editor, she said she thought the ending was dragging. I could make it tighter and increase the pace and cut a lot of words. So I did it. It was the 2nd time I was working with my editor, I trusted her blindly (I still trust her a lot, but now if I’m not so sure of her suggestions, I go with my gut). The novel shrunk by almost 8k words and the ending came at you much faster. Though, after it was released and readers started reading and reviewing the novel, lots of them said the ending was too fast. They wanted to enjoy the characters more and have an epilogue – which the original version had. As I was working on other novels, I never got to work on that again. But, during my maternity leave in 2015, I thought about this novel a lot and vowed to fix it when I came back to writing and publishing. So, I reworked and added 13k words to it. And, since I was relaunching it with more words and revisions and editing, why not do a new cover too? ;)
That's so cool! I love how self-publishing gives you that kind of freedom, to rework an existing idea to best meet the needs of your readers.
What do you wish you knew about cover design and the image of your “brand” when you first started? I wish I had thought about separating my fantasy work from my contemporary romance novels with different pennames – two different brands. I have a lot of readers who love my contemporary novels, but don’t care about my fantasy projects, and vice versa. And that makes it hard when I release one or the other and send out newsletters, for example. The non-fantasy readers will get newsletter about my fantasy novels, and I’m always afraid that might upset them and they will unsubscribe. To be honest, even the design of my website and blog was hard to come up with when trying to show both genres.
What are your THREE best pieces of advice for other writers out there as they pursue their dreams of publication? My best advice comes from three quotes that inspire me:
“I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.” – Shannon Hale
“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” – Louis L’Amour
“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” – Confucius
Thank you so much, Juliana, for taking to time to share your experiences with us! Good luck on Book 4 of the Breaking Series, and a little birdie told me you MIGHT be working on a High Fantasy... I can't wait to see what you've got up your sleeve next!
About the Author
While Juliana Haygert dreams of being Wonder Woman, Buffy, or a blood elf shadow priest, she settles for the less exciting—but equally gratifying—life of a wife, mother, and author. Thousands of miles away from her former home in Brazil, she now resides in North Carolina and spends her days writing about kick-ass heroines and the heroes who drive them crazy.